The slip sinker rig is an old standby not only for anglers after catfish, but also those after any number of other species. In some form or another, the rig is commonly used to take fish commonly considered “bottom feeders” like carp, catfish and sturgeon a long with “game fish” like trout, walleye, white bass, striped bass, and more.
In its most basic form, the slip sinker rig involves nothing more than a sliding sinker and a hook. The line is allowed to move freely through the sinker so that the fish can pick up the bait without feeling any resistance.
Usually, a stop of some kind is used to prevent the sinker from sliding all the way up to the hook. This can be as simple as a split shot pinched on the line (though that can create a weak point and is usually not advisable for serious pursuits). A better set up involves the use of a swivel and a bead. The swivel acts as a stop that limits the movement of the sinker while at the same time allowing the angler to attach a leader of a different material than the main line. For snag-filed waters or a finesse approach, this could be lighter or less visible than the main line. When chasing tough or toothy fish, this could be a stronger material like braid or a wire leader. The bead is placed between the sinker and the swivel to protect the integrity of the knot.
The distance between the stop and the hook can be varied depending on the situation. When aiming for fish suspended far off the bottom or trying to draw in fish from a distance, a long leader section can be used. When after concentrated populations of catfish on the bottom, a leader section as short as an inch or two can be used.
A few years ago, I read an article in In-Fisherman magazine in which the author (who, if I recall correctly, was current editor Doug Stange) claimed to be having a lot of success when fishing for channel catfish by letting a bell sinker slide all the way down the line to the hook.
Before reading the article, I had always used a stop, usually a swivel/bead combination, more out of habit and tradition than anything else. After all, this was the rig my father had shown me as a child. But I also wanted to keep the sinker and other rigging away from the bait, afraid it may scare away any fish that approached. The article wrote these sorts of fears off, pointing out that channel catfish at the bottom of a waterway would probably not be able to differentiate between lead egg sinkers and rocks. When I thought about it, this made a lot of sense.
I continued to use a stop for most applications, but I did try letting the sinker slide freely to the end of the line a few times when pursuing catfish. It didn’t seem to improve the fishing at all, but it certainly didn’t hurt either. More importantly, it encouraged me to modify the old standby rig further.
In one instance, when hours passed without a single take during a catfish expedition on a hot day in Ohio, I concocted a rig something like “Santee Cooper Rig” used for drift fishing that allowed me to suspend my live bait offering a few feet off the bottom. I had noticed that another angler was fishing under a slip float and having moderate success, taking a few small flatheads. Moderate success is better than no success, so I decided to work with what I had and try to come up with something. I retied my rig, adding a long foam sliding float
between the sinker stop and another stop tied about six inches from the hook. The slip sinker would glide down to the first stop, anchoring the rig on the bottom. Then, the float would ride up to the second stop, keeping the bait a few feet off the bottom where the most active fish were suspended. The addition of another knot could cause problems with line breakage, but I figured it was worth the risk. Within ten minutes I had hooked what was at the time the largest catfish I had ever caught in my life. It was also the only fish anyone in our party of three caught in an entire day of fishing. As the catch came toward the end of the outing, I didn’t have a chance to continue fishing the rig during that trip. But I did just it later with similar success.
Of course, this rig has limited applications. In most cases, bait can be presented to fish via either a slip sinker rig on the bottom or a slip float rig fishes off of the water’s surface, and so such an involved setup is unnecessary.
The next rig I came up with proved much more versatile and led to quite a few catches that I may otherwise not have made.
During a particularly dull period during a night fishing trip, again when targeting catfish in Ohio, I decided to experiment. Nothing I had done previously was producing, so I had resolved to try something else. One oil attractant gave way to another, baits were changed, and presentations were modified. Nothing came of it. Finally, I added an additional leader to the swivel, baited the new circle hook with another small bluegill, and tossed the whole rig out into the water. Before long, the baitrunner on the Okuma Avenger reel rigged with this double hook setup was singing like a bird. One big flathead was followed by another. Then a nice blue catfish was brought to shore. Meanwhile, the other rod, with identical bait but only one hook, sat motionless. To make sure I was really onto something, I swapped the locations of the pole with one hook and the other with two. Once again, the double hook rig out-produced the other by a wide margin. Every single time, the fish would be hooked on one leader or the other. All though I wouldn’t rule it out, at no time was a fish I caught impaled by booth hooks.
I tried the double hook rig on subsequent outing for catfish and it always produced as well or better than a single hook rig. I encouraged other anglers I knew to try it, and they had similar results. I came to the conclusion that the frenzy caused by two freshly hooked live fish struggling so close to each other could draw in predator fish like flatheads in a way that single hook setups simply could not. Fishing the rig repeatedly in the years since have confirmed this analysis.
This double hook slip sinker rig is quite simple to tie. The mainline is passed through a slip sinker and a bead then tied to a swivel. I usually use egg sinkers, but bank sinkers, bell sinkers and pyramid sinkers also have their applications. For large fish, or occasions when it’s even remotely possible that a large fish may come along, I use the super strong Power Swivels made by Spro to be safe. Any bead designed for fishing with a smooth hole through it works fine. The end of the first leader is attached to the swivel with a Trilene knot, and a hook is tied to the other end with another knot of the same type. I usually use circle hooks when fishing for catfish, for the sake of both the fish and me when unhooking it. The second leader is tied in a similar way. The leaders are either identical in length, or the first is made slightly longer than the other. It seems that short leaders are more productive with this rig, as they keep both baitfish close together, concentrating their movement in a small area that fish can easily home in on.
I don’t claim to be the originator of these rigs by any means. Since my tinkering led me to begin using them, I have found descriptions of similar rigging in a few books and other publications.
If you have a chance to try out the double hook slip sinker rig, report back and let me know what kind of results you have.