How much difference can a simple beach rig make? Why not just use the one rig for all beach fishing? These are good questions and ones I hear often from anglers who believe we are making a simple matter much too complicated.
The truth is, in most of my own beach fishing, I do use the simple running sinker rig. However, there are situations when a change in rig will make a huge difference to the quality and/or quantity of fish you catch, even if it does not necessarily mean the difference between fish and no fish.
A good example is the ganged hook rig, which is deadly on tailor but useless on jewies. Another example is the bomb-sinker rig, one that can easily cast a pilchard into the deep water without the angler having to catapult the rig so hard that the bait goes one way and the rig goes the other.
The following rigs have all been proven in the surf. If you are not familiar with the knots I use, an illustration of each one can be found in Geoff Wilson’s CompleteBook Of Fishing Knots and Rigs.
This is a simple running sinker rig that is ideal for bream, dart, whiting and flathead. The main line and trace can be the same for bream, whiting and dart but if targeting flathead, a 10kg copolymer leader like a Penn 10X would avoid a lot of bite-offs. To assist with casting, short leaders around 40cm are ideal. Keep lead as light as conditions will allow.
Using the same running sinker rig as in the first example, I have added a second hook by using a palomar knot to keep the hook at a 90-degree angle to the leader. I use this rig on the kids’ rods when the whiting and dart are around in numbers. The little ones get a big kick out of catching two fish at a time. The first fish to hook up will attract other fish that will soon find the second bait and hopefully hook up as well.
Once again, we have a running sinker rig but this time we are targeting tailor. A short 30cm trace of the same material as the main line is fine but instead of wire, I use a black snap swivel to connect the ganged hooks. This gives me a couple of centimetres of protection in case the tailor gets pinned by the first hook. It also allows the pilchard to spin when being retrieved without creating a lot of line twist. Use a black swivel in front of the sinker. Shiny gold swivels put you at risk of other fish in the school biting the swivel while you are trying to bring a fish in.
A trick taught to me by Doug Bert is to connect the ganged hooks by a swivel so that they can freely spin, making it harder for the hooked tailor to throw the hooks.
This is the same as Rig 3 but with a braided main line. Braided lines are great in the surf for giving better feel with heavy weights and less drag as the waves crash onto the line. I love my braided outfit and I rig it by doubling the end of the braid, attaching a black swivel by using a cats paw knot before running down a short leader of line just a little heavier than the braid. I have a 6kg and 10kg braided outfit and use 8kg and 12kg leader respectively. The monofilament leader gives me a little stretch and a better knot connection on the terminals. I don’t like my lead running on the braid but I know a lot of anglers who don’t have any problems with having the sinker above the double.
This rig uses a three-way swivel to create a dropper that a bomb sinker can be attached to. I measure out the length of the sinker’s dropper so that the sinker will sit just above the bait when casting. This will improve distance without harming the very fragile pilchard and also keeps the bait off the bottom and floating around in the surf.
This is the same as Rig 5 but with two hooks to use a live bait. The two hooks are attached using a snell knot and are matched to the size of the bait. The twin hook rig assists with casting and also gives a better hook-up rate on fish like jewies.
Always ensure the first hook is in the hard nose of the baitfish. This will stop it from coming off on the cast as well as ensuring that it will swim forwards instead of backwards when being retrieved. Keep some slack line between the front nose hook and the back tail hook. Keeping the line between the two hooks tight will see the live bait die and will also restrict it from struggling and sending out those distress signals that ring the dinner bell for big predators. This rig is also used on dead bait when fishing for mulloway.
This is a standard paternoster rig that is used for bottom bashing when fishing around offshore reefs. The advantage of this rig is that the hooks and lead are simply threaded through a loop so they can be easily changed if the conditions vary.
I tie this style of paternoster with a figure eight knot on the bottom for my lead and two dropper loops for the hooks. I usually add a swivel above the first dropper loop.
This is the paternoster that makes a lot more sense to use in the surf. It incorporates two three-way swivels to attach your leader and hooks as well as a bomb sinker that uses a swivel to attach the sinker to the line. I rarely use any style of paternoster but I have seen quite a few anglers have a lot of success with this style of rig. Beach anglers down south use variations of this rig for a lot of their fishing. It looks as though it would tangle in the turbulent surf environment but surprisingly enough, it holds together very well.
Casting slugs into the surf is great fun and no rig is simpler than this one. The main line runs straight through to a black snap swivel that is joined into the lure. I never use wire and find that very few fish are lost. The snap swivel gives me a little more protection against bite-offs.
Wire traces create electrolyses in the water that sensitive fish like tailor and mackerel find alarming. While fish in a big school will bite on wire regardless, big schools are full of average-sized fish. The massive tailor feed alone or in small packs and more often than not, will turn away from a lure towed by wire.
Beach fishing has not escaped the invasion of braided fishing lines and while casting lures on an old Alvey and fiberglass rod is still common, braided line, graphite rods and high-speed spinning reels are awesome for this job.
The rig for this setup is a double in the end of the braid, with the double connected to a black swivel using a cats paw knot. A 30cm monofilament leader is then tied to a black snap swivel that connects the lure. Keep spools full for maximum casting distance and retrieval rates. My reel brings in just under 1m of line with every wind of the handle and the rod is light enough to be used all day. For those interested, I use a 12’ Daiwa Heartland rod (code HL1202MRS) and a 4500 Daiwa Emcast Plus reel.Reads: 12166