7 Surf Fishing Tips and Techniques

July 7, 2021

Tired of casting from the shore all day without much to show for it? We’ve got the expert advice for surf fishing anglers right here!

So pack your personal cooler and head to the shore to practice these seven surf fishing tips and techniques. Don’t forget to bring along a rugged rolling cooler to store your bounty inside and keep fresh until you get home.

#1 Use Different Rods and Reels

As a beginner surf angler, you can get away with one rod and reel. However, over time, you might find you need different outfits and rod sizes to handle different surfs and situations. Here are three outfits to consider:

Light Spinning Outfit | 7-Foot Rod

A medium light spinning outfit, like a seven-foot rod with a fast action and 3000 series reel, is a fantastic combination that works in various surf situations. They can be used to cast lighter lures like jigs and spoons, which are perfect for catching fish that linger close to the shoreline.

Medium Surf Fishing Outfit | 10-Foot Rod

Combine a 10-foot rod with a 6000 series reel to create a medium surf fishing outfit. This medium outfit is highly versatile and a good medium ground for beginner surf anglers. If you only could choose one rod and reel, this would be it! A medium outfit such as this can cast larger lures but also soak a cut bait on the shore bottom. Just make sure to use a 15- to 20-pound braided or monofilament line.

Heavy Surf Fishing Outfit | 12- to 15-Foot Rod

If you need to cast heavy weights way out past the breaking surf, get yourself a heavy surf fishing outfit consisting of a 12- to 15-foot rod. Of course, this sizable rod is only necessary if you plan to fish for larger fish. If not, a light spinning outfit or medium rod will do just fine.

#2 Reach for Spinning Tackle

surf fishing

The absolute best tackle for surf fishing is spinning tackle. Easy for even beginner surf anglers, spinning tackle is much easier to rinse sand off and is an exceptionally versatile piece of tackle that can be used in a variety of surfs and shores.

#3 Use a Fish Finder Rig

Surf anglers will find a variety of specialized rigs that claim to catch fish fast. But you really only need a fish finder rig.

The fish finder rig is a tried-and-true staple among surf anglers. Its design features a slider, which has a running line that passes through its hole and an attached slider. The leader is then operated between the swivel and your hook. Leader lengths can vary around two feet, but can change depending on your angling situation. It also helps to place a small float near the hook to keep the bait off the bottom, preventing crabs, skates and other bottom-dwellers from disrupting your line.

#4 Read the Surf

Beginner surf fishing anglers must learn how to read the surf. While picking a great fishing spot comes with experience, there are some surf fishing tips that can come in handy to pinpoint an area where the fish are abundant.

As you navigate the shore, take a look at the waves. The waves can reveal a lot about what’s going on beneath the surface. For instance, the gaps between breaking waves indicate there is a deeper area where fish might be hiding out. Overall, pay attention to the subtleties and read the surf to seek out holes and troughs, even if they’re only a few more feet deep.

Another tip? Use the low tide to discover sandbars, troughs and holes, coming back later when the higher tide comes in.

#5 Fish in Lighter Tides

One of the most basic things you need to know when surf fishing is how to read the shoreline and know when the tides ebb and flow. But as you gain experience, you can pay closer attention to the tides’ height and strength, too. A lighter tide makes an easier day at the surf without having to worry about weights and bait rolling and tumbling beneath the waves.

To aim for lighter tides, a good rule of thumb is to fish roughly two hours before and after the high tide. Why? Because this is when the current seems to ease a bit before it ultimately changes direction. Due to thermodynamics, this also results in a lighter wind, which makes casting easier, too.

#6 Choose a Heavy Lure

This surf fishing tip is pretty straightforward — use a heavier lure. Feel free to use an artificial saltwater lure, just as you would saltwater fishing off a boat, but to ensure your cast is accurate and cuts through strong breezes, it needs to be heavier. Otherwise, you’ll be fighting the wind the entire time and missing your mark past this surf.

#7 Carry Gear with a Surf Fishing Cart

While not necessarily about your rod and reel or reading the surf, there is one last surf fishing tip that needs mentioning. If you find yourself dragging heavy gear a long way to the surf, get yourself a rolling cart. Choose a heavy-duty cart with wide wheels that can handle sandy areas, and keep all your personal belongings — phone, wallet, fishing license and more — in a watertight case tucked inside and away from rising tides.

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