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Drop Shot Rigs 101: Ultimate Guide For Beginners

Walleye caught on drop-shot rig with green worm
Dale Shetler
By Dale Shetler
Updated September 12, 2021

Ready to unlock your full angling potential by mastering the drop shot rig? Today we teach you all the essentials to help you become an expert in this effective fishing rigging technique.

Drop shot rigs are one of the easiest and most productive ways to catch bass, yet it’s a practice that many anglers look at as if it’s some sort of forbidden trick. Many people wrongfully assume that fishing a drop shot is complicated or involves a ton of finesse. 

The truth is, drop shot rigs are easy to tie and even easier to fish with, being the most foolproof way to fill your livewell with big bass. 

Today, we’ll cover the ins and outs of these rigs, including what a drop shot rig is, how to tie it, ways to fish it, tips and tricks, and so much more. 

What is a Drop Shot Rig?

Drop shot rig sinker and soft plastic lure bait setup for catching predatory fish

A drop shot rig is a simple rig for fishing a specific depth off the bottom. With a drop shot rig, the hook is tied onto the line with a long tag end. This tag trails down below the hook tied to a weight. 

The idea is that the weight will rest on the bottom with your hook and bait suspended above at the exact point that fish are feeding. 

Why Drop Shotting is Effective 

Before spawning, most bass are voracious bottom feeders that find most of their meals along the seafloor. Crawfish make up a large part of their diet during this time. After spawning, bass begin looking for baitfish as a significant portion of their diet. 

Small sunfish and shad make up the lion’s share of what these hungry bass eat, and unlike crawfish, the bait isn’t hanging out on the seafloor. 

Using a drop shot rig is the easiest way for an angler to present their bait precisely where the bass is looking for it. Whether the bass is on the feed or not, a drop shot rig is virtually impossible for them to resist. 

Fishing with a drop shot rig is one of the easiest and most productive ways to fill your livewell with bass. 

Elements of a Drop Shot Rig 

It takes four simple components to make up a drop shot rig, and they’re items that practically every angler already has in their tackle box. You’ll need a fishing line, a hook, a weight, and bait for this rig. 

Fishing Line 

The line type you use is essentially a matter of preference, and the conditions you're fishing in should dictate the line you use. Some prefer to use braid, while others insist on a fluorocarbon leader. The line you reach for is entirely up to you. 

Anglers like to use a 6-10 pound test fluorocarbon leader attached to a braided mainline for most drop shot applications. If you’re fishing in heavy cover or along a rocky bottom, you may want to size up your leader for better abrasion resistance. 

Fluorocarbon line is generally preferred because its properties make it practically invisible underwater.

Hooks 

Fishing Hook Sizing Chart

Like the line itself, the hooks you choose are essentially a matter of preference and the fish you’re targeting. For bass, most anglers rely on a size 1, 2, or 1/0 hook. Most anglers never venture beyond the 1/0 size, as these hooks are usually reserved for larger saltwater species. 

There are tons of different hooks made especially for drop shot fishing, but virtually any hook will do. The critical feature to look for in a hook for drop shot fishing is an offset eye that allows the hook to stand off from the line properly when you’re fishing.  

Weights

ideal sinker types for drop shot rigs

Drop shot weights are available in various sizes and styles, and if you let the manufacturers tell it, their particular brand is the key to landing trophy fish. 

The most popular weights are a long cylindrical shape (often referred to as finesse sinkers) that’s relatively resistant to current while providing a nice flat surface for you to feel the bottom with your rig. Round and teardrop sinkers are also commonly used for drop shot fishing with good success.

Lead has always been the traditional material for making drop shot weights, but that’s quickly changing as tungsten weights become more popular. 

Tungsten is a favorite from a conservation perspective because it’s non-toxic and doesn’t pollute our waters in the same way lead does. For fishing's sake, tungsten is harder and denser than lead. These characteristics allow you to feel the bottom more easily, while the more streamlined shape helps with casting distance and accuracy. 

Weights between ⅛-½ ounces are most popular for drop shot fishing. You want something light enough for you to feel the bottom but heavy enough so that you aren’t waiting forever for the weight to sink with every cast. 

The deeper the water you’re fishing, the heavier the weight you should use. 

While most anglers stay in the ⅛-½ ounce range, much heavier weights can be used when situations dictate. If you’re fishing saltwater or deep water, weights as heavy as several ounces can be used effectively.

Bait

paddle tail plastic worm

The final piece of the puzzle and the most hotly contested topic amongst anglers is the bait that should be used for a drop shot rig. Most agree that soft plastics are the most effective drop shot bait, but the style, size, and color you prefer are entirely up to you. 

As with all baits, it’s best to match the hatch as best you can. The fish in the area will respond to the bait they’re already most familiar with, so choosing the right color and style is always crucial. 

You’ll find soft plastics in styles to mimic practically any aquatic baitfish, crustacean, or insect. Stickbaits are popular for drop-shotting, as are grubs, worms, shad, and creatures. 

Best Rod and Reel for Drop Shot Fishing

The ideal rod and reel for drop shot fishing is a hotly debated subject, and every angler has their take on the perfect setup. While everyone’s preference varies, a few rules of thumb can help you get started with this technique. 

Rods

Both conventional and spinning rods can be used as drop shot rods. Most anglers prefer a spinning setup, as these rods and reels tend to work best when fishing light tackle like a drop shot rig and they're overall easier to cast and use. 

The ideal length of a rod depends on how you’re fishing. If you fish primarily from shore, a longer rod will help with casting distance. Shore anglers tend to gravitate towards rods in the 7’ to 7’6” range. 

If you fish primarily from a boat and can fish vertically with your line straight down from the rod, a shorter rod in the 6’6” to 6’8” range may be preferable. If you’re looking for a rod that’s equally suited for shore or boat fishing, a 7’ model may be your best bet. 

Action and Power Fishing Rod Infographic

As for the characteristics of the rod, most anglers prefer a stick with medium power. These rods have enough backbone to set the hook properly on a giant bass, but they’re still sensitive enough for a finesse technique like drop shot fishing.

A rod with fast action is usually best, as the tip is soft enough to impart a natural, subtle action on your bait but still stiff enough to muscle a stubborn fish out from cover. Rods with extra-fast action have a more rigid tip which doesn’t allow anglers to achieve that same lifelike action on their baits. 

Reels

Spinning Reel Parts Infographic

Relatively small and lightweight spinning reels are the go-to for drop shot fishing, and they offer several benefits over heavier tackle or conventional setups. A reel in the 2500-4500 range is ideal for drop shot fishing. 

Look for a lightweight reel that pairs well with the rod you’re using, and opt for something with a high gear ratio, which provides a faster retrieve. 

Bass are voracious fighters, and they’re quick to break off a line or spit a hook so they can live to fight another day. When hooked, clever bass often make a beeline for your boat, which allows them to spit the hook if you can’t get the slack out of the line fast enough. 

A reel with a fast retrieve helps to prevent you from losing fish. 

How to Tie a Drop Shot Rig

basic drop shot rig example ideal for catching bass

Now that you know all you’ll need to catch monster bass on a drop shot, let’s work our way through properly tying a drop shot rig. 

There are several different ways to connect a drop shot, and you may find a way that you prefer over the standard method. Most anglers rely on a simple Palomar knot for tying a drop shot rig. Here’s how to secure one: 

  1. Begin by doubling up a piece of line. The length of the line depends on how far you want your bait off the bottom. Most anglers start with a 12-30” piece of line. 
  2. Pass the loop end of your doubled line through the eye of the hook. 
  3. Tie a single overhand knot, and tighten it enough to have a loosely formed overhand knot with a loop extending from one side. 
  4. Grasp the hook with your thumb and forefinger, and pass the loop over the hook. Work the loop you just formed over the eye of the hook. 
  5. Moisten your fully formed knot with saliva, and tighten it. 
  6. Take the tag end of your hook, which should be anywhere from 6-18” long, and feed it back down through the eye of the hook. 
  7. Attach your drop shot rig to your mainline using either a swivel or your preferred line to line knot (FG, GT, Alberto, etc.)
  8. Attach your drop shot weight to the tag end of the rig, and get fishin’! 

Rigging the Bait 

Rigging your bait on a drop shot rig is easy, and depending on what the bass are looking for, you’ll find that any presentation can be a winner on the right day. 

The most popular ways to rig your bait are the wacky rig, nose hook, Texas or Carolina rig

With the wacky rig, the bait is hooked through the middle. This allows either side of the bait to flow freely in the water. This presentation is excellent because it helps mimic the look of a wounded baitfish or warm that would make a quick and tasty meal for any enterprising bass. 

Another eternally popular option is to nose hook the bait. Preparing this presentation is as simple as gripping your bait in one hand and hooking the bait through the bottom of the head and out through the top. When you rig it correctly, the hook should be embedded about ¼” into the bait. 

The Carolina and Texas rigs are both somewhat similar, and they can be equally effective depending on the conditions. 

Carolina Rig Setup Guide Infographic

To rig your bait Carolina style, start by holding the bait in one hand. Take the hook in your other hand, and hold it against your bait so that the eye of the hook is even with the head of the bait, and the hook sticks up above the body. 

Pay attention to the point where the hook point sits above the bait, as this is the point you’ll want the hook to exit the bait. 

Hold the bait in one hand. With the hook in your other hand, feed the point of your hook into the top of the bait, as close to the center as possible. Continue to work the hook point through the center of the bait until you reach the spot you noted when you lined the hook up with the bait. 

Allow the hook point to exit the bait's body so that it looks natural on the hook. 

Texas Rig Worming Guide Infographic

The final popular way to rig a drop shot bait is Texas-style. Begin by hooking the bait through the nose. Feed the shank of the hook through the bait, stopping at the hook eye. Then, bury the hook’s point inside the bait so that the hook is about 95% of the way through the soft plastic. 

This presentation looks and feels natural to a picky fish. Once they commit to the bait and swallow it, the hook will become exposed, and you’ll land the fish. 

Final Word 

A drop shot rig is one of the most popular and effective finesse fishing techniques, and it’s a must for landing everything from large and smallmouth bass to perch, crappie, and even saltwater species. 

Follow the tips and tricks above, and you’ll be well on your way to getting plenty of fish on the deck on your next trip.