How to Select Surf Fishing Tackle For Live Bait

When surf fishing with live bait choosing the right surf fishing tackle can make the difference between lots of action or a lesson in surf casting. Most surf anglers prefer lots of action to a practice session on surf casting. If your just getting started you can probably benefit from either one but I’m sure you would rather be catching fish while your doing it.

Start By Gathering Surf Fishing Reports

Before you get tackle and head to the beach you need to gather information about the surf fish that are in your surf during that particular season. Although some saltwater fish species will always be found in your location, some species are migratory so their not always in the surf. It will vary whether you are fishing in a northern climate or the warmer waters of a subtropical or tropical climate.

Once you make a determination of the different surf fish in your area, you can decide what fish to target. The surf fish you plan to target will determine the surf tackle and live bait you will be fishing with.

If you are very new to the sport of surf fishing or your not familiar with the fish you want to target then you have some homework to do. Fish in the surf can vary greatly in size and weight so you need to know something about them before you can choose the tackle to use.

Choosing a Surf Fishing Rod

Surf anglers who are just starting out can’t afford to purchase several surf rods and reels. So you’ll have to settle on a compromise. By now you should have some idea of the fish size, bait and what part of the surf they’re in, from the fishing reports you gathered. If you need a long distance surf rod to reach the fish then the surf rod you select will be longer, 10 or 12 feet. If not maybe you can get by with an 8′ rod. I like to think a long surf rod can cover all the water in between so my preference is a 10 or 12′ surf rod.

Since this is an article about surf fishing tackle for live bait, bear in mind that you have to consider the weight of the sinker and the live bait. The rating of the surf rod you choose will determine your limitations in this regard. The surf fishing data you collected will provide you with the type of bait to use and the distance you’ll be casting to reach them. Typically the sinker weight will vary between 3oz. and 8oz. Choose a surf rod that is in the right class for the fishing you’ll be doing.

Choosing a Surf Fishing Reel

Your budget will be the deciding factor but remember the surf environment is very harsh so the quality of reel you choose will determine how well it will hold up. Surf reels are classified by line size and amount they will hold. In most cases you’ll be using 20# to 30# test.

Reel line capacity will depend on the distance you’ll be casting with extra line capacity for a hard run before you can tire the fish and start bringing it in. If you anticipate that your targeted fish are out about 100 yards you will probably want an additional 100 or 150 yards of line for the run. Usually a hooked fish will head for deep water so count on the extra line capacity.

Selecting Hooks For Live Bait

Just the subject of live bait and surf fishing rigs can be a couple of chapters in a book so I’m not going to get into all the possibilities in this article. You’ll have a few different bait choices from the fishing reports you gathered. There are a lot of different types of hooks to choose from. If you stick with circle hooks you can avoid a lot of problems because they are designed to hook the fish in the mouth which facilitates the practice of catch and release.

Hook size is always a question especially if your just getting into the sport. Let me make it as simple as possible for you. Hook size should always be determined by the size of your bait. Visit the local bait and tackle shop and look at the hook sizes used for the artificial bait on display. Select your hook size by matching it to the sizes used for the artificial bait. It’s that simple.

By now you should be able to:

Select a surf fishing rod based on what it’s rated for.
Select a surf fishing reel based on line size and capacity.
Select surf fishing hooks based on type and size for your bait.

What are you waiting for? Get out and start surf fishing.

Randy Meyers is a surf angler who has been fishing the surf for over 30 years. He is the author of Surf Fishing – The quick Start Guide To This Exciting Sport. Randy owns and operates the surf fishing website Visit his site for more information on using surf fishing reports and a free surf fishing mini-course.