All You Need to Know about Surf Fishing Rigs

So you may have your rod, reel, boots, and bait all ready for your first saltwater angling trip, but that’s not all you should prepare. Great anglers spend a lot of time constructing fishing rigs to present the bait in a way that will best attract their fish of choice. This article will walk you through those thought-out arrangements for surf fishing and when and why to use them.

Benefits of Setting up a Great Rig

Here’s why you need the perfect set up:

Catch the Fish You Want

There are many great rigs that are created specifically for a specific species of fish. If you want to target a certain type of fish, it’s quite easy to find a rig construction that can do the job well. It’s much easier to present the bait in a way that is attractive to your desired catch with a well-constructed rig. 


Easy to Use Again and Again

Rather than finding the balance of manually presenting bait time after time, once you find a rig that works well for you, the beauty is that you can use that design over and over again. Whether you’re buying a pre-made rig from a tackle store, or tying it yourself, having a rig you can come back to again and again is a huge convenience. 

Types of Surf Fishing Rigs

There are many surf fishing rigs that can be effective for your desired catch. Here are some of the most popular:

High Low Rig

Two is better than one, right? The high low rig utilizes this concept by allowing the angler to present two baits at once. This is a well-loved choice for many fishermen as it basically doubles the odds of attracting your fish of choice. The construction is fairly simple, with a fixed weight and two evenly-spaced hooks placed above that. A high low rig is a popular option for sea bass fishing– a hot tip is after the first strike, let the fish struggle near the bottom for a while, allowing for another fish to take the top bait, an easy doubleheader.

Whole Mullet Rig

While the name of this rig might seem a little outdated, its performance in saltwater is not. It utilizes a styrofoam float to allow the bait to linger above the bottom of a body of water, keeping it out of the claws of crabs. This design also keeps the bait easier to find for potential catches. Use a mullet baitfish and make sure the hook is inserted near the back to maximize your chances of catching bluefish, who tend to attack by sneaking up from the behind and tearing off the rear section of the fish.

Whole Mullet Rig (Source)

Running Rig

The running rig gets its name from the action that a fish can take with bait in this design. It’s constructed in a way that makes the fish feel like it can “run” away with the bait without feeling the weight of a sinker. This is a favorite among many surf anglers thanks to its movement (especially in a current) and easy casting. The rig is a great choice for those anglers who prefer a hands-off approach to fishing, as it is a good set-up to leave with a rod in a stand. Watch out for line tangling, which this rig is prone to.  

Ninety-Mile Rig

The ninety-mile rig is actually a different variation on the running rig, mentioned above. The main difference is that the length of the monofilament is tied in between a sinker and a swivel. The fish will still have the feeling they can “run” with the bait without feeling the weight of the sinker, but this rig casts much better than the running rig. It’s also less tangle-prone, which is a huge convenience on the water. Increase your chances at a catch by adding colorful attractors to this rig.

Strayline Rig

A strayline is definitely the simplest choice of rig on this list. The only action needed to construct this rig is to run a line through a ball sinker and attach a hook to the end, easy as that. The complications come with learning how to tie your bait in an attractive way, which will differ from fish to fish. This is a super-easy rig to cast and is a great pick for days when the surf is a little more tumultuous.

Aspects to Consider When Building a Rig

Always think ahead and consider the types of bait. Below are a few options:

Types of Bait

Even if you’ve set up the most beautifully designed rig, you won’t have any luck with catches if you choose the wrong bait. While the type of bait you pick should really depend on the species of fish you’re on the hunt for, there are a couple of options that are very popular across the board:

  • Small Crabs- Use a small-sized bait crab to attract almost any species of sportfish

  • Squid- Many sportfish can’t resist squid, which you can buy fresh or frozen from any tackle shop along the coast. Use whole for the best chance at a catch.

  • Mullet- Best used in a whole mullet rig, but can also be used as baitfish in many of the other rig options listed above.

  • Shrimp- A great versatile choice because almost all saltwater fish will go for a shrimp, dead or alive. Most effective for targeting bluefish and redfish, among others.

How to Bait Your Rig

Along with the bait you choose, it’s equally important to present it in the most attractive way possible. Bait tying can make all the difference in seducing a picky fish on a calm day. There are many online resources available that can guide you in the best presentation methods to make your bait look as natural in the water as possible.


Some rigs are much more complicated to cast than others. It can be very frustrating to take the time to construct a complicated rig only to have it tangle before it hits the water. If you’re fairly new to angling, try sticking to the simpler rigs with little tangle-risk to give yourself the best chance at a catch.


While the initial idea of rigs may seem a little confusing, it’s really not that hard to grasp the designs after a little practice. Remember, you can always buy pre-tied rigs if your fingers just can’t handle the tying job, but it’s important to know which rigs will be best-suited for you. Happy fishing!