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Sometimes my fishing buddies like to have a change in fishing methods. Sometimes we are fly fishing, using conventional fishing equipment, wading, or fishing from the bank. On this occasion, they decided that we should try some surf fishing; which could be very similar to bank fishing.

Here in South Carolina most fishing is done near rock groins, in the foam or just where the waves are breaking, or in troughs that are considered either the back or front edges of a sand bar. The structure that I’m writing about is best to locate the day before at low tide so that you are prepared for a great day on the beach. These would be areas that you should consider looking for as they will be structures that will attract bait fish, shrimp, smaller fish and bigger fish.

My preferred equipment for surf fishing is the following:

While your regular fishing gear will work, I prefer to use a 9 foot rod that has the capability of casting a 1 – 4 oz lure or a fish finder rig with a weight of 1 or 2 oz to anchor the baited rig to keep it in place. I pair this rod with a 6000 size spinning reel spooled with 60lb braid.

Surf Fishing 101

So that I don’t have to hold this fishing setup, I will push a rod stake into the sand. I prefer one that is roughly 24 – 30 inches in length, as I can at least sink it into the sand about 12 inches. Don’t forget to keep monitoring the rod and rod stake and the tide will pull sand away from the rod stake as at some point you might find to rod setup laying in the saltwater and sand.

surf fishing rod setup

When I’m surf fishing, I prefer to use bait. For me live bait is a pain as you have to try to keep the live bait fresh and alive. So I prefer to use fresh shrimp from the fish monger or at the seafood counter at the grocery store. To help to keep the bait fresh you will need a good cooler. My favorite cooler is one that falls in the size of a 45 quart cooler. There is enough room for keeping the bait fresh, your drinks cold, and a place to keep your fish that you catch.

Surf Fishing 101

Since I use bait, I will setup my rods with either a fish finder rig or a Pompano/Whiting rig. The fish finder rig is the most popular rig on the surf and closely resembles a Carolina Rig. The weight is normally a heavy (3 oz) pyramid sinker to hold your presentation near the bottom holding against the current. The pyramid is attached to a sinker slider; the main fishing line goes through the slider and a plastic bead. The fishing line is then attached a swivel and a 15 – 18 inch leader that has a hook attached. The sinker will eventually move on the bottom and this movement kicks up sand that imitates a wounded bait-fish. At the other end of your leader, your bait will be bouncing up and down off of the bottom like a wounded bait-fish as it reacts against the current versus the sinker.

The best hook to use for surf fishing is a circle hook. I like to use a size 1 or 2 for whiting or pompano. For bigger fish like redfish or bonnethead shark a circle hook in the size of a 1/0 or 2/0 is my preference. A circle hook is a fishing hook is designed with the point turned back at a right angle to the hook shank. It’s not exactly a circle, but that’s where the name comes from to form a generally circular, or oval, shape. Perfect corner of the mouth hook sets is a great place to hook a fish because they can recover easily from that and keep feeding and digesting as normal. This leads to less gut hooking as well. With the circle hook it’s nice to know we don’t even have to set the hook. We just wait until the fish has the bait in his mouth and is moving with it. The circle hooks set themselves in the perfect spot. Note that this might not be true all the time.

Gear set up for surf fishing

To get your rods, tackle box, rod stakes, a chair, and cooler from your vehicle to your fishing spot on the beach you will need a beach cart with balloon tires to travel across the sand. The cart allows you to eliminate multiple trips from the fishing location and back to the vehicle to get more equipment. This piece of equipment allows you to easily change locations when the initial spot is not providing bites.

Surf fishing spots

Surf fishing requires patience and a bit of stubbornness. Avoid over-casting as you’ll more quickly use up your bait. Grab a chair, crack a drink, and settle in to watch the wonders of the beach environment.