Attaching some weight to your leader seems like a super simple task to accomplish, but when it comes to sockeye fishing there are certain methods that seem to dramatically increase your success and simultaneously decrease your time dealing with tangles. In addition, the amount of weight you add to your leader can often be the #1 factor that controls whether you go home with a limit, or an empty stringer. You’ll definitely want to pay attention to this one…





Rubber Core – Rubber core sinkers have been around forever, and for decades they were found on the vast majority of sockeye salmon setups. They were popular because they were easy to find, easy to use, and relatively cheap. But as sockeye fishing has evolved, these weights have become far less commonplace due to their many flaws. They slide around on your leader, the rubber interior makes them less dense than other fishing weights, and they fall off with some regularity. While these weights will work in a pinch, in my opinion there are much better options available.


Pencil Lead – A big step up in many ways, pencil lead is a popular choice for sockeye anglers as well as other fisheries in which a drift is involved. The major benefits of pencil lead is that it’s extremely cheap, and you can really dial in the exact amount of weight you want to add. The downside of pencil lead is that it requires a special tool (lead punch pliers), and it takes a very large/long piece to be effective when flows are high. In low to normal flows, pencil lead attached to a swivel at the top of your leader is a great option!


Split Shot – While I don’t recommend using split shot as the main lead source while sockeye fishing, it definitely can be a great tool when added to your existing weight.  There are many times in which you need just a little bit more weight, and rather than completely switching out your sinker you can simply add a split shot and be right in the zone very quickly.  I recommend that you keep a small assortment of split shots in your sockeye salmon fishing arsenal because they’ll likely come in handy.


Bell Sinker – After many seasons of experimenting with different options, the bell sinker has become my very favorite weight to use when fishing for sockeye salmon.  They can be rigged at the top of your leader using a 3-way swivel and a snap (see picture at top of this blog), or you can use a regular snap-swivel.  These weights seem to bounce along the bottom nicely, are super easy to change out or remove, come in a wide variety of sizes, and they last a long time. On the Kenai River we typically utilize anywhere from 3/8 oz. to 1 oz., increasing the amount of weight as the water flows increase. Bell sinkers are almost the perfect sockeye weight, and not only do I highly encourage you to have an assortment in your tackle box, but at the head of your leader when doing the sockeye flip!



As mentioned above, getting your weight dialed in is one of the most important components of your sockeye fishing system, and next to presentation it will control the quantity of fish you hook as much or more than anything else.  Try different riggings and see what works best for you…
As always, if you have an alternative sinker option that you like to use but we left off the list, please let us know!




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