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Choosing the Right Sinker

Choose the right sinker for your tackle and surf conditions.

Clockwise from above: 5-ounce bank sinker; two pyramid sinkers; pompano dropper rig; two Sputniks.

Surf fishing cranks up when fall arrives in Florida. It's easy fishing, if you'll select the right rod and terminal gear. If you are bait fishing for pompano, whiting, red drum, bluefish or come-what-may, you have to cast your bait and then keep it in place.

One key is choosing the right sinker for your tackle and surf conditions. Casting distance is important but so is preventing your baits from being carried down the beach by current.

Sinker weights for surf fishing range from as little as 2 ounces to as much as 8. Sinker styles vary, too, and each has its place. First, let's talk about your rod class. The lightest spin rods, those rated for up to 1-ounce lures, mustn't be overloaded with 3 ounces of lead. The tip will collapse on the cast, and you won't get out there very far. Whiting anglers normally bait up with a 2-hook dropper rig and fish in the trough, less than 30 yards from the sand. If the surf is light, no big wind chop or ground swell, a 1-ounce weight is plenty, as is that light, 10-pound-class spinning outfit. Step up to a 12-pound outfit, and you also move up to a 2-ounce or even a 3-ounce bank sinker, which is teardrop-shaped and lies on bottom and keeps your bait in place just fine in a placid surf.

Now let's move up in weight class. Pompano fans eventually learn that their chosen quarry might be foraging a “half a throw” from the sand, from the trough out to perhaps 50 yards at high tide, but drop out to the next bar or deeper water some 75 to 100 yards from shore. That's when heavier sinkers and heftier rods are needed to launch rigs and hold stationary in sometimes rough surf and long shore current. That's the prime reason you see those 11- to 13-foot casting and spinning rods in sand spikes. It is not that the smallish pompano require it. It's the surf conditions and distance needed to reach them that calls for such big sinkers and big tackle.

Standard surf sinkers are “end line” in that they attach to a heavy duty snap such as a Duo-Lock tied to the bitter end of a dropper (multi-hook bait rig). Some have eyes or, in the case of bank sinkers, a hole in the lead body to which the snap attaches.

I use primarily 4- to 6-ounce sinkers for my surf rods that range from 11 to 13 feet. When the fish are close, and the surf is down, I lean toward lighter sinkers, in either the bank style or 4-sided pyramid. The 4-sided pyramids hold sandy bottom better than the 3-sided variety. When I need longer casts to reach the strike zone, I go with 5- to 6-ounce pyramids or switch to the popular “Sputnik” or so-called “storm” sinkers. They are poured around adjustable, stainless steel arms that lock in place to anchor into the bottom. When you get a bite, and reel a fish in, or reel in to check your bait, the Sputnik sinker legs release and face the rear, allowing release from the bottom, and your sinker comes in easily. They are aerodynamic and cast well. They are significantly pricier than either the pyramids or bank sinkers (they average 5 to 6 bucks) but worth the price in extreme surf conditions. FS

Florida Sportsman Magazine November 2018

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