Getting into the zone: bean to spoon sinkers explain

The first part of this series looked at snapper and star sinkers, now we look at bean / ball sinkers, burley sinkers, split-shot and spoon sinkers.


Bean and ball sinkers are named after their shape. Rather than having a fixed point for the mainline to be tied to these differ by having a hole through the length of the sinker for your line to run through.

The sinker offers a variety of uses but its principal use is for running sinker rigs. This rig involves threading a sinker onto your line and allowing it to run free between two fixed points. The two points may be the knot between your mainline and leader, swivels, rings or the eye of a hook on the end of your line. An advantage of this setup is it allows your bait to move freely in any water movement as the sinker is not burdened by edges to hinder its activity and the free-flowing line allows the bait to move with reduced restraint.

A running bean sinker makes a good bream bait rig

Sinker selection should be based on the depth of the water you are fishing, the amount of water movement you can notice or the size and type of bait (dead versus live) being used.


Burley sinkers are best used for the bread and butter type species of fish such as whiting, herring, tarwhine etc. They are designed with a lead weight at the base of a cage made to hold a lump of burley. At the top of the cage is a small loop for connecting to your line. Due to the target species they are meant for you will not tend to find them in heavy weights.

This sinker is all about using burley to attract fish to your bait. They are quite adaptable and can be used in the boat, off a rock wall or even on the beach but given they are generally designed with simple sinkers the conditions should be kind enough for them to be used.

Choose your sinker based around the same principles you find in the categories above that are relevant to the location you are fishing.


Split-shots look like a small grey Pacman with a diameter of around 3-4mm. What would otherwise be the Pacman's mouth is a small channel across the sinker designed for your line to be placed into and the sinker then clamped over the line with a pair of pliers or your teeth if there's nothing remotely better around (watch the lead poisoning though!).

The purpose of these sinkers is to provide small amounts of weight for when you need to get bait under the water but not necessarily drop it to the bottom. For example when fishing for herring or garfish they can be connected to the line to create a small weight allowing the speed the un-weighted bait to drop through the water at perfect descent rate for attracting herring to attack baits. This can be difficult when the wind or swell is up though so the conditions should be appropriate to the weight used. Depending on the conditions a split-shot or two crimped onto the line down near the hooks is all it needs to provide that extra amount of weight to keep it slowly falling through the water.

Grapnel sinkers dig in and are great for rough surf conditions and strong currents

Select the weight to use based on the strength of the wind or current or the size float you are using (ie don't use a sinker that will weigh down the float).


Spoon sinkers are shaped like a piece of lead poured into a dessert spoon with a hole drilled through the top for your line to be connected to.

These sinkers can be used from a boat or off the shore. They are recognised for their ability to reduce snagging due to the way their shape moves them through the water. Spoon sinkers are designed to lift quickly off the bottom and plane through the water on retrieval as opposed to dragging along the bottom like less aerodynamic sinkers tend to do. Keep in mind that this shape also causes the sinker to flutter to the bottom as opposed to the pointed drop of a snapper lead so if you're fishing small sand patches or spots where accuracy in your drop is required then they may not be the best option.

Remember that these aren't the only sinkers available to fish with. There are a raft of different options not covered that are available for purchase - grapnel, channel, barrel, cone, bar or ledge sinkers are a few of the other choices. These six are simply that that tend to be the most popular all-round types of sinkers.

There are many different opinions and experiences regarding what sinkers are best used where. Many of the features and benefits these six can bring your fishing are indisputable but different people will always hold true to what has worked for them in the past. Take these ideas and try them for yourself but don't be afraid to experiment with different sinkers in different situations to find what works best for you and the fish you're trying to catch. This is one of the great things about fishing that anyone can develop a way that works best for them and their fish.