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. In places, there will be various fish species that have some rather sharp teeth as well. I covered surf fishing rods in a previous post and in this article, I will cover some common Surf Fishing Rigs that can be used and modified to work in almost any surf fishing environment.
Surf Fishing Terminal Gear
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.
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
A very simple and effective rig. 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.
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 leader has the advantage of two hooks. So you have twice the bait in the water. You can catch em two at a time. 😉
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 rig 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.
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.
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.
Where to Find Surf Fishing Gear?
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.
I have found tackledirect.com to be a very good online supplier. The Dollar Angler Club will also have a good selection of gear at very reasonable prices. If you are interested in more advanced surf fishing tackle, I would recommend you check out breakawaytackleusa.com.
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.
Go Shopping, Then Go Fishing
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.