If the Internet is good for anything, it seems to be its ability to confuse you about which is the best fishing gear you can get. It is well documented here on the glorious Internet with tests and all sorts of technical data that seems to go either way. Then you get the angler that will tell you that one is better than the other and feel a smidge judged when you don't use what they do or feel a swell of pride that you do. Here is where it matters, in my humble opinion: distance for casting and a solid hold on my bait when it lands.
If you're new to surf fishing, you'll find several different varieties of sinkers: Bank, pyramid, egg, storm, Sputnik, and even homemade ones with grapple hooks. They all have a purpose, and that's to get the bait out there and hold it still. I could go into each one and explain their uses, but you didn't come here for that today.
In Navarre, Florida, I learned that the beautiful pompano and many other species like to hang out on the backside of the first sandbar. Not always, but a lot of the time, that's where you can find that delicious morsel of fish. The hard part is getting your rig out there from the shoreline. While it can be a bit of a challenge to put that bait where the fish are, you have some options: you can wade out there on a nearby sand bar and chuck it out there, you can find a spot where the bar is closer (I love this option most days), or you can forgo bar and fish the cuts. See, plenty of options. Now that your rig is out there where you want it waiting for that fish to jump on your hook, what do you have holding it in place? A chunk of lead that you need to keep the rig where you put it!
I now have a complete variety of Pyramid, Storm, and Sputnik sinkers thanks to Chip, The Sinker Guy (https://thesinkerguy.com). I learned of Chip from YouTube’s KyleForAWhile during the Navarre Fishing Rodeo in 2020. I was pulling in a fish that was fighting me to no end. It felt like a 20 lbs. catfish that was lazy and didn't want to come in. When it finally did, it was an 11" Whiting (Kingfish) that shouldn't have been such a fight. Upon inspection of my gear, I saw that the Sputniks legs of the tackle shop sinker did not release. I was fighting the fish and the dragging metal prongs of my $6.00 sinker from the tackle shop! I know I set the Sputnik up correctly by verifying that the legs were seated into the grooves and that they broke free before sending that bait out (something I highly recommend you do when you're fishing with Sputniks). Why did my Sputnik fail to work correctly?
Kyle had come over while I was fighting the fish, thinking that I had hooked into something extraordinary only to see my 11" whiting flopping in the sand. He congratulated me for catching it (he really is an awesome guy, and I hope to fish with him again one day), and then, he saw the tackle shop Sputnik that I had picked up recently. He explained that the tackle store Sputniks don't break free every time due to the bead, and I should check out The Sinker Guy. I believe (and still do) that if an angler with more experience gives advice, it should be listened to and checked out. I got home and ordered his Sputnik Sinker Bundle Special of 18 Sputnik sinkers and eagerly waited for my postman to bring this box of happiness.
When the package arrived, it was Christmas in October. There was a beautiful ring of sinkers all neatly placed in a hypnotic circle, a sample pack of FishBites, and a handwritten note from Chip thanking me for my order. A handwritten message? Yep, from the man himself, Chip "The Sinker Guy" Brundage. I knew I would be a customer for life before even sending one of these sinkers into the water. The thing that caught my attention was how easily the legs let go compared to my tackle shop Sputnik sinkers and how easily they went into the locking position. They were firmly in place when deployed, but the legs folded into the retrieve position with half of the force my beaded one took to break free!
While fishing recently with friends, I was using all of my types of sinkers across my rods. Upon casting one that I usually have a Sputnik on, I realized I was not getting the distance I usually was. It made me start to wonder if there was something else to these Sputniks besides holding so strong in the sand. What if they also contributed to my distance? I decided a test was in order because, well, why not?
I usually fish with 4 to 5 rods that vary in size: 2 Okuma Longitude 12' with a Battle 3 6000DX and a Conflict 2 5000, 1 Sea Striker 11' Beach runner with a Shimano 5000, 1 Penn Battle 3 9' with a Battle 3 6000, and 1 Shimano FX 7' with a Battle 3 4000 (none of these companies sponsor me). These all have a different setup for various purposes, and I used them all for testing this casting distance theory: Does sinker style make a difference when casting for distance? Here is the simple answer: ABSOLUTELY!
The gearing on each reel determines how much line you retrieve per rotation on the crank. All of my reels are approximately 1 yard per rotation so that I can approximate my casting distance. I performed this test at the beach (as opposed to the local football field). The data was averaged with three casts each, using a sinker weight that I have found to be the sweet spot for that rod and reel. The casts were done on a day with a constant tailwind:
The Sputnik flies significantly farther than the other sinkers on each cast. After doing some digging, I found that the reason is the aerodynamics of the weight. With each launch, I could see the sinker flying in a perfect spiral towards the destination (it even does those neat spirals when it snaps off of your line and becomes a donation to Davey Jones's locker….we all have felt the sadness after the snap sound). The Pyramid and Storms keep the point forward but tend to wobble as they fly, which causes drag and slows it down slightly. That drag reduces the distance when compared to the Sputnik. Don't believe me? Go try it!
I'm not an engineer by any means. I worked on helicopters for a long time, so aerodynamics is not my thing, but I understand it (all of you fixed-wing aviator people are making jokes now, I know it). Think of a football when it is thrown. If the ball does not have a spiral, it doesn't go nearly as far, right? The same principle applies here with these Sputniks. It flies smoothly and with rotation to maintain its balance. Science for the win! I do like that the tail is longer on The Sinker Guy's Sputnik as well. I haven't tested it yet, but I do have to wonder if the extended tail gives a little more freedom of spin vs. the shorter version or when the eyelet is butted up right against the sinker (that could be the next test!). When I bounced my theory off my dad, he started ranting about turbulent versus laminar airflow and Bernoulli's Principle, but I just went back to thinking about fishing.
In the end, it truly doesn't matter what kind of sinker you like to use. Everyone has a preference, and they will likely stick with it. Maybe your measurements are different than mine, and I'd love to hear what you come up with. Just remember to look on your reel and get the inches of line retrieval per rotation measurement, count how many times you reeled to bring it in, multiply, divide, and complete the math to get your distance. I prefer to use The Sinker Guy's sputniks when I fish, no matter the conditions, and I will continue to do so. It is hard to beat a product that gives you a superior bait hold and a bit more casting distance all in one tool.