High Low Rig 101 (Setup and Fishing Guide with Pictures)


by Robert Ceran

Are you planning to throw a high low rig, but aren’t sure how to set it up, or how to fish it for the best results?

While the high low rig is a great multi-hook saltwater fishing rig, it can be a little tricky to set up and fish correctly. 

In this article I’ll explain how to set up a high low rig, and will aso cover what bait to use with it, and how to fish it for optimal results.

High Low Rig 101 (Setup and Fishing Guide with Pictures)

What is a high low rig (and what is it good for)?

A high low rig is a saltwater bottom fishing rig that has a sinker tied to the end of the line, as well as 2 hooks to the leader above the sinker, each tied to a T-knot. 

Note that the high-low rig has a similar structure to the paternoster fishing rig, but while the latter is tied with dropper loop knots to attach the hooks, the former is tied with T-knots.

The advantage of using T-knots for this setup is that they make the hooks stick out at 90 degrees from the leader, which helps a lot to avoid tangles.

The high low rig is one of the most effective multi-hook fishing rigs used to target saltwater species such as sheepshead, grouper, snapper, striped bass, fluke, flounder, pompano, tautog, and more. 

This rig can either be fished vertically from a pier or a boat, or it can be used for surf fishing from the beach.

Based on my experience, the high low rig is a perfect rig for surf fishing, as the T knots really help to avoid line tangles during the casts. This is an important issue for us beach anglers, since the long casts required for surf fishing often result in line tangles.

High low rig components

Here are the tackle components that you’ll need for your high low rig setup:

  • 1 to 6 oz bank sinker
  • Barrel swivel
  • 30 to 40 lb test leader line (monofilament or fluorocarbon)
  • Two hooks (size 2/0 to #2)

Note that the size of the sinker depends on how strong the current or the tide is in the area where you’re fishing this setup, and the size of the hooks depends on both the size of the bait, and the size of the fish you’re targeting. 

Image showing high low rig diagram

Also, it’s generally best to use a leader line that’s significantly lighter than your main line.

There’s a good chance that you’ll get your high low rig snagged on rocks or other bottom structure in the course of a day’s fishing (a problem encountered with all bottom fishing rigs).

But if that happens, you’ll be able to break off your leader without losing anything above the swivel, and can then quickly tie another rig to your swivel and continue fishing. 

How to tie a high low rig

The first step is to tie your leader to the sinker. You can either do this with a single uni knot or palomar knot, or you can tie a loop to the end of the line, and then use a cow hitch to attach the sinker. 

Using a cow hitch allows you to quickly and easily swap out your sinker, in case you need to go heavier or lighter. 

Next, tie a T-knot about 8 to 12 inches above the sinker. This will be the line that connects to your first hook.

Here is a detailed video showing you how to tie a T-knot:

After tying the loop of the T-knot, you can either use the loop to attach a hook with a cow hitch (similar to a dropper loop setup), or you can cut one of the lines of the loop close to the base, and then use the resulting tag end to tie on your hook with a snell knot or uni knot. 

While you can go with either option I prefer to cut the loop of the T knot, since that allows me to shorten the tag end as I see fit, in order to get exactly 3 to 4 inches of fishing line between the hook and the T-knot.

When you’re done tying your first hook to the T-knot, measure out about 5 to 6 inches of leader line above the first T-knot, and tie the second T-knot here. The distance between the two T-knots should be at least twice the length of either snood connecting to your hooks. 

Finally, measure out 8 to 12 inches above the second T-knot, and tie the tag end of the leader to the barrel swivel. 

If you’re not comfortable tying T-knots for this setup (which are admittedly among the more complex fishing knots out there), you can also use 3 way swivels instead.

Rigging this setup with two 3 way swivels has almost the same effect as rigging it with T-knots, as the 3 way swivels also make the hooks stick out at 90 degrees from the leader. This variant is called a double drop bottom rig, and is easier to tie for beginners.

However, the advantage of using T-knots is that they reduce the amount of hardware you use on your leader, and hence less likely to spook finicky fish. 

What bait should you use with a high low fishing rig?

The best bait to use with this setup is natural bait, with cut bait the clear number one choice. You can use cut strips of squid, or chunks of menhaden, mackerel, pinfish or mullet (making sure to get some of the skin).

Image showing baits to use with a high low rig

Whenever using cut bait, try your best to get freshly caught fish or squid, since the scents released by fresh bait are far superior to those of frozen bait. 

You can also bait your hooks with live shrimp, crabs, or shellfish. One of the advantages of this fishing rig is that you can test two baits at the same time, and figure out which one the fish prefer. 

How to fish a high-low rig

If you’re fishing from the beach, cast your setup with baited hooks out into the surf, reel in enough line to make sure the line isn’t slack, and place your rod in a rod holder.

Now you can watch the rod tip to detect bites from fish, as the tip will be pulled or jerked down when a fish tries to eat one of your baits. 

Since this setup doesn’t have a sliding sinker (such as the fish finder rig), when a fish grabs your baited hook it will quickly  feel the resistance of the sinker on the end of the line. 

Because of this, it’s important to set the hook as soon as possible, before the fish has a chance to spit it out.

Photo of an angler holding a sheepshead fish caught with a high low rig

Image source: instagram/@bfurminator

You can also experiment with the length of your snoods, as that will allow you to present one of your baits lying on the bottom, while the second one is suspended slightly above the bottom. 

When fishing a high low rig from a boat or pier, lower the rig vertically into the water until the sinker hits bottom. Then keep the line taut and wait for a bite. Boat fishing with this rig is best done from an anchored boat.

If you’re interested in learning about another highly effective surf fishing rig, check out our article on the Pompano rig.