By Capt. Steve Chaconas
When I was just a kid in the 1960s, bass fishing was also in its early years.
Hooks, line, and plastic worms were crude compared to today’s ultra-sharp hooks, super synthetic lines, and attractant enriched lifelike plastic creatures.
But one technique that has stood the test of time is the split-shot rig.
Even in my unskilled youthful 8-year-old hands, I was able to utilize split-shot rigs with success for many decades.
For some strange reason, when I began to fish competitively, I opted for the latest in tackle— spinnerbaits, crankbaits, pitching Texas rigs.
It wasn’t until I was faced with the dilemma of enabling clients to catch fish that I re-discovered this non-glamorous method of catching largemouth bass.
The split-shot method couldn’t be simpler. Tie a hook with your favorite plastic worm to the end of the line with a split-shot weight about 12-18 inches above the hook—in the old days it was Mann’s Jelly Worms threaded on a Mustad weedless hook that was tied to Berkley line thrown on a fiberglass rod with a Mitchell 300 spinning reel.
Nearly 40 years later, I’m using the same rig with new and improved products.
For this, I use 6-12 pound test. Lighter line (smaller diameter) helps keep the bait in contact with the bottom and offers less resistance when fish pick up the bait—giving you a better chance of feeling the fish before it feels you.
With Gamma Torque braid, I tie Edge leaders with a blood knot. For weights, I’ve upgraded from round split-shots to 3/16-ounce Water Gremlin BULLSHOT weights, which are bullet shaped split shot that come through cover easily.
For hooks, size depends on the bait. Generally, I like a 2/0 for 4-inch baits and a 3/0 for 6-inch baits. Mustad Ultra Point Mega-Bite hooks are great for this method because you can keep the bait weedless while skin hooking the point where it will pop out on the hook set.
Rod and reel are important as well. Since I am fishing with lighter line, I opt for a spinning reel. A 7-foot medium heavy action Quantum graphite rod is much more sensitive than the old fiberglass rods—and lighter too!
Quantum Smoke spinning reels are nearly twice as fast as the ones I used as a kid. The gears are tough and more ball bearings make for a smoother retrieve. The drag systems produce less friction heat, making for better performance under pressure.
Keeping it simple, I use lizards, tubes or small worms. Specifically, I like the Mann’s 4″ Super Finesse Worm for most applications. Smaller baits are less intimidating and catch more fish. On the other hand, larger baits might not catch as many fish, but oftentimes it is what the big fish want.
Junebug, black, blue, and purple work when the water is stained. For clearer water, try greens and browns.
While plastic bait’s quality and design have improved, adding Jack’s Juice Bait Spray in garlic gives fish a reason to hold on longer.
Cast and let the bait go to the bottom. With the rod parallel to the water, drag the rig to the side, stopping to reel back to the bait, then stop and move the bait again with the rod. If you see the rod tip move, that usually means a fish has taken the bait and is swimming off. As the fish pulls, pull back in the opposite direction and reel.
The key is to move the bait at the right speed, pausing to let the fish get interested. It’s like playing with a cat and string.
A steady retrieve will get their interest, but the stop-and-go erratic movement gets them to pounce.
In fact, sometimes I will pull the bait out of a stick, rock, or piece of grass and will let it drop after the sudden jerk. This usually results in a bite.