Bottom Fishing Rigs Basics, Hooks, Leader

Posted on August 24th, 2013 by Mike

Captain Jose Wejebe unceremoniously tied a husky sinker at the end of a mono leader, looped a hook on a dropper six feet above the weight, impaled a frisky pilchard, and promptly lowered the rig to the bottom.  The response came quickly in the form of a respectable mutton snapper.  “You have to put the bait where the fish want it,” he said as he unhooked his catch.  “Terminal gear doesn’t have to be fancy as long as it presents the bait in a natural manner.”

Anglers on every coast swear by local preferences or a multitude of variations when preparing bottom rigs, but there are a few basic standbys that won’t disappoint you regardless of where you choose to fish.  As you make each rig, follow a handful of guidelines.

Use the smallest swivels, lightest sinkers, and finest diameter leader material consistent with conditions.  The less hardware you use and the more inconspicuous it is the better.

Hook size and style should be tailored to the species, tackle, and the bait.  Always use the freshest bait you can find and change it frequently.  Then, get the bait down to the correct depth, make sure it looks natural, and the results should be positive.

The five rigs illustrated will handle the majority of bottom assignments.  Names may change, but the concepts for each one have withstood the test of time on the fishing grounds.


The High/Low terminal rig enables an angler to fish two baits just above the bottom.  It is easy to tie and can be fashioned without hardware.  Hooks and sinker are looped on rather than tied.  Variations include the use of swivels in place of dropper loops and longer leaders to the hooks.  The height of the hooks above the sinker can also be adjusted. 


A sliding sinker rig puts the bait on the bottom and then allows a fish to pick it up without feeling the weight or drag of a sinker.  In southern waters over reefs, the sliding egg sinker holds the edge.  The line is slipped through the sinker and then tied to a swivel that acts as a sinker stop.

Surf fishermen opt for a pyramid sinker hung from a sinker slide.  The pyramid tends to anchor the rig in the churning waters of the beachfront.  If you don’t have a sinker slide, a swivel will do the same thing.  Some anglers tie a short length of light line to the swivel or slide and then attach it to the sinker.  If the sinker hangs in the bottom, the light line breaks easily and the rest of the rig is saved.


This very effective rig tempts a number of species from fluke to striped bass.  The dipsy sinker helps the rig to roll across the bottom and one fishing technique centers on casting it out and then moving it back toward you slowly.  The length of the single leader varies between 3 feet and 6 feet.  Hook style and bait should be matched to the species.


A favorite aboard party boats along the South Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, the Adjustable Sinker Rig can be used with single strand wire or monofilament leader.  Simply thread the leader through the center of an egg sinker, loop the leader around the sinker, and put it through the hole a second time (go through a third time with mono).  Depending on current, drift, and other factors, the sinker can be set anywhere along the leader.  You have the option of using a single, double, or triple hook setup depending on the species and the bait.


The Drift Rig drags one bait along the bottom, while a second bait hangs a couple of feet above the sea floor.  It is particularly effective when searching for several different species.  Although the illustration shows an egg sinker, it can be tied with a pyramid sinker or any other type by using a swivel or sinker slide.

Article by Mark Sosin –