Unlocking the Secrets of the Fish Finder Rig for Surf Fishing

Matt Johnson
Matt JohnsonPublished: April 12, 2023
Unlocking the Secrets of the Fish Finder Rig for Surf Fishing

Have you ever felt frustrated while surfing fishing, not being able to target the fish you're after? Are you looking for a way to improve your chances of success and maximize your time spent on the beach? The fish finder rig could be the answer.

Our experts all agree that the fish finder rig setup is the best surf fishing rig.

We will unlock the secrets of this versatile rigging technique, including the best rig types, tips on choosing the right bait, strategies for setting up, and optimal locations for successful fishing.

Whether you're a beginner or an advanced angler, you'll find plenty of valuable information here that can help you become an expert in surf fishing. Ready to learn more about this proven fish-catching system?

What is a fish finder rig?

A fish finder rig is a type of fishing rig that is used in open waters without much structure. It is designed to target a specific depth and attract fish, such as striped bass, through the use of live bait. The rig consists of a leader line, a hook, and a sliding pyramid sinker. The leader is tied to the main line using a barrel swivel, while the sliding sinker is attached to the leader. A bead may be placed on the main line to protect the knots from being pulled apart by the bait.

The fish finder rig allows the bait to move freely while anchoring itself to the bottom. The pyramid shape of the sliding sinker and the sliding weight make the bait dance and wiggle in both large and small surf. This action is designed to attract fish, as it mimics the movements of their natural prey. Additionally, the rig allows anglers to target specific depths, as the sliding sinker can be adjusted to lower or raise the bait.

By understanding the components and how to assemble a fish finder rig, anglers can improve their chances of success when surfing fishing. The rig is versatile and can be used in various fishing scenarios, from shallow to deep water. Additionally, it is easy to set up and can be used in combination with other rigs, such as the Carolina rig. With the right knowledge, anglers can use the fish finder rig to connect with more fish and experience greater success while out on the water.

Fish Finder Rig Setup for Surf Fishing

Benefits of using a fish finder rig.

Using a fish finder rig offers several benefits for surf fishing. It is easy to set up and requires minimal tackle, making it an excellent option for those just starting out. When attacking the bait, the rig uses a heavy leader to prevent aggressive saltwater fish from biting through the line. Additionally, it helps anglers cast further than other rigs and is suitable for various species, allowing anglers to target a wide range of fish.

A fish finder rig can also significantly improve a surf fisherman's hooking rate. By using circle hooks and a longer leader, anglers can increase their chances of landing more fish. The circle hook helps to ensure that the fish is hooked in the mouth, and the longer leader allows the bait to move more naturally and attract more fish.

The fish finder rig is also great for targeting specific depths, as it uses sonar waves to detect objects and determine their depth. This makes it easier for anglers to target the species they are looking for. This rig is a versatile fishing rig that can be adapted for bottom fishing, surf, and pier fishing. It is easy to create and works well for catching various fish. We've caught everything from sea trout, bluefish, red drum, flounder, striped bass, and snook.

Improved hooking rate.

Using a fish finder rig can significantly improve a surf fisherman's hooking rate. This is due to using circle hooks with a longer leader that allows the bait to move more naturally, making it more appealing to the fish. This is beneficial when using live bait, as the longer leader allows the bait to move freely without resistance from the sinker.

The use of a longer leader can also be beneficial, as it allows the bait to move more freely and attract more fish. This is particularly important when fishing in challenging conditions, such as big waves and high winds, over a relatively uniform shoreline. The longer leader also helps to keep the bait in the area where the fish are feeding and makes it easier for the fish to realize that the bait is there.

Using a heavier leader is also great, as it helps to prevent aggressive saltwater fish from biting through the line when attacking the bait. This is especially important when using large pieces of bait. Typically, larger fish can have sharp teeth and can easily cut through lighter lines. A heavier leader also helps to keep the bait in place and allows it to bounce off the bottom like a wounded baitfish. This can be effective when using live bait, as it's attractive to fish.

The fish finder rig is a great tool for surf fishing because it can target specific depths. Using a fish finder rig, anglers can easily adjust their fishing depth to target various species. The rig also offers the advantage of a pyramid sinker. The pyramid sinker helps to attract fish by releasing a puff of sand when it moves. Sure, you can use an egg sinker, however, they're not as effective.

Ability to target specific depths.

A fish finder rig is a great tool for surf fishing because it allows your rig to travel the current through specific depths. Although the name sounds like your use a fish finder with sonar, that's obviously not the case. The pyramid sinker, which is used in a fish finder rig, helps anglers to target specific depths and currents. The pyramid sinkers add weight and stability to the rig. This setup allows it to travel through the current and float back up if snagged on the bottom. It is easier for anglers to adjust their fishing depth so they can target the species they are looking for, such as redfish and striped bass.

Versatility.

The fish finder rig is a versatile fishing rig that offers a variety of benefits for surf fishing. It is easy to create and works well for catching a variety of fish, such as sea trout, bluefish, red drum, flounder, striped bass, and snook. It also ensures an appealing and natural bait presentation, making it ideal for large pieces of bait.

The fish finder rig is also great for distance casting, as it uses a pyramid sinker to aid in distance casting. The pyramid weight is beneficial for attracting fish, as it releases a puff of sand when it moves, which can attract species that hunt by sight.

The rig also makes it easy to take big baits to the bottom. The sinker slide allows the bait to move freely without resistance from the sinker. However, the sinker slide helps to reduce the chances of the bait being swept away by strong currents.

The fish finder rig is also suitable for both beginners and experienced surf fishermen alike. For beginners, it is easy to set up and requires minimal tackle. Those just starting out absolutely love this rig. The rig is also loved by experienced anglers as well. This is because it's excellent for targeting specific depths and can be adapted for both bottom fishing and surf and pier fishing. It also ensures an appealing and natural bait presentation, making it ideal for large pieces of bait.

Tackle components for the fish finder rig.

The tackle components for a fish finder rig typically include a main line, sliding sinker, bead, swivel, leader, hook, and plastic fishing beads. The main line should be a tough fishing line that can withstand the conditions of salt water and the abrasion of the sinker slider. Monofilament, fluorocarbon, and steel wire leaders are all suitable options for the main line. The leader should be attached to the main line with a knot, such as a snell knot, and the length of the leader should be determined by the type of fish being targeted.

The sliding sinker is typically a pyramid weight and is used to adjust the depth at which the bait is presented. The size of the sinker should be chosen based on the type of fish being targeted, as well as the size of the bait. The beads help protect the knot from the sinker slider and add a bit of flash to the presentation.

Leader.

The leader of a fish finder rig is a heavy leader that prevents aggressive saltwater fish from biting through the line when attacking the bait. The length of the leader can range from 6 inches to 3 feet depending on the conditions and the type of fish being targeted. For example, a 12-18 inch 40# test monofilament leader is recommended if targeting a red drum. On the other hand, if targeting striped bass or other larger saltwater species, a 3-foot leader should be used.

The leader should also be attached to the main line with a strong knot, such as a snell knot, to ensure the bait stays secure and does not get lost. The leader of the fish finder rig is an essential component that should not be overlooked when setting up your rig for surf fishing.

Hooks.

When it comes to hooks, the fish finder rig offers a variety of options. Circle hooks and octopus hooks are the two most common types used in a fish finder rig. The hook size should be determined by the size and fish species being targeted. For example, if targeting a red drum, a 4/0 to 12/0 circle hook should be used, while larger fish, such as striped bass or sharks, may require a larger 8/0 or 9/0 hook.

It is also essential to consider the type of bait being used when selecting a hook. For example, when using live bait fish, a circle hook is the best choice since it can be lightly hooked in the mouth, allowing the fish to take the bait without feeling the resistance of the hook. When using cut bait, octopus hooks are a better option since they can securely thread the bait onto the hook.

Choosing the right size and type of hook for the target fish species and the type of bait used is important.

Sinker slider and bead.

The fish finder rig is an effective surf fishing technique that requires a sinker slider and beads. The size of the sinker slider should be determined by the size of the sinker being used. A size six sinker slide should be used when targeting average-size surf fish (20-40”), while a size five sinker slide should be used when fishing for smaller surf fish.

The sinker should be a pyramid weight, as this type of sinker will help to keep the bait in the strike zone for longer. The beads should be bright plastic beads, which will help attract the fish's attention and protect the knot from the sinker slider.

How to make a fish finder rig.

Ready to Go Fish Finder Rigs

To make a fish finder rig, you will need a circle hook, a leader line, a swivel, and a heavy-duty barrel swivel. Tie the circle hook to the snap end of your leader, then tie the swivel to the other end of the leader. Attach the main line to the swivel.

Before adding the sinker, it is essential to tie a long leader, as this will give the bait more freedom to move and attract fish. The length of the leader can vary depending on the target species, but it is typically between 12-24 inches. A longer leader may be necessary to target larger predatory fish like striped bass.

Once the leader is tied off, attach a sinker slider, bead, and sinker to the leader line. The sinker slider should be tied to the leader line using a simple clinch knot, and the beads should be threaded onto the main line before attaching the sinker. The leader should be tied to the hook using a Palomar knot for maximum strength.

With the fish finder rig assembled and the bait chosen, you are now ready to go surf fishing.

Making the leader.

Creating the leader is the first step in making a fish finder rig. It is essential to use a leader that is both durable and flexible. 36” Steel Leader #80 Lb. is a good choice for this rig type. The leader should be long enough to give the bait more freedom to move, as this will attract more fish.

The length of the leader can vary depending on the target species, but it is typically between 12-24 inches. A longer leader may be necessary for larger predatory fish like striped bass. After the leader is tied off, attach a sinker slider, bead, and sinker to the leader line.

The next step is to tie the leader to the hook using a Palomar knot. This type of knot is strong and reliable, making it ideal for connecting the leader to the hook. After the leader is tied to the hook, tie the swivel to the other end of the leader. The swivel will allow the leader to move freely, allowing the bait to flutter and drift enticingly. Finally, connect the swivel to the main line using a clinch knot.

When using the fish finder rig, it is essential to use the right leader. A longer leader can give the bait more freedom to move, which can benefit targeting fish in deeper waters. Additionally, a longer leader can help to avoid snags and reduce line twists. It is also important to use a strong leader, as it needs to be able to withstand the pressure of the sinker and the weight of the catch.

Attaching the sinker.

To attach the sinker of a fish finder rig, tie one end of the leader line to the hook using a Palomar Knot. On the other end of the leader line, attach a sinker slider and bead, and then attach the sinker to the slider. This will allow the sinker to slide up and down the leader line while keeping the bait near the bottom.

The type of sinker you use will depend on the area you are fishing in and the fish you are trying to catch. Pyramid sinkers are the most popular, as they are heavy enough to hold the bait in place but light enough to allow for some movement.

When using a fish finder rig, it is important to unseat the sinker and make it move slightly toward you. This will create attractive ‘puffs’ on the seabed, which can attract more fish. Additionally, it is essential to raise the bait’s depth every few minutes. This will give the lure more freedom to move and can also help to avoid snags.

Connecting the leader.

To connect the leader of a fish finder rig, tie one end of the leader line to the hook using a Palomar Knot and tie the other end to a swivel. Then, connect the swivel to the main line using a clinch knot. The clinch knot is a versatile knot that can be used to tie off hooks and leaders. It is important to use a heavy-duty barrel swivel when connecting the leader. This will ensure that the leader does not break in the crashing waves of the surf.

The length of the leader line can vary depending on the target fish species, but it is typically between 12-24 inches. A longer leader may be necessary to target larger predatory fish like striped bass.

Choosing the bait.

Choosing the bait for a fish finder rig is important in ensuring a successful fishing trip. Cut bait is the most commonly used bait when fishing with a fish finder rig and is the best choice when targeting predatory fish. Cut bait releases oils and scents that attract fish more effectively than live bait, which makes it an excellent option for surf fishing. However, live bait is still a viable option for areas where cut bait is unavailable. Live bait can be effective for fish such as red drum, found on the United States east coast. In addition, to cut bait and live bait, artificial lures are also an option for anglers looking to target a specific species. Tailored tackle shops can provide information on the best artificial lures for the target species and area.

Cut Bait for Surf Fishing

When choosing bait for a fish finder rig, most anglers opt for shrimp, crayfish, crabs, or sand fleas for the Gulf Coast. These baits can be found in both fresh and frozen varieties. However, fresh bait is preferable for surf fishing. Cut bait is also a practical option, as it releases oils and scents that attract fish more effectively than live bait. It is crucial to keep the pieces small when cutting bait, as this will release more scent and attract more fish.

When targeting larger predatory fish, a longer leader line may be necessary. This will allow the bait to bounce along the bottom of the ocean, which can attract more fish. It is also important to choose the right size hook for the bait being used. If the bait is too large for the hook, it can repel the fish and make it difficult to catch them.

Fishing with a fish finder rig.

Fishing with a fish finder rig requires the right gear and bait to be successful. It is important to choose the right rod, reel, and line for the type of fish you are targeting and the right bait. The main components of a fish finder rig include a leader, hooks, sinker slider, and beads. The leader should be attached to the main line using a swivel, and the sinker should be attached to the leader with a sliding sinker or foam peg float. The beads trap the swivel in place and keep the rig from tangling.

The best gear choices for a fish finder rig depend on the type of fish being targeted and the location. Natural baits, such as cut bait and live bait, work well with this rig, and a circle hook size 5/0 is recommended. The length of the leader should be adjusted based on the wind resistance and casting distance. Some anglers prefer to use heavier pyramid sinkers for increased weight and stability.

Other rigs, such as the Carolina rig, may be better suited for certain types of fishing and locations. By understanding the differences between the fish finder rig and the Carolina rig, anglers can make the most of their surf fishing experience.

Best gear choices.

Choosing the right gear for fishing with a fish finder rig is essential for successful surf fishing. The rod and reel should match the environment and type of fish you are targeting. Surf fishing rods should be long enough to cast far and powerful enough to reel in larger fish. A medium or heavy power rod is recommended, and a reel with a high gear ratio for fast retrieve is ideal.

Regarding the fishing line, a 50-pound test is usually the best choice for surf fishing. Monofilament and braided lines both work well, with the recommended strength generally ranging from 20-40 pounds. Plastic beads can trap swivels in place, but it is important to choose the right size and type of swivel depending on the size of the fish you are targeting.

The best baits for surf fishing with a fish finder rig vary depending on the species of fish and the area you are fishing. Cut bait, live shrimp, crabs, sand fleas, and clams are popular options, as well as frozen shrimp, squid, bunker, shad, and mullet. Fish heads and cut bait are the best bait for larger fish such as sharks. Bites can be slow when the water is colored. In such cases, often changing your bait more regularly or moving helps improve your catches.

By understanding the best gear choices for a fish finder rig, you can be sure to have the best chance of catching fish while surf fishing. Having the right rod, reel, line, and bait for the situation is critical to success. Knowing the differences between the fish finder rig and other rigs like the Carolina rig can also help you make the most of your surf fishing experience.

Best baits for surf fishing.

When fishing with the fish finder rig, the type of bait used can significantly impact success. Natural baits such as live shrimp, crabs, and cut bait are popular options for inshore species such as redfish, sea trout, and flounder. For these species, a circle hook size 5/0 is recommended, and a 12-18 inch 40# test monofilament leader. For larger species such as sharks, fish heads and cut bait are the best baits.

On the Gulf Coast, sand fleas, blue crabs, and bloodworms are popular baits. On the East Coast, tailored tackle such as squid, bunker, and shad are popular choices. Artificial lures can also be used, but most anglers prefer natural baits. When using natural baits, it is important to use a longer leader so the bait can bounce freely without resistance from the sinker, giving the fish time to connect.

The fish finder rig works best when the bait is allowed to move naturally, so it is important to choose the right bait for the job. Using the wrong bait can be detrimental to success, so it is important to understand the different baits and how to use them with the fish finder rig. By understanding the best baits for surf fishing and how to use them with the fish finder rig, anglers can increase their chances of success.

Types of fishing lines.

When it comes to surf fishing, the type of fishing line you use can make a big difference in your success. Monofilament and braided lines are the most commonly used types of fishing lines for surf fishing. Monofilament is flexible and resistant to abrasion, while braided lines are more durable and offer more sensitivity. The recommended strength is usually around 20-40 pounds.

Choosing the right fishing line is important for success. It is important to consider the type of fish you are targeting, the conditions, and the type of bait you are using when selecting a fishing line. By understanding the different types of fishing lines available and choosing the right one for the job, you can maximize your chances of catching fish with the fish finder rig.

Fish finder rig vs. Carolina rig.

The fish finder rig and the Carolina rig are both popular rigs for surf fishing, but they have some key differences and similarities that should be considered when choosing which one to use. The fish finder rig is similar to the Carolina rig in that it also uses a leader, hooks, and weight. However, the fish finder rig uses a sliding egg sinker instead of the pyramid weight used in the Carolina rig. This allows for a greater range of depths to be targeted, making the fish finder rig more versatile than the Carolina rig. Additionally, the fish finder rig allows anglers to make quick adjustments to the rig's depth, whereas the Carolina rig requires the angler to tie a new leader each time a change in depth is desired.

The fish finder rig also has a higher hooking rate than the Carolina rig, making it a more effective choice when targeting striped bass or red drum. The fish finder rig also allows for greater control over the bait presentation, as the egg sinker allows the angler to adjust the speed of the bait and the depth of the bait depending on the conditions. The Carolina rig, on the other hand, does not allow for this level of control.

By understanding the differences and similarities between the fish finder rig and the Carolina rig, anglers can decide which rig will best suit their surf fishing needs. Anglers should consider the type of fish they are targeting, the water conditions, and the bait they are using when deciding which rig to use. With the right rig and gear, anglers are sure to have a successful fishing trip.

Fish finder rig FAQs

Our angling experts compiled a quick FAQ to help answer some of your most pressing questions about the fish finder rig.

Is the fish finder rig good?

The fish finder rig is an effective rig for surf fishing, especially in challenging conditions. With the ability to attract fish in areas that lack cover and structure, it can be highly successful when used correctly. From shallow water to deep water, the responsiveness of the rig ensures that you won't miss any bites. We love the rig and use it regularly.

How do you rig a fish finder rig setup?

When we rig up our fish finder rigs, we pull out enough string for the weight and the hook. We leave some excess as it makes tying the line easier. First, we tie the weight to the line using an egg loop knot. Then we thread the hook onto the line and tie it on with a clinch knot. We often use beads or small floats on our rigs to attract more attention from passing fish. After the weight, we add a 1-3 foot leader and then tie on the hook. The length of the leader can be adjusted based on how deep you plan to fish.

What is the recommended leader length for a fish finder rig?

The recommended leader length is usually around 3-4 feet long. It is important to use a longer leader so that the bait can bounce freely without resistance from the sinker, giving the fish time to bite.

What type of weight should I use with a fish finder rig?

An egg sinker or pyramid sinker is the most commonly used weight for the fish finder rig, as it allows anglers to easily adjust the depth and speed of the bait. Other weights, such as pyramids or bank sinkers, can also be used depending on the conditions.

What type of line should I use with a fish finder rig?

Monofilament or braided lines are the most commonly used type of line for the fish finder rig. Monofilament is flexible and resistant to abrasion, while braided lines offer more sensitivity and durability. We prefer to use a 30lb braided line when we're beach fishing. 

Is a fish finder rig the same as a Carolina rig?

No, a fish finder rig is not the same as a Carolina rig. The main difference between these two rigs lies in the style of sinker used and the layout of the hooks and sinker; while the Carolina rig employs an inline sinker, the fish finder rig typically uses a more stable pyramid sinker at the base of the line. Although components may be similar, the fish finder and Carolina rigs are distinct setups.

What size hooks for surf fishing?

Surf fishing and beach fishing require various hook sizes, but the most commonly recommended size is 2/0. This hook is ideal, as it's large enough to catch species like bluefish, mackerel, fluke, and tarpon yet small enough to target whiting, pompano, redfish, snook, and other smaller species.

It's important to note that your hook size will depend on the type of fish you're targeting. For example, if you're targeting larger species like tarpon, you'll target larger species like tarpon.

Be a pro with the fish finder rig.

Surf fishing is a great way to enjoy the feeling of the open ocean and have the chance to reel in some incredible catches, and the fish finder rig can be an essential tool for a successful day. It's easily one of the best surf fishing rigs you can find.

Its ability to cast further and target a specific depth, as well as its increased hooking rate due to its use of circle hooks and a longer leader, makes it a great choice for surf fishing.

Moreover, knowing how and why to use each component of the rig, such as the hook, leader, and line type, bait and sinker slider, and their differences in comparison to the Carolina rig, is key to maximizing the chance of catching fish while surf fishing with the fish finder rig.

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

Master Outdoorsman

Matt is a seasoned outdoorsman with expertise in fishing, hunting, and wildlife. With a Master's degree in Wildlife Science, he combines his passion for nature with conservation efforts, sharing his knowledge through his writing for Fish and Game Report.

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