Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review: Tin Split Shot Part 1

A Fistful of Tin
Yes, other sites offer you reviews of rods or the latest reels or even stupendous, high-tech backpacks. But I go beyond the flashy gear to the nitty-gritty details that really matter.

As you may recall from my Busted Crap article tin split shot practically ruined an afternoon of fishing while in Alaska. The stuff broke, slipped off the leader, slipped down the leader and did everything you wouldn't want a split shot to do. I switched to lead shot offered by Tony and that prevented the afternoon from being a total loss. That lead stuff squashes onto a leader the way a split shot should.

As a rule, I don't buy lead shot and, with the exception of Alaska, I don't fish it. It takes a toll on waterfowl who might ingest it and it's also been reported to take it's toll on fish as well. So I'm going to have to find a tin alternative that works well or continue to be frustrated by the crappy tin stuff I already have. 

Now in fairness, I've never had big problems with Orvis tin split shot coming off of 4x leaders while trout fishing. We were using twelve and sixteen pound test on the Salmon and 'Bows in AK. So part of the problem may have been that tin can handle small stuff but is too rigid to form around thicker leaders.

I could probably just get by for the remainder of the season fishing what I've got if not for the fact that I'm heading up to Pulaski in thirty days to hammer the steel (wishful thinking) and I'm going to need some weight on a pretty stout leader. It's time to over analyze evaluate the alternatives.

In assessing the performance of lead split shot I attribute it's quality (beyond weight) to be mainly due to its mashability. You can give it a good squeeze and it seems to deform around the leader yielding good grip. Sure it'll slip now and then but it's a pretty reliable benchmark from a performance perspective. My experience with the Orvis tin shot in Alaska was just the opposite; fierce resistance to mashing and breakage when forced to conform.

The Line-up
I started by buying one of every sort of tin shot I could find on the market. Here's what I have.
  • Dinsmores Egg Shot
  • Boss Tin Split Shot
  • Thill Gold Medal Double Cut Soft Shot
  • Gremlin Green Removable Split Shot
  • TIN by Bullet Weights
  • Orvis Tin Split Shot (from the Alaska trip)
Lumps of Tin from Dinsmores, Boss Tin, Thill, Gremlin, TIN and Orvis

I found Anchor Tackle's Double Cut Blue on the web after I began the test protocol. They bill their stuff as "Non-toxic", "Super Soft" and "Easy to Open". I may have missed the ultimate split shot. Or maybe that's just the voices of marketing people echoing in my head. It'll have to wait for my follow-up article "Tin Redux"

First Impressions
At first glance some of this stuff looks more promising than others. Dinsmores looks like the Orvis shot as does the Boss Tin so I'm not hopeful on the front. Thill is marketed as "Soft Shot" so that sounds good even though the stuff looks suspiciously like the previous two. Gremlin and TIN have the "removable" design which is similar to the lead shot I used successfully so I'm inclined to believe these two have the most promise.

The Tests
I figure there are two tests to perform to truly assess the quality of this tackle. First a "mashability" test. Simple to execute: Grab a split shot, mash is with approximately the same force and see which mashes best. My hypothesis is that more malleable shot will not only close around the line better but it will also not break. The second test will be the castability. I'll mash a sample of each shot on a bit of 12 lb tippet and a length of 4x tippet and then cast them like a bullwhip. This will be a true test of which grip and which slip (or leap off the line altogether).

Test 1: Mashability
I have no special equipment for this test. I'm simply going to apply what I judge to be consistent pressure using a pair of needle nose pliers that I keep on my fly tying desk. And I'm not going to measure the deformation with a caliper, I'm simply going to eyeball the mashedness of the shot and give it a score.

So I did that (pictures below).

How'd they rank? Well I rate Thill the winner as that stuff'll just mash down to nothing. The removables tie for second place. In fact, not knowing better, I'd say they were manufactured by the same company. The Boss Tin and Dinsmore performed about equally well. Pretty solid mashers both. The Orvis shot clearly came at the end. Instead of mashing, the Orvis shot kinda just dented on the sides. It's tough stuff. But that's not what we're looking for.
Highly scientific ranking

So this is all nice and such but it's in the casting that one truly discovers the quality of split shot. I'll get around to performing Test 2 this weekend and report back next Tuesday on my findings. My hypothesis is that on 4x most of this stuff is going to perform pretty well. The 12 lb tippet will separate the grippers from the slippers.

Before and After Shots

Boss Tin
TIN Bullet
Gremlin Tin
Gremlin Tin vs Gremlin Lead. About
the same mashability


  1. Dude this is so Culvert. You are already a steelhead fisherman. Congratulations!

    The right shot has been very much on my mind of late. Looking forward to your second article!

    PS. Thinking about steelhead, what do you mean by the word "casting"?!%

  2. Damn, maybe I AM Culvert.

    Counting the days.

  3. PS. You failed to mention color. People take this very seriously, you know. I know a man (let's call him The Fisherman) who soaks his balls in vinegar to decrease shine because this might scare the steel. Quite how the shiny estaz egg at the end differs, I couldn't possibly say ;-)

  4. Z-

    Forget the tin...terrible stuff. Now get yourself some lead...and a can of krylon brown primer...perfect combo for that stretch of water in POO LA SKY

  5. Crap. Now I have to consider whether I should paint them or soak them in vinegar?! This crap can get out of hand.

  6. I used to soak my balls in vinegar for the same reason, but then somebody pointed out to me that the fish can't see through my waders.

  7. I must check that spam filter again.

  8. Spam filters are sooooo not culvert.

  9. Spam, spam , chips n spam.

    [Is anyone fishing tomorrow, Steve?]

  10. [In Nueva Hampshire. May cast a bushy fly on a small brook trout stream this evening]