By David A. Brown
Special to BassFan
It’s understandable, expected off the back of the boat; but a dropshot dominating the bow? Yep, that’s how Matt Pangrac approached the 2021 Bassmaster Opens, and his strategy carried him to a 6th-place in the overall standings.
Fishing Southern, Central and Northern division events, the Oklahoma angler encounters a diverse array of fisheries, so you’d think his deck would commonly display a dozen or more rods. Actually, while he wisely keeps a few options handy for those targets of opportunity, Pangrac’s most common reach is for the dropshot rod.
For starters, Pangrac favors the dropshot because it excels in pressured situations.
“When you’re fishing the Bassmaster Opens, you’re talking 200 to 220 boats on the same fishery with no off-limits period,” he said. “You need a bait that you can use to catch numbers of fish and you need to be able to find where the fish are.
“The dropshot is a really good bait because if you get it around a fish, regardless of what species or size, it lets you know what’s there.”
Moreover, Pangrac points out that he’s found he can consistently catch fish on a dropshot in practice and in the tournament, despite mounting pressure. Such dependability, he said, anchors tournament confidence.
Pangrac uses lead and tungsten weights strategically.
“A lot of the places where you’re going to catch fish on a dropshot, you’re talking about schooling fish or fish that are set up on current breaks, offshore fish, the ones that are relating to structure — not isolated pieces of cover where a lot of the fish get picked off,” Pangrac said. “Even as the fish feel pressure, the dropshot still gets bites.”
Adding to the dropshot value statement, Pangrac said he knows he can stick with this finesse rig and get a lot of bites in an area. While other techniques might produce a few solid bites and maybe a kicker, the appeal of a dropshot’s subtlety helps him turn the numbers, boost his time efficiency and allow him the opportunity to go looking for a game-changing bite.
“You don’t have to cover a ton of water to get a lot of bites,” Pangrac said. “If I can take advantage of an area and put a limit in the boat early, that gives me a lot more options throughout the day.
“So even though it’s not typically going to be a tournament-winning limit, or even a limit that gets you a check, it gets you one bite away from where you need to be. It’s risk vs. reward and the reward is much higher than the risk with a dropshot.”
Noting that the dropshot is much more than a limit-fish tool, Pangrac said this finesse rig has produced bass up to 8 pounds in tournaments. Even when those kickers snub the finesse rig, knowing he has a dependable plan to secure his five sets a manageable pace from take-off.
Furthering his case for dropshot reliance, Pangrac said he values a rig that he can literally fish in any tournament venue. From grass lines on Florida’s Lake Griffin, to rock piles on Pickwick, to cypress trees and docks on the James River, to rock striations on Douglas Lake, his dropshot has delivered; albeit with appropriate adjustments.
“It’s effective under a lot of situations where people don’t use it, from 4 feet deep out to 30 feet,” Pangrac said.
Bait and Rigging Specifics
Now, you’d think with such a broad range of applications Pangrac would use an equally broad bait assortment. Fact is, he’s actually pretty sold on a 6-inch Big Bite Baits Shaking Squirrel straight-tail finesse worm in the bold gill color.
“That color imitates a lot of different things and it stands out well in dirtier water,” Pangrac said. “If I get a little clearer water, or if I know I’m specifically targeting spotted bass, I’ll drop down to the 4-inch Shaking Squirrel in green pumpkin or tilapia magic and tip the tail chartreuse.”
Pangrac rigs his worm on a Gamakatsu G-Finesse Dropshot Hook, a light-wire model with Nano Smooth Coat for optimal penetration.
“Ninety-five percent of the time, I’ll Texas rig my bait, but then I’ll massage the plastic back through so that point is barely sticking out of it, unless I’m fishing brush,” Pangrac said. “You don’t even have to set the hook; you just reel down into it.”
Pangrac prefers a teardrop-shaped weight for most of his dropshot work, but he keeps cylinders handy for heavy current, vegetation or any other dense cover. The former’s broad, round bottom better fits his presentation style.
Docks present attractive dropshot targets.
“I really like the teardrop shape in almost all the applications because I do a lot of casting with a dropshot and I think it casts better and falls truer when you’re looking at it on your Garmin LiveScope,” Pangrac said. “It’s a larger diameter, so it shows up better on your forward-facing sonar than a skinny one. Generally, you can take a 1/4- to 3/8-ounce tear rop weight probably 90 percent of the places across the country.”
Pangrac said he’ll typically start with Kovert Tungsten in practice to “feel” the bottom better; then he’ll switch to lead for more focused effort, as it’s less costly when snags occur.
“If I’m trying to figure out what I’m fishing I’ll always go tungsten because it’s going to translate the bottom a lot better,” he said. “It is expensive stuff, so if I know what I’m fishing, then I’ll transition over to lead because it’s cheaper.
“I can break off a whole (tackle tray) row of lead weights for $5, as opposed to $50. I’ll use the tungsten in the tournament.
Arming himself with a 7-foot-4 medium heavy Denali Lithium rod and 2500 Shimano Ci4 reel, Pangrac spools with 12-pound Sunline SX1 braid with a 10-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon leader. If that sounds a bit beefy, it’s not overkill.
“You have to remember, a lot of this is largemouth and smallmouth; I’m pitching it around docks and stuff,” Pangrac said. “If you think about it, guys come through with 18- to 25-pound test flipping docks and they don’t think anything of it.
“If you put 12- or 14-pound main line on it, you can move a fish away from cover on a spinning rod. You’re basically power-shotting, but you can still be accurate and it’s still a finesse presentation.”
Doing so, of course, requires proactive observation: “I’m noticing if there are cross beams on a dock, or if there are brushpiles around the dock.”
Leader length, Pangrac said, depends on where the fish are in the water column. If the fish are following his bait down and hitting it, he wants a longer leader so he can fish the bait similar to a wacky rig. If he thinks they’re more bottom-oriented (goby lakes), he’ll trim his leader to 4 or 5 inches. Suspended fish or fishing over grass may call for up to 2 1/2-foot leaders.
With all of his presentations, Pangrac’s confident the dropshot will deliver: “The hook-to-land ratio is really good; you don’t lose a lot of fish on it.”