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Basic Split Shotting Techniques and Tips

Splitshotting is perhaps one the most effective finesse method for catching bass from 0 to 20 feet under tough conditions.
The splitshot is attached 18 to 24 inches up 6-pound test line with the distance varying on the conditions. Generally, the distance is shortened in windy conditions to reduce line bow. The splitshot used is normally a No. 4, but No. 2 shot is sometimes required in stronger wind and current situations. When fishing rocky or uneven bottom, a very small splitshot is used simply as a stopper for a 1/16 or 1/8-ounce slip sinker. The point shape of the bullet sinker makes for fewer snags. To reduce snagging with splitshot, do not use the "eared" type of splitshot, use the traditional rounded variety.

The mainstay of the splitshotter's arsenal is the aberden symmetrical or "perfect bend" hook. Use a 1/0 or No. 1 for the Kalin Salty Finesse Worm and a No. 2 for the Salty Reaper. A stronger, asymmetrical Sproat hook can be substituted when pulling through brush. Rig the bait Texas-style, keeping the hook in alignment with the "seam". By doing so, the hook will serve as a "keel" to keep the lure running true, giving the bait a swiiming action, and also helps prevent line twist! The key to splitshotting is maintaining bottom contact with the splitshot and slow reeling the bait. This is the perferred method when splitshotting Salty Lunker Grubs and Worms. Reapers and Western Worm Weenies should be moved very slowly in normal plastic worm fashion. Contrary to what some may believe, the splitshot worm does not float very far off the bottom. Instead, the idea is to swim the lure just off the bottom to duplicate the motion of a small baitfish. This subtle presentation is what makes splitshotting so deadly! Since the bait is kept moving, splitshotting makes it easy to cover ground much faster than conventional worming. In fact, splitshotting is very similar to crankbait fishing when it comes to covering water. So, look for shallow or moderately sloping points, flats, roadbeds or any area that should hold fish, but would be tough to fish effectively with standard worming methods. Remember, since you're basically force feeding unaggressive bass, splitshot hits generally come as no more than dull, rubber band-like pressure bites. When in doubt, set the hook! But, don't reel down and rear back with 6-pound test. The best method is to "sweep set" on the bass by simply sweeping the rod back for your hookset and driving the narrow wire hook into the bass' mouth.

When the cold weather has put the bass into their winter patterns. Forget about rip baits, spinnerbaits and crankbaits. Now is the time to break out the finesse gear. One of the most common techniques for getting bass to bite during this season is splitshotting. It is a fairly straightforward technique and requires little investment in terminal tackle. However there are a few tips that will help the beginning angler be successful.

The basic rigging for a split shot is a 6’6” to 7’ rod that is light and sensitive. The rod needs a fast tip and enough backbone to get a good hookset with a lot of light line played out. The reel should be fairly small and lightweight. A constant anti reverse is a must. A good drag is also important for using light line. For line use a quality brand that is abrasion resistant in 6 to 10 pound test. The weight for splitshotting can be a crimp on style splitshot or a sliding sinker such as a Mojo. To peg the sliding sinker you can use a round toothpick or a couple strands of rubber skirt material. There are tools you can buy to assist in pegging the sinker. I slide on the Mojo weight and then tie on my hook. Then I take a piece of line that is doubled and insert the ends through the hole in my weight. Next, put two or three strands of skirt rubber through the loop and pull the rubber through the weight. Remove the doubled piece of line and trim the rubber close to the weight. Ideally the weight should be snug on the line but by wetting the line and pulling, the weight should be adjustable. The advantage of pegging with rubber is there’s less chance of damaging the line when compared to a crimp on weight or using a toothpick.

Use a good quality, fine wire hook for splitshotting. There are many good hooks readily available today. One of my favorites is the Gamakatsu G-Lock hook. This hook has a ‘Z’ bend at the top, which helps hold the plastic in place and it has the shape of the EWG hook, which helps get the point into the fish without the plastic bait getting into the way. Make sure to match the hook size to your bait.

A good place to start is a with a size 1 or 1/0 hook in a 4.5” straight tail worm. If you are using bulkier baits try a 2/0 hook. If you use something other than a fine wire hook it takes too much power to drive the hook into the fishes’ mouth. For your knot use a Palomar, Improved Clinch or any other terminal knot that you are comfortable tying. In my opinion it’s more important to tie a knot well than which knot you choose. There are literally hundreds of good lure choices for splitshotting. I like to use 6” straight tail worms from Magic Worms. Some good colors are Original Green Weenie, Green Craw, Purple Ghost and Witches Tee. These will work in 4.5” lengths too. Small reapers or leeches works well in smoke with purple flake, smoke with red flake and other baitfish imitating colors. I also use 4” Cut Tail worms from Yamamoto Custom Baits in watermelon with red and black flake, smoke with black flake, and my favorite Green Pumpkin with black flake and Watermelon Candy from Zoom Baits You can also use plastic craws, Hula grubs, and small brush hogs. Just make sure to size your hook accordingly.

Okay, now you’re rigged and ready to start fishing. But where do you start? This time of year, with water surface temperatures in the mid 40’s, start on main points, flats with gravel, drop-offs, and other locations that are on the main body or adjacent to the main channel. I would start at looking for fish at 20 feet deep and work up or down from there. If there has been a front move through and we are experiencing a bright sky and cold temps look deeper. If there has been a warming trend for 3 or 4 days look shallower. One good thing about fishing for bass in winter is that once you catch a fish chances are that you will get more in that area. Another thing about winter fishing for bass is that they tend to school by size. If you start catching small spotted bass and you’re looking for bigger fish it is better to change locations than stay and hope for bigger fish. And finally, once you’ve figured out the depth the fish are holding at it will pretty much be constant in that body of water no matter where you go. When you have your lure in the water you will want to move the bait slowly along maintaining contact with the bottom, This is probably the most important thing I can tell you. If you can’t feel the bottom you can’t tell what’s happening below you. I would start out with 1/8 to 3/16 of an ounce of weight and adjust from there. Go with the lightest weight you can but don’t lose contact. Once you have experimented with this technique you should be able to tell what the composition of the bottom is. When you are dragging the bait along and start to feel rock, gravel, stumps or other features slow down and get ready. This is what you are looking for. Bass in winter will hold on these places.

The hardest thing there is to teach a bass angler learning to splitshot is detecting the bite. The bite will vary according to the activity level of the fish. There will be times when they pop the bait hard and you will know immediately that they are eating the bait. Other times there will be a soft, almost imperceptible tick and then nothing. And finally there is the dreaded pressure bite. The pressure bite will take two forms. The first way to describe a pressure bite is you will feel slight resistance to pulling your line forward. This is somewhat like hooking a soft, spongy rubber band. The second pressure bite is when you lose contact with the bottom. A bass has picked up your lure and is just following along with your forward movement. This is why it is so important to maintain bottom contact. Once you realize that you’ve lost the feel of the weight against the bottom, and your depth hasn’t changed significantly, you have to put two and two together and get ready to set the hook.

The preferred hook set for this technique is called a sweep set. Once you have detected a fish holding your bait drop the rod tip towards the fish, reel down to the point of feeling resistance (or just shy of that point), and ‘sweep’ the rod horizontally(sideways) away from the fish. If the rod loads up good and you’re sure that you’ve got the hook in the fish just fight him to the boat. If you set the hook and it didn’t feel solid you may want to set the hook a second time. The drag on your reel should be set tight enough that it doesn’t give on the initial hookset. But it shouldn’t be set so tight that a larger fish can’t take line if needed.

Line Twist Problems

There are several problems that are common when splitshotting but most can be overcome if your are aware of the cause. Line twist has always been a problem when using spinning tackle. There are a couple things you can do to minimize line twist when using a split shot rig. First, rig your worm as straight as possible so the lure doesn’t turn as it comes through the water. You will also reduce line twist if you reel in slowly when retrieving to make another cast. A Tip to also decrease line twist is to learn to close the bail of your reel bail manually, the line twist sometimes develops from the bail picking up the line an twisting it to begin the first rotation around the spool. I personally have re-educated myself into doing this and almost never have any line twist! And if you do get some line twist just take off the weight and hook and let your line out behind the boat as you move slowly forward. Reel the line back in and the twist will be gone. It may take a couple times if the twist is bad. Another problem, when using this rig, is getting hung up or snagged. When you feel that you are getting caught in rock or gravel don’t pull hard on the rod. Instead shake the rod and most often it will bounce loose. Once again being able to feel the bottom is important because you will know immediately of this is happening. If you can’t shake the weight loose then double back over the snag with your boat and pull it loose from the opposite direction.

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