Best Rigs to Use When Surf Fishing

Introduction to Surf Fishing Rigs

Surf fishing is an incredibly popular and enjoyable pastime that allows you to connect with nature, relax, and potentially catch some exciting saltwater fish. One of the most important aspects of surf fishing is choosing the right rig. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the best rigs to use when surf fishing, as well as some tips and techniques to help you get the most out of your rig.

The Fish Finder Rig

The fish finder rig is perhaps the most popular and versatile rig used in surf fishing. It’s designed to allow your bait to move freely in the shifting currents and keep your bait at the desired depth. To set up a fish finder rig, simply slide a weight onto your main line, followed by a plastic or glass bead, and then tie on a swivel. Attach a few feet of leader material to the other end of the swivel before tying a good-quality saltwater hook. This rig is ideal for targeting species such as redfish, flounder, and striped bass.

The High-Low Rig (also called a Double Dropper Loop Rig)

The high-low rig is a fantastic choice for those who prefer using multiple hooks while surf fishing. This rig allows you to present two baits at different depths simultaneously. It’s great for targeting a variety of fish, such as sea bass, perch, and bluefish. To make a high-low rig, tie two dropper loops onto your leader about 1-2 feet apart, with the bottom loop being about a foot above a sinker. Attach a hook to each dropper loop, and you’re ready to fish.

The Carolina Rig

The Carolina rig is a popular choice for surf fishing enthusiasts looking to target bottom-dwelling fish such as flounder and drum. One of the benefits of the Carolina rig is that it allows the bait to flow naturally with the current, giving it a more life-like presentation. To create a Carolina rig, begin by sliding an egg sinker onto your main line, followed by a bead and then a swivel. Attach a 2-3 foot leader to the swivel, finishing off with a circle or live bait hook.

The Pompano Rig (also called a Float Rig)

A float rig is an excellent choice when surf fishing for pompano, whiting, or any fish that feed on small crustaceans and baitfish near the shoreline. The Pompano rig has a series of floats and beads above the hooks, which help to keep your bait off the bottom and more visible to passing fish. To create a Pompano rig, start by tying two or three dropper loops onto a leader. Place a small bead and float onto each loop before attaching a size 1 or 2 circle hook. Finish off the rig by tying a pyramid sinker to the bottom, and you’re ready to go!

Some Helpful Surf Fishing Tips

  • Always use fresh bait when surf fishing. You may use shrimp, squid, or live baitfish for optimal results.
  • Choose a sinker weight that’s heavy enough to keep your bait in place when cast out but light enough that it won’t impede the natural movement of the bait. Pyramid sinkers are the most commonly used for surf fishing.
  • Keep an eye on the tides and currents, as fish tend to be more active during changing tide conditions.
  • Don’t forget safety: always use caution when handling hooks and pay attention to your surroundings when casting.


Surf fishing can be an exciting and rewarding activity. By choosing the right rig and following some basic surf fishing techniques, you’ll increase your chances of landing some impressive saltwater fish. Whether you’re new to surf fishing or a seasoned pro, consider trying out the Fish Finder, High-Low, Carolina, or Pompano rigs on your next outing. Good luck!

What is the easiest surf fishing rig?

The most simple and easy to setup surf fishing rig is the fish-finder rig. It consists of a leader with a hook, and a heavy-duty barrel swivel like the SPRO Power Swivel is tied to the mainline behind a Sea Striker Braid-Friendly Sinker Slide. This rig allows a natural presentation of bait and enables the fish to pick up the bait without feeling the weight of the sinker.

How do I set up a fish-finder rig?

Setting up a fish-finder rig is quite simple. Follow these steps:

  1. Thread a sinker slide onto the mainline.
  2. Tie a heavy-duty barrel swivel to the end of the mainline. This helps prevent line twist and allows the sinker slide to move freely.
  3. Cut a length of leader material (fluorocarbon or monofilament) and tie one end to the barrel swivel.
  4. Attach your chosen hook to the other end of the leader using a knot, like a Palomar or a clinch knot.
  5. Finally, clip a pyramid or bank sinker onto the sinker slide, which will anchor your rig on the sea bottom.

Now, you can bait your hook and cast it into the surf, ready to catch some fish!

What are some other easy surf fishing rigs?

Apart from the fish-finder rig, other easy-to-set-up surf fishing rigs include:

  • High-Low Rig: Also known as a double dropper loop or paternoster rig, this setup consists of a mainline with two dropper loops holding hooks and a weight attached at the bottom. This rig can catch multiple fish at once and works well in rocky or snaggy areas.
  • Carolina Rig: Similar to the fish-finder rig, this rig consists of a sliding egg sinker threaded onto the mainline, followed by a bead and a barrel swivel. The leader and hook are then tied to the swivel. The Carolina rig is less snag-prone and is suitable for lighter sinkers and shallow water conditions.

What bait should I use for surf fishing?

The best bait for surf fishing depends on the fish species available in the area, time of the year, and local conditions. Some popular and effective baits for surf fishing include:

  • Live or frozen shrimp
  • Sand fleas or mole crabs
  • Squid strips or whole squid
  • Clams or mussels
  • Cut or whole mullet, mackerel, or pilchards

Natural bait is generally the most effective, but you can also try artificial soft plastics or even hard baits, such as plugs and poppers, particularly when targeting aggressive fish species.

How long should my leader be for surf fishing?

The ideal leader length depends on the surf conditions, fish species, and personal preferences. Generally, surf fishing leaders can vary from 12 to 36 inches. Shorter leaders (12-18 inches) are ideal for rough surf conditions, while longer leaders (24-36 inches) can provide a more natural presentation in calmer waters. Experiment with different leader lengths to find what works best for the conditions and fish you are targeting. Remember to also consider the fish species’ size and strength, as well as the abrasiveness of the environment (rocks, reefs) when choosing the leader’s strength and material (fluorocarbon or monofilament).

Additional Questions

What is the easiest rig for surf fishing?

When it comes to the simplicity and effectivity of surf fishing rigs, the **Carolina Rig** certainly takes the top spot. This setup includes the use of an egg sinker, which freely slides on the main line. Following this, a small bead and a swivel are attached. The finishing touches to the rig involve a piece of fluorocarbon leader line and a J hook. You can bait the hook with a small grub or a curly tail-type plastic bait, which are incredibly popular amongst surf fish. My personal experience has reiterated time and again, the amazing success rate of this rig. The best part is that putting together this rig does not require extensive knowledge or skill, making it perfect for beginners.

How do you rig for saltwater shore fishing?

Setting up for saltwater shore fishing largely depends on the specific target species and the prevalent conditions. However, field experience and expert recommendations suggest that a common and effective setup involves a pyramid sinker attached to a 3-way swivel. In conjunction with the sinker, a fluorocarbon leader attached to the second loop of the swivel, followed by a baited hook, works well. This setup allows for casting long distances and holds well in tough tidal conditions, offering a heightened chance of catching fish. Rigging modifications may be required based on the specific requirements of the fishing expedition.

Is a Carolina Rig good for surf fishing?

Indeed, the **Carolina Rig is a fantastic choice for surf fishing**. Proven effective throughout the year, this setup has demonstrated success for targeting a variety of surf fish, including corbina, perch, and yellowfin croaker among others. Factors such as surf conditions can be easily accommodated by altering the weight of the sliding sinker. In calm waters, a 1/4th ounce sinker works well, while heavier weights are useful in bigger surf. For maximum stretch and strength, I personally recommend utilizing a snelled hook and knot. The adaptability and functionality of the Carolina Rig affirms its unparalleled position in the world of surf fishing.

What kind of rod and reel for surf fishing?

For individuals embarking on their surf fishing journey, a **10–12-foot medium heavy rod with medium or moderate action paired with a saltwater spinning reel** in the range of 4500 to 6500 size would be a good start. This combination offers a balance of power, flexibility, and control, making it ideal for diverse surf fishing conditions. It is well suited for beginners, yet provides performance and capability that even seasoned anglers can appreciate. Personal exposure to surf fishing has made me realize and affirm the proficiency of such a setup, as it is not overly complicated yet effectively catches fish.

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