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Surf Fishing Tips: Tricks to Catch More Fish

Surf fishing is a popular pastime, and it’s often more cost effective than other forms of fishing, where you need to own or charter a boat. While surf fishing is very popular, it can also be difficult to know the best conditions, where to cast, and other tricks to maximize your success on the shoreline.

Whether you’re a beginner or a longtime surf fisher, these tips can help increase your odds of making a catch when surf fishing. From tips on the best surf fishing equipment and bait to weather conditions to look out for, we’ve compiled expert advice to make a great catch this season.

13 Best Surf Fishing Tips

These surf fishing tips will help improve your chances of a catch. While we don’t cover the basics of how to surf fish in this article, our tips will help you better understand tides, where to cast, and what fishing gear is optimal for surf fishing.

These are our expert surf fishing tips to catch more fish:

  1. Buy the Right Surf Fishing Equipment
  2. Survey Low Tide
  3. Find the Best Time to Surf Fish
  4. Study the Best Tide to Fish
  5. Use the Best Bait for Surf Fishing
  6. Keep Your Bait Cold
  7. Tie the Best Surf Fishing Rigs
  8. Use a Shock Leader
  9. Create the Right Surf Fishing Setup
  10. Read the Surf
  11. Don’t Overcast
  12. Protect Yourself from the Sun
  13. Try Drone Fishing

Buy the Right Surf Fishing Equipment

Finding the right gear for surf fishing can seriously affect your success. Not all fishing rods and reels are equal in terms of quality, strengths and weaknesses, and durability for surf fishing conditions. We’ve compiled lists of the best surf fishing rods and the best surf fishing reels, so you can find the best choice for you.

When choosing a surf fishing rod, you should first decide if you want to use a spinning rod and reel or a surf casting rod and reel. Spinning rods and reels are easier to use, so beginners should probably opt for spinning equipment. More experienced anglers who have cast before can use baitcasting rods and reels.

Other factors to consider when buying a rod for surf fishing are length, material, and action. Longer fishing rods can cast further out, but often surf fishers get too caught up on distance. Shorter rods are often more precise and have better retrieve action.

For material, most surf fishing anglers tend to choose graphite rods. Graphite fishing rods are more sensitive and powerful when casting weight, and they have faster action than their fiberglass counterparts.

Surf fishing reels should be corrosion resistant to protect the internal ball bearings from sand and salt on the beach. High quality reels are important for surf fishing, as they have to fight larger fish and tough ocean currents, as well as the elements. Whether you choose a spinning reel or a baitcasting reel, make sure it is durable, corrosion resistant, and has a decent drag strength.

Survey Low Tide

Before you get out on the water, check out where you plan to fish during low tide. Low tide is not ideal fishing time, but it is useful to see what the water looks like when you can see more of the terrain. Make a note or take pictures to remember where gullies, banks, and hollows are.

Look out for seabed conditions and any obstructions that might get in your way. Often, fish linger near such obstructions, making it a high risk but high reward area to cast, as you might lose your bait. Get an idea of the landscape while the tide is low so that you’re more knowledgeable at high tide.

Find the Best Time to Surf Fish

The best times to surf fish are around dawn or dusk, before the sun drives fish deeper into the ocean. Fish always feed better in low-light fishing situations.

The best time of the day to go surf fishing has less to do with climate, however, and more to do with tides. Tracking the tides is vital to make the most out of your surf fishing excursion. Most anglers cite high tide as the best time to go surf fishing, as the tide pulls fish towards the shoreline.

Still waters make for less activity, however, so to maximize your success, try to cast right before and right after high tide. This way, the water is still actively pulling fish closer to you, but it isn’t so stagnant that there is less movement among the fish. Aim for the two hours before and after high tide for peak fishing times. You can easily find tide information for your area online.

Study the Best Tide to Fish

As mentioned above, the best time is right before, after, and during high tide. Some tides are better than others, however, and if you can control the dates of your surf fishing trips you can improve your chances of making great catches. Ideally, since fish tend to bite more in low light, try to find days where high tide occurs during the dawn or dusk hours.

If possible, you should also aim to surf fish during a spring tide. Spring tide is when the sun, moon, and earth are in line, strengthening the gravitational pull of the sun and moon and making for stronger tides. Spring tides occur in the day or two right after a full moon or a new moon. Track the tides and lunar cycles to find spring tides and increase your chances of making a catch.

Use the Best Bait for Surf Fishing

It’s always helpful to use the best possible bait for your environment and for the fish you’re trying to catch. You can learn how to find and hook the best surf fishing bait, as many can be found right on the shoreline. You can also save some time and effort by buying bait from the local tackle shop, where you can also get advice from local fishermen on what to use.

In general, the favorite baits for surf fishing include clams, shrimp, sand fleas, menhaden, squid, mullet, crabs, or cut bait. Research the area where you plan to fish beforehand to find out what fish are likely to be caught, and then find their feeding preferences. This way, you can tailor your bait choice to best attract the local fish.

Keep Your Bait Cold

If you’re using live bait, they’re best kept cold and alive. Be sure to pack a cooler to keep your bait cold and fresh to increase the odds of a catch. Warm, dead bait won’t attract fish.

If you’re serious about surf fishing, consider investing in an aerated cooler. This kind of cooler will oxygenate the water, and oxygen is necessary for the bait to live. If you can swing it, a cooler with an aeration system will keep your bait extra fresh.

Tie the Best Surf Fishing Rigs

The right rig is essential for surf fishing, as it has to travel far over the water and trick fish in the ocean into biting. Surf fishing rigs must be aerodynamic, present the bait naturally, and be able to securely hook the fish so you can pull it through tough currents on the way back.

Most anglers recommend a fish finder rig or a drop rig. If you can’t tie your own rigs, simply buy one and then try to replicate it. Use rigs with a small floater on the line to keep your bait from sinking all the way to the ocean floor and getting stolen by crabs. Try using fluorocarbon line for your rigs, as it’s the most transparent underwater and may help deceive fish into biting.

Use a Shock Leader

Adding weights to your rigs is important to weigh the bait down into the water so that it reaches fish below the surface. Doing so also makes your line heavier, however, and increases the odds of a crack off – when your line breaks while casting. Crack-offs result in lost gear and can be dangerous if your sharp hooks are lost in the sand or surf. Avoid crack-offs by using a shock leader.

A shock leader is a stronger piece of line created specifically for cushioning the pressure of weighted casts. A common shock leader is a piece of nylon monofilament that is low-stretch and abrasion resistant. Your shock leader strength should be roughly ten times the weight (in ounces) of the line you’re casting.

Create the Right Surf Fishing Setup

When you’re beach fishing, you’ll want to have an ideal surf fishing set up to maximize your chances of a catch and to keep your gear safe. Fishing reels are especially susceptible to damage on the beach, so you want to be careful when setting up your equipment.

Use sand spikes or rod holders to secure your rod when you aren’t holding it. Often, anglers use buckets or less sturdy options to hold their rod, but you should avoid this unless the rod is very secure. If it’s not secure, it could get dragged into the ocean by a large fish, or simply knocked into the sand which can damage the reel. Many surf fishing carts come equipped with rod holders. 

Many anglers with enough equipment set up two rods at once – one larger, with larger bait to catch a big fish, and one smaller and cast closer to catch smaller fish. This way, you can catch more small fish but still try your hand at a larger catch.

Read the Surf

Keep an eye on the water and learn to spot the best location to cast towards. Still waters usually means depth, which means that more fish could lie below the surface. Short, breaking waves usually mean there is a sand bank or shallow waters, leaving less opportunity to find fish. Aim for smooth waters to improve your chances of getting a bite.

You can also keep an eye out for birds dipping close to the water to grab a fish – they have a better aerial view, so they can see the fish. If they try to scoop up a fish, cast in that area to go after that same school.

Don’t Overcast

A lot of the time, anglers get carried away trying to make the furthest cast that their rod and line will allow. While long distance casting isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it doesn’t guarantee success either.

It’s better to target areas likely to have fish – there are often more fish close to the breakers. Casting accurately is more effective than casting for distance, especially if you can spot an area with still water that likely contains a lot of fish. Don’t overdo it when casting just to show off your distance. 

Protect Yourself from the Sun

Surf fishing includes long hours out on the beach and in the sun. Even on seemingly overcast days you can get badly burnt. Protect yourself from the sun and its harmful UV rays by wearing a fishing hat to protect your face and neck, wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes and reduce glare, and applying sunscreen. Use at least SPF 15, ideally SPF 30, and reapply when necessary. You should also pack clean drinking water to stay hydrated.

Try Drone Fishing

If you love surf fishing but want to try something new, try drone fishing. Purchase a flying drone and use it to fly out over the water, find the best spot to cast, and even drop your bait using the drone. Drone fishing is the new trend in surf fishing, and using this technology can help you see better and drop your line further than you could cast it manually.

Try These Surf Fishing Tips Out on the Water

Now that you’ve learned more about how to maximize your success while surf fishing, try them out on your next trip to the beach! Let us know how these tricks helped in the comments, and visit Fishmasters for more fishing tips, product reviews, and everything related to fishing.

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