By Alton Jones

Look at the rods in my boat, and you’ll almost always find at least one with a drop-shot rig tied on, and usually you won’t have to look far because that rod will be out of the box and on my front deck. It’s one of my favorite rigs for a lot of different situations.

Three new YUM baits, the Kill Shot, Warning Shot and Sharp Shooter, were designed specifically for drop-shot fishing. That makes me extra excited about drop-shotting. The Kill Shot and Warning Shot both use a body shape that somewhat mimics a goby and will be a great tool for Great Lakes smallmouths. The Sharp Shooter is a classic drop-shot worm with a flat spear tail.

Before getting into specific tips I think it it’s important to clear up one major misconception. People think of a drop shot as strictly a little-fish bait. While it’s true that it will catch little ones and is one of the best rigs out there for getting a limit, there are times when it is the very best tactic for winning a tournament.

1. Know Situations
I use a drop-shot rig in quite few different situations. That said, it’s the first thing I grab at times. The first is extra clear water, and the clearer the water the more likely I am to fish a drop-shot. Next is cold water. In the same way, the colder the water is, the more likely I am to fish a drop shot. Third is any tough condition. When a crankbait or spinnerbait or other power-fishing bait isn’t working, I’m likely to try a drop shot. Finally, any time fish are suspended and it’s deep enough to fish from directly above them, I’m likely to pick up a drop shot.

2. Let the Lure do the Work
One of the biggest mistakes most anglers make with a drop shot is to overwork it, which takes away the appeal of the presentation being so subtle. I let the bait do most of the fish-attracting work. Often I hold the rod completely still, and when I do add action it’s with very slight movements.

If the fish are on the bottom, I’ll let the weight drop all the way down and then leave the line slack for a few seconds so the bait can slowly flutter to the bottom. Then I lift the bait slowly until the line is tight and just hold it still. Sometimes I do that for a very long time. If that fish is down there looking at the bait, eventually he’s going to eat it.

alton jones3. Anchor the Weight
Closely related, when I do add motion to a drop-shot bait, I like to work it with a rod motion that moves the bait without moving the weight. If your dropshot weight is hopping, you’re moving your rod tip too much. With a deep dropshot, I’m not casting and working the bait to me. I’m dropping is straight down and fishing it vertically.

4. Remember Suspenders
Don’t get so caught up working the bottom that you overlook suspended bass and the opportunity to target them.  If you see suspended fish your graph, lower your bait to that depth and just hold it in place. A drop-shot rig is one of the absolute best things I’ve found for convincing suspended fish to bite.

5. Don’t Over-Weight
I use a 1/8-ounce weight 90 percent of the time for drop-shot fishing, whether the water is 10 feet deep or 40 feet deep. Some guys may like a bigger weight for deeper water, but I feel like the lightest weight I can get away with gives my bait the best action. If it’s so windy or there’s so much current that I can’t control a 1/8-ounce dropshot, I’m probably going to use something different.

6. Rig for the Situation
I rig two basic ways, in terms of the way the bait is actually hooked. If the bottom is sufficiently open that I believe I can get away with it or I’m fishing suspended fish that are well away from cover, I’ll use a small octopus-style hook and hook the bait right through the nose so the hook point is exposed. If I’m fishing in cover I’ll use a small light-wire offset hook, usually a 1/0 or a No. 1, and “Texpose” the bait on the hook. Either way, my bait is normally 12- to 14-inches above my weight.

7. Know the Forage
Not all drop shot baits work the same, and the best bait to use varies from one day to the next. The cover plays some part in the decision process, and at times you have to let the fish show their preferences. An important factor for me, though, is what the fish are eating. If I believe gobies or shad are near the bottom where I’m fishing, I want something like the Kill Shot or Warning Shot that suggests a baitfish. Otherwise, I’ll probably start with a worm like the Sharp Shooter.

8. Tie One On
My final tip for a drop-shot rig is simply to keep one tied on and remember to pick it up. You can’t catch fish on it if you don’t fish it, and my guess is that if you give a drop shot a decent try you’ll discover an outstanding fish catcher.