Skip to main content

Surf Fishing Tips and Techniques

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Top Tips For Surf Fishing

A compilation of some great surf-fishing tips to help you find and hook lots more fish.

  • How to find the fish you are after
  • Tips on rigs and bait for some popular surf fish
  • Types of rigs
  • Types of bait
  • Tips on cost-effective fishing equipment

Definition of "Fishing"

fish*ing (fish`ing) n. The art of casting, trolling, jigging, or spinning while freezing, sweating, swatting, or swearing.

Surf Fishing Tips: Finding the Fish

One of the best tips for locating fish is to go and check out your chosen beach at low tide before your expedition. Make a note of where the dips, hollows, and sandbanks are. This will give you a great indication of where the fish are likely to be feeding when the tide comes in. Look out for points of land that jut out into the ocean; you will generally find fish on either side of these features.

The best time to surf fish is always around high tide, especially if high tide falls at either dawn or dusk.

Check out the area at low tide, return at high tide.

Check out the area at low tide, return at high tide.

Get Local Tips

Another great surf fishing tip is to go and talk to a local tackle shop that is close to the beach you are intending to fish. These places are fantastic for gathering information about the fish species currently being caught, where and when they are being caught, and what baits are being used.

How Far to Cast?

Don't overdo it!

Sometimes the fish are much closer than you think . . .

"All Americans believe that they are born fishermen. For a man to admit to a distaste for fishing would be like denouncing mother-love and hating moonlight."

— John Steinbeck, 1954

Monsters in the surf!  A 55-pound striped bass.

Monsters in the surf! A 55-pound striped bass.

Surf Fishing Tips for Striped Bass

If you are a surf angler, hooking a sizable striped bass in the surf is one of the most exciting experiences you can have. The secret is choosing the right rig and the right bait for the job. Here are my two favorite surf fishing rigs for this sought-after fish.

The Fish-Finder Rig for Striped Bass

The fish-finder rig (illustrated further down in this article) works well for bass because it allows the live bait to move naturally in the current. Use live bait; eels hooked through the tail are always the top choice, followed by either menhaden or herring. Leader length between hook and swivel should be around 20 inches. Attaching a weight slide above the swivel will make the bait presentation much better than in a fixed version. Striped bass has excellent eyesight, so try to keep the rig as simple as possible.

The High-Low Rig for Striped Bass

There are also many versions of the high-low rig, but this is the one that seems to catch the most striped bass. This rig works well because smaller bass tends to sit higher in the water while the larger fish will stay closer to the bottom. For this surf fishing rig, tie two 5-inch dropper loops on a 5-foot length of leader, keeping the loops around 12 inches apart, and tie your hooks to the end of the loops. Fifteen inches below the bottom loop attach a weight snap and 15 inches above the top loop tie on a swivel for the mainline. This rig works by getting the fish to hook themselves, so circle hooks will work the best. Try using a larger bait like bunker chunks on the bottom loop, and a slightly smaller bait like blood worms for the top loop.

Red drum

Red drum

Red Drum Rig

If you are after a red drum, you will have to beef up your end tackle. IIlustrated below is a rig that should hold most large red drum.

For live baits try using live menhaden or shrimp. Chunks of crab also work well.

A rig for large red drum

A rig for large red drum



Surf Fishing Tips For Bluefish

The bluefish has extremely sharp teeth, so regardless of which rig you choose, a wire leader is advisable. The best bait rig to use is the fish finder rig. The wire leader length should be around 18 inches between hook and swivel. Put a weight slide on the main line and then tie the main line to the swivel. Bluefish have very good vision, so a free-lining rig helps the bait look as natural as possible. Bluefish are ferocious feeders and travel in large schools hunting smaller bait fish, so for live baits try menhaden, mullet, eels, and shrimp. They will also take most cut fish baits, with mullet being a favorite.

Lures For Bluefish

The majority of surf fishermen prefer to use artificial lures to catch bluefish. There are many lures you can use; popular ones are surface plugs, swimming plugs, jigs, and spoons. A fast stop-and-go retrieval will work the best for these fish, especially when using surface plugs. My personal favorite is a heavy silver spoon, which will cast a good distance and retrieve at speed. A good tip is to lace the spoon with a cut strip of mullet or similar fish; this will leave a strong scent trail as you retrieve the spoon. Spraying your lure with menhaden bait spray will have the same effect.

The average size of a school fish is two to five pounds, so light spinning tackle will give you some great sport. The bluefish has very strong jaws and sharp teeth, so when you do land it, take great care when removing the hook; use long-nosed pliers at all times.




Don't spend too much time on end rigs. A good principle for surf fishing rigs is to keep them simple. The less there is to get tangled, the better.

Below are three very popular and simple surf fishing rigs.

The Fish-Finder Rig


The object of the fish-finder rig is to pose as little resistance as possible as your target fish picks up the bait. It is entirely your preference how long to make the leader, but the average length is around 24 inches.

It is very simple to make the fish-finder rig yourself.

The Fireball Rig


The idea of the fireball rig is that the foam balls keep the bait slightly off the bottom. The bright colors and movement in this rig make it a great choice on days when the surf is rough and the water is cloudy.

The rig works well when fished with natural bait.

You can make up the fireball rig yourself but it is a little more involved, so it's much easier to buy them already made up.

The High-Low Rig


The high-low rig is one of the best natural bait rigs there is. The rig works extremely well for most large predatory fish, and gives you the advantage of having two baits in the water. The rig can be made up fairly easily, or can be bought ready made from your tackle shop.

Video: How to Tie Your Own Dropper Loop for Making Rigs

Surf Fishing Bait Tips—Which Baits for Which Fish?

Pacific mole crab digging into wet sand

Pacific mole crab digging into wet sand

Mole crabs (also called sand crabs) are one of the most popular baits used for surf fishing. Dig them yourself, and keep them in some damp sand. Will catch most species, but best for redfish, whiting, pompano, striped bass, blackfish, and black drum.

Squid are great bait for surf fishing. Buy them fresh or frozen, and use whole or cut into strips. Good for bluefish, striped bass, and redfish.

Sandworms or ragworms are another great bait for surf fishing. Dig your own or buy from your local tackle shop.

Good for: rockfish, striped bass, flounder, whiting, blackfish, porgy, sea trout, and surf perch.

Live shrimp sold for bait

Live shrimp sold for bait

Shrimp are a good all round bait, will catch just about any kind of fish! Can be used dead or live.

Mullet are excellent bait and will catch a variety of fish. Use whole, dead or alive, for larger fish or cut strips for smaller species.

Good for: bluefish, striped bass, tarpon, redfish, and sea trout.

Fiddler crabs in a baggie

Fiddler crabs in a baggie

Use crabs whole, or use pieces for smaller fish. Soft-shell crab tends to get more takers than hard-shell crab.

Good for: black drum, tarpon, redfish, and snook.

Dig your own bloodworms, or buy them from your tackle shop.

Good for flounder, sea trout, striped bass, bluefish, porgy, and whiting.

Surf Fishing Lures: Surf-Fishing Tips For Artificial Bait

Always pack a good selection of plugs, spoons, and other forms of artificial baits.

Depending on what you are after, artificial bait can be just as good as, if not better than, the real thing. Find out from local anglers which lures are taking fish.

Three Lures Every Surf Angler Should Have

Surf fishing lures are a topic of much debate among surf anglers. The multitude of different sizes and colors make choosing the right one a little confusing. Here are three surf fishing lures that every surf angler should have in their bag.

Metal Spoons

The large metal spoon is supposed to resemble a large bait fish such as menhaden or mullet. Most are chrome or bright silver in color. Most surf fishermen using a large metal spoon are after bluefish, but almost any fish will take them. These streamlined two- to four-ounce spoons will reach most outer bars with ease. Jigging the spoon on a medium fast retrieval tends to bring good results. If you are after bluefish remember to attach a 12-inch wire trace before the lure.

Lead-Head Soft Plastic Tail Jigs

Rubber fake fish of different colors threaded onto lead-weighted hooks

Rubber fake fish of different colors threaded onto lead-weighted hooks

The great thing about this type of lure is the variety of combinations available. The action of the lure on retrieval will vary with your choice of tail, so always carry a few different colors and sizes in your bag for a quick change. Changing your choice of tail is a simple matter and can be done quickly and easily. You can use many types of retrieval when using the combination jig, but employing a slow and steady retrieve will see the most takes. Heavy monofilament line will affect the jig's performance, so try and use a short length of lightweight leader.

Small Metal Lures

Small metal lures don't have to be this colorful—any minnow-sized bit of metal, with or without a brushy tail, may work.

Small metal lures don't have to be this colorful—any minnow-sized bit of metal, with or without a brushy tail, may work.

The smaller metal surf fishing lures are great for use with light spinning tackle. A seven- to nine- foot spinning rod and a reel loaded with 10- to 12-lb mono-filament main line will allow you to use this type of lure to its full effect. The lure itself is designed to resemble a minnow, and when used on a fast retrieve will attract small to medium-sized bluefish. A very slow retrieve keeping the lure close to the bottom will produce trout and smaller striped bass.

There are many more surf-fishing lures available, but these three lures will ensure you have a lure that will produce fish on almost every occasion.

Surf Fishing Tips - Your Equipment - Less Is More...


The beauty of surf fishing (or any type of rod and line fishing for that matter) is that you do not need much equipment to get started. Everything you need for a day of surf fishing will fit into a small to medium-sized tackle box.

You can set yourself up with everything you need for about $120, and rod-and-reel combos start at around $60, but as with most things you get what you pay for. Spend as much as you can afford on a quality rod and reel; properly looked after, they will last you many years.

Three things I always take surf fishing:

  • Torch (flashlight)
  • Nail clippers
  • Cell phone (in a sealable plastic bag!)

The Surf Fishermans Friend

A Quick Surf-Fishing Checklist

  • Surf-fishing rod (ten- to twelve-foot medium action rod, with silicon carbide line guides and non corrosive reel seats)
  • Reel (open-faced with a bail arm; choose the best you can afford)
  • Live Bait Rigs (four or five, ready-made)
  • Surf lures (a small selection)
  • Artificial bait (a small selection)
  • Spare hardware (sinkers, hooks, swivels, etc.)
  • Tools (needle-nose pliers, knife)
  • Miscellaneous (rod spike, rags, plastic bags, baitbox/bait bucket)

You really don't need tons of gear. The barest essentials will catch just as many fish as box loads of tackle!

Above all be safe and have fun!


© 2009 Richie B


stephan n on February 20, 2018:

Good tips - covers everything for a good start. :)

peter gilbert on January 02, 2018:

great tips

Marcus Lowell on November 15, 2016:

How great of you to share this kind of article, it is beautiful written and fun and easy to read! Actually, I have been digging some fishing blogs, I am looking for best tips and tricks when it comes to fishing, I stumbled upon some websites offering techniques and weather tips, like this website,, which offers the best day to fish. Anyway, I have also wanted to learn how to surf fish, and this article will come in handy. I love this lens, by the way.

I visit the weat coast of fla every winter & fish,yoou are like having a local friend,who is an expert fishermanThanks on February 02, 2016:

Dale A. Ohio

Emad on July 24, 2015:

i live in Tampa Florida and I love surf fishing this site is very helpful and teach me many points for surf fishing thank you so much

anonymous on September 17, 2013:

Some great tips for no matter where you want to surf fish. Thanks!

shabbirun on August 13, 2013:

Congratulations - this is an awesome, comprehensive lens! I like to fish off boats(only tried surf fishing once), but I'm gonna have to do it again really soon!

FishingTipsDepot on July 27, 2013:

Spot on with your definition of fishing!

ToaSamoa on June 18, 2013:

wow.....nice tips

RogerGraves on June 04, 2013:

Dang those are some huge fish! I just created a page on some recommended fishing poles, feedback would be great!

Well Done!

anonymous on April 17, 2013:

I will be starting my surf fishing adventures this year. Looking forward to it.

davidtrust on March 20, 2013:

I have never been surf fishing. I gotta do it!

Eric Mayo on February 28, 2013:

Great lens. Love the big striper like the one in the pic. That's how we do it in the surf here in Jersey!

jfms2012 on November 26, 2012:

that fish is a monster

MiaMusement on November 15, 2012:

What a FABU lens! I've just shared it with a fisherman friend on Kauai. He will LOVE it! Good work...

JerryTse on October 08, 2012:

Great lens! Good tips! I learn something from it

Jeremy Richmond from Hubbard on August 01, 2012:

Excellent Lens and very Informative!

PhotographicStu on July 22, 2012:

Cracking Lens, good information! Thank You

fishmounttroy lm on July 11, 2012:

Great Lens. Here's how to commemorate the catch when you do go surf fishing -

robertzimmerman2 on July 01, 2012:

Great Lens! Makes me want to leave work and go fishing! Maybe that's not a good idea since I need the money, but oh well, I can dream!

Teri Villars from Phoenix, Arizona on June 30, 2012:

This is a really nice lens and I love the content...will be sending you a hint through the contact. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

pawpaw911 on June 27, 2012:

Never been surf fishing, but would like to some time.

Azumayouki on June 09, 2012:

Thanks really helpful can't wait to go fishing again

frankleslie lm on June 02, 2012:

Good Job, great fishing!

purescroll on June 01, 2012:

thank you i fish a lot and this helped

lillianjuares on May 31, 2012:

Thank for the tips, this is not easy to do, i need to share this with my friends thanks again great :)

robert-hightower on April 25, 2012:

I have been wanting to get into surf fishing...

anonymous on April 21, 2012:

@anonymous: surf side on a board or 5-gal bucket lid

anonymous on April 14, 2012:

Good info to learn from. I just moved to area and looking to do some first time pier and surf fishing. The pier has a fish cleaning table, where do you clean fish when surf fishing?

HenkWillemse on April 07, 2012:

Great info keep up the good work.

DailyRogue on April 03, 2012:

Wow, you really put a lot of great info together. I love surf fishing. There's nothing like being in the water before the sun comes up.

anonymous on April 02, 2012:

This is what really helped me when I was first starting surfing The tips were really useful

cheech1981 on April 02, 2012:

love the surf...nice lens and good info on the rigs

anonymous on March 22, 2012:

this has been the very best web site I have been able to find. I'm new at surf fishing and this sure gives the best info for starting out plus much more. I just wish I had found it before I left home and purchased my starter equipment. Thank you, Ralph

anonymous on March 08, 2012:

Fisit Time going Fishing and this was very usefulls tips. I will let you all know my caught.

biminibahamas on March 05, 2012:

Great fishing info! We do a lot of fishing here in the Bahamas.

ChiroAustin on March 01, 2012:

Great lens! thank you for putting this together!

desa999 lm on February 14, 2012:

Thanks for a really informative lens.

Edwardjames81 on February 02, 2012:

There's no such thing as surf fishing where I live so it is always interesting to read about other sorts of fishing around the world. The striped bass is huge - what a catch. This is a great lens and an interesting read. Thanks.

anonymous on February 01, 2012:

What a great article you've done here, glad I found it, *blessed*!

Gordon N Hamilton from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on January 31, 2012:

Fabulous lens with lots of great information for beginning surf fishermen. Although the species I fish for are obviously very different, the techniques and tackle are very similar.

Donallphin on January 30, 2012:

I just returned from Costa Rica where I used your advice on surf casting to catch some incredible red snapper, rooster fish, and mackerel. Overall, great information. i used shrimp and squid for baits (sorry squidoo), and really had a great time on the Pacific side. Thanks a ton for the information!

ernad18 on January 18, 2012:

Fishing equipment is good, I'm sure the equipment is able to obtain as many big fish. Nice lens.

mayurswnt28 on January 16, 2012:

I have been reading out some of your posts and i can claim pretty good stuff. I will definitely bookmark your site. Fish

borge100 on January 03, 2012:

Excellent lens, loved the bait section, very informative.

Check out my lens on Ring Finger Tattoos if you get a chance.

HensenMarc on December 30, 2011:

Really nice lence. That video about rapala knot is rela great.

anonymous on December 17, 2011:

I too use smaller metal surf fishing lures together with the light spinning tackle. When I started fishing utilizing a fishfinder, my "hit-rate" went up by over 200%. Currently, I am using the humminbird 798c.

seosmm on November 29, 2011:

Very nice lens!

jaywigz311 on November 17, 2011:

I loved your lens. I've been fishing since I was a kid, and a good bit of it has been surf fishing (I live in Florida so I'm a bit spoiled). I learned a few new techniques today. Thanks!

John Howel on September 19, 2011:

I have been a fresh water fisherman with an occasional sea trawling trip (marlin) but for some time now I have been tempted by the idea of surf fishing - so your lens is now bookmarked.

anonymous on September 19, 2011:

Equipment The basic idea of most surfcasting is to cast a bait or lure as far out into the water as is necessary to reach the target fish from the shore. This may or may not require long casting distances. Basic surf fishing can be done with a fishing rod between seven and twelve feet long, with an extended butt section, equipped with a suitably-sized spinning or conventional casting fishing reel. In addition to rod and reel, the surf fisherman needs terminal tackle and bait or lure. Bass Fishing Tips

Auto-Nationals on September 15, 2011:

I love the picture of monsters in the water, inspiring!

Sgarena on September 08, 2011:

Looking forward to be on the sand with a rod in my hand :)

fashionistadiva on August 25, 2011:

nice lens! fishing is so much fun

cyberwizzard on August 02, 2011:

Nicely done! My motto: A bad day of surf fishing is still better than a good day at work!

OrganicMom247 on July 28, 2011:

Great information, I found it really useful.

daftrude on July 13, 2011:

Cool lens!

allansimons on July 01, 2011:

Amazing....& so helpful...

anonymous on June 28, 2011:

Nice article, very informative, given me some ideas for surf fishing for king salmon up here in kodiak alaska. thanks!

JamieHibbert on June 23, 2011:

I wish there was the variety of sport fish over here in the UK. You guys are spoilt for choice...

Also a great lens offering value to its readers. I am going to try the fireball rig for UK Surf Bass fishing - reckon it will work well.!

r2fish on June 16, 2011:

A beautiful lens with a detailed layout and information. Great lens.

anonymous on June 15, 2011:

First, and most important, make sure the lake you plan to fish has been stocked with fish. Fishing a lake that you are not sure has any fish in it will only be a waste of time. Check with your local Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to determine what type of fish your lake is stocked with, if any. Knowing the type of fish the lake is stocked with will help you decide what type of bait to use.

Fish are unpredictable. It is impossible to know when or what fish will be feeding on at any given time. So, switching between live bait and various artificial baits will only increase your chances of attracting them. Try varying between top water baits, spinner baits, plastic worms or live baits like minnows or worms until something works. excalibur crossbows

Anthony Altorenna from Connecticut on June 14, 2011:

Great information on surf fishing rigs. I'll use some of these tips this weekend!

auxpwr lm on May 27, 2011:

This was a very cool and informative lens. I liked those Redfish rigs. I have a lens that you might like. You should check it out, I have a receipt for some Redfish also. Thanks again for the info, im going to try those rigs once I hit the beach again.

stevebrown94 on May 27, 2011:

Shimano has a in reality huge identify in the fishing business because of to their constant production of high level of quality products, although retaining with cost-effective price ranges for clients. They have a great array of products and services that can be suitable for any consumer. They have great stop, high priced products and solutions that are generally for the further state-of-the-art anglers, as clearly as some reduced finish high-quality solutions for much more novice anglers that however want that feeling of satisfaction when they head out on their fishing excursion. Casting Rods

sluggasteve on May 18, 2011:

Good stuff!

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on May 13, 2011:

I've always wanted to learn how to surf fish. Thanks for these great tips and resources. Nicely done. I cannot believe that monster bass! A whale of a fish, for sure.

UKGhostwriter on March 15, 2011:

nice lens

thecreator22 on March 04, 2011:

cactch me a fish

fishmounttroy lm on January 30, 2011:

Great Info. Thanks for sharing.

fishingadv on January 18, 2011:

Very useful surf fishing trips, i like the definition of fishing.

Peacock bass Fishing

CashInTheHand LM on January 11, 2011:

I've always lived in-land and fished primarily in brooks, streams and small lakes -- but now armed with your information, I'll be taking a trip to the ocean! Thanks, this lens was very informative.

Ben Reed from Redcar on January 05, 2011:

A great lens. Lots of information.

xenoc on January 01, 2011:

love fishing! great tips for fishing! a lot of fun!

Melissa from Albuquerque, NM on December 27, 2010:

Love this lens...I haven't surf fished since I was teen and we would go as a family. Good memories, thanks!

DressGoon on December 20, 2010:

Great lens with a lot of information. Since I don't live near an ocean, I've never had a chance to surf fish. I enjoy other types of fishing and if I ever surf fish I will keep these tips in mind.

FamilyVacations on December 14, 2010:

Like your lens. Lots of info and pics.

smokeyjoe409 on December 13, 2010:

I love fishing and am amazed at all the info on your lens thanks, Joe

anonymous on December 03, 2010:

Surf Fishing is so much fun - reading about it really makes me miss it. Sometimes I'd go with only fishing line and hooks for equipment and search for hermit crabs as bait - I guess I could really use some of your tips on equipment :-)

dustytoes on November 18, 2010:

My son does a lot of surf fishing in Florida, this is an excellent lens. Will lensroll.

charder on October 26, 2010:

I love fishing!

percula lm on October 08, 2010:

This is a great lens. I live in California, so most of these species are not found out here (except striped bass). I still want to try out some of these rigs that I'm not used to . I think it's called the fireball rig, that one's new to me but it will apply out here perfect for surf perch.

Rhonda Albom from New Zealand on September 10, 2010:

Great surf fishing tips. Was that first photo with the monsters of the sea actually caught in the surf? Pretty impressive! My fishing skills aren't that good, I have never caught anything large enough to keep.

marriemb lm on July 02, 2010:

Thanks for those ultimate fishing techniques I would request you to please check my lens too

stacy mcdaniel on June 23, 2010:

Nice striped bass. Wish I could catch one that size. Fun Lens!

VarietyWriter2 on June 09, 2010:

Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

anonymous on May 16, 2010:

Great site. Excellent tips for a person who has no idea of surf fishing

anonymous on May 05, 2010:

this is a excellent site, very informative and fun

anonymous on January 20, 2010:

very nice site. Love surf fishing.

syruponious on January 07, 2010:

I didn't even know Bass got that big. Nice lens good work.

anonymous on December 06, 2009:

excellent tips...

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on November 13, 2009:

I'm not into fishing, but I sure appreciate the work you put into this lens! Nice, nice job. It always amazing me what BIG fish come out of the ocean. And lakes too. Hard to believe what's under the surface sometimes.

SmudgeArt on November 12, 2009:

EXCELLENT !!!! Way to go !! 5* & fav.

Trioman on November 11, 2009:

Is that you in the picture above...that fish looks bigger than you....very informative lens...definitely a five star

InsideGuideToLondon on November 06, 2009:

Hey nice lens Obie - a good mix of text, photo, video and diagrams - laid out in an easy to digest format - Good work - 5* and faved.

northamerica on September 15, 2009:

Well done. 5 stars. I loved the bait section - very extensive.

hayleylou lm on September 15, 2009:

The Pictures on the beach are great - really makes people appreciate how therapeutic surf fishing is. Lots of useful tips here too, great lens, left you 5 stars.

puzzlerpaige on September 14, 2009:

I agree about talking to your local tackle shop. They always have heard something about who is catching what and where. Good basic info here on your lens.