The arrival of December serves as a reminder that open water fishing opportunities are coming to a close, at least in my part of the country, which is western Pennsylvania. But even though the recent Thanksgiving holiday seemed more like Christmas — with several inches of snow and single digit temperatures — chances are we'll still have a couple of weeks of open water.
Whatever late fall fishing is available, chances are good the fish will be on or near the bottom, a situation in which the drop shot rig shines. Substituting a tube jig for the customary drop shot sinker often doubles your chance of sticking bass, as well as other deep dwelling gamefish like walleyes. Longtime guide Frank Campbell, of Niagara Falls, N.Y., showed me this trick a few seasons ago.
Campbell relies on a tube-jig anchored drop shot rig for double trouble. Campbell tailors the weight of the tube jig to the depth being fished, going as light as an eighth-ounce to as heavy as three-eighths.
"This is an ideal search bait set-up," says Campbell. "The tube jig scours the bottom, while the bait on the drop shot hook shows bass something up off the bottom."
Typically Campbell fishes a soft-bodied minnow imitator like Berkley's Gulp! Alive! minnow on the drop shot hook; a 3- or 4-inch tube body encapsulates the insert-style jig head. Jigs with football-shaped heads tend to bump along the bottom, relatively snag free. Eighteen to 24 inches separates the jig and the drop shot hook.
Campbell says the tube jigs does more than just weight-down the drop shot rig. Some days it accounts for the most fish.