I love it when a reader writes in with a great question that, from a timing perspective at least, seems almost too good to be true.
Take the following note from Steve in Ottawa, who recently asked:
“What is the best hook for drop-shotting? And if it’s one of the short-shank hooks, like an Octopus, why? Also, what is a good size hook to use for average size bass? Those #2s and #4s look kind of small to me. Is drop-shotting also good for walleye and perch? Finally, I hear a lot about those spinning drop-shot hooks, but they’re kind of pricey. Is line twist that big of a deal? Can’t I just use a swivel?”
Well, no sooner did Steve’s letter land on my desk, or rather on my computer screen, than the walleye season opened here in Northwestern Ontario. And guess what I had rigged up on four of the rods my son-in-law, two young grandsons and I used? Of course, it was a drop-shot rig.
And were we successful drop-shotting on opening day?
Well, my seven- and 10-year-old grandsons hauled three walleyes into the boat before I had finished putting baits on all the hooks. They also landed 30 walleyes, a bonus four-pound plus smallmouth bass and a muskie—where the heck did it come from—in the first 60-minutes of the season.
It was incredible action and yet, indicative of what we’ve come to expect when you fish with a drop-shot rig. So, with that in perspective, let’s look closer at Steve’s questions.
As a general rule, the best drop-shot hooks are wide-gapped, super sharp and made of light wire. Two of my favourites are the Gamakatsu Finesse Drop Shot Hook and VMC Drop Shot Hook. These, and similar Octopus-style hooks, work well because they don’t overpower the relatively small, finesse baits we typically use when we’re drop-shotting.
Plus, they require very little effort to set the hook well. Indeed, so long as you keep the hook sharp, you generally only need to lift up your rod tip smartly when you feel a bite and you’ll jab the point into the fish’s mouth as easily as a nurse does with a needle when giving you your annual flu shot.
You can also use light offset worm hooks when you’re drop-shotting with thin, finesse worms Texas-rigged and even much heavier hooks when you’re “Bubba-shotting” with baitcasting equipment in thick weeds for big largemouth. But, as a general rule, for smallmouth bass, walleye and perch the finesse style drop shot hooks I’ve mentioned are the rule.
As for sizes, it is best to match your hook to your bait. That means using hooks ranging between size 4 and 1/0. Having said that, however, I have drop-shotted for perch and crappies using hooks as small as #6 and #8. Again, simply match your hook size to your bait, remembering not to overpower it with a hook that is too big.
And make no mistake about it, Steve, those #2 and #4 size hooks are deadly. As a matter of fact, once you hook a fish with them, you can often lay down your rod and eat lunch, and the fish will not be able to shake itself free. They’re sticky sharp, like a splinter in your finger, and there is usually no escaping.
Now, before we leave the subject of hooks, what about the Zero-Twist and No-Spin drop-shot rigs sold by Stringease Tackle and VMC? Well, to be honest, they’re ingenious for a couple of reasons and well worth using.
For starters, line twist can be an issue when you’re drop shotting if you don’t place your soft plastic bait on perfectly straight, or you use a hooking method like “wacky rigging” that can cause your bait to spin and your line to twist when you reel in your bait.
If you use a gel-spun-type mainline like Nanofil, Fireline or Sufix Fuse and a short monofilament or fluorocarbon leader like I do, splicing them together using back-to-back uni-knots, an Albright knot or a Bob Foran knot, line twist usually isn’t a major issue, as you can replace your leader at the end of the day, whereas your gel-spun mainline is generally twist-resistant.
Of course, if you’re using straight fluorocarbon or monofilament line you can splice a tiny quality above your drop-shot hook to avoid any twist. Just make sure you don’t tie it too high up so as to interfere with casting or landing a fish.
On the other hand, the unique Zero-Twist and No-Spin rigs sidestep this problem completely. The other reason these pre-assembled rigs are so cool—and they only cost a buck or so per hook—is that you can use your favourite knot to tie them to your line.
When you fashion a drop-shot rig from scratch, you have to tie a special knot—the Palomar is my favourite—always starting from the hook point side. Then, once you’ve fashioned the knot, you have to pass the tag end of your line back through the eye of the hook so that when you pull it tight, your hook “pops out” and is positioned perpendicular to your line.
You can avoid all of this rigging rigmarole when you use one of the inexpensive, pre-assembled drop-shot rigs. Plus, you inherently avoid line twist and can use your favourite knot, which is really important if you’re using fluorocarbon line.
Finally, is drop-shotting a good tactic to use for walleye and perch? I’d have to say “no” it is not good—it is typically phenomenal.