Pompano Rig for Surf Fishing (Setup & How-to Guide)


by Robert Ceran

Are you planning to throw a pompano rig, but aren’t sure how to set it up, or how to fish it for optimal results?

While the pompano rig is one of the best surf fishing setups for pompano and other fish species, it can be a little tricky to set up and fish correctly. 

In this article I’ll explain how to set up a pompano rig, and will aso cover what bait to use with it, and how to fish it effectively..

Pompano Rig for Surf Fishing (Setup & How-to Guide)

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

A pompano rig is a saltwater bottom fishing rig used for surf fishing. It consists of a heavy sinker attached to the end of the fishing line, as well as 2 or 3 hooks tied above the sinker, each rigged with a colorful float and plastic bead to attract fish.

And while the pompano rig is broadly similar to the paternoster rig, the main difference between these two setups is that the dropper loops of the pompano rig are rigged with small floats to keep the hooks off the bottom.

In addition to these floats, a pompano rig also comes with bright plastic beads that resemble sand flea eggs, which are very effective for attracting pompano to your baited hooks. 

The pompano rig is one the best surf fishing setups for catching pompano, but also catches a range of other fish in the surf, including red drum, black drum, whiting, and even small sharks. 

Pompano rig components

Below are the tackle components that you’ll need for your pompano rig setup:

  • 20 to 30 lb test leader line (either monofilament or fluorocarbon)
  • Size 2/0 to #2 barrel swivel
  • Size 1/0 to 2/0 circle hooks (or wide gap Kahle hooks)
  • 1 to 4 oz pyramid sinker
  • 3/4 inch sliding floats (yellow or orange)
  • Orange plastic beads (10mm)

Choose the size of your weight depending on the strength of the tide or current at your beach. 

Image showing pompano rig diagram

While a pyramid sinker is the best all-around option for the pompano rig, you can also go with a storm sinker or a tongue sinker, depending on your preference.

And if you’re using the pompano rig for inshore fishing in strong tides, a spider weight is a better option, since it serves to anchor your rig in the sand, and thus stops it from being swept away by the current. 

How to tie a pompano rig

Start by tying your leader line to the pyramid sinker using a uni knot. Alternatively, you can also tie the leader to a snap swivel, and then attach the snap to the sinker (which allows you to change the sinker quickly).

Another way to achieve this is to tie a loop at the end of the leader, and then use a cow hitch to attach the sinker. This also allows you to swap sinkers quickly, in case you need to go heavier or lighter. 

Next, measure out about 3 to 4 feet of leader line, and tie a dropper loop in the leader 8 to 12 inches above the sinker, similar to a dropper rig.

Below is a video showing you how to tie a dropper loop knot:

Once the loop is finished, it should be about 3 to 4 inches long. The next step is to thread the loop through a float, followed by an orange bead. 

Following this, attach a circle hook to the end of the loop by threading the loop through the eye of the hook, and then using a cow hitch to cinch it down. Again, this way of attaching the hooks allows you to change them easily if the need arises.

You have now finished the first dropper snood, complete with float, bead, and hook. Repeat the same process about 6 to 8 inches higher up the leader, and if you like, a third time 6 to 8 inches above the second loop.

When you’re done, you should have 2 to 3 hooks tied to your leader, each with a float and a bead rigged next to it.

In the last step, measure out another 10 inches of leader line above the last hook, and then attach the tag end to the barrel swivel, and voila, your pompano rig is good to go.

If you like, you can add extra plastic beads along your leader, which can make your pompano rig even more attractive to pompano. 

The best color beads to use for the pompano rig is orange, since orange beads mimic the eggs of sand fleas, which pompano love to eat. 

Finally, if you don’t want the hassle of tying this rig yourself, you can get pre-tied pompano rigs at many tackle shops and online retailers. 

What bait should you use with a pompano fishing rig?

The ideal baits to use with a pompano rig are sand fleas, squid strips, shellfish strips (such as clam), or small chunks of cut fish or shrimp. 

Sand fleas make great bait for pompano

It’s best to take several baits with you whenever you’re targeting pompano, and test them all until you find what the fish want on any given day.

In the beginning, bait each of the hooks on your pompano rig with a different bait. That way several baits will be competing for the fish’s attention at the same time, and this is a great way to figure out what’s working.

How to fish a pompano rig

The best place to fish a pompano rig is at the beach, but you can also use it to fish channels along the coast, or for pier fishing. 

Like most rigs for bottom fishing, the pompano rig should be fished statically, meaning that you cast it out and then wait for bites.

After casting out your pompano rig into the water, put the rod in a rod holder, and wait for bites, which are usually signaled by 2 or 3 rapid jerks of the rod tip. 

Photo of angler holding 3 pompano fish caught while surf fishing with a pompano rig

Image source: instagram/@retired_guy_outdoors

If you’re a beach angler, try to cast your baited pompano rig into troughs or holes located next to sandbars in the surf.

These deeper spots are where food is concentrated by the flow of the tide, and hence pompano focus their foraging activity here. 

If you’re interested in trying out other multi-hook fishing setups, check out our article on the high-low rig.