Several years ago when I first read about a new method of fishing called “Drop shot rigs for bass” I had to laugh. When I was 10 years old, my uncle took me on my first fishing trip to Lake George where we fished rocky stair-like ledges around the Point of Tongue Mountain. We used center-hooked night crawlers or minnows about a foot or two above a half-ounce lead sinker. We also used this method when we were fishing bullheads off the shore at the South Bay launch. Thus when this “new” secret technique of drop shotting was introduced and endorsed by several bass fishing professionals, I was amused.
The only real difference I could see was the use of artificial baits, lighter line for clear waters, and tungsten instead of lead sinkers.
What is Drop Shot Fishing?
What is drop shot fishing? Professional bass anglers would answer: drop shotting has been described as an excellent clear water rig in waters like Lake George and Schroon Lake, but you can also have excellent results in the muddy and weedy waters of Lake Champlain. Whatever you want to call it, it still comes out as a weight at the bottom and bait above it.
2 Ways To Use Drop Shot Rigs for Bass
Now let’s look at the two ways that I use drop shot rigs for both smallmouth and largemouth bass.
My First Introduction and Experience with the “New” Drop Shot Rig
I was fishing in the Crown Point area of Lake Champlain with my friend Dan Stadler. It was on this trip that I realized why ESPN Bassmasters and the FLW Outdoors pro bass tours return to upper Lake Champlain every year.
When I got in Dan’s boat at 6 a.m., he handed me a 7-foot medium action graphite rod with a fast retrieve (6.1:0) baitcasting reel spooled with a 10-pound test monofilament line. On the end of the line was a one-eighth-ounce bell sinker and 12-14 inches above it was a size 3 Bleeding Bait hook with the point facing up. The red color of the hook imitates the gills of wounded bait. The baits we used on this day were Bass Pro Shops four-inch Drop Shot Worm and their four-inch Finesse Drop Shot Goby.
Our First Stop Was the Old Crown Point Bridge
Our first stop was at the pilings of the old Crown Point Bridge, which I had run right by many times. I don’t run by them anymore. The trick with drop shotting is that once the weight has rested on the bottom you should tighten up your line, and then using only your rod tip, gently twitch or shake the bait.
Set the Hook
The majority of bites will come when you are twitching or shaking the lure. You will feel the tick or when you slowly lift the rod tip it will feel heavy and begin to move off. Quickly take up any slack and SET THE HOOK.
“He who waits will lose his fish,” Dan told me.
He only had to tell me once. We caught and released over 20 smallmouth bass from these pilings.
For the next hour or so we fished both sides of the lake above Bulwaga Bay wherever there were rocky cliff-like shorelines dropping into deeper water of 15 feet or more. One area where we caught over 30 smallmouths was off of the Chimney Point peninsula on the Vermont (east) side of the lake in 15 to 20 feet of water.
That day in 12 hours of fishing we caught – and you are going to think that this is a fish tale and released at least 80 basses. The majority were smallmouths with most of them in the 14-16 inch range, about a dozen three pounders, and two fish just over five pounds.
Drop Shotting at Lake George: A Winning Technique
Since that day I have been using the same drop shot rigs for bass and technique with the same soft plastic bait for smallmouths. Several weeks after that Lake Champlain trip I found out that the smallies at Lake George also were quite fond of this drop shot and Goby lures. While practicing for a Capital District Bassmaster club event on Lake George, I caught several good smallmouths off the Point of Tongue Mountain.
Fortunately, on the day of the tournament, I chose to make the run from the Mossy Point launch site at the north end of the lake down through the Narrows to the Point of Tongue Mountain. I spent the first five hours on this point and won the tournament with a total weight of over 17 pounds with five smallmouths.
All were caught with the drop shot rig. My non-boater angler who fished with me that day finished fifth overall for lighter weights with almost 15 pounds of fish. He switched to drop shotting after I boated my third fish. While we stood in the weigh-in line, I made him swear to secrecy.
Drop Shot Rigs for Bass in Dense Cover
As a dedicated wacky (sinking) worm bass angler since the early 90s, I used six-inch Bass Pro Shop Stix-O Worms pierced through the center with a 2/0 or 3/0 wide gap hook ninety percent of the time. But rigging this way is not good when fishing deep water or when fishing heavy topwater vegetation.
How to Drop Shot Fish?
However, a good friend and very successful bass tournament angler, the late Frank Jeske, showed me how to catch bass surface dense cover with an exposed sharp pointed Kahle 3/0 or 4/0 hook just by using a heavier weight below the hook.
My First Lesson…
My first lesson came in Lake Champlain with Frank fishing in an area with heavy lily pads and milfoil cover across from the Ticonderoga boat launch. He handed me a 7 ½ foot heavy action rod with a high-speed ratio casting reel spooled with a 50-pound test FireLine. The drop shot weight at the end of the line was a one-ounce XPS tungsten Flippin Worm Weight and a 3/0 wide gap hook and 5 3/8 inch Stik-O Worm rigged wacky style (pierced through the middle with barb exposed) 12 inches above the weight.
Keeping the boat tight to the weed edges, he pitched the drop shot five feet in the air and let it “punch” its way through the weedy jungle and let it drop freely to the bottom. He took up the slack and let it set there for about 5 seconds. Then he gave a few jiggles with the rod tip and reeled it up and tossed it to another spot. Once again you take up any slack and let it sit on the bottom. Give this method a chance on Lake Champlain and any other waters with heavy topwater vegetation.
Schroon Lake Fishing: Targeting Smallmouth Bass
Schroon Lake is another of my favorite north county smallmouth lakes where the lighter-weight drop shot method produces good fish. While fishing Schroon’s clear water I use 8-10 pound test monofilament. The smallies there favor the four-inch BPS Drop Shot Worm in watermelon seed and candy colors.
Fishing Tips for Success on Schroon Lake
My advice is to use the village launch at the north end of the lake and head straight to the Word of Life Island and begin fishing in 10 feet of water all around the island. You should find smallmouth anywhere between 10 and 25 feet down.
When you finish fishing around the island, head to the eastern shoreline and fish southward, hitting all the rocky shorelines and around any of the danger buoys. I fish this type of structure all the way down to the other end of the lake. When you come to the area known as the Narrows, fish it with a drop shot on both the east and west sides thoroughly.
Just south of the Narrows, you will see a ring of buoys marking a sizeable area of shallow rocks. You can try a spinner or topwater bait over the shallow rocks but don’t leave until you work the deep water all around the edge of the rocks. I won a tournament there with five smallmouths totaling just over 15 pounds. All were taken on the by using drop shot rigs for bass, specifically the Stix-O Worm by bouncing it down the ledges from 5 to 25 feet deep.
This past July while fishing Schroon Lake, I found that the smallies here favored the 4 ¼ inch red shad and white chartreuse Stix-O Worm using a 1/8 or 1/4 ounce weight.
Drop Shot Rigs for Adirondack Bass: Give Them a Try
Adapt your drop shot rigs for bass fishing to the type of Adirondack waters that you will be fishing and give the drop shot a try. I think you will be pleased with the results.
Original Article By Ed Noonan
About The Author
Ed Noonan was a full time NYS licensed guide and full time outdoor writer with twice weekly columns in the Schenectady Gazette as well as writing freelance for a variety of outdoor magazines. He was a member of NYS Outdoor Writers’ Association and the NYS Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame and recipient of the NYSOWA and Bass Pro Shops’ Pass It On Award. Ed passed away in 2023.