Fishing for sharks can be controversial. In many countries around the world, they’ve been fished to the point of endangerment. In the United States, sharks have a bad public reputation and many fishermen get frustrated when the hook a shark.
But sharks can be some of the most fun sports fish to fish for. As long as you’re planning on doing catch and release (as we do), fishing for sharks is a blast. They’re some of the hardest fighting fish and can grow to immense sizes. But what type of rig is best for fishing for sharks? A shark rig obviously!
In this article, we’ll cover what exactly a shark rig is made out of, how to make the perfect shark rig, and how to fish a shark rig effectively (even from a pier!). Shark rigs are very similar to fish finder rigs, except they have an even bigger leader strength and weight setup. Read on to learn how to make and fish a shark rig!
What is a Shark Rig?
As we mentioned above, a shark rig is a variation of the fish finder rig used for surfcasting. Shark rigs have the same components as the fishing finder rig, but in a larger size that can handle the power of large sharks. The shark rig can be used with various large size hooks, lines, and weights, but the overall concept is the same: having the ability to cast your bait very far out into the surf and withstand the sharp teeth and strength of a monster fish – like a Blacktip Shark.
Author Note: The Shark Rig is comprised of the following components. It’s helpful to have a pair of good saltwater fishing pliers to help build the leader/tie off ends of the thick fishing line.
A large circle hook
A circle hook will allow you to attach many types of bait to your Shark Rig and helps prevent bait from falling off in the surf. It also allows sharks to eat the bait easier without feeling the hook right away. We recommend using at least a 7/0 sized circle hook.
If you want to catch your own bait, check out our guide on the best bait fish traps.
Type of Fishing Line for the Shark Rig
We recommend using monofilament instead of braided fishing line due to it’s resistance to scratching. If you’re fishing for sharks anywhere near rocks or reef braided line is a bad choice. If you have to use braided line (your reel isn’t big enough for the desired length of monofilament), use it as backing. This works really well for Blacktip Sharks.
We put together a detailed guide on our favorite surf surf fishing lines, but here’s a quick summary.
Depending on what size shark you’re fishing for, you’ll need different strength fishing line. For sharks under 6 ft long, we recommend using 20 to 50 lb monofilament. For sharks under 10 ft long, we recommend using 80 to 100 lb monofilament. Monster sharks that are over 10 ft require special line; use 125 to 200 lb monofilament.
A strong steel leader
The Shark Rig uses a heavy steel leader that prevents hungry sharks from biting through the line when attacking the bait. As you probably know, sharks have tons of razor-sharp teeth that will cut through even the thickest non-metal lines. The steel leader also helps the bait bounce along the bottom which attracts sharks (they think it’s a wounded fish). #12 weight fishing wire works great for building a shark rig leader.
A large pyramid sinker
Shark rigs are weighed down by a large pyramid sinker. The heavier weight allows the bait to be cast very far out into the surf, and the pyramid shape helps it stay put in the sand.
Author Note: The sharpness of the pyramid weight digs into the sand and prevents the waves from pushing the bait back into shore, and helps kick up sand. We recommend using a 4 to 8 ounce sinker.
A large sinker slider and bead
The pyramid weight is attached to your line by a sinker slider that sits flush up against a bead and snap swivel. This allows the bait to connect directly to your line so when a shark bites you’ll feel it and be able to set the hook. We recommend using snap swivels that are rated above 100 lbs.
How to Make a Shark Rig
There’s a specific order you need to follow in order to make a proper Shark Rig. Lucky for you, we’ve outlined the exact methodology below.
- The first step is to make the steel leader out of your #12 wire. Using about 2 feet of wire, attach a swivel using a haywire twist. Then do the same with your circle hook. This is the main portion of your leader.
- Next, it’s time to add your weight. Using around a foot of monofilament line, tie your weight on to another snap swivel.
- Now thread your plastic bead and the weighted rig on to your main line, then tie that end of the main line onto your shark rig leader.
- Add some bait to your circle hook and you’re ready to fish for sharks!
Tackle Needed for Your Shark Rig
The type of rod and reel needed for Shark Rig fishing depends on the size of shark you’re going for. Since sharks live in saltwater and you’ll be casting your rig from shore, a large saltwater spinning reel usually is the best choice. We’ve put together a solid buying guide for surf fishing reels that takes into consideration size, price, and much more.
As far as rods go, just make sure it can withstand the appropriate test strength of the fishing line you’re using. We recommend picking one of the rods from our surf fishing rod buying guide. Most anglers enjoy a long, heavy action rod for shark fishing. The long length of the rod helps cast your bait far out into the surf and keeps you covered if you hook into a monster shark. If in doubt, bigger is better.
Best Bait for Shark Fishing
Many different types of bait will work well for shark fishing depending on your location. For the east coast, we recommend using mullet, herring, skipjacks, or perch. The further south you go, you can use squid, mullet, bonito, or other local baitfish. These work well for all types of sharks, like hammerheads or mako sharks. Be sure to secure your bait firmly to your circle hook.
For fish heads, hook them through the nose. For the body pieces, hook them through the spine. If you’re not sure what the local sharks are eating, swing into a local fishing shop and chat with the workers.
Author Note: You can also often buy the right bait from them as well. And remember, big fish like big bait! It’s sometimes worth going fishing specifically for baitfish the day before so you have a health supply when you decide to go for a monster shark.
How to Fish a Shark Rig
Now that you’ve got your shark rig set up, it’s time to learn how to fish it.
- Find an area of shoreline that has minimal underwater cover (rocks, weeds, and coral). You can fish areas with more cover, however, you run the rest of your line breaking or getting tangled.
- Cast your Shark Rig out into the surf as far as you can.
- Now you wait! You can either sit and keep your rod in your hand or use a rod holder. If you plan on casting another rod out or doing something else while you wait, don’t hang out too far away from your rod. When a shark takes the bait you’ll want to grab it out of the holder and set the hook immediately.
- If you see anything weird going on with the tip of your rod, check it out and see what’s going on. You may need to reel your Shark Rig in and check your bait for smaller fish.
- We recommend checking your bait every 20 to 30 minutes if nothing notable happens. Depending on the type of bait you’re using and the action of the surf, your bait can fall off.
- If a location isn’t giving you any fish, try moving down the beach after an hour or so. This kind of fishing lends itself to having multiple rods in multiple locations.
- If your bait keeps coming off or you’re worried about crabs and other bottom feeders eating it, you can use a 3 to 4” foam float on your leader to keep your bait off the bottom.
Shark fishing is often a game of waiting. If you’re going for a really big shark, the hardest part is often just finding the fish. This is when having a drone for sight fishing can come in handy. But for those of us who are patient, the wait is always worth it. Hooking a 1,000 lb monster shark is an experience you won’t soon forget. Got a shark fishing story you want to share with us? Shoot us a note below in the comments.