The roots of the drop shotting typically are associated with smallmouth bass and spotted bass. Both species often inhabit areas of rock, gravel, and sand far from submergent vegetation. However, I have been successfully drop shotting in weed beds for largemouths ever since the rise of this rigging style. And over the years, I have learned a thing or two about achieving better results!
First, in case if you are not familiar with the rigging of a drop shot, let me explain. Simply, it is another way to present soft-plastic baits. The basic rig consists of a hook baited with your favorite plastic worm that has a dropper leader with a sinker attached to the end of it. When the rig is fished, the sinker rests on bottom while the plastic worm suspends above.
To most effectively present this rig in and around vegetation, I implement a few simple adjustments to my gear:
Add a ball-bearing swivel twenty inches above the hook. I learned the hard way that if you skip this, the line on your reel will twist badly and begin tangling around the rod tip any chance it gets. The twisting is mostly a problem when I am fishing the drop shot more vertically and am constantly flipping it from one hole in the weed canopy to another. If you are casting a drop shot, line twist is less of a problem.
Use a hook that has a means of securing the head of the worm, thus preventing it from sliding down the hook's shank. Because it is being fished in vegetation, the plants will constantly be rubbing on the worm's head causing the slippage. Some hooks have little keepers near the top of the shank, and others have a Z-like bend at the top of the hook's shank. Both work well.
Rig the worm Texas-style on the hook. This keeps the hook's point buried in the worm and prevents it from snagging plants. Many drop shot fishermen will nose-hook their worms when fishing just sand, gravel, and rock, but this is not a situation for that method.
Use a Bullshot sinker anywhere from ¿ to ¿ ounce. I like these sinkers when fishing vegetation for a number of reasons. First, the bullet-shape of this sinker slips through the weeds better than other shapes. I cramp the sinker on with the point facing up towards the plastic worm. Rigged this way, it will snag fewer plants. Second, they stay fastened on your line better than specialty drop shot sinkers. After I cramp on the sinker, I always tie an overhand knot below it so it won't slide off the end of the leader. I lose very few of these sinkers. Usually, when I lose one, it's because a northern pike has eaten it! And third, these sinkers are like 25% the cost of specialty drop shot sinkers. Regarding the sinker's weight, I favor a heavier sinker when targeting either deeper and/or denser weeds. I may go lighter with shallower depths and sparser weeds, or sometimes if I'm using a finesse type worm.
Implement a quality baitcasting outfit. There is no luxury of playing a bass out when they are being caught from thick stands of vegetation. So using light line, as is often done with drop shotting, is not recommended. If you attempt light line, you will learn that the bass will often bury up in the vegetation and become unhooked. Therefore use baitcasting gear. The reel should have a high-speed gear ratio. This increases your efficiency by decreasing the amount of time it takes to reel the rig up and flip it to another spot. Plus it helps to quickly take up extra line if you are caught out of position when a bass takes the worm. Match the reel to a seven or seven-and-a-half foot graphite rod with medium-heavy power. This is a technique of feel, so gear up with a rod possessing excellent sensitivity, which is normally found in quality graphite rods. Feel is absolutely critical because you want to discern the differences in the bottom if possible. Sensitivity also aids in detecting bites, because it can be very tricky deciphering what is a bream, a bass, or simply a weed! Often there are multitudes of bream pecking on the plastic worm and even the swivel. These pecks are very easy to confuse with the real thing. In fact, when a bass grabs the worm, it nearly feels just like a bream. Or sometimes, a bass bite won't even register. Then, of course, the weeds themselves are constantly bouncing the rod tip. Avoid setting the hook with every little tingle in the rod, most of the time it isn't a bass. Instead, when something suspicious occurs, hold a slight tension in the line and gradually increase the pressure a bit. As this is done, observe what happens. Does the machinegun-like pecking continue? Then it is most likely bream. Does the rig pull free? Then it means the drop shot just released from a grabby plant. Does the pressure hold steady as if there is weight on the other end? Set the hook! Does it start pulling back? Set the hook! Don't worry about the bass dropping the worm before you set the hook. This rarely occurs. It will take some time to learn the differences in what is being transmitted through the rod, but just remember that I can't tell what is sometimes happening either.
Use fluorocarbon or braided line with a fluorocarbon leader. Avoid monofilament because it is less sensitive due to its stretchier quality. As stated above, this is a feel technique and fluorocarbon or braid do a better job of transmitting the underwater world to your hands. A great majority of the time, I spool my whole reel with 12-pound Gamma fluorocarbon. I may go heavier in extreme situations.
Use a 12 to 20-inch dropper leader as a basic rule. This would be the distance between the hook and the sinker. If a really soft bottom is present, a leader nearing 20 inches is needed to keep the worm above the silt. Also, lean towards longer leaders anytime the bottom has a dense carpet-like flooring of vegetation. Look at it like this, maintain a leader long enough so that the sinker doesn't pull the plastic worm down into such a gnarly vegetative undergrowth that the bass can't grab it. Bass can also suspend in the weeds so that a longer leader may help in those situations as well. Don't be afraid to experiment!
Now that I've explained the rig and the gear involved allow me to discuss the actual way to present it. A decision has to be made as to whether to cast the drop shot or to pitch/flip it. The decision is based on the location of the bass and the density of the vegetation. If bass are positioned along sparse weed edges, then cast and drag the drop shot slowly along the bottom. Occasionally pause the rig and shake it without moving the sinker. Casting and dragging seems to maximize the time the bait is in the water and also provides the opportunity to better learn the bottom types along the transition from weeds to no weeds. But when the bass position in tall, thick weed beds, casting becomes impractical because the drop shot often doesn't reach bottom, it snags more weeds, and reeling a hooked bass horizontally through all that vegetation is a huge challenge. So tall, thick weeds require a flipping, pitching presentation. This is how. Pitch the drop shot out about 15 feet and immediately begin stripping line off of my reel. Do this because the drop shot needs to fall vertically to maximize its chances of reaching the bottom. Having the rig fall on a tight line will cause it to pendulum its way towards the boat and into a weed stalk and hang there. That's no good! When it's done correctly, and the drop shot reaches bottom, let it rest a few seconds. An active bass will grab it right away. If nothing happens, shake the worm without lifting the sinker and then leave it rest once more. If still nothing happens, then reel it up as fast as possible and pitch it to a different location.
Do not confuse this discussion by attempting to punch floating, matted vegetation with a drop shot. This is not what I am talking about. In fact, I've tried it, but without success. What I am talking about are submerged weed beds that have open holes, even if they are only 6 inches across, that allow a drop shot to penetrate through the weeds and reach the bottom.
Drop shotting has been around for several years now and is often associated with fishing areas of rock, gravel, and sand for smallmouth and spotted bass. However, do not overlook this technique for largemouths inhabiting submergent vegetation. I've been utilizing this method for a long time and have shared some important adjustments I've learned to adapt drop shotting to fishing aquatic vegetation.