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Getting the “Drop Shot” on Bass

By: Mark Romanack

When it comes to smallmouth bass, Jake Romanack’s favorite set up is casting a drop shot rig.

​ When the heat of summer sets in, it’s a forgone conclusion that fish are going to move into deeper water. That goes double for smallmouth bass.

​ Back in the day, anglers depended heavily upon the “Carolina Rig” for targeting deep water bass. This rig was fished on a heavy gear, married to larger soft plastic baits and dragged along the bottom to entice strikes.

​ These days you rarely see guys rigged up with Carolina Rigs. Instead, a more finesse method of fishing deep water has stolen the show. The “Drop Shot Rig” consists of a sinker at the terminal end and a single hook rigged in-line about 12-18 inches off the bottom. All manner of soft plastics can be fished using the drop shot rig, making this simple set up not only effective, but perhaps the most versatile of summer bass rigs.


​ The drop shot rig can be fished on straight fluorocarbon or with a super braid main line and a short fluorocarbon leader. To maximize the sensitivity of the drop shot rig, most anglers will opt for a main line of 10 pound test super braid with a four to six foot leader of 8 pound test fluorocarbon line as a leader. The double uni knot is the best way to join the braid main line to the fluorocarbon leader material.

​ Once the braid and fluorocarbon are joined, use a Palomar knot to attach a drop shot style hook onto the fluorocarbon leader. After the hook is attached with the Palomar knot, run the leader back through the hook eye. This insures the hook will ride upright in the water and provides a handy tag end from which to attach the sinker.

​ The hook absolutely needs to be positioned so it rides upright to insure bites are converted into hooked fish. The Trokar TD150 drop shot hook is hands down the industry standard for this fishing presentation. Depending on the bulk of the soft plastic being used the most common hook sizes are the No. 4, 2, 1 and 1/0.

​ For those anglers who can’t tie the Palomar knot, don’t despair. The Trokar TK230 is a drop shot hook rigged with swivels on either end of the hook shank that make it easy to tie on this classic rig.

Big smallmouth bass like this are routinely found in water too deep to fish with most popular lures. The drop shot rig is the author’s “go to” presentation for targeting smallmouth bass in summer, fall and early winter.

​ The final step is attaching a sinker to the terminal end. A host of different weights including cylinder, round and bell shaped weights can be used effectively for drop shot fishing. I find that when fishing in sand or gravel, a bell or round weight works just fine. In rocky conditions, the cylinder style weight is much less likely to get snagged on the bottom.

​ Drop shot weights are commonly made of lead, iron or tungsten. Lead and iron weights are the most affordable, but tungsten weights are much better at telegraphing the composition of the bottom. Because tungsten is much denser than lead, the weights are not only more sensitive, they are much smaller in size, adding to the finesse features of this presentation.

​ Because tungsten is expensive, many anglers are reluctant to use tungsten drop shot weights. My advice is to buy a few lead and a few tungsten drop shot weights and try both. I’m convinced once an angler fishes tungsten drop shot rigs, using lead sinkers is no longer an option.

​ The most common sinker weights are 3/8 and 1/2 ounce models.


​ The market is flooded with “presentation specific” rods designed for fishing drop shot rigs. A seven-foot to seven-foot, six-inch spinning rod with a medium/light action is the ideal choice for fishing drop shot rigs. Because the hook is tied in-line, a rod with a light and especially sensitive tip is critical to fishing success.

​ If the rod is too stiff, when fish bite they will feel resistance and quickly drop the bait. An ultra light rod tip will enable the fish to bite and turn to swim away without feeling resistance.


​ The truth is almost any soft plastic an be fished on a drop shot rig. That stated, the plastics that routinely produce the best results are finesse style baits designed to imitate crayfish, minnows, goby, sculpin and other common bass forage species.  Just a few of the manufacturers who produce a wealth of quality drop shot plastics include Berkley, Big Bites, Z-Man, Strike King, Yamamoto, and Yum.

​ All of these baits have the most action when lip hooked. The slightest quivering of the rod tip will bring these plastic baits to life.

The author’s favorite drop shot rigging products all fit nicely in one deep Plano utility box.


​ Even the best soft plastics produce better when treated with natural scent products such as Pro Cure Super Gel. Pro Cure products are made by dehydrating common baitfish species, grinding the bait into a powder and then adding a sticky/oily emulsion that enables the scent to stick to all forms of artificial lures and even live bait.

​ A couple drops of Super Gel smeared onto a soft plastic bait will put out a natural scent stream in the water for 30-40 minutes. A few of the most popular Super Gel formulas among bass fishermen include Trophy Bass, Crayfish, Gizzard Shad and Goby.​


​ Drop shot rigs can be fished effectively either vertical directly below the boat or casted into position. In both cases, live sonar technology such as Garmin’s LiveScope is invaluable when drop shot fishing.

​ Because LiveScope is real time sonar, anglers can see not only the fish, but also their lure in relationship to the fish. By studying how the fish reacts to various types of soft plastics, a savvy angler can quickly determine what the fish want on any given day.


​ Smallmouth bass spend a considerable amount of their lives feeding in water too deep for a host of popular lures. Thankfully the drop shot rig is easy to fish, effective and can be fished in any depth of water. Even better, everything an angler needs to excel at drop shot fishing will fit nicely in one deep Plano box.


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