tips for surf fishing

Tips for Surf Fishing

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Surf fishing can be a lot of fun and can be productive when you know how to approach it.

Personally, I also find it extremely relaxing too; nothing like feeling the sand between your toes and the sound of the waves crashing on the beach!

There are some key factors that need to be observed each time you go surf fishing to ensure you get the most out of your trip.

Here are some tips for surf fishing that will help you improve your catch rate, and help you understand what to look for each time you head to the beach to fish.

Surf fishing tips for beginners

If you’re new to surf fishing, then it is important you understand the fundamentals before you take your first surf fishing trip.

Throughout this article, we will cover the following areas of surf fishing, and at the bottom of the article, you will find a checklist that you can use as a quick summary before you go.

  1. Where to fish when you go surf fishing
  2. Understanding the tides
  3. How far do you need to cast when surf fishing?
  4. Best rigs to use for surf fishing
  5. Surf fishing gear
  6. Best baits to use when surf fishing

Where to fish when surf fishing

To greatly improve your chances of finding the fish when surf fishing you should always look for any troughs and gullies where the tide runs in and out.

This is where the bait will funnel through, hence where the bigger fish will prowl looking for a feed.

You can see where these troughs and gullies are by looking at how the waves break.

But it does take a trained eye to know what to look for, so below is a really good video that will help you identify these hot spots.

Another way to get an aerial view of the area you are fishing is to use an app. Below are a few apps that are really useful when you go surf fishing to get a better understanding of the location you will be fishing at:

  • Google maps (available online and as an app for Android and iOS on your phone)
  • (only available online, no phone app available)
  • (Available online and Android and iOS app)

Understanding the tides

As with a lot of sea fishing, you should be aware of the tide times as the tide can make a big difference to when the fish are biting.

You really want to fish when the tide is moving, and this is generally a couple of hours on either side of both a low and high tide.

If you can put your bait in the troughs and gullies around the surf when the water is moving faster, you will stand a much better chance of finding a lot more hungry fish.

*For your safety* You should also be aware of any areas of the beach where you could potentially be cut off when the tide rises.

Some tides rise really quickly and come in a long way, so it’s always good to observe any areas you want to fish when they’re at high tide before you go so you know how far it comes in.

Surf casting – how far do you need to cast when surf fishing

I often see people trying to cast their line out as far as they possibly can when they’re surf fishing, but most of the time this isn’t necessary.

If you can find those key feeding areas for the fish, the gullies that run behind or through sandbanks, then this is where the bigger fish will be. Look for the rips in the tide and get your bait in there.

The key thing to remember with your casting distance is to try different spots in the surf. If you try one area and don’t get any bites after a couple of casts, then try a different area.

This may mean casting a bit further out, or a bit close in, a bit to the left or the right. But keep trying different spots until you find where the fish are congregating, and you start to get those bites.

How to reduce friction on your fingers when surf casting

A lot of the time when surf fishing you will require heavier weights if you need to get your bait out to a specific area, and also to ensure it holds the bottom.

This can put a lot of stress and pressure on your index finger or thumb (depending on what type of reel you are using), and if the weather is cold it can actually be extremely painful when casting. But there are a couple of good solutions for this.

If you are using a spinning reel or a bait runner reel, where you need to hold the line against the rod handle with your index finger when you cast, you will feel the friction caused by the more aggressive casting action after just a couple of casts (especially if using braided line).

So there a few options to consider that will combat this issue:

  1. Finger guard protector
  2. Kevlar glove
  3. Protective tape

Best rigs to use when surf fishing

There are many different rigs that can be used while surf fishing, and you can use any of the below to catch a wide variety of fish species.

If you want to know more about how to set up any of the below rigs, then go to my more comprehensive article on here about the different surf fishing rigs.

  1. Fish Finder Rig
  2. Paternoster Rig
  3. High Low Rig
  4. Fireball Rig
  5. Flapper Rig
  6. Running Rig

Surf fishing gear – what do you need

Your main fishing gear will need to be a bit different than for other types of fishing. Below is a list of some of the main fishing equipment that is essential for surf fishing.

Surf fishing rods:

Surf fishing rods are generally longer than your average spinning rod. Depending on the type of surf fishing you are going to be doing, you should be looking at rods from 9ft in length all the way up to 15ft.

I personally prefer to use a shorter 9ft or 10ft rod if I am fishing with lures in the surf, and then go into the 12ft+ range for casting baits out.

You will find that using longer rods will help you add some distance to your casts, so if you needed to get you bait out beyond the surf break then go for the 12ft to 15ft range for your rod.

Surf fishing reels:

The type of reel you use when surf fishing can vary. Some of the reels designed specifically for surf fishing have deeper spools to allow you to add more line than usual to the spool.

Then you have the baitrunner reels. These reels have a setting that allows a fish to run with the bait with minimal resistance so it will not know it has a hook in its mouth (until you disengage then baitrunner and set the hook).

Specific types of overhead reels are also popular with a lot of surf fishermen. Some of these reels are designed to cast longer distances, and they are very effective at doing so. If you have not used this type of reel then they do take a bit of getting used to.

If you plan on throwing some lures out into the surf then traditional spinning reels are ideal, and you should be looking at sizes starting at 4000 and up.


The two main types of sinkers used for surf fishing are either pyramid sinkers or ball sinkers.

The pyramid sinker is used when you want your bait to hold fast in the place you cast it to. Their shape allows them to sit flat on the bottom and makes it harder for the tide to move them around.

At the other end of the scale is the ball sinker, and of course, you want to use one of these if you want your bait to move around in the surf.

Rod holders:

Rod holders used for surf fishing will be slightly different from your regular type of rod holder that you may see people using when freshwater fishing.

The rod holder needs to be able to be pushed deep into the sand in order to give it a strong enough hold, and also to allow the rod to stand upright, almost vertical on some occasions.

These are fairly easy to make yourself, you just need a length of plastic pipe and sharpen one of the ends so it can be driven into the sand easier.

There are plenty of ready-made options if you wanted to buy one specifically designed for surf fishing.

Best baits to use when surf fishing

While there is a wide range of baits that can be used when surf fishing, you should always try and remember that it is always best to use bait that is commonly found in the area.

Different types of beach worms are prevalent on many stretches of the coastline around the world, and they are a great option to take with you as a lot of different species of fish will eat them.

Squid is also another really good bait, and a good tip is to keep your squid (either whole squid or strips) coated in salt.

Then using fish strips, or entire small fish will usually get you good hooks ups from a variety of species. Again, just remember to use baitfish that you would actually find in the area that you are fishing to really improve your bite rate.

Lure fishing is also a great option when surf fishing, and you can use a wide range of both hard lures and soft plastic lures. Some people even like to use flies, and I have seen people having great success when doing this.

Enjoy the serenity that surf fishing provides

For me, surf fishing is the one type of fishing that really gets me super relaxed. It’s a time where all of life’s stresses can be forgotten and you can just take in the serenity that the location provides.

I think there is something very therapeutic in hearing the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. When you couple that with the opportunity of hooking into some great fish, then you really do have the ultimate fishing utopia!

I hope these tips will help you on your surf fishing trips.

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