Informational Guide

Surf Fishing Tips

The beach is a great place to have fun & go fishing. We look at some top surf fishing tips & share some techniques on how to surf fish!

by Andrew

Informational Guide

Surf Fishing Tips

The beach is a great place to have fun & go fishing. We look at some top surf fishing tips & share some techniques on how to surf fish!

by Andrew

by Andrew

A beach is always a great place to kill some time and have some fun. Some people enjoy sunbathing or swimming, but the most fun activity is undoubtedly surf fishing. Let’s look at some surf fishing tips that will be sure to get you on the meat!

Surf fishing is a perfect alternative for fishing from a boat. Whether you do not have access to a boat, or it is just too windy to get out on the water, casting a line from shore can be just as rewarding.

Saltwater surf is home to most inshore fish species, so they can easily be caught by casting bait right from the beach. Usually, the best time to surf fish is a falling or low tide.

Anglers bring a vehicle or gear wagon out onto the beach and set up a bait and rigging station just like they would on a boat, baiting large circle hooks with chunks of bait, and then casting out into troughs or structures where the waves are breaking is the name of the game.
Surf Fishing Tips

What Do I Need for Surf Fishing?

Surf Rod & Reel Combo

When it comes to casting from the beach or shoals, bigger tends to be better. Using a large rod and reel combo means that you will have the strength to reel in the large fish you may come across while not breaking a sweat on any of the smaller fish. Large rods also aid in long casts with heavy sinkers or weights.

The ideal surfcasting rod would be a 10-13ft medium-fast rod with large casting eyelets. These allow the line to leave the reel unobstructed. The rod should be rated for 3-1 ounces of weight also so that large bait and sinker rigs can be cast efficiently.

A reel on your surf rod should be a size 6000-8500 spinning reel. This gives you the capability to hold a large amount of heavy test line and have the power to land large saltwater species.

Saltwater Bait

Using bait is the most common method of surf fishing. There are all sorts of different live or dead bait options such as mole crabs, squid, sandworms, ragworms, shrimp, and mullet. Each has its strengths and weaknesses depending on the season and the desired target species. The best advice I can give is to always bring multiple varieties of bait when you go surf fishing. This gives you a greater chance of catching overall.

For dead or chunk bait fishing, rigging your line is simple. For example, to rig a shrimp to surf fish, simply tie a large sinker to your main line, and secure in a hook about a foot above that sinker. The hook should be what is known as a "circle hook" so that the hook sets itself. The shrimp bait gets threaded onto the hook and cast out into the surf.

Surf Fishing Lines

Line choice is another important factor in surf fishing success. You will not want a line that is too light, as a bigger fish will snap off. Having a line that is too heavy could also be detrimental to success because a fish may be able to see a heavier line and decide not to take the bait.

For most instances of surf fishing, a line choice between 12-30lb will be sufficient. Length of line on the reel is important as well; you want to be able to cast out roughly 250 feet and have enough line on top of that to fight a running fish. When surf fishing, the more line you can have on your reel, the better.

Tackle Bag or Bucket

On a boat, you usually have tackle and rod storage where you can keep all your gear safe and clean. When you are surf fishing, you need to bring all of that gear to the beach. A tackle bag, bucket, or wagon are the perfect solutions.

A gear bag is always a good choice, and a bucket is almost a necessity. To optimize a bucket for surf fishing, think about purchasing a caddy that sits in or around the bucket that holds miscellaneous tools like pliers and line cutters for easy access.

Other Surf Fishing Gear

We just mentioned wagons. These are a great addition to your surf fishing arsenal. There are plenty of industry-specific setups on the market, and they all allow you to get your gear out onto the beach without having to make multiple trips to the car or truck back in the parking area.

You have all the room for tackle and gear, with the added ability to bring a cooler or chair out on the sand. For this purchase,  I would suggest finding a wagon with large flotation wheels, just so that it is more easily dragged across the sand. The rod holder and tackle accessories are always a great add-on and gift idea down the road as well.

How To Surf Fish: Guide For Beginners

So, now that you have all your gear and even stopped at the bait store for some shrimp, what do you do next? Assuming that you have already found some surf fishing access on the map, checked the best time for surf fishing in that area, we will pick you up at the beach with your gear loaded onto your wagon.

Read The Beach

The first step is to read the beach. Look for larger stones or areas that have higher concentrations of shells than the other parts of the beach. These areas are the result of a deeper hole out in the surf and tend to have a higher likelihood of holding fish. This is where you will want to set up.

Rig Lines

Next, clip on your rigs to your main lines. Before you get to your fishing destination, you should have pre-tied all of your rigs for the trip. These should include "high-low" rigs and "fish finding" rigs.

Hooks and Weights

As far as how to make surf fishing rigs, a high-low setup is as simple as running a large weight on one end of a line and then adding 2 hooks. One about a foot from the weight, another about a foot up from that. There should be a 10-12 inch section of tag line above the second hook where you tie in your swivel. That can be tied on with a fisherman's knot or uni knot. The swivel then gets clipped to your mainline, and you are ready for bait.

Because a long 2 hook rig is so tough to cast, anglers like to run a fish finding setup where a smaller weight, under 3oz, is tied closely to a set of circle hooks but not touching. This makes casting to multiple hole locations easier for the angler, and once you find which hole has the fish, you cast your larger rigs into it. These rigs are usually tied to shorter rods for casting ease.

How To Bait

Once you have clipped your rigs to your mainline, add your bait to the circle hooks. When using shrimp, just pierce the hook through the bait so that the barb of the hook is clear and visible out the opposite side. You are now ready to cast out into the surf.

Where to Cast

Aim your cast to the white water as the waves are receding. This will place your bait in the optimal trough or hole where the fish are hunting. Reel in any slack line so that you can feel the weight against the ocean floor with the rod tip. You can then place your rod into the holder and bait up your next line!

How To Surf Fish

Common Areas for Saltwater Surf Fishing

Now that we have brought up casting into a trough,  let's break that down a bit further and explain both the trough and why it is important.

  • Troughs
    Fish hide and hunt in these wave break troughs because they hold bait. These troughs are sandbars created by breaking waves. They make a natural channel where predatory fish can ambush their prey and subsequently provide a perfect place to cast your bait.
  • Points
    Fishing off points gives you, as an angler, the broadest range of casting. They also provide the furthest structure where deep water meets shallow, which provides you with the greatest chance to catch.
  • Inlets
    Calm water inlets are a good place to fish when the tide is low. Because the water is not very deep to begin with, the low tide forces fish to be more condensed into a smaller area. Predatory fish take advantage of feeding in these conditions, and anglers should take advantage of those fish for the same reasons.
  • Deep Shore Water
    Finding a shoreline where the water gets deep quickly, or instantly, in the case of a cliff, is usually a winning strategy. Fish love dramatic transitions. Fishing in deep water from shore allows you to target other species that are not typically found in the shallow waters along the beach.
  • Colliding Waves
    Anytime you find colliding waves or currents, try to cast your bait into them. These collision areas stir up bait and forage that attract larger fish. By positioning your bait in these areas where fish naturally feed, you will have a better chance of getting a bite than you would be casting into a structureless, baitless area.
  • Saltwater Weed Beds
    Structure and weeds are known to hold ambush predators underwater. If you can position your bait on either the far or close side of a weed bed, the chances of a fish darting out of those weeds to grab your bait are in your favor.

What Types of Fish Can You Catch Surf Fishing?

Like any other type of fishing, finding the fish is the most important step. For surf fishing on the East Coast of the United States, there are not many places better than Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This location is special because it has the perfect habitat and water temperatures for tons of different fish species. Because of its geographical location, you can catch both cold water fish and tropical fish from the same beautiful beach. We can look into some of the specific species and methods of fishing for them below

Catching Spanish Mackerel Fish

Spanish mackerel surf fishing tips vary. Some use bait like sardines to fish for "Spaniards," but I find the best way is to cast spoons out into the schools when you see them swimming close to the shore. Fast casting and retrieving usually gives you a great shot at landing multiple fish quickly, on light gear.

Catching Pompano

Big pompano are caught on set rigs from the beach. That means your rod is in a holder, and you are waiting on the bite. Other pompano surf fishing tips are as follows. Use sand fleas on a single or multi-hook rig but be gentle when hooking the sand flea; try not to crack the shell. Using a synthetic bait in addition to the sand flea may help to keep the hook baited for a longer period.

Catching Bluefish

Surf fishing for bluefish can be done in a few different ways. You could use chunk bait on a traditional multi-hook rig, or you could cast spoons and poppers into schools of fish along the beach. Sometimes bluefish surf fishing tips can be as simple as telling you to cast any lure into a school of blues and hold on tight!

Catching Red Drum Fish

Want to know how to surf fish for red drum? Easy, rig up a few different size rods with double hook “high-low” rigs and cast them out with a shrimp on one hook and a chunk bait (baitfish cut into chunks) on the bottom hook. This will give the fish an option of what they would like to feed on. Cast these out in multiple depths to start, and once you catch a fish, cast all rods into that same depth or trough.

Catching Striped Bass

When thinking about how to surf fish for striped bass, I like to fish an incoming tide a couple of hours before the peak, and an hour after peak high tide. When it comes to bass fishing tips, for rigging and bait, Using a spoon and or a “Sluggo” seems to work well. A “Sluggo” is just a large soft plastic jig that can be fished on its own or hooked to a spoon and cast into schools of feeding fish.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What is the best time for surf fishing?

Early morning and late afternoon are the most productive times to surf fish. At high tide, the fish will be more plentiful in the closest trough to the beach. Low tide is also a great time to fish because you get the best opportunity to cast to the drop-off out beyond the first two troughs.

How do you fish with a spoon in the surf?

Spoon fishing in the surf is a fun way to pass the time while waiting for your bait lines to be hit. For this activity, cast out a large spoon into a ball of baitfish or wherever you see birds diving. Retrieve quickly and set the hook as soon as a big fish crushes that spoon.

How far do you need to cast for surf fishing?

Reading the beach will determine how far you need to cast. Some troughs are 20 yards off the beach, and some are 100 yards or more. Also, look for baitfish swimming along the beach and cast as close to them as possible.

How do you tie a shock leader for surf fishing?

Shock leaders can be tied to a mainline with a double uni knot. Tie a uni knot connecting the mainline to the leader, cinch down, and then another with the tag end of the leader to the mainline. Pull the knots together and tight. Then just snip the tag ends, and you are ready to cast without fear of snapping your line.

Can you surf fish with a 7-foot rod?

A 7-foot rod is a bit small for surf fishing. I would say go for a minimum of 10-feet with your rod selection. The longer rod makes casting less strenuous.


By this point, you should feel pretty confident in your surf fishing knowledge. You know where to look for fish and what gear you need to bring. All you need now is the hungry fish! I wish you luck on your next adventure.