Split Shot Rig

While the split shot rig was once one of the most commonly used fishing rigs, it’s popularity has dwindled in recent years among anglers who have opted for more contemporary presentations. Even so, this simple, easy-to-use bottom fishing rig is a great option—that often outperforms newer, more complex setups such as the Neko and Ned rigs. It’s ideal for targeting a large variety of fish species including panfish, walleye, bass, and trout.

Split Shot Rig

The split shot is thought of primarily as a deep-water rig, but it will work in just about any body of water—shallow or deep—under most conditions. The split shot is not only productive, it’s easy to rig. The beauty of this rig is its simplicity. It creates a very natural presentation that fish can’t resist and it doesn’t require an engineering degree to put together.

Rig Setup

A basic split shot rig is made using a finesse hook, a split shot weight, and your fishing line. You can use the finesse hook of your choice—straight, circle, wide gap, offset. It’s just important your hook is sharp and won’t bend. Hook size will depend on your target fish but I usually go with a #1 to 1/0 wide gap Gmakatsu hook with a plastic worm attached Texas rig style when targeting bass, and a bit smaller when targeting panfish.

The rig will work using a standard split shot weight, but a round split shot without ears is preferable. Fishing a standard split shot with ears can cause your line to spin (not good). The lighter the split shot weight the better, but don’t go too light. A size 2 or 4 split shot is going to be the best size ninety percent of the time. Your split shot needs to be big enough that it gets your line to the bottom, keeps your there and provides enough resistance you can still feel it.

The split shot should be attached to your line anywhere from 12 to 24 inches above the baited hook. As a rule of thumb, for shallower depths (less than 12 feet) attach your split shot 12 inches above the hook. For deeper water, attache your split shot 18 to 24 inches above the hook. If fish are suspended, you man need to go a little longer. Using a softer split shot will prevent your line from fraying or being damaged during crimping.

If you’re concerned the split shot weight is going to damage your line, you can swap out the split shot with a finesse slider weight. A finesse slider weight pegged with a rubber nail will not damage your line and can easily be moved up and down the line if you decided to you need to change the length of your leader. The only downside of using a slider weight is that it can be pushed up or down your line by rocks and branches if not fastened securely.

You can use any fishing line with a split shot rig, but fluorocarbon or monofilament are preferred. Braided line will work, but it’s a little more difficult to get the split shot weight to stay in place. About the only way to use braided line is to use a separate fluoro or mono leader for your rig attached to your main line using a swivel. No matter which line you use, you should check it often for damage. You don’t want it snapping on a trophy fish.

Fishing a Split Shot Rig

A split shot rig is simple to make and relatively simple to fish, but there are a few tips that will help you produce more catches.

First, keep your rig on the bottom and your line taut. This can be challenging if your split shot isn’t the right weight, or water conditions aren’t ideal. When water is a bit rough or there’s current, you may want to increase your the weight of your shot just slightly to keep it on the bottom.

Locate where the fish are and cast past them with your split shot rig. Keep your spool open until your split shot settles on the bottom. When your line goes slack you’ll know you’re on the bottom. Take up the slack in the line. Once your line is taut, begin a slow, steady retrieve. You should be able to feel the split shot crawl along the contours of the bottom. Follow the contours with your rod tip.

When fishing from a boat, you can drop your rig straight down instead of casting. This will minimize snags and hang ups. The current will carry your boat, and as it does your bait will crawl across the bottom. Again, follow the contours with your rod. As the weight rocks forward and stops with the rythm of the boat, the bait will dart up and settle back to the bottom creating an alluring action for passing fish.

A drop shot rig can be fished fast or slow. When the fish aren’t biting, up your game with a reaper bait, or better yet a small finesse worm. A floating bait behind a split shot rig can also be effective when you need your bait up off the bottom. When fishing a floating bait on a split shot, you can adjust the length of leader to achieve the desired distance from the bottom.

When using this rig, you can add a leach if you are targeting Walleyes. If you are looking to catch bass, try adding a floating worm.

Getting the Hookset

When fishing a split shot rig, the best way to get a solid hookset once you feel a bite is to sweep your rod hard out to your side and behind you. Don’t stop reeling and keep the line as taut as possible. Once the fish is hooked, keep the pressure one. Avoid moving your rod from side to side. This puts slack in the line and an opportunity for the hook to fall out or work loose.