Surf Fishing in Southern California - SC Surf Fishing

How to Rig Big

A do-it-yourself guide to putting the brakes on the big biters.

There's no big secret when it comes to rigging-up for big fish. As with heavy rods and reels, heavy duty end tackle is just a scaled-up version of a common, tried and true rig that almost everyone uses in the surf.

The classic dropper loop.

And that would be the lowly dropper loop.

Very much like those that are sold pre-tied, also known as a "high-low", the large economy model is of the very same design. For maxium strength and integrity, I always tie my own leaders, and I always use Ande 30# line. I have used this formula hundreds of times over the years on everything that swims in the surf and it has rarely failed me. Only sharks pose a special problem, because of their file-like skin, but more on that later.

Tying a dropper loop is not difficult, but a certain degree of practice is necessary in order to make everything as strong as possible. A single drop loop, about 1/3 of the way from the top end is all that is needed. This loop itself must be wound of five loops and pulled through the center in order to lock it firmly in place. Overall the finished leader should be a couple of feet long. When making the loop and end knots, special care must be taken to get all of the slack out; because under a heavy load, if there is any movement in the knots, they will almost always break.

So the best way to to guard against this is to wet the knots as they are being pulled up. And the best way to do this is with one's own saliva. If this sounds a bit gross, it is absoultely necessary to ensure that everything goes smoothly, because if there is any chafing of the line, it will severely weaken the knot. After the knots have been pulled hand-tight, the next step is to put a round screwdriver shaft through each of the end loops and then stretch the leader very slowly but firmly. This will remove all slack from the knots and will also stretch and temper the line. When done correctly, the finished leader will be somewhat stiff, and the knots will almost be fused into a solid unit. It is at this stage that any weaknesses will become apparent, and I often break leaders when doing this. But if it does make it through the test, just add a large brass barrel swivel to the top and a large snap swivel on the bottom for the weight, and you have a rig that will safely handle anything that swims in the surf.

Wire leaders are preferred when
fishing for large sharks in the surf.

Except sharks.

As we all know, the sandpaper skin of any shark is enough to pop almost any weight of mono line. And so the preferred method here is with wire leaders. A heavy mono drop loop of up to 60# test can be employed as a main line, but there must be at least two feet of wire leader coming out from it. And this will require crimping the loops of the wire. This can get a bit involved, but it is not as difficult as it might seem, and all of the equipment necessary is available from any tackle shop.

The reason why I always go with a dropper is that it allows for the weight to be out in front of the bait. This is an important aerodynamic consideration when launching large baits because of the distances required to get out into productive water.

As for hooks, all you need is a snelled 4/0 or 5/0 octopus-type chrome plated - the kind that are sold pre-packaged. I have used these all along, and out of the hundreds I've hooked up with, only a few have failed me. Just slide it through the loop on the leader and you're ready to go. They are very strong and are large enough to allow for a decent-sized hunk of bait. And speaking of bait, for most large surf varmints, a half of a frozen squid is enough to do the trick. This can be easily applied to the hook, and to ensure a safe flight while casting, I will usually wrap 8 to 10 wraps of thin cotton thread around the bait to keep it from flying off. Cotton is used because it is easy to break with bare hands, and also easy to cut off the hook if something steals the bait. I just carry a spool of thin black thread in my tackle box and use as needed.

Once again, when going for sharks a somewhat different approach may yield better results. Although squid will work, the best way to go here is with a nice bloody chunk of mackerel. Because of the size of this bait and due to the strong jaws and potential for sharp chops, a large 8/0 or 9/0 hook is best. These should be purchased loose, rather than snelled, and they can simply be placed in the loop before it is crimped. Tying the bait on here is a necessity, and it really takes a good heave, usually with 5 or 6 oz. of lead, to get this happy meal out and onto the shark's breakfast table. I'm not much of a shark man myself, but one of my close fishing friends uses an expensive custom 14 ft. spinning rig with 400 yds. of 80lb. braid, and the end tackle that I have described is the very one that he uses, and I have stood beside him many times as he effortlessly subdued and hauled-in 40#+ leopard sharks with it. Also, he has caught and released at least half a dozen 60# black sea bass with this very rig, so I know it will do the job for you too.

And that's a brief rundown of what I have known to work for all of the big guys out there. When using these methods, you can be confident that if you hook up with a bat ray that's bent on bending you and your tackle, or a shark that has it in for you, all you need to do is dig in, hang on, and let experience get the job done for you.

Article written by:
Mike Burian (aka Reeler)

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