In previous articles we have discussed the tactic of “Slidebaiting”, a unique way of fishing that does not involve any actual casting of the bait. However, there are certain scenarios in which slidebaiting is not the correct or most effective approach. It is these situations and the specialized rigs that go with them that this article will address.
There are two different “classes” of casted rigs when it comes to landbased fishing: suspended rigs (which incorporate a float to elevate the bait off of the bottom), and bottom rigs (which present the bait on or near the bottom). Within these two categories of presentations there are both “clipped” and “unclipped” rigs to achieve the desired effect and required distance. Both of these types of rigs can be effective when employed appropriately given the fishing situation and targeted species.
With slidebaiting methods being so effective, why would anyone desire to cast a bait? For starters certain locations are poorly-suited to sliding baits out. Whether that is a result of a heavy shorebreak, thick weed line, kelp or seaweed barrier, or low elevation, certain places that hold fish simply do not work well for sliding. In addition, if targeting bottom dwelling species such as rays or benthic sharks, it might be more effective to have the bait presented directly on the bottom as opposed to up off the bottom as with the slide baiting methodology. The same goes for the suspended version of casted bait rigs, sometimes the fish are feeding at a level in the water column that is most effectively fished with a suspended bait held at a specific depth as opposed to a slid bait that simply “passes through” that level of the water column.
Bottom Rig Basics
Casted rigs for bottom fishing can be as simple or as complicated as one desires or the situation warrants. Both clipped and unclipped rigs have their places in bottom fishing, and knowing when to use a particular rig is part of the skill set that can boost the odds in then landbased anglers favor.
Perhaps the most simple bottom rigs is the simple “Carolina Rig” or “Fishfinder” rig. This rig consists of a sliding sinker that rides on the main-line followed by a high quality swivel that is then tied to a length of heavier leader line or wire before terminating in a high quality hook. The advantages of this rig include its ease of construction, simplicity, and the benefit of the sliding sinker allowing the fish to run with the bait without being impeded by the weight of the sinker. The biggest drawback to this rig is that is very difficult if not impossible to get any real distance due to the tendency for the rig to spin or foul in the air. One way to avoid this is to shorten the bite leader portion of the rig or eliminate it entirely. While this abbreviated fishfinder rig, also known as the “Cannonball” rig, does indeed increase distance, it has its own drawbacks when it comes to landbased shark fishing due to the reduced teeth and rub protection from the shortened bite leader. These kinds of sliding sinker rigs are best used in smooth bottom areas, bays and estuaries where snagging is unlikely and distance is less important.
An alternative to the sliding sinker rigs mentioned above is the “Three-Way” rig or “Helicopter” rig. This rig includes the use of a three way swivel to allow separate attachments of the weight and bite leader/hook. This rig can be very useful in places where the bottom is too snaggy or rough for the Carolina rig to be useful. Be varying the length of the sinker line and bite leader the same rig can be used to position the bait at various positions in the water column. Also, when using this rig a weaker section of line can be employed on the sinker portion of the rig so that in the event of a snag the weight will break before the mainline, often allowing the retrieval of the rest of the rig and the hooked fish. The positives of this rig include is versatility and customizable nature, but it suffers from the same distance robbing “floppy” casting that the sliding sinker rigs do.
When in Doubt, Clip it Down!
When distance is the primary goal, such as in surf fishing situations or from an elevated platform, clipped down rigs are the weapon of choice. The basic concept behind these rigs is that they allow the bait and sinker to connect together during the cast, and un-clip upon impact with the water. This eliminates any flopping or helicopter effects during casting, essentially reducing drag and enabling farther more controllable casts and better bait presentations.
The most basic of the clipped down rigs is the “Pulley Rig”. This rig basically involves two different lengths of line/leader, connected in the center by a swivel. The longer side of the rig terminates in the bait-clip (https://terrafirmatackle.com/collections/casting-rigs-surf-fishing/products/x-heavy-bait-clip-5-pack) and sinker, while the shorter portion of the rig ends in the hook. On the same side as the sinker is a second, “free-running” swivel that slides between the bait-clip and central swivel, this is where the angler attaches the main line. During the cast the rig folds in two, clipping the hook into the bait clip, and upon impact the sinker and bait separate, creating a “dropper-loop” style rig. When the fish eats the bait and runs, the weight of the sinker sets the hook and the rig straightens up, hence the “pulley” in the rigs name! Pulley Rigs are available here: https://terrafirmatackle.com/collections/casting-rigs-surf-fishing/products/pulley-rig-150-lb-test-monofilament.
In addition to better casting distance, this rig allows for plenty of customization when it comes to the length of the body of the rig, the bite leader portion of the rig and allows the use of a “Grip Lead” style sinker (https://terrafirmatackle.com/collections/casting-rigs-surf-fishing/products/universal-grip-lead-sinker) to permit firm anchoring of the rig in swift current or swell. Cons include the complexity of the rig itself, and the wear from the free running swivel abrading the rig body, this often leads to the rig needing retied over time, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives when it comes to distance and bait presentation.
Sometimes even more distance is needed, whether to reach distant fish-holding structure, or to reach deeper water. In these applications a smaller bodied rig such as the “Loop Rig” (https://terrafirmatackle.com/collections/casting-rigs-surf-fishing/products/loop-rig-210lb-test-wire ) can be employed. The loop rig, while it comes in various forms, basically boils down to a heavy, stiff rig body with two locations for the rig to clip to, one up and on down, and a long bite leader with a a hook and an additional inline “clip” that allows the double clipping of the rig. When clipped up the rig appears as nothing more than a short length of heavy mono or wire and a large stiff loop of bite leader attached to the rig body and sinker. This loop, while ominous in appearance, has very little wind resistance and as a result allows for very streamlined casting, reaching distances farther than other more “fuller bodied” rigs would ever be capable of reaching. The main con to the rig is its time consuming construction and expense, needing to be precisely assembled to enable proper clipping. This is not the kind of rig you can tie up quickly on the beach! Distance and durability are the main pros of the rig, and the ability to use a very long section of bite leader is also a plus for toothy fish!
Elevate Your Game: Suspended Baits!
While there are a multitude of ways to target fish on the surface and on the bottom, there is a shortage of knowledge and methods to target suspended fish in the middle of the water column. One of the ways to fill this gap in the landbased anglers tool bag is with suspended bait rigs. These rigs, by way of an incorporated float hold the bait at a particular depth set by the angler. These rigs have the added benefit of keeping the mainline and rig beneath the surface in high boat traffic areas, a huge plus for anglers in busy locales!
Introducing 76 – A Family of Rigs
Suspending a bait at a particular depth requires using a float to lift the bait, and somehow limiting its travel to only the height the angler desires. One way to do this is by using a length of leader line to limit the travel of the float. What the “76 Rig” is, in its simplest form is simply a length of leader line, with a swivel at each end, upon which slides a float and a bite leader. When the rig is cast out the sinker pulls the entire rig to the seafloor, and the float slides up the leader to the top swivel, taking the bite leader with it, effectively suspending the bait. The angler controls the depth/height of the bait by lengthening or shortening the leader that the float rides on. Careful consideration must be given to the weight of the bait in relation to the buoyancy of the float to ensure that the rig works properly. The main cons of this rig are related to its cumbersome nature. If only a short “rise” of a few feet is needed the rig is relatively short, and easily cast-able, but if the angler wishes to raise the bait over the bottom by any significant length (ie. 6 feet or more) the rig becomes quite lengthy and difficult to cast any real distance with. These rigs can be purchased here: (https://terrafirmatackle.com/collections/casting-rigs-surf-fishing/products/76-rig-3-150lb-mono-210lb-test-wire)
One of the “fixes” for the cumbersome nature of the 76 rig is what is referred to as the “Wind-on 76” (https://terrafirmatackle.com/collections/casting-rigs-surf-fishing/products/wind-76-rig-1-210lb-test-wire). This rig eliminates the terminal swivel on the original rig, instead the “body” of the rig is tied directly to the mainline via a line-to-line connection such as the albright, or double uni knot. The rest of the rig is assembled as normal. This allows the angler to wind the body of the rig through the guides, shortening the amount of line that must be left hanging out of the guides in order to cast. This makes the rig much more castable, with far better distance being achievable. It also allows the angler to make the bait suspend at nearly any depth, by varying the length of the “wind-on” portion of the rig to whatever length the angler wants! The cons of this rig include the bulky knot that must be used to stop the float from riding onto the main-line, and the tendency for the float and bait to helicopter on the cast, still resulting in a diminished casting distance.
A second variation of the 76 rig is known as the “Ascension Rig”. This rig is a marriage of a double “clipped-down” rig, similar to the aforementioned “Loop Rig” and the wind-on concept from the “Wind-on 76”. This eliminates any helicoptering on the cast and reduces drag. It also allows the angler to use a longer bite leader portion, a huge plus for shark fishing applications in deep water!
While the rigs covered in this article are certainly a start into the realm of casting baits from land, just as with any form of fishing, there are a multitude of aspects and tweaks that can be made to change and improve upon the basics.
One thing that may help the angler new to casted bait fishing is to increase the rod length. By lengthening the rod the angler not only unlocks more distance as a function of leverage and casting power, but the rigs can be bulkier and longer without impeding the form of the cast as much as with shorter rods.
Another option is to employ Low-Butt or Low-Mounted reel position on rods to be used while casting baits. Lowering the position of the reel on the rod allows more of the rod to flex during the cast, resulting in more power and distance than with traditional high-mounted reel positions. The other advantage is it allows a better grip on the spool than a high mounted reel, reducing spool slippage when casting heavy baits and big reels.
Experiment with the rigs and techniques in this article and see what works for you! Don't forget to check out our own website, TerraFirmaTackle.com for more information and products dedicated to casting baits from shore!