A lot of anglers don’t think about a drop shot rig when the water’s cold. That’s too bad because late winter and early spring are good times to use this technique. The bass tend to be deep and they’re often schooled up tight. That makes them a good target for this technique.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years, though, is that this is not the time for light weights. They’re good, and frequently produce more bass, when the water’s warm but when it’s cold you need to get your bait down fast and be able to hold it in a fixed position to make them bite.
I typically go with a 1/4-ounce to 3/8-ounce weight. That does exactly what I want it to do but it’s still light enough to be handled on lighter tackle, and it lets me fish slowly and hold a fixed position.
Winter water tends to be clear, which makes a drop shot shine. Something in the 18 to 24 inch leader range is usually about right. Bass are keying on baitfish right now and they are all the way around slower. The longer leader mimics those dying bait that are in the middle of the water column. They have time to decide whether or not to bite your lure, which can be good and bad. Clear water means anglers think you need super light line. Lighter line will always get you more bites with a drop shop but not because the fish see the line. The lighter line lets the bait swim and act more naturally, which gets more bites than the bait being restricted by bigger line. I like to fish with 6 or 7 pound Sunline FC Sniper as my leader in the clear water.
The key to not breaking off that light line with a drop shot is having a longer spinning rod with a soft tip. Some rods with a more parabolic bend can work since they bend throughout the middle of the rod and give a lot. I like a 7’ to 7’6” spinning rod with a little backbone but that softer tip. I call it a medium fast action. I actually designed a 7’4” counter balanced rod for Cashion Fishing Rods that is my perfect Drop Shot Rod and that is the rod’s name. Again, just be sure the rod has a soft tip so you don’t break off that lighter line.
The trick with the drop shot in the winter is to locate the fish and then drop your bait vertically down to them. As a practical matter this means that you’ll spend more time looking around and watching your electronics than you will fishing. Don’t waste very much time searching with a drop shot. Since those fish are grouped a little more, using your Lowrance units to find them is just more productive than trying to find them with the drop shot.
In some cases, dropping a bait right in front of their nose is the best way to catch them. But at other times holding a bait 3-5 feet above them will get you more bites. For some reason bass at this time of the year like to move up to feed. They don’t always feed horizontal and they rarely feed down.
One problem that you’ll likely encounter with this style of fishing is line twist, especially if your leader is fluorocarbon. There’s no way to totally eliminate it but you can lessen it to a great extent by using a tiny SPRO Power Swivel about 3 feet above your bait. Another trick is to nose thread your bait. Just run the hook in the throat under the nose and make it come out the nose. That’ll make it sit straight on the hook’s point. It won’t twist and turn so much when sinking or retrieving.
Bait colors are critical. Crayfish are dormant or hibernating. Crayfish colors tend to be less productive in the winter. Instead, go with something that resembles a baitfish. When the water’s real clear and the sun’s out I fish a Missile Baits Bomb Shot in fisholicious. I go with bombshell when it’s cloudy or if the water’s slightly stained.
It’s a mistake to neglect a drop shot just because the water’s cold. Don’t do it.