Fish Finder Rig: Best Rig for Surf Fishing?

Let’s get one thing straight:The ocean can be a difficult place to fish!

With its ever-changing weather conditions and the risk of things suddenly going south, having the right fishing equipment becomes all the more important.

fish Rig

While surf fishing is a worthy challenge in itself, some people tend to overcomplicate it when they don’t need to. For instance, the fish finder rig can be a major godsend!

What is a fish finder rig? Basically, it is a special type of rig that has a pyramid sinker, a circle hook attached to a leader line, and a swivel connecting everything to the main line.

Because of its design, it can quite literally “find” fish – no matter what conditions you’re fishing in. That’s how it’s earned its name!

A fish finder rig isn’t just ideal for small fry; it’s excellent for catching all types of fish including sharks, bluefish, and even ling cod.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned fisherman, the fish finder rig is an excellent option for your next surf fishing trip. In this article, we’ll give you the rundown on how this fantastic rig system works, including:

  • Reasons why fish finder rigs are popular in surf fishing
  • Materials you need to set up a fish finder rig
  • Recommended setups for different sizes of game fish species
  • Setting up your fish finder rig
  • Using your rig for surf fishing.

Let’s get into it!

What Makes the Fish Finder Rig So Popular in Surf Fishing?

There are two primary reasons: a high level of performance, and its reliability in handling tides and rough waters.

Using a fish finder rig is like playing a game on easy mode – you’ll achieve a lot more return without having to exert nearly as much effort! That’s why you’ll frequently find this rig used by so many surf fishers.

Effective for locating fish in various surf conditions

The fish finder rig’s biggest performance advantage is that it can handle various surf conditions and still manage to locate fish.

With its pyramid-shaped sinker providing much-needed stability, the rig can make bait dance no matter whether it’s a large or small swell. The result? Fish are drawn toward it despite rough conditions!

Versatile rig that works well with different bait types

There’s a lot that can be said about just how effective the fish finder rig’s design is, but one of the major highlights is the fact that it can work with most types of bait.

Although its construction consists of a hook, barrel swivel, and a couple of lines, the design allows the bait to move naturally with the current.

That’s due to the fact that waves can easily pull the line through the sinker’s sleeve, adding to the captivating appearance and movement of the bait!

Minimizes snagging on the seabed

Another advantage of the fish finder rig’s design is its ability to minimize snagging on the seabed.

Snagging is something all surf fishers have to deal with – but fortunately, you can avoid this for the most part with this particular rig!

Its sinker’s pyramid design reduces the chances of this happening, so you have a more productive fishing experience without losing the rig.

Easy Use and Set Up

Another reason why the fish finder rig is so popular with surf fishers lies with its ease of use.

Setting up and using a fish finder rig is so simple that even an absolute beginner can handle it. Some prior research and practice will still definitely come in handy, hoewver!

Its beginner-friendly design means that it is often the first rig that many beginner anglers use.

Suitable for both stationary and slow-retrieving techniques

Not only is the rig easy to set up, but using it is fairly straightforward as well. The rig offers great casting distance from the shore, and you’re free to use either a stationary or slow-retrieving technique to haul in your catch.

You can also easily adapt the rig to match your targeted catch; all you have to do is adjust your hook size and sinker weights.

Popular choice among experienced surf anglers

Despite how easy it is to use a fish finder rig, it remains a popular choice even among seasoned pros.

By now, it should be easy to see why! The rig offers timeless simplicity and a clever design that can perform extremely well even in the roughest of conditions.

What You Need to Set Up A Fish Finder Rig

Here are some of the key items you’ll need to set up and use your fish finder rig.

Fish Rig

Fishing rod and reel

As you probably already know, the rig’s main body involves the rod and the reel. The rod will allow you cast your line out while the reel brings your catch back to shore. This simple setup serves as the foundation for the rest of your rig!

Fishing line (mainline)

Another key component you’ll need is the mainline. Don’t get this confused with the leader line; instead, the mainline is the piece attached to the reel and connected to the leader line by the barrel swivel.

Look for a sturdy mainline suitable for surf conditions to minimize the risk of breakage.

Barrel swivel

This is an important component that connects the mainline and leader line.

For surf fishing, the recommended barrel sizes for a fish finder rig are #3 and #5 — either one of these can handle the varying currents and ocean conditions.

Leader line

From its name, the leader line “leads” — it’s the line attached to the hook. The leader line is connected to the mainline through the barrel swivel, and depending on your target fish species, you may need a longer or shorter line.

Make sure to research ahead to get the most suitable length!

Fish finder slide

A crucial piece of equipment for the fish finder rig is the fish finder slide. This equipment allows the sinker to shift up the mainline and also helps the bait move without pulling on the sinker.

Sinker (pyramid or coin shape)

As the cornerstone tying everything together, the pyramid-shaped sinker is what helps the fish finder rig live up to its reputation.

Attached to the slider, the sinker helps reduce snagging and keeps the line in place.

With a heavier weight, you can even resist strong ocean currents and let the bait “dance” in the water!


No fishing setup is complete without a bait attached to the hook. This attracts your catch and increases your chances of having a successful fishing day!

Different species of fish require different baits, so do your research first on the best one to use. And since fish finder rigs play nicely with all types of bait, you don’t need to make any special adjustments!


The final crucial piece of equipment for your fish finder rig setup is the hook. This is what catches the fish and keeps it from escaping.

For a fish finder rig, you’ll usually choose between a circle hook or a J hook, but note that circle varieties tend to be more popular.

Optional pieces of equipment

Some optional supplies you may want to include in your fish finder rig setup include beads to protect the knot that connects the main line and the leader line, a snap swivel that acts as an elevated version of a barrel swivel, and leader sleeves to connect a length of leader.

Recommended Setups for Different Sizes of Game Fish Species

Here’s a brief guide that shows you the basic setup for the different sizes of game fish species:

  • Small fish in the 20–40” range (like Trout, Sheepshead, Croaker, and Red Drum Striped Bass): Rod and reel, 8 mm diameter Plastic Red Bead, 3 oz Pyramid Sinker, 18” leader, 5/0 Circle Hook, Size 5 Slider
  • Medium-size predators (such as small sharks):  Rod and reel, 8mm diameter Plastic Red Bead, 3 oz Pyramid Sinker, 36” Steel Leader, 5/0 Circle Hook, Size 5 Slider
  • Large fish in the 40”+ range (including Striped Bass, Bull Drum, and White Sea Bass): Rod and reel, 8 mm diameter Plastic Red Bead, 6 oz Pyramid Sinker, 36” Steel Leader, 8/0 Circle Hook, Size 6 Sinker Slide

Steps to Set Up the Fish Finder Rig

Follow these basic steps to set up your fish finder rig:

  1. Thread your main line through your sinker slide
  1. Take your red plastic bead and thread it onto the main line after the sinker slide
  1. Create an improved clinch knot to tie your barrel swivel onto the main line
  1. Tie another improved clinch knot to tie the other end of the barrel swivel to the leader
  1. Knot the hook onto the end of your leader
  1. Attach the pyramid sinker onto the sinker slide by “snapping” it in place.

How To Use the Fish Finder Rig During Surf Fishing

Here’s a quick guide for surf fishing with your fish finder rig:

  1. Locate a spot on the shoreline where you think your target species may be. If you don’t have a target fish, choosing regions with white wave crests is a great place to start as this is where many species often hide
  1. Cast your rig out by holding one hand at the bottom and the other at the reel and flicking the line out at a 45-degree angle
  1. Tighten the drag on the reel of your rod until it’s no longer loose. It should feel as taut as possible
  1. Monitor your rods at frequent intervals to check if there has been a bite. You may also want to check that your bait is still on the hook every 20 minutes or so, as sometimes smaller fish can steal it
  1. When you have a bite, there’s no time to lose — reel it back and haul it to the shore! If you’d like, you can even go for one more cast right after.



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