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A sea fishing "how to" guide

Choosing where to fish

Choosing your fishing mark is one of the toughest decisions in a fisherman's life. Its sods law that, if you choose somewhere the fish will be somewhere else; alot of it is to do with luck more than judgement. There's alot of factors that make a good fishing mark, we have listed most below.

  • First and foremost recent catch reports you can find these on our fishing forum, If someone on the forum said gillkicker fished well last night, for example. The likely hood is the fish will still be there. Again though live in hope!!
  • The ground you are you fishing on, sandy, shingle, rocky, lots of seaweed, strong currents, sandbanks, wrecks, outflow pipes, mussel beds, muddy... The ground you are fishing on can make all the diffrence to the species you are targeting, you wont find wrasse for instance on muddy ground, they are likely to be in rocky marks. Our sea fish species guide gives you an idea on, what ground carries what fish most of the time.
  • Conditions with different winds SW, NW, easterly... On the south coast there is a town called Hayling Island, it usually fishes best after a good south westerly blow. The reason being, the fish are blown in from the north atlantic and limpets and other shellfish are broken up, giving the fish a source of food. It also stirs up the water and sea bed making the water murky giving you the advantage as fish tend to move closer inshore.
  • Tides, some areas fish better approaching high tide or low tide, while others fish better at slackwater. Slack water occurs in between high tide and low tide or vice versa. Mainly banks are better fished at slackwater due to fish travelling more when slack water is present. Tides are also a major part of choosing when to fish, due to spring and neap tides. Tides work by six hours of flood (rise), slackwater and then 6 hours of ebb (fall) then the cycle starts again. Spring tides are the highest high tides and highest low tides, neap are the exact opposite.
  • Bait to use, depending on location and what is working well. Areas such as mussel beds will fish well with mussels for instance, muddy ground will fish good with ragworm and lugworm. You should always try and have a mixed bag of bait to see what is working well on the day.

Rods, reels and tackle

Alot depends on whether you are fishing from the shore or a boat. You dont want a 14ft beach rod on a boat for obvious reasons, the same applies with reels. Sometimes you may just want to use a spinning rod from the shore, I will give you a run down on all three.

Beach fishing rod and reel
For fishing from a beach you are going to need a rod rest of some description, ideally a tripod for two rods, a beach casting rod from 12ft to 16ft and a fixed spool reel or multiplier designed for the job. Below are three setups to suit a beginner, intermediate and advanced. There is a huge diffrence in the beginner rod and the advanced rod. The stiffness of the rod combined with the reel will allow you to cast alot futher, but at a tremendous price diffrence. I would advise if you are just getting started, not to spend a fortune on expensive gear. Once you feel the rod and reel do not match your ability, move on, but learn with a cheap setup....Just in case!!

Beginner beach setup
I would recommend a 12ft to 13ft beach casting rod such as a Zebco, Diawa Longbeam 13ft surf rod or Fladen. A fixed spool reel is the best to start with, as a multiplier can lead to a world of problems when first starting out. Theres a whole range of decent budget fixed spool reels and alot of the local tackle shops or online shops such as Spotty dog tackle offer great fishing rod and reel combo deals, it might also be worth having a look on ebay. The whole setup is likely to cost you £50 to £75.
beginner beach fishing combo

Intermediate beach setup
When advancing its a tough choice whether to advance to using a multiplier or not, I personally, after ten years of fishing from shore and boat still prefer to cast from a beach with a fixed spool reel. I think its because once you get used to something its hard to change but that does not mean you shouldn't, if you want more distance when casting, I suggest having a go at using a multiplier watch for the birdsnests. If its not for you change back to fixed spool, the casting distance is not hugely effected, it just depends what your comfortable with. Rod wise, I would recommend an anyfish anywhere 13' beach rod they are truely an amazing rod; Stiff to allow you to cast those far distances, they can be used with a multiplier or fixed spool... The choice is yours. The reel I would reccomend for this rod would have to be a Daiwa 7HT turbo multiplier, or a Penn Surf Master 750 fixed spool. The whole setup is likely to cost you around £200 to £250.
anyfish anywhere beach caster

Advanced beach setup
Ok, now we are going to get pricey! I have not yet advanced to this stage, mainly because i could not justify the cost, however others may feel diffrently. The only reel type I would reccomend at this level is a multiplier, an ideal rod reel combo would be a 13ft 10' Century kompressor SS with either a Abu Garcia 6500 C3 CT Mag Hi-Speed or a 6500 C3 CT Mag Pro multiplier. This setup would cost you between £350 to £450.
century kompressor ss

Boat fishing rod and reel
For boat fishing, the tackle is pretty much the same but depending on the type of boat fishing you are doing, the rod and reel is dramatically different. Multipliers are alot more common with boat fishing, along with shorter rods and heavier duty gear.

Beginner Boat Fishing Setup
Alot depends on what sort of boat fishing you are doing; Wreck fishing, sandbanks or rough ground. I would recommend a setup based in inshore fishing. A multipler is alot easier to use on a boat as it does not involve casting, however, that does not mean bird nests do not still occur. Just remember to keep you thumb on the spool at all times and you should be ok. I would recommend an uptide rod for the beginner boat fishing outfit, something like a Daiwa Vertice Uptider VTU210 paired with a Daiwa Firewolf 27H, this setup would cost you around £65.

Intermediate Boat Fishing Setup
I would go for something like an Abu Suveran Pro Boat 20-30lb and an Abu 7000i multiplier, this is likely to cost around £250.

Advanced Boat Fishing Setup
Unless you are going serious deep sea fishing, I would not advance, but I would recommend a Penn Graph-Lite Lever Drag Reel and a Shimano Antares AX Braid Boat rod, costing in the region of £500.

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Making Rigs

I will be the first to admit that I am lazy when its comes to making sea fishing rigs. This gives me an instant disadvantage in two ways, firstly in the pocket, a ready made fishing rig can cost anywhere from £1 to £10 and they are usually bad quality. Secondly a custom made rig is always better suited depending on the ground you are fishing.

You dont want to use a boat fishing rig when you are casting 70yds from the shore as all you will end up with is a great big tangle by the time its hit the sea bed. Certain rigs are designed for particular types of fishing and the main thing to remember is presentation is everything when fishing. You want the bait to look as natural as possible or the fish probably will not touch it.

You can add all sorts of kit to your fishing rigs; Snap swivels, beads, spoons, breakaway links, clip down links, three way swivels, quick release clips, snoods, booms, trace line, crimps. I could go on, but its something most people find out for themselves and from other fisherman.

There is a huge variety of fishing rigs for both beach and boat. It would be almost impossible to list them all but I have had a go. In the future I hope to add a guide with pictures on how to make sea fishing rigs.

Shore and beach rigs

Shore Rigs

  • Shockleader
    First and foremost you need a shockleader. A shock leader acts as a kind of shock absorber, it is attached to your main reel line using a shockleader knot. Shockleader is made of monofilament, I prefer tapered shockleader which starts at 40lb breaking strain and goes down to roughly 15lb. The standard shockleader is usually around 13 metres in length, the brand I use is Ultima Powerflex Tapered Shockleader, but others are avaliable.
    Shockleader is an essential part of shore fishing, I learnt this after casting numerous times and hearing the dreaded "snap" followed by your perfectly presented rig and bait launching into the distance minus you line. Shockleader allows you to cast the end gear as hard and far as you can, without loosing your rig. The knot you use to join your shockleader to your reel line is the most important part of the set up, as going to all that effort only to get the knot stuck in your rod rings is very upsetting indeed.
  • Float fishing rig - This is a reasonably simple setup comprising of a float or bobber with a length of line, depending on the depth you are fishing in. A shot weight and another length of line running down to a hook, sea float fishing can be deadly when used with baits such as sandeel.
  • Wishbone clip down rig - A rig designed to be cast distances, complete with 2 hooks to help you hook the fish. These hooks clip onto a device designed to keep your bait intact when casting, but also to release the hook and bait on impact to the water.
  • Long Range one hook rig - Identical to a wishbone rig but with just one hook.
  • Pulley Rig - The pulley rig is designed keep you from loosing a fish, to snags on the bottom.
  • The Bomber rig - The bomber rig can be used with 2 hooks using the clip to hold your hooks while casting.
  • 1 up 1 down - One hook fishes on the sea bed, whilst the other fishes above it, hopefully just above the sea bed.
  • 3 Hook Flapper rig - The bonus of using this rig is that you are fishing with three baits. The disadvantage is that it is not ideal for casting at distance, due to the baits being put under pressure when casting.
  • 3 Hook Clip Down rig - Similar to the three hook flapper but with the bonus of being able to cast without ruining your bait.
  • Wishbone rig - A wisbone rig is designed to hold two baits next to each other, increasing the scent. Although not ideal for casting.

Boat fishing rigs

Boat Rigs

  • Pennel rig

Baiting Hooks

Using bait elastic Its essential when it comes to beach fishing, but also usefull for boat fishing. It does exactly what it says on the tin and holds your bait together when you cast it out. When I first started using bait elastic, I did wonder if it would put the fish off, but I can safely say it has not as of yet. There are a few brands availiable and they all do pretty much the same thing. How to use bait elastic is simple; Start from the top of the hook working your way down to the point and just wrap around a few times. When your finished just pull hard and it should snap and hold it all together.
bait elastic

Hooking live bait is easy once you know how, theres alot of variations of "live bait", but for now I will focus on fish and shrimp. The most popular live baits would have to be Sandeel, Launce (a big sandeel), Mackerel, Pouting and Whiting, unless you are targeting the bigger fish, I would stick to using the smaller ones to improve your chances. I have used live Sandeel to catch Bass commercially and there is no better bait for them. The best way to hook any fish or shrimp is through the nose but not to deep as to damage its brain, just enough to keep it on the hook and lively. As for Joeys (small mackerel) I would reccomend a treble hook.
baiting livebait

Bait presentation is everything when it comes to fishing. If it does not look natural, most of the time the fish will not touch it. Try and cut Mackerel strips for instance, the shape of a triangle and bait with the shiny skin in front of the hook.
mackerel strip bait

Baiting with a pennel rig is simple when you know how; Bait the top hook first and then the bottom hook, just make sure both hook points are showing as it will increase your chances of hooking the fish.
pennel rig

Using a baiting needle when baiting with lugworm in particular, is a good way to get the bait on the hook without it getting to musshy!

Sea fishing bait

If you are a bit strapped for cash or you just squeak when you walk, you can save a fortune shopping around for your bait or even collecting your own. Its often worth checking out local supermarkets, fishmongers, foreign food stores, beachs and harbours. You will be suprised with what you can find, if you look hard enough. Supermarkets offer bulk packs of prawns which can be a killer bait for cod, just make sure they are raw. Fishmongers often stock squid, sandeel, cuttlefish, shellfish and mackerel at much cheaper prices than your local tackle shops. Ebay nowadays is a great place to get live and frozen bait, but be sure to check out the postage price.

Below is a list of sea fishing baits and what species you can catch with them.

Sandeels With live or dead sandeels, you can catch pollock, ray, skate, bass, wrasse, tope, dogfish, cod and most other species.
Squid will catch you ray, skate, tope, conger eel, cod, bass, dogfish, whiting and again most other species.
Cuttlefish will catch the same as squid.
Ragworm is a great bait to target flatfish such as plaice, sole and flounder.
Lugworm again similar to ragworm but can be a lethal bait for cod.
Razor fish is a good bait for cod and bass.
Mussels will catch pretty much any sea fish around the UK.
Limpets will again catch any sea fish but can be especially good after a good inshore wind for bass.
Prawn is a good bait for cod and can be picked up cheap from supermarkets.
Shrimp again a great bait for cod.
Mackerel good all round bait, works for most species.
Live pouting great bait for cod and bass.
Live whiting again a great bait for bass and cod.
Bread best bait you can get for catching mullet, just be patient!!
Sausage and chicken skin strangely is a good bait for bass.
Cockles good all round bait, but can be hard to get on a hook.
Clams same as cockles.
Earthworms I have never used them, but I have been told they work really well in estuaries and rivers for bass and flatfish.
Peeler crab by far the best bait for smoothound, but also good for catching bass and cod.
Softback crab same as above.
Hardback crab same as above.
Spider crab good for smoothound, although can be hard to get on the hook.
Hermit crab good allrounder.
Artificial Baits
Preserved Baits not as good as the real thing, but a good backup bait.

Setting Up

If your fishing from the beach and you have a tent or beach buddy, I would recommend setting this up first and putting all your belongings inside the tent, to save them getting lost. This also helps weigh your tent down, advoiding it getting blown down the beach and you having to chase after it. I have done this before and looked like a right plonker! I would then setup your tripod followed by your fishing rods.

Essential Items

There are somethings on this list that you may not need depending on the conditions, time of fishing and where your fishing. I have listed them all to help you get an understanding of what you might need, although if going on your own I would reccomend travelling light.

  1. headlamp
  2. landing net
  3. tripod
  4. bucket
  5. bait elastic
  6. spare reel
  7. Hot drink in a flask
  8. flotation suit
  9. hook sharpener
  10. knife
  11. nail clippers
  12. baiting needle
  13. scales
  14. mobile phone
  15. rod tip lights
  16. bell
  17. tent
  18. matches
  19. gloves
  20. hat
  21. waterproofs
  22. Spare weights, hooks and rig making bits
  23. A few spools of line
  24. A spare rod if possible
  25. A few spinners and feathers

Spinning and Feathers

Spinning is a great way to catch fish from shore or boat. It involves casting a lure and simply retrieving, using diffrent methods. Some people like to jerk the lure, reel in a bit, then jerk the lure and so on. Others prefer to just reel in slowly. Feathering involves casting, striking, reeling in the strike and striking again, reeling in the strike and so on, until a fish is hooked and just reeled in. You can catch many diffrent fish with lures and feathers, heres a few and what lure is best to catch them:

  • Sandeels - Small hokkai feathers are a great way to catch sandeels, although, the hardest part is finding them in the first place and feeling when you have caught them on the hooks.
    sandeel feathers
  • Bass - You can catch bass on standard feathers but fake sandeels, shads and shiny lures can work exceptionally well.
    fake sandeel
  • Pollock - Pollock can be caught very effectively on feathers and fake sandeels.
  • Cod - Cod can be plucked from the depths using something called muppets. You can use them singley or in threes as they are supposed to represent a squid.
    cod muppet
  • Garfish - Garfish can be caught using feathers.
  • Scad - Scad can be caught using hokkai feathers.
  • Plaice - You can catch plaice using flatfish spoons with a hook, ideally baited with ragworm.
    flounder plaice spoon
  • Flounder - Flounder can be caught using the same methods as plaice.
  • Mackerel - Feathers or most lures will catch mackerel.
  • Whiting - Feathers is the best method to catch whiting.
    mackerel feathers


Getting distance when casting is not somtething you learn overnight, as it takes years to master technique. The world record cast stands at well over 200yds with a 6oz weight. There are many diffrent casting methods, I have listed a few below along with some videos to demonstrate casting methods.

Pendulum Cast

Fishing knots

  • Plastic Coated Wire Leader Knot

Landing fish

  • Using a net from the shore or boat is a must when landing your dream fish. So many times have I seen freinds so excited to see a whopping fish on the surface only to try and lift the fish on the boat then to watch it drop off and see them break down into tears.
    landing net

  • Gaff - I only use a gaff if I intend on keeping the fish, if you do not know what a gaff is, its a big hook attached to a long pole and the idea is to hook the fish and pull onto the boat. There are times when you do not have a landing net big enough for the fish, although it does not happen often enough!

  • Drop net on a pier is just a circular net on a length of rope the idea is you lower it over the pier and guide your fish into the net, then simply pull you catch up the pier.
    drop net

  • Hoping and praying without a net is not worth it. There are times when you do not care if the fish falls off and usually if it is a small fish, it will not fall off anyway. With most beach fishing, the best way to land the fish is to drag it onto the shore.

Hints and tips

  • Using wd40 - some people claim WD40 is a great fish attractant, I can not personally vouch for this, although I can understand the logic. They say the oil is similar to that of a fish and can leave a good scent trail, I beg to differ but who am I to know I always blank!! :)
    wd40 fishing
  • Bait additives - You can get loads of diffrent bait additives but they can get expensive. Some people dip baits in the additive and others add it to a rubby dubby (A mix of fish guts, bread, fish bits...) They do work as I have used them in the past, but whether or not they will catch the fish when other baits will not, is a diffrent ball game altogether.
  • Birdsnest in multipliers - I am an expert on this subject, but not so much as my fishing buddy Joe. He insists on being a modern fisherman and I stick to good old traditional fixed spool reels. Birdsnests can be a fisherman's worst nightmare and the only way to counteract the problem is to keep your thumb light enough on the spool to let the line come out freely, but hard enough so it doesnt go ahead of itself, leaving you a huge tangle of line.
    birdsnest in multiplier
  • Make your own dvice - Making your own dvice is simple and we will show you how.
  • Make your own tackle - Making your own fishing tackle can save you a fortune below is a few to diy

Digging and collecting your own bait

  • Pumping lugworm
  • Neting sandeels
  • Netting & collecting shrimps
  • Finding peelers
  • Finding Crabs
  • Squid Jig
  • Digging ragworm
  • Digging lugworm
  • Finding Mussels
  • Finding Clams
  • Using a beach seine for bait
  • Beach seine
  • Fish trap
  • Mackerel
  • Using a bait trap
  • Using a drop net

Returning fish

  • Using gloves - Some fish are sharp as pins, if you are not sure what fish it is put the gloves on, a weever sting hurts... Trust me!
  • Keeping the fish wet - If your not planning on keeping the fish make sure you release it fit to fight another day.
  • Removing hooks - If it is deep in the gut and your not keeping it, cutting the hook gives the fish a better chance just prey he spits it out!
  • Please, please only keep what you need!!

10 Golden rules

  1. Use the freshest bait you can get your dirty mits on.
  2. Make sure your hooks are as sharp as they can be.
  3. Presentation is everything, hook the bait to look as natural as you can.
  4. Dont forget a bell or light when night fishing, there is nothing worse than standing with a torch like a plonker.
  5. Always tell someone where you are and when you will be back and keep them updated!
  6. Fishing is a sport and yes it does make you an active, healthy citizen.
  7. Be organised. There is nothing worse than a fishing tackle box stuffed with odd bits of line and hooks hanging out.
  8. Keep focused and determined DO NOT give up you sissy :)
  9. Take the kids, kids need a hobby and love fishing be it boy or girl
  10. Respect the fishermans tale, always exadurate!!

Tags: fishing knots digging bait Sea fishing trips fishing rigs sea fishing baits casting