Posted by: Tom Keer
July 19, 2012

Tom Keer


I’m not sure why but it took me so long to start using dropper rigs.  Maybe it was because I wasn’t sure about the rigging techniques?  Maybe it was because my initial experiences with droppers created some bird’s nest tangles?  Or maybe I was just catching enough fish on one lure or fly….  Who knows, but a few decades ago a fishing trip on a local estuary changed all of that.

At that point in time my freshwater trout fishing was on heavily-fished public waters.  While many of my Western cohorts were slinging hopper-dropper rigs and catching tons of fish, the fussy and finicky trout in my home waters thumbed their noses and two-fly rigs.  A single, well-placed fly out fished a dropper rig 10 to 1.  Like most anglers, I followed the “keep a winning game plan, change a losing game plan” approach.  I never much thought about it for the salt, and stuck to one plug, bait or fly.

But in the early 1990’s I was fishing a saltwater estuary during a transitional time.  The herring was in, but so were the silversides and the sandeels.  I was near some grass beds so there were shrimp around too.  The bait was all mixed together and the fish were very picky.  They were so picky, that even after a few hours with fish busting all around me, I didn’t have a hook up.

My frustration peaks during times like that, and I retreated to the bank.  I could see the various baitfish swimming by and the idea struck me like a defensive back hits a wide out.  I’m going to tie a bunch of patterns on and see what happens.

I pulled out one of each pattern from my box and retied a leader.  I left six inch tags of monofilament off my leader.  At the point, I tied on a blue over a silver broken back Rebel, about 7 inches of a herring look-a-like.  Above the plug I tied on a series of flies.  The first was a Ray’s Fly which is one of the best silverside patterns known to the fishing world.  Above that I tied on a Ray’s Fly Flatwing which is one of the best sandeel patterns going.  And above that I strapped on a General Practioner shrimp fly.

The tide had dropped so I moved down to a bar that created a perfect current seam.  I flipped my bail, gently lobbed out my Rebel

rig, and let it drift for a bit.  After 20 seconds or so I closed the bail and let the line come tight.  I moved my rod tip to the inside of the seam and when the plug swam into the slower water I felt nothing.  I waited for a bit, still nothing.  What a colossal waste of time.

Then bam.  I set the hook and waited.  Bam, bam, bam.  The fight wasn’t like anything I ever felt before, and it was like a bunch of cats in a bag. No long runs, just an erratic, fierce fight.  When I got the fish close I saw four schoolies!  They were all small fish, but I broke the curse.  And after the first schoolie bass hit the others got competitive and grabbed the droppers.  Since that day, I always fish droppers.  Let the fish decide, I say.

Dropper-rigs are like a buffet.  They make the catching a lot easier any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Tom Keer is an award-winning freelance writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Visit him at or at

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