Drop Shot Rigs for Smallmouth Bass and Walleye
One of the most versatile rigs around to catch multi-species is called the drop shot rig. We have found that this same rig will catch both smallmouth bass and walleye. It has proven to be a very effective rig for many of the various situations you might run into on Lady Evelyn Lake. It's a pretty simple rig to learn and requires only a small amount of extra components for anglers to be prepared for all situations.
For the most effective presentation, these drop shot rigs were designed to use enough weight that you will be fishing nearly straight down under the boat with the weight on the bottom. You can just raise and lower your rod tip to give the bait a ton of action with very little movement and by keeping your line semi-tight you will feel every tap. Also keeping your line as close to straight up and down as possible means that if you have 12" between your weight and your hook, you will have about 12" between the bottom and your bait. If you let out so much line that you aren't straight under the boat, then the more line you let out the less distance you will have the bait off the bottom. In some extreme cases too much line out means the bait will be dragging on the bottom.
If you are concerned about fishing directly under the boat ..... don't be! Both walleye and smallmouth bass aren't the slightest bit boat shy here on Lady Evelyn Lake. I have seen several boats of anglers sit over a massive school of walleye in 15' of water catching one right after another for hours and yelling at each other between boats with the walleye directly under their boats. The only thing stopping the bite was the anglers getting too tired to crank anymore. Even our smallmouth bass will follow a lure right up to the side of the boat, hit it, jump off and then come back and hit it again and again and again until they hook themselves. Like I said, the fish at Lady Evelyn Lake are not shy at all!
Click on the picture to watch a video of drop shots rigs being used to catch walleye on a busy lake.
What You Will Need to Drop Shot
It doesn't take a lot of fancy gear to make this method work. Here are the components for successfully making and fishing these drop shot rigs.
Any medium or medium heavy power rod 6' or 6.5' with a fast tip action will work perfectly for drop shot fishing. A good quality rod will bend nearly 300 degrees into a loop without breaking yet still have enough feel to detect a strike when it's not bent fully.
A good quality reel is a critical component in fishing for big fish with light line. The drag must be smooth and not have even the slightest chatter when a fish is running and it must be immediately responsive without the slightest hesitation when a big fish first strikes. If for some reason you don't trust your reel's drag you will have to use heavier line which will decrease the amount of fish strikes and feel.
Walleye and smallmouth bass do not require you to use heavy line. We recommend either (preferably) 6# test or 8# test (max) good quality monofilament for this style of fishing. The lighter the line the better the feel when a fish pops your bait. Light monofilament has enough stretch to forgive many mistakes during the fight but good quality mono is plenty strong enough to handle any walleye or smallmouth bass in any lake as long as your reel has a good quality drag set to absorb the start/stop shock of a quick run.
I want to point out that you do not absolutely have to use a leader with a drop shot rig. If you are happy with your spooled line you can just cut off a couple feet and tie up your leader with it. However I usually tie a hand full of drop shot rig leaders ahead of time using Fluorocarbon leader material for a couple reasons. Fluorocarbon leaders are more abrasion resistant and they tend to fall quicker through the water column which results in less potential line twist on the drop. Fluorocarbon is also more opaque underwater and is proven to be less visible to fish which I don't think is terribly important in walleye and smallmouth fishing but why not check all the boxes. Flourocarbon leader is a solid no stretch material so your weight will slide a bit easier when you want it to pull free. The best Fluorocarbon leader on the market today is a brand called Seaguar because it is made using the original Japanese Fluorocarbon patent and not a monofilament and Fluorocarbon blend. Seaguar Blue Label 6# test works well. Note: Seaguar Fluorocarbon is extremely thin (almost invisible underwater) and difficult to tie a good drop shot knot. Pratctice with a bit larger hook and 10# test mono until you get the hang of the drop shot knot.
Use a decent quality small to medium snap swivel on your monofilament line to prevent line twist and give your bait the most stable presentation. Black swivels don't attract perch and bluegill as much as silver one tend to attratct. The size and color of the snap swivel is not critical. Just keep in mind that there is no need to buy swivels that are too big or too fancy.
The most effective way to make a drop shot rig's bait "dance" is to lightly nose hook the bait. This allows it to wave freely and naturally with each slight movement of your line. Small short shank lightweight thin hooks are extremely sharp for quick and easy penetration without having to "set" the hook. Some anglers fear using these small hooks because they are afraid that it will bend or straighten when you hook a big fish. That's the exact reason we suggest the light line and quality reel drag with light resistance for this style of fishing. If the drag is set correctly even the biggest fish can not straighten your hook because they will never have enough pressure pullin back on them. The exact hook you end up using will be a personal preference. One hook that has worked perfectly for me in the past is (Mustad 10549NP-BN 1X fine wire UltraPoint Size 1/0).
There are several possible weight styles that can be adapted for drop shot fishing. There are even some more expensive weights that have been designed with drop shot fishing specifically in mind. You will not need any fancy weights to be successful, just a nice selection. The one I'm about to suggest is not even on the list of normally used weights for drop shot fishing. However, it's the least expensive and in my opinion the most effective here on Lady Evelyn. Pre-trip purchase a nice selection of Gremlin split shots from 1/8 oz. up to about one ounce. When you tie up your drop shot leaders just leave the bottom section of leader material between 12" and 18" long and don't tie anything on it. When you pull out your drop shot rig for fishing, select the weight size you will need for the situation and crimp it to the leader with only a medium force. Why a split shot? Because if you get it hung up on something like rocks etc. you can simply give it a steady pressure enough to pull the weight to the end of the leader. It will pop off and you will be able to retrieve the rest of your leader without the weight that has hung up. You will be able to just crimp on another weight and in seconds your back in the water fishing.
Note: You can also use a bell sinker by tying it on with a single overhand loop. When it hangs up you can pull hard on the loop to slide it free. Fluorocarbon is not monofilament and it is a solid material so overhand loops pull free much easier. Be careful when you start using this method until you figure out how tight to pull your loop. Watch the video later in this article on how to tie on a drop shot hook. Near the end of the short video it also demonstrates tying a loop when using a bell sinker to breag away.
Here's what your drop shot rig will look like once it's all tied up and hanging on your line. Tip: You also might want to tie up a few double hook rigs for those days when you are questioning what the fish are favoring that day.
Power Shot Fishing
Normal drop shot fishing is a great method for sitting still or nearly still at a known productive area and also when you are drifting through a known productive area. Although very effective, drop shotting is not a fast method. Power shot fishing however is a method that allows you to fan cast an entire area without ever moving the boat. This is a method to get reaction bites from a previously notoriously slow technique. Just use a heavier weight. This allows you to cast a considerable distance and crank the rig at various speeds until you find the trigger speed fish are looking for. Here are a few things to consider when you go power shot fishing.
A: One of the more critical parts of tying a drop shot rig and a power shot rig is learning how to tie on the hook. There are a couple things you need to consider. The hook should be tied onto the leader with the point facing up. The reason for this is so most fish caught will be hooked in the top of the mouth rather then the bottom where it is easy for the fish to shake the hook. You'll also want the hook to hang straight out from the leader at a 90 degree angle. This helps prevent line wrapping on the bait's fall and increases your hook up ratio.
Click on the picture to watch a great video explaining how to tie a drop shot hook to a leader. I would like to add a special note about tying these knots. Since we are using very light line and leaders for walleye fishing this knot is very difficult to tie at first. Practice this with a bit larger hook and heavier leader material until you feel confident in the process. You will save on a lot of expensive leader material when you are trying to learn this knot.
B: With power shot fishing you will be fishing with your line and leader at an angle. The angle will depend on the distance you have cast from the boat plus the depth of the water. For power shot fishing find a small bait with a neutral buoyancy that will allow it to hover above the drop shot rig on the retrieve. A great example for walleye and bass would be a lure like the Strike King Baby Z-Too made with long lasting Elastech material at 3 1/2 inches long. Or you might also want try the 4" Z-Man Finesse ShadZ made of ElaZtech with a wild undulating action. I have also used the BioBait DNA - 5" Switchback - Sexy Shad and can tell you they really work with this method on big fish. These baits also fill the profile of fatter body and slimmer tail which has proven to be a shape that walleye prefer to strike head first (better hook ups on this rig). There are several other baits that will work great on this rig but these will give you some idea of the things to look for and why to use them.
C: You are using a heavier weight so the potential to hang up increases. That's a good reason for using inexpensive crimp weights that you won't mind pulling off when it is hung up. Power shot fishing is not a finesse method so now you will be using weights of 1/2 oz. and up. Although I also use 6# test for this power shot fishing, since this method is casting and retrieving a good quality 8# mono or braid will also work well.
D: Be prepared for the immediate strike when the bait falls and hits the bottom. Why? Because with the heavier weight your bait falls immediately to the bottom very quickly. Many strikes from walleye and smallmouth will come from an instinctual reaction. Both walleye and smallmouth bass are big time reaction feeders even when they are in a neutral feeding mood. Always be prepared on the drop and when you first move the retrieve.
E: With power shot fishing you are able to cover more water. In the case of walleye fishing, we are talking a lot more water than trolling and drifting. Power shot fishing can potentially catch several more walleye every time out. Another bonus is that larger smallmouth bass are instinctually more aggressive and often chase down a fast bait. We promise you will catch several more smallmouth bass per trip if you'll take the time to learn this method. From experience we know there are several spots on Lady Evelyn Lake where a fast moving power shot rig can produce smallmouth on every single cast.