What is a Drop Shot Rig?
In a nutshell, you could say a drop shot rig is a terminal tackle configuration used in bottom fishing (typically with soft plastic baits) where the hook is tied (in-line) above a sinker. Why is this important? Basically, by tying the hook directly “in-line,” any movement in the line will transfer directly to the soft bait.
Soft Bait Selection:
I prefer the larger size for two reasons:
1. Large baits get noticed! Typically these ground fish are feeding on sand eels or other small baitfish. Presenting a larger, brightly colored bait separates it from the crowd.
2. Avoid undersized by-catch. When fishing in typical cod fish depths (180’ – 360’) simply retrieving a fish to the surface can sometimes be fatal. An advantage to large style soft baits, is that typically only larger fish eat the bait. Having a high ratio of bites to legal sized fish not only makes the day easier on you, but on the fish population as well.
11/0 Drop Shot Rig: We first developed the Hogy Drop Shot Rig for targeting these deep-water species using soft baits. By adjusting the amount of weight on the rig, you can effectively fish any deep-water conditions.
The 11/0 Drop Shot Rig will help the bait track properly; thereby stabilizing the front portion of the bait and allowing the tail end to quiver.
Adding a second hook to the weight clip doubles the effectiveness of the rod. Simply clip on the hook before the weight. Just make sure fishing two hook presentations are legal in your area.
In these depths, the color spectrum becomes limited in a hurry. While dark colors would have the highest contrast, we have found that bright colors also work exceptionally well.
When in doubt: Start with bone. It’s always a producer.
Finicky Fish: Bubblegum has been a fantastic producer on the drop shot rig. We’ve also found that haddock go crazy over this color. We’re not sure why, but it’s quite often a bubblegum bite ends up being a tasty haddock.
Speed: A slow sweeping jigging motion is the most effective for codfish. Moving the bait 2’ – 3’ off the bottom is fine.
Rod Tip: Try to keep the rod around the 9 o’ clock position. You’ll have the ability to pick up slack quickly and have the most sensitivity.
Action: So now you’ve let the bait down to the bottom. Begin lifting the bait off the bottom in slow 2’ hops. A slow sweeping method is not only effective; it saves a lot of your energy as well. If you become tired of jigging, just put the rod in the rod holder and let the boat do the work. Often, just the rocking of a boat will impart enough action to draw strikes from hungry codfish.
- While longer than most jigging rods. I find that a longer rod helps with the sweeping retrieve.
- The added length helps to pick up slack on a hook set
- When using the rod holder method, the added rod length can help keep lines away from the gunnels.
Reel: Any high quality conventional reel will work. The low gear of a two-speed reel can be helpful reeling in heavy weights at extreme depths.
Capt’ Mikes Outfit: I always prefer spinning outfits for jigging as I’m using my strong arm to hold and jig the outfit, which get’s heavy in deep water. With braid, you can hold bottom amazingly well. I’m less worried about hook-set as the lazer sharp hooks we use always get the job done.
Line: Your going to need braided line. When fishing depths in excess of 200’ just about all sensitivity is lost with monofilament line. Utilizing braided line allows you to feel the thumping of your soft bait and soft bites of finicky fish. 50lb – 80lb power pro is a great choice for line strength vs. diameter. Remember to add a 10’ top shot of 80lb mono for shock absorption.
When in pursuit of ground fish, you’ll need to take into account three variables to help locate the most productive areas. Temperature, structure and bait. As with the majority of bottom fish, they tend to relate to specific bottom types and temps. If you can find their preferred areas and have a food source present, odds are your going to find fish.
Temperature – Cod prefer water temps from 36 – 46 degrees. To find these temps during warmer months, begin hunting in water at least 250’ deep. Cod will commonly be caught in water 300’ – 400’ deep, though seldom out past 650’. In the colder winter months, these fish may migrate into water as shallow as 50’ to spawn.
Structure – Fishing along contour lines and underwater humps can be a great way to locate cod holding structure. While fish may be holding in a general area, they may move by hundreds of yards throughout the tide cycle. If you find yourself in a very good bite, take note of your location and the tide. It’s possible the area you’re fishing will only hold them during a specific time.
Bait – A fish has got to eat! Learning how to use and understand your bottom machine is extremely important when targeting all bottom fish. It ends up being a simple matter of efficiency. If you spend your day chasing what you think are fish marking on your screen, but may only be machine feedback, you’ll end up frustrated and with out much to show for it. Instead, learn how to interpret what you’re looking at (We will have a full article on this soon!).