Introduction to Drop Shotting for Crappie
For some crappie anglers, a drop shot rig is always tied on at least one of their setups. To other anglers, it’s only used in dire situations when the fish are incredibly lethargic. Either way, the drop shot rig is a great way to catch crappie.
What is a drop shot rig?
A drop shot rig is a bottom rig used in fishing that includes a sinker, hook and lure used to target fish close to or suspending near the bottom. The drop shot rig setup is unique because it allows a lure to remain suspended off the bottom thanks to having a sinker tied off at the end of the line instead of the hook, which is standard with many other fishing rigs. Setting up a drop shot rig like this decreases your number of snags and increases your hookups!
The drop shot rig includes two primary pieces – the hook and the sinker. For the hook, consider using a straight shank hook or an octopus hook. The market is flooded with options for this, and most manufacturers have included “drop shot hook” in the title to help you out. A small, straight shank or octopus hook will be more easily hidden by your lure of choice and will also help land you more fish due to getting a better hook up when the crappie are biting.
As for the sinker, you have two main options: “cylinder” and “round.” Round drop shot sinkers are typically made of lead and in the shape of a ball. These are a great choice when you can get away with making a little more noise with your presentation, such as areas that include a lot of rock. Whether it be boulders, scattered rocks, riprap, or shell beds, a round drop shot will keep your lure in the strike zone while also using the noise of the weight to bring fish to your lure.
The other option is cylinder drop shot sinkers. These sinkers are primarily used in more finesse fishing situations, including heavy cover, where you are more prone to hang-ups and conditions that may require a quiet, more stealthy approach.
The retrieval of a drop shot rig can be done using two primary methods, dependent on your conditions. Vertical drop shot fishing, where the line is nearly directly under you (best used when on a boat), is a great technique to keep your lure in the strike zone.
Lateral drop shot fishing is a technique better used when fishing from a bank or shore, and your goal is to use a presentation that works for the bottom of the body of water you’re fishing. The cadence and retrieval should be similar for both. Shake – Pause – Shake – Shake – Shake – Pause – Shake where you have 1-5 second pauses between the first shake and the middle string of shakes. Your wrist does all the work here. The only time you need to reel is when retrieving slack line. Give it a try!
How to Rig a Drop Shot For Crappie
When it comes to crappie fishing, the best way to rig the drop shot is with the lightest tackle as appropriate for your fishing conditions and situation. This helps prevent hang-ups and gives your presentation a more natural look and feel both for the descent to the bottom and when working your lure throughout the strike zone.
Starting with the tag end of your line and your hook, tie your drop shot hook on using your knot of choice but intentionally leave roughly 12-20 inches of excess line. Next, take the extra line used to tie your hook on and feed that piece back through the hook eye. This is a crucial step in a good drop shot rig. This forces the hook and lure to keep a perpendicular position with your line allowing your lure to have a nice, flat, natural presentation in the water.
Using the extra lead line, you can now tie on your sinker of choice and clip off any excess line. Ideally, you will want the distance from your hook to your sinker to be roughly 12-18 inches. However, this can vary greatly depending on what depth the crappie are holding in.
For instance, during the spawning season, those fish may be very close to the bottom and protecting their bed you can probably get away with a 4–6 inch lead line to your sinker. Or perhaps you’ve located fish 3-5 feet from the bottom, hugging tight on some bridge columns. In that case, you can lengthen your lead line between your hook and sinker to get your lure in the strike zone.
Drop Shot Hooks
Some hook brands to consider are the following:
Eagle claw: https://www.basspro.com/shop/en/eagle-claw-lazer-sharp-l6p-drop-shot-hook?hvarAID=shopping_googleproductextensions&ds_e=GOOGLE&ds_c=Shop%7CBPS%7CTopPerformers%7CFishing&gclid=CjwKCAjwlcaRBhBYEiwAK341jROFqbO4dQBAKYew0CXvGXc6p3q_txwCbIY9vy-ka91ne41g96DAEhoCQRAQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
Mr. Crappie: https://www.sportsmans.com/fishing-gear-supplies/fishing-terminal-tackle-supplies/hooks/mr-crappie-blue-black-aberdeen/p/1107481?channel=shopping&gclid=CjwKCAjwlcaRBhBYEiwAK341jTEe2HGDAHKoBs4bmfhD5zE4TgoFPD1oBF3FgLEh1bq7QAPlcLZmoRoCis8QAvD_BwE
All these brands offer hooks specifically dedicated to drop shot rigs. In most cases a size 4 hook will get the job done.
Drop Shot Lures
Your lure should closely imitate the food available to the fishery holding the crappie. In most cases, this means smaller prey and baitfish that make for an easy meal. However, do not be afraid to try a worm on a crappie drop shot rig every once in a while. Many times, an angler will imitate a baitfish all day just to find out the crappie are only interested in worms. Worms are great for targeting all fish species, so don’t shy away from lures that say they are for one fish, trout, for example, because there’s a good chance that a crappie will go for it. See below for a short list of good options for your crappie drop shot rig.
LIVETARGET Ghost tails: https://www.basspro.com/shop/en/livetarget-ghost-tail-dropshot-minnow?hvarAID=shopping_googleproductextensions&ds_e=GOOGLE&ds_c=Shop%7CBPS%7CTopPerformers%7CFishing&gclid=CjwKCAjwlcaRBhBYEiwAK341jSrg1bHeFBeHlh8kNFw92Tl3O6gfcLr1f-5LE5vBSZvEfFXNIzg8OhoCXF8QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
Floating worms: https://www.basspro.com/shop/en/berkley-powerbait-floating-trout-worm-3?hvarAID=shopping_googleproductextensions&ds_e=GOOGLE&ds_c=Shop%7CPromo%7CHigh%7CSpringFishingClassic&gclid=CjwKCAjwlcaRBhBYEiwAK341jSDsWQUjR003eBX_0GcXqLAqvyvfMO2QEfDk9QSFabW6g6gNaFLVThoCdxkQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
Drop Shot Rod and Reel
Rod and reels are often overlooked in terms of importance. A good rod and reel are the backbone of every fish landed and should require some attention before getting your line wet.
For rods, consider something in the 7-9 foot range. A 7-9 foot rod provides you with enough rod length to have better leverage and control of your lures and hooksets. It’s not a necessity in drop shot fishing, but a longer rod is a must for increasing casting range as well. Consider rods no heavier than medium-light and moderate to fast action range. This provides enough flex in the rod to avoid ripping hooks out of a fish’s mouth and enough control for working your lure.
As for reels, you will want to choose a spinning, open-face setup. There are hundreds of brands out there, and they all do about the same thing. However, one detail to focus on is considering a reel with a good drag system. Crappie fishing is done using light line, so a good drag system that can strip line smoothly from the spool when a large fish decides to take off with your lure is a must.
Drop Shot Line
Drop shot fishing is done on the bottom, meaning you do not need anything that floats, and you surely do not want anything that is visible. Fluorocarbon is your best bet. Fluorocarbon thrives in both of these categories since being virtually invisible underwater and dense enough to sink.
When deciding on a test, try to go no heavier than 4 lbs. The lighter test line will also provide a greater feel for what you are fishing. For example, dragging a 4 lbs test line over a submerged brush pile versus a 20 lbs test line is a big difference in feel and sensitivity. A lighter line will also help with casting distance when a longer cast is needed (spooky fish, hard-to-reach areas, shore fishing).
Best Places to Fish a Drop Shot Rig For Crappie
To no surprise from the above information, the best place to fish a drop shot rig is on the bottom of whatever body of water you are fishing. When targeting crappie with a drop shot, consider areas where crappie are suspended close to or almost hugging the bottom. These areas include, but are not limited to, the following: submerged brush piles, ledges, patches of rocks both above and below the surface, fish spawning beds, boat docks, and bridge pilings.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use a bobber with a drop shot rig?
You can. However, consider starting off without the use of a bobber. If you are correctly mending your line and keeping good tension, you will know precisely when that fish takes your lure. If you find yourself still missing fish or would just like to have help with a strike indicator, then consider using a bobber. Bobbers are best served at least 12 inches from your lure to avoid spooking lethargic fish.
How do you fish a drop shot rig from shore?
Fishing a drop shot from shore would be a circumstance where you consider a longer casting setup: longer rod, light line, and a potentially heavier sinker to help with casting distance. The retrieve should be similar to vertical fishing. Let your wrist create the action you want. Reeling should only be performed when retrieving slack line. Consider a cadence similar to this: shake-pause-shake-shake-shake-pause-shake where you have 1-5 second pauses between the first shake and the middle string of shakes.
How do you tie a drop shot knot?
I prefer to use a Palomar knot for drop shot rigs. The Palomar knot is a strong knot that is easy to tie and typically provides you with plenty of excess tag line that can be then used for tying on your weight. Don’t forget to feed the tag line back through the eye of your hook before tying on your sinker!
How long should a drop shot leader be?
A drop shot leader mostly ranges between 12-18 inches in length. That is the distance from your sinker to your hook and lure. Do not get too fixed on staying within this range. Each fishing situation is different. Figure out the fish you’re targeting and try and determine where they are in relation to the bottom, then decide for yourself how long of a tag line is needed.