A Beginner’s Guide: The Basics of Surf Casting

To some, the beach is a place to relax, read a book, or swim. But for a specific group of people, it is a place to haul their tools and tackle as a preparation for their surf fishing adventure.

If you want to start the same adventure too, this article will be your guide to the basics of surf fishing like the tackles and surf casting rigs. What are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

Get To Know Surf Casting

In case you’re wondering, surf casting is different from the regular casting that we know of in many different ways. One of which is the length of your cast. Longer overhead casts are required in this method if you wish to get the fish that hide between troughs and around sandbars.

It also follows a specific movement that isn’t necessarily difficult but still requires practice so you can get the hang of it in terms of your precision and speed. To do this, you can go into the surf and look for an area where you want your bait to land. Then, hold your rod perpendicular to the ground and cast your line back in one fluid motion. Release it as the rod gets into your line of sight. Through this, you get to see where the rig will land and assess your accuracy as needed.

What Fish To Expect

Many prefer surf casting for the variety of species it can give you. Depending on the country you’re at and the time you’ll be fishing, you’ll surely get an amazing catch.

Striped bass, croaker, bluefish, flounder, smelt, and tuna are a few of the fish that are frequently caught along the East Coast. Redfish, Snook, Spotted Seatrout, Pompano, and Mackerel abound along the Gulf Coast. In some areas, you might even be able to catch a few tarpon. Then you have your Jack Crevalle, Ladyfish, Cobia, Barracuda, and Sheepshead.

You can catch California Corbina, Halibut, Rockfish, Mackerel, Surfperch, and many other fish on the West Coast. Anywhere you throw your line, you can locate many varieties of sharks, which are another popular target. As you can see, fishing from shore involves a lot of activities. Even if you can’t pursue game fish, there is more than enough to keep you occupied.

When To Start Surf Casting

Although there’s no one correct answer to this question, there are some factors you should always remember. 

Ideally, you should surf cast in tides during low-light conditions like those during sunrise and sunset. However, this does not mean you cannot fish at different times.

You can always look at tidal charts for your area to determine which time would be best. Remember to arrive at the beach hours prior to the high tide because bites during that time is the best. This means you should head out very early in the morning or a few hours before sunset.  Fish will be feeding on the bait fish the current brings in during this time so you have a higher chance of luring them too. 

You can even fish during overcast days but you just need to be careful with dangerous rip currents and sudden weather changes like rain showers and storms. Leave as soon as you see lightning in the sky.

Where Is The Best Surf Casting Spot?

To find the best surf casting spot, you need to read the beach first. This is like a scouting mission to look for the best spots close to shore where the fish are likely to hide. 

This is done best during low tide since you can have a better view of the sandbars, rock jetties, and deep holes that are exposed when the water pulls back. You might want to look for a trough too or the channel that forms between land and the sandbars. Most fish will stay here and feed during high tide. Finding the spotbars means you can already estimate where the troughs will be and where you should focus your casts.

Rocky jetties and submerged rocks are two of the places where fish like to converge. You run the risk of losing your terminal tackle if you try to fish close to them. When the water comes back in, try your luck around rip tides, which will be easier to see. Be sure to keep track of the location of the fish in deep holes and cast your bait in that general area.

Equipment and Gears

Let’s go through a quick list of what you’ll need for your surf fishing experience before we discuss the finest tackle and rigs to use. Here are the things you’ll need in surf casting:

Sand spikes (rod holders) 

You also need a rubber mallet so you can get them into the sand easier.

Fishing rods and reels 

It is ideal to have at least two with different setups.

Your bait of choice

It can be a live bait, cut bait, frozen bait, or a selection of lures.

Extra essentials

Always secure spare line, hooks, leaders, and terminal tackle in case you need them.

Essentials kit

This includes a first aid kit, sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. You can even bring a wind or rain jacket and rain gear, or waders, neoprene socks, and a warm waterproof jacket in case the weather changes.

A sharp knife 

This can be used for cutting bait and filleting your catch.

A wet towel 

so that you can wipe the slime away and avoid getting your gear dirty while surf casting.

  • A bait bucket with an aerator
  • Surf fishing rigs (pre-made or bought)
  • A good set of pliers

Surf Fishing Rods and Surf Fishing Reels

Surf casting can be hassle-free, which is its best feature. The fact that it doesn’t require expensive gear or much planning is one of the things that many anglers find so alluring. Before you head to the beach, you should have the following items with you: rods, reels, tackle, and bait.

Surf Casting Rods

If you look closely, you’ll immediately see how surf casting rods are longer than regular saltwater ones. They are made this way because surf casting requires you to reach further into the troughs, beyond the crashing surf, to get to the fish.

Usually, the rods will have lengths ranging from 7-15 feet. A medium-heavy 8-12′ rod with moderate action is ideal for surf casting unless you fish in areas with bit surfs. While, shorter rods are meant for shorter casts and smaller fish.

Just like what was mentioned in the list above, it’s always good to give at least two different setups of rods during surf casting. This can be a shorter rod, around 10 feet, for smaller weights and baits targeting smaller fish. The other one can also be a longer rod (12-13 feet) so that you can reach further, hold more weight, and entice bigger fish.

Surf Fishing Reels

When it comes to reels, most fishermen choose spinning reels as a partner for their shorter rods because it gives them easier handling and excellent performance. Conventional reels, on the other hand, also perform admirably, particularly if you’re pursuing larger fish and want more strength and force.

Your rods’ sizes should be matched with the size of the reels. To catch a wider variety of fish, you might use different size rods and reels if you’re using two or more poles. Shorter rods, which are often intended for smaller species, work well with the 1000–3000 reel size. You’ll need a larger reel, preferably up to 6000, because it can retain more line for larger prey and longer casts.

On the other hand, the most commonly used reels are those in the 6000–8000 range. These reels are good at handling bigger species like Bull Redfish, Snook, Sharks, and Bluefish. These predators run away when hooked, so you’ll need a lot of line to follow them. To land large species, you should prepare at least 500 yards of line on your reel, and large reels are designed for that purpose.

Surf Fishing With Lures

Saltwater lures are only synthetic versions of the foods that fish enjoy. Some of the most often used fishing lures include spoons, jigs, and topwater poppers. Fish are drawn to these lures visually because they lack the natural smell of frozen bait.

You can use these when water clarity is high and surf conditions are moderate so the fish can find them easier. However, you need to cast these types of lure in a way that it can mimic a life-like action so that the fish will be enticed to bite.

All you need to do to use the weedless silver spoon is cast it in the trough parallel to the coastline, then slowly bring it back to you. Perform a quick retrieval if you have any suspicion that bluefish are around. If used in a high clarity water, it can reflect a lot of light and act like a baitfish. Always remember to try the grub and jig if you feel like nothing bites after 10 minute. Then, retrieve it by bouncing it on the bottom. Make sure to pause often to allow fish to pick the jig up off the bottom. Jigs work great in moving water along jetties and inlets. 

A topwater popper is also good if baitfish are active on the surface. You can use it by casting it out and making a zig-zag on the surface. You need to pause every now and then because this is when the fish hit. Don’t worry if this doesn’t catch any active fish, this lure is enough to get fish curious and come near your area.

The Basic Surf Casting Rigs You Should Know

Your objective as an angler is to imitate a food source so that your target species will take your bait. We must choose the ideal surf fishing setup for you as a result.

What you’re fishing for and where you’re fishing affect the best rig to use for surf fishing. In the surf, there are a wide variety of common fish species, and each species has its own distinctive feeding habits. You should be familiar with the following fundamental surf casting rigs:

Carolina Rig

For anglers along the west coast, the Carolina surfcasting Rig is the ideal rig. This can be used for open water and sandy beaches and has a simple, sensitive, yet strong streamline. Usually, it is run 1.5 to 3 feet from the leader but you can use 2.5 feet for a great balance.

The set of common surf species you can get is dependent on the region you will be fishing at. But keep in mind that this rig works best on sandy beaches and in open water. It also handles fish that eat at or close to the bottom. This includes corbina, surf perch, yellowfin and spotfin croaker, etc. on the west coast. 

Fish Finder Rig

If you’re only looking at its anatomy, you would see how a fish finder rig is similar to a Carolina Rig. However, it does not have a sliding egg weight but a 2-3 oz pyramid attached via a sinker slide clip.

This type of rig works best at sandy beaches and open waters. If you use a Carolina Rig in a certain area, you can definitely use a Fish Finder Rig there too. But how do we know which to use?

The fish finder setup is perfect if the current is too strong or the surf is too rough and you can’t seem to hold your bait in a decent spot. Your bait will keep in one place more readily and for a longer amount of time when using a sliding sinker clip and a pyramid weight instead of a sliding egg weight. Additionally, when fishing a fish detector setup, we normally utilize bigger weights.

High Low Rig

A High Low Surf Casting Rig is quite similar to the dropper rig too but can be tied in many different ways. Unlike the other two mentioned, this surf casting rig is good when fishing at rocky areas as well as sandy areas. One advantage this rig has is the fact that you can attach different hooks at different depth-placements of the rig.

The High Low Rig is perhaps the one that’s used the most frequently in wide water and regions with a lot of structure. This is the method to use if you want to present bait to fish in different parts of the water column. Knowing that you have several baits in the water also boosts your confidence a little.

This type of rig can be used in many locations so the type of fish you can catch with it also varies. Rest assured that it is versatile and one of the best surf casting rigs you’ll know.

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