The Best Surf Fishing Rigs (To Catch More)

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Surf fishing, whether it be off the beach, rocks, or cliffs, you will be amazed at just how many species you could catch. It all comes down to the right spot, the right bait, and of course, the right surf fishing rig. Having a few Surf Fishing Rigs already prepared when you hit your spot will increase your catch significantly.


Best Surf Fishing Rig

Fishing in the surf can be challenging as well as dangerous. For this reason, you should have those surf fishing rigs ready to go. Finding the fish in these places can be just as difficult.

I won’t be getting into that in this post but for some tips on finding and catching fish in the surf, I recommend you check out How To Fish In Surf (And Catch More)





  1. How to choose the right surf fishing rig for You?
  2. How do surf fishing rigs work?
  3. What is the best hook for surf fishing?
  4. What is the best surf fishing rig for Big Fish?
  5. What are the best surf fishing rigs for rock fishing?
  6. Where to buy surf fishing rigs?
  7. How long should a surf fishing rig line be?
  8. What is the best salmon surf fishing rig to learn?



First up, let me answer some of the most asked questions I have been asked, then I will get into which rigs you should be using.


How do choose the right surf fishing rig for You?


This, of course, depends on the situation. For example, The classic Fish Finder Rig is great for open areas with minimum structure. This will let your bait move around more, and hopefully attract more fish.

For a bit more structure, try a Pompano Rig. These keep your bait off the bottom, meaning lees bust-offs and snag-ups.

Lighter situations may call for a Carolina Rig. Similar to the fish finder rig, this light rig is great for rocky or weedy areas on smaller gear. Can also add soft plastics or live bait with this rig.


How do surf fishing rigs work?


One of the most basic and functional is the “Fish Finder Rig”. Your mainline passes through the eye of the weight, or sliding sinker sleeve, and ties to a barrel swivel. Then you have a length of line (leader) from the barrel swivel to a single hook. These are very simple and effective surf fishing rigs.



What is the best hook for surf fishing?


While surf fishing, if you are after average-sized fish, you should be using around a 5/0 circle hook, while bigger, trophy-sized fish (over 40 inches) will require at least an 8/0 circle hook or bigger. Again, go off of the size of the fish that you are trying to catch and try to match the hook size with the size of the fish.



What is the best surf fishing rig for Big Fish?


A Pompano Rig can be modified with larger hooks and even a steel leader or trace. When going for larger fish, one hook is recommended. This is a very strong rig and will stand up to big fish like sharks.



What are the best surf fishing rigs for rock fishing?


Paternoster Fishing Rigs – A Paternoster fishing rig is great for multiple fishing styles, including fishing from a boat, rocks, or the beach.  These are easy to tie and are tangle-resistant for complete convenience. Furthermore, you can even purchase these rigs pre-tied.

Pompano Surf Fishing Rig and the Pennel Surf Fishing Rig are a great couple of surf fishing rigs to have in your arsenal when fishing off the rocks.



Where to buy surf fishing rigs?


Surf fishing tackle can be found at most good tackle shops. 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 specific situation.



How long should a surf fishing rig line be?


The trace line is usually about 40 to 50cm or 1 1/2′ or 1 3/4′ long. The size of the hook is governed by the type and size of bait that will be used, as well as the type of fish that the angler expects to catch. Probably the most commonly used sinker for a surf fishing rig is a Pyramid or Star sinker.



What is the best salmon surf fishing rig to learn?


Running Sinker rigs are simple rigs that anyone can learn, and often the simple rigs are the best. This rig is ideal for chasing salmon and is tailored to light to medium outfits. I would also recommend the Float Rig described below.

Now, to the rigs themself.



Fish Finder Rig

Fish Finder Rig


Probably one of the most popular rigs used in beach and surf fishing. A variation of the classic running rig.

Fish Finder Rigs makes use of a heavier sinker. Pyramid, Star, or even Snapper leads are often the sinkers of choice and are attached with the help of a snap swivel.

Attaching your sinker directly to the mainline (no stoppers between) will give this rig endless room to run and attract fish.

My go-to rig when targeting this such as salmon, tailor, mulloway, or any medium size predatory fish that swims close to shore.


Pros of this rig include

  • Long Cast
  • Easy to make
  • Bait moves naturally with the currents
  • Good for live bait
  • Can use gang hooks
  • Can cover a big area

Cons of this rig include

  • More knots mean more chances of breakage
  • Swivel moving along the line can weaken it
  • Not recommended for the reef or rocky areas with a lot of catch points
  • Easier to snag


Pompano Rig

Pompano Surf Fishing Rig



Another very popular rig, the Pompano Rig is another variation of the classic Paternoster Rig. Great to keep your bait off the bottom, and moving in the current. Another great thing about this rig is multiple dropper lines can be used for multiple hooks.

Moreover, having multiple hooks mean you can run two or more different sizes and different baits at the same time. Consequently, you broaden your target species and increase your chance of catching a fish. additionally, the use of colored beads can also help in attracting those fish.

Tip – Don’t attach the sinker with a heavier line, instead use a lighter one. This will mean that if you do get stuck in rocks, snapping it off will only result in losing the sinker and not the whole rig.

My go-to rig when targeting bigger prey such as sharks, but can also be used successfully with just about any species.


Pros of this rig include

  • Multiple droppers and hooks
  • Keeps bait off the bottom
  • Great for large fish
  • Good in rocky areas
  • Can be used for most species

Cons for this rig include

  • Only covers a small area



Carolina Rig

Carolina Surf Fishing Rig


Yet another variation on the running sinker rigs, the Carolina Rig uses a small bead, egg, or ball sinker to run along the mainline. Traditionally used when targeting smaller fish, this rig can also be used with soft plastics or live bait.

Whenever I head out, I will have this surf fishing rig set up on my smaller gear. This way, even if the big fish aren’t biting, I can continue to have some fun while waiting for my big gear to go off.

This is my go-to when targeting small to medium fish like whiting, tailor, bream, etc.


Pros of this rig include

  • Covers a lot of ground
  • Can use Soft Plastics
  • Good for targeting smaller species

Cons of this rig include

  • Not for larger species
  • Easier to snag


Pennel Rig


Pennel Surf Fishing Rig


Now for something a little different. The Pennel Rig makes use of the components of a running and a paternoster rig. A lot is going on with this surf fishing rig, and as such, needs to be pre-made before heading out to your fishing destination.

The droppers on this rig are free to move along the mainline, with crimps used as stoppers. Using crimps minimizes how many knots you have, and doesn’t compromise the strength of the line. The difference in distance between the crimps can be changed depending on preference and gear.

Furthermore, a Pennel Rig also makes use of colored beads as fish attractants, as well as spoons. An additional float on the first dropper will lift this hook and enable you to fish higher in the water column.

I will always have a few pre-made in my kit and will use this rig anywhere I might a Paternoster Rig, or when I’m not sure what the target species is.


Pros of this rig include

  • Both running and paternoster rig
  • Good for attracting fish
  • Can target different species at the same time
  • Fewer knots mean fewer breakages
  • Can try different baits at the same time

Cons of this rig include

  • More dropper lines mean more chance of tangles



Float Rig

Float Surf Fishing Rig


Last but not least, we have the Float Rig. As opposed to most float rigs, this rig uses a sinker to hold the bottom (like a running rig) and uses a float to lift the hook and bait.

In the same way as the Fish Finder Rig, this floating rig makes use of a running sinker attached to a snap swivel or a slider. Because the sinker sits on the bottom, your rig will stay put, but the bait will travel higher into the water collum.

The leader can be sleet wire or mono, depending on the target species. Furthermore, the length of the leader can be changed depending on the depth fished.


Pros of this rig

  • Keeps line off the bottom
  • Can fish higher in the water column
  • Doesn’t move around like traditional float rigs
  • Great for live bait

Cons of this rig

  • Not for large species

Other Posts Relating To Beach And Surf Fishing


If you love your beach and surf fishing as much as I do, then check out some of my other posts about this great type of fishing.


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That’s A Wrap


To sum up, fishing in the surf is a great way to spend a couple of hours, while also being able to enjoyed by novices and experts alike. What’s more, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get started.

I hope I have answered any questions you might have about this great type of fishing. Of course, if you do have any extras, feel free to message me or leave a comment in the section below, and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks for reading. As Always;

Tight Lines

Tony, Creator or Get Reel Fishin

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