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Zero Rig: The No Leader Rig For Sniping Catfish

zero rig catfish rig

Years ago I started using what I call a “zero rig” for catfishing. The zero rig is another of the catfish rigs that is not something you’ll use day in and day out like the slip sinker rig or santee rig. It’s more of a “tactical” rig for some specific situations and presentations and situations.

The zero rig is essentially the same thing as a slip sinker rig but it eliminates the use of the leader and barrel swivel. This allows the sliding sinker (like an egg sinker or no roll sinker) to rest directly against the eye of the hook.

The lack of leader on the zero rig allows you to fish directly against and around heavy cover with minimal hangups. In addition, the lack of leader allows you to reduce the movement of the bait, which may be helpful in some situations.

I first started using this setup after a big flooding rain. I was fishing an area that had always held catfish after a big rain and there was water flowing in at a rapid rate, which is not common in lakes and reservoirs in my area.

I had never once cast a bait into this area following a big rain and not caught fish, but this time I was not getting even a nibble.

By chance, I noticed a rough spot in the leader line of one of my santee rigs and cut the 24 inch leader to get past the rough spot, reducing the chance of a break off. Rather than making a new rig I tied what was left back on and was fishing with a leader that was about 10 inches long.

Immediately after casting this shorter leader in the water I started getting bites, but I still wasn’t catching. Through the process of experimentation I found that the shorter the leader was, the more activity I was getting and the more fish I caught.

I decided that the rapid moving water was causing too much action with the baits and that is what was causing me to not get bites with the slip sinker rigs. This resulted in me fishing with what I know call a zero rig.

I watched other anglers venture into the area fishing with the old trusty slip sinker rig and not catch anything. They sat right beside my clients and I, wondering how exactly it was that I was producing fish and they weren’t.

It was all about the action of the bait, sometimes less is more.

Over the years when approaching these areas I always venture in with a traditional catfish rig but if that doesn’t produce then I default back to the zero rig. It’s also excellent for presenting baits around brush piles, logs and other heavy cover where a more traditional catfish rig would snag.

How To Tie The Zero Rig

It doesn’t get much simpler than this.

1. Thread a sliding sinker (an egg or no roll sinker) on the main line (running to the reel).
2. Thread a Team Catfish Sinker Bumper onto the main line.
3. Attach your preferred catfish hook your knot of choice.

When To Use The Zero Rig

1. When you need to reduce the action of the bait. This could be when fishing in heavy current or just when you are getting short bites.
2. When you need to fish against or in heavy cover and reduce the chance of snags. It’s a simple and easy alternative to the drop shot rig.

To get more in depth tutorials and information on rigs for catching catfish check out the tutorials page for more information.

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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. That is an excellent rig. I have always been shown to run a short leader in such thick cover with swivels etc. I will definitely try in my honey hole of timber and rocks. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  2. I have had nights when fishing that when I get a bite, it takes only a few inches of line, (I fish with feeder on), and miss the few bites I get. I will definitely try this rig. I have not used it in years, I have found that the santee rig is what produces my bigger fish. FYI fishing from shore.

  3. This is thr main rig i fish in ohio the ribers around me are full of debri and thick cover i tend to aleays catch fish with it

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