5 Best Saltwater Surf Fishing Rigs

Last updated on January 31st, 2024 at 09:24 pm

Fishing the surf zone along the beach requires some specialized tackle. More often than not, there will be wave action and currents to deal with. And many times, things like rocks, seaweed, sandbars and sharp shells to foul or cut you line.

In places, there will be various fish species that have some rather sharp teeth as well. So, surf fishing rigs need to be tough and abrasion resistant, able to hold against waves and currents, and still catch fish.

Rods and reels for surf fishing are specialized as well and I covered surf fishing rods in a previous post and some good choices for rod and reel surf combos.

redfish two at a time

Key Points:

The Best Surf Fishing Rigs are:

  • The Fish Finder Rig
  • The Double Drop or Pompano Rig
  • The Carolina Rig
  • The High Lo Rig
  • The Dropper Loop Rig

In this article, we will cover some common Surf Fishing Rigs, or terminal tackle, that can be used and modified to work in almost any surf fishing environment. You can find these at most coastal tackle shops or online. Or, if you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can build your own fairly easily.

Surf Fishing Terminal Gear

Lady making a cast from the beach to try some surf fishing. 2 best surf fishing rigs.

Terminal tackle for fishing the beach needs to be strong enough to deal with potentially toothy critters.

It will also need to hold itself in place amount the wave action and currents of the surf zone.

Of course, with all of that, we will need a rig that can be cast a good distance off the beach to reach the fish.

Understanding the Importance of Surf Fishing Rigs

When it comes to surf fishing, having the right rigs is crucial for a successful fishing expedition. Surf fishing rigs refer to the setup that connects your fishing line to the bait or lure. These rigs are designed to optimize your chances of catching fish in the dynamic and challenging surf zone.

Using the right surf fishing rigs ensures that your bait or lure stays secure, reduces tangling, and increases your casting distance. With the right setup, you’ll be ready to take on the waves and increase your chances of a catch.

Surf Fishing rigs can be purchased, or you can make your own. The components are available at most good tackle shops and online suppliers. One of the most basic and functional is the “Fish Finder Rig”. Your main line passes through the eye of the weight, or sliding sinker sleeve, ties to a barrel swivel. Then you have a length of line (leader) from the barrel swivel to a single hook

Basic fish finder rig is great for surf fishing

These are very simple and effective surf fishing rigs. It can be modified to adapt to different conditions and different target fish. If you are likely to encounter sharks, bluefish, mackerel, or other fish with sharp teeth, you can make the leader section out of wire or cable. Hook type and size will depend on target species. Weight type and size will vary with current and wave conditions.

pompano rig or double drop leader with surf spider weight

The double drop leader, or “pompano Rig” is another simple Surf Rig that you can find ready-made or build yourself. This leader attaches to your main line with a barrel swivel. The leader line has a weight attached at the end and two short lengths of leader (drops) at equal distance, for the hooks.

Pompano are a small, but very tasty, fish that frequent the surf along the gulf coast. But the “pompano Rig” can be modified with larger hooks and steel leader material to catch much larger fish as well.

More commonly known as a “double drop leader” they are very common at tackle shops and online retailers. They are easy to make yourself as well. The double drop leaders make good surf fishing rigs and has the advantage of two hooks. So you have twice the bait in the water. You can catch em two at a time. 😉

Hi-Lo Rigs: Versatility at Its FinestThe hi-lo rig is a versatile setup that allows you to fish with multiple baits or lures simultaneously, targeting different depths and attracting a wider range of fish species.

This rig features a swivel with two or more dropper lines of varying lengths, each armed with a hook. Hi-lo rigs are commonly used with natural baits like squid, shrimp, or cut bait. By presenting multiple offerings at different depths, you increase your chances of enticing fish and doubling your catch!

Best Surf Fishing Rigs - Hi - Lo Surf Fishing rig

Carolina Rigs: A Classic ChoiceThe Carolina rig is a tried-and-true surf fishing rig that excels in various fishing conditions. It features a sliding egg sinker, a swivel, a leader line, and a hook. The sliding sinker allows your bait to move freely, providing a natural presentation that entices fish to strike.

Carolina rigs are ideal for fishing with live bait or cut bait and are particularly effective for targeting species like red drum, snook, and striped bass. This versatile rig is a staple in many surf anglers’ tackle boxes  used for drifting baits along the beach.

Carolina rig leader set up

Dropper Loop Rigs: Targeting Bottom DwellersDropper loop rigs are excellent for surf anglers aiming to catch bottom-dwelling species such as black drum, sheepshead, and flounder. This rig utilizes a loop tied along the leader line, allowing you to attach your hook or multiple hooks at specific intervals.

By presenting your bait at different heights above the bottom, you increase the likelihood of attracting fish in the water column. Dropper loop rigs are effective with natural baits, such as crabs, shrimp, or sand fleas.

Dropper Loop Rig for surf fishing

These are just a few examples of the best surf fishing rigs that can significantly improve your chances of success. The key is to choose the rig that suits your target species, fishing conditions, and personal preference. Experimenting with different rigs and techniques will ultimately help you find what works best for you.

Surf Fishing Weights

Fishing from the beach we will most often be dealing with some wave action and current. In order to keep your bait in place, some specialized weights or sinkers will be needed.

They need to either be very heavy, or have some design feature to dig into the bottom and hold your surf fishing rigs in place against the current and waves.

There are 3 basic types of sinkers/weights that work well for surf fishing. The pyramid sinker, that comes in three or four sided varieties. Like its namesake, it is pointed on the end and the corners of the sinker will dig into the bottom to hold in place.

The Hurricane sinker is another good surf fishing options. Similar to the pyramid sinker, the hurricane sinker has a broad upper surface with corners and edges that can dig into the bottom to anchor your bait in place against the waves and currents.

Essential Surf Fishing Gear:

  • Surf Fishing Rods, surf rods are typically longer and heavier duty than standard rods. read more.
  • Surf fishing Reels,larger and stronger with greater line capacity to handle big fish. read more.
  • Surf fishing Rod and Reel Combos, pre-matched rod and reel set ups for surf fishing – read more.
  • Sand Spike Rod holder, holds your rods securely while you wait for that big bite. – read more.
  • Surf Fishing Rigs, terminal tackle for fishing the surf. – read more.
  • Surf fishing Carts, for beaches that won’t allow vehicles you need a way to carry your gear – read more.
  • Rod Racks for Vehicles, carry your rods out of harms way and easy to access- read more.
  • Beach Camping Gear, in case you want to fish all night or for several days – read more.

The surf fishing weight that I have found most effective is the “spider weight”. A lead weight with typically four lengths of heavy wire (legs) attached, these legs will dig into the bottom just like a boat anchor and securely hold your rig in place against some of the roughest of conditions. An added benefit is that you can get a stronger hold with less total weight. This can be important when attempting to cast long distances.

Surf Fishing Hooks

Hooks for surf fishing will be as varied as the species of fish being targeted. Fish with smaller mouths will of course require smaller hooks. Larger species will need larger hooks. Type of bait being used will require different hooks as well. Your basic J hooks and circle hooks in an assortment of sizes will cover most situations. There are many other types of hooks for specific situations, but in most cases, a basic J hook of appropriate size will get the job done.

J hook sizes
Large shark hook
There are big fish in the surf that need big hooks
Shark rig with steel leader and 24/0 circkle hook
For Sharks in the Surf you need steel leaders
2 Best Saltwater Surf fishing rigs - hook size chart

The Circle hook has become increasingly popular in recent years. It is designed to minimize “gut hooking”. Even if a fish swallows a circle hook, when the line is pulled tight the hook will pull out of the fishes stomach and catch in the corner of its mouth.

This gives us the opportunity to release fish with a high probability of survival to fight another day. A gut hooked fish will have a very high mortality rate. In fact, in some areas and for some species, circle hooks are now required by law. So, always check the local Fish and Wildlife regulations.

Setting Up Your Surf Fishing Rig

Now that we have explored some of the best surf fishing rigs, let’s walk through the process of setting up your rig:

  1. Choose the Right Rig: Based on your target species, fishing conditions, and personal preference, select the most appropriate surf fishing rig from the options discussed earlier.
  2. Attach the Rig to the Mainline: Tie the rig to your main fishing line using a secure knot, such as the improved clinch knot or the Palomar knot. Ensure the knot is tight and reliable to prevent any slippage during casting or fighting a fish.
  3. Add Weights: Depending on the rig you’ve chosen and the surf conditions, attach weights to your rig to provide casting distance and to keep your bait or lure in the strike zone. Slide the weights onto the mainline above the rig, or use a clip-on weight if your rig requires it.
  4. Attach the Bait or Lure: Securely attach your chosen bait or lure to the rig’s designated hook(s) or attachment points. Ensure the bait is presented naturally and securely, allowing it to move freely in the water.
  5. Test the Rig: Before casting, make sure the rig is properly assembled and balanced. Give it a few test swings to check for any tangles or issues. Make adjustments as needed to ensure a smooth and efficient cast.

Where to Find Surf Fishing Rigs?

Surf fishing tackle can be found at most good tackle shops along the coastal areas. There are some very good online suppliers as well. You can purchase ready-made surf fishing rigs, or purchase the components and make them yourself. Making your own will allow you to tailor your leaders to your own specific situations.

Mr Nick Meyer of breakawaytackleusa, is an expert at surf fishing as well as a long distance casting coach.

He has a great selections of surf fishing rigs that are designed for long distance casting. They are the developers of the breakaway surf weight.

A type of spider weight that has a quick release feature when you want to retrieve your rig. Breakawaytackleusa specializes is surf fishing rods, reels, and tackle. The best of the best in my opinion.

tackle direct online tackle store
Breakaway Tackle address and contact information

Surf Fishing Rigs Frequently Asked Questions

frequently asked questions sign

What is the best surf fishing rig for beginners?

For beginners, the fishfinder rig is an excellent choice. It is simple to set up and offers good sensitivity to detect bites.

Can I use the same rig for different species of fish?

Yes, some rigs like the hi-lo rig or the Carolina rig are versatile and can be used to target various species by adjusting the bait and presentation.

Should I use a fluorocarbon leader with braided mainline?

Yes, using a fluorocarbon leader with braided mainline provides stealth and abrasion resistance, enhancing your chances of success.

What is the best rig for surf fishing?

The fish-finder rig (sliding rig) is by far the most popular choice of surf casters. You can use it in most conditions and for whatever species you’d like to target. All you need is a pyramid sinker with a swivel on the line, followed by a 2′ leader line and a circle hook with live, cut, or frozen bait.

What weight leader for surf fishing?

This will depend on what fish you will be targeting and the underwater obstructions you may encounter. For toothy critters, you may want to go with wire cable or steel wire. For others 30 – 50 pound monofilament or flourocarbon is sufficient.

Go Shopping, Then Go Fishing

Using the best surf fishing rigs can greatly enhance your chances of success in the surf zone. Experiment with different rigs, baits, and techniques to find what works best for you. Remember to consider the surf conditions, target species, and local regulations when making your gear and bait selections.

With the right gear, a bit of knowledge, and a touch of patience, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the thrill of surf fishing and reeling in some fantastic catches. So grab your gear, head to the beach, and get ready for an unforgettable surf fishing experience!

Get you some simple basic surf fishing rigs. Fish finder rigs and double drop (pompano) rigs. An assortment of J and or circle hooks. A few pyramid sinkers and spider weights. Then head to the coast and wet a line. Fishing is always more fun than just reading about it. 😉 Please, leave the beach cleaner than you found it, and always stay safe and enjoy the journey.

If you have any comments, questions, ideas or suggestions please leave them in the comment section below and I will get back to you. You can follow us on Facebook: Rex The Beach Angler, Instagram: thebeachangler7, Twitter: @AnglerBeach, and YouTube: Man Art Creations.

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