Weights aren’t an exciting topic but the right style and size weight is essential to your catfish rigs and getting fish on the end of your line.
I see many people really getting caught up in what style weights to use all the time and especially in sizes.
You can very easily end up with dozens of different styles of weights and sizes and truth is that most of you won’t need this.
Most of my fishing is done with the same rigs each and every time and in the event I decide to “branch out” and use some other sort of rig, the same weights work, it just all depends on how you tie them on the fishing line.
You shouldn’t have a need for having huge varieties of sinker styles and sizes in your tackle box.
No Roll Sinkers
No roll sinkers are my “go to” weights when fishing with the slip sinker rig and the santee rig when anchored. These “no-roll” sinkers are the preferred weights for many catfish anglers. I rely on the slip sinker and santee rigs primarily when fishing on anchor for blue catfish and flathead catfish.
A no roll sinker functions much like an egg sinker does and slides up and down the line when fishing with a slip sinker rig or a santee rig but rather than being round (like an egg sinker) it is flat on two sides.
Having these flat sides keeps the sinker from rolling around on the bottom of the lake or river, which helps with keeping your baits where you want them.
Targeting structure is a common technique for fishing for blue catfish and it is common practice to cast your baits on to ledges and other changes in bottom structure that an egg sinker will roll down.
The no roll sinker will hold much better and stay in place, helping you maintain proper bait placement.
They also assist when fishing on level ground with a tight line because the sinker will not roll around when fishing with a “tight line”, again, a critical technique to learn.
No Roll Sinkers (eBay)
Split Shot Sinkers
Split shot sinkers are a staple in my channel catfish tackle.
The most effective rig I use for channel catfish is the Secret Catfish Rig. If you have not gotten started with these yet, you should.
The less effective alternative to this is the slip bobber rig. The slip bobber rig is nowhere near as effective as the Secret Catfish Rig but is a good second choice when fishing for channel catfish.
Regardless of which catfish rig you use for channel catfish you’ll need some split shot sinkers.
I typically use a size 1 for the Secret Catfish Rig but each and every angler is different and it’s a good idea to keep an assortment of split shot sinker sizes on hand.
These are an essential item if you are fishing for channel catfish with either rig.
Split Shot Sinker Assortment (BPS)
Split Shot Sinker Assortment (Amazon)
Split Shot Sinkers (eBay)
Drift Fishing Sinkers
Drift fishing is a common technique for fishing for blue catfish and channel catfish.
Traditional drift fishing involves dragging baits across the bottom to catch fish. There’s a lot of more to drift fishing than that but that’s a good basic description.
Through the process of dragging baits across the water you come across all sorts of unruly stuff on the bottom to hang up on. Sticks, stumps, trees, roots and just about everything else imaginable will cause you to hang up and break your fishing line.
Some bodies of water are worse than others when it comes to hanging up but even in the bodies of water with the “cleanest” bottoms you are going to get hung up.
One way to minimize the amount of hang-ups you have when drift fishing is to use “snagless” drift fishing sinkers.
How they got the name “snagless” I have no idea because they are a far cry from being completely snagless but they do help to greatly reduce the “hang-ups” when you are drift fishing and will save you a LOT of fishing tackle (and frustration).
The commercially manufactured drift fishing sinkers are the Team Catfish Smooth Operator Sinkers. These are the only commercially sold version of these snagless drift fishing sinkers I am aware of. There are other styles of snagless drift fishing sinkers but this stye works best.
The Team Catfish Smooth Operator sinkers work great for drift fishing but if you are someone who likes to “tinker” and you don’t mind spending the time to make your own sinkers then you can make your own snagless drift fishing sinkers.
Whether you make your own or buy the Team Catfish Smooth Operator Sinkers , you will want to use sinker slides with these weights when drift fishing for catfish.
To make your own snagless sinkers you will need the following items:
Full instructions on how to make these can be found here.
Team Catfish Smooth Operator Sinkers (Buy Them Already Made)
10 Lb Test Monofilament Fishing Line (Make Your Own)
1/4 Ounce or 1/8 ounce egg sinkers (Make Your Own)
Barrel swivels (Make Your Own)
How Much Weight Do You Need?
I’m constantly questioned on how much weight should be used for catfish rigs and have participated in some heated debates over the years.
You can ask ten anglers about weights and will get a variety of different responses on how much weight you should use.
The justifications for using big heavy weights are nothing short of comical.
There are times when catfish are feeding fast and furious and it doesn’t matter what you throw at them or how you throw it at them, they are going to come along like an underwater freight train and hit it.
There are also times where the fish will be much more fickle and will play around with a bait or “peck at it” more.
Here are some simple tips to help you when choosing weights:
Channel catfish are finicky and it is common for them to do what I call the “mealy mouth” with the bait and just swim up and kind of suck on the bait or play around with it (the bait).
They also have tendency to hit very quick and then be “gone” and if you don’t set the hook immediately when they start playing around with the bait, you are not going to get another opportunity.
This is why that Secret Catfish Rig works so well, because you can tell exactly what is going on.
I talk about this in depth in both the Secret Catfish Rig books and the Summer Channel Catfish Technique books so if you want to learn all of the “juicy” details check them out.
Regardless of what type of rig you are using when fishing for channel catfish you will catch much more fish when you use the minimum amount of weight possible in most instances.
Blue and Flathead Catfish
Blue catfish and flathead catfish often require a much different approach than that used for channel catfish.
For the most part, blues and flatheads are not “weight shy”. I’ve encountered situations over the years where blue catfish seemed to be affected by having too much weight on the line and reducing the weight resulted in increased catch ratios when fishing for smaller 1-10 lb “box fish”.
Unless you are fishing in current using a weight that is 1.5 to 2 ounces is more than sufficient in most instances and provides a good balance between casting distance, keeping your baits where you want them and still hooking fish.
General Weight Selection Guidelines
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to weights, which style you should use and how much weight you should use. There are so many variables that it would be impossible for me to cover every single scenario.
With the fishing I do in lakes, reservoirs and small to medium sized rivers fishing from a boat 1.5 to 2 ounces of weight is the perfect amount for me when I am fishing for blues and flatheads and when fishing for channel catfish I always use the minimal amount of weight possible, which is a very small split shot.
The more weight you use the further you will be able to cast. This may be critical if you are fishing from the shore and need to cast long distances or even need to cast long distances from a boat.
If you are fishing in current, moving water, or even drift fishing in high wind then more weight may need to be used to either keep the baits in your chosen location or keep the baits on the bottom.
As a rule of thumb, regardless of which species of catfish you are fishing for, whether you are fishing from a boat or from the shore, the best approach is going to be to use the least amount of weight possible, while still achieving your casting distance and hold your baits in the proper location.
Be aware of weight and the fact that it can have an effect on how many fish you are catching. If you are getting short strikes or are missing fish, you may need to adjust the amount of weight you are using.
Again, blue catfish and flathead catfish are much less of a problem when it comes to shying away from weight but it can be an issue at times so be aware of it and make adjustments as needed.
There is one particular pattern I fish where the blue catfish can be extremely sensitive to weight. If you want to learn more about this, check out the Spring Blue Catfish Techniques book.