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The Bubba Dropshot | Print |  Email
Written by Shane Beilue   
Monday, 18 April 2011 19:01

Although not always the rule, Western bass fishermen and their Southern brethren are often associated with "finesse" and "power" techniques, respectively--byproducts of the conditions within their geographic regions.

However, successful techniques inevitably diffuse throughout the country, driven by anglers searching to expand their arsenals by adapting new trends to fit local conditions. Bill Wilcox, a longtime guide and tournament professional on reservoirs throughout Texas, is one angler who has adapted the traditional dropshot method to fit the heavily timbered lakes he fishes.

Wilcox, admittedly a power fisherman, says, "Finesse is a term relative to where one fishes. In Texas, our lakes aren't typically as clear and pressured as many of the reservoirs out West, and most of the places I fish simply won't allow for light line due to the amount of timber. Though I've had to bulk up the system I learned from the guys out West, I still consider my setup with the dropshot a 'finesse' approach, so I call it the bubba dropshot."

Bulking Up

Wilcox's departure from traditional dropshot methods begins with his equipment. Rather than 6- to 8-pound line on spinning tackle, Wilcox's standard setup is a baitcasting reel, 7-foot medium-heavy rod and 15-pound green Trilene Big Game.

As Wilcox explains, "I can usually get by with the heavier line because the water visibility is only two to three feet in most of the lakes I fish. The heavier line also allows me to put a lot more pressure on a fish when trying to get it out and away from cover."

This Texas professional understands the true appeal of the dropshot rig is its ability to suspend a small finesse bait in front of finicky fish in a very natural manner. With the heavier line, he can still achieve that goal, but gain quick control of a fish hooked in heavy cover. If faced with clearer water, Wilcox will drop down in line size, but rarely goes below 12-pound.

Perhaps the most interesting variation, however, is Wilcox seldom relies on a vertical presentation. Instead, he casts the rig and drags the bait back to the boat. This provides the luxury of rapidly combing a deep-water area with a finesse presentation.

Wilcox further explains, "I take a systematic approach to fishing deep timber in that I first present my power baits like deep cranks and Carolina rigs. Finally, I'll fish the dropshot through the same areas before I change locations. I believe bass will hit a dropshot worm when they won't take any other presentation. The key is figuring out what the bass want on that particular day; therefore, I will not leave an area until I have tried the dropshot."

Because Texas lakes aren't as clear as many Western impoundments, Wilcox notes there's no need to fish extremely deep. "I fish a lot of mid-range depths, from 10 to 15 feet," he says. "Casting the dropshot allows me to cover these areas more efficiently than I can with a vertical presentation."

Double Up

Finally, to maximize the efficiency of each cast around heavy cover, Wilcox employs a trick he learned from catching white bass on slab spoons. "We often rig a hair jig above a slab when jigging for suspended white bass," he explains, "and I just began thinking of ways to do the same thing for largemouths. I now use a double rig much of the time when I'm dropshotting around heavy cover.

"The double rig utilizes a Texas-rigged worm as a replacement for the dropshot weight, with a typical 4-inch handpoured worm rigged above. The Texas rig appeals to fish right on the bottom, while the handpour tempts fish loosely relating to the cover below."

The Texas rig usually consists of a 3/8-ounce weight and a 6-inch worm. In timber, the Texas-rigged worm resists snags better than the small, round dropshot weights. As a variation to the "double rig," Wilcox sometimes replaces the Texas rig with a 1/2-ounce jig during the winter months. Again, he casts and retrieves the bait in short hops and drags, much like a Carolina rig, allowing both baits to probe for bass. "When the fish are really stacked up on a deep-structure location," he says, "it's not uncommon to catch a fish on each bait."

Like most professionals, Wilcox is a versatile angler, but his specialty is finding bass on deep structure, especially in timbered lakes, and his adoption and adaptation of the dropshot has become a staple in his deep-water arsenal. He adds, "Any good structure fisherman knows the key to finding large concentrations of bass is to find 'sweet spots' along the structure."

These "sweet spots" are often within the heaviest cover--an area typically off-limits to finesse presentations. However, Wilcox's versatility with the dropshot rig proves this technique can properly blend finesse with power--a combination suitable for anglers in any geography.

Wood Eggs

Spawning bass require warmth to incubate their eggs and a firm surface upon which to deposit them. This combination can be found in the large, branching canopies of submerged hardwood trees far from shore. Though the hardwoods may be anchored in 20 to 30 feet of water, the heavy branches of tree canopies are often within three to five feet of the surface--the perfect depth for females to deposit their eggs. A former guide on the submerged forests of Lake Ray Roberts in northeast Texas, Wilcox knows this pattern well. His baits of choice are typical spring shallow-water fare: 1/2-ounce spinnerbaits and Texas-rigged lizards.

"You need to cast so the bait falls to where the main limbs join the trunk," he says. "This timber pattern develops two to four weeks later than the spawn along the shoreline. The water in this open area takes a little longer to warm up, and usually the wind starts subsiding as the spring season continues, making it much easier to handle your boat among the trees in open water."

Wilcox also warns, "This is definitely a big-fish pattern, but one that declines as a reservoir ages. As the heavy limbs break off and fall to bottom, fewer opportunities exist to exploit this pattern."

Remember it next year when the spawning season arrives.


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