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Become a Dropshot Hotshot

By Russ Bassdozer

Need a New Year's Resolution? Make a vow to master the dropshot in 2002.

On deep lakes that are clear to slightly stained, you'll want to use the drop shot rig. It is not hard to master with the proper equipment and a few days practice on a deep body of water near you in 2002!

Rod, Reel, Line

Most drop shot hot shots use spinning gear. Spinning can be better than baitcasting for drop shot due to reasons such as:

  1. The way light line spills easily off an open bail spinning reel as the drop shot weight plummets toward bottom.
  2. The ability to crook your right index finger in constant contact with the line to feel what the heck's going on down there.
  3. Plus, as you hold a spinning rod your arm angle is better to load up the tip for a sweep set of the hook.

During the last two years of researching my own and other drop shot anglers' gear, I've tested a dozen different spinning rods, several reels and assorted varieties of lines to drop shot. The best drop shot rig by far I've tried was a $400 reel on a $400 rod with special spinning fluorocarbon line - all sold only in Japan.

Here in the USA, I currently use the following combination, which weighs in the $250 price range:

  • Rod: Many rod vendors are introducing or re-marketing rods as drop shot rods, so 2002 should see a constant introduction or re-introduction of rods for dropshotting. Gary Yamamoto has just introduced his new dropshot rods as of writing this, and they are an instant winner on my boat. Another rod I've enjoyed for dropshot fishing are the  Quarrow ML3 IM7 Model OTS704F 7'0" Medium Power / Fast Taper.
  • Reel: Shimano Stradic 2000FG
    The reel has a good drag, which is a requirement of drop shot angling.
  • Line: Maxima Ultragreen 6 lb. test
    Something about 6 lb. Ultragreen makes it fine for drop shot line. In addition, the sport's best dropshotter, Aaron Martens has been reported to prefer 6lb. P-Line CXX-XTRA STRONG moss green in most situations.

Price was not a factor in my quest for good drop shot gear. I tried more and less expensive rods, reels and lines before "evolving" into a working comfort level with the above combo.

I'm still searching, and if or when I find anything better, I'll let you know about it. Until then, I feel you can use the above examples as a guide to what's good drop shot gear.


As far as the size of a hook, there is no consistency in the industry across manufacturers or models. For example, a #4 GYCB Split Shot hook is bigger than a #2 Owner Mosquito which is comparable size to a #1 Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop Shot model.

Those are the three models and sizes I use most often, which are all short straight shank hooks. I will routinely ratchet down one hook size to use a diminutive bait like a 92T Tiny Ika or ratchet up one size to wacky rig a fat-bodied bait like a small Senko.

Most of the time, I nose hook baits. I nose hook only two ribs back as I do not like to have the nose of the bait stick out so much that it gets in the way of the hook point. This is important since the way to hook a drop shot fish is to literally pull the bait out of its mouth until the point barely catches behind the shut upper lip. If the nose of the plastic sticks out too far, it serves as a bumper to push the hook away from penetrating the lip. So make sure the hook point is free and clear of plastic that could clog it.

Hooking drop shot bass is begun with gentle rod pressure after detecting a bite or a bass down below on the line. Use gentle reeling and rod pressure as if to pull the bait and hook slowly out of its mouth. This will only make the bass more determined to clamp down and hold onto its prize. The hook will slip until it catches like a splinter that barely sticks behind the upper lip. Then the upper 25% of the rod tip will continue to bend and load under pressure as you reel in slack moderately slowly. All this takes a few seconds. The fish should often start to swim away (hopefully not at you) which serves to set the hook beyond the barb as you sweep the rod back in a confident controlled manner while you reel down until full pressure of the fish's weight is on the line.

Think of the hook set as a two step process. Actually, three steps as follows:

  1. First come the "preliminaries." When you detect a bite or a bass on the line below, you must first wait until you sense the bass has the bait and hook in its mouth. Sometimes this happens instantly, and some days it seems to take a long while. Fortunately, most bass will act the same way on any given day. So if you figure one out, you can apply the same successful chess move to others.
  2. Second, we've already described above how to pull the line, reel slowly and load the rod tip until the hook point pricks behind the lip. The upper 25% of the rod tip should bend over and load.
  3. Once the tip is loaded down, sweep the rod up as you reel to sink the hook home. In this way, visualize that the hook is being driven by the spot on the rod that's 25% down from the tip where the backbone begins. The hook is not driven home in a jerk like you would set the hook with a jig or Texas rig for instance.

If you do it right, you should be hooking most every bass in the upper lip (or the corner of the mouth some days). You are doing something not quite right if you hook them too deeply or on the other hand, if you miss them.

Certain days, deep water drop shot bass will streak straight to the top upon being hooked, shake their heads and throw the hook if you let them. If one bass acts this way, expect others to also act that way the same day. They usually all behave in concert, and that's an important concept. I don't know why they all act the same way on the same day, nor do I truly care except in order to analyze how the behavior shown by a few bass can help me predict how best to hook and land the majority of bass that will bite, fight and behave in the same way for that day.

Drop Shot Knot

Okay, you'll need to use your imagination here, plus have an illustration handy of a standard Palomar Knot:

  1. Thread the single line through the hook eye one way
  2. Double the line back forming a short loop, and thread two feet of tag line back through the hook eye the other way
  3. Using the shorter loop end, tie the loop in an overhand knot above the hook
  4. Pass the hook through the tip of the loop and slowly draw tight
  5. Insert the two foot tag end down through the "top" of the hook eye so the hook point faces up

Tag End of Line

You can leave as little as a few inches to a foot, but I like to leave a generous two feet of tag line below the hook (above the sinker). Importantly, two feet of tag line gives you more "weightless free fall" for your bait at that precious moment after the fast-falling sinker thuds down and stops when it hits lake bottom. As it hits bottom, there's suddenly not a sinker pulling the bait down quickly, and two feet of tag line gives the bait a longer moment of weightless free fall. It also gives the bait a longer leash to move up and down unweighted on a slack line as you work the drop shot rig to attract bass.

Keep in mind, although the baited hook is tied two feet up the line above the sinker, it is far less than two feet above the lake bottom. This is due to line angle caused by distance cast, boat movement, and line drag which bellies line out under water.

Nevertheless, two feet of tag line keeps the open hook from snagging as often on an obstructed bottom full of rocks or weeds, plus it keeps the bait flying higher like a flag above rocky or weedy bottom.

So, those are three reasons why I like a longer tag line:

  1. to increase length/distance of weightless free fall,
  2. to keep the open hook higher above snags, and
  3. to keep the bait visible above obstructions.


A drop shot sinker has a line-gripping swivel on top. The swivel grips the line tightly, and it attaches in an instant. There is no need to tie a knot to the sinker or swivel. The thin, elongated sinker (leftmost in photo)  is a Bass Pro Shops XPS Finesse Drop Weight in 1/4 oz. This one weight covers a lot of water. I have caught bass from 1 to 90 feet deep on this one size of sinker. Plus, it slips through rocks, brush and weeds better than other shapes.

If targeting bass in water less than 20 feet deep, 3/16 oz. may be better. In water deeper than 30 feet, 3/8 or 1/2 oz. may be better.

A drop shot sinker is constantly in touch with bottom. It clicks against hard stuff and the sinker stirs up soft sediment (just like a Carolina rig sinker). Before you leave the dock, rig up your rod and jiggle the sinker up and down on a rock on dry land. You'll hear all the tap-tap-tapping which serves to attract bass under water when you jiggle the tip.

A lot has been written about how to jiggle a drop shot bait without moving the sinker. In actuality, it is pretty hard not to move the sinker, but that's not bad! The sinker rolls and drags a ruckus down there. It serves to attract bass.


Drop shot baits are basically straight without a lot of appendages or twisty tails. Popular examples include Roboworm straight tail worms and Body Shad, Magic Worms straight tail worms, Kamakazee and SnakeBite hand pours are a few examples. The following section describes Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits.

92T Tiny Ika: Think of the 92T as a bottom-dwelling bug larvae, a bitty crawdad, a tiny fish of any species. This bait is non-descript, meaning it looks like nothing exactly yet everything in general. That's a good attribute for any lure to have! It's made of a hard plastic to help it resist tearing off when nose-hooked with a light wire hook.

9B, 9C, 9J and 9S Senko: Nose-hook these small Senkos or wacky rig them exactly in the middle. When wacky-rigged, there's a lot of stubby plastic to get the hook point past. So I generally ratchet up one hook size larger than nose-hooking the same bait. The wacky rig acts just like a parachute that causes the drop shot Senko to descend horizontally and much more slowly than a nose-hooked bait (nose-hooked baits spiral tightly on the fall). The wacky-rigged small Senkos should surely be tried when fish suspend along sheer walls - or any sort of vertical presentation that falls past fish holding above bottom. On the way down, the wacky drop shot Senko will wriggle both tips uncontrollably. I often like to downsize my trusty 1/4 oz sinker to a lighter 1/8 oz that makes the wacky parachute fall agonizingly slow. When a bass bites you on the way down, your line will just stop falling and go slack. Set the hook using the three steps in the section above.

Series 7 Cut Tail Worm: I've saved the best for last. The Cut Tail is the GYCB bait I drop shot the most. I usually nose-hook it with the cut tail pointing down, which causes the tail to quiver and shudder during the brief moment of "weightless free fall" when there is slack in the line. This only happens when the sinker is not moving and therefore the sinker's not towing the Cut Tail around by its nose. Just lower the rod tip to let some slack in the line and it will happen. Keep your right index finger on the line above the spinning reel. When you lift the rod tip again, your finger's feeling for a bass that took the bait as it fell freely on the slack line or rested motionless on bottom.

Most of the time, the line is not totally slack. Most of the time, even with the slightest line tension or line pressure, the sinker is being dragged or bounced around the bottom, which gives the Cut Tail a minnow-like darting action with a squiggly, squirming tail movement as it's pulled around by the sinker, by line tension and even the shortest rod tip movement will drag the sinker, which pulls the bait around by its nose.

Well now! I don't know what else to tell you about the drop shot, hot shot. It's really not hard to master if you follow the suggested guidelines above.

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