4 Best Surf Fishing Rigs

Sign Up To My Newsletter

Enter your Email address below to hear about new products and equipment, tips and tricks I have come across, my experience and links to discount coupons and information I have found...

Hey there fellow fishing enthusiasts, today we are going to raid the tackle box to look at my 4 best surf fishing rigs to tie in 2021. This is an interesting one as I have four rigs that I use, and have done so my entire fishing life. However, once I started to do the research for this post it quickly became evident to me that there are so many different types of rigs that are recommended for surf fishing out there – and then the same number again in regards to variations – that I really didn’t know where to start.

And whilst that makes perfect sense to me as there are so many different species in different conditions to fish for that different setups are often required. What I have done however after taking all of that into account is to revert back to the four that I use and outline:

  • What they are
  • Advantages
  • How they are built
  • How they work
  • What I use them for
  • Tackle requirements
  • Variations

That way you can have a look and see if they are suitable to what you need. Let’s check them out below:

Tell me what you use below – do use these, a variation or something completely different?

Rig 1 – Running sinker rig

surf fishing rigs - floating sinker rig

I have always known this as a ‘leader rig’ (and some call it a fishfinder) but running sinker appears to be the proper name for it so I am going to run with that. Anyway, this is the very first rig that I was taught and the one that I recon I would use 90% of the time when fishing in the surf (as well as in a kayak, estuary, lake or even sometimes on a boat).

It is simple to build and doesn’t need any fancy knots or tackle.

Advantages of the running sinker rig

  • Perfect for beginners as it’s easy to use.
  • No complicated equipment or knots needed.
  • Bait is able to move freely through the waves and/or the current.
  • Will work for a large number of fish species.

How is it built?

The steps to build this are as follows:

15% off on Piscifun Halloween Sale
  1. Cut a piece of line either from the end of the spooled line (the line attached to the reel) or a spare line roll – this will be the leader – around 30 – 40 cm (12 – 15″) or so.
  2. Thread your sinker onto the spooled line and let it slide down – the sinker is loose threaded meaning it can move up and down the line.
  3. Tie a swivel to the end of the spooled line.
  4. Attach the leader to the opposite end of the swivel.
  5. Tie the hook to the end of the leader.

How does it work?

This rig is designed to keep the bait either on or close to the bottom. The line is weighed down by the sinker with the bait able to move around in the current courtesy of the swivel.

What do I use them for?

As mentioned above, I use this rig everywhere. In the surf, I use it when fishing with fresh bait in gutters or holes where fish roam up and down looking for food that is swirling along the bottom.

Sure there are others that may be better suited for different areas (such as around rocks or where fish feed closer to the surface) but in my humble opinion this is the go to when you don’t have any other ideas on what would work. It is simple to setup and is easier to ‘unsnag’ that some of the more expansive rigs as well.

Tackle requirements

Now obviously when it comes to tackle sizes, the larger the fish species you are chasing, the larger the tackle you would need. When choosing tackle, check for:

  • Weight restrictions of the rod (usually written in the side).
  • Recommended size for the fish you are chasing (you might need to do some research).
  • Currents in your waterway (stronger currents may need larger sinkers).

However, for general use, I would recommend

  • Size 2 sinker – to allow the bait to move around a little – usually a ball or flat surf sinker
  • Size 1 – 2 swivel.
  • Size 2 hook – I like the bait holder option myself as the fish tend to swallow them less than the long shank varieties.

Variations

  • One disadvantage of this rig is that in its basic form it is not as easy to change the tackle sizes should the need arise. Variations therefor can include clip on sinker and hook holders to allow tackle to be interchanged quickly.
  • If you are chasing a larger species, or one that is known to need a more invisible line, then cut your leader from a stronger monofilament (mono) or fluorocarbon (flouro) option.

Rig 2 – Dropper rig

surf fishing rigs - dropper rig

Also called a “Paternoster” rig, this is a good one to use if you want to fish with your bait a little off the bottom, or need to cast a little further. We converted to this one on the beach we usually fish at after catching too many stingrays on our fish finder rigs. By switching to this option, we can keep the bait just far enough off the bottom that the stingrays will usually leave them alone.

Advantages of the Dropper rig

  • Makes casting a little easier.
  • Bait and hook are off the bottom.
  • Bottom feeding fish will still take bait.
  • Tackle can be interchanged a lot easier.
  • Less chance of snags on rocks or corals.

How is it built?

The steps to build this are as follows:

  1. Cut two pieces of line either from the end of the spooled line or a spare line roll (preferred) – around 30cm (12″) or so.
  2. Tie a triple swivel to the end of the spooled line – tie it to one of the ‘end’ loops, not the middle one.
  3. Attach each leader to the remaining swivel loops.
  4. Tie the hook to the middle leader.
  5. Tie the sinker to the bottom leader – usually a star or drop sinker.

How does it work?

The key to this rig is that the sinker sits at the bottom keeping the bait and hook a little higher in the water. The bait is low enough to still attract bottom feeders as well as those who cruise a little higher.

The sinker at the bottom of the rig allows it to be cast a little further than others as well.

What do I use them for?

I use this rig on my ‘heavy’ rod that is cast into a gutter or hole chasing larger species. We use it with a larger hook and big piece of bait. It works a treat for us here as it not only keeps the stingrays at bay (as they can’t cruise over the top of the bait) but it also leaves the bait in the one spot a little better than rigs where the sinker can move.

Tackle requirements

Keeping the information above in regards to rod capacity and fish species in mind, these rigs are generally better for those hunting larger fish. I would recommend:

  • Star or drop sinker – size x to x
  • Size 3 – 4 triple swivel
  • Size 6 hook – Bait holder or

Variations

  • As opposed to the first option above, tackle can be interchanged a lot simpler on this rig. I do this by tying loops in the line at the end of the middle and bottom leader lines that I can loop over the hook and sinker as needed. Clips can be used here as well but I find loops a lot easier.
  • Stronger mono/flouro options can definitely be used for the leader sections.
  • Many experienced fishers will use a specialised knot to create the middle ‘leader’ rather than a triple swivel as well. I like this setup on an ocean rig ( snapper rig for example) however I find the swivels work a little better in the surf.

Rig 3 – Live bait rig

surf fishing rigs - Live bait rig

I am sure there is a more accurate word for this rig but we call it this as we use it if we are fishing with live bait. In all honesty, any of the rigs on this page can be used for live bait – especially if you want them closer to the surface – however this one is good if you want to let it move a little more in the one spot. The rig works by setting up a sliding hook on a line that allows the fish to swim up and down.

Advantages of the live bait rig

  • Fish can move around.
  • Live bait stays alive longer than if on a fixed line.
  • Keeps bait on the bottom if after fish that feed there.

How is it built?

The steps to build this are as follows:

  1. Cut a piece of line either from the end of the spooled line or a spare line roll (preferred) – around 60cm (24″) or so.
  2. Tie a triple swivel to the end of the spooled line.
  3. Attach the leader to the other end of the swivel.
  4. Slide the hook onto the leader – it does not get tied at all.
  5. Tie the sinker to the end of the leader – usually quite a heavy one.

How does it work?

As with the Dropper rig above, the key to this one is again that the sinker sits at the bottom keeping the live bait in the one spot. The hook is loose on the line and once pierced through the nose of the live bait, it is able to swim up and down as the hook slides along the line.

What do I use them for?

I use this if we have live bait when chasing the larger fish if the current is not strong and there is a nice deep gutter (if strong I revert to the Drop rig). Occasionally I will add an extra leader line via threading a swivel eye through the main runner with a leader attached rather than just a hook but this will tangle in currents.

Tackle requirements

Keeping the information above in regards to rod capacity and fish species in mind, these rigs are generally better for those hunting larger fish with live bait. I would recommend:

  • Star or drop (bank) sinker – size 4 to 8
  • Size 3 – 4 triple swivel
  • Size 6 hook – Bait holder or Suicide

Variations

  • Interchangeability is not as easy on this rig – especially if the hook is running directly on the line. The sinker can be changed again by tying loops in the line that can loop over it as needed. Hooks can also be looped if a leader is used with a swivel as outlined above.
  • Stronger mono/flouro options can definitely be used for the leader sections.
  • If you want to keep the fish closer to the bottom, an extra sinker can be threaded onto the top of the line before the first swivel is attached.

Rig 4 – Lure rig

surf fishing rigs - Lure rig

The first three rigs above are designed generally for use of fresh or live baits. For lures however, the process is usually a lot simpler. You see, if you are using mono or flouro line, then you can simply tie the lure directly to the end. If your reel is spooled with braid however, you will need to attach a mono/flouro leader to your line before attaching the lure (if not, you will snap a LOT of lures off when casting).

Advantages of the Lure rig

  • One knot and it is done

How is it built?

The steps to build this are as follows:

  1. Tie your lure to the end of your spooled line

or

  1. Tie a mono/flouro leader to the end of your spooled braid.
  2. Tie your lure to the end of your mono/flouro leader.

How does it work?

Um, you cast the lure into the water and retrieve. If you don’t catch a fish, cast and retrieve again.

What do I use them for?

We use them for a number of different options, but for the surf, we like a good spoon for surface fish and a soft plastic for bottom dwellers.

Tackle requirements

As with tackle, the size and type of lure you choose depends on the environment and species begin chased. To be honest, I could ramble about this for hours however if it is ok with you, if you want to know more click here to read my post covering my 3 best lures for surf fishing.

Variations

  • Most lures are built with weight included removing the need for a sinker. However if it is not heavy enough (such as in cases of strong current etc.) then a small sinker could be threaded onto the line before the lure is tied.
  • As with the first rig above, clips can be used if you like to swap lures around as you fish without having to tie knots.

Conclusion

And there it is – my 4 best surf fishing rigs to tie in 2021. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences with them.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time

Have fun

Paul

Note: If you make a purchase from this page, there is a very good chance that I make a commission from it – these commissions do not increase your sale price. This may include purchases made via Amazon, Piscifun or Fishbooker.com

4 Best Surf Fishing Rigs - Pinterest
Piscifun Does Halloween! Up To 20% off

Beachandfishing.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Note: If you make a purchase from this page, there is a very good chance that I make a commission from it – these commissions do not increase your sale price. This may include sales made via Amazon, Bass Pro Shops, Piscifun or Fishbooker.com

Leave a Comment

Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing hobbyists who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to fishing.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome fishing gear that will give you the best chance of catching a fish for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Paul

Sign Up To My Newsletter Here!

Keep up to date with my reviews, fishing exploits and anything else that jumps into my boat!!