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Drop-shot Rigs, Deep-water Lairs and Midwest Finesse

by Ned Kehde   |  April 18th, 2014 2

Versatility is not the forte of Midwest finesse anglers. We are wedded to fishing shallow-water lairs and employing small soft-plastic baits that are affixed to lightweight jigs. It is a concept that was pioneered by the great and late Chuck Woods of Kansas City in the 1950s and 1960s.

Across the years, we have uttered some disparaging words about the usefulness of employing drop-shot rigs and probing deep-water lairs in the flatland reservoirs that grace northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri.

One reason why we shun deep-water angling in northeastern Kansas is that we have always had a difficult time locating and catching largemouth bass in water deeper than 12 feet in northeastern Kansas’ flatland reservoirs. Because deep-water lairs don’t pay enough piscatorial dividends, we rarely probe depths great than 12 feet. Another reason why we have refrained from deep-water fishing is because we don’t like the barotrauma effects that it can afflict upon largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass. Deep-water fishing also necessitates the use of some rather costly electronic equipment, which goes against the grain of frugality that lies at the core of Midwest finesse angling.

In regard to drop-shot rigs, we tried them in several flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas soon after California and Japanese anglers began lauding the effectiveness of various styles of drop-shot rigs. During these endeavors, we attempted to copy many of the heralded drop-shot riggings and methods of anglers such as Aaron Martens of Leeds, Alabama. And we found that drop-shot angling was a tedious endeavor. What’s more, it did not catch as many largemouth bass and smallmouth bass in the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri as our tried-and-true Midwest finesse methods. Therefore, we pooh-poohed drop-shot tactics as a tactic that tournament anglers and some versatile power anglers occasionally resort to when their run-of-the-mill power methods are unproductive.

But since the advent of this Midwest finesse column in August of 2011, we have been beseeched by some of the new and more versatile devotees of Midwest finesse angling to mend our criticisms about drop-shot rigs and deep-water finesse tactics. And this is our first effort to do this.

Several of these newcomers to Midwest finesse fishing note that a drop-shot rig is the best tool for finesse anglers to employ when they need to probe lairs that are situated in water that is deeper than 12 feet. What’s more, anglers such as Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, who spends many of his days afloat plying Ozark rivers and streams, contends that a drop-shot rig is more effective than the Midwest finesse anglers’ standard bearer, which is a Gopher Tackle’s Mushroom Head Jig and 2 ½-inch Z-Man’s ZinkerZ , when the largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass prefer to strike a bait that is presented 18 to 24 inches above the bottom.

A northeastern Kansas perspective

Dave Weroha of Kansas City has been a Midwest finesse angler and periodic contributor to the Finesse News Network for a couple years, and he has recently expanded his Midwest finesse repertoire by creating an unusual drop-shot rig. What’s more, some of the soft-plastic baits that he affixes to his drop-shot rigs are radically or wildly customized. Not only are some of his baits and drop-shot rigs quite unique, but Weroha says they are quite effective. And from his perspective, his rig is superior to either a Carolina rig or split-shot rig.

In an April 2 e-mail, Weroha wrote: “Essentially, it is a split ring that joins all three parts: leader, lure, and weight.

“The leader is connected to the split ring with a Fast-Lock Snap. The leader is 30-pound-test SpiderWire Ultracast Invisi-Braid, which is highly resistant to being cut by sharp rocks and ubiquitous zebra mussel shells that have damaged or cut my leaders and lines more than I care to admit. To the bottom of the leader, another Fast-Lock Snap is attached. But before that snap is tied to the bottom of the leader, a bullet-shaped slip sinker is threaded onto the leader to the snap. One of the virtues of the bottom snap is that I can open it and hang it onto the rod’s hook keeper when I am not using the rig. The sinker leader is always 12 inches long, and when I want to present the lure closer to the bottom, I lower the rod top, and I raise the rod tip to lift it higher off the floor.

“On calm or light-wind outings, I work with two sizes of sinkers: 1/16- and 1/18-ounce. If the wind blows, I work with a 1/4-ounce sinker.

“The lure is connected in a non-traditional way. I like to rig finesse baits, such as Z-Man’s Finesse ShadZ, where the pressure exerted from catching fish is completely off the lure and on the hook. The idea is to make the lure indestructible regardless of how many fish are caught on it. This is accomplished by attaching a No. 8 Owner Stringer Treble hook (ST-36BC, model No. 5636-031) to a spinnerbait wire, and the maximum length of the wire is one inch. The wire is threaded through the soft-plastic bait and attached to the split ring. The hook is located near the head in the upper quarter of the bait. After the wire is threaded through the bait, it is attached to the split ring.

“The treble hook is always exposed, which doesn’t require me to set the hook with significant force.

“In the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas,I have caught fish at largemouth and smallmouth bass as deep as 15 feet, and during the summer of 2014 and winter of 2014-15, I hope to probe some lairs that are deeper than 15 feet.”

This is Weroha's drop-shot rig with a Z-Man’s green-pumpkin Finesse ShadZ. Perhaps in the future, we will feature one of Weroha’s heavily customized Z-Man baits.

 

A Lake of the Ozarks perspective

Steve Bloess of Sedalia, Missouri, has been fishing with John and Roger Kehde of Sedalia, Missouri, since fall 2010, and they introduced him to the manifold virtues of a marabou jig that the late Leroy Spellman of Mt. Vernon, Missouri, used to make. At heart the Kehdes are temperate bass anglers, and across the decades, they have caught untold numbers of white bass and wipers using Midwest finesse tactics.

On March 30, Bloess added a drop-shot routine to their Midwest finesse repertoire for catching temperate bass at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Bloess calls it drop hopping. And on April 4, Bloess mailed us a description of his rig and methodology, which was inspired by a YouTube video that featured Kevin Van Dam.

It began, he said, while he was fishing some flats, the wind was roaring with gust that surpassed 30 mph, and the surface temperature was 44 degrees. He was wielding a jig, catching a few white bass, but failing to hook scores of strikes. He surmised that the wind was causing his jig to move too fast, and that provoked him to test a drop-shot rig for the first time.

His drop-shot rig consist of the following components: a 2500 Shimano Symetre spinning reel is spooled with 10-pound-test Berkley FireLine, 40-inch leader made from 12-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Line, a No. 2 Mustad No Twist Shot Hook, 18-inch leader made from 12-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Line, and a ¼-ounce Eagle Claw Round Drop Shot Weight. His reel is affixed to a St. Croix Eyecon 6 ½-foot, medium-light power, and fast-action Jig-N-Rig spinning rod.

He nose hooked a homemade 3.75-inch Zipper Drop Shot Worm to the hook, and straightaway he began tangling with scores of white bass and wipers. And some of them were brutes. In fact, the first one was a 10-pound wiper.

These temperate bass were associated with a sharp ledge on this mud and clay flat that dropped from four feet of water quickly into six feet, and it was about 12 feet from the water’s edge.

He presented the rig by casting it into four feet of water and several yards past the congregation of temperate bass. Once the sinker touches the bottom, he drags the rig with his rod by moving it from the four 0’clock position to the 12 o’clock position. When the rod reaches the 12 o’clock position, he slowly lowers the rod to the four o’clock position, and a lot of the strikes occur as the rod drops.

On an April 1 outing, Bloess and John Kehde used this drop-shot rig once again, and it was more fruitful than Kehde’s traditional jig tactics. On this outing, the temperate bass were situated along a ledge that dropped from 10 feet to 14 feet of water.

Bloess has also found that this drop-shot rig and his side-imaging-sonar unit are extremely effective search tools for locating aggregations of temperate bass.

In the future, Bloess would like to try a drop-shot rig that sports two hooks with each hook donning a 3.75-inch Zipper Drop Shot Worm. He suspects a double rig would be extremely productive when he crosses paths with a significant congregation of actively feeding temperate bass. It would allow him to catch two white bass or wipers on each cast and retrieve.

This is Steve Bloess' drop-shot rig.

(Bloess noted that he purchased the mold for the 3.75-inch Zipper Drop Shot Worm from Caney Creek Molds, 501 North State Street, Denver, Iowa, 50622; 319-984-6005; here is a link to their website: http://www.caneycreekmolds.com/375-Zipper-Drop-Shot-Worm-4-Cavity_p_106.html.)

A perspective from Lake Havasu, Arizona

Al Lindner of Brainerd, Minnesota, is the founder of In-Fisherman, and nowadays he spends his winters at Lake Havasu, Arizona.

Lindner is not a Midwest finesse devotee. In fact, he is not wedded to one style of angling. Instead, he is one of the piscatorial world’s preeminent versatile anglers, and when he deems it necessary, he wields a drop-shot rig.

On Feb. 11, Lindner posted a note on Lindner’s Angling Edge Facebook page about an extremely deep-water-drop-shot outing on Lake Havasu that he had with Ted Stewner of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

They were in pursuit of gargantuan-size redear sunfish, which abide in deep-water lairs at depths of 70 feet or more.

Lindner wrote that they began their outing by exploring some of the reservoir’s deepest areas. They found a hole on a flat that was 84 feet deep, 100 feet wide, 150 feet long, and this hole was surrounded by the flat that was covered with 56 feet of water.

They probed this hole with drop-shot rigs that were baited with a half of a nightcrawler. Straightaway, Lindner had a bite, but that fish liberated itself as Lindner was battling it about halfway to the surface. Then across the next 30 minutes, Lindner and Stewner caught seven smallmouth bass on the bottom of that 84-foot hole.

Lindner concluded the note by writing: “They weren’t big fish, but definitely a first for both of us. I would never have imagined catching smallmouth in 84 feet. This has really opened up a new horizon for me here.”

It was an amazing feat, indeed, but Lindner didn’t make a note of any barotrauma effects that might have afflicted the seven smallmouth bass, which is a problem that deep-water anglers have to be concerned with.

Footnotes:

1. Until we crossed paths with Eric Fortner, who is a power angler from Gardner, Kansas, we have never heard of a largemouth bass being extracted from 25 to 30 feet of water in a flatland reservoir in northeastern Kansas. Fortner accomplished that feat in December of 2013 at a 100-acre community reservoir that lies along the southwestern suburbs of Kansas City. He was wielding a drop-shot rig and probing an edge of a 30-foot hole. Besides catching a few largemouth bass, he also caught a channel catfish and scores of temperate bass. He caught these fish by affixing a Zoom Bait Company’s Meathead to his drop-shot hook. Although Fortner’s endeavors weren’t as astounding as those of Al Lindner’s, they opened the eyes of several old-time Midwest finesse anglers in northeastern Kansas.

2. Charlie Croom of Fayetteville, Arkansas, and his drop-shot endeavors have been featured in several Midwest Finesse columns. Here the links to some of them: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2014/03/02/midwest-finesse-fishing-february-2014/; http://www.in-fisherman.com/2013/12/17/midwest-finesse-fishing-november-2013-charlie-croom-update/; http://www.in-fisherman.com/2013/12/17/midwest-finesse-fishing-november-2013-charlie-croom-update/.

3. Steve Reideler of Lewisville, Texas, wrote about his Midwest finesse endeavors with a drop-shot rig in his March 1 log; here is the link to his log: http://www.in-fisherman.com/2014/04/01/midwest-finesse-fishing-march-2014/.

4. Here is the link to Lindners’ Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lindners-Angling-Edge/132263900157930.

 

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  • Steve Craven

    I use dropshot rigs here in Maryland with excellent success, but have found it very useful in one specific situation. When I am fishing the deep end of log or brush laydowns I drop the rig straight down in front of the wood and lightly jiggle the bait without lifting the weight from the bottom. For whatever reason this presentation works much better than lifting and dropping a jig or using a shaky head. Usually the deep end of the structure is signifcantly deeper than the shallow end. ( 1 foot vs. 8-15 foot ) 2 lakes that I fish regularly have beaver populations, so every spring we have a few new laydowns to fish. The only factor that seems to really matter presentation-wise is being very close to the protruding branches or log trunk, even a few feet away will garner almost zero strikes. The bait is usually 18″ above the weight, but will go higher as weeds grow up into the summer. Small finesse worms are the standard bait with color being anything in the “natural” range: green pumpkin, pumpkinseed, baitfish, black blue, etc.. As a side note, had my first good day on the water a few days ago ( water was still in the upper 30′s as of early april ), caught 18 largemouth in 5 hours, all off of wood or rock. Wind was FEROCIOUS!!! When you fish out of a kayak as I do, you are nothing but driftwood in any wind, but this was a constant 10-15 miles an hour with prolonged gust up to 40. At one point I was paddling at 70% speed just to stay in place!! Tiring day, but good to feel fish on the end of the line, especially after this brutal winter we had. Take care, Steve Craven

    • nkehde

      Steve:
      As always we relish reading your insights. And we found this recent one about your drop-shot methods to very enlightening.
      Please keep sending us your observations and keep us abreast about your various kayak endeavors.
      Best wishes,
      Ned

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