Many of the new techniques that have come along in bass fishing over the past couple of decades have come from Japan, where anglers only have a limited number of fisheries that actually have bass. That means the fish are highly pressured so anglers need to continue to show the fish baits or techniques that they haven’t seen before to be successful.
One of the most popular and productive techniques to come over to North America from Japan on the bass side of things is the drop-shot rig, which consists of a hook tied to the line with a long tag end that has a weight tied to it. If you are unfamiliar with a drop-shot rig, you essentially have a weight that you keep in contact with the bottom and your bait is held right in the face of fish that are on or near the bottom.
Over the years bass tournaments have been won by anglers utilizing a drop-shot rig all over North America. Early on, it was California anglers who were first using this finesse technique on the national tournament stage but it quickly spread across the continent. It has since become a popular technique for bass everywhere, particularly for northern smallmouths.
Typically, we are using small, finesse soft plastic baits on this rig for use in clear water or on pressured fish but different variations have emerged with heavy line and bigger baits, depending the cover and size of fish you are catching. In open water, small hooks are used to nose hook soft plastic baits, giving them a very natural look. Around cover like weeds or wood you can use a longer shank hook and rig your plastics Texas-style so the hook point is covered.
In northwest Ontario, the drop-shot rig has taken some time to catch on but it is being widely used by bass and walleye anglers today. It has accounted for around half of the fish that I have caught over the past month or so fishing around on Lake of the Woods. It’s great because it’s a good technique for fishing deeper water and it is equally effective on smallmouth bass and walleye.
One of the things that I like about the drop-shot rig is that you can use a heavy weight and it allows your bait to get to the bottom quickly and start doing its thing, regardless of the depth or conditions like wind or current. I typically tie on a ¼ ounce weight for fishing under 20 feet of water and use a 3/8 oz for water deeper than 20. I usually tie my hook about two feet above the weight.
My primary hook choice is a Gamakatsu Drop/Split Shot hook in a size 1. It is a small hook but if you use a light action spinning rod and fight the fish slowly you’ll seldom lose them. The small hook just gives the bait a much more realistic look. When it comes to baits, I like to use small minnow imitators like the Z-Man Finesse ShadZ, a slim, minnow shaped worm. Hook the bait through the nose, leaving the hook exposed and you’re all set. For the walleye anglers out there who like to use live bait, you can attach a live minnow or leech to your drop-shot rig and catch fish as well.
It is a finesse technique so you want to use light line for it to be most effective. I like to use eight pound Power Pro braid for my main line and then attach a six or eight pound fluorocarbon leader. G. Loomis makes drop-shot specific spinning rods in all of their different rod lines, as do many of the fishing rod manufacturers out there.
If you are not including the drop-shot rig in your arsenal of techniques, give it a try and you can thank me later!