Growing up and fishing in New Jersey all my life, there are a few things that never change over those years when it comes to surf fishing and one of them is using the most popular tool in your tackle box is the standard reliable Fish-Finder Rig, a staple for Surf Fisherman, especially for Striped Bass but What is a Fish-Finder Rig for Stripers?
A Fish-Finder Rig is a simple fishing rig popular for Striped Bass Surf fishing, ideal for using large pieces or chunks of bait. Parts of the Rig are made up of:
20-30lb test Main Line
Fishing Weight Slider
Pyramid Sinker to hold the bottom
Heavy clear Fluorocarbon Leader
The Fish-Finder Rig is a popular fishing rig and a great way for your live bait to attract, drift and cover a lot of water if you are fishing from the beach and using a rod tube in the sand, and don’t forget to bring your beach chair to relax on the surf while you’re fishing.
Fish Finder Rig for Striped Bass Fish
Some advantages of using a Fish-Finder Rig are:
- The Fish-Finder can eliminate line twist in the roughest surf
- A fish can pick up your bait off the bottom in the sand and won’t feel any resistance on the line or weight of the sinker
- The rig covers a lot of water
- If you make your own rig you can adjust the size or add afloat and increase the pound test of the leader
You can buy the Fish-Finder rig at the tackle store all ready to go from the package or you can do what I do to save money and make a few up before I head down to the beach. The average cost here around Jersey is around 5-6 bucks which seems pretty expensive so I would recommend tieing my own or buying online instead of at the tackle shop on the docks closer to the water.
They are more durable than other rigs because the Fish-Finders are meant for your line to sit out on the water for a while in the drift, but you still need to check your bait so make sure you knot them correctly.
The fish finder rig is a line configuration for surf fishing, widely known for its simplicity, efficiency, and appeal to fish like a striper or drum fish who might hit softly or need to inspect their food before taking it, unlike a Bluefish who have been known to hit beer cans.
The Fish-Finder is recognized as the saltwater equivalent of the Carolina Rig and basically, works the same. To make a Fish-Finder you need 5 or 6 pieces to tie one up. There are no strict rules to making one up I generally use a leader that is 2x the weight of the mainline coming from the reel.
- Line Sleeve or Slide Swivel’s job is to keep the line free and independent of the weight of the sinker, letting your bait drift and covering the ocean floor. More importantly, you can swap your singers to accommodate depth or Surf conditions. Remember the Slide goes on first.
- Plastic Bead-The job of the Bead is to prevent friction on the knot that connects the leader. I can also make a clicking sound to attract the Striped Bass
- Sinker– Heavy enough to hold the bottom- Pyramid Sinker(will hold bottom better than an egg-shaped-it has to slide easily up and down the leader.
- Barrel Swivel- sizes # 3-6 will keep the Sinker from sliding down to the hook.
- Leader- keep the length of the leader on a shorter size because doing this will increase the distance of your cast which is an important ability in Surf Fishing. Most Surf fishermen used Mono or Fluorocarbon 30-60 lb. test leader that is clear and invisible to the Striper. Blues and Sharks try and use the heavier leader. I use around a 12-inch-long leader. Too long can get caught in the wind and is less controllable. Longer can also add a little more weight for better casting so 6- 18 inches is fine.
- Circle Hook–A must for Striped Bass surf fishing. Soon most fisheries, fresh and saltwater will demand Circle Hooks. As of this writing, Circle Hooks are mandated on the Maryland-Delaware- Jersey and New York Atlantic fisheries.
Best Circle Hooks for Fish Finder Rigs for Striped Bass Surf Fishing
To fish with a live bait-like spot or eel, then try a 5/0 circle hook. For live menhaden, he upsizes to a 9/0 circle hook. Some Charter Captains prefer a wide-gap circle hook, like the Mustad 39951, that he can dig a little deeper into the bait.
Mustad 39951 hooks are fast becoming very popular for fall striper surf fishing or any kind of fishing. The Mustad Circle hook is a circle hook made for bait to target Sailfish, Wahoo, Amberjack, small Tuna, Permit, or Striped Bass. The distinct curved shape of the circle hook will when the fish takes the baited hook and swallows it, ensure that the hook travels to the corner of the mouth or lip, will catch more fish and result in fewer deep-hooked fish.
It is in other words, the ultimate Catch&Release hook for fishing rigs. Setting the hook is more of a firm tightening of the line, than an actual strike. Perfect when using live bait. The “MTL-V1” point combines a more efficient point design with a new sharpening process to enhance the quality. The result is a sharper, sleek new point shape with penetration resistance 50% lower than standard Classic Hook points!
- Opti-angle needlepoint
- Chemically sharpened
- Point curved in
Hook size plays a critical role in Catch&Release success. As a rule of thumb, choose a circle hook that’s a little larger than the appropriate size. A larger hook allows plenty of gaps on the circle hook to catch the striper’s jaw. That is where you want to set the hook either to release it or keep it, especially for a Striped Bass with low harvesting and population problems.
When using cut bait for striped bass, one of the most popular rigs is the fish finder rig. This rig can be found in the surf fishing kit attached with a circle hook between sizes 1/0 and 5/0. This rig is best used with 2-4 inch chunks of cut bait such as bunker, herring, and mackerel.
The fish finder rig kicks up the bait along the bottom, calling in fish with smelly thumps against the sand. To target smaller or finicky stripers with smaller bait, use a bottom rig. Bottom rigs set up with smaller circle hooks between 2 to 1/0 are best for crabs, sand fleas, bloodworms, squid, or smaller clams.
When using a bottom rig, try to be a little creative and use different baits on the top and bottom. Sometimes one bait will do better than the other. Casting out 2 surf rods with these 2 separate sized rigs and baits will diversify your presentation even further and improve your chances.
Striped bass are not picky eaters, they are very opportunistic in fact. Crabs, sand fleas, bloodworms, squid, clams, menhaden (bunker), shad, herring, mackerel, spot, perch, alewives, silversides, and eels are all on the menu.
Live eels, spot, bunker, and herring will entice any larger striped bass to eat, but cutting fresh or frozen fish into chunks works well for striped bass of all sizes. Crabs, sand fleas, bloodworms, squid, and clams are optimized for smaller stripers.
Diversifying your bait size and selection helps to increase your catch rate, especially if you use the two-rod method we recommend for surf fishing with bait. Live or fresh bait is the best option, but frozen bait works well too if it’s the only available option.
You’ll need to know:
- The Water Temperature
- The Time of High & Low Tides
- The right kind of Surf Equipment to Use
- The right Bait, the Striped Bass, is hitting on that Day
- The right colored lure they’re hitting on
- A weight that holds the bottom
- How to Read Surf
- How to Set Your Hook to Land…………………………………………………………………………………………………………… Read more
Surf Fishing Striped Bass with a Fish Finder Rig Accessories
The best thing about using fish finders is that everything on the rig is replaceable or adjustable if 4 0z is not holding the bottom then adjust the weight to keep the Sinker from moving around to find what you need.
In fact, the place to find out what kind of weight is holding the bottom on the beach is to ask the people at the tackle shop who know daily what Stripers, Blues, Drum or any kind of fish are hitting on how rough the surf is and what you’ll need to get your line wet as soon as possible.
The same goes with foam floats if you are incorporating them in your Fish Finder Rig. Smaller fish can be at the top or bigger Cows could be laying in shallower holes between tides.
The fish finder float rigs give you an added dimension to keep your bait available and in plain view instead of changing the length of the leader which will save valuable time on a high tide while fishing
It will also keep your bait from being eaten by trash fish like crabs, skates, or sand sharks that are laying on the bottom feasting on your clam or bunker.
Once you get the rig system down of using a Fish-Finder rig then it’s time to use different rods with baits at different locations in the water that will only increase your odds of success even higher.
In the Northeast, bitterly cold weather often arrives suddenly and hangs on. Drastic shifts in temperature, which drop near-shore water temperatures, make the fall migration more hurried for stripers and fishermen. This time of year, you must take advantage of whatever chances you get to intercept the frantic migration.
When to Catch Stripers
Having that said, even if it is a shadow of its former glory, the fall run for striper on the Northeast coast is still the most exciting time of the year to be a saltwater angler.
Striped Bass most reliably pushes south down the coastline between mid-October and late November, with timing dependent upon the weather in a specific year. Warmer years will slow the fall migration, whereas early storms and colder nights will speed things up.
Ideal winds and water temperatures can create blitz-like conditions in the fall surf in the middle of the afternoon, which is rarer during the spring. However, your best chance to encounter stripers feeding heavily near shore any time of year is always at first and last light. The one exception here is fishing after dark, which can often be productive, especially early in the fall.
However, beginners should stick to daylight hours when getting the hang of surf fishing. It’s best to arrive at your chosen beach a half hour before sun-up to catch the morning bite. If you’re fishing in the afternoon, stay a half hour after sunset for your best chance at finding fish feeding heavily.
A powerful low-pressure front moving through can give the run an added boost in the fall. Often, storm fronts will act like accelerants. They force fish to feed heavily before their passing and push stripers farther south faster. An intense low-pressure system moving along the coast might easily kick an early fall season into full gear.
Especially in the fall, larger lures, like diamond jigs weighing up to 3 ounces, and bucktails weighing as much as 2 ounces, can be effective baits. Make sure you’re well-stocked. It’s all about reaching the blitz in the fall, and heavier lures capable of longer casts are especially effective weapons this time of year.
If the wind is at your back or you find fish feeding close to the beach, they may be in reach for lighter lures. That’s when these swimbaits are deadly on stripers and bluefish. If you’re fishing with bait rather than artificial lures, make sure you’re using a circle hook if necessary to comply with state regulations.
Two main bait-fishing rigs are popular in the striper surf. The first is a fish-finder rig. A fish-finder rig has a sliding pyramid sinker above a fluorocarbon leader. The key component of this rig is that as a fish takes the bait, it does not necessarily feel the pull of the pyramid sinker because your line is sliding through the stationary sinker as the fish moves.
A hi-lo rig, by comparison, is weighted at the bottom but has two leader hooks off the main leader. You fish two baits on one rig, doubling your chances of hooking feeding fish.
Clams or chunks of either bunker or mackerel are popular baits to use on either fish-finder or hi-lo rig from the beach.
Circle Hooks are Perfect for Striper:
- They reduce deep hooking
- Keep you from losing a tackle
- Less trauma setting the hook
- Conservation-allows to catch & release safely
- Easy baiting
- Reduces snagging body of fish
- Allows control of longer cast-over breakers
- Allows using a lighter ……………………………………………………………………………………………………… Read more
JimGalloway Author Editor