Drop Shot Fishing in Saltwater

Rear view of man on pier fishing
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The drop shot rig is a relatively recent innovation in the freshwater fishing realm that is now making its way to saltwater. Named for the way the rig goes straight to the bottom, it is similar to a fish-finder or chicken rig currently used by many bottom-fishing anglers. The difference is in the placement of the hook.

Freshwater Success

Drop shotting is popular with black bass anglers and is used with a variety of plastic worms or lizards. Taking the method to saltwater means modifying not the rig itself, but the bait and the mindset of the angler.

A drop shot rig has the weight or sinker at the end of the line. Several specialized types of weights have been designed for drop shot fishing, none of them really heavy enough to use in comparatively deep water. The heaviest weight available was a three quarter ounce sinker with a wire wedge.


Like the fish finder rig, the hook on a drop shot is tied to the line from one to three feet above the sinker. The idea in both cases is to allow the bait to suspend above the bottom. The difference once again comes in how the hook is attached to the line. On a freshwater bass drop shot rig, the hook is tied directly to the main line. The hook is then directly in line with the weight and any bite from a fish is instantly felt. On a fish finder rig, the hook is tied to a loop in the leader up above the sinker. That loop is usually one to two feet in length and the hook sits off to the side of the leader, freeing the bait to move in any current present.

The Advantage

The drop shot has a distinct advantage for anglers fishing straight down under the boat and offers benefits for bottom fishing over a wreck or reef and fishing on or around jetties or pilings, where it would provide an instant feel for a biting fish.

Reef and wreck fish have a habit of heading straight for cover with a bait, and the small delay in feeling the bite on a fish finder rig gives the fish a head start toward that cover. Drop shot has the ability to give a better chance at keeping fish out of that cover.

Deep Water Success

In a test of the saltwater method, we fished a wreck situated in about 120 feet of water off the North Florida coast, using the drop shot method exclusively. We actually felt every bite, even the subtle pecks of smaller bait fish. We did catch a number of seabass and vermillion snapper on the rig, and it worked very well for us. Instead of tying the hook to the line, we tied it to our heavier leader. It was still a drop shot configuration, but it included a fluorocarbon leader.

Success on Jetties and Pilings

On the jetties and pilings, the Atlantic sheepshead is probably the most difficult fish to hook because of their subtle, often undetectable bite. Fishfinder rigs leave slack line to the hook, as does a standard sinker, swivel, leader and hook rig. Sheepshead are able to crush the bait in their hard mouths and spit the hook without you even knowing it—this is where the drop shot really works well.

A fiddler crab on the hook of a drop-shot rig can be dropped straight down. This prevents many hangs and, lost leaders on the rocks, but more importantly, the direct, inline hook provides an instant bite. They can't crush your bait without you realizing it! For sheepshead fishing, the drop shot rig is a real plus.

Weights and Baits

For deep water drop shotting, try a pyramid or bell sinker tied to the end of the leader. Manufacturers like True Turn and Daiichi are now making 2/0 and 3/0 drop shot hooks, specifically designed to tie into the leader, that work well for saltwater applications.

A live fish bait will likely not work well on a drop shot because the rig restricts the live bait movement. Cut bait and dead bait are the most convenient and were used for our offshore trip with success.

Try a drop shot on your next trip. It just could be the trick you need to put more fish in the box!