Surf Fishing Weights the 3 Essentials for Casting, Holding, or Drifting

Last updated on February 2nd, 2024 at 08:43 pm

One of the most overlooked and underappreciated items of surf fishing tackle, or fishing tackle in general is weights or sinkers yet they are one of the most essential. But, what are the best surf fishing weights?

Quick Look

The best surf fishing weights will depend on your preferred fishing method and conditions. The three primary methods and weights will be the spider or sputnik type for setting and holding your baits in a static position. Bank sinkers, egg sinkers or flat sinkers for drift fishing the beach front. And, Bullet weights for weedless rigging and casting of soft plastic lures when conditions cause frequent fouling or snagging of standard jig head and hooks. It’s important to carry a variety of sizes and styles of each type of surf fishing weight so you can adapt your fishing techniques to the conditions present.

surf fishing weights - young lady with a surf perch

I know, in my own fishing, I’ve used everything from rocks, to nails, to old spark plugs and tire weights as fishing weights. I just used what was available. That is, until I realized how all of those different types and shapes of fishing weights actually had specific purposes and applications.

By choosing the proper fishing weights you can adapt to a much wider variety of fishing conditions. And, catch fish when you otherwise might give up and cut your fishing trip short. Surf fishing has its own unique set of conditions and challenges and there are surf weights that are designed to increase your odds of success for those different conditions.

Sputnik WeightsFlat SinkersBullet Weights
Sputnik surf fishing weightassorted flat sinkersbullet weights
Set and HoldDrift FishingCasting Soft Plastics

Surf Fishing Tackle

Surf fishing presents some unique conditions that require specialized fishing tackle. Including, longer heavier rods and reels, bigger hooks, saltwater resistant tackle and more. When beach fishing the surf you will be dealing with wind, waves and currents.

Getting your bait or lure where you want it, and then keeping it there, can be a challenge in these conditions.

Info on Surf Fishing Rough Water Conditions
Read: Tips for Surf Fishing in Rough Water

In windy conditions, you will most likely be facing large waves and strong currents that can wash you rig and bait down the beach.

Those currents can often push seaweed and debris along with it which will foul your line and hooks.

But, if you use the right weights or sinkers, you can still fish these conditions and yes, still catch fish.

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.

Surf Fishing Weights

What are Surf Fishing Weights?

Surf fishing weights, like the rest of surf fishing tackle, have some specialized design features for fishing the surf zone. Weights for surf fishing are used for one of three primary purposes. Either to hold you bait in a specific location against the waves and current. To control the depth and speed of your bait as it drifts through the targeted fishing area. Or, to fish lures where seaweed and other floating debris make standard rigging difficult.

With the proper weights you can rig your artificial lures in a weedless fashion and minimize fouling your lures with seaweed where a standard jig head and hook would be nearly impossible to fish effectively. Let’s take a look at each surf fishing weight type individually and how and when to use them.

Best Surf Fishing Weights for Set and Hold

If you are fishing with natural baits, and have found what looks like a good location to set up and fish, you need a weight that will hold you bait in place against the waves and current. Now, you may think, I’ll just use a heavier weight. And, yes that could work, but you will have difficulty casting and then, if you catch a fish, fighting and landing it with such a heavyweight.

surf fishing spider weight
Spider Surf Fishing Weight

You need a weight that will hold your bait in place, but still allow you to cast with distance, and not become a hindrance when fighting fish. The surf fisherman’s solution was the spider weight and more recently the sputnik or breakaway weights. These weights have multiple legs (like a spider) that are spread out and dig into the bottom like an anchor holding your bait in place but are still light enough to cast.

As you can see in the examples below, these weights come in different sizes for different current conditions and the legs on spider weights are adjustable as well. The Sputnik and breakaway versions come in different sizes, but the legs come preset. They release easier as the legs will fold down where you have pull the spider weights until the legs bend enough to release from the bottom.

Under rough conditions with extreme currents, the Sputnik and breakaway weights will not hold and the spider weight will be your best choice. But any of the three will allow you to place your bait where you want it and keep it there in most surf conditions.

Under more calm conditions, you can use pyramid sinkers, storm weights and or claw weights to hold your bait in position. Or, adjust the legs on your spider weights inward to they don’t dig into the bottom as deep. The moral of the story is: be flexible, adapt and adjust to the conditions and you increase your fishing success.

Pyramid SinkersStorm WeightsClaw Weights
Pyramid sinkersStorm weightsclaw surf fishing weights
Calm to Moderate Moderate CurrentCalm to Moderate
Corners dig in to holdWide Shoulders holdClaws dig into bottom

Best Surf Fishing Weights for Drift Fishing

Surf fishing by drifting baits is a technique that was taught to me over 50 years ago by an “old salt” who used it mainly for locating fish and covering a lot of water. I have since adapted the technique to use on those occasions where seaweed and other debris make fishing with stationary lines difficult to impossible.

Fish in the surf, like fish anywhere else, orient to structure, currents and bait. The primary structures in surf fishing will be guts or troughs, sandbars, points and rips or suck outs. Fish will face into the current along these structures looking for an easy meal driven along by the current.

Info on Where to Surf Fish
Read: Where to Fish When Surf Fishing

Drifting your baits along the structure makes for a very natural presentation and is very effective at locating and catching fish. For this fishing technique, you need a weight that is heavy enough to cast and get your bait down near the bottom, but not heavy enough to keep it from drifting.

There are several varieties of fishing weights that can accomplish this from bullet weights, barrel weights, to your many of your standard bank sinkers. The important factor is the drift. Heavier weights will drift slower, lighter weights faster the current speed and conditions will determine what weight you will need for the best results.

fish finder surf fishing rig
Fish finder rig for drift fishing the surf

Now, surf fishing by drifting baits will take more work than simply casting and setting your baits with spider weights. You will need to walk along with your bait as it drifts to keep it from washing up on the shore and to keep it drifting along your targeted structure.

If you use this as a scouting technique, once you find the fish you can then set up your rigs with spider weights and hold them in the area you found the fish. In those conditions where the seaweed and or other floating debris make setting lines difficult, drifting may be your only available method for fishing the surf. And, these conditions can make surf fishing with lures very frustrating as well.

Best Surf Fishing Weights for Casting Lures

Surf fishing with lures is both fun and very effective. Everything from spoons, jigs, topwaters, hard baits and soft plastics can catch fish along the beach front. But, all of those lures with exposed hooks can become hopelessly fouled by seaweed and other floating debris making them near useless.

Surf fishermen in California know this all too well. Having to deal with floating kelp and rocks and other obstacles, they have developed a method of rigging soft plastic lures in a way that is weedless and allows them to fish with less risk of fouling or snags. Guess what, it works there and it will work wherever you surf fish.

The technique is a combination of bullet weights like those used with the Texas rig worm from freshwater bass fishing, combined with the screw lock shank weighted hook to produce a weedless soft plastic lure presentation that by adjusting the size of the weight can be fished throughout the water column for nearly any given current condition.

Heavier weights for faster currents or to fish closer to the bottom, lighter weights for slower currents and to fish higher in the water column. And, in conditions where a standard soft plastic rigged on a jig head would be constantly fouled or snagged, with this technique you can still effectively fish with your soft plastics.

More on Surf Fishing with Soft Plastics
Read: Surf Fishing with Soft Plastics

Surf Fishing Weights Comparison

The following is a side by side comparison of some of the Surf fishing weight types and styles available for the three most common surf fishing methods of “set and hold”, “drifting”, and “Casting” lures.

Set and Hold Surf Fishing Weights

Spider WeightSputnik WeightBreakaway Weight
surf fishing spider weightSputnik surf fishing weightbreakaway surf fishing weights
Strongest holdingModerate CurrentModerate Current
Manally adjust legsLegs release on strikeLegs “breakaway”

Surf Fishing Weights for Drift fishing

The following ae some examples of good surf fishing weights for drifting baits.

Bank SinkersEgg SinkersFlat Sinkers
surf fishing weights - bank sinkersassorted egg sinkersassorted flat sinkers
Slide or roll on driftRolls as bait dritsSlides as you drift

Surf Fishing With Texas Rig Soft Plastics

When conditions won’t allow for exposed hook jigs, the Texas Rigged soft plastic baits can be a great option. You will need bullet weights or egg sinkers, plastic beads, and screw lock or worm hooks.

Bullet WeightsPlastic BeadsScrew Lock Hooks
bullet weightsPlastic fishing beadsscrew lock hook
Tapered to avoid weedsAttraction and knot guardWeedless

Making Your Own Surf Fishing Weights

You can make your surf fishing weights. If you have a supply of lead, a pot to melt it, and some sinker molds, you can make your own weights. If you have a friend with a tire shop, they might be able to secure you a supply of used lead tire weights that you can melt down for making your own weights.

There are molds for many styles of fishing weights as well as the lead melting pots and ladles you’ll need. Spider weight molds you may have to improvise because I have yet to find one.

I had mine made out of stainless bar stock where they used a drill press to drill a hole in the bar stock to form the weight.

Then you will need a supply of a heavy wire for the legs. I’ve use heavy copper, aluminum and stainless. Heavier wire will last longer, lighter wire will be easier to pull up from the bottom. Eventually metal fatigue sets in and one or more of the legs will break. Then you just melt it down add new wire and re pour.

Either way, buy you surf fishing weights, or make your own, the important thing is to get a variety of sizes and styles so you can adapt to whatever conditions mother nature and the surf throw at you.

Get the Right Surf Fishing Weights

If you are going to try surf fishing, be sure to get the proper weights for the type of fishing you will be doing.

If you’ll be fishing bait on the bottom with strong current, grab some spider or sputnik type weights. For drift fishing, a selection of pyramid or bank sinkers.

And, if you will be casting soft plastics in areas with sea weed or other floating debris, rig your baits weedless and use bullet weights instead of jig heads.

You will be able to fish your soft plastics with far less fouling from the weeds. Be sure to get a variety of sizes so you can change out depending on the current speed and strength.

Most importantly, have a good time and enjoy your day at the beach. Remember, a day at the beach is better than a month in the city. And, days fishing are not counted against your lifespan. In fact, they may just add days to it. 😉

surf fishing weights - young lady holding her fishing rod and looking out into the surf

As always, stay safe, enjoy the journey and please try to leave it cleaner than you found it. If you have any comments, questions, ideas or suggestions please leave them in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you asap. You can follow up on Facebook: Rex The Beach Angler, Instagram: thebeachangler7, Twitter: @AnglerBeach, and YouTube: Man Art Creations.

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