The Split Shot Rig: A Deadly Finesse Fishing Tactic

Fishing with the split shot rig can be a simple yet highly effective technique that consists of three simple items; your favorite fishing hook, a split shot weight, and your …

Fishing with the split shot rig can be a simple yet highly effective technique that consists of three simple items; your favorite fishing hook, a split shot weight, and your preferred soft plastic bait. The split shot rig combines some of the best traits of the Texas rig, Carolina rig, and Shaky Head rigs all together to give you a versatile drop weight rig that can be used for finesse techniques as well as power fishing.

The Split Shot Rig Explained

Most anglers will use a split shot for fishing with a weightless worm. The split shot rig shines with a wacky worm or when fish are under thick cover and holding tight in that position. The purpose of split shot rigs is to present your bait right in the face of heavily pressured bass to entice them to bite the lure.

For bottom fishing, using a split shot rig effectively is an excellent choice and your success will depend on how well you let your bait fall. Most anglers will be split-shotting their lure into a chosen area, giving the lure some time to fully sink to the bottom, and if no fish decides to strike, simply reel it in and try another spot to catch bass, trout, or other trophy species.

Best Conditions for the Split Shot Rig

Split shot fishing is best done in water that is around 7 feet deep or less. Tossing split shot rigs out around docks and piers is the best choice during the late fall as many bass will gather in these spots to prepare for winter. Tossing your bait in at an angle, let it glide down to the bottom, and get ready to reel a bass in quickly.

Split-shotting around heavy grass and other thick vegetation is also very effective with split shot fishing. It’s a very effective rig and bait presentation for skipping into difficult-to-reach areas of heavy cover and letting the bait sink quickly down to the bottom. The bait will fall right down in front of the bass hiding in these areas and you’ll be getting quick and aggressive strikes every time you cast the split shot rig in.

Another great location for fishing a split shot is around sunken logs, branches, and another wood cover. Clusters of brush, cypress trees and roots, old stumps, and other wood debris and natural structures are excellent spots to use your rig. Even in heavily pressured areas where bass may not respond to more popular rigs, a split shot can get the reactions you are hoping for.

How to Tie a Split Shot Rig

Split Shot Rig 01 scaled

Step 1: Choose the Right Line

The first thing any anglers will want to do is decide on the line. For a split shot rig, a 6-pound weight test monofilament line is the best choice for your leader, and the length should be around 4 feet long. 
Some of this line length will be taken up with the knots you’ll need to tie, and the Palomar is the best choice here. Secure your favorite hook to one end of the split shot line and secure it using a Palomar knot or, if you prefer it, a Uni knot.

Step 2: Clamp On Split Shot Sinkers

Once you have your hook attached securely, simply attach two split shot weights to the line about 12 to 24 inches away from the end of the hook. Feel free to adjust the distance between the hook and split shot weights if you are fishing in more shallow or deeper water than usual, or if you’ll cast your split shot in thick cover or tall weeds.

Step 3: Tie On a Snap Swivel

At this point you’ll want to secure a snap swivel to your main split shot line and secure it using a clinch knot, though any knot you are comfortable using is fine. Once the swivel is attached to your mainline, secure your split shot leader section to the other side of the swivel and again secure it with a tight knot or small perfection loop.

Step 4: Attach Your Bait

The final step requires you to attach your chosen worm to the hook. There are a variety of soft plastic baits that do very well with a split shot rig, so feel free to use your favorite or try something new to see how it works in your specific body of water. 
Bass in that area may be accustomed to seeing certain types of bait, so if that is the case, switch it up to something more unique and appealing for them to strike such as shaky head worms or different soft plastics entirely.

Rubber Worms for Split Shot Rigs

One of the best parts about a split shot rig is you can use a huge range of rubber worms to suit your needs. If fish in your area are becoming wise to certain types of worms or other soft plastic baits, switch it up with a similar yet unique style to get them interested again.

These are some of our favorite worms for this kind of rig:

  • Straight Tail Worms.
    These worms can be found in a wide range of colors, have a tapered shape with great tail motion, and can be up to 12 inches long.
  • Paddle-tail Worms.
    These worms are extremely common, come in a wide range of body types to suit your preferences, and are probably one of the most popular choices in soft plastic worms.
  • U-tail Worms.
    These worms can be found in sizes up to 14 inches and have a graceful curl to their tails which dances as it moves through the water.

Hooks for Split Shot Rigs

When it comes to suitable hooks for a split shot rig, there is a range of different options that will get results. Whether you want to go with a more finesse technique and need the lightest weight hook you can find, or you want something that can handle power fishing and aggressive sets, there is an elite series hook that will work for you though it may not work for other anglers.

These are some of our favorite hooks for this kind of rig:

  • Wacky Hooks

These short-shank hooks are the perfect choice for anglers that love finesse fishing and want to use a smaller fishing hook that ranges from 4 up to 4/0 sizes.

  • Octopus Hooks

These fishing hooks have a circular bend that makes them great for nose-hooking your worms, and they can allow longer baits to move freely when dragged through the water.

  • Extra Wide Gap Hooks

These fishing hooks are a common variation for offset shanks and are a great choice when you want to use a thick-bodied bait profile such as a paddle tail worm.

Weights for Split Shot Rigs

While the most common weights are the round split shots, you can also use a few other weights to get the results you want. If one weight isn’t working for you, try doubling up or moving into a bigger single weight to get the right sink and movement in a shallow water drop that you are looking for.

These are some of our favorite weights for this kind of rig:

  • Round Lead or Tungsten Split-Shot

The standard BB-shaped round weight is a budget-friendly choice that can be found in lead, though tungsten is becoming more popular.

  • High-Density Oval Split-Shot

These elongated egg-shaped weights are great for worms that need a heavier weight to hold it down when you don’t want to use multiple round weights instead.

  • Electrolytic Lead Egg Weights

Rather uncommon, but still usable, these egg-shaped weights normally have plastic plugs for each end that can help protect more delicate line types from abrasion.

How to Fish the Split Shot Rig

When fishing with this rig, you’ll find it is very straightforward and easy to learn. It may take a bit of practice to get the technique down, but for both beginners and experienced fishermen, using a split shot rig can be fun and effective when it comes to landing stubborn or very suspicious fish.

The beauty of fishing with a split shot rig is that it is very versatile. You’ll notice different anglers will fish in different ways with this rig. However, one thing is certain, if you’re planning on fishing in heavy vegetation areas where bass are hiding, trolling along the shoreline where bass are feeding, or fishing around docks and pylons where bass are preparing for seasonal changes, the split shot is your best option for catching a trophy.

One thing new anglers may get confused about is that the split shot rig is not a long casting rig. In fact, you won’t cast it much at all, you will drop it. Many bass anglers that have experience with this bass rig won’t even cast it with their rod, instead, they will drop it by hand in or near the area they want to target and let their retrieval speeds and movement do all the work in enticing the bass.

Always remember to keep your drag loose as bass will notice a tight line and may refuse to take your worm fully in their mouth. This can lead to a damaged worm but no bass on the hook. Don’t rush the catch results either. One of the biggest things an angler needs to keep in mind with the split shot rig is that it takes a bit of patience to get the best bass caught on your line.

Final Thoughts on the Split Shot Rig

Fishing a split shot rig is a very easy and fun way to get real results. Whether you are brand new to fishing with a rig or are an old pro looking to experiment with different baits or in different locations, split shots can be the answer. While split shotting does require some preparation and practice to master, the results you will soon be enjoying can speak for themselves.

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Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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