Split Shot Rig: Set Up, Tips & Baits

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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 the world of 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 of them are hard to dispute. 

In this article, I will cover: 

  • What Is A Split Shot Rig?
  • How to Set Up 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 a monofilament line, split shot sinkers, a hook, a snap swivel, and bait. Split shot rigs can be used in almost all types of fishing situations.

How To Set Up A Split Shot Rig?

Largemouth bass are a common target fish for anglers using drop shot rigs

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’re going to want to use a pair of pliers to get everything situated. 

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

If you’re needing 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 plastics when they’re fishing a split shot rig in hopes of enticing fish to take it!

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

You can read more on the best plastic fishing baits here!

What Fish Can You Catch With A Split Shot Rig?

The split shot rig method is able to catch many types of fish, 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? 

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 a variety of fish with them.

However, rule number one with split shot rigs is that you’re going to 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 rocks piles, a split shot rig is a unique thing to throw. The fish sitting 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.

It’s going to appear as if the soft plastic is the only thing that’s 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’s going to work when you’re fishing around docks, a split shot rig should be your go-to choice. You’re going to find that these areas are usually fairly shallow and hold fish. Throw a split shot 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 actually to learn 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 and baits into the water and immediately start reeling. When you’re fishing a split shot rig, 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 a massive amount of action. Let your soft plastics do the work and stay patient with the process. You fish these rigs on the days that 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 who are willing to tie on a split shot rig can have a great amount of success in waters that are heavily fished. 

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

Fish Passed Over Areas

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

Maybe they have only a small amount of cover or the spot is located near an area with a 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 shot are becoming a bit more of a challenge to find and due to the new rules in fishing with lead being introduced make sure you follow the regulations.

If you happen to snap a split shot rig, fish may decide to eat the split shot and can harm themselves severely as a result. Most split shots today are made of tungsten and that keeps the environment much safer as a result! 

You can read more about using lead weights for fishing here!

Final Thoughts

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

I hope this article was informative and encourages you to try out this great fishing tactic. You can read more on fishing with lures for all types of fish here!

Daniel Mooers