Bottom fishing rigs can be very productive for many kinds of fish any time of the year. Yes, that is where most snags lurk but so do many less active fish in the winter. In the heat of the summer, fish may drop to deeper areas for cooler water. For all other times, the benthic zone is a continual source of prey items such as crayfish and other invertebrates if there is sufficient oxygen and there isn’t too much silt. Bottom fishing is not just for catfish and carp. Species such as bass, yellow perch, and trout can be caught with the right bottom fishing rigs too.
The drop shot is one of the best bottom fishing rigs, capable of reaching and taunting largemouth and smallmouth bass in deeper water, and is even used in shallower areas by some pro anglers such as Aaron Martens. With this rig, the weight is tear drop shaped and is tied at the end of the line, such that the hook and usually a soft plastic minnow shaped lure or worm, actually suspends several inches above the bottom.
The key how to fish this freshwater bottom fishing rig is to keep it in contact with the bottom. Just a little wiggle of the rod tip will do the trick. Others try to keep the soft plastic still, as the boat rocks. The fish bite has been described by bass fishing TV show host, Mark Zona, as “mushy.” He claims it may feel “like you hooked a wet sock.” This type of bottom fishing lures are not practiced for the strength of the hit; it is employed simply because it works.
Texas and Carolina rigs are popular bottom fishing rigs for huge largemouth bass. With the Texas rig a bullet weight is against the hook; with a Carolina rig, a swivel and bead are used to separate the bullet weight about 18” or so from a large soft plastic worm. Cast out, let it hit the bottom, and then drag it slowly across the bottom until you feel a thump. Then drop the rod tip for a second of two and set the hook hard.
The best bottom fishing rigs often simply are dependent on the right split shot weight. If you want to choose the best bottom fishing rigs for trout, start small, add a little bit at a time and adjust the distance from the fly or bait to get the presentation in the right zone during a drift. I like the removable type of split shot but keep in mind that the set of extended split shot weight tabs may hang up a little more on the bottom than the standard, round smooth type. Depending on the size of the substrate gravel and water flow, this may not be a bad thing.
There are some great bottom fishing lures too. Heavy jigs, paired with a piece of soft plastic to resemble a crayfish are hopped along the bottom, enticing big bass. Thick, heavy jigging spoons flutter deep to reach striped bass and lake trout. Small but rapidly sinking tail spinners work well for deep crappie in late summer. And of course, there are long- lipped diving plugs. Make a long cast, then crank it down and dig that lip into the bottom, bumping rocks and timber to draw strikes. That is, if your fishing license is up to date of course.