Surf Fishing Tips For Beginners: Ultimate Guide on How to Surf Fish

You don’t always need a boat to fish in the sea, and some of the best fishing is from the shore. Nothing beats variety in fishing, and shore fishing adds a whole new dimension to your sport. As a beginner angler, you must be eager to try out surf fishing.

Hauling fish from the sea gives you a different kind of rush than freshwater fishing. Surf fishing is simple. You can even do it with regular freshwater angling equipment as long as they are resistant to saltwater corrosion. All you need to do is get familiar with the basic nuances of surfcasting well before venturing to the coast.

In time, however, you’ll naturally gravitate towards specialized surf fishing equipment. They are larger than regular freshwater fishing equipment as the fishing area is vast, and the fishes are usually larger. They are also corrosion-resistant.

Our comprehensive surf fishing guide has it all covered if you are unsure how to prepare for your first fishing trip to the seashore. Our guide will cover everything from the rod and reel, bait and rig, to the fishing strategy to give you a running start to surf fishing.

The rod and reel question

If you used your freshwater equipment for surf fishing, you’d have realized its inadequacy. Surf fishing is demanding and requires larger rods and reels to cast your bait further and handle bigger and stronger fish. Many surf fishers use rods twice as long as freshwater rods, and the reels are large enough to hold hundreds of yards of thick fishing line.

For a person new to surf fishing, we recommend a surf fishing rod around 10’ long. Longer rods are great but difficult to cast for a newbie. Longer rods can cast beyond the waves breaking near the shore. Choose a rod with a Medium-Heavy power rating and Moderate action. This will make your surf fishing rod an all-around performer.

The power indicates the strength, and the action, the rod’s bendability. You can cast heavy sinkers and tackle fish over 3’ in length. A 6000 to 8000 series spinning reel or crankbait reel spooled with a 25lb to 50lb braided fishing line will complete your setup.

If the fish you are after is more than 3’, it can pull off hundreds of yards of the line when hooked. For larger species such as rays and sharks, your reel must have the capacity to hold at least 500 yards of 50lb braid.

Best fishing line for surf fishing

Most surf fishers prefer braid for surf fishing. While spooling braid, ensure that you don’t spool too little or too much. For example, if your reel can hold 500 yards of 25lb braid, make sure that you spool 500yds of 25lb braided line. This will easily avoid any problems later on. Also, the braid is thin and becomes slick when wet. Secure knots like the Palomar knot will prevent any slippage.

Bait, lures, and rigs

Once you’ve got your surf fishing gear in order, the next obvious question will be about the baits, lures, and rigs. Read on to know in detail.


Very few things can beat live baits. That said, frozen baits like squid, shrimp are bunker, shad, and mullet are also very popular in the US. However, whether live or frozen, the bait needs to be presented to the fish so that it is enticed to take the bait. This is where the rig comes in.

Must read: 4 Best Cast Net For Mullet

Rigs for baits

A rig is how the hook, weight, and swivel are assembled to present the bait. Use different types of rigs for different fishing strategies. A proper rig will maximize your chances of hooking the target fish. A heavy setup like the Fish Finder rig is best for fish over 3’ long, like sharks and striped bass.

You can add a floater to the rig if bottom feeders like toadfish, sea cats, or crabs keep nibbling at your bait. A 2” foam float will lift your bait off the ocean floor, where it is more prone to being eaten by non-target species.

Shrimp and squid baited rigs are best for sea trout, croaker, sheepshead, flounder, rockfish, and all types of perch. You must have these baits on hand at all times as most fish species love to eat them. If you aim to cast long, use the Fish Finder rig with shrimp and squid. For short distances and fish smaller than 3’, a Ready rig with 1-2oz would suffice.

For smaller surf fish, specialty rigs such as the Bottom Rig and Pompano Rigs are handy. As the name suggests, the Pompano rig is used to catch pompano and similar-sized fish like spot, croaker, and perch. Fish this rig very close to shore during high tide, right where the first wave breaks.

The Bottom rig, made primarily with wire, is suitable for fishing the rocky bottoms under turbulent surf. The Bottom rig will be your go-to rig if you plan to fish around rocks, bridges, piers, jetties, and inlets.


Lures are artificial imitations of the fish’s prey. Some popular lures are jigs, spoons, and top water poppers. Fishes are attracted to them visually, unlike baits that have a natural smell. They are best used when the water is clear enough for the fish to spot them.

Once you cast a lure, you need to keep it in motion to mimic the fish’s natural prey. The natural movement will entice the fish to bite. In addition, the light will bounce off the surface of the lure and attract the fish. If you fail to get a bite for some time, you can try the grub and jig. Jibs are excellent for moving water near inlets and jetties.

A topwater popper works in areas where plenty of baitfish congregate. Once you cast this lure, make it zig-zag while pausing often. Fish often bite during the pause. You can also use this lure to entice the fish when there are no signs of any. The topwater popper lure makes the fish curious and come out and investigate.  

Assorted gear

Now that you got the hang of essentials, it is time for the other gear indispensable for surf fishing.

Here’s what you’ll need-

  • Fillet knife for cutting bait.
  • Bolt cutter for quickly removing swallowed hooks.
  • Sand spikes or rod holders.
  • Fishing pliers
  • Surf fishing waders
  • Towels for gripping fish and keeping things clean.
  • Saltwater tackle bags

Ensure while buying that all the gear is meant for saltwater use and buy the best you can afford.

Read this additional information: 5 Best Fish Measuring Boards For The Perfect Catch

To wind off

Surf fishing is extremely rewarding. On good days your haul will be so huge that you can give all your nearby friends and family free fish. The big fish that frequent the shallow waters near the shore provide you with plenty of fight. You can enjoy plenty of game and fun either alone or with friends and family.

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