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How To Make A Dropper Rig For Cut Bait Fishing ["The Prospecting Rig"]

how to tie a dropper rig

Want to know how to tie the ultimate “Prospecting Rig”?

Then check out this easy to learn method of making a dropper rig.

To begin, there are countless ways to assemble leaders for saltwater fishing from piers, seawalls, and docks…

But when fishing a new area and prospecting around to find where the most fish are holding is needed, the dropper rig assembly is a great choice because it lets you feel the bottom contours while decreasing the odds of getting snagged on structure.

The reason this rig is so useful is because it’s impossible to know exactly where tackle-stealing structure like rocks, oysters, tree limbs, etc. may be lurking.

And the unique benefits a dropper rig provides in covering the bottom (where most of the fish feeding occurs) while also keeping the hook elevated so that it won’t get stuck is a powerful combo… especially when fishing with kids, because it’ll maximize the time spent fishing (instead of re-rigging).

In case you’re not familiar with how the dropper rig assembly, here’s a quick list of its features:

  • Rounded weight at the very end of the line
  • Circle hook tied onto the line above the weight
  • Above the hook leads to the main line of the rod/reel

And here’s a picture so you can see what it looks like:

dropper rig leader assembly

As you can see, this setup will allow the weight to drag along the bottom while keeping the hook elevated so that it doesn’t make direct contact with the structure on the bottom.

Note: The height of the hook above the weight needs to be customized based on the type of structure you’re fishing… if you are fishing around oysters, then 6 to 10 inches is plenty… but more space will be needed if fishing around big rocks.

Best of all, the full dropper rig leader assembly can be tied using just one knot that is easy to tie…

And an added bonus is that this knot even allows for changing out weight and hook sizes without re-tying anything.

Here’s a close-up look at the weight with the quick change loop for quickly switching out weight sizes whenever needed.

Dropper Rig Weight

And here’s the same quick change loop for connecting the hook onto the line in a way that allows you to quickly change the size of your hook whenever needed.

Dropper Rig Hook

But before I show you exactly how to tie this dropper rig assembly in the video below, here’s a quick list of the pros and cons of this type of rig.

Pros of Dropper Rig

  • Allows angler to cover a large area when bottom fishing while decreasing the odds of getting hung on the bottom
  • Quick to tie and allows both weight and hook size adjustments in seconds
  • Multiple hooks can be added to line to increase strike opportunities

Cons of Dropper Rig

  • Weight can spook fish if bait goes directly over its head
  • Weight at end can take away from the force of setting the hook (this is why circle hooks are ideal)
  • Quick release doubled line to hook doesn’t allow for much motion of the hook (best suited for cut bait)

How To Tie A Dropper Rig [VIDEO]

To see exactly how to tie the dropper rig (including how to tie and use the quick change loop knots), click on the video below to learn how to do the following:

  1. Tie the line-to-line knot for connecting the leader to the main line
  2. Tie the quick change loop knot for the weight
  3. Quickly change the dropper weight without re-tying any knots
  4. Tie the quick change loop knot for the hook
  5. Quickly change the hook without re-tying any knots

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FAQs – Dropper Rig Assemblies

Why use a leader line?

Leader lines are essential for saltwater fishing in order for anglers to maximize their casting and retrieving of line that is as thin and light as possible while at the same time being able to have protection from the sharp teeth and gill plates that many saltwater species possess.

Also, most fish seek cover when hooked, so having a stronger line (the leader line) as that last ~24 to 36 inches allows for the added protection where it is needed most.

Click here to learn pros and cons of different types of fishing line

What size line should I use for a dropper rig?

This all depends on the size of fish you’re targeting along with how much current and structure is nearby.

For taking kids out to catch fish on small chunks of cut bait, a 10 lb or less mono main line paired with a 15 lb to 20 lb leader would be sufficient.

But as the targeted fish gets bigger and if that is compounded with heavy current and lots of structure, then heavier lines would be needed.

Click here to learn more about selecting the right size & type of fishing line

What size hook should I use?

This depends on the size of the bait that you’re using… if small chunks of shrimp or Gulp baits are being used for small bait fish, then a size 8 or smaller would be great.

But if you’re using full shrimp or larger chunks of bait, you’ll need to increase the size of the hook accordingly.

Click here to see a post about selecting the right size hook

What size weight should I use?

The size of the weight should be dependent on two factors:

  1. Water depth
  2. Current strength

Water depth is the biggest factor, and here’s a quick table on weight sizes for depths commonly found around piers and seawalls:

  • Less than 5 ft = 1/4th oz weight
  • 5 ft to 10 ft = 1/2 oz weight
  • 10 ft to 15 ft = 3/4 oz weight
  • More than 15 ft = 1 oz or greater weight

Note: This list assumes mild current… add an extra 1/4th oz or more if current is strong.

Click here to learn about different types of weights


There are many options for creating leader assemblies when bottom fishing. But my favorite when in need of prospecting around for finding where the most fish are holding is the dropper rig.

The core benefit of this rig is that it allows you to cover a large amount of unknown bottom terrain while decreasing the odds of getting hung up on tackle-stealing structure line rocks, oysters, and tree limbs.

And the added bonus of tying your dropper rigs using the surgeons loop knot is that you can quickly change out the sizes of your weights and hooks without re-tying your knots…

Best of all, even kids can learn to tie this assembly since it only requires the use of one very basis, yet strong, fishing knot.

P.S. – Please be sure to share this post with any of your friends who want to introduce young kids to fishing because this dropper rig is one of the most effective rigs to use for catching saltwater fish on easy to get cut bait while fishing from piers or the shoreline.

P.S. – Have you seen the online fishing courses for adults yet? Click here to see all of the current courses being offered along with our exclusive fishing club for inshore fishermen.

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