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Slip Sinker Rig: The “Must Know” Catfish Rig

slip sinker catfish rig

If you only know about one catfish rig,  the slip sinker rig is an excellent place to start. The slip sinker rig is one of the most popular catfish rigs and is the “go to” setup for fishing for catfish for many anglers all across the United States.

The slip sinker rig is versatile and can be used for fishing on anchor or drift fishing it can be used fishing vertical, using techniques like controlled drifting or fished on the bottom with a “tight line” and can be used for all three of the major species of catfish, blues, channels and flatheads.

It can also be used in any body of water from lakes and reservoirs to big rivers or ponds and everything in between.

Bass fishermen use a similar setup for fishing and commonly refer to it as a Carolina rig. This is essentially the same setup as a bass angler but the tackle used when fishing for catfish is much difference. Catfish anglers generally refer to this setup as a slip sinker rig and when it pertains to catfishing you generally only hear the term “Carolina rig” from a new catfish angler.

Popularity of the Slip Sinker Rig

The slip sinker rig is popular for several reasons:

  • It allows catfish to pull line without meeting significant resistance from the sinker.
  • It allows functional use of the bait clicker (line alarm) allowing fish to “run” with the bait
  • It is effective for smaller and bigger fish.
  • You can add a small peg float lifting the bait off the bottom of the lake or river, turning it into what is commonly referred to as a Santee rig
  • It’s versatile for fishing with a number of different types of catfish baits.

Items Need to Tie the Slip Sinker Rig

Leader Line

For leader line use 40  to 50 Lb clear monofilament leader. If you are targeting channel catfish you can use a lighter weight line but I generally don’t use a slip sinker rig for channel catfish and prefer the Secret Catfish Rig.


Whatever hook you prefer will work, this really has no bearing on the rig. For channel catfish use a #6 treble hook and for blues and flatheads use an 8/0 Team Catfish Double Action Circle Hook or Daiichi Circle Chunk Light.


Any size barrel swivel will work but a 1/0 barrel swivel is a good size and preferred by many anglers.


An egg or no roll sinker is preferred by most catfish anglers but you can also use a Team Catfish Sinker Slide and a variety of other fishing weights.

You can check out the tackle page for detailed suggestions on preferred hooks, swivels, line and other catfish tackle.

How To Tie A Slip Sinker Rig

Tie the hook to a leader line using a Palomar knot or the easy snell knot.

Determine leader length and cut to appropriate length (allow a couple of extra inches for knot tying etc so you have some room to work with). There really is no limit or set guidelines on how long to make the leader on a slip sinker rig but twelve to eighteen inches is a good general length and is preferred by most anglers.

The longer the leader the more a fish can move with your bait without you feeling it and the more the bait can move around. For aggressive fish a longer leader can be used but when fish are less aggressive a shorter leader length will give you greater feeling and you will know sooner when a fish is toying with your bait.

Longer leaders also have tendency to hang up more so if you are fishing in water where there are a lot of snags or you are having problems getting hung up, try shortening the length of your leader.

Tie the swivel to the leader using a Palomar knot.

Slide an egg sinker or no roll sinker to main line (fishing line going to your reel) .

Tie main line to end of swivel that is not tied to the leader using a Trilene knot.

Cut the excess line hanging off of all your knots.

When you are done the slip sinker rig should look like the illustration above.

If you are using really heavy sinkers or are using the slip sinker rig for drift fishing or controlled drifting you can add a Team Catfish Sinker Bumper between the weight and the swivel to help protect the knot.

Most instructions you will find on the slip sinker rig will tell you that the weight constantly banging into the swivel will cause the knot to weaken or the line to break. I’ve been guiding well over 12 years and have countless years experience targeting catfish prior to that and I have never once had my line break or a knot fail because I didn’t have a bead or bumper on a slip sinker rig except for a few rare instances when drift fishing.

The slip sinker rig is one of the most popular ways to rig for catfish due to the versatility and effectiveness of the catfish rig, and definitely something you should try next time you go fishing for catfish.

To get more information on this and other ways of setting up for catfishing check out the catfish rigs tutorial.

If you like to fish for channel catfish and want to increase the number of fish you catch and save some money in the process check out the Secret Catfish Rig.

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About Chad

Chad Ferguson is a professional catfish guide and founder of Learn To Catch Catfish. Click here to subscribe for more exclusive catfish fishing tips by email and then follow on Twitter or Google


  1. I use this rig for trout as well as catfish this year while trout fishing i snelled a second hook in the middle middle of a 18 in leader. It was deadly on trout. At first i did not know if i would catch fish on a hook on the top hook. Not only did it catch fish i got a lot more bites having two baits in the water. Now i want to test this rig on catfish and stripped bass to see how it does.

  2. Willie Gray says:

    I have a question, where can I purchase your catfish bait soap?

  3. Thankyou very informative video learned a lot

  4. Great instructional, looking forward to putting it to use!

  5. Sam Reynolds says:

    Great job! I will put your technique to work to see if I can catch catfish. Thanks.

    • Hi Guys Great Info! The river i mostly fish on, has flatheads on it, but theyr’e not the huge size most guys i see on these sites catch. The river average is somewhere between 2-20lbs. I know all the size specifics you have given for all products Chad. But in this case, of being smaller fish, should I stick with your same suggestions, or should i use smaller hooks, lighter leader line, smaller swivels and such. Thanks a ton guys, and have a great day!

  6. How important are the knots? I notice you have mentioned tying three different knots and can’t understand or theorize how a knot can make or break the system. Please elaborate.

  7. I have the hardest time here….my problem is that where i fish, the catfish aren’t usually in the shallow areas. I have to use atleast a 3oz sinker to get far out there, but then i have a problem with feeling the bites. I feel some tugging at times, but when i get ready to set the hook, i dont feel anything. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I use cut mullet as my bait.

  8. Chad, do you use sinker slides with your no roll sinkers?

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