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Billy Zeller with one of his big Loch Raven carp.
Billy Zeller with one of his big Loch Raven carp. (Bill May photo)

Attention fishermen: It's time to take another look at drop shot fishing.

It was this May 22 note with attached pictures from Billy Zeller that got me thinking:

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"Went to Loch Raven on Sunday. Caught 9 pickerel and no bass, although I had a large bass on for a few seconds. I also used a drop shot nymph to catch about 25 bull bluegill and a crappie. I encountered a carp while blugillin' and gave it a shot with the drop shot rigged on an ultralite with 6-pound test. Caught 4 total, 6, 7, and 13 pounds, and one that bottomed out the 15-pound Boga Grip scale hard. The 13-pound fish was on a flat, and it ran like a bonefish. The big one pulled me out in deep water and took 10 minutes to land."

Among our group of fishermen, only Billy Zeller uses the drop shot method regularly. He is one of the very best and most versatile fishermen I know and has had great success with the drop shot method on bass, pickerel and incidental panfish. Now he has taken drop shot fishing to new levels.

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Drop shot fishing arrived on the bass scene from uncertain origins about a decade ago. It was seen as a deep water finesse technique for taking bass, usually smallmouth, from deep waters with fairly clear bottoms or for taking suspended bass.

That's still the way most anglers view this technique. But Zeller and others have expanded it exponentially, bringing this technique to shallow and weedy waters also and targeting more species.

The basic technique hasn't changed. The standard way to fish this rig is to cast it out, allow it to drop to the proper depth, then very quietly just twitch it in place before slowly working it back in, mostly just dragging it, in. Experts warn that most people overwork the rig.

Nor has the basic appeal of this rig changed in making subtle, natural lure (or bait) presentations by keeping the lure at the proper depth for a prolonged period.

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What has changed significantly is the drop shot rigging and tactics.

In the early days of drop shot fishing the rig was created by using fluorocarbon to attach a specialized drop shot hook via a variation of the Palomar knot. For many anglers this was easier said than done, and line twisting was a problem leading to such proposed remedies as use of braided line above the fluorocarbon with a swivel connection between and on and on. In 2011 VMC introduced the SpinShot Drop Shot hook. Gamagatzu has since developed their version called Finesse, and I'm sure there are others. But, as I'll discuss below, all of our gang have come up with cheap and simple home made rigs.

Billy attached several pictures, so here are the pertinent details.

Billy described the rod and line. His flies, as shown, are simple fuzzy nymph patterns with sili leg material tied mostly on size 4 drop shot hooks. He uses #9 or lighter stainless steel leader wire, making a small looped eye at one end, running a short piece at a right angle through the eye of the hook then closing with another looped eye to create the spinshot-type device that keeps the fly tangle-free at a right angle to the line.

Bill usually uses pinch drop shot style weights but sometimes eyed weights or just split shot. He finds the skinny or pencil style hang up less on the bottom. (Drop shot weights are meant to be sacrificial if necessary, so use lighter line or weak knots.) Billy uses 1/16 ounce weights for carp and other delicate finesse fishing and 1/8 ounce weights for bass and deeper presentations.

You may say, correctly, that bluegills in the shallows in the spring are not that difficult to catch. Carp almost always are on artificial baits. Expert anglers across the country consider taking carp on fly tackle a major challenge. Carp are wary and powerful, and, as can be seen, can get big. Billy's drop shot approach presents a fly with stealth and, just as importantly, keeps it quietly in place or slowly drifting to create an excellent imitation of the nymphs, scuds, crayfish, worms and assorted animal and vegetable fodder carp scavenge from the bottom.

Nor does it take much imagination to project employing these techniques to such species as trout, all kinds of panfish, catfish, walleye and even such salt were species as perch, stripers, redfish, flounder and other species.

Of course most people, even light-tackle experts, will resort to heavier tackle for carp and some other species. Since kayak fishing imposes strict tackle limitations, I take the drop shot approach of using my standard medium to medium/heavy rod with 15 to 20-pound braid with a 15 to 20-pound fluorocarbon leader. For the drop shot, I tie on a small swivel, add a foot-long section of lighter fluorocarbon, tie on a homemade spinshot-type device and tie a 12 to 24-inch even lighter section of fluorocarbon to the bottom end for the weight.

I don't know about you, but I'm making up some more drop shot rigs for assorted plastics and tying up some of those flies like Billy Zeller is using.

Late update: Billy reported returning to Loch Raven June 6, where he cast to "about 50 carp." Most spooked or ignored the flies, but, "The largest Carp I have hooked to date made five runs of 40-50 feet and took drag for 10-15 minutes on and off til it straightened the hook and pulled loose. The fish in the picture (shown) buried my 15# Bogo Grip scale."

If he keeps this up Billy's going to need stronger hooks, a wide angle lens and a bigger Boga Grip.

410-857-7896

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