Interesting day on the Lake Onota in Pittsfield, MA. My tournament partner Kevin and I did not launch until after 1 PM. The purpose of this trip was scouting for a future Club tournament. Neither of us had ever been to this 600+ acre lake before, but we had done a bit of homework such as utilizing Google Earth, downloading a topographic map, and researching the Massachusetts DNR but, nothing beats time on the water. Though we did not have a lot of time, only about 5 hours, it did allow us a chance to drive around the lake, visibly look at the water, and also use the side finding abilities of the sonar. We did fish a little bit but, primarily we drove around looking.
With all the technology available to us, you would think we ought to be able to go to a new body of water and most everything would be revealed to us. You CAN learn a lot by using technology but I believe you can’t beat time on the water. We had learned prior to our trip that aquatic vegetation was abundant out to about 10 feet deep. What we found at Onota though was extensive areas of milfoil growth, and other areas that had native pondweed, and yet other areas that had a mix of both. We also found well defined inside weed edges in about 5 feet of water. So, without physically seeing the lake I would not have known these things about the grass. We also expected to find a fairly rocky, hard bottom in this lake, instead, we had to search pretty hard to find rocky areas. We also found areas of sandy bottom and other areas of muddy bottom. Again, these are things the internet could not tell us. Bottom line is, one must spend time on the water, looking, and searching. One must physically see those transition areas of shallow to deep water, hard bottoms and soft bottoms. Sure, Joe the local fisherman could tell you “fish by that boulder over there and you’ll catch them” but, did you really learn anything that could be applied to other areas of the lake? Just a few things to think about when you are planning on hitting a new body of water.
Fishing? Well the very first spot we shut the motor off at, and decided we would take a look shallow on the electric motor, we found a couple of spawning beds. One of those beds had a fish on it so we decided to attempt to catch it. A 2 pound smallmouth bass. This provided a bit of a clue in that this fish was likely a male, who tend to be smaller than the females. So, I’m assuming there ought to be a few decent 3+ pound smallmouth swimming around here. We caught no largemouth but the habitat sure seems to indicate that they are there. We did catch small rock bass and a couple of sunfish and, spotted one large school of bait over deep water. In my mind, we learned a lot in a short time. Now it is up to us to apply the right baits and retrieves for the time of year once we get to Lake Onota for our tournament. I’ll keep you posted.
July 18, 2017
Summertime! My most productive time of the year. Generally, from late July through August there is a good population of bass that have moved off of the bank and onto and into some deeper water. During the daylight, give me two rods. One rigged with some kind of jig type bait, and the other being a dropshot rod.
Once the fish get out to 13 feet or grater in our area waters, they become easy targets for the drop shot technique. The overall set up is relatively simple. You have a weight attached to the end of your line with a small, thin wire hook attached about a foot above the weight. Attach a numerous array of soft plastic worms, minnow imitators, or crawfish and, you are going to get bit. If not by bass, nearly all other fish see your bait as a feeding opportunity. If you like fishing a Senko weightless, wacky style, the drop shot may be right up your ally. As there are many methods to fishing (i.e.) retrieving a drop shot, the majority of your bites will come as the bait is sitting still. Just as the Senko works best allowed to fall on a free line, the drop shot can often be at its prime while sitting still.
For me, a good drop shot bait has to float. Or at least not sink fast. A bait such as a 4” Roboworm will generally float the light wire hook off the bottom weed or muck. The 4” Lunker City Ribster, and Gary Yamamoto, Shad Shape Worm are also good choices as well as the Z-Man Finesse Shad. All of these baits have a tendency to float and imitate a small baitfish almost perfectly. Enough of the baits. I’ll leave that to the marketers who. By the way do a great job offering us very style and color imaginable. I’m nor sponsored by any of them.
What is the perfect rod and reel for dropshotting? Everyone has their own preferences but, I want a high speed spinning reel (6:1 or greater) in the 200 class paired with a lighter rod in a Medium action with a moderate power, around 7 feet long. I first started dropshotting using 6# P-Line Flouroclear line (which is outstanding light line for ANY application) but moved to 10# Power Pro braided line. This year, I moved to the same line but in yellow. Due to eye sight and many missed fish on the drop I made this adjustment and so far so good. With the braid, especially the yellow, I am tying on the 6# P-Line Fluoroclear as a leader, about 8 feet long, using a simple and fast Uni to Uni knot. I use a Gamakutsu #2 Split shot/drop shot hook. The next size up moves to a heavier wire and changes the presentation. It is absolutely amazing on how well this tiny hook sticks the fish. And lastly, the weight. I prefer the ¼ oz. Linker City Bakudan SKINNY” OR “PENCIL” WEIGHT. The thin cylindrical weight MAY come through the cover better. After the uni to uni knot, and about 8 feet of leader, I tie the small Gamakatsu hook about 1 foot of the end of the line using a Palomar knot. The tag end of that knot will be re-inserted through the eye of the hook dropping downwards and the weight simply pinches to the bottom of that line.
The retrieve, can vary from a slow pull to sitting absolutely motionless. Sometimes they want that bait quivering which you can do by shaking the rod tip on a slack line, while at other times they may want you to cover some ground and pull it slowly across the bottom. The retrieve largely depends on the mood of the fish so let them tell you how they want it. All fish seem to want this bait, it takes a bit of time to figure out what type of bite is a bass bite and which are nuisance fish. Either way, in the summer time this rig will get enough bites to keep your interest level up.
The hook set. Due to the nature of that small hook, and if you are using braided line, your hook set does not need to be violent. Contrary to the typical rubber worm hookset, most times with the drop shot it is no more than a “Lift and reel” situation. That tiny light wire hook often stabs them itself as soon as you put pressure on the line. From then on through the battle is usually up to your drag, and the rod. Crank when the fish is not pulling, and let the rod absorb the shock when they are pulling. Even using a light monofilament line, you usually do not need to give the hook a monster hook set.
The great thing about the drop shot is that it can be used not only in the summertime but the spring in shallow water can be pretty productive as well as the fall and winter when the fish get grouped up on points and sharp drops. All the modern electric sonar units on the market now may give you an opportunity to “video fish”. In the late fall/early winter time, you can mark individual fish on your sonar and drop you rig on top them and most likely catch that same fish. Myself and others have also used the drop shot while ice fishing. It works! Not all the time, but enough to keep me coming back to it but, in the summertime when the bass are setting up on their deep stuff, it is definitely one of my preferred techniques.