Split Shotting for Bass

I still remember the first few times my dad took me bass fishing as a young child. Usually, in an effort to keep me from getting my lure snagged or having to replace one worm after another, he’d set me up with a Texas-rigged plastic worm. He’d then clamp on a couple of split shot weights about 18 to 24 inches above the hook. As a child split shotting for bass was the only way I knew how to catch bass.

Split Shotting for Bass

For the most part, this approach worked, and I’d fish for an hour or so without snagging my lure.

I didn’t catch many bass in these early days, but I did keep the split-shot rig in my arsenal. Once I developed the requisite skills and confidence, I began to catch a lot split shotting for bass.

However, like so many other fledgling anglers, I started learning about the lures, techniques and tackle the pros were using while watching Saturday morning fishing shows and reading bass fishing magazines. Within a short period of time, I’d forgotten all about split shotting for bass, and I fell in love with wacky-rigging stickbaits and winding spinnerbaits across channels.

But a couple of years ago, while struggling to get bites from a particularly finicky population of bass, I dusted off the old presentation. An hour later, I’d caught several bass who had ignored every other lure and presentation I’d presented. But this wasn’t a one-off scenario; over the next few months (which have turned into years), the split shot rig proved just as effective as it ever was.

In fact, because so few anglers employ the technique these days, it may even be more effective than it ever has been.

Split Shotting for Bass – Setting Up the Split-Shot Rig

Split-shot rigs are best used with relatively light gear. A 7-foot, lightweight, fast-action spinning rig, strung with 10-pound-test fluorocarbon is ideal. Clamp a few small split shot weights about 12 to 36 inches up from a plastic worm hook and use a good soft plastic lure for the conditions. The shallower the water, the lighter the rig should be.

Split Shotting for Bass – Target Areas

Split shot rigs work almost anywhere Carolina rigs are appropriate, although split shot rigs are better suited for shallow water. They are especially effective in dense grass mats, as the relatively small weight won’t pull the lure down out of sight. Instead, with a proper leader length, the lure will rest nicely on top of the vegetation. Split shot rigs are not ideal for areas with fallen trees and sunken logs, they can easily end up wrapped around a trunk or branch. However, they work well in most other types of cover.

Split Shotting for Bass – Retrieval Technique

Split-shot rigs can be retrieved in a variety of ways, but the most common technique involves dragging the lure a few feet, letting it rest and then dragging it again. To do so, sweep the rod to the side slowly, pause for a minute, and then sweep it to the side again. Repeat this process until a bite is detected or lure has been reeled all the way back in. Split-shot rigs are also great for targeting isolated patches of cover. Simply cast out near the target object and let the lure flutter down to the bottom. Most strikes will come on the initial fall, but it is often helpful to raise the rod tip and let the lure drop back down a few times before trying another location.

Split Shotting for Bass – Setting the Hook

Bass often hook themselves when they inhale a split-shot rigged lure (particularly when they inhale it and flee in the opposite direction), but a good hook set is still helpful. Strikes are usually rather easy to feel, although they are somewhat subtler than strikes on lures in direct contact with the weight. Once a strike is felt, point the rod at the lure, reel up the slack quickly and use a sideways, sweeping hookset.

Although the split shot rigs is often thought of as a forgotten technique, put it in your arsenal when the bass are stubborn. Forgotten doesn’t mean obsolete, this technique may just save the day.

Patrick Morrow

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