Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Surf Fishing Basics : Part 1

In celebration of the recent launch of , I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit some of the basic principles of surf fishing. It is immensely confusing to new fishermen and women , especially if they hit the beach and see 12 foot rods being used. It is possible to ease into the sport , so let's look at some basic gear requirements first.
  • Rods and Reels:

It takes a certain amount of practice to cast a 12 foot rod with accuracy and consistency , so start smaller. You can find smaller surf combos in the 8-9 foot range that will be much easier to cast at first , but will still be able to handle the occasional big fish. Look for a catfish or surf combo , with a bigger reel. These can be found at Wal Mart , BassPro , and most tackle stores. These are mainly Medium Heavy (MH) rods rated for 1-4 ounces of weight , and up to 20 pound line. This setup will become your go to rod for lighter duty surf fishing , so it is worth spending a few more dollars to get a nicer rod and reel. I recommend using a spinning reel unless you have lots of experience with baitcasters , as a 4 ounce sinker will cause backlashes unless you know how to cast. A spinning reel that will hold 150-200 yards of 17 or 20 pound test line is perfect for an 8-9 foot rod.
  • Line:

Fishing line for surf or pier fishing is heavier than what most people are familiar with. It can be either braided line or monofilament , but in certain places braid is frowned upon. On piers and at crowded fishing beaches , high visibility 17 or 20 pound monofilament is probably the most commonly used line here on the East Coast of the U.S. , but you can get by with just about any type of 17-20 pound test line. Anything lighter will necessitate the use of Shock Leaders , and anything heavier will severely limit the line capacity of your reel. Braided line is popular in some places , and most people will use 50 or 60 pound braid. There are drawbacks to using braid , just as there are with mono , but it does have it's advantages. Just make sure braid is acceptable where you plan to fish before you spend the extra money. Mono is welcome everywhere.
  • Rigs:

Rigging is my specialty. I know all manner of rigs for targeting specific fish , and I tie my own in most cases. Different rigs are required if you want to target specific fish , but there is only one that you should concern yourself with when first starting out in the surf. Unless you are good with knots , and have the patience to learn at least one new knot , I recommend that you buy rigs for your first trip. They are usually inexpensive , and they are a staple at every beach tackle shop and pier house I have ever been in.

The most basic rig you will use is a two hook bottom rig. It is without a doubt the best surf rig you can start with , and probably the most commonly used. Every surf fisherman will use this rig , or some variation of it , at some point. They are made by several companies , tons of local businesses , and even at home by frugal fishermen. In the picture below , you'll notice a few things : it's a short piece of wire with two twisted loops for attaching hooks , a swivel or loop to attach your main line to , and a swivel and snap on the end to attach a sinker. Some tackle shops sell these with hooks and sinkers already in place , but bigger stores usually carry them plain to allow you to choose how you want them rigged.
A Basic 2 Hook Bottom Rig , or Old Dominion Rig
To use this rig , you will need : snelled hooks (size 2 or 3 long shank is a good starter size) , and a sinker. It's best to tie the rig to your main line first using a reliable knot like the Palomar Knot , then add the sinker (2-3 ounces for most situations) , followed by the hooks. If you've bought a rig with the hooks already attached  , I recommend using an Improved Cinch Knot , but use whatever you are comfortable with.

  • Sinkers :

If you are familiar with freshwater fishing , you'll be a little surprised by the large lead weights used in the surf for pan fish. The heavier line , the big rigs , and the waves all make it necessary to beef up your weight. If the ocean is relatively calm , 2-3 ounces is all you should need , but i have used as much as 8-10 ounces when targeting big species with a 12 foot rod. Starting out , all you should need is a handful of 2 , 3 , and 4 ounce sinkers. They come in several different styles , and most anglers will eventually find a favorite. In the picture below , you'll see a sample of 3 common East Coast standbys.

Welcome to Surf Fishing for Beginners' new home , ! I've been dragging my feet on this one for so long , but now I finally have a shiny new domain. It has a nice ring to it , I think.

I'm really excited to get back to writing on this site , and making more how to's for those that want to break into Surf Fishing. There's a simple joy in standing on the beach and catching fish , and I've always enjoyed helping others experience it for the first time.

Most of what you'll see here is specifically from my experiences on the East Coast of the U.S. , but a lot of the same basic principles apply world wide , so give it a try!

For now , check the archives to the right for the older articles that cover the basics. There is a lot of useful info in there!

I'll be back soon with more articles , but until then you can always find my newest articles on

Tight Lines!