By Mark Fong
January 30, 2013
If I were to tell you there is a technique that is easy to master, catches finicky fish, requires a minimal tackle investment and is just plain fun, what would you say? Ok, now that I have your attention, the answer is, of course, the venerable split shot technique.
The split shot rig is a minimalist’s dream. In its most common form, the split shot rigs consists of a small lead shot crimped 12 to 24 inches above a light wire worm hook adorned with a four inch finesse worm. Split shotting excels when the bite is difficult. Post frontal days, blue bird skies and pressured fish are all prime conditions for split shotting. When properly configured, the split shot rig can be effective in water as shallow as a foot all the way down to depths of fifty feet or more.
Fishing the split shot rig is simple. Start by making a long cast, allowing the rig to reach the bottom before beginning the retrieve. Pay attention to the activity level of the fish. Once you have determined the proper speed and cadence that best triggers the bite, take note and be quick to replicate it.
By using the wind and trolling motor to manipulate boat position, a controlled drift is a great way to cover large expanses of water efficiently. A key point to keep in mind is to ensure that the sinker maintains regular contact with the bottom. As the sinker drags along, the worm will flutter and dance enticingly behind.
The split shot bite can range from a subtle 'tick' to the classic pressure bite. A sweep set will increase the strike to hook up ratio by allowing the super sharp hook to penetrate the fish while protecting the light line from breaking.
Light line finesse applications like split shotting are perfectly suited for spinning tackle. I like to use a 7’ Medium Light Action St. Croix Legend Xtreme LXS70MLF spinning rod paired with a 2500 Series wide spool spinning reel. A larger diameter spool serves to manage line twist and coiling that is common with both monofilament and fluorocarbon lines. Before the introduction of fluorocarbon, monofilament was the gold standard. Today's fluorocarbon lines offer a level of stealth and sensitivity not available in monofilament. I have found that Sunline Sniper FC is the perfect blend of strength, abrasion resistance, and sensitivity. Under most conditions, I favor 6lb test, but if the bite is tough or if the water exceptionally clear, I will lighten up and use 5lb test instead.
Let's talk about the split shot itself. A good place to start is with a traditional #4 round lead split shot. Split shot weights with the removable wings are not a recommended option as they tend to hang up frequently. Carefully position and crimp the weight in place. Sliding the crimped weight up and down the line can weaken it. When fishing in deep water or in heavy winds, upsizing the weight may be necessary. Conversely, when exploring shallow areas, switching to a smaller split shot is often the right choice. A more recent alternative to the traditional split shot is the use of small cylindrical weights that are pegged and held in place with small rubber strands.
There is no arguing that there are many baits that fish well on the split shot. Grubs, craws, hook tails, paddle tails, straight tails, reapers, sharks. Although impossible, it seems to me that I have experimented with almost every bait shape and color at least once. Through trial and error I made a conscious effort to improve my efficiency and to simplify my bait selection. While I still have a fondness for straight tail worms and small reapers, today my number one split shot bait is the Yamamoto Kut Tail Worm.
The Kut Tail Worm has the perfect bait fish profile and the tail produces a subtle action that even finicky bass can't seem to resist. For the most part I utilize the 4” 7-series worm. If I want a bigger profile I will upsize to the 5” 7L-series. As far as color selection is concerned I have a preference for shades of brown and green with a few bait fish imitators to round out the mix. Green Pumpkin Black Flake (#297) and Watermelon Black Flake (#194) are tried and true as is Blue Pearl Silver Flake (#031).
Selecting the proper hook will maximize the split shot rig's effectiveness. When fishing around snag prone areas I like to use a 1 or 1/0 Gamakatsu light wire straight shank worm hook to Texas rig the Kut Tail. Not only is the Gamakatsu hook ultra sharp but its light wire construction does not inhibit the natural action of the bait. When cover is sparse, I will often opt to rig the worm with a Yamamoto Split Shot Hook. The open hook is very efficient, simply apply steady sweeping pressure with the rod or use a reel set to drive the hook into the fish's mouth.
If you have never fished the split shot technique before, grab yourself a package of split shot weights, some hooks and a few bags of your favorite Kut Tail Worms and let the fun begin!