The Split Shot Rig
The split shot rig is a finesse version of a fish finding rig along the lines of the Carolina rig. Too many anglers dismiss this method as being too slow or a small fish method. The truth is that it is a deadly finesse method that can cover water as efficiently and as quickly as the Carolina rig. The split shot method also is a great way to catch limits of keeper sized bass. What tournament angler could dispute the success of that?
Split shotting is a fairly shallow water finesse technique that works best in depths under 20 feet. It can be worked deeper but the sensitivity decreases as the depth increases. For anglers who aren't confident in their worm fishing abilities, the split shot rig is actually nothing like traditional worm fishing.
This method is a cast and crank method that can be more easily compared to crank bait fishing than to worm fishing. The tiny 4-inch curly tailed worms are in constant motion on the bottom so it might be even more effective than cranking because the bait stays in the strike zone longer.
However simple this may sound, you can increase the effectiveness of the technique by "seining the bottom". By this I mean using different casting angles and boat positioning to essentially saturate a grid or area. This way you can potentially present the bait to every fish within a determined area.
Not Just Another Carolina Rig
The split shot may resemble a Carolina rig but it is different. To tie the rig you must eliminate the bullet sinker. Instead, you just crimp a piece of shot, two or three feet above the Texas rigged bait. I most often distance the shot about 18 to 24 inches above the bait. It is important to use only round shot without the tabs. The tabs will always catch on the weeds and foul the rig. Use size 2 or 4 shot. Make sure you don't fray the line when you crimp the shot down on it. I prefer softer shot to prevent damaging the line.
Water Gremlin, makers of weights and sinkers for fishing, has introduced its Bull Shot. This is a bullet weight or conical shaped weight with a new twist. Like its famous squeezable split shot weights that crimp on to the line, Bull Shot weights have the same premise. Here you can place your bullet weight above the hook in any desired length. Just squeeze it on and it will stay in place. Gone are the days of multi-knot rigs. It is a quick and easy way to rig up your soft plastics. This may be the best alternative if avoiding weeds and snags are your concern. The pointed shape comes through snags with ease and takes this rig to a new dimension.
This is a true finesse rig. Using this rig requires an angler to scale down his/her tackle. A four-inch bait is about the largest an angler should use. Employ a size 1/0 or size 1 Aberdeen style hook. Rig the bait on the seam. This along with the Aberdeen hook is a straight shank style and creates a keel to prevent the bait from rolling thus eliminating line twist. That is the key to the natural swimming motion of this bait. Fine diameter line and light spinning gear are necessary for this technique. I use a 6- or 6-foot 6-inch medium light spinning rod and 6 pound test for this technique.
Employ the split shot rig when fishing in depths shallower than 20 feet. Any deeper and you'll lose contact with the bait. The split shot retrieve is slow and steady. Maximum bottom contact is essential. You simply have to keep the weight in contact with the bottom. This technique is perfect for locating concentrations of bass. Especially when coordinated to cover a specific area from multiple angles. Because the bait is always in motion, wind won't hamper its success. Wind can put a serious damper on regular worm fishing such as a Texas rig. The split shot rig is less affected by wind because you are constantly moving it.
Split shotting is deadly when fishing used water. If I'm fishing behind another boat, chances are that I am throwing a split shot rig to the water that has already been covered by that boat. The split shot method excels in heavily fished waters. That is the beauty of this method.
One area in which this method excels is locating fish around uninteresting areas. Most anglers will beat visible cover or structure they see on their LCD's to death. While you can catch fish in these places on split shot rigs, the rig may be better suited for use in boring areas without heavy cover. These boring areas are usually passed over by other anglers and they likely don't receive any exploration because those anglers can't see anything attractive to hold bass.
One particular day I was on an 85 acre pond that was hosting a bass tournament by a local B.A.S.S. chapter. The water was crowded with 15 or so boats and all of the water was used up. Immediately I rigged a split shot worm and I proceeded to catch a limit of decent bass. From what I heard, the participants didn't fair as well. This proved to me how valuable an option this rig is. It took fish in water that was used by skilled anglers. This rig is a good choice when trying to locate fish on an unfamiliar lake. It is often the first tactic I'll try on new waters. When a cold front is passing through the split shot may be the only bait that gets consistent attention from bass.
Anglers must learn to recognize the strike on a split shot rig. It differs from the telltale tap-tap of the Texas rig. The split shot bite tends to feel like a mushy sensation or the feeling of added pressure on the line. Bass do tend to hold onto the bait a bit longer than traditionally rigged worms. The lack of a sliding weight for a bass to feel in its mouth likely is the reason. This set up is just more natural. As with many of the techniques in this book, it might be best to learn what the rig feels like being retrieved unimpeded. Because you will be bumping of bottom with it, you may be in for a tough time recognizing strikes. Just remember that hook sets are free and if you feel anything out of the ordinary, swing on it.
One caution with this rig, because you are using light line, try to sweep set the rod sharply to one side of your body. I utilize a set similar to the Slider sweep. You do not want to pop your line by setting too hard with the tiny line. Bass seem to hold on to the bait because of the weightless feeling coupled with the small amount of slack line between the split shot and the bait.
Hand poured worms along with standard grubs, reapers and lizards work well on a split shot rig. One of the best worms for this is the Curly Tail worm from Robo Worm. This is made specifically for the shot techniques. This is a tiny 4 inch worm that features some wicked hand poured colors. It has a curly tail that is rigged tail down to offset any line twist by being inline with the keel that the Aberdeen hook creates. The worms are scented and salted and bass simply do not drop once they once them up. I've been using some of the new Cyberflexx baits that really float high off the bottom on this rig. They are very effective and this is a good way to seine the water. The floating bait opens up another dimension to the split shot rig. Now you can cover water above the bottom. This is helpful when fish are suspending a few feet off the bottom.
Anytime is split shot time
An angler should recognize the best times to use this method. I use it as a fish finding tool on unfamiliar waters. If you put an easy meal in front of any bass, it is going to tell you something every time. Obviously, if you are simply patterning fish incorrectly, the rig may not be of use to you. If you use it where they live, it will draw a reaction and usually quickly at that. I initially target, sloping primary and secondary points with the rig. From there, I move to small shallow humps, sand bars and depressions, flats and sandy bottom areas.
Perhaps one of the best places to utilize the split shot rig is on bare or nothing banks. These areas visually don't look as sweet as say a submerged log jam or weed bed. For this reason, they are often overlooked and passed by most target fishing anglers. The truth of the matter is that bass will be in these areas and often it is because the bottom offers something that the target angler doesn't even know is there.
The rig also works well when pulled over shallow flats, sloping points, sandy banks, boat launch ramps and sandbars. Try it in non-traditional fishing spots. Locate daily migration routes and try this rig. Many times when fish are spooky, traditional baits won't raise a strike, the split shot rig may be just the ticket to catching a bass with lockjaw. Target spots that other fishermen ignore; bare banks, swimming areas and shallow sandy flats are among the choicest of areas.
Gear Breakdown: Split shot Rig
Rod: Kistler California Series 6-9 Medium Light Drop Shot rod
Reel: Shimano Sustain 1000FB
Line: Super Silver Thread 6lb
Hook: Gamakatsu size 1 or 1/0 thin wire straight shankB Bait: Robo Worm 4" Curly tail worm