Drop Shot Rig: Everything You Need To Know

Jun 5, 2024 | 6 minute read
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Anglers have infinite options for rigging styles and techniques. But there are few that stand out like the drop shot rig. This is a rig that has stood the test of time and remains a popular choice that’s beginner-friendly and expert-preferred.

A fisherman in a red life jacket and sunglasses, sitting in a red boat with a fishing rod, while fishing on a lake in summer

You’ll encounter a number of different ways to tie and rig the drop shot leader—and most are great. And I’m here to talk you through them! Continue reading to learn the knots, target species, and the situations that make this such an effective technique.

What is a drop shot rig?

The drop shot rig is a simple and effective way to manage depth while fishing just above a dedicated weight. The weight sits at the very bottom of the rig, with one or more hooks set at varying distances above it.

With a heavy weight on the bottom, the line takes a vertical position. The spacing for each hook above the weight also maintains a set depth. While you can suspend this rig much as you would for a jig, it’s more often fished with the weight on the bottom.

By dropping the weight to the bottom, it makes it easy to keep your bait or lure suspended just above the bottom. Many fish hug the river or lake floor as they cruise in search of food. This is a major reason the drop shot rig is so effective.

How to Rig a Drop Shot

Let’s start with the most basic method of rigging. Assuming you have a single oval or banana-shaped weight with a loop and single hook, here’s how you can make a simple drop shot.

Knot Connected Method

A closeup of a piece of fishing line tied into a loop using a surgeon's knot against the hand that's holding it
Photo courtesy of Zach Lazzari
  1. Tie the end of your leader to the hook eye with a clinch knot
  2. Tie a section of leader measuring anywhere from 8–16 inches to the same hook eye with a clinch knot
  3. Tie the end of your leader to the weight with your favorite knot (I suggest a clinch or Palomar knot)

This is far and away the easiest way to rig. You can even find a piece of hardware that runs through your hook eye with a loop on either end. The only thing I don’t love is the way your hook has no space between the leader. I think it’s easier for the fish to strike when the hook has a tag for separation from the leader tension.

Palomar Knot Method

This technique is similar to the last but it uses a single knot to the hook rather than two. It’s a bit more streamlined in that sense, and you won’t need a second section of leader.

  1. Tie the hook to your line using a Palomar knot, leaving a foot or more of excess at the tag end of your line
  2. Tie the remaining tag end to your weight with a Palomar knot as well 
  3. Add extra hooks up the line at spaced intervals using the same knot—you can easily fish three hooks using this method!

Three-Way Swivel Method

A closeup of a metal, three-way swivel used for fishing against a white background

I like having a few inches of leader attached to the hook, as the space between the main line allows for more movement. It also feels easier to get a hook set with that extra space in my opinion. Keep in mind, you can rig this without the swivels but they make things much quicker.

  1. Tie your main line to the top of a three-way swivel
  2. Tie a section of leader to the bottom of the swivel at your preferred distance and tie your weight to the bottom end of this leader
  3. Tie a short section (8 inches or so) of leader to the 90-degree swivel loop
  4. Tie your hook to the leader

All of these are common methods to rig a drop shot, but there are many more to explore as well. You can even buy pre-rigged leaders that are ready to fish. The opportunities are endless! 

How to Fish a Drop Shot Rig

Before I dive into what you can catch, let me just walk you through how to fish once you’ve rigged up. You can use bait on the hook but drop shot rigs are also excellent when combined with soft plastics. The technique itself is straightforward:

  1. Cast and allow the weight to drop to the bottom 
  2. Maintain slight pressure for contact and even reel slowly with light rod bumps to impart motion on the bait
  3. Set the hook on any strikes

Alternatively, drop the weight in the water and allow it to sink vertically from a boat or dock. Stop when it reaches the bottom, and—bam—you’re fishing!

What species can I catch on a drop shot?

The list of species you can catch with these rigs is nearly limitless. From freshwater rivers and lakes to saltwater flats and reefs, there’s no end to where you can utilize the drop shot. That being said, there are some fish that are more susceptible than others…

Largemouth & Smallmouth Bass 

A man's hand holding a Largemouth Bass by its mouth that was caught using a dropshot style rig with a soft plastic worm.

Almost all Bass anglers keep a drop shot rigged and ready to fish. When the fish aren’t responsive to more aggressive techniques and lures, it’s time to fish the trusted drop shot. It’s almost like using a Carolina rig except the weight is on the bottom rather than the lure!

Catfish & Bottom Dwellers 

For fish that sit tight and lurk under deep log jams and undercut banks, a drop shot rig is flat-out deadly. It puts your bait right above the bottom and keeps it there until the fish is ready to strike.

Walleye, Pike, & Musky

A closeup of a Walleye poking out of the ice having been caught with a drop shot rig that's still visible in its mouth

All warm water species—but especially ambush predators—are good candidates for this rig. Crankbaits, heavy spoons, Rapalas, and popular lures will find days when the fish just aren’t responding. Choosing this more sensitive approach will keep you in the zone and it can turn a slow day around.

Saltwater 

Fishing over grass and sand flats is tricky without dragging your hook through the weeds. This rig is excellent for chasing Speckled Trout, Redfish, and other Drum species in areas where the water shifts from shallow to moderately deep. It offers control through the changing depths and you can pitch a quick cast into the shallow or retrieve to swim over a dropoff.

That’s the shortlist but the reality is that you can catch just about any freshwater game fish and quite a few in the salt with this practical approach! 

When to Use a Drop Shot Rig

You can use this setup anytime you like. The beauty lies in your ability to easily find the bottom at any depth. You can drop your line off a shallow ledge or choose to find deeper waters. By simply dropping the weight until it hits bottom, then barely backing off, you’ll have a set depth without the need for any technological support.

When the fish are slow, use your drop shot rig without any motion. Just let the bait suspend above the bottom until a fish finds it naturally. If the action is hot, a subtle bouncing motion will help with visual stimulation for the fish. 

Get Rigged for Success with a Drop Shot!

Three men in baseball caps, sunglasses, and life vests, holding up two Largemouth Basses each after a successful fishing trip in Indiana
Photo courtesy of Shelldivers Guide Service

Hopefully, you’ve now got a clearer picture of what a drop shot rig is, how to utilize it, and what you can catch. Now it’s your time to land some fish. There’s never a bad time to test this method, and you might even want to keep a separate rod rigged at all times so it’s ready to fish! So, book a trip, get out there, and start practicing!

What are your favorite drop shot rigging styles and techniques? Do you have any more questions? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Author profile picture

Zach Lazzari is a freelance outdoor writer, full-time traveler, and adventurer. He drove the Pan American Highway, chasing fish and whitewater across 13 countries, and continues pushing the limits of travel, fishing, whitewater, and hunting. Follow his travels at the Busted Oarlock.

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