The zero rig is one of the catfish rigs that’s not something you’ll use day in and day out like the slip sinker rig or santee rig. It’s more of a “tactical” rig for specific situations and presentations.
The zero rig is essentially the same catfishing rig as a slip sinker rig but it eliminates the use of the leader and barrel swivel. This allows the sliding sinker (like an egg sinker or no roll sinker) to rest directly against the eye of the hook.
The lack of leader on the zero rig allows you to fish directly against and around heavy cover with minimal hangups. In addition, the lack of leader allows you to reduce the movement of the bait, which may be helpful in some situations.
I first started using this setup after a big flooding spring rain. I was fishing an area that had always held catfish after a big rain and there was water flowing in at a rapid rate, which is not common in lakes and reservoirs where I guide.
I’d never once cast a bait into this area following a big rain and not caught fish, but this time I was not getting even a nibble.
By chance, I noticed a rough spot in the leader line of one of my santee rigs and cut the 24 inch leader to get past the rough spot, reducing the chance of a break off. Rather than making a new rig I tied what was left back on and was fishing with a leader that was about 10 inches long.
Immediately after casting this shorter leader in the water I started getting bites, but I still wasn’t catching. Through the process of experimentation I found that the shorter the leader length, the more activity I was getting and the more fish I caught.
I decided the rapid moving water was causing too much action with the baits and that’s what was causing me to not get bites with the slip sinker and santee rigs.
This resulted in me fishing with what I now call a zero rig.
I watched other anglers venture into the area fishing with the old trusty slip sinker rig and not catch anything. They sat right beside my clients and I, wondering how exactly it was that I was producing fish and they weren’t.
It was all about the action of the bait, sometimes less is more.
When approaching these areas and fishing these techniques (typically in the spring) I always venture in with a more traditional “go to” catfish rig but if that doesn’t produce I default back to the zero rig.
It’s also excellent for presenting baits around brush piles, logs and other heavy cover where a more traditional catfish rig would snag.
How To Tie The Zero Rig
It doesn’t get much simpler than this.
- Thread a sliding sinker (an egg or no roll sinker) on the main line (running to the reel).
- Thread a bead or bumper onto the main line (to protect the knot).
- Attach your preferred catfish hook using your knot of choice (here’s four simple and very effective knots for catfishing).
Learn more about choosing the right hooks, terminal tackle and more in our Ultimate Guide To Catfishing Gear.
When To Use The Zero Rig
- When you need to reduce the action of the bait. This could be when fishing in heavy current or just when you are getting short bites.
- When you need to fish against or in heavy cover and reduce the chance of snags. It’s a simple and easy alternative to the drop shot rig.