A Guide to Weights and Sinkers for Bass Fishing

In fishing, the terms “weight” and “sinker” essentially mean the same thing and refer to a piece of metal that is used to sink a lure or bait to some level in the water. Connected to the fishing line, weights and sinkers are not lures of and by themselves. They’re made in many shapes and sizes, and have diverse applications. Weights and sinkers for bass fishing are in some cases exclusively used in fishing for bass, but often are applicable in fishing for other species, particularly in freshwater.

Generally, sinkers for bass fishing are relatively light in weight, and small. As a rule, it’s best to use the lightest weight that will effectively suit the depth you’re fishing, and the presentation being used.

Composition

Most sinkers are made from lead. Bans exist in a few places in North America on the sale and/or use of lead weights of a certain size, which has lead to the development and use of non-toxic substitutes, including brass, steel, tin, and tungsten, which have slightly different attributes. Nevertheless, weights and sinkers made of lead make up an overwhelming share of the sinkers for bass fishing.

Types of Sinkers

Bass fishing weights come in two basic versions, fixed or free-sliding. Choice depends on fishing conditions, including the species you seek, the depth to be fished, and such factors as current and wave action.

 

Fixed

Fixed versions attach directly to a fishing line or leader by being pinched, twisted, or tied. They move whenever the bait or lure moves, and also when a fish takes the bait or lure. Fixed sinkers include split shot, which are small pinch-on spheres and the most prominent fixed sinker; rubber core sinkers; and clinch-on versions. Fixed sinkers used in trolling include torpedo, bead chain, keel, and planing models, although such sinkers are less frequently used in bass fishing, as few bass anglers troll.

 

Free-sliding

Free-sliding, or slip, sinkers ride along the line. They’re used primarily with bait and allow the line to move when a fish takes the bait without moving the sinker, which provides less resistance than a fixed sinker. Sliding or slip sinkers include ball, egg or barrel, cone or bullet, and some bottom-walking versions.

Applications

Bass fishing weights are often referred to by a specific application or associated with certain freshwater fishing rigs.

 
  • The foremost of these is a Texas rig, featuring a soft-plastic worm with the hook buried in the worm body (“snagless”) and a sliding sinker on the line ahead of the worm. The sinker is primarily cone- or bullet-shaped and is widely referred to as a “worm weight.”
  • Cylindrical sliding sinkers may be used for Carolina rigs, which are another type of bottom- and cover-probing setup for bass fishing in which the sinker slides on the main line ahead of a swivel and a following leader attached to a lure.
  • There’s a variety of bottom-walking (or bottom-bouncing) sinkers used in bass fishing as well. These are fixed to the main line and sport a leader running to a following lure or bait.
  • For a vertical presentation, a drop shot or drop weight may be used. This weight is fixed to the main line below a suspended lure. This setup is called a drop-shot rig.
  • Sometimes a piece of clamp-on lead is used to add weight to a hook used with plastic worms or soft jerkbaits.
  • Small lead weights, akin to a nail, may be used to add weight to a worm or jerkbait also, being inserted into the body of the lure.
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Ken Schultz

Ken Schultz

Ken Schultz was a longtime staff writer for Field & Stream magazine and is the former Fishing Editor of ESPNoutdoors.com. He’s written and photographed nineteen books on sportfishing topics, plus an annual fishing tips calendar., and his writing has appeared on various websites for nearly two decades. His author website is kenschultz.com.