Sinkers will never be the most exciting item in your tackle bag, but they are essential to most forms of fishing. Adam Clancey takes us through the basics of weight-selection.
The function of a weight is to get your offering to where the fish are holding or to keep your bait in an area where the fish may pass. Weights for fishing in New Zealand are generally referred to as sinkers, which is a pretty apt name. The type and size of sinker you choose will often be a major factor in your catch-rate, so knowing which sinkers suit which type of fishing is important.
Sinkers can weigh from as little as a few grams, right through to several kilos. Most sinkers are made from lead, which is a good material because it is cheap, melts easily and can be moulded quite simply. In Europe, lead weights are being replaced by more environmentally friendly products, such as tungsten. Tungsten also has the advantage of being heavier than lead, so presents a smaller profile for the same weight.
At tackle stores, anglers are usually greeted by a huge array of shapes, sizes and different styles of sinkers, all of which have specific applications when it comes to fishing. The ball sinker is the most commonly used weight, and is exactly as it sounds – a round ball with a hole through the middle. Ball sinkers are threaded on to the line and used with a variety of different rigs. They are a good sinker for general use but are not ideal if you’re trying to get your line to hold in a current as they do roll easily.
A sinker with a clip can be used in a fixed position, or sliding.
Pyramid sinkers are a better shape in this scenario as they have flat sides and a hole through the middle. They tend to hold better on the bottom in sand and light currents as they do not roll. Rig them with the widest face towards the rod tip as this causes the face to catch more on soft bottoms like sand or mud. The main drawback with pyramids is that they do tend to spin a lot on the retrieve. Both the pyramid and the ball sinker are versions of running sinkers designed to run up and down the line, offering no resistance when you get a bite.
Fixed sinkers are the weights you fix to your line or rig so they can’t move. The most common type is the bomb sinker. These have many different names like snapper lead, tear drop or torpedo. They’re typically designed to be heavier at the bottom than the top so they’re hydrodynamic. You’ll typically find them on dropper rigs and are best used in static scenarios where you want your lead and bait to stay in a particular position.
Boat leads are perfect for flashers and dropper rigs.
Which sinker you choose will change with the style of fishing you are doing and what you are looking to achieve with the weight. For example, when straylining you should only add enough weight to let your bait slowly sink through the water column.
Big baits require a big sinker in deepwater.
When drift fishing for deep water fish, you want your weight to get to the fish as quickly as possible without spinning and be heavy enough to drag the baits down to avoid tangles. Adding weights when livebait fishing is a good way to get baits to the strike zone, but this needs to be done subtly. Sinkers can also be added to lures to get to the strike zone. Trolling leads on very light squid lures is a classic example of this. Using a ball sinker or bean sinker with a bead and short trace is a good way to fish small soft-baits that are too light to cast. The American bass anglers do this a lot and call it a Carolina Rig. This rig is especially effective if you use baits that float up off the bottom.
Beads will protect knots and rod tips when using running sinkers.
For shore-based fishermen, the sinker is a means of getting baits out a very long way and specifically designed casting sinkers help do this. Following on from the bomb design, the more streamlined torpedo sinker is the best for casting a long way as it flies well through the air. Specialist beach and shore casting sinkers feature wire arms which can grip very firmly in sand and will hold a bait in position in very strong currents and surf. When a fish bites these sinkers wires will break out and fold away to release from the sand.
Breakout sinkers offer the best grip in strong current and surf rips. The holding power can be boosted by wrapping a rubber band around the wires.
The smallest sinkers are called “shot” and are similar to what is in a shotgun shell. They have a split in them and are added to the line by squeezing them on with a little pressure. Split shot can be used in some regions of NZ to get flies and lures in the right area of the river or lake (it would pay to check with local authorities to see if this is allowed). Split shot can be very useful when fishing for baitfish like piper, sprats and mackerel. Added to a float, they will cock the float so it will submerge with little resistance. They can also be simply added to very small hooks and baits to give them enough weight to sink to where the bait is holding.
Sinkers are an integral part of most fishing systems and the correct selection will greatly increase the effectiveness of your fishing success. So, next time you are in your local tackle shop, take a little time in the sinker section and make sure you have the right ones for your next fishing expedition.
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