Drop Shot Fishing
A Technique that still works after your retrieve makes presentation
is effective on deep, suspended hard to catch uninterested fish.
It is a technique which originated in salt water jigging. However it has
developed into a very sensitive way of fishing from a boat or float tube.
Specialised hooks and weights are now available for drop shot
fishing which make this technique easier and even more effective. In the
US many major rod manufacturers have
designed tapers specifically for the technique. For ourselves any
medium-through action spinning rod will do fine. If you must use a fast
action rod then the shorter the better.
Irish loughs, during early season the method most seen is trolling,
usually Rapalas, but
other techniques can work too. If you've located large trout (see left)
hovering or cruising slowly over deeper structure like eg last years
dead weed beds, position
the boat or tube over or near them and drop the lure or fly right on top of them.
Nod the rod tip gently with small rise-fall movements, alternating into
vibrating movements. This shakes
the fly/bait, still keeping the weight on the bottom. Take your time as
if you were using a live lobworm or live fish bait, and be happy to give
the predator time to make it's mind up, or get teased into action. Take long pauses
of totally static motionless presentation. Tremble the rod tip with no
other movement. Fish slowly and carefully. Especially in the cold early months
like March and April, this works well. It is excellent when the
dog days of summer push the fish deep.
Only trolling a sliding float gets similar results (ultra slow
presentation at a controlled depth) to drop shot fishing, and DS is more
versatile, since it can do a fast presentation too, as well as cast to
If you are used to reeling in to make lure lifelike it is difficult to
take on the idea that a static artificial lure is lifelike enough
to fool predators. This video clip is here to show you just how real
they look and move under their own very light weight while the lead is
resting on the bottom.
Rod and Reel
Through action rods and fixed spool reels are best. I use a through
action 7' spinning rod for trout and perch, and for pike a stronger 10' MkIV S/U 2.25lb TC carp rod with sliding fittings, and the reel mounted low
(for seated tubing
convenience). A boat angler would prefer the normal reel fittings/position.
For reel choice multipliers are not free running enough to drop a light
almost weightless bait, at natural speed. So a fixed spool spinning reel
is better for DS fishing for trout and perch. A multiplier can be used
for pike and large trout with a little practise, due to the heavier
baits, but the fixed spool is still better there too.
I use ABU Cardinal 3 and 4 series for light, and a Shimano 5 series Baitrunner for
To be honest, a multiplier is more suitable for float tubing, because
the reel, being on top of the rod is not touching the apron table top we
have in our seated position, and the handle has more clearance as a
result. Some day I will get one of the latest compact super multipliers,
with small low inertia spool, and give it a go for this.
Tying the Hooks - Knots for DS
special requirement of a drop shot rig for the hook to stand out has led
to many anglers to using the Palomar knot even though it is not particularly
good with the light line of a typical drop shot rig. The Palomar
is a good knot for thick line designed for big game sea fishing, but it
tends to cut itself and rapidly weaken in use with light/thin lines. In
thick lines it's a 95% strength, but in the 4 - 8lb breaking strain lines it is
unsafe in my opinion. Tight wraps over small round hook eyes and snaps tend to
fracture the surface of tightly wrapped line. As a result thin lines
seem to weaken much more than thick ones. Fluorocarbon tends to have a
stronger surface than mono and lessen this tendency to break at the
knot, but it is always a good idea to re-tie knots in fluorocarbon after
catching a heavy fish, or having a stress tension from pulling out of a
Tying the hooks on drop-shots is a refined technique, and can be done a
couple of ways. The usual advice is to use a Palomar knot, beginning the knot
hook positioned point side up. This is done before tying the sinker on. This
is done so that the hook lays at a right angle to the leader. This is a
better way to get a good hook set on light takes. Another way can be to
take the leader end, after the hook is tied, and thread it back
from top side downwards through the hook eye, then attach the rig lead. This way the hook shank
lays horizontal sticking out from the line, which improves hook ups.
My favourite knot, the
Uni / Grinner / Duncan Loop Knot is a lot stronger than the Palomar, and
is I believe the best standard
fishing knot for general purposes. Unfortunately it is not suitable for dropshotting because the tag
end is facing back up the line, and not in a direction that easily lets
it be threaded back through hook eye, downwards to the lead sinker. Use
the Uni knot to tie hooks and swivels on in all other circumstances and you
will have a reliable knot. The double Uni (not shown) is the best line -
to - line joining knot I know.
Double-line Clinch Knot is also stronger than the Palomar and it will
make your hook stand out properly, so
it's my No 1 knot for drop shotting. It
should be completed with a doubled section of line. This knot has the
advantage that the line tag end comes out at an angle which is conducive
to being threaded through the hook eye without having to make a line
weakening 180 degree turn.
the Uni/Grinner/Duncan, it is also a 95%-100% line strength knot, but the tag end exit
(near the hook eye) and it's direction are more suitable for DS fishing.
When the knot is completed, moisten, and draw tight.
Then cut one of the double tag ends at the knot leaving 2mm sticking
out. Unfold the tag loop, and your other tag end doubles in length to
become the leader down to the sinker. Insert the two foot tag end leader down through the
"top" of the hook eye so the hook point faces up.
The weight will go at the end of the tag end.
There is a new hook I have not yet tried out (shown left). They are
the TTI stand-out hooks which are designed to hang correctly for DS no
matter what. They look good. They are of course designed for bass
fishing in the US, and that means that large perch over here with a
similar soft mouth structure will be hooked just fine on these hooks. I have
not yet figured how these hooks will work in our local hard mouth
predators like trout and pike. I will test some out soon and report.
Sinker Weights for Drop Shot Fishing
You can use almost any kind of
lead/tungsten, but I like the "quick release" drop shot weights. If the conditions on
the water change, such as the wind picking up, the current increasing,
or if you move to deeper water, you can quickly change to a heavier
weight without having to retie. The weights are specifically
tailored for drop-shotting techniques. The best are long and thin to
slip through weeds, but some are ball shaped, as has a swivel-like line
tie that reduces line twist. Line twist can sometimes be a problem with
these rigs in wind, or deep water situations, and anything that helps
reduce this is a definite plus.
This type of weight also has something the others don't. It has a line
clip that lets you change the distance between the lure and the weight,
without having to retie.
Another technique for drop-shotting, is to
tie a regular lead head jig, (usually a 1/4 to 3/4 of an ounce), at the
leader end instead of the lead weight. If you do this don't use the
Palomar knot as it is not strong when pulling from the tag (sinker) end,
and a fish hooked on the jig will exert it's pull from there.
use a "pinch-on" split shot or two for the lead. This is very
handy, easy to adjust, slips off the line when snagged. I assume this is
how Drop Shot fishing technique got it's name.
For a heavier rig you can also thread a bored bullet
weight on the drop-shot leader, below the hook and lure, with a split
shot squeezed on below the bullet weight to hold it in place. More
weight can easily be added to this rig quickly, and you can spend more
A trick I use in rocky places is heavy lead wire, wound round a nail to make a thin
tube, and threaded onto the line with a No 1 to 4 or BB shot below to
lock it on. See photo. This is a fine snag resistant set up, and if it
happens to lock into a
crack between rocks, the shot will slide off releasing the wire and
allowing recovery of the flies or bait.
It depends on wind, drift speed, but as a guideline from shallows to
20' of water use 3/16 oz, for 30' deep consider 1/4 oz as standard, and
for deeper 30 - 50' try 5/16 oz up to say 1/2 oz.
Swivels and Line Type
I tie on a swivel as a connection between the line and leader to reduce
line twist. I
always use a black swivel for this and other techniques in clearer
water, if the BB swivels are too large use two smaller standard swivels
separated by 1' of line.
I select the smallest swivel I can. Trout and perch
feeding on nymphs will always see the swivel first if it is the same size
as their food, and has movement, and this is to be avoided like the
plague. For this reason be willing to consider that a swivel might
reduce the number of takes in certain conditions, and go without if
Most anglers recommend a braid as the non stretch quality aids in
detecting subtle strikes in deeper water. For very deep water (which is
a rare fishing occasion) I admit a braided line won't be seen in peat
water, but it sticks out to much in normal depths (under 30 feet) and clear water areas, I use
a Fluorocarbon line, partly because it's harder for the fish to see than
the braids, this is important.
Also, by using less visible fluorocarbon
line, I can go up in size to a higher pound test without the fish being
able to detect it.
Finally, braids show up on the sonar
all the way from top to
bottom, and this really clutters up the screen, at a time when I'm supposed to
be fishing for difficult fish that are in a neutral state at best, or
not feeding at worst.
My favourite line is
tried and tested, abuse taking, Maxima green mono in 4lbs and 6lbs
strengths. For pike I use Maxima and Berkeley in 12lbs and 15lbs from
reel to wire trace, with
main line down to the hook,
from hook down to sinker.
To give an idea of how I weigh up the various factors involved - if I fished
crystal clear waters frequently, I might use fluorocarbon more. If I
fished deep ALL the time, down where light levels are lower, I would
consider braid, or heavy fluorocarbon, as their low stretch gives good
"remote feel awareness".
For pike no special requirement to reduce line diameter arises, since
the strengths above work fine in all conditions.
For trout in clear
water and educated by being released a few times,
Maxima 3lbs is invisible (on the surface in my own tests on educated
trout in daylight), and clear fluoro of 5lbs (probably
working strength 4lbs after knots) is also invisible. Heavier
or darker lines near the surface can be seen and in bright light reduce
the takes received. Under the surface 6lbs
Maxima and 8lbs fluoro produce no reduction in the number of offers. For
rough water, overcast conditions, and night fishing use heavier because
you can, and it's better, I use Maxima 6lbs for small nymphs and 8lbs
for leeches and lures.
Length of "tag end"
I usually want my bait within 30" of the bottom. So
a sinker length below hook will therefore be 2 1/2'
maximum, unless there is a good reason like heavy
snags like sunken tree branches. Even then I want to
be as close as possible above such fish holding
If you don't have any of the special drop
shot sinkers, you can use ordinary weights, like this Arlesey
Bomb, for drop shotting. Just tie
it on with a simple overhand knot. If
it gets snagged, pulling will cause the knot
to slip under tension and release the
an advantage of having a longer length which anglers new to drop shot
fishing might not
think of. I am referring to the feature whereby your bait gets dragged
down by the weight at speed, but after the weight lands on the bottom,
the bait stops being pulled down, and begins falling more slowly under
it's own weight, and then it is under the control of you
and your rod.
Now (with the sinker on the bottom) you can hold the bait while you tighten up slack line.
But alternatively you can choose to give your bait a weightless ultra
slow free-fall during which it descends a bit, then you twitch it back
up until the line tightens to the sinker. This is a particularly deadly
moment after the cast.
The ability to free
fall your lure is best if you are fishing vertically, with no wind,
wave, or current drag pulling on a bow of slack line. If you are casting
away from your position, these wind, wave and drift will place a certain
minimum tautness in the line, which is difficult to overcome. The dry
fly fisherman's trick of "mending line" is how you get the bait
to sink downwards, in essence feeding extra line into the line "bow" so
takes the line from your end only, thereby allowing the other end to remain
free of tension.
On a clean bottom with
bottom feeding fish, reduce the sinker leader to between 9" and 18". But
with more active fish a higher bait is more visible and will get more
takes by being seen by more fish. So in these circumstances lengthen the
sinker leader from 12" to 24". The leader can also be lengthened if
there is a bottom covering layer of soft weed like chara which fish like
to pass over while hunting for little food items that graze on the weed.
Be sensitive to changes in line angle caused by casting, or drifting off
the bait. That reduces the height of presentation and might create a
need to lengthen the leader.
During the early
season it is common to find non-feeding trout or pike in mid water,
cruising over deeper features like dead weedbed root patches from the
last season. Midwater predators are usually not feeding, so they're hard
to catch by any method. But if there were to be nymph activity, they
tend to be located already in the place where it will occur, like
suspended over last years gravel bed (stick insect - sedge pupa), or
dying weedbeds (asellus water louse, gammarus shrimp). This is a
good time for an extended leader to achieve mid water presentation, with
the weightless trembling at the level of the fish.
HOW: Drop Shot Fishing Technique
If you are in shallow water, where fish under the tube will be spooked
by it's shadow or presence, cast away to open water, or to a fish
holding feature. Cast the rig anywhere you want.
For illustration, have a look at the action of a neutral density
Roboworm in this video clip:
If you are over deeper
water, you can either cast or if fish are on your sonar at the time
just lower it down vertically.
you're new to DS fishing lower your rod top occasionally and watch for slack in your line.
the weight is resting on the bottom, and is where it should be. If the line stays
taut it means the weight is still falling through the water and needs
more time to reach
bottom. While the weight is sinking, keep the bale arm open so line can
spill off the spool and allow it to crop vertically, instead of making a
pendulum swing in towards you as it sinks.
After your weight touches
bottom, gently vibrate the rod top, and by extension, the soft plastic
lure and make it twitch and hop a few tiny movements off the
bottom while the weight stays on the bottom. If you made a cast, gently
retrieve the bow in the line but try not to disturb the weight, other
than the smallest amount. Fish have time to inspect
it, and the tinier the movements, the more lifelike it is. They tend to
just suck it in and proceed on their way.
Be prepared for extremely gentle
The fish are taking a slow moving prey at their own level. They did not
chase it and build up speed prior to the take. They also did not rise
greatly in the water before the take, so they will not make a turn and
rapid descent after taking it. For these reasons, and a couple of others
the take can often be tiny, almost undetectable in fact. Often, on
a subsequent twitch or draw you notice a little extra weight or inertia
on the line. After a lift of the sinker to a location closer you may
notice that the expected duration in time for it to touchdown and create
a slack line at the rod top has been mysteriously extended.
Either way, lift in,
do not strike, just lift as it to make a retrieve. The fish should be
hooked in the top lip. If you strike into a big fish, while it's
body is at 90 degrees to your direction of pull, and also on a short
line, you will most likely either break the line, or rip the hook out,
or cause a shallow hook hold which gives later on in the fight that is
now about to begin. the vertical presentation has advantage after
hooking. If a big fish head shakes, a tackle wrenching force when
playing it from the side, there is no vicious tugs to a line pulling
upwards. So a big fish is denied one of it's more potent weapons for a
part of the fight, until after it runs away and the angler is no longer
After a while you will
learn to gently make a slightly bigger lift (of the sinker) than usual,
every so often, so as to see if a fish is munching on your soft bait.
It's soft so they will munch for a while, not dropping it after the
initial crunch. Trout that do drop it after the initial crunch will
circle around and nail it again so there is not much hurry to strike.
Wait until you feel that the fish is holding the bait in it's mouth at
that precise moment, before taking action.
Using a small bait,
helps ensure that the fish is not holding the tail of the bait,
predators naturally take it by the area of greatest mass, that is, the
chest, shoulder, and head. If the bait is excessively small, and they
want it they will engulf it all in one go, but quite likely without
making a big giveaway tug on the line.
Fly, Fry-lures, & Dead-bait Minnow all work with this
Yes you can fish flies, soft lures and real baits ALL with the same
For this sensitive method of fishing smaller lures and baits are
appropriate. Flies and nymphs are good, and mayfly, corixa, water louse,
shrimp, or damselfly nymphs work well. Streamer flies can work, and I
prefer marabou which adds life into a larger size nymph. On the
whole as it gets bigger, I want it to be made of more mobile materials,
so I look to the rubber and plastic lures when it's over 2" or so.
are so small and light that a short dropper can sometimes improve
presentation over that produced by the "off the main line" normal setup.
In other words a traditional wet fly leader with two droppers and a slim
weight where the "tail fly" normally goes. A snaggy bottom can
sometimes be fished
very effectively with the flies rather tighter to the bottom rocks than
a conventional sinking fly line would allow. This is shown in the
Fin-S shad, plastic minnows, and tubes with the multi legs skirt are
good in smaller sizes for trout and perch. The larger 4 - 6" sizes are
excellent for pike and I guess ferox trout too, though I haven't proven
much there so far. Most trout I've taken were on minnow and perch/roach
fry marabou fly-lures. I have used frozen minnows with a lot of success.
If you use a longer
"bass type worm" think about how it will suspend as it moves very
If the plastic is heavier in density than water it will droop, hanging
down and not look natural. It will depend on a cast and retrieve to
maintain it's horizontal status, and not fish right when directly below.
The best plastic lures are neutral density, the same density as water.
When nose hooked these ones will conveniently hang horizontal, and not
droop head up-tail downwards as some other heavier ones do.
Test your lures at the surface layers, observe them in visible shallows,
and learn how they work, or don't work, and what a jerk and a tremble
makes them do when down out of sight. What is good for ordinary
spinning may not work drop shotting.
As always in fishing,
fish, experiment and find out, and enjoy the experience.