The decorated pro from Kalamazoo, Michigan finds many scenarios befitting the versatile finesse tactic, but he finds it undeniably superior for a style of fishing common to his region.
“Without a doubt, where I first think of dropshots is fishing for smallmouth on crystal clear Great Lakes waters,” VanDam said. “It’s so efficient to fish deep water because you can get your bait down quickly and having the bait above the weight, it’s very visible to them.
“When you’re covering a big, deep flat, the dropshot helps you search for fish because you can get more of them to see it than a bait that’s down on the bottom because it’s in his line of sight the whole time.”
VanDam maximizes his effort with what he calls “bombing around” — a dropshot with an oversized weight of 1/2- to 3/4-ounce, depending on depth. The presentation is simple — cast, shake it a few times, reel in, repeat — but the ability to make long casts and quickly sink the dropshot makes this a highly-efficient method for dialing in the most productive areas.
Noting that fish typically bite the heavy dropshot on the initial fall, VanDam said this plan excels on flat-oriented fisheries like Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie and Lake Champlain. Fish are often scattered, so covering water is the best way to identify the sweet spots.
“Once you get into that 20-30-foot zone, there’s no more efficient way to do it,” VanDam said. “You can’t throw a crankbait, they’re not going to see a jerkbait. Other finesse baits, like a tube, may generate a lot of bites, but you can’t cover the water.”
VanDam’s favorite dropshot bait is the Strike King Baby Z Too, a 2 3/4-inch jerkbait made of soft, durable ElazTech. The bait has salt content, but it floats for the horizontal posture that makes a dropshot so effective.
“Instead of the typical nose-hooked dropshot presentation, I can increase my hook-up ratio by threading the bait onto a 1/0 Mustad Grip-Pin Edge hook,” VanDam said. “You lock the bait onto that keeper and you can catch 15-20 fish on one bait.
“When you shake the dropsot, this (hooking style) really enhances the action that’s built into this bait. Sometimes, with nose-hooking, they’ll rip the bait off and you miss them. With this rig, if you miss one or one gets off when you’re reeling, you just drop it back down and if (the hooked fish) has one following him, they immediately bite it.”
When VanDam’s “bombing” efforts lead him to a key piece of structure, or a school of roamers, he’ll switch to a dropshot with a 4-inch Strike King Ocho or a Dream Shot wacky rigged on a Mustad Titan-X Wacky/Neko hook. Spending more time on each drop, he knows this rig is a real deal closer.
“It’s an incredibly effective way to generate bites because the action of that wacky rig is so lively and you can keep it in the face longer,” VanDam said. “The wacky rig has a slower fall, so when they see it, they can’t help but bite it.”