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How Do You Fish In Heavy Surf?

heavy surf
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There is a love-hate relationship surf fishers have with heavy currents. On the one hand, there are more fish because currents stir up creatures in the sand, creating more feeding opportunities. On the other hand, keeping your fishing line stable, straight, and out of seaweed is ridiculously hard! What can you do to make fishing in heavy surf easier? 

Heavy surfs make it impossible to keep a fishing rig steady, and in the location a fisher wants. In order to fish in heavy surf, you need a line and rig that will stay in place and resists pressure from the currents. It would help if you also had a fishing rod that is long enough to let you keep the line over the waves.

To learn more about what you need to fish in heavy currents, keep reading to see what kind of equipment you need that will make fishing in these conditions a lot easier.

Find A Good Fishing Location Before The Swell

When the shore is full of choppy waves and turbulent tides, it’s impossible to distinguish a poor spot from a good one. 

The only way you will be able to find a good spot to fish is to read the beach on calmer days and during the low tide. 

This way, when the storm breaks, you know exactly where to go. An example of a good spot to look out for is a deep cut that fish like pompano use like an underwater highway.

Use A Fast Action Fishing Rod

Any specialty fishing trip needs the right equipment, starting with the fishing pole. Fishing rods are made as either slow, medium, or fast action. Fast-action fishing rods begin to bend toward the tip of the rod. All that means is that the rod will start to bend at different places when forces like a fish biting the bait are applied. 

This is important because it makes the rod more sensitive and allows you to have a better sense of whether a fish is biting or not. The currents, wind, and waves make it impossible to differentiate between pressure from them and pressure from a fish. 

This means you’ll need a rod with a strong spine, which makes spinning rods the best choice, specifically a spinning rod between 11-14ft so that you can use the rod’s length to keep the line above the waves. 

Use A Powerful Spinning Reel For Surf

Spinning rods will only function with spinning reels, but you can’t use just any spinning reel and line for heavy surf fishing. You will be fighting against a lot of pressure and need a spinning reel that can take the weight. 

Expert surf fishersOpens in a new tab. suggest using a reel combination with a large weight capacity which would be a spinning reel of at least 15,000 or 16,000Opens in a new tab. with a 30lb monofilament or 40-70lbs braid line strength. These are the smallest reels that have a recommended monofilament size of 30lbs. 

Use A Thin Fishing Line

You wouldn’t suspect that using a thinner fishing line would significantly affect fishing in heavy surf, but it does! The thin line seems to cut through the wind and currents, or they weave around it. Your line will be more likely to stay straight and where you wanted it. 

0.30mm line would be the maximum diameter. Anything under will be okay too, but you should choose a line with good braid strength when looking at the line’s diameter. What’s the point in having a stable line if one good wave or a large fish makes it snap?

It’s important to choose braid fishing lines instead of monofilament or fluorocarbon because the braided lines are much stronger while still allowing a small diameter.

For example, if we took two fishing lines, one braid and one mono, and they were both 0.33mm in diameter, the weight capacity of the mono fishing line would be approximately 10lbs. In comparison, the capacity of the braid fishing line would be 40lbs. That’s four times the strength of the monoline!

One other advantage of using braid lines in surf fishing is its sensitivity. While mono has a high stretch capacity between 20-30%Opens in a new tab. to help keep it from breaking under some pressure, fluoro has a low stretch capacity, and braid has no stretch.

It has sufficient strength in its braided design to withstand pressure, so it doesn’t need to be stretchy. And because it isn’t, it makes it even easier to feel for fish biting amidst every other kind of pressure you feel on your line.

Use A Simple Rig

After you’ve found the perfect rod and the right fishing line, you need the right rig that won’t be carried to and fro with the current. Experienced surf anglers all use simple rigs with a maximum of three elements: 

  1. The leader
  2. The sinker
  3. The hook and bait

The simplicity ensures a minimum surface area caught in the current, making the rig more likely to stay in place. Essentially, a simple rig has the same purpose as using a thinner fishing line, and the two are very effective when combined. You should add one thing to your simple rig to make certain the rig stays in place, which we will talk more about in the next section.

What is the Best Technique for Fishing in Heavy Surf?

When fishing in heavy surf, the best technique is to cast beyond the breaking waves at the best surf fishing spotsOpens in a new tab.. Use heavy sinkers to keep your bait in place and prevent it from washing ashore. Fresh bait and strong line are crucial for reeling in big catches in these conditions.

Use The Smelliest Bait

Finally, the last element to discuss your rod and rig is the bait you use. Although heavy currents do a fantastic job of stirring up prey and nutrients for fish, the harsh falling of the waves also does a good job of causing some fish to panic and swim wildly. Getting your bait noticed in all of the chaos and feeding frenzy can be challenging. 

This might sound counter-intuitive, but the best way to get fish to fancy your bait over everything else is to use the same prey they’re already looking for. Natural baits such as baitfish, mullets, sand fleas, shrimp, or squid that are as fresh as you can get them will attract the fish by their strong smell. This is especially helpful when the waters are murky. 

You can get away with lures that visually attract the fish in clear waters, like spoons, topwater poppers, jigs, and other lures. Please make sure they are heavier than your average lures so that your line is even more stable. You may have to experiment with adding weight or leaving it off in exchange for lighter casting.


If you choose to fish in heavy surf with casy wind and choppy waters, it would be good to seek a trainer who can teach you how to swim against the current. You may need that training sooner than you would believe. One right rip tide is all it takes to make the world lose a great fisherman. Be another captain, Ahab, and get your fish another day.

Zaldy G.

I love feeling the cool ocean spray every time I hit the beach with a rod and a bucket of bait. I love the thrill of feeling bites on my line whenever I hook a big one. And I especially love the pride that comes with cooking a fresh catch and sharing it with my friends and family. Thank you for stopping by. Let's go catch some fish!

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