By Ken Poor
The split-shot rig is a finesse fishing technique that gained popularity for fishing western impoundments with clear, deep water for bass. It is a relativly simple, but very effective, technique that can be used in a variety of situations and for many different species of fish, other than bass, including catfish, crappie, walleye and a variety of panfish. Although the split-shot rig is usually considered a light tackle set-up it is also an effective system that utilizes all kinds of rods, reels, line, live bait and lures.
Select your equipment based on the species of fish you will be targeting. As a starting point consider using a medium-action spinning rod with a fast taper and reel spooled with 6 to 10-pound test fishing line. Later after you are more comfortable with the set-up you can expand your use of the split-shot rig to include heavier equipment including bait casting gear.
The basic concept of setting up the split-shot rig is the same for any type of rod and reel and consists of a hook attached to the end of your main line and a weight above the hook. The hook size and weight size you use will vary depending on the species of fish you are targeting and the depth of the water you are fishing. Typically, when fishing for bass or walleye, I will use a number six hook and a 3/8-ounce weight. As a starting point, attach your sinker about 12 to 18-inches above your hook.
You can use any of a variety of weights that are available in most sporting goods stores or you can crimp on a round split shot. I like to use the split shot because it can be quickly changed to a heavier or lighter weight as conditions change.
Dress your hook with any type of plastic bait such as a worm, crawfish, critter imitation, crappie tube or grub. It is important that you match the hook size and the hook gap to the thickness of the plastics you are using and to the species of fish you are targeting so when you do get a strike you have enough hook to get a proper hook set. For walleye use live bait such as minnows, leeches, or nightcrawlers.
If there is brush or weeds in the area you are fishing, rig your bait Texas Style to make it weedless. How you fish a split-shot rig is really pretty easy but it does take some practice to get it down to the bottom and learning how to stay in contact with the bottom. Spit-shoting can be fished as a vertical presentation that is very effective in fairly deep water.
Cast or drop your rig over the side of the boat and let the weight hit the bottom. Next comes the tricky part that you can learn only from time on the water and is also where the quick taper on your rod comes in handy. Pull your line tight but without losing contact with the bottom.
Always keep in mind that the split-shot rig is most effective when used with a very slow retrieve, but you can use a steady retrieve, pull-pause retrieve or pause and shake retrieve. Always let the fish tell you how they want it. The split-shot rig is also a good set up for drift fishing.
Add additional weight and the split-shot-rig is a good choice for use in deep water especially when the fish are holding on the bottom. Deep lake points, road beds, rock piles, and humps that are smooth are all good places to fish this set-up.
Other good areas include drop-offs, weed edges and the edges of structural elements, such as humps and sunken islands. By rigging the worm weedless you can also fish it in light cover such as weeds and brush or around other types of cover such as dock pilings in marinas and harbors. The split-shot rig is also an excellent choice for lakes with heavy fishing pressure and when the fish are spooky due to high pleasure boat traffic.