The drop shot rig is one of the most effective presentations a bass angler can use. There has been much debate on leader length and how it affects the lure and presentation. I have spent time filming a drop shot rig underwater with varying leader lengths to answer this question definitively.
A shorter drop shot leader tends to impart more action on the lure. A longer leader lets the drop shot lure glide and move in a more subtle manner. Leader lengths can also be adjusted based on bottom composition.
The experiments I did changed the way I use the drop shot and it has helped me land many more bass.
Traditional Drop Shot Leader Length Thought Process
Most of the time you will hear drop shot leader length discussed in regards to bottom composition and where the bass are positioned in relation to the bottom.
These are both accurate, but not the end-all-be-all when it comes to leader length choice.
When fishing a lake bed that is covered in Chara grass, the leader does not have to be that long. Most vegetation of this type stays relatively close to the bottom of the lake.
Rocky lake beds can also use shorter leaders since the lure doesn’t vanish in the structure.
Waters that have weeds that grow taller often require longer leaders.
(Here is an article talking about where to find cold front bass.)
What I Now Take Into Consideration When Choosing Leader Length
When I use a drop shot, often the conditions are tough.
The skies may be clear with no clouds and bright sun. The water may be gin-clear and the fish easily startled.
The leader’s length plays an important role in determining what type of action I want my lure to have.
When using a longer leader, over 3ft in length, it is easy to impart a smooth gliding or swimming action on the lure. The angler can let the lure slide down and then pull it up gently by lowering and raising the rod tip.
When filming underwater, this action looks extremely realistic and lifelike.
As anglers, we often impart way too much action on our lures. This gliding motion mimics a baitfish and its natural movements well.
When a shorter leader is used, let’s say 18″ in length, the close proximity of the weight to the lure means there is less “cushion” between the two. The result is a much quicker darting and dipping action. Even the vibrations are more pronounced.
The smallest movements with the rod tip create much more action on the lure.
Depending on the mood of the fish, along with the bottom composition, these two distinct actions and movements can lead to very different results.
The below video shows exactly what I’m talking about with lure action and leader length.
Drop Shot Leader Length When Fished Horizontally
Many bass anglers use a drop shot rig with more horizontal cast-and-retrieve presentations, as opposed to true “vertical” presentations.
When fished in this manner, the longer the leader the better. It can be cumbersome to cast, but the hassle is worth it.
A short leader results in the lure actually sitting on the bottom of the lake or river bed.
The extreme angle of the line from the end of the cast back to the angler means it takes the long leader to hold the lure off the bottom. Keeping the lure up and visible is why a drop shot is effective in the first place. If we wanted to have the lure dragging on the lakebed, there are better presentations and techniques to accomplish that.
You can even see in this image below, how close the lure still is to the bottom with a very long leader.
Lure Selection is Critical When Drop Shot Fishing
Most anglers are under the assumption that the lure is standing straight off of the line at a perpendicular angle.
In most cases, this is not true. The below image shows what is happening most of the time when the lure is sitting motionless.
I almost exclusively fish the Baby Z Too. It is made from Elaztech and is buoyant. Even when the angler imparts no action on the lure at all, it still floats the way we assume it should.
This lure is always working. Always.
It outfishes lures made from Plastisol by a huge margin.
Be Careful With Lure Action When Drop Shot Fishing
There are times when the bass want lots of action. It seems like the more you shake it the better they bite.
But that is not all the time.
It is easy to fall into habits as a bass angler. We tend to do the same thing in the same places with the same lures and presentations.
If you are fishing a drop shot rig and the bites are few, there is a chance there is too much action on the lure.
This is where the information we discussed above can help guide you to the right presentation for the day and time you are fishing. Adjusting the leader length has a significant impact on what that lure is doing under the water.
Good luck out there and be sure to encourage someone today. You never know how you may change their life forever.