Fishing Sinkers – Types, Sizes & Uses

Tackle Advice, Terminal Tackle

Put simply, sinkers are weights which are used to pull your baited hook to a desired depth. They are conventionally made from poured lead, but due to the environmental and health concerns associated with lead they are increasingly being produced from other dense materials instead. Regardless of what they’re made from, sinkers come in various styles designed for different fishing methods, and range from those weighed in tenths of an ounce all the way to those weighed in the pounds. Just like hooks, sinkers are your friends and when used correctly can present your bait to fish in a much more effective manner.

Sinker Style

There are sinkers which crimp on your line and then there are others which allow the line to move freely through it, there are even those that do not get hung up on the bottom, as their shape prevents them getting stuck in the cracks between rocks.

The most common types of sinker are discussed below:

Bell sinker

A bell-shaped sinker which generally attaches to the line via a ring at top of the bell. It is mainly used for fishing below the hook and dragging on the bottom.

Bell Sinker

Bullet Weight Sinker

As the name suggests, these sinkers are shaped like bullets and have a hole through the middle where the line attaches. These sinkers are commonly used when worm fishing for bass and work well when positioned on the line in front of soft plastics.

Bullet Weight Sinkers

Split Shot Sinker

A spherical soft lead weight with a groove running through it, the line is put into the groove and the sinker is then pinched tight to hold it in position. Split shot sinkers are easy to get on and off the line and so are perfect for those situations when you need a little extra weight. For most fishing situations, split shot sinkers will do the job.

Split Shot Sinkers

Egg Sinker

Shaped like an egg, these sinkers have a hole through the centre, this is where the line attaches. Compared to other shapes, these sinkers pass over rocks and rubble with less resistance and are commonly used for fishing in currents and deep water.

Egg Sinker

Pyramid Sinker

The pyramid shape allows these sinkers to dig into soft surfaces such as sand or mud very well, allowing the bait to be held fairly still in a current, they also drop to the bottom very quickly.

Pyramid Sinker

Bank Sinker

Bank sinkers are long and rounded with a small hole at the top where the line attaches. They are generally good options when using river rigs and when dropshotting.

Bank Sinker


It’s important to remember that fish don’t care about sinkers. The only thing they are interested in is the bait, and the way it is presented.  Try to view sinkers like this: Their only function is to assist you in presenting the bait. If you can present your bait effectively without using a sinker, do it. However, if your bait isn’t reaching the fish that you want it to due to a strong current or because the bait isn’t dropping to the right depth, use a sinker.

Sinker Size

The majority of sinkers are sized based on their weight, but split shot, possibly the most popular type of sinker, is sized differently. Bullet Weight sinkers used for bass fishing usually range from one-sixteenth of an ounce to one ounce, whilst egg sinkers used when fishing rivers tend to start at one-quarter ounce and go all the way up to several ounces in weight. The largest sinkers are saltwater sinkers used for halibut fishing in strong currents and these can weigh up to a pound each!

Many small sinkers such as split shot come in sizes ranging from BB to 1, whereby larger numbers signify lighter sinkers. Having a combination of sizes in your tackle box allows you to fine-tune the weight on your line and get your hook to the perfect depth. It is also worth keeping in mind that split shot sinkers can be opened and removed, meaning you can reuse them.


Always try to use the smallest sinker possible which will get your bait to where you want it. Heavy sinkers should be used when fishing in strong currents, getting bait very deep or when making long casts. Sinkers can make the bait appear unnatural to fish and prevent bites, therefore never use more weight than is required.

Sinker Material

The choice material for modern day sinkers has always been lead as it is particularly soft and dense. However due to environmental fears, new materials such as brass and cadmium have started to be used instead. Most of the time these replacements are more expensive, do not work as well, and if used in split shot sinkers, can cut the line when forced closed. To put it simply, stick to lead sinkers if they are permitted where you fish.

Where to Start

Picking up a variety pack of split shot sinkers is the perfect way to start your sinker collection. They work well in most fishing situations and are the first sinkers that most fishermen will reach for. It is also worth picking up a few bank sinkers — particularly if you are planning to fish in moving water. When buying bank sinkers, try to get a range of weights, all the way up to several ounces as it is hard to predict the strength of current you will be fighting. Egg or in-line sinkers should probably be your lowest priority to buy when starting out, they are useful but generally have more niche situations.

By starting with a few sinkers of different types and having a range of weights, you should be prepared for most fishing situations. If you do find that you cannot fish the way you desire, you’ll hopefully know what type (or weight) of sinker to buy next time you’re in the tackle shop.

A range of carp fishing sinkers

Storing your sinkers

Carrying around a lot of sinkers can be a bit of an issue as it can start to get quite heavy and they can cause disruption in your tackle box. For this reason many anglers prefer to keep them separate, with plastic tupperware and leather/cloth pouches being the preferred vessels for them. However, try to keep your split shot sinkers to hand as they are often needed at short notice.


Fishermen who chew lead split shot sinkers whilst fishing are just asking for lead poisoning. Don’t do this, it seems pretty obvious, but keep the lead sinkers out of your mouth, wash your hands after using them and dispose of broken lead sinkers appropriately.