When drop shot baits first appeared on the mainstream bass scene, having made the long journey from Japan to California and then eastward, anglers generally didn’t appreciate the technique. For the handful who didn’t reject drop shot fishing outright, the general inclination was to just use “anything small”—and only when fish were pressured or finicky.
Then the hard core bubba bassers started getting their butts kicked, not just in smallmouth country but anywhere that bass swim. Even on noted power fisheries, like the Tennessee River impoundments, a slow, wiggling drop shot bait was irresistible to educated fish. Anglers who previously refused to rely on spinning gear, now carried at least one spinning rod for drop shotting.
Savvy anglers realized that the drop shot excels all year long, in any depth and water clarity. It has no negative cues to turn fish off. Furthermore, if used wisely, it can produce giants. A big part of that wisdom comes down to choosing the proper soft plastic out of the ever-increasing number of options. Here are some of the best drop shot baits.
Why It Made the Cut
The best qualities of hand pours and “factory” worms, with the most innovative colors around.
- Sizes: 4.5, 6, and 7 inches
- Lifelike, multi-hued colors
- Straight tail
- Salt release system contributes to flexibility and action
- Well-defined, nuanced color patterns
- Can be nose-hooked or Texas-rigged
- Super-soft plastic tears easily
This is the worm that built the career of the late, great Aaron Martens, a Californian transplant to Alabama who is largely responsible for the quick rise of the drop shot. He used these worms whether fishing for double digits on the California Delta or trying to eke out 12-inchers on the Three Rivers of Pittsburgh. Unlike some of the other best drop shot baits, a straight tail worm doesn’t represent any particular type of forage so much as it represents every type of forage. These worms are pliable and generate tons of action with minimal input from the angler, and colors like Margarita Mutilator, Aaron’s Magic, and Morning Dawn have become industry standards. 20 years after it became a certified winner, it continues to produce everywhere that bass swim.
Why It Made the Cut
Proprietary scent formula and compact package acts like smallmouth candy, especially in current.
- Sizes: 3.6 or 4.25 inches
- Heavily scented
- Flat bottom
- Scent is extremely attractive to smallmouths
- Flat bottom causes lure to glide
- Matte colors fool spooky fish
It’s not clear what Maxscent consists of—Berkley keeps their lab work a secret—but when the pro tours go north, there’s often a run on this lure in particular. When supply chain issues reared up, they were selling on auction sites for many times the list price. The great thing about the Flat Worm is that it can represent a goby, a crawfish, or any one of a number of baitfish. Also, the two sizes mimic the meals that most smallmouths feast upon. A simple black, or any one of a number of green patterns, covers a lot of bases, and gets lots of bites. While the lure is short and stubby, the flapping spade tail moves a lot of water, and visually-feeding smallmouths seem to find it easily.
Why It Made the Cut
Simple, non-aggressive shape represents a variety of baitfish that bass love most.
- Size: 4 inches
- Pin tail
- Deep ribbed belly
- Simple design works well on pressured fish
- Also works well on a darter head or jig head
- Great color selection
- Not ideal when fish want a bait with lots of appendages or action
A four-inch baitfish is the primary sized meal for the vast majority of bass—largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted. Yamamoto has taken the same great plastic that made the Senko one of the best bass lures and stuffed it into a four-inch package. The Shad Shape Worm does more with less, which means no legs or waggling tails, just the upright, horizontal baitfish presentation that doesn’t have negative cues. Just like the Senko, many companies have tried to copy it, but no one has succeeded yet. It comes in great colors that imitate gobies and perch, including all sorts of greens, but the baitfish patterns are where this lure excels. Everything from the natural shad to the gaudier blue pearl have a time and a place depending on water color and other conditions.
Why It Made the Cut
When smallmouths are keyed in on invasive gobies, this flat-ribbed demon excels, particularly in clear water.
- Sizes: 3 and 4 inches
- Ribbed body design
- Paddle tail
- Small profile with a large sound profile
- Natural hues excel in clear water situations.
- Works well with a variety of hooks
While Poor Boys may not be a huge company like some others on this list, it’s well-known to generations of Great Lake specialists for producing lures that smallmouths love, particularly when they’re feasting on gobies. When bass are zeroed in on gobies, they often won’t look at anything else, and you know you have a perfect lure when the gobies themselves are chomping on it. The various green and brown hues, including multiple variations of green pumpkin, are probably the most popular, but the more translucent Watermelon Rose and the light-blue-bottomed “Golby” are unique patterns. If smallies are snacking on gobies, Poor Boys gives you the tools to “match the hatch.”
Why It Made the Cut
When smaller bass and nuisance species are making mincemeat of expensive lures, it pays to have an option that will both tempt them and survive their attacks.
- Sizes: 4 and 7 inches
- Eight proven colors
- Made of highly durable Elaztech material
- Super stretchy and durable
- Straight tail design excels for pressured fish
- Can also be used on a drop shot or Neko Rig
- Not as many colors as some other drop shot options
Strike King’s soft plastic selection includes several explicitly designed for drop shotting. But the Elaztech Finesse Worm is the one that stands out, not least of all because it’s so durable. Strike King has taken a material that won’t rip or tear and crafted it into a finesse worm that is soft and pliable. It’s effective on short-strikers since you can drop the worm back into the strike zone rather than having to reel in half a worm and replace it with another. Kevin VanDam used this worm on a shaky head (in the “Dirt” color) to earn a Bassmaster Elite Series win. That’s one other nice thing about the Finesse Worm—it lends itself well to a variety of presentations, and over the course of the day, you can move the same worm from one to the next.
Why It Made the Cut
One of the world’s best flipping bait is good with more than just a super-heavy tungsten weight.
- Sizes: 3.5, 4.2, and 5.2 inches
- Great selection of unusually-named color patterns
- Ribbed design with customizable split tail
- Durable yet pliant plastic
- Appendages can be split or removed as circumstances require
- Colors for every situation
- Not ideal when bass want a longer, thinner profile
While drop shotting is thought of as a finesse technique, increasingly anglers have resorted to “Bubba Shotting” or “Power Shotting” in heavy cover or around larger fish. In other words, they use heavier tackle (often baitcasting gear) and larger weights, but they’re still seeking the same action—a lure that sits above the bottom and undulates free of restraint. The Sweet Beaver is arguably the best flipping bait of all time. It certainly spawned a wave of imitators. What’s lesser known is how well it does on a power shot. With the tail left intact, it seems to float in place, while you can also split it and get more action. It’s just the right size for bass of all dimensions, and with no long appendages or curly tails, it won’t get stuck on heavy cover. Plus, even the smallest “Smallie Beaver” will hold a remarkably large and stout hook with ease and without losing any action.
Things to Consider
Basic Drop Shot Gear
Drop shot baits are commonly nose hooked using a drop shot hook.
Rod and Reel
Drop shotting excels with spinning tackle, and specifically a 7 foot to 7-foot 4-inch spinning rod. Many of the best spinning rods are available in a drop-shot-specific model that have the right power and taper for the technique. You’ll also need a 3000-size reel with a smooth drag that balances your rod.
A great starting point for drop shooting is to use 12-pound braid to a 6-pound fluorocarbon leader.
The weights you use will depend on the depth you’re fishing and the type of cover. But, one big decision is lead or tungsten. Tungsten weights are smaller than lead weights of the same weight, which means you can use less weight to hold bottom. Lead is much less expensive than tungsten and might be the best bet for fishing snaggy bottom.
Of course, you want to imitate the dominant forage, whether that be crawfish, gobies, or some sort of baitfish, but you also need to address the type of cover and water clarity. If fish are sight feeders, something with a lot of movement that pushes water will be better, but if they’re pressured less can be more. Also, when they’re aggressive a lot of tails and legs can be ideal, but at the same time, those appendages tend to get caught on branches and in vegetation.
Are you fishing for largemouths, smallmouths, spotted bass, or a combination of the three? Again, they often feed on different forage and have different-sized appetites.
Color variations can matter greatly or not at all. Some experts keep it simple, with choices like green pumpkin and black, but sometimes a change in flake or tail color can make a huge difference. Species matters, too, as both smallmouths and spots seem to love a touch of chartreuse. Clear water largemouths sometimes have a fetish for pinkish or purplish shades like Morning Dawn.
Nose hooking a lure may require a different hook than a Texas Rig, and a power shot demands something altogether different. A thin finesse worm may be overpowered by a beefy power hook, while a thin wire model might not adequately penetrate a thicker bait on the hook set.
Q: Do all baits have an odor?
Not all baits are scented, and many anglers believe that scented baits, like the Berkeley MaxScent Flatworm, do improve catch rates.
Q: Does it matter what color I choose for bass?
Matching a bait’s color to the water clarity and dominant forage can help bass see your lure and entice them to bite.
Q: How do you rig a drop shot bait?
A drop shot bait can be nose hooked, Texas rigged, and wacky rigged.
I’ll admit it: I used to think I didn’t need to add drop shotting to my arsenal. My jigs and wacky worms and other soft plastics could do everything that the “upside down catfish rig” could accomplish, right? Wrong. There’s something about the fact that the lure is suspended off the bottom and divorced from the weight that makes it really special and widely applicable. From bed fishing to deep water smallies, you can’t go wrong throwing one of the best drop shot baits.
Despite my early inclinations to the contrary, I’ve spent hundreds of hours with a drop shot rod in my hand over the past decade, as well as picking the brains of some of the world’s best drop shotters. In other words, I’m trying to make up for lost time. I’ve drop shotted big largemouths in the grass, smaller spotted bass in standing timber on Table Rock, and smallmouths on sand and rock on the Great Lakes. Even when bass are at their most voracious and least discriminating, there’s usually one lure setup that attracts and hooks more than any other.