Outside Chance : Drop shot panfish, bass, and walleye

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by Jack Payne

Over the next three weeks we will discuss three techniques that will catch about any species that you target and each is very simple to master and with minimal costs. Most likely you have everything in hand already.


Drop shot rigs are super simple and you can also use a 3-way rig. These rigs can be trolled, drifted or fished vertically over the side of the boat. You can also cast a drop shot rig and work it back to the boat. It’s very deadly on shallow water or deep water panfish, bass and walleye. Never pass up a cabbage weedbed without casting a drop shot rig along the weedline and into the open pockets.

“The easiest way to fish the depths is with a drop shot rig,” said Kendall Ulsh, a regular on the BASS circuit [as noted in a previous column) and a panfish nut. The beauty of a drop shot rig is that it can be used for any species that swims. A slight modification in hook size, lure size or live bait and you are into perch, gills, crappies, walleye and catfish.


“The key to a drop shot rig is in the rod,” said Ulsh. A spinning rod in a light action or at the heaviest a medium light in the 6.6 to 7.5 foot length is ideal. Kendall wants the rod to load up and the longer soft rod allows the use of lighter line. Kendall loves using ice flies and almost always has one on each line. He also suggested fishing two baits per rod when using drop shot for panfish.


Some of the lures we used include: The Whip R Snap plastic tails, the Moon Glitter teardrops, the Rival Worm and the Original Bass Stopper Worm, all from K & E/Stopper Lures. The ideal weight is a sinker in the quarter to three quarter ounces depending on the depth and the wind.


The basic drop shot rig is a hook and a sinker. Like I said, you can substitute a hook for a jig for a pre hooked worm, or an ice fishing tear drop, etc. The sinker is unique to the system. You do not tie on the sinker, instead you run the line through the opening and pull up. You can use a bell sinker if in a pinch.


Your hook/lure should be tied to the main line with a Palomar knot. You want the hook upward. This is very critical. If you have problems tying this up, go online and type in “tying up a drop shot hook.” Some teardrops will not work due to their design.  Then you tie a dropper line.


You want to leave a 24 inch tag line below your hook or lure. This is the part of the system that is so cool. You can quickly adjust the length of the dropper from the sinker to your bait. Fish tight to the bottom require a shorter lead, fish riding high require a longer lead.


Having your hook or bait tied direct to your main line does a number of things well. You will feel the slightest of hits, you have total control over your bait, you can present any type of bait in a natural fashion, and you will always have your bait in the right zone.


You are in contact with the bottom much like a jig but this is much easier to master for many anglers. You can fish this rig in tree tops, brush, over rocky river bottoms, alongside a cabbage weedbed and over short grass, and walk it up and down a drop-off.


Walt Matan is an avid panfish angler and innovator with decades of experience under his belt. Summer gills are easily caught by watching your graph for the
thermocline and fishing just above it. One tip he passed on, if the thermocline starts at 25 feet fish on the bottom for those bull gills that are nose down. Often they are feeding on blood worms!

I use the small Fish Hawk TD temperature gauge. Hook it onto your line and steadily drop to the bottom. Reel it up and it shows you the temperature at 5 foot intervals. Very handy tool.

Suspended fish can easily be caught with this system. Just count down the depth needed. What is nice when drifting over schools of panfish is that if more or less weight is needed, there is no cutting and retying. Pull on the tag end of the line and slide on another sinker.

You can impart more action by shaking or lifting your rod tip. This is also a way to fish a second rod as a dead rod. Set a rod up, stick it into a holder and work a jig or another lure with a second rod. Drop shot and 3 way rigs will fish any depth and just about any type of plastic or live bait.