Pier Fishing Rod Setups – Beginner’s Guide

| Last Updated April 15, 2021

If you would like to enjoy a good fishing session without getting your feet wet or riding into the waters, pier fishing may be a great option for you.

With the right equipment, it is easy to get started and can offer a good opportunity for networking with other anglers.

This article discusses pier fishing equipment, related terminologies and concepts, how to set up your pier fishing rig and rod, and concisely answers some of the top Pier fishing FAQs. 

Photo credit: gfycat.com

Pier Fishing Rig Terminology and Common Concepts

Here are the definitions for the most common pier fishing rig terminology and common concepts.

Rod: a long, cylindrical rod with guides and a reel seat on which a fishing line is attached. It is used for casting lures and baits.

Reel: a device with a spool mounted on the axle attached to a fishing rod and used to deploy and retrieve fishing line.

Line: a long thin string used for fishing.

Sinkers: a metallic fishing accessory used together with lures or baits to enable them to go deeper into the water.

Hooks and Rigs: a curved or bent piece of metal used for catching fish, most commonly by impaling the fish's mouth once it bites the bait or lure.

Rod Holder: a sturdy device used for holding a fishing rod instead of the angler.

Pliers: a handy fishing tool that can be used for clipping the lines or removing a hook.

Fishing Cart: a hand-driven, two-wheel cart used for hauling fishing equipment and tools from one location to another.

Tackle Box: a container where you put and organize your fishing essentials, including different types of baits and lures, fishing lines, hooks, swivels, bobbers, first aid kit, pliers, fishing license, etc.

Net: a woven mesh used for catching fish from a boat.

Bait: an item placed on a hook at the tip of a fishing line to trick a fish into biting it.

Casting: the process of swinging a fishing rod to release the line for it to propel a lure or bait into the water.

Action: the extent to which a rod bends when pressure is exerted.

Pier Fishing Rod Setups

The first step to properly setting up your fishing rod is getting the right fishing rod and then deciding on the best setup option for pier fishing. 

Types of Rods for Pier Fishing

While you can use any standard 7-9 feet fishing rod for pier fishing, it is better to consider whether you have specific needs and choose a suitable pier fishing rod accordingly. Below are different types of pier fishing rods.

1. Ice Rods

Unlike most other types of rods used for casting, ice rods are used to lower the line and bait into the water. They are usually shorter than other types of pier fishing rods, with a total length of about 3 feet.

They are built to offer stability and flexibility in extremely cold weather conditions and should be used as a freeze-resistant line. They are lightweight and have a super sensitive tip for fast action. They also have a strong handle to withstand the fight once a fish has been caught.

On the downside, ice rods can be too short for use from high piers. Also, since you are not casting, you will need to fine-tune your bait delivery technique for the best outcome.

Photo credit: fish-united.com

2. Deep Sea Rods

If the pier you will be fishing from is quite long and extends into the deep waters, you will need a deep sea rod.

Deep sea fishing rods are designed to handle bigger fish, heavy lines, lures, and baits. The ones designed for use from a pier or offshore are stiff and long (14 feet). They can handle the tackle of big fish such as sharks, marlins, and goliath groupers, among others. They have large eyelets, long butts, and fine tips.

Most are made of graphite to ensure that they are lightweight yet strong and durable. However, if you are looking for a more flexible deep sea rod, go for one made of fiberglass but keep in mind that it won’t be as durable as one made of fiberglass. The main disadvantage of deep sea rods is that they are pricey.

Photo credit: fishmasters.com

3. Surf Rods

Surf rods have a length of up to 15 feet to allow for longer casting from the show. They are suitable for pier fishing use, especially if the pier does not go into the deep waters. They cast efficiently, even into crashing waves.

They are strong and can be used with different types, sizes, and weights of lines and baits. They handle heavy-fighting fish well. The butt section is longer than in most other fishing rods to allow for placing on a holder. The long handle also allows for two-hand casting.

On the downside, accuracy may be compromised, as is the case with most longer rods. Also, you need significant power to retrieve a line after it has caught fish, which is why surf rods are best used with reels.

Photo credit: usangler.com

4. Trolling Rods

Trolling rods are designed to be used with boats by dropping them on the side of the boat. Therefore, they may not be suited for pier fishing. 

Photo credit: fishingoutcast.com

Fast Action Rods vs Medium Action Rods vs Slow Action Rods in Pier Fishing

Rod action determines how flexible a rod is and the parts of the rod that are flexible. Rods with fast action typically bend only at the tip and spring back immediately, while those with a slow action bend throughout from the butt to the tip and take longer to spring back. Medium action rods are flexible on the upper half.

Fast action rods are best for catching large fish as the rest of the shaft is rigid. Medium action rods are popular among anglers as they are versatile and can be used to catch different fish sizes except for the extremely small or large ones.

Slow action rods are best suited for smaller catches as they cast gently over short distances. Since their shafts are not rigid, they would not tackle fighting fish well. 

What Are the Best Setups for Pier Fishing Rods?

Three main pier fishing rods setups are used, depending on the type of fish you want to catch:

Light Setup for Baitfish or Jigging

The light pier fishing rod setup is for catching smaller fish using the jigging or baitfish techniques. It is best to use a spinning rod and reel for this setup. Seasoned anglers prefer using a graphite fishing rod over a fiberglass one for light tackles. You can use either a monofilament or a braided line.

Medium Setup for Bait or Lure Work

This setup is best suited for catching fish that weigh between 5-10lb. You use a 7-8 feet long rod that has a medium or heavy power rating. It is best to use a spinning rod and 3000 or 4000 reels with 12-15lb monolines or 30lb braided lines. This setup can be used to lure fish away from the pylons beneath the pier or for casting over longer distances.

Heavy Setup for Large Fish and Lure Work

Heavy setup is for larger fish that require heavier lines and larger sinkers and lures. A 9-feet, heavy-duty spinning rod works well if you are not casting for longer distances. However, for giant catches such as sharks, a rod and reel combination is the best option as the reel will offer higher cranking power. 

Other Factors to Consider When Selecting a Rod for Pier Fishing

The following are factors to consider to help you determine which type of fishing rod to choose for pier fishing. 

1. Type of Fish You Expect to Catch

This is a key consideration that will determine which length and type of action to go for. Depending on how deep into the sea the pier extends, you can catch different sizes of fish. For larger fish, go for fast action, shorter rods, while for smaller fish, opt for a medium-length rod with a slow action. 

2. Casting Distance

Shorter rods are suitable for casting over short distances, while longer ones are ideal for longer distances. A rod with a longer handle and butt section offers you two-hand casting, which is suitable for longer distances. 

3. Fishing Technique

For jigging techniques, choose a rod that is about 7-8 feet long with a light or medium power rating. At the same time, an 8-foot rod with a heavy power rating will do medium-sized fish.

Consider that you may either cast or drop your line when pier fishing. For casting, you require longer lines. The rod, in this case, should be able to retrieve fish caught some feet away from the pier. 

Photo credit: fishingbooker.com

4. Weather Conditions

When pier fishing, the tides will significantly impact your techniques. When the tide is high, bait and predator fish move closer to the shore, and you may only need to drop your line beneath the pier to catch fish. While in the low tide, the fish move deeper into the sea, and you would need to cast further. 

How Do You Set Up a Pier Fishing Rig?

When setting up your rig, the first step is to determine the type of lures, baits, swivels, sinkers, hooks, and other accessories you want to use. You can buy a pre-tied rig with the elements that you prefer or make one from scratch.

For instance, in the video below, the angler uses a pre-tied rig with a hook, three brightly-colored beads, and a flashy lure that mimics a baitfish running away. It has a loop at the end that you use to attach to the mainline with a swivel.

If you are fishing in fast-moving water or you would like to cast into the deep waters, add a sinker or several sinkers to your rig. In this case, the angler uses one bullet sinker that he slides to the rig before inserting the swivel and making an improved clinch knot, then clipping the loop to the mainline. 


Unlike surf fishing, pier fishing enables you to get further into the water from a higher point for a chance to catch the bigger fish. It is simple, easily accessible, and requires sophisticated fishing gear. Besides, you do not need to be an expert angler. By properly setting up your rod, lines, reel, and baits, you are good to go.

People Also Ask

Below are answers to some of the top pier fishing setup FAQs:

What Kind of Tackle Do You Use for Pier Fishing?

The fishing tackle you need for pier fishing depends on the pier's length, whether there is a low or high tide, and the type of fish you are targeting. With that said, you will generally need a fishing rod, lines, hooks, swivels, sinkers, reels, baits, tackle boxes, etc.

What Size Hooks for Pier Fishing?

Pier fishing hooks are categorized under saltwater fishing hooks. They start at no.1/0 for the smaller ones up to 19/0 for the large ones. The right size depends on the type of fish you are hunting for. For instance, 19/0 are ideal for large sharks, while 1/0 will work for most smaller fish. Keep in mind that hook sizes are not standard.

Photo credit: takemefishing.org

What is the Best Time to Fish Off a Pier?

Generally, the best time to fish from a pier is either early in the morning or the evening when the sun is setting. Mostly, the tide is high, and most fish come to the shore at this time.

Is Pier Fishing Better at High or Low Tide?

Bait and predator fish move closer to the shore when the tide is high. However, the raging waters may make it difficult to effectively present your bait. On the other hand, when the tide is low, fish move further away from the shore. You may require to cast longer to reach them.

My name is Caleb and I am obsessed with hunting, fishing, and foraging. To be successful, you have to think like your prey. You have to get into the mind of your target - and understand Big Game Logic. If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.