Terminal Tackle For Surf Fishing

Terminal Tackle

Let’s spend a little time talking about the gear at the the end of the line, the gear presented to the fish, the Terminal Tackle.  Swivels, snaps, split rings, wire leaders, mono-leaders, beads, cleavises, spinners, weights, teasers and/or hooks; the list is long, the combinations can be simple or elaborate. Some fishermen make their own terminal tackle rigs, some buy the mass manufactured rigs. The goal is the same, a reliable piece of equipment that aids in enticing the bite and ensures the fish stays on the line once the lure or bait has been taken.


The function of the swivel is two-fold, it connects the terminal tackle to the shock-leader and it helps prevents line twist. Use quality swivels, you don’t want failure here. I prefer to use black or muted colored barrel swivels. No shiney swivels for me, who wants a bluefish to strike their swivel? It is much better for the swivel to be unassuming so the fish goes for the lure or bait.

Snap -Swivel
Barrel Swivel
Three Way Swivel

Surf Sinkers

The traditional sinker used in the North Carolina surf is the pyramid sinker. This weight holds well along our sandy shore and in the typical surf conditions we see. Most of the North Carolina’s surf fishing is along sandy shores. Occasionally the angler may work an area around a jetty or perhaps near  a coquina ledge, here bank sinkers may serve the angler better. There are places along the Outer Banks where the surf conditions are a bit rougher than other sections of N.C. so a storm sinker might find better use there.
For pyramid sinkers, I generally keep and assortment of sizes in my tackle bag, ranging from 1 to 6 ounces, 3 and 4 ounces get the most use, so I keep several spares in that size on hand. The storm sinkers I have are of the heavier weight and unless I am travelling to the Outer Banks, they mostly stay home. 5, 6 and 8 ounces are found in my collection. My collection of bank sinkers top out at 3 ounces. My personal preference is to fish with the lightest weights possible and still do their job of holding the bait where I want it to be. I guess the only other sinker I keep in my tackle bag is an in-line weight, specifically it is there in case I want to hastily put together a flounder rig.
One sinker I do not use (though I have tried them) is the English Anchor or Sputnik Sinker. These are variously shaped weights with heavy wires protruding out of the body. The wires provide more purchase in the sand than with a non-wired sinker, this allows an angler to use less weight for the same hold as a heavier sinker. My personal view, is that they hold too well and it interferes with hooking a fish because it fails to yield from the sand. I don’t know, perhaps these will find there way back in my tackle bag and I will work on building my skill level up with them.

Pyramid Sinker
Bank Sinker
Storm Sinker
Sputnik Anchor
In Line Torpedo


Another one of those items that comes in a wide variety of sizes and styles. Really an entire blog could be devoted to just hook styles and uses. Here’s a simple list of useful hooks in the NC surf.

O’Shaughnessy – all around hook, proven, holds well. Not the best for catch and release, the design can lead to deep throat hookups. I only use them on Bluefish rigs and then they are closely attached near styrofoam bobble that prevents a deep hookup.

Claw Hook with Baitholder Shank – good hook for Spot, Croaker or Whiting rigs. The baitholder shank allows for better hold to the bait when threaded on the hook.

Wide Gap (Kahle) Hook – good hook for flounder rigs and pompano rigs. Does hook farther back in a fishes mouth, however the longer shank allows for easy unhooking. I typically don’t think that the color of the hook matters, except when I target pompano – then I use gold-plated hooks – I cannot say it is scientifically proven to catch more pompano, I can say it seems to me that it does.

Circle Hooks – Great hook for catch and release situations. Mostly hooks up in the corner of the fishes mouth. Reduces chance of injury and increases the number of safe releases. I always use these on my Fish Finding Rigs.

Treble Hooks – typical hook used on artificial lures – many anglers replace the treble with Circle or O’Shaughnessy hooks.

Kahle Hook
Circle Hook
Treble Hook

Manufactured Rigs

I tie a lot of my own rigs, however sometimes it is cost effective or convenient to purchase a manufactured rig. There are many styles and variations of rigs out there. Some designed to catch small gamefish, toothy critters like sharks and bluefish and rigs for sought after trophy fish like Red Drum. If you are seeking a particular fish, someone has designed tackle for that fish – I am partial to Sea Striker, however that’s me, if you are partial to other brands, use them. Here’s some suggested manufactured rigs. I will save the “how to use” comments for another blog.

Flounder Rig
Small Gamefish
Pompano Rig
Fish Finding Rig
Bluefish Rig


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