5 Best Beach Fishing Rigs For Beginners (Setup Guide)


by Robert Ceran

Are you planning to go beach fishing, but aren’t sure which fishing rig is best for your purposes?

Beach fishing requires casting your rig far out into the surf without getting it tangled during the cast, and because of this it’s essential to use rigs that are specifically developed for beach fishing. 

In this article I’ll walk you through the best beach fishing rigs for beginners, and will also cover how to fish them, and how to choose the ideal setup for your purposes.

Best beach fishing rigs for beginners

What are the best beach fishing rigs for beginners?

The 5 best beach fishing rigs for beginners are:

We’ll go over the strengths and weaknesses of each of these beach fishing rigs below, so you can decide which one is best for you.

Carolina rig

Diagram of saltwater Carolina rig

The Carolina bottom fishing rig was originally developed for freshwater fishing, but also works very well for beach fishing. 

And since this setup is a great all around bottom fishing rig that’s both easy to tie and easy to fish, it’s one of the best beach fishing rigs to use if you’re a beginner. 

This setup consists of a sliding egg or bullet sinker that slides up and down on the main line, as well as a barrel swivel that connects the mainline to 1 to 3 foot mono leader tied to size #2 to 4/0 circle hook. 

You can also add a plastic bead between the sinker and the swivel, as this helps to protect the knot on the eye of the swivel from being damaged by the sinker, although this isn’t absolutely essential. 

I recommend using braided line as your mainline, but monofilament also works well for beach fishing. 

Photo of an angler at the beach holding a croaker fish caught with a Carolina rig

Image source: instagram/@fishingthisway

The Carolina rig comes with two key advantages:

First of all, you can use it to fish with either natural or artificial bait (such as soft plastic baits), and you can either cast it out and wait for a bite, or you can actively retrieve it in order to cover more ground in search of fish.

Secondly, the sliding sinker allows a fish to grab the bait and swim with it for a few feet without feeling resistance from the weight. This gives you more time to set the hook before the fish decides to spit out the bait. 

However, the Carolina rig also comes with a disadvantage if you need to cast your setup far out into the surf. The leader line tends to “helicopter” and get tangled with the mainline during the casting process. 

Because of this, the Carolina rig is not a great option for long distance casting from the beach, and if this is what you want to do, I recommend using the knocker rig instead (more on that below). 

Fish finder rig

Diagram of fish finder rig

The fish finder rig is one of the most effective all-around saltwater fishing rigs, and is an ideal rig for beginners fishing from the beach when there is a strong current or swell in the surf. 

This setup has a similar structure to the Carolina rig, but instead of using a sliding weight, it comes with a pyramid sinker that rides on the mainline with the help of a sinker slider.

The advantage of using a pyramid sinker is that it digs into the sandy bottom of the surf, which helps to keep your bait in the strike zone even when facing strong tides and wave action. 

An egg sinker, on the other hand, is easily displaced by the current and tends to roll along the bottom when you’re dealing with strong tides.

This setup is one of the best surf fishing rigs, and catches a wide variety of fish that you can target from the beach, including whiting, croaker, red drum, black drum, sheepshead, speckled trout, striped bass, founder, fluke and shark. 

The fish finder rig is most often fished with cut bait, such as freshly cut fish, squid, or chunks of shrimp. However, you can also bait it with a live shrimp or a live baitfish.

Another nice thing about the fish finder rig is that it’s also a great rig for pier fishing, so if you learn to use it for beach fishing, it will also serve you well when fishing from a pier. 

Knocker rig

Image showing knocker rig diagram

The knocker rig uses the same components as the Carolina rig, but the sliding sinker is threaded onto the leader line instead of the main line (see image above). 

At first this seems like an odd setup, since the weight slides all the way down onto the hook. However, rigging the weight this way almost completely eliminates line tangles during the casting process, which makes it a great beach casting setup for beginners. 

Because of this advantage, I like to recommend the knocker rig to beginners who experience a lot of line tangles while fishing at the beach.

After you cast out the setup into the surf, you can open the bail of your fishing reel, and let the current pull the line through the sliding sinker a couple of feet. That way, the hook will no longer be sitting right next to the weight. 

The best baits to use with this rig when fishing at the beach are cut fish, squid strips, sand fleas, crabs, or shrimps. And while it’s always best to use fresh bait, in a pinch you can also go for frozen bait. 

Three-way swivel rig

Diagram of 3 way swivel rig

The 3 way swivel rig is a beginner-friendly saltwater fishing rig, as it’s very easy to tie and to fish. 

This setup consists of a bank sinker tied to the end of the line, as well as a single hook attached to the leader via a short snood tied to a three way swivel (see image above).

Since you can use the same knot to tie the leader line to the sinker and the three-way swivel, this is a great option if you don’t know a lot of fishing knots yet.

When tying fishing line to an eye, I recommend either the uni knot or the palomar knot, but you can also use your own favorite knot if it gets the job done. 

The line between the 3 way swivel and the sinker is called a dropper line, and you should choose a weaker line for this.

The advantage of tying a weaker dropper line is that it will break if your sinker gets snagged on the bottom (which happens quite regularly), allowing you to recover the rest of your setup.

This setup is a great live bait rig for beach fishing, but you can also use it with cut bait or dead bait.

You can catch the majority of species that forage close to the beach with this setup, and it also works well for vertical fishing from a pier or from a boat.  

Pompano rig

Diagram of pompano rig

The pompano rig is a great multi-hook beach fishing rig that can improve your chances of catching fish, as you can present several baited hooks at the same time.

The best way to fish the pompano rig is to bait the hooks with sand fleas that are cut in half, or other kinds of cut bait or natural bait. 

This setup consists of a weight tied to the end of the line, as well as two to three hooks attached to the leader above the weight via dropper loop knots. 

Another detail that really sets this rig apart from other setups is that it has a small float threaded onto the line next to each hook. The floats lift the baited hooks off the bottom, and this helps to protect the bait from being stolen by crabs. 

The small floats of this rig are also brightly colored, which helps to attract foraging fish. And while this fishing rig was originally developed for targeting pompano from the beach, you can also use it for a variety of other beach fish species.

This setup is a little harder to tie than most of the other beach fishing rigs mentioned above, but you can also buy pre-tied pompano rigs, which is a great option for beginners just looking to get started.