Helping Others PASSION Smallmouth bass Door County

Fishing With A Purpose

Tales of Two Non-Descript Fishermen

By: Shane Beilue and Tim Sewell

The Drop Shot

It’s amazing how small the world has become, with tools of social media connecting people across the country and even across the world through common hobbies and pursuits.  Such was the case when Tim Sewell (Instagram: @postive_fishing_power) and I connected via Instagram from some 1500 miles apart.   A lot of people share a passion for bass fishing, but we really connected via the shared desire to use fishing as a platform to communicate a message bigger than ourselves.  With Tim’s youth and high school coaching background, he sees many life lessons to be taught through the pursuit of trophy smallmouth of Wisconsin and become the knot in the center that connects older and younger generations.  My message to reinforce through bass fishing is also instructive: that God deserves to be glorified among the world He created and we can be reconciled back to Him – no matter how far we’ve drifted away.

As we developed a friendship built upon these commonalities, we found subtle differences resulting in being raised in different parts of the country, such as Tim being raised upon the ghosts of Bart Starr and Vince Lombardi on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, while I hung on every last second throw of Captain Comeback, Roger Staubach.  Additionally, our approach to bass fishing also evolved according to respective geography, as each adapted a style of fishing specific to the waters we frequented; Tim honing his craft in the clear smallmouth waters of Wisconsin, while I learned the “power techniques” demanded of southern reservoirs and rivers.

With the attention of tournament bass fishing from both professional tours recently centered on the incredible smallmouth fishing in waters of New York, Michigan and Wisconsin, the drop shot is dominating these events; and, we found the opportunity to discuss this technique common to both our geographies.  We also examined some interesting differences in how this versatile technique is applied to each geography.

The first article I sold to BASSMASTER MAGAZINE in 2004 featured well-known Texas pro, Bill Wilcox, implementing a unique adaptation to the hottest technique in the country: the drop shot.  What started as a vertical finesse technique to attract finicky bass from the clear deep waters out west, Wilcox had proven the technique equally effective in the stained, wood-covered reservoirs of Texas by increasing the line size, hook and soft plastic worm.  Rather than fishing vertically, Wilcox found success by casting and dragging the rig along boat dock pilings and offshore structure breaks.  Anglers have been adapting the drop shot to fit their specific needs in different parts of the country ever since.

Today, the drop shot is standard fare for southern anglers fishing offshore, with many pros and experienced locals fishing a rotation of “power baits”, such as crankbaits, Carolina rigs and swim baits, before casting, dragging and shaking a drop shot across structure breaks where bass are foraging for shad.  In this scenario, the drop shot is commonly fished on 15# braided line tied to a 10-12# fluorocarbon leader – a set up more akin to Wilcox’s beefed up adaptation than the 6-8# lines from the originators out west.  Even with 5-6” plastic worms, the technique is still considered “finesse” down south and can pull bass that have proven reluctant to eat a fast-moving bait.

Up on the northern waters of Door County, Wisconsin, Tim finds the drop shot a versatile tool in seeking out the over-sized smallmouth located in his home waters.  As he explains, “A drop shot is a pretty standard method for targeting smallmouth during the summer post-spawn all the way through the fall.  As the smallmouth transition from spring spawning areas to deeper water during summer we typically start by fishing adjacent shoreline flats with plenty of rock near deep water”.  Sewell notes their shallow water search starts with jerkbaits and small paddle tail swim baits when the bass remain shallow in the immediate post-spawn period, but as the bass move deeper with the summer months, the drop shot becomes a predominant player to present a bait down where the fish are located.

Sewell finds the drop shot provides added benefits by keeping the lure above two very challenging bottom dwelling species: zebra mussels and brown algae.  As he states, “With the round Goby being a primary food source in our fishery, working the bottom is key and many rigs, such as a Ned rig, tube or jig, can attract a bite; however, the zebra mussels are so abundant on every rock, boulder and pebble that their edges are like serrated knives on fluorocarbon line.  Also, brown algae cover much of the bottom surfaces and slimes up any lure it contacts, so the drop shot allows us to mimic the Goby, yet keep our baits above the mussels and slime”.

Regarding how the drop shot is presented, Sewell proves the versatility of the drop shot by casting, drifting and vertical fishing the bait.  His tackle set up is as follows: “We prefer a 6’10” to 6’11” extra fast action 2-3 power rod (ML/M), as we find this rod length is critical since longer, extra fast rods don’t have quite the parabolic bend we prefer.  Having the right action and power allows you to detect bites and keep the fish pinned when you hook up 50-60 yards from the boat”. 

As with most fans of the drop shot, a tungsten cylinder weight is key in avoiding an abundance of snags on the bottom, with a 3/8 -1/2 oz weight getting the nod out to 20-25’ of water.  Sewell adds, ” I used to be skeptical about buying tungsten because of the price; but, since converting we discovered that, on average, we lose far fewer weights due to the added sensitivity, which allow us to detect potential snags before they happen.” Sewell also prefers a line tie weight over a clip style, adding, “A lot of our snags are related to zebra mussels and can be freed with a quick rod snap.  I found that with clip style weights, the line tends to slide or break at the weight more often. 

As a Goby imitator, the Poor Boy Baits Erie Darter, the Strike King Half Shell and Baby Z-Too get the most work in the clear Wisconsin water.  When fishing worm style plastics, the Strike King Dream Shot or Robo Worm Fat Straight worm fit the bill, while the Keitech Easy Shiner and Yamamoto Swim Senko make great minnow imitations.

Sewell adds the following note regarding when they use the minnow style soft plastics over the Goby imitators, by stating, “Typically we drift or slow reel these offerings in late summer because young of the year alewives start to school as they relocate from shallow nursery areas and migrate off shore”.  Wolf packs, as he refers to schools of bass, will follow these masses of bait fish and a dropshot allows the angler to get a minnow imitation below the smaller, more aggressive smallmouth and closer to the big fish that are waiting for an easy meal.  Sewell adds, “When we locate this scenario it’s not uncommon to have 70 -100 catch days”.    He also adds that this is an effective technique around weedy cover, where young perch are prevalent.

The adaptability and effectiveness of the drop shot makes it a technique every angler should add to their arsenal, regardless of geography, depth, water clarity, or species.  Who knows what the next tweak or adaptation may produce?

Sewell also shared this tip as well, “If you are going to use a drop shot the Cali Clip by Cal Coast fishing is a game changer for keeping your line tangle free when you set the rod down on deck or store it at the end of the day.”

Recommended equipment:

The Gold Standard Rod and Reel

  • GLoomis 822s=DSR (6′ 10″X-Fast Mag-Medium)
  • Shimano CI4+ 1000 size

Won’t Break The Bank Rod and Reel

  • Kraemer Custom Rods “Joe Pro” (6′-10″ X-Fast Medium)
  • Bass Pro JM Platinum Signature 1000 size
  • Shimano Nasci 1000 size

Our Confidence Baits & Terminal Tackle

  • Poor Boy Baits Erie Darter and Erie Darter JR
  • Strike King Half Shell and Dream Shot
  • Yamamoto Swim Senko
  • RoboWorm Straight Tail
  • Swagger Tungsten