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Although it is primarily recognized as a deep water, vertical presentation, the drop-shot has become my go-to technique for sight fishing – especially during the spawn. My boat never hits the water without at least one spinning and one baitcasting setup rigged with a drop-shot.
One of the pitfalls of sight fishing during the spawn is not being able to get a fish to take a bait. The drop-shot rig will give the fish an eye-level look at the bait. The action that you provide to that bait can turn on neutral and even negative fish.
The decision on whether to use baitcasting or spinning equipment hinges solely on the amount of cover between the bed and your boat. If the area you are working has heavy weeds, wood or rock, the best choice is a baitcaster. If I need to use a baitcaster, I will use a flipping stick with no less than 17 lb. Line and often I will opt for a super line. Conversely if the area were free from significant obstructions, a 7 ‘ spinning rod would be my choice.
Let me break down my tactics into two fishing situations. Spawning females and fry protecting males.
When targeting spawning females, I will first try identifying a quality fish. I try not to spend a significant amount of time on a fish under 2.5 lbs. During the peak of the spawn, rarely will a sack full of 2.5 lb fish cash you a check. When I find that 3 lb or better fish, I know I can concentrate on my attempt to put her in the live well.
Depending on how bulky the bait is, I will use either a number 1 or number 2 Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap hook. Although I leave approximately 8” of leader attached for a potential adjustment, my sinker is typically clipped on the line around 4” below the hook. With spinning tackle I start with a 1/8-ounce sinker and with a baitcaster a ¼ ounce sinker is a good starting point.
Regardless of your choice of plastic, try to keep the length of the bait under 5” for optimum action, and always nose hook the bait – this is critical to your hook set percentage when fishing for bedding bass.
If there is a chop on the water, I will typically start with a white tube or spider grub so it is easier to watch the bait “disappear” on the pick-up. As with any plastic, try to match the hatch, or use your “confidence” colors.
Drop-shotting beds, is all about frustrating a fish into taking the bait – presentation is critical, yet casting for accuracy is more forgiving. I always cast beyond the bed, and then drag the sinker on the bed surface. This whole presentation is about frustrating a fish into biting, so now is the time to carry that task out.
I leave a slight bow in the line and start shaking the rod tip. This will create a trembling action at the bait – it is key to not shake the rod so hard that the sinker moves. Usually it is not long before the fish simply cannot stand it any longer and will pick up the bait. I will work the bait up to 5 minutes – if the fish remains uninterested I will change the plastic to something with more movement or appendages and repeat the process. If I still am struggling with sparking an interest out of the fish I will go to a more subtle bait, such as a 4” Senko. When these three options are exhausted, you have a very negative fish and it would be best to move on. You can always check on her again later.
If you keep your head in the game and remain patient, more often than not you can coerce that fish into biting!
Fry Protecting Males
I am talking about the tail end of the spawn, when most females are tough to catch because the have moved to their “recovery” areas and are somewhat dormant. This 2 to 3 week period is tough on weights at the scales and catching a limit of fish will be a priority without being too choosey.
There are subtle differences when fishing for male bass that are protecting fry, versus the spawning females.
When you see a male on a bed with no females around, his sole purpose is protecting fry.
Bait choices are critical to catch rate. Ninety nine percent of the time when fishing for these males, I will use a 4” Kinami Cut Tail worm. In my opinion, nothing more closely resembles a small fish stalking fry. When river fishing my color choice is “Natural Shad”, while on lakes I typically start with “Baby Bass”.
Using the same technique and leader length as described for spawning females, shake the bait in the bed until you spark the fish’s interest. Depending on the mood of the bass, they may try to fan the bait away from the bed with its tail or body. If this happens, I simply increase the sinker size so they have no choice but to “mouth” the bait to move it away from the bed. Often I will go as heavy as a ½ ounce sinker for this situation.
Next time you find yourself getting frustrated while sight fishing, throw a drop-shot rig at that fish. You will quickly realize you have a new weapon in your arsenal!