Hook, Line & Sinker: The Technique of Choice

By Dave Duwe - July 6, 2015
Fishing is not always about the most expensive gear and tackle. Most of the time keeping it simple produces the most fish. Over the two decades that I have been guiding, I have chased the fishing trends trying to catch more and bigger fish. Out of all the products and methods I have fished, I have always come back to the tried and true method; the split shot rig.

The split shot rig is as simple as it gets. A round split shot and a hook. The key is using a round split shot because it doesn't get hung up on the weeds as frequently as the removable ones with the wings. The depth you are fishing dictates the size. The shallower the water the smaller shot you can use. For less than ten feet, I use a 3/0 and go up from there as I fish deeper. All round split shots aren't created equal, Water Gremlin seem to be the best I have used as they stay in place better. Cheaper versions have a tendency to hook up in the vegetation and slide down the line.

The split shot rig can be used with live bait or plastic baits. Nightcrawlers and fat head minnows are my preferred bait choice. If I use leeches I will use a swivel because leeches have a tendency to twist the line. For plastic baits, I like to use a small four inch lizard or a small four inch finesse worm.

Hook size can vary with the type of fish you are after, smaller for panfish and larger for more sizable gamefish. I usually use a size 12 Kahle hook. It is a rather small hook but I find it is effective with a nightcrawler on the hook; it pulls through the weed almost completely weedless. When walleye fishing I will use a #4 hook painted in chartreuse or red, usually tipped with an extra large fat head minnow hooked through the lips. For plastic baits, I like a 1/0 light wire, wide gap worm hook. The leader length for the split shot to the hook is usually eighteen to twenty four inches. It is basically a shallow water version of the Carolina Rig.

Though the split shot rig goes through vegetation easily, it has a tendency of getting snagged in rock or wood. If the bottom structure isn't conducive, I will employ a different fishing technique.

The split shot rig isn't exclusive to freshwater, most of the captains in Florida I fish with employ the rig in their arsenal of techniques. The saltwater approach is slightly different from the freshwater approach. In saltwater most captains use a Berkley Fireline for the main line with a fluorocarbon leader. The length of the leader is 2-3 feet in length with a 2/0 circle hook, tipped with a shrimp or piece of cut bait.

For freshwater fishing using a split-shot rig my line choice is either six or eight pound test Trilene fished on a medium to medium light rod, teamed with a Plueger spinning reel.

The rig can be backtrolled, casted or fished vertical. My personal choice has been to cast them to the weedline and slowly retrieve them back to the boat. You want to have several pauses on the retrieve. Over 70% of the strikes occur with the initial fall. I don't let the bait sit too long on the bottom. You need to make a bunch of casts for the most success.

The split-shot rig is my go to rig and the choice of many charter captains throughout the country. It's both effective and inexpensive. There are plenty of options out there, but the tried and true hook, line and sinker is still the best.

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website www.fishlakegeneva.com .