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Drop Shot by Mark Kulik

Kevin Van Dam of Kalamazoo Michigan arguably the best tournament angler of all times has often said “fish to your strength”. KVD has been known to fish against conventional wisdom when the going gets tough. When everyone else has slowed down and is using finesse baits, he can be seen throwing cranks, or ripping spinner baits to fill the boat. Some say it is this approach that yields consistent results and makes him the best in the world. Others say it’s his innate ability to adjust to changing conditions and to capitalize on them with his Power Fishing techniques when most others suffer. Regardless, when it comes to overall success no one has achieved more than KVD and his ability to utilize his strengths is a large component of that success.

 

MK-releaseHere in Canada of course we have our own hot sticks with their own niche specialties.  One of the hottest tournament anglers in recent years has been Orillia Ontario’s own Mark Kulik. He has developed a series of unique plastic baits that have come to epitomize his area of expertise and helps define him as one of this country’s top bass anglers and most sought after seminar hosts. Mark is known as the co-host of the popular TV show, Extreme Angler but his fame has come equally for his drop shot skills and bait designs.  Time on the Water  was fortunate enough to commandeer Kulik into spilling the beans about his approach to catching tournament winning bass and every other species with fins on any lake.

 

The search

My first go to search bait is a crankbait or jerkbait that can quickly tell me if there are any super-aggressive bass around. Once I’ve narrowed down a specific area I’ll go to my 2nd search technique utilizing the drop-shot. If you have read articles in various fishing magazines about the drop shot, you might think that using the technique as a search tools is unconventional, but like many techniques it can serve as a multi-purpose application.  Using a long line I’ll slow troll a Slammer to cover water. The weight I use is speed dependant but normally I'll use 1/4 to 1/2 once, 18 to 24 inches between the weight and bait works best for this application. The reason for the longer distance between the bait and the weight is to create the right distance off the bottom given the angle when dragging a longer line of up to 20 or 30 yards. In a vertical presentation the bait might be up to two feet off bottom but with the line on a 30 degree angle the presentation is much closer to the bottom.
slammer
Strike Zone Slammer

I like to use a lighter spinning rod for this application. My favorite rod for this is a 6 foot 9 inches St. Croix Legend with an extra fast tip. I use braided line to eliminate stretch and add more feel to the action. This means all of the energy is absorbed by the rod so a medium action rod works best for me. With no stretch in the line the rod has to be able to give during sudden surges by the fish particularly around the boat. I tie a long Gamma fluorocarbon leader of up to 20 feet. I know this is significantly longer than most other drop-shot anglers, but for me it seems to work best.

The weakest part of any connection from the reel to the bait is the knot and I want to ensure the knot is well in the spool when the fish gets close to the boat. I always breathe a sigh of relief when that happens. With the amount of zebra muscles in our lake now my line is constantly getting nicks and scrapes so I'm forced to cut off line during the day. This is one reason for the long lead. Since I use a Uni-knot to join my leader to my line, retying is not something I want to do too often while out in a good chop during a tournament.

 

Back to Finding Fish:

The second technique is also a search mode application that I use once I've narrowed down an area that will likely hold fish, particularly spots I have known of or found during practice. With my electric trolling motor on a medium setting I'll start a search pattern over a specific area. At this point I don't have a bait in the water. All I'm looking for here is fish. I'll watch my Lowrance Unit for typical arches that mark fish. When I find one  I simply try to stay on top of it and drop my Slammer bait down beside the mark. Once the weight has hit bottom I twitch the bait so it emulates a dying minnow or other forage in distress. On reasonably calm days you can watch the fish approach the bait on the sonar. When the fish and the bait meet on the screen I get ready to set the hook on the first bump I feel.

long cast

 

Successful Tournament Experience

In the first day of the 2006 Lake Simcoe New Ark Open it was one of those rare windless, perfect sunny days. When we blasted off and headed for my first spot on my milk run I was excited because I had a good first day and was confident there would be fish on my first spot. There's nothing like getting a big bass first thing in the morning to start your day!

As we were approaching the spot, I started casting a jerkbait and it was soon followed up by a huge smallie. It turned away but at least I knew we were seeing big fish even if they wouldn't hit my jerkbait. I quickly went to the drop-shot and started casting it in front of the fish. The would come to the bait, look at it and it almost seemed they would stare up at me and then turn away. My co-angler managed to get hooked up but lost the fish at the boat.

The key I was looking for...

It was becoming increasingly frustrating to see all these fish yet not being able to hook one. We were there for two hours with nothing to show for it. One of the most difficult things to do in a tournament is to leave a spot with big fish, but you can't waste your whole day trying to catch fish that won't cooperate for you. They may for someone else – but not always for you.  Before we left I wanted try one more thing. I moved back off the spot so that we were barely within casting distance. I made a very long cast back to the area and within seconds I could feel weight. I set the hook and brought in my first fish. That was the key I was looking for. For the rest of the day I stayed well off known spots and made long casts and caught fish on a day that shut many anglers down. This put me back in contention. The next morning I felt calm and confident because I had another successful pattern that was working and one I'll remember for other days like this.

 

Drop-Shot is not for everyone

Like anything you do in life the more you practice the better you get. The better you get the more confidence you have and a cycle of success will follow. I have spent years perfecting my techniques and rather than trying to be average at many techniques I'd rather try to be the best at a very few.

The baits I have developed add to my confidence and that in turn has led me to a lot of tournament cheque's. I still use jerkbaits and spinners to search. Although the Slammers are ideal for drop shot, I have also use my baits in other applications such as a ball hook, shaky head.  I always enjoy hearing how other anglers have utilized these techniques for their own success. When I can’t fish a big tournament down in the US or wherever, yet I know my baits are helping others do well, I feel a real sense of pride – it’s almost like a little part of me is in there in the boat with them.  I feel very fortunate that my baits have become the success story they are today because of results produced for my fellow anglers. I know when the money is on the line or I'm guiding for someone and have to catch fish I'll go to what I do best, drop-shot – and chances are there will be a Slammer tied onto the hook.

 

drop shot

degree

Using long line techniques where 20 to 50 yards of line are used often reduces feel when using monofilament line. New micro braids with zero stretch will increase feel and hook set. When using braided lines in clear water, tie 12 to 20 feet of fluorocarbon leader

canopy

In the thick of things

Most anglers think a drop shot is to be used in deep water with little to no cover or weed. I've learned this application is far too limiting and in fact I've found a drop shot worked in thick cover (particularly canopy type cover) is one of the best places to use the technique.  If I pitch a jig through a mat of weeds where there’s grass or low profile weed on the bottom, the jig is going to settle down very quickly. This works fine if I'm very close to fish. But if I keep my bait off the bottom but under the canopy my bait is visible for a much greater distance and fish can see a long way in these underwater channels. 

For this application I'll move up to heavier tackle and line. In really murky water I tie directly to braid of 15 to 20 LB test. If the water is reasonably clear I'll tie a long Gamma florocarbon leader of 15 to 20 lb test.

 

I can flip and pitch a drop-shop the same way I would a jig. Because the bait is always going to be off the bottom it allows me to cast further and not worry about getting buried in thick grass and be less visible to fish. I can simply move my weight up or down the line under the hook to determine how far off the bottom I want to be.

Pitching a drop shot came in handy when fishing a tournament on Rice Lake where just like the bottom cover the weed thickness varies greatly. The versatility of the setup allowed me to fish the same bait effectively over the whole lake.  I could search with top water baits and work an area with my drop shot.

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Career Highlights

2002 North Eastern Ontario Bass Association 2002(NEOBA) – 1st,
2003 CSFL Rice Lake – 3rd,
2003 CFT Rice Lake – 3rd,
2004 CSFL Lake Simcoe – 1st,
2004 Lake Muskoka Pike – 2nd,
2004 Muskoka Bassmasters Open Lake Couchiching – 1st,

2004 CFT Gloucester Pool Open – 1st
(22.75 lb. is still the lake record for a 1 day event!)
2005 CFT Ontario Place Open – 4th,
2005 CSFL Phoenix Open Lake Simcoe – 5th,
2006 CFT Rice Lake – 2nd,
2006 CFT New Ark Open Lake Simcoe – 5th
(Pro Division),
2006 CFT Tri-Lakes – 2nd,
2006 CFT Tri-Lakes – 4th,
2006 CFT Lake Simcoe – 5th,
2006 CFT 1-day series Team of the year,
2006 CFT Super Series Triple Classic Qualifier – 3rd overall,
2006 CFT National Classic Kingston Ont. – 11th,
2007 CSFL Eastern Series Angler of the Year,
2007 CSFL EX Series Angler of the Year,
2008 CSFL Western Series Lake Simcoe – 1st
Over 35 top ten and top five finishes.
Many Big-Fish awards.

 

For more information about Mark Kuliks full line of baits visit: http://www.strikezonetournamentbaits.com

 

 

 

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