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The Saltwater Drop Shot

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Drop shots have two distinct differences in respect of Saltwater and Bass fishing, and the methods used are actually very different whilst both are very effective forms of fishing. Here we will look into various forms and applications of saltwater drop shot.

Having fished many disciplines I like to experiment and mix and match, like the ladies do with their clothes; and in doing so I have found several effective ways in which to fish drop shot in saltwater. It is important to have a good arsenal of techniques when going out on the water as this allows you to find the best method to get fish according to the circumstances at hand, and thereby greatly increasing your chances of getting fish, the big one, or even to land the proverbial one that usually "gets away".

The Art of Saltwater Drop Shot – King Fish caught on a Paddle Tail Drop shot lure
King Fish caught on a Paddle Tail Drop shot lure

The first thing that you need to do is get the right tackle for the job, as you can go from ultra light to extra heavy, the length of the rod and the reel capacity are all factors. I am not going to go too much into the tackle here except to note the important things to look for when buying your tackle. The rod needs to be a fast action rod and you must match the rod with the weights of the jig heads you want to throw for example a medium heavy rod will usually allow you to throw from a 1/8 ounce Jig head to a 3/4 ounce Jig Head and if you can only afford one rod, then this size is my recommendation as a good all round versatile rod. The reel should be able to carry enough braid (200-300m) to allow a fish to run and must be a saltwater rated reel with a good front drag system and with the medium heavy rod I would fit a 2500 to 3000 size reel with 10 – 12 lb braid. If you are fishing in estuaries I would go down to a medium or medium light; for the surf an 8-9ft Heavy rod; and a light jigging stick for heavy off shore drop shot.

The weight and hook size will have to match the lure you are using, the fish you are hunting and you also need to take into consideration the wind, current and depth of water you are fishing. This is very important as you need to be able to get your lure to where the fish are. Generally the rule of thumb is to let your weight be the least possible to get your lure where it needs to be with the most possible action.

Estuaries and harbours

I usually like to use a 1/8 or 1/4 ounce with a 1/0 or 2/0 hook, and will even go down to a 1/16 or 1/32 in the shallow water, remember the lighter your weight the better your lure action; but the higher up in the water column it will swim.

  • Cast at the bank and retrieve into the deeper water, this can only be done from a boat or ski, and in certain places where you can cast across a channel. This work extremely well on a falling tide as the predator fish (The ones we want to catch) are waiting in ambush at the drop off for the bait fish to come off the bank. You can also go weightless or use the down shot or bottom method.

  • Casting parallel to the bank at a slight angle to get into deeper water and then retrieving your lure along the drop off. Again this is where the predators are waiting to ambush and hunt the smaller bait fish. You can also go weightless or use the down shot or bottom method.

  • Casting at structure like rocks, piers, buoy’s etc. This is extremely effective just after a high tide has turned it has a draining effect which sucks the bait fish off the structure and allows them to become venerable. The predators know this and so come to hunt. You can also go weightless or use the down shot or bottom method.

  • Casting from the bank or pier into the open water, and then retrieving back to you, do not pull out to soon as many times the fish will follow you lure right in close before he takes. You can also go weightless or use the down shot or bottom method. If on a boat or ski you can also try a vertical drop shot at the deepest point of a drop of or if you find holes or structure in the deeper water. You can also use the down shot or bottom method.

  • Retrieves can be from slow to fast, and in saltwater you can never retrieve too fast for a game fish, especially king fish. You can also fish weightless for great top water action in all these situations.

    Best in most circumstances is to allow your lure to get to the bottom and allow your line to sink and then to start retrieving. Try different speeds and actions and you should soon discover which one is working.

    The Art of Saltwater Drop Shot – Kawa-kawa caught on Drop shot in Durban
    Kawa-kawa caught on Drop shot in Durban

    Off Shore Drop shot has so many variables and conditions, but is awesome fun

    Here I usually like to fish from a 1/2 ounce to a 2 ounce jig head with a 2/0 – 6/0 hook. Again the lighter the better for the best action, but you also need to take the depth, the wind and the current into consideration and at what depth you want to fish.

    Ways I usually fish drop shot off shore:

    Get the boat/ski behind the back line on an open beach area and cast towards the beach into the surf and retrieve back to the boat. This is extremely productive and you can go heavy to fish deeper down or lighter to fish near or on the surface. Best is a fast retrieve.

    Warning: Taking your boat near backline is dangerous and if you are not experienced DO NOT GO THERE. ALWAYS have BOTH the motors running and in gear and a competent skipper NOT fishing and in FULL CONTROL of the boat WATCHING that you DO NOT drift into the surf zone. NEVER do this in front of rocks.

    • · Trolling drop shot lures behind the boat anywhere from 3-15Km/hr. You must use heavier tackle here as invariably the pick ups are big fish, this method is extremely effective for sailfish.

    • · Vertical Drop Shot, here you drift your boat/ski over reefs, pinnacles and ledges, drop your lure on the side of the boat/ski that is in the opposite direction to your movement so they do not go under the boat and let it go to the bottom and retrieve back up to the boat, try various retrieves, jerking actions and speeds. Here I like to use a heavy leader for 40-50 lbs and you can also use a short wire bite trace, but I find I get more hits without using wire.

    • · Regular Drop Shot, which is basically like spooning, here you cast out with the wind to get maximum distance and retrieve back to the boat. You can let the lure sink or start retrieving immediately after the lure hits the water. This is a fast retrieval style and you can try jerking and pausing your retrieves till you get a take.

    • · Surface Drop Shot, which is as close to plugging that drop shot can get. Here you fish your lure weightless and cast out and vary your retrieves, this works well in the shallow water and over pinnacles.

    • · Bottom Drop Shot, here you get your lure to the bottom and you simply twitch your rod up and down, or retrieve 5 or so turns and drop down again repeatedly. Here you ca also use the down shot method of bottom method described below which are extremely effective for getting bottom fish as it keeps your lure just above the surface. Here you can get rock cod, reds, cob and geelbek, all sorts of game fish and often really nice big fish.

    Rock and Surf Drop Shot

    Again there are many ways to drop shot here, and I usually use anything from 1/8 to 2 ounce jig heads according to the tackle I am using. Best is the 1/4 and 1/2 ounce weights, but if the surf or wind is up then you have to go heavier.

    • · On open beaches look for the deeper holes and throw there, vary your retrieves as with a slow retrieve you can fish the bottom and with a faster retrieve you can fish higher up. You can also use the down shot or bottom method her and if the water is calm enough you can throw weightless.

    • · Look for rocky out crops and throw around here, I usually always fish fast here to eliminate the high chance of snagging, here you will get the predators hunting the fish seeking refuge by these structures.

    • · At the rocks you can get out on the rock and throw into the deeper water behind the ledges, vary your speeds and retrievals and try different depths for retrieving your lure. Make sure you have sighted a spot to land your fish before you start fishing as with the lighter drop shot tackle you most likely will not be able to bring your fish over the ledge and will have to lead him to a suitable landing bay or gully.

    • · At the rocks you can throw parallel to the surf into bays, I have found this extremely effective especially when the rocks go out to the backline of the bay. I also like to fish weightless here and with the down shot method if. At the rocks you can also go smaller and fish all the gullies, here I like to use a 1/16 or 1/32 with a smaller 1-2 inch lure. The down shot method also works well here but is subject to snagging.

    Jig Head Drop Shot

    The Art of Saltwater Drop Shot – Dorado (Mahi-mahi) on Drop Shot offshore Durban

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation
    Dorado (Mahi-mahi) on Drop Shot offshore Durban

    This is probably the most well known method used for drop shot. You attach a short leader of 300mm to your braid with a double figure of eight or uni knot. The gauge of this leader can be from 6lbs up to 30lbs or even more depending on where you are fishing and what you are fishing for, and you may even need to use a short 100mm steel bite trace if you are off shore fishing for toothy critters. Generally I like to use leaders in the 10 -20lb range for general saltwater drop shot, and probably use 20lb the most so that the leader does not get rubbed off by the roughness of the fish’s mouth. In estuaries 10lb is usually enough.

    Onto the short leader you attach your jig head with a single figure of eight or uni knot. Onto the jig head you put your soft plastic lure which must be put on carefully and straight to get the correct action. The hook also should come out at about 1/3 of the length of your lure and not more than ½ to allow the best movement and action of the soft plastic bait. This is very important and an area where I have seen many an angler fail, which is not good because you are doomed before you even get your line wet.

    Usually the use of a Jig Head leans it self towards faster aggressive type retrievals, but it can also be fished slowly. The weight of your jig head is going to be the determining factor here and will dictate the depth your lure will swim at according to the speed you retrieve. You also get different style jig heads the most common is the round jig head which is best for faster retrievals, the nitro or arrow style jig heads are best used with a medium retrieve to allow the erratic movement that the shapes cause, the football style jig heads are best for slower fishing on the bottom.

    Down shot Drop shot, and Bottom Drop Shot

    This is a method I learnt from Bass fishing which I tried out in saltwater with pleasant results, in fact the first time I put the rig down I was into a fish before I even brought my bail arm over on my reel. Since then this method has produced me many quality fish.

    This method is for bottom and slower style fishing, but works like a charm. Here you use a standard J type hook, I personally prefer to use a circle style hook and once you get used to these you will never turn back, the difference is that the circle hook does the work for you before you strike and it is designed to get the fish in the corner of his mouth and not in the throat.

    The Art of Saltwater Drop Shot – Sea Pike (Barracuda) on Drop Shot

Blue Water Charters - Durban
Marlin and Big Game Sport Fishing
Based at Wilsons Wharf in Durban Harbour
Member of Durban Charter Boat Assosiation
    Sea Pike (Barracuda) on Drop Shot

    The rig is tied using a normal tear drop style sinker from 1/8 to 4 ounces, 300mm up the leader you tie your hook in with a Palomar knot, ensuring the hook points up. You can go higher up but I have found that 300mm is the best. You can also tie in more than one hook up to 5 or 6 but 1 or 2 works best. You then slip the hook through the nose of your soft plastic bait and you’re a ready to get your line stretched. You can use these in estuaries, harbours, beaches, rocks and off shore. You can also use a Bass hook in areas where there are lots of rocks and structure to reduce the snags.

    Bottom Drop Shot: You can also tie a treble swivel in your line and have a short leader of 150 - 200mm for your hook and 300mm for your sinker in the same way you would set up a basic bottom trace for bait. This also works extremely well and the techniques are the same as those for the down shot method.

    Note: Because your lure is free from the sinker any little movement of you rod will impart an awesome action to the lure. Do dot jerk vigorously as you lure will bounce around like crazy. Use a slower gentler type rod movement for best results. Try it out in a pool and see for yourself.

    Weightless Drop shot

    As the name suggests this is fishing your soft plastic bait without any sinkers, weights or jig heads, and is basically a top water method for fishing your lure. Some lure float and so can be used like a popper and some are heavy and will sink so you can retrieve them just sub surface (my favourite), you can also get the heavily salt impregnated lures which will sink.

    Here you tie a J hook or Circle hook and slip through the nose of the lure. I prefer a Bass hook as it allows the hook to be further down the lure and I find I get more hook ups this way as opposed to the hook through the nose where you get many strikes but no hook ups.

    As this method is mostly top water it is best fished fast, with the occasional pause of 2-3 seconds. Having said this when you cast out wait 2-5 seconds before retrieving as I have got so many fish before I have started retrieving or as I start retrieving it’s not a joke, especially in harbours and estuaries.

    Lures

    You are not limited to saltwater lures, many bass lures, worms and flukes, and so on work extremely well and you should try them, I have got some awesome saltwater fish on Bass lures.

    An outdoors person who loves, respects, admires nature and God’s creation with a passion, Mike has been fishing since the age of 7yrs old where he started in Durban harbour. Mike is in his sanctuary when out on the water surrounded by nature, away from the hustle and bustle. Visit his web site at http://www.bluewatercharters.co.za


    CLICK TO GO

    My favourite colour is white or off white and if I was reduced to one colour it would be white, but you must try the natural colours, bright colours and even the clear ones.

    The basic principal is brighter colours on brighter days and during the day, and also in stained and turbid water. Darker colours on dark days overcast days, early morning and late afternoon. Clear lures when the water is extremely clear. And white at anytime or condition.

     


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