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Slip Sinker Rig: A Catfishing Essential

Serious anglers know that not just any rig will hook trophy-size blues, flatheads, and channel cats.

Nope - it’s going to take something special.

You’ll need a rig that stays put in current, that holds bait on or near the bottom, and that offers minimal resistance when the cat takes your bait.

And there’s only one choice that does all that: the Slip Sinker Rig.

Let’s break it down, learn how to assemble it, and discuss its virtues.

Related: Best Fishing Rigs

Why Use a Slip Sinker Rig?

Slip Sinker Rig

A Slip Sinker Rig:

  • Stays put in currents
  • Keeps your live bait where it needs to be
  • Allows your minnow to swim more or less freely
  • Allows the catfish to take line without feeling the weight of the sinker

That’s everything you’re looking for, and it’s important to understand why each of these features matters.

As we’ve discussed before, flatheads and blues are active hunters. While they’re not above scavenging a quick bite, they prefer live prey and use their incredible sense to find it, even in the murkiest water.

Slow-moving rivers are a prime spot to fish for trophy cats, in no small part because that water movement helps to disperse your bait’s scent, attracting attention from hungry cats at a greater distance.

But that current also poses a challenge.

You need to keep your bait more or less where you want it, and you also need it to stay pretty close to the bottom while still swimming freely.

A Slip Sinker Rig will provide enough weight to keep your minnow in place, but by design, it includes enough leader between the weight and hook that free swimming is still possible.

And when a finicky, seasoned cat gets ahold of your hook, rather than feel the line tighten against a fixed weight, the Slip Sinker Rig allows your line to run through the eye of the sinker, improving the odds that it keep the minnow in its mouth while the hooks sets itself.

That’s just ideal.

The Slip Sinker Rig: Materials

Putting this rig together is pretty easy and only requires a few basic components.

First, you’ll want some strong leader.

I like 60-pound Trilene Big Game in clear. This premium-quality mono has everything I want in leader. It’s very abrasion resistant, knots hold like they’ve been glued in it, and it has just enough stretch to provide some shock absorption when I have a real monster on my line.

Berkley Trilene® Big Game™, Clear, 60lb | 27.2kg, 235yd | 214m Monofilament Fishing Line, Suitable for Saltwater and Freshwater Environments


Trilene Big Game in 40-, 50-, or 60-pound test is ideal for making a slip Sinker Rig for big cats.

You’ll also want a sharp hook that just doesn’t know when to quit, and for the best results, it needs to be a self-setting circle or octopus hook. 

That’s because you want that trophy cat to feel like it’s just gotten away with a free meal, giving it time to settle into the minnow rather than spit and run. A circle hook is going to set itself in the corner of the fish’s mouth pretty much immediately, and all you’ll need to do is reel.

My choice when I’m hunting trophies: a Team Catfish Double Action Circle Hook in 8/0.

If you can find a better catfish hook than this, I’m all ears!

You’ll also want a good, strong swivel to join your main line and leader. Obviously, you'll want to size that swivel to match the cats you’re after, but for trophy fish, I’d look at something in the neighborhood of a #1/0 or bigger.

Dr. Fish’s #1/0 is rated to fully 132 pounds, and their #2/0 can hold as much as 165 pounds. Both work like a charm on mammoth blues and flatheads, and the smaller sizes for smaller fish are just as good.

Dr.Fish Barrel Swivels Fishing Swivels, Saltwater Swivels Fishing Tackles, Stainless Steel Swivels Rolling Fishing Swivels Black Nickel High Strength Swivels 30Lb to1500 Lb (#1/0(132LB)-40pk)


A good, strong swivel is essential to this rig.

You’ll also need a bead.

Eagle Claw A8BEAD20R Plastic Beads, 8 mm, Red, 20 Piece


I like red, but you can pick any color you want. 

That bead does double duty: it can be rattled against the weight to create a bit of sound, and it shields your knot from the abuse your weight can dish out.

Don’t skip the bead!

Bullet Weights Egg Fishing Sinker is my choice for a slip Sinker Rig, as they’re economical and effective.

Select your weight by figuring casting distance, how much current you face, and the size of your bait.

Bullet Weights EGI5-24 Egg Fishing Sinker (16-Pack), 1-Ounce


Cheap? Yes. Effective? Check!

Once you have these basic materials, you’re ready to go.

How to Tie a Slip Sinker Rig

Slip Sinker Rig

The Slip Sinker Rig is a close relative of the Carolina Rig, an awesome largemouth bass option that you’ll see fished on the tournament circuit.

For cats, it works wonders. That slip sinker allows you to cast it well, and it doubles to keep your minnow or shad where you need it, even in heavy current. And if you give this rig a tug or two, that sinker will slap the bead, creating some attractive vibration.

With sufficient leader in tow, your live bait has room to run frantically, and the Slip Sinker Rig will keep it up out of the muck.

To tie a Slip Sinker Rig, follow these steps:

  1. Slide an egg sinker onto your main line. 
  2. Follow the sinker with a bead.
  3. Attach a heavy-duty barrel swivel with a Uni Knot, wet it, and tighten it down, trimming the tag end.
  4. Cut approximately 18 inches of tough leader.
  5. Using a Palomar Knot, attach a strong hook. Wet your knot, tighten it, and trim the tag end.
  6. Attach the leader to your barrel swivel using a Uni Knot. Wet it, tighten it down, and trim the tag end.
About The Author
John Baltes
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.