The Fish Finder Rig: How To Master Best Rig For Surf Fishing


Fish Finder Setup

The Fish Finder Rig setup is the best surf fishing rig and is perfect for catching fish in the rough surf. These beach fishing rigs use a bottom presentation that moves freely and naturally with the current and bounces the bait to simulate injured baitfish. The sinker slides above a swivel on the main line.

Learn the steps to rig Fish Finder Rig setups for surf fishing, the best types of baits, and how to fish and present them on the water to catch fish.

In this article you will see:

  • An overview of the Fish Finder rigging and its setup
  • How to set up your own Fish Finder rig
  • The best hooks, weights, and lines for this setup
  • Popular baits you can use for this setup
  • How to hook the baits for this salt water rig
  • How to fish with the Fish Finder rig
  • Where to fish with this rig

Let’s get started!

What Is the Fish Finder Rig?

The Fish Finder rig is considered the best surf fishing rig because it excels in open waters without much structure.

The fish finder rig makes it simple to take the big baits to the bottom, allowing you to catch more fish. When a Red drum or other big fish bites on the baitfish or artificial lures, it is able to swim freely without resistance.

This is due to the smart use of a sinker slide, which allows the bait to move freely without resistance from the sinker and provides the fish time to capture it in its mouth. Fish often don’t know that the rig is there until it’s too late and they have already been hooked. This is what makes the fish finder rig so effective for this game fish.

The sinker bounces the bait when the currents are stronger to simulate injured baitfish.

King of the Surf Fishing Rigs

King Of The Surf Fishing Rigs

Fish finder rigs excel in surf fishing for the following reasons:

  • It counteracts the current with a heavy pyramid in the front of the rig that keeps your presentation near the bottom, resisting the wave action and current. It allows the bait to move freely and naturally with the current, giving it a natural appearance for most predators to catch more fish.
  • The sinker will drag your line to the bottom and cause the leader and bait to bounce up and down with the current, simulating a wounded or injured baitfish’s natural behavior.
  • The third benefit of this rig is its plastic sinker slide, which allows the sinker to glide on the main line. When the fish takes the bait, they won’t feel the weight because of this, allowing them to get hooked before the fish realizes there’s a problem.

How To Setup Your Own Fish Finder Rig

For Typical Size Inshore Fish (20″ to 40″)

  • Hook size 5/0 – Circle hook
  • Barrel swivel or ball-bearing swivel
  • 8 mm (1 or 2) – Red plastic beads
  • Size 5 – Plastic sinker slide or metal snap swivel
  • 3 oz – Pyramid or egg sinker
  • 12-18″ – Leader line (#40 lbs fluorocarbon or monofilament)
  • 50 lbs braided main line

For Typical Size Surf Fish (40″+)

  • Hook size 8/0 – Circle hook
  • Barrel swivel or ball-bearing swivel
  • 8 mm – Red plastic bead
  • Size 6 – Plastic sinker slide or metal snap swivel
  • 6 oz – Pyramid or egg sinker
  • 18-24″ – Leader line (#50 lbs fluorocarbon or monofilament)
  • 50 lbs braided main line

Use These Steps To Set Up The Rig:

  1. Thread the main line through the sinker slide
  2. Thread the red plastic bead onto your main line after the sinker slide
  3. Tie a barrel swivel to your main line using an “improved clinch knot”
  4. Tie the leader to the other end of the barrel swivel using an “improved clinch knot”
  5. Attach a hook to the end of your leader using an “improved clinch” knot
  6. Snap the pyramid sinker onto the sinker slide

Check out this terrific video from Take Me Fishing to see the Fish Finder Rig setup.

Fish Finder Rig Sinker Weight Size

Pyramid-Sinkers
Fish Finder Rig Pyramid Sinker

Sinkers for a surf fishing rig must be capable of gripping in a sandy environment. A pyramid sinker is ideal. The sinker will occasionally bounce around, resulting in the rig’s well-known bait movement.

Sometimes the water is too rough and most anglers want more control. So, deploying a sputnik sinker with its long metal arms will keep your weight in place. Sputnik sinkers are also known as a grapple sinker. Egg sinkers are another good option.

Standard Sinker Weight Size For Marsh or Flats Fishing:

  • Calm water: 2 oz
  • Stronger current: 3 oz

Standard Sinker Weight Size For Inshore Fishing:

  • Calm water: 3 oz
  • Stronger current: 4 oz

Standard Sinker Weight Size For Beach or Surf Fishing:

  • Calm Waves: 4 oz
  • Stronger Waves: 6 oz
Sinker Slide
Sinker Slide

The Sinker Slide

The sinker slide is the secret sauce for this rig one of the best surf fishing rigs. The plastic sinker slide allows the sinker to glide on the main line. When the fish takes the bait, they won’t feel the weight because of this, allowing them to get hooked before the fish realizes there’s a problem.

Sinker slides should be used with a plastic bead or bumper to protect the knot on your swivel.

Note: a sinker slide will cut into a braided line, so only use fluorocarbon or monofilament leaders when using a sinker slide.

Choose a sinker slide with the right size clip. The most commonly used types are:

  • For a thin metal sinker loop, choose a slide with a thin clip rated for the sinker weight (pyramid and bell sinkers)
  • For a thicker loop, choose a larger clip rated for sinker weight (bank sinker)

Pegging A Float

Pegging A Float

Pegging a float is a straightforward technique to fish by using a foam float close to the bait to keep it at a particular depth. You may simply alter the depth with a foam float of a different size.

This is especially useful when crabs are snatching your bait. Simply raise the bait’s depth by several inches using this technique.

Fishing Line Choices For Your Rig

I like to use a robust braided line for the main line, especially in brackish water, when visibility is limited, and you won’t have to worry about surf fish being startled. The braided line is durable, lightweight, and has no stretch, making it perfect for maintaining good line tension during fish hook-ups.

My leader lines are comprised almost entirely of a fluorocarbon line attached directly to the main fishing line since you will be presenting the fish finder rig at the bottom of the water column.

Note: a sinker slide will cut into a braided line, so only use fluorocarbon or monofilament leaders when using a sinker slide.

It also refracts light better, it has less visibility in the water and it is more abrasive resistant. So, it is also better for fish with sharp teeth.

You will want a longer leader in the surf than inshore or marsh fishing. This will allow for more hook movement in the rougher water.

Standard Line For Marsh or Flats Fishing:

  • Leader Length: 18″
  • Line Strength: #20 lbs fluorocarbon

Standard Line For Inshore Fishing:

  • Leader Length: 18″
  • Line Strength: #40 lbs fluorocarbon

Standard Line For Surf Fishing:

  • Leader Length: 36″
  • Line Strength: #40 lbs fluorocarbon
Circle hook
Fish Finder Rig Hook

Circle Hooks: The Right Fish Finder Hook

The circle hook is a great choice if you’re actively catching and releasing fish or releasing smaller fish like a Juvenile redfish.

A circular hook is designed to only stick fish in the lip area and no further. The angle on the point is designed to only catch the fish when the hook comes out of its mouth and the circle form catches on the lip.

Circle hooks are great for use with fish finder rigs because the rig’s free hook movement allows for maximum hook-ups and the circle hook is easy on the mouth.

When targeting saltwater species, they’re most successful when lightly hooking a live bait. They aren’t so effective when lure fishing or when a large bait that covers the hook is utilized.

The Most Frequently Used Hook Sizes

The size of the hooks you’ll need for your Fish Finder rig is determined by the size of the baits you’re throwing. The hook is measured from the eye of the hook to the pointed end.

Here are the popular hook sizes:

  • 3/0 or 4/0 hooks for slot size redfish or speckled trout when inshore or marshes
  • 6/0 or 8/0 hook for larger bull reds and other game fish using 3″ cut baits

Ideally, you want to use the smallest hook that you can get away with that is still large enough to hook the fish effectively when it strikes your bait.

Best Knot For Leader Line To Hook

These are the two recommended knots to use when doing a fish finder rig set up:

How To Tie The Improved Clinch Knot

Also known as the “fisherman’s knot,” the improved clinch knot is useful for tying off hooks and leaders. Learn how to tie the improved clinch knot here.

How To Tie A Double Uni Knot

The double uni knot is one of the best knots for tying a monofilament to braid directly. Learn how to tie the double uni knot here.

Redfish fish swimming in the ocean off of the Florida coast
Redfish fish swimming in the ocean off of the Florida coast

The Best Fish Finder Baits

Natural bait and live bait work best on a fish finder rig as red drum and other big fish pick up the bait without feeling the sinker.

Live bait includes:

  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Pinfish
  • Mullet

Another technique for enticing fish is to use cut bait. Cut bait releases oils and blood, which attracts bull redfish at a distance. It’s a more powerful attractant than live bait in rough seas.

You may use two to four-inch pieces of bait from a fish called bunker or mullet. Frozen bait is also effective, but fresh is preferable, so make sure it’s chopped into little pieces.

Fish finder rig setup for redfish and speckled trout
Fish Finder Rig Setup

How To Hook A Fish Finder Rig

  • For live bait, insert the barb into the top of the bait, away from the head or face to prevent killing the baitfish.
  • For cut bait, slide the strip through one end of the bait and loop the hook to pin through the other end of your bait. This will keep it on the hook through multiple casts.

The Fish Finder Rig Setup For Surf Fishing

The Fish Finder Rig is primarily used in challenging conditions to attract fish in areas with little cover and minimal structure.

  • Watch for crabs stealing your bait. Be prepared to peg a float to keep the bait off the bottom
  • The tide currents will bring your rig and bait toward shore, so you will need to reel in slowly to keep some tension on the line
  • Remember you will not have to set the hook with the free moving circle hook. A small tug will do while keeping tension on the line

Setup The Fish Finder Rig For Inshore Fishing

Fishing inshore and the flats usually have weaker currents. This is ideal for fishing for redfish and spotted trout.

Fish Finder Rig For Jetty Fishing

Presenting The Fish Finder Rig For Jetty Fishing

Jetties have structures that protrude from the beach and can capture schools of redfish.

These rocky areas that are strewn with huge boulders and rock jetties provide a great place to fish. They provide a secure refuge for a large number of crabs.

The current is responsible for taking the bait along the down-current side of the jetty or rock pile, but the red drum may be caught on any side of it in their pursuit of crabs.

Here I would change two things in my Fish Finder Rig:

  • Knowing that my sinker will most likely get caught, I would use a much lighter sinker slide or sinker clip to break off if necessary
  • Secure the hook tip in the bait, similar to a Texas or Carolina rig to prevent hang-ups

Summary

The Fish Finder Rig is a tried-and-true rig for surf fishing big saltwater game fish like redfish, striped bass, and speckled trout.

You were given a comprehensive guide for:

  • An overview of the Fish Finder rigging and its setup
  • How to set up your own Fish Finder rig
  • The best hooks, weights, and lines for this setup
  • Popular baits you can use for this setup
  • How to hook the baits for this rig
  • How to fish with the Fish Finder rig
  • Where to fish with this rig

Tracy Villarreal

I'm the owner of Active At The Beach. I grew up in a beach town in which I was fortunate enough to spend tons of time around the sea and the beach.

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