This is a popular surf fishing rig used to find where the fish (striped bass, red drum, snook, and more) congregates. It’s similar to the Carolina Rig, but it is typically used with a pyramid weight rather than a sliding egg sinker to keep the rig in one area.
This surf fishing guide will cover what the video above illustrates, including when and when not to use it.
What is a Fish Finder Rig?
It is a popular rig used to catch more fish when surf fishing (also known as beach fishing) – a wide variety of fish, like redfish and striped bass.
It involves a sliding sinker that allows the bait to move freely (imitating live bait) while it anchors itself to the bottom to attract fish.
How Does It Work?
- Lets the fish connect – When a fish takes the bait, it connects directly to the surfing rod using the fishing line. The setup for this is that a sinker slide threads the pyramid sinker and main line.
- Bait bounces bottom – When the bait reacts against the current vs the sinker, it bounces up and down at the other end of the leader, which imitates a wounded live bait fish.
- Fights the current – To resist the current, use a heavy pyramid sinker in front of the rig. This will hold the setup near the bottom.
- Sinker kicks sand – This imitates a wounded live bait fish. How? When the sinker moves, it kicks up sand.
How Do You Tie a Fish Finder Rig for Surf Fishing?
To make your life easier for tying fish finder rigs, you’ll need the following tackle:
- Pyramid Sinker (or spark plug, bolt, or something for a weight)
- Plastic bead
- Leader line
- Sinker Slide
Step by Step Guide
- Start by cutting a piece of the leader line. Generally, around 18 inches will work.
- Tie one end to your hook using a Palomar Knot.
- On the other end of your leader line, tie on your swivel using a Palomar Knot.
- With your mainline, fish the line through your pyramid sinker and your bead.
- Tie your main fishing line to the other side of your swivel using a Palomar Knot. The Palomar makes it tricky since you need to pull your entire leader line with the hook through to finish the knot but just take your time.
Most anglers opt for lead, but there are other options better for the environment when it comes to weights. Instead of buying store-bought weights, experiment with steel that will rust in the saltwater environment if you lose it.
When fishing saltwater locations, especially over rocky terrain, be prepared to lose a substantial amount of weight. Weights tend to get caught amongst seaweed or snagged in crevices.
The plastic bead helps protect your line from your weight in the water. If you choose not to use one, you’re risking an unnecessary breakoff of your line. Plastic beads can also be used to trap swivels in place.
Depending on the saltwater species you are targeting will determine which leader line you use. If you’re surf fishing around rocks, you should likely opt for monofilament, which is a bit more abrasion resistant than fluorocarbon.
Your hook size should be based on your cut bait. If you’re going after perch and plan to use sand crabs, your hook size will be around a #6. If you’re going after bigger fish and want to use a chunk of cut bait, you should go up to a #2.
We like to use circle hook since they are self-setting. Self-setting hooks are ideal for bottom-based rig fishing and float fishing.
How to Cast a Fish Finder Rig
Casting this can be challenging, depending on the weight used and the length of the leader. If you’re using a braided line and weight over two ounces, we highly recommend using a Breakaway Cannon, so you don’t cut or slice off your finger if you’re using a spinning reel.
A longer leader length will also add more wind resistance limiting your casting distance. You can use some innovative rigging clips that keep everything streamlined until they hit the water, making your cast easier.
Fish Finder Rig Setup
Rig With Float Option
Sometimes it’s helpful to keep your bait off the bottom and away from unwanted critters like skates, rays, or crabs. Having a small float with beads on either side near the hook will allow that bait to hang up off the ground and hopefully away from the bycatch.
In California, using the fish finder rig offshore isn’t as popular as other rigs, such as the double dropper loop, single dropper loop, or knocker rigs. Using a pyramid or sinker that digs in would likely cause many unwanted structural hookups.
More minor knots between your hook and your line are ideal, so keeping your rig simple offshore is advised.
Rig for Redfish
When surf fishing redfish, you will need to beef up your rig. We recommend using a braid mainline with your sliding sinker tied to a 100-300 pound barrel swivel.
Use 1-3 feet of 20-50lb monofilament or fluorocarbon. Tie that leader off to a 4/0 to 12/0 circle hook, depending on the size of red you’re targeting. Use a snell knot or whichever knot you feel comfortable tying.
Rig for Stripers
The fish finder rig for stripers doesn’t deviate much from the version for redfish. We recommend sticking with a six to 30-inch 30-60 pound fluorocarbon for your leader, keeping the rest the same as above.
Fish Finder Rig vs. Carolina Rig
The fish finder rig differs from the Carolina Rig in that it generally uses a weight that will secure itself against the bottom. In contrast, the egg sinker for the Carolina will move easier.
They both have the disadvantage of using multiple knots between the hook and the mainline, leading to breakage.
The fish finder rig also has the disadvantage of allowing the weight to cause a stress point if they get hung up on the structure or are big enough to toss it around violently.
What Is the Best Surf Fishing Rigs?
The best rig for surf fishing depends on what you’re targeting, the available tackle, and your comfort in rigging it up.
If you’re limited on tackle and don’t have access to swivels, sliders, and beads, you can opt for a rig like the Spider Hitch Rig. You can cut the main loop and double up your hooks if you want more than one hook.
This will allow one knot between your hook and your mainline, which can be safer if you’re not proficient in tying knots.
How Do You Fish a Spec Rig?
Another less common rig to check out would be the spec rig. This is a good option if you want to fish two artificial lures simultaneously to catch more fish. You can fish it from shore, but there’s likely a high probability of hooking up on structure. Using it like you would a double dropper from a boat would be more idea.