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First Shot at Dropshot
Another Laid-Back California Tactic

By Russ Bassdozer

I have experimented with dropshotting during 1999. Actually it is not much more than a glorified sinker-bouncer rig - and an addition of other California fishing tactics (doodling, shaking, brass 'n glass, etc) that I have used for quite a while. Anyway, I wrote an article about it. I hope you like reading it and learn from it. I talked a little with Don Iovino and got some of the following information from him about how he dropshots. Also spoke with Garry Garland and he is coming out with a new size of DropShot Gitzit soon. I do know of some other manufacturers who plan to make down-sized baits (about 3") for dropshotting during the Spring of 2000.

Have you ever?...used a SplitShot Rig for bass suspended in open water or just above bottom? Have you ever done "doodling" or "shaking" with "brass 'n glass"? Have you ever used a "reaper"? Do you know Don Iovino's nickname?

If you answered yes to a few of these questions, then you will nod approvingly when I say that a DropShot Rig is the LATEST OFFSHOOT which follows and in some ways improves upon the same basic principles and applications as all the California techniques mentioned above.

If you answered no, then I must ask you a few more questions. Do you have a large base of pelagic bait (shads, shiners, even stocked trout fry) that stay in deep open water? Do you ever encounter suspended bass in mid-water or deepwater somewhere near these supplies of open water baitfish? Do you "find fish" by driving around with the electronics on looking for grey marks on the screen? Does fishing often mean "dragging" rigs around on bottom raking points, channels and other structure near where your graph showed those mysterious grey marks? Can you see your bait when it is twenty feet below your boat? If so, you may want to find out more about California finesse tactics...SplitShot Rig, doodling, shaking, brass 'n glass and now...DropShots.

The DropShot Rig is credited with being conceived in Japan, but I consider it as a derivative of original California tactics as used within Japan. Back in the USA now, the DropShot is mostly used by innovative pro anglers in California where a DropShot Rig is a light tackle finesse method used for the most finicky of bass fishing situations.

What's a finicky finesse situation you ask? There is a saying that Californians are "laid back." I think it is true of the people, and true of California bass in my opinion. First, these are predominantly pure strain Florida gene pools (and spotted bass) that are being dropshotted in California. The Florida strain in California are far more laid back and less aggressive than northern bass. Second, they live their lives (at least the smaller "keeper size" years) in open water where they loosely aggregate in close proximity to their food supply - pelagic shad and other open water preyfish. Third, there is often no cover nearby, and sometimes no obvious association even with structure...the only loose association is to the preyfish supply. A bass in cover may bite your bait to defend his territory from careless intruders or to avoid any danger...but an open water bass has little to instinctively defend or fear from your bait. Fourth, they are probably not feeding when you encounter them. Fifth, the water is exceedingly clear. Put those five things together. Now add YOU on a boat with a bass rod. Welcome to a most finicky finesse situation, my friend!

Gear. A medium strength rod to handle 6 to 10 lb. test such as Berkley Pro Select Green for instance. A seven foot rod to get the "sweep set" that is often required on the bite. A reel with a wide spool and high gear ratio to wind in string quicker than the fish can rocket up towards you from the deepwater on the hookset and during the fight. There are a few highly-specialized dropshot rods/reels from Japan that are coming onto or being copied in the US market.

Knots. The way Don Iovino ties it, there is only one knot on the entire rig...a Palomar. You use it to knot the hook onto the line THREE feet above the "tag end" of the line. MOST IMPORTANT is that the hook point faces UP when you tie it on the line...just like a single jig hook is always upright.

Hooks. Don Iovino uses the new Owner "J" hook (model 5140). I also recommend the Yamamoto "Sugoi" hook (series 59). As I recall it, Gary Yamamoto invented this particular "style" of offset shank hook as many as 15 years ago. I still very much prefer the Sugoi for finesse tactics even though there are new choices like the Owner "J" hooks or Mega-Bites. The offset bends in hooks like the Yama Sugoi and Owner J naturally help hold the point poised upright in striking position...a regular straight shank hook is less apt to stay upright here. Personally, I prefer a normal shank length, lightweight wire and fine needle point like the Sugoi. I would not recommend a heavy wire hook, an extra long shank (too heavy), an extra short shank (too close to the line)...for DropShots. You will be using smaller, slinkier baits usually on dropshots expect to use hooks in the range of 1/0, 1, 2. A wide gap is important.

Putting bait on. What you have probably never seen or done before is that...although these are hooks with the offset kink bends near the eye....Iovino merely impales the worm on the hook bend by putting the point in the bottom and out the top of the bait's nose! The bait just lays impaled on the hook bend...much like a pork chunk is impaled on the bend of a jig hook. If Iovino desires to keep the hook point hidden so it will not get snagged...he only threads the bait's nose on just enough to cover the barb and the point of the hook!

Putting weight on. Don Iovino recommends a brass weight (5/32, 3/16, 1/4, 3/8 oz. depending on depth). Thread it onto the tag end of the line. Then thread an 8 mm. glass bead onto the line next. Don uses the "Bead Peg-It System" whch can only be described as a "rubber toothpick" from Top Brass Tackle to peg the bead in place. Yes, thin slivers of wood toothpicks stuck in the bottom of the bead with superglue also work for me! When you shake or doodle the line in mid-water...or whenever the weight hits hard bottom...the brass 'n glass will clack and make fish-attracting noise. The Iovino offers two theories...either use black weights and black beads to make the weight as visually bland as possible...or use crawfish-colored brass and bright orange beads so the weight now becomes a visual attractor as well. Either way, black or brightly will bite your sinker here. Personally, I use a dull lead bullet with TWO big, transparent glass beads that are facetted (or cut like a diamond). The facets provide two wide flat glass surfaces that click together better than round beads. A round bead provides minimal surface area for clicking noise between two beads...and to me it has always sounded like glass-on-glass (two beads) is the loudest sound than glass-on-brass which is louder than glass-on-lead.

Putting two on. Some guys are double-dropping on dropshots. They tie a shad-colored or light-colored bait on three feet above the weight...and they tie a craw-colored or dark-colored bait on within a foot or less from the weight. The top bait is often exposed hookp point..and the hook point is buried in the bottom bait by necessity to avoid snagging.

What baits to use. Take a look at the products from Don Ioviono. These are handpours and the softness of the baits are ideal for DropShots and other finesse tactics. By the way, I asked a question above if you knew Don Iovino's nickname? It is "The Godfather of Finesse" and you can say many models of his finesse bait designs at

Remember to think thin and slinky. A bait with a thick body or thick curly tail does not work as well in my mind for dropshots the way they do it in California. Often, the bait must be a thin, diminutive down-sized item that merely drifts and do-nothing well. Thinner, longer, straight-tailed baits are generally better at this than fat, short, squiggly ones. Small sizes of soft jerkbaits are great. PAPER THIN TAIL grubs like the 3" Kalin's Salty Lunker Grub are super. An excellent bait is Garry Garland's SplitShot Gitzit tube...about 2 1/2 inches long and fatter diameter than typical tubes. The Gitzit's gliding action and subtle tentacle flutter is ideal action. You can see the Garland SplitShot Gitzit on Iovino's site where it is called the Fatzee.

Try a thin strip of pork rind. A wafer thin strip of white pork rind about 3-4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide at the head, tapering to a needlepoint. You cannot buy this size of pork must cut it from other store-bought shapes...or you can make it yourself with pig skin from the butcher. Well worth the will slay them with this! Plastic cannot imitate it. By the way, get some Rit dye and try some pink pork rinds also.

Caveats. Personally, I am not yet entirely comfortable that the hook is tied to the line with the weight below it. This does not give the fish slack line to suck the bait into it's mouth from a few inches away. Yes, when you shake a suspended bait, or when you lower the rod when the dropshot weight sits on bottom, you do create an instant of semi-slack line, and when that line comes tight again, the dropshot bait does a little quivering dance. All good! But with a SplitShot Rig for instance, the weight is above the bait and there is two feet of loose leader to allow the bait to float on its own...or move towards a fish when a bass sucks it in. In fact, I purposely use loose limp leader line. Sometimes I keep a leader or two tightly coiled in my bag like a Slinky for when I seriously splitshot or Carolina rig. The coiled leader allows more slack for the bait to be sucked in from a distance. Even a light jighead can be sucked in from inches away...but I do not believe the DropShot bait moves as far as either a SplitShot/Carolina bait or a light jighead bait when a bass sucks at it. In this respect, the DropShot clearly offers its best advantage when the weight stays in contact with the bottom...slack can form in the line when the weight rests on bottom...and the bait stays suspended above! That is good.

What else? The DropShot is still very much a new tactic contained to finesse pros in California (and Japan) for mostly keeper-sized bass in deep, clear water. It is the latest member in a "family" of similar Califorina finesse rigging tactics. Most of these light line finesse rigging tactics have not made it too far past California so far. In many ways, bass fishing tactics are highly regionalized...almost state by state. Let's wait and see if the DropShot outgrows its deep clear Western boundaries!

But while we wait, let us try to predict a little bit of the future of dropshotting during the year 2000! Here goes:

  • For the California tactics, expect to see some manufacturers come out with a few new baits in the 3" size for that style of dropshotiing.
  • In other parts of the country, do not be surprised if someome starts winning tournaments on a bulky version of the DropShot System a 3/4 or 1 oz. weight - much like a heavy Carolina Rig - but with the bait above the Carolina weight rather than below it. This is an easy way to fish deep bottom-growing weedbeds. Merely tie the bait on the line as many feet above the weight as required to clear the weedtops...use heavy gear and work it slow or fast.
  • In flowing smallmouth rivers, expect to see a bottom-bouncing style of dropshot used to methodically and precisely rake the bottom, bouncing along in the flow.

Hope it helps you drop a few shots out on the water.

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