Four Best Surf Fishing Rigs

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When someone thinks about fishing in the ocean, they are likely thinking about heading off on a boat to either try their luck in shallow waters or head out to tread in the deep seas. Either way, a boat is almost always included in the thought process. But does it have to be? A lot of people enjoy surf fishing, which requires no boat without slacking on fun and fish-finding.

What are the best surf fishing rigs?  Each rig available for surf fishing comes with its own benefits and special features to suit your style and needs. For the most part, they are easy to use.  These are our top four recommendations:

  • Fish-Finder Rig
  • Flapper Rig
  • Fireball Rig
  • Bucktail Teaser Rig

We are going to breakdown the ins and outs of surf fishing, from what types of fish you can potentially catch to what equipment is needed. Of course, we will also give detailed explanations on these essential rigs to have in your fishing box.  That way you can spend less time trying to figure out pesky rigs and more time catching fish.

What is Surf Fishing?

As we mentioned earlier, many people simply assume that someone fishing in the ocean needs a boat. But boats are not a requirement for catching fish! In fact, there is a fun and exciting way to catch fish without ever leaving the shore.

What kind of fishing is this? None other than surf fishing. Surf fishing simply means that you are fishing right from the shoreline, tossing your line into areas where there are waves. This makes surf fishing different than all other types of ‘typical’ ocean fishing, including pier fishing, which is typically past the waves.

If you’re looking for some delicious nearby fish who love splashing through the waves, then you will want to try your hand at surf fishing. Some of the more popular fish you might find while surf fishing includes:

  • Barracuda
  • Bluefish
  • Calico Bass
  • California Halibut
  • Cobia
  • Gulf Flounder
  • Redfish
  • Sharks
  • Snook
  • Spanish Mackerel
  • Spotted Seatrout
  • Striped Bass

And these are just to name a few! There is seemingly an endless supply of delicious fish you will find right off the shoreline, swimming through the waves. You will find everything from the succulent halibut (which makes for a great fish taco) to the shark, which some consider a delicacy.

Essential Surf Fishing Gear

Of course, you don’t want to try surf fishing without the proper equipment. You wouldn’t head out on a boat without the right stuff, and surf fishing is truly no different. So what should you make sure you have at all times?

  • A long rod. This extremely long rod should range anywhere from 7 to 15 feet.
  • A good fishing reel. This will help with overall success in casting and catching.
  • The right rig. Of course, the right rig is crucial to bringing fish in for dinner.

The Four Best Surf Fishing Rigs

Don’t know what rig is right for you? Well, after deciding on which rod and reel is right for you, it’s time to look at the rig. The rig is an essential part of the entire fishing experience and will be responsible for getting the attention of the fish and bringing them in for the catch.

There are four different options for surf fishing. Each rig has its own set of features and benefits. Finding the one that is right for you will take time and effort, so you may end up trying out all four- and that is completely okay.

For now, let’s take a look at the specifics of these surf fishing rigs and why you should consider adding them to your surf fishing gear:

The Fish Finder Rig

fish finder rig

When it comes to popularity, the fish finder rig takes the cake. These rigs are ultimately easy to use and are highly recommended by surf fishers. Aside from being the easiest rig to use, they are also known for being reliable and bringing in some amazing catches. So, what are some of the unique benefits of the fish finder rig?

First and foremost, fish finder rigs are great for use with large bait. And more times than not, using larger bait ultimately leads to larger fish. If you’re trying to score a larger fish for dinner, than you will probably find the fish finder rig to be the most successful choice.

Secondly, it makes for a great starter rig because it is so easy to use. It is easy to set up, unlike some of the other rigs that require multiple steps and special tying in multiple places.

The overall setup of the fish finger rig is simple as well, with a hook tied directly to the lead with a swivel tied to shock lead or mainline. There is also the addition of weight (or sinker) that can slide up and down, which should be located before the swivel.

Lastly, and perhaps the biggest bonus of using a fish finder rig, is that bait will move freely within the waves and the current. This means that any fish that goes after the bait will not notice the weight of the rig until it’s too late. This is good news for the fishermen as they can be confident knowing they will catch plenty of fish with the fish finder rig.

You really can’t go wrong with a bait that ends up looking like a wounded fish in the water. Aside from this, you will be happy to know that you can completely customize the hook size as well as style. This allows the fisherman to customize his rig to fit the needs of the fish he is trying to catch, which ultimately means the fish finder rig offers more versatility than other options.

Key Points of the Fish Finder Rig:

  • Great for use with larger-sized bait to catch larger fish.
  • Perfect starter rig as it’s easy to use.
  • No complicated equipment or trying makes for a less stressful surf fishing experience.
  • Bait is able to move freely through the waves and the current, making it appear as a wounded fish that fish are more attracted to.
  • A versatile rig that can be adjusted by hook size and weight.

The Flapper Rig


Another surf fishing rig that is right up there in terms of ease of use and popularity with the fish finder rig is the flapper rig. A lot of surf fishers find that this is the simplest type of rig to use, and they can fit the needs of a variety of fishermen quickly and easily.

Perhaps the biggest feature of the flapper rig is that the flapper rig can come with one, two, or three sets of hooks. This means that there are more chances for the fisherman to snag a fish in the water, especially if they are opting for three hooks at a time.

However, just because you have the option of using three hooks doesn’t mean that you necessary to use them all. In fact, to keep things ultimately simple, a lot of fishermen will opt to stick to just a single hook. This makes setup quick and easy, without missing out on any fish in the process.

For others, using two is key. When using one or two hooks, you have the option of placing the weight in different locations. This allows for one hook to be higher and lower, so the odds of catching a fish is even higher. The fish will try and dodge the first hook, only to end up snagged on the one on top or underneath.

The flapper rig is considered by many as the best choice while surf fishing on rough ground, especially if there is only one hook. The one-hooked-wonder won’t get caught up on the rougher terrain, which can be detrimental to your equipment.

However, there is one downside to using a flapper rig with three hooks: it doesn’t do too well with long-distance casting. Since the three-hook flapper rig has hook snoods that hang looser than other rigs, they have the chance of falling off when being cast too far out. For this reason, three-hook flapper rigs are best suited for short and middle-range casts.

Does that mean that flapper rigs with three hooks can’t be used for long distances? If you are dead set on using three hooks, you have the option of clipping down the bait as close to the mainline as possible. It may take a little extra work, but it’s worth it if you don’t want to lose your bait or rigs in the process

Key features of a flapper rig:

  • It can be used with one, two, or three hooks, which gives versatility to the fisherman.
  • Multiple hooks equate to a higher chance of catching fish.
  • Very easy to use, even when opting for additional hooks.
  • The best choice for rougher terrain as it won’t snag with one hook.
  • Three-hook flapper rig is best suited for short and mid-range casts.
  • Flapper rig allows for weights to be placed in different spots to potentially snag more fish.

The Fireball Rig

Fireball Rig

If you are a big fan of the fish finder rig, then you likely won’t ever want to cross paths with a fireball rig. This is because fireball rigs are essentially the polar opposite of a fish finder rig, and they are much more difficult to use. However, we highly recommend buying a fireball rig premade rather than trying to do it yourself.

The overall construction of a fireball rig is different than other rigs on the market, but that doesn’t mean it lacks success. The fireball rig includes two different swivels on opposing sides, one being a regular swivel and the other being a snap swivel.

The regular swivel will be directly connected to the mainline while the snap includes the weight to ensure your bait stays close to the bottom of the ocean (without actually touching so as to avoid bottom-dwelling sea creatures).

The major benefit of using a fireball rig is there are two sets of hooks on the fireball rig, making it easier to catch a fish. Aside from overall ease of catching a fish, the fireball rig ensures your bait has good maneuverability in the water, thanks to the double-swivel design.

When you are choosing to go with a fireball rig, you will want to pair it with flashier bait, such as brightly colored beads. This makes it easier for fish who rely on their sight to find your fireball rig and get caught.

Another great benefit of choosing a fireball rig is you can adjust the hook size and design. Remember, the size and design you choose will depend on the type of fish you are trying to catch, so make sure you know what you are looking for before you set out to surf fish.

Key points of the fireball rig:

  • Slightly more challenging to use than other rigs, which means you should consider buying premade instead of trying to put it together on your own.
  • Successful rig utilizes two hooks for better odds of catching a fish.
  • Unique double swivel design ensures your bait stays close to the ocean floor without actually touching.
  • Customizable in terms of hook size and design to snag the fish you’re after with ease.

The Bucktail Rig

Bucktail Rig

Less commonly used but rising to popularity is the bucktail rig. With this type of rig, you have a bucktail jig that is located at the bottom of the rig. This ensures that fish are being attracted to the hook, giving you a better chance of catching the fish.

A teaser paired with the bait of your choice is found on the loop located above the actual bucktail jig. Why this design? Because the teaser works to attract fish more readily and easily, while the bait is presented vividly for fish to see.

To put it simply, the bucktail rig’s main goal is to trick fish into wanting the bait with a unique design that presents a teaser first and foremost. It’s an overall fairly easy rig to use, which is why it’s starting to gain popularity in the surf fishing community.

However, bucktail rigs are somewhat hard to put together at first. This is why it should be bought premade, much like the fireball rig. However, once you get the hang of it, you should have no problem putting together this great surf fishing rig in a flash.

Key points of the bucktail rig:

  • Quickly gaining popularity due to the unique design.
  • A teaser paired with bait makes it easier for fish to be attracted and hooked.
  • A good weight will ensure that the bucktail rig stays closer to the bottom of the ocean without touching.
  • A little difficult to use at first, but with enough experience will be easy to put together and use.

Best Bait to Use with Surf Fishing Rigs

Keep in mind that the type of bait you will use while surf fishing will ultimately depend on the type of fish you are trying to catch. Different fish prefer different foods; however, most fish are attracted to this type of bait, and you should be able to find success with the following:

  • You can use shrimp that is either alive or dead. If you opt to use dead shrimp as bait, make sure you remove the head and the tail.
  • Many fish are drawn to crabs, and if they are small enough, you can use the entire crab.
  • Sand fleas. These are tasty to fish and very easy to find! Simply keep them in a bucket with sand during your surf fishing trip, and you should successfully catch plenty of fish.
  • Brightly colored beads. Another non-animal option is brightly colored beads. These will attract plenty of fish, especially those who rely on their eyes to hunt.

Pay attention to what works for you.  As in many other things in fishing, trial and error is often the best teacher.

Stay Safe While Surf Fishing

Just because you are hanging out on the shore doesn’t mean there isn’t room for mishaps and danger. Some areas have excessively strong currents that can sweep fishermen out in a flash, leaving them to drown without a chance of finding their way out of the water.

Anyone who is fishing in areas where there are ocean conditions that include fast currents or intense waves should wear a life vest at all times. You should also keep an eye out for sharp objects and dangerous fish that may be hanging on the shoreline.


Surf fishing is a great way to catch some fish without ever stepping onto a boat. Remember that a fishing rig is a big part of your success, and you have four great options to choose from. Each come with their own benefits, so find the one that is right for you and get fishing.

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