By Jeff Little
Drop shotting small soft plastics is nothing new. But combine this effective finesse presentation with an old school finesse bait, the hair jig, and you’ll be able to double your odds of hooking up.
The idea came to me by accident. I had been catching smallmouth on Maryland’s Prettyboy Reservoir out of 30 feet of water with a drop shot. From high above me on the bank, I had spotted the structure now 30 feet beneath me: a jagged, ledgy point over my right shoulder tumbled into placid water that showed a flat-angled rock on one side and an emerald green void on the other. Running the depth finder back and forth over the spot, it would jump from 12 to 30 feet, then 80 feet and back again with two paddle strokes. Such vertical rock structure eats drop-shot weights.
I had made a dozen or more pencil-shaped drop-shot weights in a Do-It Mold the previous evening, but they were almost all gone, lost to ledge-rock snags, usually along with the drop-shot hook. In my kayak’s footwell was the last of the weights. I pinched it with my finger tips, but it slipped free, rolling down into the scupper hole and down to the bottom with the others. Also rolling around in my footwell was a 1/8-oz. hair jig. I tied it on, leaving the drop-shot hook and small minnow-profiled paddle tail grub.
The combination worked. It was fun to guess which one the fish took based on the kind of hit I felt. Generally, if the rod slowly loaded up, the fish was on the drop-shot hook. If I could feel a distinct tap, it was on the hair jig. I enjoyed having two ways to catch fish at the same time. I did not enjoy having two ways to snag at the same time.
The frequency of snags on that ledge rock, and the downtime incurred by re-rigging the setup is probably why I went years without trying it again. But on a recent trip, this time catching river smallmouth I relearned the rig and taught it to a friend.
This time around, I didn’t have nearly as much frustration with snags. It’s not that a river isn’t snaggy, but the vertical structure wasn’t as dramatic. It’s not a tactic to be used in brushy areas, but in the 10- to 17-foot-deep pools that river smallmouth cluster in, it was perfect: a minnow profile suspending 14 inches above a small crawfish profile.
— Watch an explanatory video of Little river-fishing with his double drop-shot rig combining a strap hair jig on the bottom with a drop-shot minnow on top.