Pier fishing is a time-honored tradition among anglers across the country, providing an excellent low-cost way to access everything from the surf to deep water.
And every fisherman with a bit of salt in his veins has warm memories made on a pier, whether they were dropping High/Low Rigs down to the pilings below, casting Fireball Rigs to hungry blues, or working the bottom with Fishfinder Rigs.
I sure do, and the croakers and specks I caught on my High/Low Rigs as a boy are still among my most memorable catches!
If you’d like to experience the thrill of a big bluefish, a hard-running speck, or any of the other dozens of species you can catch from a pier, we’ve got the rigging info you need.
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Related: Pier Fishing Tips
Spinning reels are common in pier-fishing because they handle wind better than alternatives.
Both extremes are easy to justify. Even on a pier that gives you prime access to the trough beyond the surf, you might want ultra-long casts to beat the fishing pressure. And in deep water where the big fish hunt the pilings for prey, I’ve seen impressive fighters that would break most rods landed through a combination of skill and heavy tackle.
But most of us chase flounder and fluke, croaker, specks, pompano, reds, and other inshore species that don’t demand specialized tackle.
For that, I recommend a medium power, fast action inshore spinning rod in the neighborhood of 7 ½ feet. You want a long, comfortable handle, good guides, and plenty of sensitivity to detect light strikes.
Among my favorites, you’ll find the St. Croix Mojo Inshore. A dream to cast with a fight-winning blank, it’s as good a rod as you’ll ever find for this kind of angling. Pair it with an awesome Daiwa BG inshore spinning reel, and you’ve got a wind-busting combo that’ll outperform nearly anything else.
If you’re going to be working with wire leaders, crimping and cutting your rig into shape, you’ll want a serious wire-working tool. And while saltwater fishing pliers can usually get the job done, they’re just not designed to cut heavy wire leader material.
Reach for the real deal--you’ll be glad you did!
For toothy fish like blues, nothing beats tough nylon-coated tieable wire.
Rio’s Powerflex is simply awesome for creating nearly indestructible leaders, and when I’m fishing for species that sport a mouth full of sharp teeth, this is what I reach for.
For bigger, meaner fish like shark, I recommend ultra-tough wire leader. Malin is a name you can trust, and their leader material is built to take everything a shark can dish out.
It’s tempting to go for a pre-tied leader with a built-in swivel and clip, but trust me--many brands are not able to deliver on the performance they promise, breaking well under their rated test strength.
If you want to be sure that the shark, wahoo, or king mackerel you tie into will end up on the beach, tie your own leaders from superior material!
I recommend using American Fishing Wire Single Barrel Crimp Sleeves in the size that’s right for the wire you choose. I look for sleeves with slightly larger interior diameters than double my line diameter.
For instance, if you run #15 wire with a diameter of .036”, look for a sleeve size that’s close to (but bigger than) .072”. In this case, I’d select the closest larger size: .082”.
For surf casting, where linen lengths are going to create weak hooksets, nothing beats a circle hook. Essentially self-setting, they do the job for you if you rig them correctly.
Strong, sharp, and utterly dependable, Gamakatsu hooks are as good as it gets. Available in sizes from 8 to 8/0, they’ve got the right size for you whatever you’re after in the surf.
Beads are an important component for some surf-casting rigs. Placed between a sliding sinker and a barrel swivel, they can protect your line from the pounding of all that lead.
When you need a big sinker to slide freely, a slide is essential. And because of the clip, it’s easy to change sinker weights as conditions change.
An old fashioned pyramid sinker enables long casts and holds well, keeping your surf casting rig where you want it. As it lays over onto its side, the points and flat at the top grip, fighting tide, current, and waves.
Bullet Weight’s sinkers are available in weights ranging from 1 to 6 ounces, making them a versatile choice in any condition.
Pesky crabs can ruin live bait on the bottom. But a cigar float can keep your hook afloat, keeping you in the game longer.
Barrel swivels are another rigging essential, and you’ll need some strong options for surf casting. Riptail offers swivels in sizes that are rated for everything from fluke to specks to sharks.
While some anglers like to tie their double-hooked rigs, a three-way swivel is more effective at preventing tangles and allows your live bait to swim more erratically, attracting more bites.
Breakaway Super Sinkers are available in standard surf casting weights, offering better grip and a breakaway design for anglers who face rocky bottoms that threaten to snag every cast.
For Fireball Rigs, these float balls can’t be beat. Available in 12 and 18 mm sizes, they’re just right to keep a hook buoyed off the bottom.
Among surf casters, there’s no rig more widely used than the Fish Finder. Essentially a Carolina Rig modified for longer casts and tide-bucking grip, the Fish Finder is a versatile, effective option every angler should know how to assemble.
Pretty much the only situation in which the Fish Finder Rig will let you down is when you’re confronted by an angry horde of crabs! Then, depending on your live bait option, they’ll have access to your hook and steal a meal as quickly as you rig it.
To assemble a Fish Finder Rig, follow these steps:
For shark and other large fish with a mouth full of razors:
The Floating Fish Finder Rig is an exceptional option for holding live bait off the bottom at a known depth. Not only does this put it right where hungry fish can find it, but it also prevents pesky crabs from stealing your bait.
To assemble a Floating Fish Finder Rig, follow these steps:
For shark and other large fish with a mouth full of razors:
The High/Low Rig is among my personal favorites, and I’ve caught coolers full of croaker, specks, and flounder on this versatile rig.
Ideal for running multiple jigs or live baits, it can help you hone in on what’s triggering bites that day, as well as giving you a second chance to attract a strike.
I’ve also used this rig with a single hook, and it’s just as deadly with little risk of tangles.
If you fish in areas where snags are a constant problem, run a Breakaway Super Sinker or make a dropper line of light-weight mono that allows you to break off your sinker.
Some anglers use a single main line, with Dropper Loops and leaders running from them. For this style of rigging, T-swivels aren’t necessary, but in my experience, tangling can be a real issue.
To assemble a High/Low Rig, follow these steps:
If you’d like to skip this complicated process, you can buy a quality High/Low Rig from Tide Rite that’s made from 30-pound mono leader. Tide Rite uses loops at the hooks, so they’re easy to change if you don’t want the Mustad bait holders they supply.
For bluefish, you can also buy a wire High/Low Rig and then make leaders from wire for your hooks.
Jasmine makes a nice pre-tied wire rig, and it’s available in one- and two-armed versions.
Fireball Rigs are popular for a reason.
Offering two sharp hooks for live bait, this ingenious rig adds a ball float near each hook, buoying your bait up and off the bottom. You’ll find variations of this rig fished for species like pompano, specks, and reds, explaining why it’s a perennial sight on beaches across America.
You can buy these rigs pre-tied from Topsail Tackle, and they’re equipped with heavy mono leader and 3/0 circle hooks.
To assemble a Fireball Rig, follow these steps:
These pier fishing rigs have been tried and tested, and each and every one of them works, no question! Wherever you fish, whatever the species you’re after, at least one of these rigs will be right for you, and it’s our pleasure to help our fellow anglers!
That’s why we hope this article has helped you improve your pier fishing rigs, and as always, we’d love to hear from you if it has.
Please leave a comment below!