Half the battle of surf fishing is being prepared with the right baits and the right rigs. And when the bite is hot, whether it be whiting, the revered pompano, croaker, flounder, sheepshead or other table fish, you don’t want to monkey around building leaders, tying knots, and rummaging for hooks in your tackle bag.
The standard Florida surf rig is the dropper rig, a multi-hook rig that allows you to fish more than one bait in the bottom three feet or so of the water column. Typical components include hooks, weights, swivels, snaps, and foam or bead attractors. Fishing more than one bait is a must because of bait stealers, and the typical “washing machine” nature of the surf zone. With two or three baits out there on each rod, a missed bite does not mean you have to reel up and re-bait.
I surf fish for pleasure and also guide others as part of my charter business. I have to be prepared and ready to go, particularly when 3 to 4 rods are deployed. I build my own surf rigs at home and keep an ample supply of them in various configurations (2-hook and 3-hook). If I lose a rig, or discover a section of frayed line, I can quickly snip it off and tie on a new one. I keep my ready-to-go rigs in plastic zip bags.
When I’m tying my dropper rigs, I use a “rig board.” This accessory, which is easy to build, turns out uniform loops every time, and I can better control the length of each finished rig (32 to 34 inches). I also use it to store my rig components in attached utility boxes. I don’t go hunting for parts. The board is like a third hand. I can pull it out of the closet, tie a dozen rigs in a half-hour, and stash the board when wished. The board has wooden dowels positioned for winding line to make dropper loops. It also has a screw-in cup hook to assist in drawing down knots, and a clamp for holding a snap and creating tension.
I made my board with a 3 by 1-foot piece of 3/4-inch plywood. Just right of center, I installed three 4 1/4-inch wooded dowel pins in a triangle, each exactly 4 inches apart. By winding my line around the pins, I am using 12 inches of line to produce a dropper loop 4 inches long, ideal for spacing between my hook and main line of my leader. Should you want longer dropper loops, simply install the dowels farther apart. To assist in drawing down and tightening my dropper loop knot, I screwed in a threaded cup holder hook between the bottom two dowels in the triangle. I screwed down a small metal binder clip (found at office supply stores) which holds the (sinker) snap at the end of your leader while you tie the loop. It also holds your first finished loop while you tie in a second, or a third loop if you so choose. I added another wooden dowel 14 inches to the left of the triangle of line winding dowels on which I mount my 1/4-pound spool of monofilament. To increase tension a bit, I glued down a circular patch of felt slightly larger in diameter than the line spool. FS
To my board I attached three small utility boxes to hold:
✓Hooks: I use Mustad wide-gap “Kahle style” No. 1 and 1/0 and occasionally Eagle Claw circle hooks ✓Medium black finish Duo Lock Snaps (to which a sinker is attached when fishing)
✓Swivels (black nish 3/0 or 4/0)
✓Foam “pill style” attractor oats, chartreuse and pink
✓Prismatic plastic beads (red or orange)
✓Line bulk spool (20-pound Ande Ghost or Ande pink)
Note: Some surf anglers prefer fluorocarbon to monofilament when the surf is crystal clear, but I avoid those water conditions. Fishing for pompano is better when there is wave action and the waters are a bit stirred. When waters are stirred, I believe the bright foam attractor floats help the fish spot the bait. The foam attractor also adds just enough buoyancy to hold the bait away from the main line while thing.
First Published Florida Sportsman February 2017