Hook and line measurments
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Where should I put the weight on my fishing line? It’s a very good question, and as your asking it I’m guessing your new to angling? How much weight and where it’s placed on your fishing line depends on various factors, and I’ll do my best to provide the simple answer and then go in to more detail of where the sinker, split shot, weight or lead… Whatever, the kids are calling it these days, should be positioned on the line and what purpose it serves.

How far should the weight be from the hook…

1 x No1 (0.3g) size weight 45 cm from hook, and 1 x No4 (0.2g) sinker 30 cm far from hook. Or, an evenly spaced distance in thirds between float and hook when fishing close to the surface (under 2ft).

Your target fish species, the waters depth, strength of current and fishing technique, all have an impact of the type of weight required and place it’s attached on your rig. “It’s just a piece of lead!” I hear you ask… but casting, avoiding snags and optimally presenting the bait, are just a few of the reasons getting the sinking weights correctly setup.

What are sinkers used for in fishing?

Fish don’t give two hoots about sinkers! Their function, in very simple terms, is to help you present the bait in such a fashion that fish take the bait, and in certain swims this can be achieved without using weights. Sinkers, as the name indicates, are used to allow you to fish at certain depths, slowly pulling the rig in to position and precisely placing and holding the bait at a optimal fishing spot. There’s no point bating up a fishy looking swim, cast perfectly, just to have your bait being gradually dragged 20 yards away.

Split shot are the most popular weight used by anglers, a must in any fisherman’s tackle box. Calm waters will only require a few small leads (sometimes none) on the line to sink the bait, but as the strength of the current increases, so does the required line weight. Rivers and streams for example, fast moving water, need extra weight to prevent your rig being pulled all over the place. Fishing is about precision, and having your rig flapping about in the water, vastly reduces your chances of a bite.

Where do you put the weights on a fishing line?

Time to break out a massive dose of common sense! The positioning of sinkers on your fishing line, mainly depends on the depth of the the fish your targeting, well… for split shot at least. Let’s get something out of the way first, smaller weights are attached closer to the hook, and heavier sinkers closer to the rod tip. This makes your fishing rig more balanced, and less prone to entanglements.

Always start out with as little weight as possible on your line, and when waggler fishing only add extra sinkers either side of the float to set how far down in the water it sits, fine tuning sensitivity. Again, for balance and less snagging, work out from the float eye with large to small shot.

Now, we need to consider the weight of your bait, the heavier the bait, the less line split shot your going to need. We’re trying to get the bait and line to sink in a slow natural way, mimicking how organic freebies fall in the water, but with enough weight to hold the bait (generally) in position once it reaches the correct depth.

I always start out with 2 line sinkers, and where they’re placed on the line can be broken down in to “shallow fishing” and “deep fishing”. Yes, every angler has their own system, and I’m sure with time you’ll develop your own, this is just my personal “rule of thumb” setup. This shallow and deep analogy probably isn’t the best, but let’s run with it.

Let’s make a comparison of the 2 fishing depths and where the weights should be connected:

1. Shallow Fishing

I’m classing this as fishing almost at the surface, under 2ft, catching (usually) smaller fish that enjoy feeding high in the water. Visually or by using a tape measure, divide the length of line between waggler and hook in to thirds.

Start by testing 1 x No4 split shot one third away from the hook, this will be the smallest weight and depending on conditions and bait size, this maybe enough to sink your line, if not… Add 1 x No1 at the other 1/3 position, closest to the float. This should do the trick, but if more weight is required fix sinkers of a smaller size of the one above, half way in between the two already fitted.

2. Deep Fishing

Setting up sinking weights for deeper fishing is very similar to the above method, but this time your first split shot (No4) wants to be fitted 30cm (1ft) away from your hook, and your second weight (No1) connected 45cm (1.5ft) away from the hook.

When this amount of weight isn’t quite right, I like to use a string of very small No9 (0.05g) split shot running approximately at the 15cm mark away from the hook. You can add and remove sinkers from this lower string to finely tune the speed your line and bait sinks and to prevent your waggler rig from drifting to much in more difficult weather and water conditions.

What are fishing weights made of?

Back in the day, you could of gone fishing with weights made of depleted uranium, and nobody would of batted an eye lid, but thanks to environmental awareness those days are over, which is a good thing! This does however mean a maze of red tape concerning the materials used in fishing equipment. What weights can, and cannot be made from is no exception.

So, are lead split shots illegal in the UK… Yes, and no! Lead weight can be used, but only in certain size ranges. Sizes 14 to 8 are compliant, and so are large sinkers of 1 ounce or over. However, most fishing tackle producers now make their weights from non toxic metals or compounds.

Tungsten, brass, steel, bismuth and hardened clay are common replacements for traditional lead weights, and do exactly the same job. Using one of these alternatives helps keep lakes and rivers cleaner, avoids the chance of poisoning aquatic birds, small mammals and of course fish.

Types of fishing sinkers

Whether your coarse fishing on lakes or rivers, trying to a monster of the deep while sea fishing or even trying your hand at the more gentlemanly past time of fly fishing, the use of rigging weights will be a common theme.

Using the right sinker, paired with an irresistible bait rig, can catch you more fish and will boost your confidence to fish even the most difficult of waters.

Let’s take a look at the different style of fishing weights and briefly cover their use:

1. Bell Sinker

Bell sinkers, as their name suggests are tear drop or bell-shaped, with an eyelet at the tapered point for line and rigging purposes. The eye is usually made of brass, however, some newer version are made from plastic and include “snaps” which allow you to quickly clip-on or take-off the weight, without the stress of retying the rig each and every-time.

Bell fishing weights are very aerodynamic, and are ideal for any style of fishing that requires long casting, such as shore fishing or large lakes. Their shape also reduces the annoyance of snagging and makes fishing “deep” without the need for downriggers, an easy task. They are most effective when used for a three-way rig, bounced or trolled along the waters bed.

2. Bullet Sinker

Cone shaped bullet sinkers are fishing weights that are directly threaded on to your line, with the “pointy end” facing your rod tip. This conical shape makes them prefect for swims full of weeds and plant life. When reeling in they glide through vegetation, helping you land more fish in sometimes difficult waters.

A bullet weight paired with a weedless hook are great for fishing overgrown ponds and lakes, plus can also replace walking sinkers when fishing with a live bait rig. There’s a variety of bullet sinkers to choose from, including fish heads, magnetic, painted and slip sinkers, all allowing you to adapt to the conditions your facing.

3. Split Shot Sinker

Split shot are the most frequently used fishing weights, and are made from pliable metal with a shallow groove carved out of one side of the ball shape, allowing anglers to quickly squeeze shot on to the fishing line, making rig weight experimentation a breeze. There’s a wide range of sizes which you can view in the sinker weight chart below.

There are a few variations of the standard split shot to look out for, such as ones with handles for easier attachment and release, plus oval clam shaped style which are useful for weedy swims and are more snag resistant. Split shot sinkers are great for balancing your baits drift speed on rivers or streams, and “sinking” bait when floater fishing on lakes and ponds.

4. Egg Sinker

Egg shaped sinkers are threaded through center and commonly used in deep or fast flowing water. Egg fishing weights come in to their own when fishing spots with rocky and rubble beds, like old gravel quarry pits. Their used to fish on or just off the bottom and offer very little resistance when a fish bites, great for targeting species that spook easily.

5. Pyramid Sinker

Pyramid fishing weights are designed to anchor bait rigs, to sandy and muddy bottomed waters. The triangular shape allows them to dig in to the soft bed, allowing bait to be held in your desired fishing spot, even in strong currents.

The aerodynamic shape let’s them sink very quickly and the flat edges also helps prevent them being effected by currents. The ideal weight choice for shore fishing, but also great for 3 way rig fishing on murky rivers. Line is attached to eyelet provided on the square base.

6. Bank Sinker

Bank sinkers are teardrop ovate shaped fishing weights suited to long casting situations and tidal rivers and estuary’s. Generally they are used by tying them to the end of your line and rigging a loop knot for hook and bait. Bank weights are designed to allow some degree of drift, and can be bounced along in the current to cover a larger fishing area.

7. Dipsey Sinker

A dipsey sinker is basically the same as a bell sinker, but oval shaped and usually used as part of a 3-way swivel rig. You attach the fishing line to the weight trough the embedded brass wire, and as with the bank sinker is designed to anchor the end of your line to the bottom, with hook and bait presented just off the bed.

8. Claw Sinker

Claw shaped fishing weights are best used for very fast flowing water and super soft sandy bottoms. Shore fishing anglers swear by them! The method is, once cast out your give the line a short sharp tug to dig the “tentacle” extensions in to the ground, securing the bait rig in place.

9. Deep Drop Sinker

Cylinder shaped deep drop fishing weights are used in off shore deep sea fishing. With rate varying from one pound to chunky fourteen pounds, sinking your bait quickly to the ocean floor. The lower weight deep drop sinkers are great if your using an electric reel, and heavier ones for choppy seas with strong currents.

10. Rubber Core Sinker

These weights are similar to split shot with one obvious difference. The sinker contains a rubber grip within the groove, adding protection for your line and are locked in place by twisting the two tabs “ears” in apposite directions. Simply rotate the ear in the other direction to release from the line. They really come in to their own, when fishing with a very long line, and tend to get tangled far less than standard shot.

How to put a sinker on a fishing line

K.I.SS, keep it stupid simple! Connecting weights to your fishing line or rig is a fairly straight forward process, and when learning how to fish it’s best to keep everything “entry level” as possible. There are 3 main types of sinker setups…

Split shot, tied and rubber core. All, are very easy to setup so don’t panic, and after a few goes at rigging each, you’ll be an expert.

Let’s walk you through the process of fitting each combo:

1. Split Shot

  • Once you’ve threaded your float, and selected which size split shot your going to use, check that groove (Pac-Man mouth) is open. You can use the edge of a blade to pries apart if not. Lay your fishing line within the groove at the correct distance from the hook.
  • Next, squeeze together the mouth of the split shot to secure it to the line. It’s best to use your thumb and forefinger, but sometimes the metal can be quite stiff and you may need to use pliers or fishing scissors. Make sure not to squeeze to hard, as this will make removal easier.
  • Lastly, check the split shot for any movement. Tug the weight up and down the line, and if there’s any give tighten a little more. Be careful when doing this, as it easy to break or weaken the line.

2. Tied Knot

  • This time you need to start with a blank slate, and if your line has already have a hook or other sinkers connected, remove them. You only need a plain fishing line when tying on weights.
  • Thread the end of your fishing line through the eyelet (ring) or bored hole, depending on the sinker style. Unlike threading fishing hooks, which can be fiddly, weights usually have decent sized loops to aim at.
  • Pull enough line through the eye to accommodate the length you want your hook and bait to be away from the sinker, and tie a knot or two to fix the weight in position. Again, making sure it’s fitted securely.

3. Rubber Core

  • Just as with split shot, push your fishing line in to the rubber lined groove provided, making sure it’s fitted all the way to the bottom, to help provide a stronger grip.
  • Hold the two protruding tabs at either end of the weight, and twist in opposite directions, wrapping the line around the rubber tabs to secure the sinker to your fishing line.
  • Check that the weight is fixed securely to the line, by applying a little pressure in both direction. You can always tighten the tabs more if you spot any movement.

Fishing sinker weight chart

OK, for the sake of keeping things simple, I’m firstly going to presume your an angling beginner and are “mostly” looking for information about split shot fishing weights, being the most popular sinker, it’s a valid assumption. So, below is a current and up to date split shot size chart.

The sinker chart covers both non-toxic and lead split shot, which are commonly used with float and pole fishing. Remember lead shot can only be used in sizes 8 down to 14 legally in the UK, not sticking to the rules can land you with the confiscation of fishing gear and up to a £5000 fine.


Does the sinker go above or below the hook?

Sinkers, especially split shot are placed above the hook, and at the distance highlighted above. They are used to prevent your line floating on the top of the water, using weight to break the surface tension, thus lowering your bait down to target fishing depth.

Yes, with other types of fishing that use different rigs, sinkers can be placed below the hook, but their purpose is usually to get the correct bait presentation, not to sink your fishing line. We’ll talk about various style of rigging setups in future posts, and I’ll be better able to explain where and why weights are are used.
What goes first the hook or the weight?

Well, when floater fishing the waggler goes on first, but as for the weight or hook, it’s usually better to put the hook on first as you need to factor this in, to determining how much weight to add. Of course, if your using a sinker which connects to the end of your line, like a pyramid or bell weight, these need connecting before the hook.

So, in summary! What ever piece of fishing rig equipment is closest to your rod tip goes on first. This easy to follow rule is true no matter what style of fishing your doing, and always start as light as possible. It’s easier to add to a rig, than remove things. As I’ve said before, we’ll dive in to more complex setup techniques in future posts.


I hope my “how far should the weight be from the hook” has provided a few useful insights in to fishing sinkers and where to place them on your lines. This strong baseline gives your the flexibility to experiment, and find your own preferred weight configuration.

Fishing involves a lot of trial and error, plus every fishing venue and swim will require a slightly different technique. The most important thing is to have fun with it, sometimes it’s the craziest ideas that catch the biggest fish.

About Post Author

Danny Shaw

Hi, I'm Danny. I have been a fisherman for about 10 years and I can't imagine life without this wonderful hobby! To me, fishing is a passion and a lifestyle. The joy of the catch, the bait, the tackle and the outdoors and that's what Trout Fishery is about.
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