by Gord Pyzer
Drop-shotting is unquestionably one of the hottest techniques to burst onto the bass fishing scene in the past couple of decades. But guess what? Drop shotting is just as good a method - maybe even better - for catching walleyes.
It is rare to be given an inside, up close and personal look at a new fishing technique in its infancy, when "those in the know" are catching unconditioned fish, winning tournaments and doing everything in their power to keep it under tight wraps. But that is precisely where I found myself back in the late 1980s, thanks to long time In-Fisherman Magazine contributor, Rich Zaleski.
Rich and I were trading emails back and forth - or however, it was that we traded messages back then - and Rich divulged the details behind a clandestine bass presentation that some Japanese pros had devised.
Seems they were knotting hooks a foot or two up their lines where they had traditionally placed sinkers and tying weights to the ends of their line where they had previously put hooks. When they cast out the rigs and let them settle to the bottom and then tightened up on the lines, they knew their baits were hovering up and off the bottom at the same depth the fish were suspended.
More importantly, however, they discovered that drop-shotting allowed them to subtly shake the baits in one place and give them action without pulling them forward.
And when a fish bit the lure, since there was no terminal tackle between the hook and the angler, sensitivity was magnified and hook ups were high percentage.
It was revolutionary and I'll never forget the first time I put it into practice at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championships on Rainy Lake. Remember, now, this was almost 30 years ago and the bass had never before seen a bait presented on a drop-shot rig.
Whenever my partner, the late John Vandivier and I spotted a smallmouth on the sonar screen, we'd open the bails on our spinning reels, let the weights tumble to the bottom and watch the fish streak up and eat the worms. It was like plucking overripe grapes that were drooping from the vine and John and I finished third the first time we ever drop-shotted.
But, then, a funny thing happened. The more I incorporated the technique into my repertoire, the more I started catching walleyes. At the time, I remember thinking they were bonus fish or accidental tourists. But then the walleye numbers started to soar, especially when I spotted a school of fish that I mistakenly thought were bass, only to discover that I'd parked over a pack of walleyes.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, I rarely fish for walleyes without at least one, and often several, drop-shot rods rigged and ready for battle. And everything I have subsequently learned from the best drop-shotters in the business, like three-time Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year and four-time runner up in the Bassmaster Classic, Aaron Martens (who is widely regarded as the finest drop-shotter on the planet) and Derek Strub, the "Aaron Martens of Canada" is as applicable to walleyes as it is to bass.
TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER
"It is a rare day for me not to have seven or eight drop shot rods on the deck," says Strub, who spends most of his time fishing Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and the eastern basin of Lake Ontario. "I can usually tell when I mark fish on my Humminbird if they're walleyes or bass, but it makes little difference in terms of how I drop-shot for them."
Why so many rods, then, when the technique is seemingly dirt simple?
"I've found leader length to be a critical part of the drop-shot for walleye presentation puzzle," says Strub. "Sometimes, for example, they won't hit your bait unless they see it fall on the initial drop. Other times, if I am fishing over large boulders, I want the hook and bait to be up above the rocks so they can see it. Ditto, when the walleyes are feeding on emerald shiners. On the other hand, with so many gobies on the bottom of the Great Lakes these days, the walleyes often won't swim up more than a few inches to grab a bait. So, it all depends on the structure and cover that I am fishing and the forage the walleyes are eating. When I have six, eight or ten rods rigged with different leader lengths, I can quickly sort through multiple options at different locations without wasting time."
While Strub shortens the spread between his hook and sinker when he is drop-shotting for goby-gobbling walleyes. I do the same thing when I am fishing Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods, two famous border waters that rusty crayfish have invaded and where the walleyes have taken advantage of the burgeoning bottom hugging food source.
It is a bass cum walleye trick I learned originally from Bassmaster Elite pro Aaron Martens. "If you're not drop-shotting," says Martens, "you're hurting your chances. I drop-shot everywhere and for just about every species of fish. I drop-shot for deep fish, suspended fish and super shallow fish. But I adjust my leader length according to the conditions.
Reprinted with permission.