The Truth about Sinkers

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The Truth About Sinkers Paul Walker looks at the wide world of sinkers and how we have come from using rocks and old bolts to some very sophisticated ‘lumps’ of lead.

Sinker Selection

Over the years I guess anything that was small and heavy has been used as a sinker. Rocks, nuts and bolts, short bits of chain, spark plugs, steel and of course lead. Today it’s very much all about lead and while you may see a sinker as simply just a lump of lead, there is more to them than you might realise. While lead may have become the material of choice for sinkers due to its low cost, ease of production and casting, chemical inertness (resistance to corrosion), and density, it is known to cause lead poisoning. Because these enter the environment as a result of the occasionally inevitable loss while fishing, most lead-based fishing sinkers have been outlawed in the United Kingdom, Canada, and some states in the United States. 

These bans have motivated the use of various other materials in sinkers. New Zealand has no such laws (yet) banning the use of lead sinkers. Steel, brass, and bismuth sinkers have been marketed, but fishermen have not widely adopted them due to their lower density and higher cost compared to lead. Sandsinkers have also been developed, using sand as weight. However, sand has a comparably low density to that of lead and makes a poor replacement. Tungsten is now in use, especially in the USA among largemouth bass fishermen and although several times costlier than lead, tungsten is just under twice as dense as lead.

The environmental effects of tungsten, however, are essentially unknown. More recently, terminal tackle manufacturers have been experimenting with high-density composite resins. These materials present a non-toxic alternative to lead sinkers at a lower monetary cost than alternative metallic sinkers. Like most things in fishing tackle, the different shapes and styles work well at what they are specifically designed for. Use them in a different application and chances are they won’t work so well. Over the years, innovations have come and gone. Some caught on because they worked well and were easy to use. Others flopped because they weren’t. If you go to Wikipedia they describe a sinker as; A weight used in conjunction with a fishing lure or hook to increase its rate of sink, anchoring ability, and/or casting distance. Fishing sinkers may be as small as 1 gram for applications in shallow water, and even smaller for fly fishing applications, or as large as several pounds or considerably more for deep sea fishing. They are formed into nearly innumerable shapes for diverse fishing applications.

Types of Sinkers

Deep Water Sinkers Sink

These are designed to get down quickly in deep water. They are generally long and tubular or bomb shaped with most of the weight at the end to stop the sinker tipping back and tangling in the line. Use up to 1134 grams (40oz) or more for hapuka and other big deep-water species, but you can use lighter weight if you are fishing for Terakihi, Snapper, and Gurnard because of the lighter main line used for these species. Deepwater sinkers, however, are great to use on Snapper and Terakihi flasher rigs.


These are great for general boat fishing if a bit of a current is expected. This shape locks in and doesn’t tend to roll or move about much. They are best placed above the swivel with a medium to long trace. They work well when fishing in channels.


Ball sinkers are best used in areas of little or no current unless you are using the current to move your bait along the bottom. They are available in large 227g (8oz) to very small sizes, 7g (1/4oz) Ball sinkers are very popular for stray lining.


These serve the same purposes as the ball sinker, but in my opinion make an even better stray line sinker, as their bullet shape is more aerodynamic and therefore they can be cast for longer distances.

Sand Grabbers

These are not so popular now and are an old style sinker used in channels or strong currents on a static line.

Break Out

These are mainly used by surf casters or rock fishermen but are also very versatile on boats for fishing over reefs with ledger rigs or flasher rigs. They almost always stay in place and seldom snag. These sinkers have four long stainless wire fingers, which lock into the bottom, but break away when retrieving. You then you reset the wire back into the sinker before you cast again.

Easy Fit

These sinkers have become very popular because there is no need to cut the line from the swivel to fit them. Quick and easy, they are some brands, each having a slightly different fixing method and a range of increasing weights up to about 227g (8oz).

Clip Ons

As the name suggests, when they are moulded a clip swivel is inserted into the lead while it is still hot molten. There have been several shapes over the years, but a teardrop shape seems to have won through. They are a very versatile sinker and can be used in a variety of fishing types. Ranging from 28g (1oz) to 567g (20oz), there is a weight to suit most needs. They are excellent on dropper rigs and for surfcasting and they are quick and easy to use. More or less weight can be added or removed as required, very simply.


Specifically designed for long distance casting with surf rods, they are long and pointed at both ends with most of the weight at the middle or made as a very long teardrop with weights up to about 142g (5oz). These are perhaps best left to surfcasting and are seldom used in boat fishing.

Others and New Stuff

here is a host of many other specialised sinkers, but most are not used in general fishing so I won’t bother with them in this article, but here are some notes on a few you may find useful are as follows: Split Shot -Very small lead buckshot, which you crimp over very light lines. Rubber Lock – A long egg sinker with rubber twist locks at each end, which are designed to lock the line in place. Lead Spring – As the name suggests, small pieces of lead spring are designed to wind your line around. In the future, we may see more lead sinkers encased in plastic. 

This has already been done in anticipation of tighter environmental controls on the use of lead. One range of products new to the market is the sinker sock. Have a look at these, as they may be the way of the future. I hope this article helps a bit next time you are looking to purchase sinkers – and it may just bring you luck One thing I will say about sinkers is you have an anchor at the front of your boat you don’t need another one at the end of your fishing line. Try using just enough weight to get you to the bottom and hold your bait there. Too much lead will spook the fish your trying to catch and also make it harder to detect bites as sometimes big fish bite very softly. This is one case where small is good.

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