"A finesse split shot rig is my first choice when the water's clear, and I know they're around but I can't get them to bite," says Elite Series pro Aaron Martens. "It's not an easy way to fish. You've got to have the right tackle and use the right techniques, but it'll make them bite. I've caught big ones in 2 feet of water and in 50."
It all starts with a long flexible spinning rod — 6 feet, 10 inches — and an open-faced reel with a big spool. "The long rod helps me make long casts and gives me better control. And the big spool helps avoid line twist — a big problem when you're split shotting. The best rods are my Signature Series from Megabass paired with a Daiwa reel. I designed the rods just for this."
His line is Sunline fluorocarbon. "You can't beat fluorocarbon. On a long cast it really makes a big difference. It's almost invisible and has better sensitivity and feel than mono."
Martens uses a wide variety of weights but his favorite is a simple, round split shot. He reasons that their shape lets them bounce along the bottom, giving the bait a more natural action. And they have the added benefit of not fouling or snagging as much as the pincher style.
His choice of plastics is a short, straight tailed Roboworm. For low profile applications he reaches for a Straight Worm, if he needs a little more bulk he'll toss a Special FX.
Either way it'll be hooked on a Robo Gamakatsu ReBarb Hook. "It's a strong, thin-wire O'Shaughnessy style. They're the best. But the most import thing about it is the ReBarb. It's a little piece of plastic on the shank that keeps the worm from sliding down."
After you're properly rigged it's time to go fishing and follow Martens' five rules.
Martens' 5 Rules of Successful Split Shotting
1. Keep your split shot in place.
"Fluorocarbon line causes split shots to slide down towards the hook. I keep mine in place by running a short piece of shrink tubing up my line and then crimping the weight real tight over that." (Do not apply heat!)
2. Rig your worm straight.
"Line twist is a problem with split shots. Fluorocarbon makes it worse. Rig your worm perfectly straight so it doesn't spin. I test mine by pulling it through the water alongside the boat."
3. Don't reel.
"Never move your bait by reeling. Keep your rod down and almost straight with your line. Then drag it."
4. Fish slow.
"It's real easy to fish this rig too fast. I usually take between 5 and 10 minutes on a cast. I know that sounds ridiculous but that's what you've got to do. Try to drag it without moving it."
5. Don't get in a hurry to set the hook.
"Take your time when you feel a bite — the fish isn't going anywhere. Reel down until you feel tension, and then give it a hard snap."