I See You!
Sight Fishing in Winter
The winter season has a firm grasp on the region and with it comes tough conditions and stubborn fish right? Not all of the time. How would you like to catch fish cast after cast and often be the only boat on the water? During the cold months, I have found that vertical dropping a drop shot can be one of the most exciting techniques that you can utilize. Some call it video game fishing or sight fishing with your graph but whatever you call it, this technique is a highly efficient yet highly addictive tactic. I’d like to share a few of the tips and tricks that I use to fill the livewell in the wintertime.
First I want to cover the tackle aspect of this technique. I have found through many days on the water watching my Lowrance that leader length can mean the difference between catching a few and loading the boat. I do my best with a longer leader than when I am up shallow and casting the drop shot. I typically have my weight 18-24 inches below my bait while I often go with a leader as short as 6 inches when I am casting. I believe that when you get more separation between your bait and weight, you get more solid hook ups and a higher quantity of bites since you don’t confuse the fish with two moving objects that are in their general line of sight.
Setting your equipment up properly is key when vertically dropping baits. I rig my drop shot on a 6’9” Medium action Quantum Smoke spinning rod loaded with 16lb. Sunline SX-1 finesse braid with a 10-12 foot leader of 6-8lb Sniper flurocarbon. The braid is crucial since it is impervious to line twists that can really make your day on the water miserable once you drop your bait and retrieve it numerous times in a day’s time. Braided lines also increase your sensitivity as well as giving you rock solid hook sets when your bait is sometimes forty-plus feet down.
On the business end of my line, I like to keep things very simple. I typically either rig a 1/0 Rebarb hook made by Gamakatsu or a 1/0 Gamakatsu split shot/drop shot hook coupled with a drop shot weight that ranges from 1/8oz to 1/4oz. To top this off, I have found that a 4 ½ inch Big Bite Baits Shakin’ Squirrel worm in the Sunrise color or a 3” Big Bite Trick Stick in Pearl/Silver flake are two very good baits for this technique.
As important it is to have the proper rod/reel/line/bait set up is, it is absolutely worthless if you do not have a graph that is fully functioning and dialed in. For that reason, I run a Lowrance HDS8 that I set to traditional sonar so I can “watch” my bait as I drop it down to fish that I have located. I am a firm believer that the new electronics can be run on “Auto” settings for most applications but I do increase the ping speed to 100%. This is very important since it allows for a clearer picture on your graph and will allow you to follow your bait better.
Now that we have everything set up, we can finally start having some fun! Once I locate a group of fish on my graph, I drop my drop shot as close to the head of the trolling motor as possible. This is more important than you may think since that is where the transducer is located and it allows you to see your bait throughout it’s whole decent. Why is it so important to watch your bait fall on the screen you might ask? The reason why this is critical is because most of the fish you will run into this time of the year will be following bait fish and won’t be relating to anything on the bottom. You will need to allow your bait to fall until it is in the face of your targeted fish so if you can’t see it then you are just guessing as to where it is in relation to the fish you are trying to catch.
Once your bait gets to where you have spotted the fish you are hoping to catch, the hard part begins. You have to do NOTHING but hold your bait in front of their face. This should get most of the fish to bite but if that does not work, I will give it very slight shakes. You have to keep in mind that the water is cold and everything in that watery world is not going to be moving very fast so if you are jerking and hopping your drop shot, it will not be nearly as effective.
So instead of camping out on the sofa all winter long, get out on the lake and enjoy some of the best fishing the year has to offer. You might just end up getting addicted to watching your locator as you sight fish in the winter!
Special thanks to my sponsors Skeeter Boats, Yamaha, Spro, Gamakatsu, Sunline, Big Bite Baits, and Lowrance. Check out Will’s sponsors at WillPettyFishing.com to learn more about these products mentioned.