Fishing Guide

Guide to Surfcasting

Surfcasting specifically refers to fishing off the beach, done by standing on the shoreline, or wading out into the surf zone. But many use the term “surfcasting” when referring to all forms of landbased fishing, which can include fishing off the rocks along coastlines, fishing off the banks of an estuary, or off wharves or piers.

This guide will specifically focus on surfcasting from the beach, but many of the tips and advice will be transferable to other landbased styles of fishing.

Landbased fishing is a great way to enjoy fishing if you don’t have access to a boat, and because of New Zealand and Australia’s vast coastlines, it’s a style of fishing that can be enjoyed by many.

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Surfcasting requires a specific gearset up, as it’s a little different to simply dropping a line over the side of the boat. The goal is to cast your bait or lure to where the fish are holding, which can sometimes be a fair distance from the beach. So, to do this successfully, you’ll need specific gear.


Surfcasting rods are usually between 13-16ft long, and fixed spool reels are recommended. Fixed spool reels are easy to use, and they assist with casting distance which is important to hit the areas where the fish are holding.

The cost of the rod and reel varies, depending on the build quality, strength, availability, and brand. Some rod and reel sets can be picked up for as little as $200, and if you look after it, the set can last you a few summers.

At the other end of the scale, some sets can be worth up to $1,200 which will get a specialist, high quality rod and reel. These set ups are more likely to be of lightweight graphite construction, top of the line guides, reel seats and grips, they will be of a much higher build quality. The reel will have a super smooth drag and may offer other options like a long cast spool, a spare spool and will hold a good amount of line and have immense stopping power.

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A beach spike is simply a metal spike with a rod holder attached to it. This will hold your rod in the sand once you’ve cast your line into the water. If set up correctly, the rod will maintain a slight bend in it, which ensures your line doesn’t have any slack in it.

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As with any style of fishing, there are many different options for your mainline when surfcasting, and some of the decision will come down to personal preference, or trial and error to find what works for you.

Some anglers use a monofilament line, like our Wasabi ¼ mono line or Black Magic Velocity Surf high viz line. Mono line offers a high level of abrasion resistance, and good knot strength which is important when your knots, hooks and rigs will be battered around in the surf.

If you’re fishing with mono, we recommend using a 6kg – 15kg (13lb – 33lb) line. Your target species and the environment you’re fishing in will be factors to consider when deciding what breaking strain you should use.

On some occasions, braid can have advantages over mono. Braid is thinner than mono, which helps with your casting distance and will create less drag in the water. It’s ideal for low surf conditions, particularly if you use a thin, round braid like Hyperglide® 13x Braid, which is a specific casting braid. If you’re fishing with braid, we recommend a 16lb – 20lb breaking strain.

If you’re fishing in big surf, braid isn’t advised as its lack of stretch can pull your breakout sinkers out of the sand, or even cause the line to break if it gets bashed around too much while being impacted by underwater structures like rocks etc.

Mono has more stretch than braid, which will provide more give in big surf, and will also act like a shock absorber if smashed by a big fish.

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Every part of your set up has its own importance. Your rig or hook set up needs to be aerodynamic enough to be cast well. But it also needs to be set up to catch fish in the unique environment of the surf.

One option is a ledger rig, also known as a paternoster or dropper rig. You can buy these pre-tied, like our Snatcher® rigs, or you can tie them yourself to suit your own set up. Check out our easy to follow video guide on how to tie your own paternoster rigs.

Another option is a pulley rig, which allows your bait to sit directly above the sinker and its clipped down during your cast. This can make your bait more aerodynamic to cast, meaning more distance is achieved.

Our Longreach Surfcasting rigs are specifically designed for surfcasting, loading all the weight [of the rig, bait and sinker] at the base of the rig. If your bait was positioned halfway up the trace, it would make the cast or flight less aerodynamic and increase your chances of tangles.

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If you’re tying your own rigs, your leader weight will vary, but most anglers use 40lb or heavier. Mono leaders are usually preferred as they offer a good level of abrasion resistance and shock absorption. With all the tumbling your bait may encounter in the surf zone, fluorocarbon isn't as effective as it might be from a boat or when casted into calmer waters. 

When it comes to choosing the right hooks, there are quite a few things to consider. Many surfcasters prefer to fish with recurve (or circle) hooks. This is because they’re designed to let the fish hook itself when they swim off with your bait.

When you’re fishing in surf and/or your rod is in a beach spike/holder, you’re very unlikely to feel the bites, so striking becomes virtually ineffective. By using a recurve hook, the fish will hook themselves and you’ll see your rod start to bend when they swim off. They’re also ideal for easy hook removal, as you’ll usually hook the fish in the corner of the mouth. If you’re planning to release your catch, this improves its survival rate.

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Whatever hook you choose to fish with, always ensure its sharp and preferably brand new out of the box for each new fishing session.

When it comes to the size of hook you need, it’ll usually be smaller than what you’d fish with off the boat. This is because smaller baits are readily taken by lots of species and size of fish, and they’re more aerodynamic allowing for more distance when you cast.

You can also add attractants to your rigs, like flasher skirts (from our Snatchers® or Snapper Snacks®), floats and lumo sleeves or beads. These will all enhance your presentation to the local fish, particularly if you’re fishing in strong surf where visibility may not be great.

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Mig from Fishing & Adventure can guide you through setting up with our Longreach Surfcasting rigs.
Mig from Fishing & Adventure can guide you through setting up with our Longreach Surfcasting rigs.


Bait is one of the most commonly discussed topics in fishing, and for good reason. What bait to use, and what size your bait should be, can vary depending on your target species, your fishing environment and also what you can get your hands on.

Fresh bait will always be better than frozen, but you have to work with what you can get.

Most species will happily chomp on pilchards, but others will be a bit picky. Snapper love shellfish and squid, kahawai/Australian salmon and kingies love a good live bait, and lots of species won’t say no to the local shellfish, like tuatua’s (in New Zealand) or crabs.

Whatever bait you choose to use, using a bait cotton or thread will help shape your bait(so you can make it as aerodynamic as possible) and it’ll help it stay in place when its being bashed around the in surf, or attacked by the local fish.

Don’t bury the point of your hook in the bait – ensure it’s exposed enough for penetration to occur when the fish takes your bait.

Take your time baiting up. When you’re fishing off the boat, it’s not too hard to wind your line in, check your bait and drop it back down again. But when you’re fishing off the beach, it’s a much bigger job, so you want to ensure your bait is going to stay on the hook until a fish takes a bite.

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New Zealand and Australia have thousands of kilometres of coastlines and beaches just waiting to be fished. But every location is going to lead to a successful day’s fishing.

Your ideal location will have troughs, channels or holes where bait (and therefore fish) will accumulate. If you can spot a school of bait fish, then you’re in the right spot.

Areas where there are strong lateral currents can be good spots to fish, as food and bait will be swept along in such areas.

Avoid the places where the waves are breaking the heaviest – fish don’t like too much sand in the water.

Remember that the tides will also affect where you can fish, as they impact where the fish are located and how they feed. Running tides can be a good time to fish as they cause bait to move, and this can attract fish to feed.

A simple Google search for “surfcasting locations in NZ/Australia” will give you a good guide on spots to try near you.

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There is no such thing as the “right time”, but generally the best times of the day are in the morning (at dawn) and in the early evening (or dusk). You can catch fish at any time of the day, but the change of light period of the day are usually more productive because fish feed more actively during these times.

Some beaches fish better at different stages of the tide, so spending time at your local surfcasting beach or chatting to the locals can help give you more accurate information.

It can also depend on what species you’re targeting. Some species, like snapper, prefer the change of light period. Some don’t like clear, bright water and will stick to the darker and deeper spots along the beach. But other species, usually those who are aggressive feeders like kahawai/Australian salmon, trevally and kingfish, love the light as it helps them spot their prey.

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Your casting distance can be impacted by your rod, your technique, and your gear setup. You need to be able to cast your set up to where the fish are holding, and sometimes that can be a fair distance from the beach.

Sometimes you’ll need to wade out into the water, cast to where the fish are holding, and then walk your rod back up to the beach while the line spools out.

There are a few different techniques when it comes to casting. The simplest is the overhead cast, which includes lifting your rod over your head, so it is pointing directly behind you and then whipping the rod over your head in the direction you need your set up to go. This usually delivers a long, straight cast; but your distance will be determined by how much rod speed you achieve and how much load you can put through the rod with your sinker.

There are a few more specialised casts, but these require practice to ensure you don’t put yourself or other beach goers in danger. Casting techniques, like the pendulum cast are best practiced on an empty beach, or in a big wide open space, with no one else around.

Some anglers are using drones to deploy their set ups. This does allow for extra distance and accuracy, as you can get out to where the fish are holding and drop your set up right in the middle of the fish. However, the cost of drones can drive up the overall cost of your fishing adventure.

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The first thing to do is not panic when you see your rod bending and line peeling off your reel. Let the fish run for a bit. Once they have stopped peeling off line, remove your rod from the rod spike/holder and start winding in your fish. No need to go full speed, unless you're dealing with a slack line, just a strong consistent wind. Once you get your fish onto the sand, you can pop your rod back in the rod holder and retrieve your fish.

If you're planning to release your fish, consider how you handle it. Ensure you have wet hands, or a wet towel to grab your fish, and once you've removed the hook, wade out into the water so the fish is released into enough water for it to swim off safely.

If you're keeping your catch, some species, like trevally and kahawai/Australian salmon, need to be bled straight away. This can be done at the waters edge, or place them in a bucket before placing them on ice in a chilly/eski. A nick in the soft tissue behind the gills is all that's required to drain blood from fish, and this will improve their eating quality.

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- A three piece rod is more easily transported both in car and when walking to beach.

- A bait runner reel has advantages, but it’s the type of reel that can’t get saltwater in it. Saltwater splash can easily damage the many components these reels have.

- Drags on any reel should take into account the extra length of the rod. When set in the spike, the drag should be set only hard enough to hook the fish.

- Lighter line will allow you to cast further and have less drag in the water, but remember to adjust your drag settings accordingly.

- Wading out into the surf is a great way to get your cast to the right spot, but always consider your own capabilities and safety.

- Don’t overload your hook with bait.

- Don't burley in the surf, otherwise you’ll bring in the local stingrays, which will stretch your line and leader and may lead to you losing your terminal tackle set up.

- Be mindful of space between surfcasters on your left and right. It just takes one misdirected cast and you could find yourself with a nasty tangle to sort out, or injure yourself or someone else

- Use sand grip sinkers – 4-6oz sinkers are most widely used for surfcasting. These sinkers have spikes which dig into the sand and when you retrieve your line, the spikes “break out”. Just remember to reset them before your next cast.

- Don’t be afraid to try different rigs, trace weights, or mainline weights. Speak to other surfcasters, or your local tackle shop to find out what works in the areas you’re fishing in, and what bait the local fish are attracted to.

- You can target trevally, kahawai/Australian salmon, gurnard and snapper from beaches so think about which of these species in particular you may want to catch. Choose your bait accordingly

- Take good care of your gear. If your reel goes for an unexpected swim in the saltwater, it’s a good idea to get it serviced ASAP. Their components don’t like being submerged in saltwater and corrosion can buildup quickly.  a swim accidentally, it'll need a full service quick smart. If you don't, just understand that they aren't designed to be submerged in saltwater. Corrosion will happen quickly, so visit your local tackle store for advice and servicing.

- Always do a quick “self service” after each fishing adventure. Spray your reel with fresh water and dry it thoroughly, to remove any salt. Use a lubricant, like Inox, on moving parts.

- If you notice weed floating in the water, move on to another spot if possible. Weed can ruin your day with build ups on your line affecting bait presentation. And winding in every 10 minutes to dislodge the weed can end your day quicker than you’d like.

- Think about how you intend to store your catch. If you’re able to drive to your fishing spot, then a chilly bin/eski is a great option, but if you have to hike to your fishing spot, another option will need to be considered.

- Don’t set up close to a contiki angler. You don’t know their experience and there will likely be some sweep on the beach. 

- Any planning should be around weather and tide conditions. Heading out to a remote beach for a day’s fishing, just to be cut off by the tide or the weather packs in on you, isn’t a fun day!

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Surfcasting can be a fun, cost effective way to secure a feed and enjoy a day at the beach. It’s also a great way to discover some of our beautiful beaches.

Always think about safety when you're fishing off the beach. Consider your own capabilities and keep an eye on your rod.

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