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Best Fishing Line for Surf Fishing & Bait Rigs

Your top choices in main fishing line and bait rigs for surf fishing.

Best Fishing Line for Surf Fishing & Bait Rigs

Florida’s explosive surf-fishing growth has fueled much debate on rods, reels, fishing lines, hooks and other terminal tackle. Whether after pompano, whiting, black drum, red drum or otherwise, it’s a bait-soaking game. As technical as say, fly fishing? No, but there are certainly tacticians among our ranks.

Some prefer spinning tackle; the learning curve is shorter. Others swear by conventional reels; with practice, one can add appreciable distance to the cast (though the latest “long-cast” spinning spools give the conventional reels a run for the money). One thing is largely agreed upon—long rods (10 to 14 feet) are preferable over short rods, for distance and keeping the line above the wash and seaweed.

two pompano in hand next to fishing reel and beach waves
High-vis line (mono, here) is useful for line management, but low-vis leader can be key to pompano bites.

Two fishing line camps exist—both monofilament and microfilament (braid) has devotees. I haven’t heard of many anglers shelling out the money to fill an entire spool with costly fluorocarbon, which can be more expensive than braided lines. Here’s my take: The best fishing seems to occur when the surf water is “misty,” not to be confused with muddy. That sediment somewhat hides a fishing line (mono or braid) and dropper rig line. Under those ideal conditions, fluorocarbon might be considered overkill.

Braided line fans claim the lines allow for longer casts, and aid in hooking fish with the rod in a sandspike. Mono fans (and this writer included) who use long-cast spin reels or conventional reels use light lines—in the 12- to 15-pound class—to get sufficient distance.

Berkley vanish fishing line
Fluorocarbon? May be best in ultra-clear water, but that's not where the pompano usually are. Food for thought.

I prefer monofilament because it stretches, unlike braid. When the surf is up, which is typical in winter and spring, that stretch helps keep your 3- to 6-inch sinker on the bottom where it belongs. When there is a groundswell, or even wind-created waves, braid tends to yank the sinker off bottom, and your baits drag with the current, causing a belly in the line, decreasing your chance of hooking a fish, and worse, washing so far down-shore that it “comes ashore.” And when you are on a beach lined with anglers, tangling ensues. This yanking effect becomes worse when using too stiff a surf rod with minimal tip flex.

WHAT ABOUT RIG MATERIAL?

dropper rig on fishing rod with a Sputnik sinker.
A basic dropper rig terminated with a Sputnik sinker.

The basic dropper rig, called a chicken rig, presents baits two or three at a time. At the top, a swivel, then two to three 4-inch dropper loops (called “snoods”) spaced a foot apart, and a Duo-Lock snap at the terminal end to attach a sinker. Hooks (Mustad kahle-style or Eagle Claw circle) are looped on each snood. Attractor beads or foam floats slipped on above the hook are an option. Overall rig length should be in the 32- to 38-inch range. Two hooks allow for a shorter rig.

Some anglers opt for fluorocarbon for their dropper rigs, claiming the material is less visible to fish when the surf water is clear. Others, and this writer included, feel that if you must use fluorocarbon due to water clarity, you might be out on the wrong day!

ande ghost fishing line
Ande Ghost is dull-surfaced like many fluorocarbons, but much more affordable.

I’ve caught pompano and whiting in clear surf water, but never in the numbers I do when the water is off-clear or milky (my favorite condition) due to a swell or windchop. And then, monofilament does not deter the bite at all. Some say monofilaments can be too shiny, and thus too visible to fish. I will mention one mono brand, Ande Ghost, that is dull-surfaced like many fluorocarbons, but much more affordable than fluorocarbon. I now use it exclusively in 20-pound-test for my dropper rigs. FS

Florida Sportsman Magazine December/January 2023




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