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7 Surf Fishing Tips for Beginners

Surf fishing is constantly growing as one of the most popular forms of fishing.

You don't need the expense of a boat and yet still have access to some great fish species.

You don’t always have to go dozens of miles offshore to experience great saltwater fishing. If you know how to look in the right places, you can catch huge fish right off the shoreline at most beaches. 

Many surf fishermen catch a wide variety of sought-after game fish along the beaches, including red drum, seatrout, flounder, pompano, striped bass and many more.

Using the right combination of bait, surf tackle and picking the right spot, you can put together some of the best surf fishing tips to become an expert angler and land some impressive catches on the beach.

Surf fishing is considered more difficult than most forms of angling as it usually requires more experience to become truly successful at it. Many anglers do not live close enough to the coastal shoreline to become skilled enough to be considered a great surf fishermen.

However, if you follow the right surf fishing tips, you’ll find that anyone can put together enough angling skills and knowledge to be moderately successful from the shore. 

Here are some of the best surf fishing tips for beginners to help you hook a trophy game fish from the shoreline all the while enjoying the sand between your toes and the waves crashing in front of you.

Surf Fishing Tips

1. Ask the Locals

As in any other form of fishing—especially if you’re very unfamiliar with the methods employed by the local anglers who experience success on a regular basis—it’s a great idea to ask the locals for advice.

The best place to go for fishing advice is always the local bait shop. With more and more anglers shopping for bait and tackle online, the old school mom and pop bait shops are dwindling down to just a few, but if you can locate one, be sure to use it to gain some valuable intel.

Don’t be shy about the information you’re wanting, and if a store worker or local angler blows you off, simply move on and ask someone else. Eventually, you’ll find someone who is usually happy to share their secrets with another angler who is equally passionate about fishing. 

2. Find the Best Spot

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a great idea to select just any old spot along the shoreline in most coastal areas. Just like lakes, rivers and other waterways, you’ll want to search out the spot where large numbers of game fish are hanging out and feeding.

How can you find such a place if you’re totally new to a coastal area? Again, asking the locals is a great strategy to find a prime location. Don’t stop at your local bait shop, either. Sometimes the local bar or pub is as good an information base as any.

You’ll want to look for sandbars and watch how the waves break around them. The ideal location for casting your bait will be located between two sandbars in an area where a “riptide” usually occurs. Fish are well-aware of this riptide and will stay near it in hopes that it will carry baitfish in their direction.

One of the best tips we can give you for finding a great fishing spot on the coast is to walk the beach and look for other fishermen staking out their claim.

If you find a group of guys who are set up with more than your average tourist angler’s bait and tackle, odds are you’ve stumbled upon a great spot. Don’t crowd them, and only move into the spot once they pack up and leave.

3. Fish Big

Remember, saltwater fishing means you might possibly catch something much larger than you expect, which is part of the thrill for most anglers. If you plan to fish from the shoreline, you’ll want to use tackle that can handle the sea and the sand, as well as any giant fish that bites your hook.

Sometimes you can get by with throwing your favorite open face bass setup in and catching a few fish, but you’re taking a huge risk in allowing the saltwater and sand to permanently damage your reel.

Be sure to come prepared and get your own surf fishing rod and reel. These are typically at least 8 feet long and have a larger reel which holds heavier line.

One of the reasons you’ll want a larger rod and reel setup is in case a monster fish bites and you’re in for the fight of your life.

The other reason as to why you’d want a longer, bigger setup is because you need to be able to cast out far enough to avoid the strong waves and currents that might wash your bait inland. Also, be sure to use a rod holder to make sure your bait stays still and your rod isn’t pulled out to sea. 

4. Go Heavy

You should already be using a larger rod and reel, so don’t be shy about going big and heavy with your tackle. Unless you’re goal is to just catch smaller fish, it’s a good idea to rig your rod and reel with heavy line, large sinkers and hooks and a good shock leader.

A visit to any local bait shop will help you determine the best kind of bait and tackle to use for surf fishing. If you’re going to be fishing in an area with a strong current, you might want to use a spider weight, which is a sinker that has copper arms sticking out that will dig into the sand and prevent your bait from drifting too much. 

5. Use Natural Baits

Many of the fish you’re after when surf fishing are cruising the shoreline in search of naturally occurring baitfish and other meals. You can find the surf fishing baits such as shrimp, squid, or any kind of cut bait like cigar minnows or mullet at your local tackle shop.

Many game fish species found in the surf at local beaches see these baits as a lucky find and an irresistible meal, especially if the area is seldom fished.

Tailor your surf fishing bait selection based on what you plan to catch—if you’re hoping to catch large bull redfish or sharks, be sure to go very big with hooks, line and sinker. If you’re fishing for smaller catches, it’s fine to use tackle that fit your needs. 

6. Go When the Tide is Right

The most valuable surf fishing tip you can get is anything related to the best time of day in relation to the tide. Fishing when the tide is rising or falling is best because fish use this tide to find their food.

Fishing early in the morning or late in the evening is a great strategy as the tides will always be shifting during these hours. 

7. Utilize Apps

Technology is a wonderful thing for us anglers and taking advantage of it can mean that you exponentially increase your catch rate.

There are several great smartphone apps out there that will usually show you the best spots for surf fishing, along with various surf fishing tips for a specific area.