Tandem rigs: Secret pro tactic for bass, walleye and crappies



Drop-shotting is arguably the hottest technique to hit the bass scene over the last decade. It’s so efficient, in fact, that walleye, trout and panfish anglers have also adopted it. Basically, you tie the hook a foot or two up the main line, then add a lead or tungsten sinker to the end—the opposite way anglers have been rigging up for centuries. Now when you attach a live or soft- plastic bait to the hook, then drop it over the side of the boat or cast it out and slowly work it back, you can let the sinker lie on the bottom and suspend your offering in front of the fish. And that’s what makes the technique so effective. But there’s a way to make it even more deadly: substitute a jig for the weight on the bottom, giving the fish two options.


This set-up is particularly effective in ultra-clear waters such as the Great Lakes, where bottom-dwelling gobies fuel the energy cycle. Lacking a swim bladder, these tiny, invasive fish will literally scoot across the bottom, where bass, walleye, yellow perch, lake trout and whitefish eagerly gobble them up.

Before the advent of the drop-shot rig, most anglers targeted the top predators by dragging a tube jig. Now, it’s tough to say which offering is better—a plowing tube or a slightly elevated drop-shot bait. Fortunately, with the modified drop-shot rig, you don’t have to choose—you can fish the bottom, and just above, at the same time.


For walleye, rather than a tube jig tied to the end of the line, my favourite presentation is a quarter- to half-ounce ReelBait Tournament Flasher Jig tipped with a live minnow, leech or nightcrawler. I pin a similar live offering to a #2, #4 or #6 VMC Neko hook positioned 14 to 16 inches up the line at the depth I can see the fish cruising on my sonar screen. Many anglers tip the two hooks with different baits—a minnow on the jig and a leech on the drop-shot hook, for example—so the fish have a choice. I always use the same bait on both hooks because I think it provides a more natural look.


The modified drop-shot rig uses a VMC Neko hook positioned 14 to 16 inches above ReelBait Tournament Flasher Jig

When I’m fishing for bottom-dwelling smallmouth bass, lake trout and whitefish, on the other hand, as well as yellow perch and walleye in lakes with burgeoning populations of rusty crayfish, my go-to lure on the end of the line is a Meegs jig. It’s a compact, nose-heavy, minnow-shaped jig with the line tie positioned where the dorsal fin should be.


When using both a baited jig on the bottom and a baited drop-shot hook above it for walleye, fish the set-up the same way you would a standard drop-shot rig. With the jig attached to the very end of the line, it acts as an anchor to carry your baited drop-shot hook into position and hold it there while you impart as much—or as little—action as you want on the semi-slack line.


To catch fish hanging around the bottom, you can take things up a notch with the Meegs jig—by lowering it to the bottom and gently lifting it up and down, you can make it peck the sand, mud and detritus to look exactly like a feeding shiner, goby or sculpin. My ultimate trick when fishing a Meegs is to bait the drop-shot hook with a soft-plastic insect replica, such as a Gulp! Hellgramite.

Fish the set-up the same way you would a standard drop-shot rig

With that set-up, lift up the jig at least two to three feet every few minutes and let it crash back into the bottom. That creates a mini, volcano-like eruption, spewing up a cloud of silt that tells every fish in the neighbourhood that the gravy train has arrived. Then lift up the rig just a few inches and hold it as still as possible so the fish can see both the Meegs and the soft-plastic above it, then come charging in as if the dinner bell has rung.

Interestingly, you will typically find the fish zeroing in on one offering or the other. The choice is rarely random, and it often switches suddenly and noticeably as weather conditions, light levels and fish preferences change. But at least with one of these modern-day tandem rigs, you’ve got all the bases covered.