Fishing a Drop Shot Rig for Trout

The drop shot rig is primarily known as being a finesse bass fishing technique that excels at catching fish in clear water and in tough conditions. The technique is used by professional and novice anglers all over the country with great success and is an effective way to catch finicky bass. However, many anglers have asked, and wonder can you also use the drop shot to catch trout?

The answer to the question if a drop shot is an effective way to catch trout is simple. The answer is absolutely! In this article we tackle this question and go in-depth on the best baits, rigging options and fishing methods for catching trout on a drop shot rig. Let’s dive into the details.

What is a Drop Shot Rig?

Drop-shotting was first developed in Japan as a finesse bass fishing technique designed to target heavily pressured fish. A drop shot rig consists of a line tied to a hook with a trailing leader that has a weight at the end of it. The weight is at the bottom and the hook and bait are above the weight. Anglers will adjust the leader length, hooks and weights depending on the target species, depth and conditions they are fishing in. Here is an example of a typical drop shot rig:

Can you Drop Shot for Trout?

Although a drop shot rig is well known for being a bass fishing technique, it can also be a great way to catch trout in the right situations. Over the years I have caught several trout on a drop shot while targeting bass and I used to think they were just random flukes. However, as I consistently pulled up trout on this rig, I realized the potential it had as being a great way to target trout that often gets overlooked.

In the following paragraphs I’ll share with you everything I have learned about trout fishing using a drop shot. Including rigging, baits, techniques, gear and everything you need to know about targeting trout with this rig.    

Make sure to check out My Recommend Gear and Tackle Guide to ensure you have the right gear for your next fishing adventure.

Drop Shot Rig Set-Up for Trout

Tying on a drop shot rig for trout is very similar to what a bass fishing angler would typically use. However, there are some subtle variations you’ll need to make when trout fishing.

The right gear, tackle and baits will all be dependent on the type and size of trout you are after. For example, if you are targeting big trout in a deep lake heavier tackle and larger baits will be required. On the other hand, if you plan on fishing in small ponds or streams a lighter setup will be ideal. Adapting your drop shot rig according to the type of fish you are after can play a huge roll in your overall success.

Here is a basic guide on how to tie and set-up a drop shot rig for trout and what gear and tackle is typically needed to help get you started.

Basic Rigging

First grab your drop shot hook and tie the hook onto the main line using a Palomar Knot. If you are unfamiliar with this knot, watch this video for more details. After trying this knot, you’ll have a tag end that should be around 12-20 inches long. Next, grab your drop shot weight and attach it to the end of the tag line. Finally grab your bait and rig it to your drop shot hook. and you are ready to go fishing.

Now that we have a basic understanding on how to tie and rig a drop shot for trout. Let’s look at each component of the drop shot set-up in more detail.

Rod & Reel

Most standard spinning rods will get the job done for this technique. However, having a light/medium action rod with a fast tip paired with a 2500 series reel is ideal. You won’t need the fanciest rod/reel set-up to get started buts it’s worth noting having a more expensive rod will give you greater sensitivity and allow you to detect the bite better. Be that as it may you don’t need the most expensive rod to get started and be effective.


I recommend setting up your spinning spool with either 4- or 6-pound test fluorocarbon line or with 10 lb. braided line paired with a 4-6 lb. fluorocarbon leader. This will be the perfect set-up for most trout situations. However, if you are targeting bigger trout species, you’ll definitely want to size up. Fluorocarbon line works great for this technique because its nearly invisible, it’s extremely sensitive and it sinks which is ideal for the drop shot.


Probably the most popular and my personal favorite knot for a drop shot rig is the Palomar Knot. If aren’t familiar with this not check out this video tutorial by Wired2Fish for a demonstration. The Snell Knot is also a popular knot and there are several out there that will work. For me I stick with the Palomar Knot, it has treated me well over the years.

Leader Length

Keep in mind when tying your knot, the tag end should be around 18 inches long. This can be adjusted depending on the conditions and mood of the fish. If you are just started out I would stick with 18 inches and you can modify this with experience as you adapt this technique to different situations. The leader length determines how high your bait sits off the bottom so start with 18 inches and adjust as needed.


When selecting a drop shot weight make sure to choose the lightest weight possible while still allowing your bait to have contact with the bottom. I would recommend not going heavier than 3/8 ounce for most situations unless you are fishing in deep water. Heavier weights tend to get hung up more and the fish seem to be able to feel the difference in my experience.

Here is a general guide:
  • 4 Feet or less = 1/8 – ¼ ounce weights
  • 5-10 Feet = ¼ ounce weights
  • 20 Feet plus = 3/8 ounce or heavier

There are a few different types of drop shot weights, each designed for different situations. My favorite type is the lead skinny drop shot weights. These are a slenderer weight that tends to get hung up less when fishing around rocks. Tear drop or a ball shaped weight can also work well especially in areas without rocks.


When it comes to drop shot hooks there are also a lot of options to choose from. The best hooks to start with in my opinion is either a circle or octopus style hook in size #2, #1 or 1/0. If you are targeting bigger trout or using a large soft plastic bait a bigger hook may be needed.


One of the great things about the drop shot technique is its versatility. There are what seems like an endless amount of baits that you can pair with this fishing rig. However, it’s important that you select the right bait for the task at hand.

How do you select the right drop shot bait for trout? I like to keep things simple and try and match the hatch. If you can figure out what the trout are keying on and imitate it, you can absolutely kill it on a drop shot.

There are plenty of great drop shot baits out there including soft plastics, live bait and lures. Feel free to experiment with the different types and find what works best for you on your home waters. Here are some of my go to drop shot baits for trout:

Best Drop Shot Baits for Trout

Quick Tip: If you are fishing a sot plastic bait such as a mouse tail or plastic minnow add some garlic for some added attraction. This addition will help you get some more bites.

Drop Shot Fishing Tips and Tactics

Drop Shot Fishing for Trout

When to Fish a Drop Shot

The drop shot is considered a finesses fishing technique and can really shine in clear water situations and in tough conditions. This rig will work all-year round and in any type situation you may find yourself in.

Where to Fish a Drop Shot

The drop shot is an extremely versatile rig and can be fished pretty much anywhere. Rivers, lakes, ponds and streams are all great places to catch fish on this set-up. It especially works well in the following conditions

  • Clear water
  • In current
  • Deep water
  • Tough conditions

Before you use this technique make sure to understand the rules and regulations for the waters that you are fishing. Certain streams, rivers and lakes may have special regulations and won’t allow the use of this technique. With that being said most places allow the use of the drop shot rig but it’s always a good idea to check beforehand.

The Retrieval

As with any lure or tactic, there are several ways to fish a drop-shot. This technique is designed to present the bait at the bottom of the water column to target suspended fish. Here are some of the most common and effective ways to fish a drop shot.


Slowly dragging the drop shot rig while the bait remains in contact with bottom is one of the most common way to fish a drop shot. For this method simply cast out your bait, let it sink to the bottom and slowly drag it in while giving it a few pops. Your speed and cadence will depend on the situation and fish, but you can go as fast or as slow as you would like. Check out this video called How to Fish: Drop Shotting for Trout by Fishing with Rod that demonstrates this technique.  


There is nothing special about the deadsticking technique. Deadsticking is simply casting and allowing the bait to remain motionless for an extended period of time before retrieval. The idea is to keep the bait/lure still and allow the current give it a subtle action as it sits still. This technique can be really effective, especially in cold or tough fishing conditions.  


The key to vertically fishing a drop shot is to first locate where the fish are using your electronics and then drop your bait down right on them and start working it. Here is a video explaining this technique by Johnathan Stuckey (Vertical Drop Shot Tutorial) that goes into the details on what to look for and how to vertically fish. He is specifically fishing for bass but this same strategy applies for trout.


Slowly swimming your drop shot rig can also be an effective retrieve. This approach often gets overlooked but can really produce. Here is another bass fishing explanation (Swimming Finesse Baits with a Drop Shot) that also applies to trout as well

Each one of these presentations can be a great way to fish a drop shot depending on the conditions and mood of the fish. Every angler seems to have their preference and I would encourage you to experiment and try different retrieval methods until you find one that works for you.

In my experience each time I go out the fish prefer a different speed, retrieval and bait. Make sure to mix things up and experiment.

Other Bass Fishing Techniques that work for trout

The drop shot is not the only bass fishing rig that can be used to catch trout. In fact, most of them can be applied and modified for trout fishing. Here are some other bass fishing techniques that I have found also work well for trout:

Final Thoughts

Most anglers consider a drop shot to be a bass fishing only rig. However, as we have learned in this blog post that is simply not the case. The drop shot rig can be a great trout fishing technique that often flies under the radar for many anglers. I hope this information opens up a whole new way for you to fish for trout. Now go out and give this technique a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Tight Lines!

Aaron Warner

Aaron Warner is an avid angler with over 15 years of experience. He has participated and won fishing tournaments all over the country and enjoys fishing for bass, trout, walleye and other species.

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