Split Shot Rig: Top Tips, Setup & Baits For Beginners

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Split shot fishing is up there with bobber fishing in terms of classic fishing rigs. Even if you’re a complete novice in fishing, tying on a split rig and a soft plastic gives you a fighting chance in any body of water. 

I grew up fishing a split shot rig in local lakes for bass and other large fish. It’s a nostalgic rig that proves its worth over and over again. 

As the years have progressed, issues have arisen with the materials used to make split shots, but their effectiveness and usefulness are hard to dispute. 

In this article, I will cover the following: 

  • What Is A Split Shot Rig?
  • How to Setup a Split Shot Rig?
  • What Fish Can You Catch With A Split Shot Rig?
  • When To Use a Split Shot Rig?
  • How to Fish with a Split Shot Rig? 
  • Split Shot Safety
  • Final Thoughts 

What Is A Split Shot Rig?

A split shot rig is a simple fishing setup using various-sized split shot sinkers, a monofilament line, a hook, a snap swivel, and your bait. Split shot rigs can be used in almost all types of fishing situations.

How To Setup A Split Shot Rig?

Step 1: Cut

Cut three or four feet of line from your spool and attach your hook to your line. Since split shot weights clamp over the line, you don’t have to slide anything over the hook or the line. 

Step 2: Attach Split Shot

The next step is to attach your split shot weights. Split shots attach by clamping them down over your line. To fully seal them, you will want to use a pair of pliers to get everything situated. 

Attach the split shot one to two feet above the hook, depending on your fishing depth. You don’t want your split shot any closer than 6 inches from your hook, but no further than 2 feet! 

If you need to use more than one split shot, attach them to your line about one or two inches apart. You don’t want to create too much discrepancy in your line. 

For the weight of your split shot, you’ll find a range between #B, which is the lightest at .007 ounces (0.2g), and #5, which is around .052 ounces (1.5g). The deeper the water and heavier the chop requires the use of a heavier split shot. Essentially, you want the split shot to fall in the water column but not completely sink! 

Step 3: Attach Swivel

After you’ve attached the hook and split shot, your next step is to tie on the swivel. The swivel is going to separate your mainline from your leader. This prevents any tangling or twisting of your line. 

Step 4: Choose your Bait 

You’re good to attach whatever bait you’re hoping to use. Many anglers will use soft plastic baits when fishing a split shot rig to entice fish to take it!

 When you’re fishing a split shot rig, you want worm, lizard, and crayfish representations. They don’t have to be huge! A 3 or 4-inch soft plastic is plenty to get the fish to take your bait. 

What Fish Can You Catch With A Split Shot Rig?

The split shot rig method can catch many types of fish, and it is commonly used for catching bass, crappies, trout, and any fish that will take lures. Most predatory fish can be caught using this simple rig setup. 

When to Use a Split Shot Rig? 

Bass fishing dock
Split shot rigs work well near docks and platforms

The beauty of split shot rigs is that they’re extremely versatile. You can fish them in all types of water and target various fish with them.

However, rule number one with split shot rigs is that you will want to fish in water that’s 6 feet deep or less! Any deeper than this can be a challenge. 

Fishing Wood and Rock Piles

If you’re fishing along the shore or bank and see stumps or rock piles, a split shot rig is a unique thing to throw. The fish congregating around these structures have seen jigs but likely haven’t seen many split-shot rigs. 

The split shot rig is fairly unobtrusive, so the fish are immediately drawn to the bait instead of a large jig head. 

Grass Lines

Shallow grass lines are ideal locations to fish a split shot rig. Again, jigs are the most common bait of choice around grass lines, so if you’re hoping to fool a few fish, a split shot rig can do the trick.

To fish, it will appear like the soft plastic is the only thing moving through the water. As a result, you’re going to fool some of the more hesitant fish that weren’t overly interested in those large jigs! 


If you aren’t sure what will work when fishing around docks, a split shot rig should be your go-to choice. You will find that these areas are usually fairly shallow and hold fish. Throw a rig deep under the docks and see what happens. If you find one fish, you’ll find more! 

How to Fish with a Split Shot Rig? 

Now that you know the locations and the proper setup, the next step is learning how to fish with the rig. The beauty of this is that it really doesn’t take much skill at all to do it! 

Stay Patient 

Many anglers like to cast their lures or bait into the water and immediately start reeling. When you’re fishing these rigs, you’re likely fishing shallow water, but you need to give the split shots a few seconds to drop in the water column. After three or four seconds, you can begin the retrieval. 

Don’t Be Overly Aggressive 

Split shot rigs are meant to be finesse rigs. Don’t be in a hurry to get it back to the boat, and don’t feel the need to provide massive action. Let your soft plastics do the work, and stay patient with the process. You fish these rigs when they’re not overly excited to take your bait. You’ll have to coax the fish into taking them. 

Don’t Be Scared of Overfished Waters 

Anglers willing to tie on a split shot rig can greatly succeed in heavily fished waters

As mentioned, structured areas on lakes will be pressured by anglers. They’re throwing large baits in hopes of getting large bass. A well-presented rig could be something new that the fish don’t see very often, so you will have success. 

Fish Passed Over Areas

On top of the overfished areas, these rigs work great in areas where most anglers wouldn’t normally bother fishing. 

Maybe they have only a small amount of cover, or the spot is located near an area with good cover. Since it’s a great searching bait, you may find a fish or a school of fish that decided to move away from the heavily pressured areas. Again, try not to go deeper than 6 feet because you’ll lose the feel of the bait, but don’t think any area is out of the question with a split shot rig. 

Split Shot Safety

Lead split shots are becoming a bit more challenging to find, and due to the latest rules on banning lead weights in fishing being introduced, use a non-toxic option and ensure you follow the regulations for the state or area you fish.

If you snap a split shot rig, fish may decide to eat the split shot and can harm themselves by digesting them. Most split shots today are made of tungsten, which makes the environment much safer! 

Final Thoughts

Split shot rigs are a tried and tested method for fishing. They are one of the tried and trusted methods and an effective and easy rig to set up and use for many fish species.

I hope this article explains all you need to know about this great fishing tactic. Another alternative rig that is equally productive is the drop shot rig, which differs due to the heavier weights used, and it is ideal to use for fishing deeper water.

Daniel Mooers