Oct 31

Setting up a Great Lakes Drop Shot

Setting up a Great Lakes Drop Shot
Written By: Destin Demarion

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Smallmouth Bass of the Great Lakes are pound for pound one of the hardest fighting fish most bass anglers will ever catch. With all of their acrobatics, you need to be extremely well equipped to handle everything they throw at you. That all begins with a system, from rod and reel, to line, hooks, and weights. I have spent a lot of time developing just such a system, and although I encourage you to experiment on your own, I can guarantee that this setup will put a lot of fish in the boat. The following is the nuts and bolts of the system I use for drop shotting Great Lakes Smallmouth.

The Rod and Reel:
I prefer a drop shot rod with a lot of flex, usually medium light with an extra fast tip. A medium light rod has a lot of flex which is great for playing out those big, goby fed smallies of the Great Lakes. The rod flexes to absorb the shock of the hook set and helps to drastically cut down your chances of breaking off due to the light line. A rod with some flex in it also does a good job of handling those big four to six pound class fish if they surge at the boat, further increasing your landing percentage. Many anglers don’t put nearly as much thought into gear ratios when it comes to picking spinning reels, but drop shotting deep smallmouth is a situation where the amount of line you pull in per handle crank becomes extremely important. Having the fastest gear ratio reel does a couple of things for you. First, it allows you to make up a lot of ground as a smallie crashes the surface to jump. This is a common occurrence when you hook a smallie deep; its first instinct is to head to the surface to throw the bait. Second, a high gear ratio gets you in contact with your bait quicker. Wind and waves are the norm on the Great Lakes, and rough conditions may cause you to lose contact with your bait, leading to lost opportunities. The next pieces of the drop shot puzzle are the connection between you and the fish: the line, hook, and weight.

For a main line, I use a light braided line. I prefer 10-12 lb Toray Bawo Braid with a 2-3’ leader of 7 lb Toray Superhard “Upgrade” Flurocarbon. Braid has no stretch which increases your hookups on deep fish by a huge factor. It also comes off the reel super smooth, casts like a rocket, and resists wind knots better than running fluorocarbon as a main line. The Toray “Upgrade” is nearly invisible in the water which helps you get way more bites in the gin-clear big water. It is also extremely abrasion resistant which cuts down on the chance of breaking off on the dreaded zebra mussels that cover just about everything in the Great Lakes.

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Hooks, Baits, and Weights:
When it comes to the business end of my setup, the majority of the time I use a 1/O drop shot style or octopus style hook. When fishing deep, the case in most Great Lakes situations, this small, sharp hook point will get better penetration than a heavier gauge hook. It takes much less pressure to hook a fish with a large amount of line out with the lighter wire hook. I will almost always nose hook my bait to present it in a very natural way. By nose hooking the bait, you enable the current and wave action to impart very subtle movement upon your bait, which in turn will help generate more bites.
I generally load my drop shot with a finesse style worm that will sit parallel to the bottom of the lake; a flat underside will help enable your bait to do this. I also want my bait to be very soft in order to not only move more naturally in the water, but to also feel more natural to the fish which helps them hold on longer. There are a variety of great drop shot baits out on the market now, and as long as you get it in some reasonably natural color, you shouldn’t have a problem getting bit.
As far as leader length goes, I generally start with a 12” leader. I may go shorter or longer depending on how tight the fish are holding to the bottom or if I am fishing cover, opting for longer lengths the heavier the cover.
I usually use a cylinder style drop shot weight that clips onto the end of the line. I like the cylinder for two reasons. First, I believe it comes over rock and other cover well. Second, it helps impart a little more action to your bait in a natural way. I believe with the round weight it takes more effort to impart action on your bait. I utilize both, but in most Great Lakes situations I like the cylindrical style. The weight size I use most of the time would be 3/8 oz, but I like ¼ oz in shallower water or calmer conditions, and ½ oz in extra deep water or in rougher conditions.
I lived on Lake Erie during my four years of college, and was able to hone this system on the best training ground in the world. Attention to detail is extremely important in fishing. I’ve found something that works extremely well for me and I guarantee it will help you hook up with and land more smallies on the Great Lakes. Just remember, the smallies that roam the big water are muscular torpedoes that will make your drag sing and break your heart on numerous occasions; having the utmost confidence in your tackle and all its components helps to minimize the heartbreak thing.

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