In this article, I’ll be explaining the gear and tackle that I use for surf fishing. This includes my rod and reel for surf fishing as well as the rig I use with all of the terminal tackle. When it comes down to it, finding the right surf fishing tackle and gear depends on your preferences, but I’ll explain my preferences and why I use what I use.
This set-up will be used to catch corbina, croaker, guitarfish, surfperch, and other light tackle species using a C-rig. While you can use the same set-up to throw lures for targeting halibut and other game fish, I recommend upping the action/rating for a lure throwing set-up. For example, I use a rod with a medium rating for light tackle surf fishing. For lures, I like a medium-heavy or heavy rating.
So let’s start with the reel. The Penn Battle 4000 (II or III) is one of the best fishing reels out there and I simply love Penn as their saltwater products are super high quality. So whether for shark fishing or light tackle surf fishing, I like the Battle.
I used to use a Penn Pursuit III 4000 series rod and reel combo for the longest time. I loved it. My only complaint was that I had to fix the anti-reverse on two of them. Sure, the sensitivity wasn’t as good as the Celilo and other rods, but it was solid. Now, you can’t find Pursuits anywhere. For that reason, I started branching out and I actually used my best fishing rod and reel page to narrow down my search and select my rod. The rods and reels on that list were those that were most recommended by other So Cal anglers. I decided to go with an Okuma Celilo Salmon and Steelhead rod at 8″6″ and MA (medium action).
Your Rod Should be a Personal Preference:
Let’s talk about this because the rod is something that I think becomes the most personalized aspect of your set-up. The Okuma Celilo 8’6″ MA is a fantastic rod with amazing sensitivity and a very responsive bend for mid-fight but it still offers great responsiveness for hook sets. I absolutely love the feel of it for fighting fish and throwing the C-rig with a 1-ounce weight.
If you’re looking for a good lure throwing rod, get the Okuma Celilo in HA (heavy action) and that will suit you well. The Okuma SST is also a good option but tough to find. If you’re looking for more compariusons, there’s still my list of other recommended rods and reels.
You’ll start with your 15-pound mono for your main line. I use 15-pound mono and I’ll explain why. With a 4000 series reel, you can fit approximately 135-140-yards of 15-pound line on your spool. I always like to have at least 125-yards of line on my spool and I’ll never use anything less than 10-pound test.
Big spotfin, guitars, bat rays and leopard sharks can all easily snap 8-10-pound test either on that initial run, the set, or even the beaching process. I’ve hooked into 5-foot leopards on 10-pound test on sand crabs, so, in my mind, you want to be ready for those guys.
You want that balance between a heavier pound-test and a good amount of line on your reel. Usually, with spotfin, corbina, and all other light tackle species, you’re spool capacity won’t be tested, but it certainly might be if you get a big guitar, bat ray, or leopard. That 15-pound test mark is the perfect balance of enough line and a heavy enough pound-test. With a cast of about 20 to 40-yards, this should leave you with at least 80-yards to work with and that’s perfect.
So first off, here’s a video on how I tie my Carolina rig. It’s one thing to have the best surf fishing tackle and best surf fishing gear, but it’s another to know the proper rigs and techniques to use.
While we’re on the topic of lines, let’s talk about my 15-pound fluoro leader. Yes, I said 15-pounds. For all the reasons listed above… that’s why I use 15-pound test. I’ve run into a myriad of anglers who insisted that 4 to 8-pound test was the way to go. It’s one thing to finesse a fish with proper techniques, but it’s another to actually experience and understand the hows and the whys.
Corbina are NOT line shy! I hear this one all the time. The simple truth is, they aren’t. They aren’t any more line shy than the next fish out there. Certainly, here and there, the combination of presentation and feel in the mouth might deter a corbina or croaker from taking your bait, but the bottom line is that line thickness is not the issue. Here’s my article on my explanation of why corbina are NOT line shy. However, I do use fluorocarbon for my leader line. Fluorocarbon is said to be virtually invisible in the water as its refraction is extremely similar to that of the water. Whether it matters or not, I see no reason not to use fluorocarbon.
Yes, I Use 15-pound Line
We could debate back and forth on whether I’m right or whythey’re wrong… see what I did there? But, when it comes down to it, the track record speaks volume. I’ve tried the lighter lines vs the heavier lines and noticed no difference in hook-ups and catch numbers… I’ve found no difference.
Then again, it is ABSOLUTELY possible that your personal experience was different or has been different than mine. In that case I’d actually love to hear about your experiences and your reasons in the comments section. I caught a 28-inch corbina using this set-up years ago and I catch 4 or 5 over 20-inches every summer. Additionally, spotfin numbers and sizes have been similar.
Lighter Tackle With Sight Casting
What leads anglers to believe that corbina are so line shy is the actual method of fishing. Many anglers who target corbina partake in a method called “sight-casting”. This is where the angler spots the fish, times a cast in front of the fish and hopes for a bite. I have to admit, this is one of the most thrilling styles of surf fishing, but this method, if executed incorrectly, will result in a spooked fish.
With sight-casting, the best tackle and gear for surf fishing may vary. Going lighter on the weight might help. Long story short (as this post was supposed to simply outline my gear and tackle), the reason the corbina will spook is not due to the line, but due to either the fish seeing/sensing the angler, or the fish sensing the angler’s weight striking the sand. In my experience, sight casting is most successful when you spot the fish from a distance and when you lead the fish by more than 10-15 feet with a timed cast that enters through the white water.
Alright, so the rest of it is fairly simple. I’ll thread my 1-ounce weight onto my main line, then my protective bead, and then I’ll tie a barrel swivel on. Then, from the other end, I’ll tie my 15-pound fluorocarbon line (about 2 to 2.5-feet worth), followed by my mosquito hook. depending on my target as well as what I think is biting, I’ll either do a #2 or #4 hook. (#4 being smaller than #2). For instance, if I’m trying to catch bait, I’ll use a #4.
Lure Throwing Set Up
So for the lure throwing set-up, I keep the same rod and reel and even main line, and I literally just tie on a Lucky Craft FM 110. My go-to color is the metallic sardine which should be displayed if you click the link.
This will be the same set-up for Leopard Sharks, Soupfin Sharks, Bat Rays, big Guitar Fish and even 7-Gill Sharks if you’re fortunate enough.
Let’s start with the rod and reel. If you haven’t checked out the web page I created on “recommended rods and reels“, it’s worth the read. I created this page from a poll that I took which focused on the preferences of local So Cal surf fishermen (not my sole preference). But, if you want a more streamlined, sure-to-work set-up I’m going to tell you exactly what I use and what I like about it.
Rod and Reel for Shark Fishing
My go-to shark fishing rod for catching sharks from the surf in So Cal is the Fiblink Moonsniper (12 or 13 foot) spinning fishing rod. It’s sleek, strong, and provides great action for solid casts.
The Penn Battle II and III 6000 is an awesome reel! I’ve recently purchased a Penn Battle III 8000 series spinning reel and I think I’d lean toward that over the 6000s, but either one will do. I have zero complaints and highly recommend this reel to anyone looking to start surf fishing. The Daiwa BG is probably the most comparable reel to the Penn Battle and I’ve heard great things about both. You can always go with higher quality, more expensive set-ups, but this article is strictly about what I use as for now, this is the best surf fishing gear and tackle for me. I love the Battle and have no complaints.
Fishing Line for Shark Fishing
I use Power Pro (50-pound-test) braided fishing line for shark fishing in the surf. Spider Wire and a couple of other brands are solid too, and in all honestly, I’ve never had a bad experience with any braid, but Power Pro feels the best and seems to hold up the best for me.
After the braided line, you’ll want to put on a “top-shot” of 50-pound monofilament line. This just means that you’ll tie a line-to-line knot between your braid and mono. You should add about 40 to 50 yards of 50-pound mono (or fill until reel capacity is full). Don’t get intimidated by the line-to-line! It’s not difficult. If you’re too scared of tying a line-to-line knot, straight braid to your leader is okay too, just make sure you tie your knot (mainline-to- leader) with twice the number of twists or loops as you would with mono. The line-to-line knot that I like to tie is called an FG knot (video) and it will provide a nice thin profile that can handle going through your eyelets with ease and no snags.
The Penn Battle II 6000 series reel can hold roughly 335 yards of 50-pound braided line. So I essentially fill 2/3 with braid and the last 1/3 with mono. Since the mono is thicker, it will take up more reel space per yard.
The reason we use mono for the “top-shot” is that mono can supposedly handle abrasion better than braid can. The closest line to the fish (other than the leader) will be mono and when the shark rolls or the skin rubs the line, your mono will be there to withstand it.
Braided line, while strong, is supposedly prone to snaps when confronted with abrasion. This is due to the nature of its engineering. Once a single strand is broken (in say, a 6-strand braid) it’s strength is lessened by 1/6. If two strands are broken, that 50-pound line will now be weakened by at least 33% bringing it down to say 33ish lb-test.
From there, the top 4 feet of my line will be 100-pound nylon-coated abrasion-resistant leader line. I use a double uni fishing knot for this line-to-line tie. The knot should remain outside of your rings when casting. This helps with sharks rolling over mid-fight. It’ll save you sharks I promise. Once we’ve got the right rod and the right reel, and we’re all spooled up, we can get into the shark rig.
For these, you’re more than welcome to make your own, but I do sell these and my shark rigs are available in double-hook and single-hook rigs.
If you’d rather make your own, here’s a list of links in which you can make similar rigs.
Regardless, let’s go over the specifics on how to set yourself up with the best surf fishing tackle and gear to make a shark leader.
We’ve got a 3-way swivel which is attached to 90-pound AFW wire leader-line via (2) single-barrel crimps. From there, you have two options (which are displayed on the page where you can purchase my shark rigs: single-hooked rigs, or double-hooked rigs.
These hooks are hand-sharpened, 7/0 circle hooks. I typically use the double-hooked rigs, but I’ve used the singles and they’ve worked just fine so you can’t go wrong.
From the empty loop on the 3-way swivel, you’ll attach mono line to a pyramid equaling approximately 18-iinches of line (or however long your shark leader is). I prefer my weight to be the same distance from the swivel as my bait; it makes for easier casting.
That’s your finished shark set-up and if you have any questions, leave them in the comments section at the bottom of this post.
Obviously, there really isn’t a correct way vs incorrect way to rig up your set-ups for surf fishing. This is simply what I’ve come to use and trust.
Any Questions? Let Me Know!
Please, if you have any questions or you’re unclear on something listed (or not listed), post it in the comments section at the bottom of the post. I’m always open to improving and modifying my set-up as well.
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