Slip Sinker Rig: The One “Must Know” Catfish Rig

Chad Ferguson Catfish EdgeIf you’re only going to learn one catfish rig, the slip sinker rig is an excellent choice and considered one of the essential catfish rigs for many anglers.

Bass fishermen use a similar setup commonly referred to as the “Carolina rig”. The slip sinker rig is the same setup but the tackle used when fishing for catfish is much difference. Catfish anglers generally refer to this as a slip sinker rig and it’s rare to hear the term “Carolina rig” from a catfish angler.

The slip sinker rig is one of the most popular catfish rigs and the “go to” setup for fishing for catfish for many anglers across the United States.

It’s not fancy, it’s not complicated but it’s versatile and….

  • It can be used for fishing on anchor, drift fishing, fishing vertical, using techniques like controlled drifting or fished on the bottom with a “tight line”.
  • It can be used for all three of the major species of catfish, blues, channels and flatheads.
  • It can also be used in any body of water from lakes and reservoirs to big rivers or ponds and everything in between.

Popularity of the Slip Sinker Rig

The slip sinker rig is popular for several reasons:

  • It allows catfish to pull line without meeting significant resistance from the sinker.
  • It allows functional use of the bait clicker (line alarm) allowing fish to “run” with the bait
  • It’s effective for smaller fish and big trophy class cats as well.
  • Adding a small peg float helps lift the bait off the bottom of the lake or river, turning it into a Santee rig
  • It’s versatile for fishing with a number of different types of catfish baits.

Items Needed For The Slip Sinker Catfish Rig

Leader Line: 40 to 50 Lb clear monofilament leader or fluorocarbon leader. The heavier weight leader line helps serve as a shock absorber during aggressive strikes as well as additional abrasion resistance for the rough mouth of a catfish.

Hook: Any hook will work for the most part so you’re preferred option is fine. For channel catfish fishing with prepared baits we prefer a #4 or #6 4X strong treble hook. For blue catfish, flatheads and larger channel cats then circle hooks are our favorites. Popular circle hook options are the Team Catfish Double Action Circle Hook in size 5/0 or 8/0. If you prefer an octopus style circle hook check out the Whisker Seeker Octo-Circle.

Swivel: There’s many sizes and styles of barrel swivels that will work. You can use the basic brass barrel swivel or for extra performance try something like a ball bearing swivel or crane swivel. Popular sizes are size 1/0 and size three. Just tailor the swivel size to the size catfish you’ll be targeting.

Sinker/Weight: Egg sinkers or no roll sinker are preferred by most catfish anglers when fishing on anchor or suspend fishing cats with the slip sinker rig. For drift fishing consider using a snagless drift fishing sinker like the Team Catfish Smooth Operator Sinker.

For more in depth information on the catfishing gear needed for this rig and more be sure to check out the Ultimate Guide To Catfishing Gear.

Slip Sinker Catfish Rig

How To Tie The Slip Sinker Rig

  • Determine leader length and cut to appropriate length (allow a couple of extra inches for knot tying etc so you have some room to work with). Twelve to eighteen inches is a good general length and is preferred by most anglers.
  • The longer the leader the more a fish can move with your bait without you feeling it and the more the bait will move around in the water.
  • Longer leaders also have tendency to hang up more so if you are fishing in water where there are a lot of snags or you are having problems getting hung up, try shortening your leader.
  • For aggressive fish a longer leader can be used but when fish are less aggressive a shorter leader length will give you greater feeling and you’ll know sooner when a fish is “playing” with your bait.
  • Tie the hook to the leader line using a Palomar knot or the easy snell knot. The easy snell is preferred for circles as it impacts the hook direction and can affect the hook set. Learn more about these knots in the four fishing knots every catfish angler should know.
  • Tie the swivel to the leader using a Palomar knot.
  • Slide an egg sinker, no roll sinker or other sliding sinker on the main line (fishing line going to your reel) .
  • Slide a bead or sinker bumper on the main line after the sinker. This helps absorb the impact of the sinker sliding into the swivel and protects the knot.
  • Tie main line (from your fishing reel) to the end of swivel that’s not tied to the leader using a Trilene knot.
  • Cut the excess line from all knots.

When you’re done the slip sinker rig should look like the illustration above

Here’s The Video Walkthrough




Beads and Bumpers, Are They Necessary?

Most instructions you’ll find on the slip sinker rig will tell you that the weight constantly banging into the swivel will cause the knot to weaken or the line to break and you must use a sinker bumper or bead.Team Catfish Sinker Bumper

I’ve been a catfish guide over 15 years and have countless years experience targeting catfish prior to that . In that time i’ve never once had my line break or a knot fail because I didn’t have a bead or bumper on a slip sinker rig.

If you’re fishing rivers with heavy current or using larger heavy sinkers then it’s a good idea to use a bumper or bead. If you’re fishing in still water and using smaller sinkers they’re really not necessary in many applications.

They’re an inexpensive piece of tackle and easy so I do recommend their use but not nearly as essential as many will make you believe they are.

The Must Know Catfishing Rig

The slip sinker rig is one of the most popular ways to rig for catfish due to the versatility and effectiveness, and definitely a catfishing rig you should try if you’ve never used it before.

Experiment with leader length and try using this catfishing rig with different catfishing techniques and you’ll find that it’s an effective and versatile way of setting up that works very well for catching all species of catfish.

If you’re fishing with circle hooks like we suggest make sure you’re using a catfish rod that’s built to perform well with circle hooks and made for catching catfish of all sizes like my Chad Ferguson Signature Series Catfish Rod.

To get on the fast track to catching more catfish check out the Catfish Edge products. These in depth guides are meant to help provide all the details you need for catching catfish using different techniques or during different seasons. They’re like a guided fishing trip at a fraction of the cost of being on the water.

Want More On Catfish Rigs?

Check out all of our tutorials on catfish rigs covering everything you need to know and more. You’ll learn the essentials of rigging for different species of catfish and different catfishing techniques here at the catfish rigs page.

Article Name
Slip Sinker Rig: The One
The slip sinker rig is what many consider to be one of the best catfish rigs for a variety of techniques and catfish species. The "must know" catfishing rig
Summer Channel Catfish Techniques


    • JUSTIN says

      Just getting into catfishing

      I have tried fishing this rig in a fast moving current while bank fishing and i find my rod tip is constantly dipping up and down. I am using a fishing weight slider with pyramid sinkers usually 3oz followed by a barrel swivel with 18 to 23 inch leader and a 5/0 circle. I know my weight is on bottom and stuck i believe its the current pulling and slacking my bait is there a trick to getting around this or would you recommend a different rig for fast currents?

      Thank You

  1. Lance Rollins says

    When fishing on anchor which catfish rig do you prefer? If you use the slip sinker rig do you use a cork to keep your bait up? I sometimes find the cork causes the bait to become entangled in the main line…….. curious

  2. Bigdipper says

    I’ve been fishing for over 50 years but never for Catfish
    I think it is time to learn, thanks for the advise.

  3. Harvey says

    The three way rig, with two droppers is superior to the touted slip rig for two major reasons.
    Snags and snags. A slip rig, when snagged, requires the angler to over stress the main line.

  4. john b dixon says

    ched, i like to ask your advice on something . me and my wife fish for catfish on the tchefunteriver in a little town in madisonville la. at night when the days gets to hot for us. will here our problems. every year they have parades doing mardi gran. and unfortunatly they have mardi gran there too. and the beads go in the river. i dont like it. but what can i do. will anyway when me and my wife fishing for catfish we get hung up on them dam beads on bottom is there anything i can do to stop from getting hung up. we wood appeciate . thanks. john and donna dixon

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