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Surf Fishing Weights: Complete Guide to Sinkers for Surf, Beach, Shark, Jetty and Pier Fishing

Updated: Oct 19

Knowing how to choose the best Surf Fishing Weight or Sinker size and type is a crucial part of successful beach, shark, pier or jetty fishing wherever you're hitting the water – East or West Coast, Gulf or Panhandle.

fishing sinker guide table chart how to choose the best weights for surf fishing egg sinkers, pyramid sinkers, torpedo sinkers, sputnik surf sinkers

Get it wrong and your rig will be washed away before the fish can find it and you'll likely remain biteless – offer an unnaturally-presented bait or lure, and you'll be struggling to get hooked up too. This is a common problem.

Once anglers have worked out the best rigs, baits and locations for surf fishing in their area, we've found in our tuition sessions that picking the right size weight and style of sinker is the Number One element of their setup that lots of people get wrong.

The Good News: Although poor sinker selection is a costly error in terms of fish counts – it's also one of the easiest and fastest issues to remedy with a few simple rules and tips around picking the best weights when surf fishing...

guide to choosing the best sinkers and weights for surf fishing

Through our guiding service (and numerous other adventures) we've fished in conditions ranging from tropical hurricanes and massive kelp-filled surf with raging currents, to lake-like waters, for a range of species all around the world.

This article will impart as much relevant knowledge as possible, with the aim of helping you select the best sinkers and weights for surf fishing next time you hit the water for species like sharks, rays, drum, surf perch, croaker, redfish, pompano, whiting, corbina, striped bass, sturgeon, rockfish and more.


Surf Fishing Weights: Ultimate Guide to Sinkers Page index:


Factors to Consider when Choosing the Best Size and Type Sinkers for Surf Fishing Anywhere

To succeed in the pursuit of your target surf fish - from striper to shark, bonefish to croaker - it's essential to choose the right sinkers for your surf fishing setup and location.

how to choose the best sinkers for surf fishing

The type, size, and style of your weight can significantly impact your success rate.

In this section, we will delve into the specific factors to consider when selecting the best sinkers for surf fishing across a range of scenarios and species, with the following factors worthy of consideration:

Weight of sinker

The weight of your sinker is probably the most critical aspect to consider. Sinker weights are usually measured in ounces (oz) or grams (gr or g), by the way.

Heavy sinkers designed for bait and wait-style fishing help you cast further and anchor your bait in the turbulent surf zone, if that’s the desired effect.

Or a lighter egg-style sliding sinker may be designed to let the bait and Carolina Rig roll naturally down the current until close to shore, for example, if that’s the killer technique.

A weight associated with lure fishing, like a bullet weight on a Texas Rig and soft plastic weedless swimbait setup, might be balanced between casting far enough out into the surf to get bit, whilst still retaining a natural action

In a nutshell, matching your sinker weight to the tactic that’s going to get you bites is key.

Factors like line strength and thickness (braid is best in most surf fishing scenarios), rod and reel type, target species, bait size, wave size, current, tide, wind, and the desired casting distance are the main factors that dictate the size of weight you should choose.

Typically, two or three different types of surf sinkers in the 0.5oz to 8oz range works well for a range of surf fishing tactics, and cover almost any scenario you’ll find in North America.

Artificial lures may require different sinkers or even no sinker at all, depending on your target species and the action of the lure. More on this in detail a bit later.

Sinker shape and style

Sinkers come in various shapes and designs, such as sputnik, egg, bullet, pyramid, coin, or bank sinkers. Below are the three best types of weight for surf fishing.

Sputnik sinkers for Surf Fishing

sputnik surf sinker for sale

For example, wired sputnik sinkers (also called spider weights, grapnel sinkers or surf sinkers) are popular for surf fishing because their anchor-like design with wire arms allows them to dig into the sandy or muddy bottom, holding the bait and rig in the right zone for a bite in surprisingly severe waves and current.

Pyramid sinkers for Surf Fishing

best surf fishing sinkers for sale pyramid weights

Pyramid sinkers are a good choice for surf fishing when there's a little bit of swell and current, but very much on the lower end of the scale - in the 1-2ft range and with negligible water movement.

The multi-sided pyramid design plugs into soft sand and mud after a few seconds and will offer some anchoring qualities, but nowhere near as much as wired sputnik sinker.

It's a good mid-way option between a sliding-style of sinker and more anchor-like weight.

Egg sinkers for Surf Fishing

egg sinkers for surf fishing size guide

Sliding egg-style sinkers are usually designed to move around more in the surf to mimic a small natural bait, or for use with a small plastic lure, and not fished static with a rod in a rest or sand spike.

These types of round, oval and bullet-shape sinkers with a hole are the best choice for Carolina Rigs, Fish Finder Rigs and Texas Rigs.

Each style of sinker design is made for a particular purpose and kind of surf fishing. Knowing the best match for your local tactics, rod and reel combo you'll be using, and target species is a learning process, but with this guide it'll be much easier to work out that magic combination for your favorite spots.

Sinker Material for Surf Fishing

Environmentally conscious anglers may prefer non-toxic sinker materials like tungsten for Carolina Rigs and Texas-rigged plastic baits or steel over traditional lead sinkers. These alternatives are better for the ecosystem and, in some areas, may be legally required.

Most sinkers are made from lead, sometimes with a coating, and stainless steel wires for the loops, stems, rings and arms.

Surf and Current Conditions

Surf conditions can vary significantly, from calm lake-like days to rough surf with strong currents. Planning ahead and checking forecasts is a useful tip that'll enable you to pack the sinkers most likely to be the best for the conditions.

Casting a sputnik sinker surf fishing in california
Casting a large sputnik sinker and shark bait in rough conditions for surf fishing

Be prepared for whatever nature can throw at you and match your sinker weight to the current and wave action to maintain optimal bait placement; in the first or second trough, in a hole, as far out as possible, close to the jetty or rocks etc.

Lighter sinkers work when the surf and current is mild, while heavier ones are necessary in rough conditions to prevent your bait from washing ashore. Carrying a wide range of sizes in a plastic tub to cover all conditions you may face is a great idea.

Tides and Timing

The tidal movements can affect the depth of water, current, wave behavior, and position of fish in the surf zone.

Be prepared to adjust your sinker weight and style as the tide and current changes. Fish are often more active during certain tide phases, so timing your fishing trips and bringing a range suitable sinkers for those conditions can be crucial.

For example: Surf fishing is often best when the incoming or outgoing tidal movements and currents are at their strongest, when the green arrows indicate in the image below.

You may need a different type or size of sinker when fishing at these times, compared to periods of smaller tidal movements indicated by the blue arrows.

Experiment and Adapt

Surf fishing is as much an art as it is a science. Be open to experimenting with different sinker sizes and setups to see what works best for your local surf conditions.

Safety First

When fishing in the surf and casting any size of sinker, always prioritize safety.

Ensure your sinkers are securely attached to your line with a proper knot (we recommend Palomars and Unis to a clip for sinkers, FG and Crazy Alberto for leader to main line knots), and strong enough line to prevent accidental casting injuries or tangled lines.

The rule to remember is this: you need about ten pounds of breaking strain in your line for every ounce of sinker you want to cast.

So, to cast a 1oz sinker properly, you’ll need at least ten pound breaking strain line throughout the setup to the sinker; and so on up to 80-pound line for an 8oz sinker.

When to use a heavy mono casting leader

A heavy mono casting leader is necessary if power casting any sinkger to any sort of degree - this will absorb the extra force from a powerful cast and ensure the sinker doesn't break the line.

This is known as a crack off and it's really dangerous, having a loose sinker flying around unattached.

Best mono casting leader for shark fishing

We highly recommend an 80-pound mono casting leader for surf shark fishing with 6, 7 and 8oz sinkers, for example, to prevent this kind of crack off (breakage) happening.

This style of mono casting leader, essential for shark fishing too, is tied to the braid main line with a Crazy Alberto or FG knot.

It's just long enough so that, when the rig is in position for casting, the mono has a turn or two on the reel thus ensuring all the force is taken on the mono section of the line, and your finger doesn't touch the braid section.

Next, let’s dive into some specific surf fishing scenarios and the best sinker choice for each.


Best Sinkers for Surf Fishing in Calm Conditions (Small Waves, No Current)

For calm conditions with little wind, water movement (current) or waves - maybe you're in a sheltered piece of ocean, bay, a flat calm day on the beach, or in a harbor - casting distance, target species and bait size will be the main factors when it comes to choosing the best sinker.

Weights for surf fishing in calm conditions

Let's assume you're bait and wait fishing with fresh bait like cut bait, shrimp, worms, sand crabs (sand fleas) or FishBites strips for small to medium-size species like croaker, surf perch, redfish, jacks, inshore rockfish, saltwater bass, pompano or whiting.

You're wanting to hold the bait in place, in a trough or hole close to shore, or maybe 20, 30 to 50 yards out, with that highly attractive bait fresh bait on a dropper loop-style rig.

The best sinker in this scenario is a small pyramid sinker matched to the combo you're casting with.

A typical Medium-rated rod or pole with a rating around 1 to 4oz would match well with a 1, 2 or 3oz pyramid sinker for bait and wait tactics, giving you enough weight to cast sufficient distance and hold the bait in place a decent distance out in shallow to medium-depth water on a clean sandy or muddy bottom.

Weights for shallow water light line saltwater fishing

For a more roving style of fishing in calm conditions - maybe you're stalking flats for shallow-water species like bonefish or redfish, or in the surf for corbina and surf perch - the smallest sliding egg sinker you can get away with in terms of sufficient casting distance, is the best choice in calm waters.

surf fishing in California
Fishing shallow surf conditions with light tackle and small egg sinkers

This egg sinker is usually around the 1/2oz to 1oz size, like the 3/4oz egg sinker below, matched to a Light or Medium Light combo and light braid main line with a fluorocarbon topshot.

egg sinker for surf fishing

The aim is that the sinker should be just heavy enough to cast to the desired spot and behave in a way that mimics a natural food item; washing slowly down the current, for example.


Best Sinkers for Surf Fishing in Rough Conditions (Big Waves, Lots of Current)

With many of the best surf fishing spots prone to large waves and strong currents - much of the Pacific coastline, and Atlantic North East, for example - you'll need to be prepared to fish in less than perfect conditions if tackling these areas.

Weights for surf fishing in big waves

Let's start with sinker choice for bait and wait fishing in medium to heavy surf with a decent current causing lots of water movement.

The factors that dictate sinker weight choice in this case will be the style of your rod and reel, severity of the surf and current.

Simply put; if your target species wants the fresh bait anchored in place in a particular area, your sinker should achieve exactly that, and not be washing downstream or in to shore every time a set of waves comes through.

The rig and sinker should stay in place indefinitely.

Sputnik sinkers for surf fishing in big waves

This may require a significantly heavier sinker and different style of surf fishing weight - and the best choice is undoubtedly a wired sputnik sinker, also known as a grapnel sinker, spider weight, super weight or storm sinker.

The four wire arms on this style of sinker anchor the rig in position like a ship's anchor, only dislodging and folding back when the fish picks up the bait and swims away, or the angler reels in.

Benefits of sputnik sinkers for surf fishing

The sputnik sinker is the best choice for surf fishing in any sort of significant waves and current because of these wire anchors - it'll hold bottom much better than a pyramid-style sinker that's much heavier.

This allows you to cast a smaller sinker and lighter rig made with finer tackle, meaning more bites from wary big fish.

Main line advice for casting bigger sinkers

Keep in mind that you may need to up your line strength to handle the bigger sinker.

It'd be unwise to try to cast a 3oz sinker on 10lb braid, for example, keeping in mind the equation of requiring about ten pounds of breaking strain in your line for every ounce of sinker you want to cast.

A move up to 30lb braid main line would be fine with a 3oz or even 4oz sinker with a gentler cast, and this extra ounce can often be the difference between holding a bait in the zone long enough to get a bite, rather than it being rapidly washed inshore.

So, the main points when choosing the best sinkers for surf fishing in big waves are that upping the weight size until the rig stays in place is the name of the game for static bait fishing anywhere.

Do not tolerate the rig coming unstuck with the first set of waves - reel in and change that sinker size or style if it's not staying where it needs to be long enough for a bite!


Best Sinkers for Shark Fishing in California, Florida, East Coast, Gulf Coast

Sharks feed primarily by scent, so anchoring a bait in place and maintaining the unbroken scent trail in the water until the fish finds the bait is important.

Weights for surf shark fishing

The best way to achieve this attractive and unbroken bloody scent trail is to use the largest sinker you can cast on the combo at your disposal; either a pyramid-style for spots with no current and waves (in a harbor or calm bay, for example), or a sputnik-style sinker for surf shark fishing in any sort of waves or current. This will pin the rig in place indefinitely.

Assuming you're tackling an open beach with an average level of of swell and current, a common sinker set-up for surf shark fishing with a Heavy-rated 10-15ft spinning combo and 50 to 80-pound braided main line is a 6, 7 or 8oz sputnik sinker that'll stay in place for a long time until the bait is picked up.

Weights for land-based shark fishing

For land-based shark fishing with heavier conventional tackle, and kayak or drone-deployed baits, we simply double or triple up big spuntik sinkers and cable tie the arms in place so they can't disengage.

The extra line in the water from a long drop creates lots of pressure on the rig and sinker, so the extra weight is needed.

To summarize; heavy sinkers with maximum anchoring power are best the best weights for land-based and surf shark fishing - either large pyramids or usually sputnik sinkers depending on severity of wave and current.


Best Sinkers for Croaker, Pompano, Whiting, Drum and Redfish Surf Fishing

Static bait and wait-style tactics, with multiple rods cast and left upright in a sand spike until the bite, are a great fun way of targeting a range of species on any coastline.

bait and wait surf fishing with sputnik sinkers and fresh bait

Sinkers for surf fishing with fresh bait and FishBites

A fairly universal 10 to 12ft, Medium-rated spinning combo capable of casting 2, 3 and 4oz sinkers will cover most scenarios in this popular sub-category of surf fishing with fresh bait and FishBites, and the deciding factor when it comes to weight selection is location and the local conditions.

For example: a calm, bluewater Gulf Coast, Panhandle, Alabama or Florida beach with small waves and a minor amount of current lends itself perfectly to bait and wait fishing with 2 and 3oz pyramid sinkers.

You want the sinkers to be just big enough to hold bottom and keep tension in the rod tip and main line, usually 20lb braid or 10-15lb mono.

If the current picks up with the tide or wind, a switch to a larger 3oz or 4oz pyramid sinker, or sputnik syle of sinker in the 2 or 3oz weight class will be more effective in casting the desired distance and holding the rig in place - both important considerations.

Sinkers for surf fishing with bait in rough conditions

On the higher energy coastlines such as the Pacific and North East, light bait and wait fishing is best achieved with a small sputnik sinker in 3, 3.5, 4 and even 5oz sizes and Dropper Loop rigs.

Think 2 or 3oz for most SoCal Light to Medium-rated bait and wait fishing gear, and 3.5 to 5oz for slightly stepped up gear for Central, Bay Area, Northern California and Oregon surf fishing.

With most croaker, surf perch and bass living in areas that receive consistent swell and current, a pyramid sinker is rarely an effective choice in these higher energy areas.

We rarely use pyramid sinkers for West Coast fishing, to be honest - it's usually a sputnik for bait fishing or an egg-style of weight for roving light line tactics.


Best Sinkers for Surf Perch Fishing in California, Bay Area, Oregon and Washington

For surf perch fishing on the West Coast, we mostly rely on small egg sinkers and a Carolina Rig combined with natural baits like sand crabs, sand worms, shrimp or mussel - or small grub-style lures.

barred surf perch caught surf fishing in california using an egg sinker

The deciding factors when choosing the best sinkers for surf perch fishing are usually what the waves and current are doing, and the style of fishing.

best sinkers for surf perch egg sinker sand crab bait
A typical Southern California surf perch rig and setup with sand crabs for bait and a 3/4oz (20g) egg sinker - a good all round size for surf perch fishing

Sinkers for surf perch fishing in Southern California

For example, in Southern and Central California where conditions are often relatively mild with some 1-3ft waves and little current, a 1/2oz to 3/4oz egg sinker is the best choice for general surf perch fishing with a fresh bait.

Matched with a Light or Medium Light spinning combo and 10lb braid main line or 6lb mono, this size of sinker is the ideal size to slowly bounce down the current in your typical SoCal perch beach spot with sand crabs, real sand worms or a Gulp! Sandworm bait.

This size of sinker is also ideal for slowly reeling in a small grub-style curlytail bait - a killer surf perch tactic anywhere!

Sinkers for surf perch curlytail grub lure fishing

A note about sinker selection for grub fishing for surf perch: We like to go a size smaller than we'd use for sand crabs and natural baits; 1/2oz or 5/8oz instead of 3/4oz, for example, when using an artificial lure like a small grub on a Carolina Rig.

This is because, whilst we want the fresh bait like a sand crab to have some natural movement in the waves and current, we don't want to be constantly slowly reeling it in.

However, we find that a steady and consistent retrieve works best with a grub fished lure-style on a Carolina Rig (C-Rig).

Thus, a slightly smaller sinker lends itself better to this style with constant bait movement desired.

Sinkers for surf perch fishing on the Central Coast

For surf perch fishing on the Central Coast, we've found that a very similar sinker size is usually required, with an upgrade only required once you hit the higher energy surf areas such as Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Bay Area and above.

These types of spots usually require a 1oz, 1.5oz or even 1.75oz egg sinker on a Carolina-Rigged bait or grub to handle the bigger waves and stronger current usually found.

The general rule for surf perch sinker selection anywhere is this: Keep adapting to the conditions (swell and current) with your sinker size to achieve the perfect just-rolling-down-the-current-slowly-close-to-shore natural presentation that surf perch love.

Sinkers for bait and wait surf perch fishing

Bait and wait-style fishing with fresh sand crabs, ghost shrimp, sand worms, mussel meat or FishBites Bloodworm scent is also a killer surf perch tactic and requires broadly similar sinker styles to fishing for croaker as discussed earlier; a 2, 3 or 3.5oz sputnik sinker to hold the baited rig (Single or Double Dropper Loop) in that first or second trough, or deep hole.

surf perch bait with sputnik sinker for surf fishing
A mussel meat bait ready to be cast out with a small spuntik sinker to hold it in position


Best Sinkers for Halibut Fishing in California, Central Coast, Bay Area

Surf fishing for California halibut on the West Coast takes on a few different forms, requiring a couple of different sinker choices and styles.

Let's cover the range, starting with the most popular and effective method for catching lots of halibut in the surf - drop shot tactics with a small plastic lure.

Sinkers for dropshot rigs for halibut fishing

The best halibut drop shot rig consists of, from rod end to sinker; 10 to 30lb braid main line, 20 inches of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, a size 2 to 1/0 wide gape straight-pointed J hook tied with a Palomar knot so the tag end forms the bottom half of the leader down the sinker, 20 inches of 20lb fluorocarbon, and a small sinker clip with a 1 to 3oz torpedo-style sinker.

Bait is usually a 2 to 5-inch white or light color shad-style bait such as ones from the FishBites Fight Club range, a Zoom Fluke or Berkley Power Minnow.

Forget about those dainty little sub-1oz drop shot weights used in freshwater, unless you're fishing light gear in a harbor.

For working a drop shot rig in the surf for halibut, you need to be be able to feel the sinker all the time with the rod, and hold it in place when needed, and we've found 1 and 2oz torpedo sinkers most useful for this. Sometimes even 3oz if casting distance is required or the surf is big.

That size and style of sinker slides through the sand when movement is needed, but not too fast so the presentation isn't effective.

Sinkers for Texas Rigs, jig heads and weedless plastic baits for halibut fishing

Another way of using artificial lures for halibut is to rig plastic baits Texas-style, with a small egg or bullet sinker sat on the nose of the bait and hook to provide casting weight and enable close control over the lure.

For this, we've found that a 1oz tungsten bullet-shape sinker is most effective, held in place with small rubber stopper beads (sometimes called beans) threaded onto the leader line and positioned so they hold the sinker close to the bait, as though it's the lure's head.

A strong, weedless-style hook 2/0-6/0 size is the best type to use for this type of halibut fishing, with the hook point recessed into the body of the bait so it doesn't pick up debris like weed in the surf on the retrieve.

This style of soft plastic can also be fished on a jig head, and for California halibut fishing we favor sizes in the 3/4oz to 2oz range depending on casting distance, water depth and swell.

best lure bait setup sinker weight for halibut fishing in california
One of the best weights for halibut fishing in California and the Bay Area is in the form of a jig head with an underspin, and a small soft plastic bait like a FishBites Fight Club Butt Kicker in white

Fishing a calm bay with a Light or Medium Light spinning or baitcaster combo lends itself to a smaller 3/4oz jig head and 3 or 4" bait, whilst an open beach, or one that requires a longer cast is better tackled with a 1oz-plus jig head.

An underspin-style jig head with a spinning blade on the underside is highly recommended, too.

By the way, we've used similar tactics to the above for striped bass fishing, too, with the only upgrade being an increase in line strength to 30-40lb and a bigger bait.

Best Sinkers for Corbina Surf Fishing in California

Surf fishing for corbina in Southern California requires a high degree of stealth, and a natural presentation on Light or Medium-Light spinning tackle, which means that a small egg sinker is the best choice of weight.

For most corbina fishing in SoCal, we recommend a 3/4oz or 1/2oz egg sinker.

In typical small to medium-size surf conditions in the 1-3ft range with little current, we find that this size offers the perfect amount of natural movement on light tackle and great control over the rig that trips up trophy-size corbina consistently.

We find that going much heavier than 3/4oz is noticeably less effective for corbina, maybe due their wary nature around unnatural presentations and heavy tackle.

corbina caught surf fishing on a small egg sinker best weights for surf fishing
A nice corbina caught on a 3/4oz egg sinker - a great universal size for Corbina fishing in California


Best Sinkers for Striped Bass Fishing (East and West Coast)

Assuming you're bait and wait fishing for striped bass (stripers) with a natural offering such as clam meat, bunker (menhaden), mackerel cut bait or sand crabs, your ability to cast into the fish-holding water and keep the bait there is crucial.

For most surf striper fishing, a 10-13ft Medium-Heavy to Heavy combo with large spinning or conventional reel packed with heavy 50-80lb braid is ideal to handle the 30, 40 and even 50" cows that run up the East and West coast every year.

Sputnik sinkers for striped bass fishing

This type of combo lends itself well to a large sputnik-style sinker in the 5, 6, 7 or 8oz class to hold that fresh bait in place in the surf until the stripers find it.

Big striped bass don't mind big waves and strong currents at all (the foam is the home...) so it's the anglers job to work around these conditions by choosing the right size and shape of sinker.

If conditions are calmer, or the bass are looking for a more natural presentation, maybe involving bouncing a big softshell sand crab or chunk of bait fish down the current slowly, a large 4-8oz pyramid sinker will work great on Heavy tackle.

But, for most of the time, big sputnik sinkers work best in the 5-8oz range for chunking for big bass due to the conditions they favor and the heavier tackle required.

Best Sinkers for Pier And Jetty Fishing on the East Coast

Pyramid sinkers are a favorite among East Coast pier and jetty anglers due to their stability in the kinds of currents and conditions often faced in locations such as Florida, the Carolinas', North East and Gulf Coast.

They work exceptionally well when targeting species like croaker, striped bass, flounder, and blackfish in areas with small to medium tidal flows and small swells.

The shoulders on the pointed shape allows them to anchor securely in sandy or rocky seabeds on Medium-weight tackle in 1 to 5oz sizes.

Sputnik sinkers in 6, 7 and 8oz are perfect for more heavy-duty pier and jetty fishing on the East Coast, especially when you need to cast long distances and hold a fresh bait in place for larger species such as sharks, redfish, big black drum and sting rays.

Their aerodynamic design also minimizes wind resistance and allows for precise bait placement at longer range.

Sinkers for fishing with non-return sliders from pier

Sputnik sinkers are also the best type of sinker to use when fishing with a slider-style of bait deployment from a pier, rocks, beach or jetty.

This is when you cast out a sinker tied to the end of your line, and then clip on a Non-Return Slider and baited rig to the main line.

The Non-Return Slider and baited rig then slides down the main line and stops when it comes to the sinker, now securely anchoring the rig and main line in place further out than you can cast both together.

This is the best way to deploy a larger bait for sharks, redfish, rays and similar species from pier, jetty, beach or land anywhere. Check out the non-return sliders for sale below for a high quality option that'll tackle any shark, redfish, drum or ray.


Best Sinkers for Pier And Jetty Fishing on the West Coast

The best sinkers for pier fishing in California depend on your target species. We can break this subject down into three main categories.

Sinkers for shark fishing

First, the types and sizes of sinker we'd use for shark and ray fishing from a pier in California.

Because we're often using Medium-Heavy to Heavy-rated spinning and conventional gear for targeting species like leopard, soupfin, thresher and sevengill sharks on the West Coast, along with a large fresh bait, a 6oz, 7oz or 8oz sputnik sinker is the best option.

This will anchor the rig and bait in place regardless of wind and swell, until your target species swims up that scent trail in the water and eats your bait.

Sinkers for bait fishing

Second, lots of pier anglers in California and the Bay Area like to target edibles such as croaker (yellowfin, spotfin, white and black), inshore rockfish species, saltwater bass, California halibut and surf perch. Hello, tasty fish tacos.

This often involves targeting the zones closer to shore in the foamy areas or near the pilings and rocks using a fresh bait like squid, sand crabs, sandworms, small live bait (smelt, sardine, anchovy), shrimp, mussel meat or FishBites strips on a Single or Double Dropper Loop rig and Medium or Medium Light combo.

The best sinker in this scenario is one that will hold the bait in place without it washing into the pilings or snags and becoming stuck. It should stay in the zone where you cast and the fish are feeding.

Because of the pier's extra elevation with the main line largely out of the water, you can get away with a smaller pyramid sinker in this case - 1 to 3oz on a standard Medium to Medium Light combo - with a good tactic being to set up so the prevailing current or surf direction takes your sinker away from the snaggy areas (i.e. pier structure), not into it.

Best sinkers for mackerel and bonito

The third type of sinker you'll need for pier fishing in California is for targeting the predatory species like bonito and mackerel.

This is best done with a multi-hook rig called a sabiki rig, and this requires a small sinker at the end of the rig for casting weight.

However, replace this sinker - usually a 1 to 2oz torpedo sinker for streamlined casting - with a similar-sized metal jig like a colt sniper in baitfish-imitating colors for added attraction and a shot at a bonus bonito from the pier. Or just use the lure and no sabiki rig for maximum casting distance.


Bonus: Surf Sinker Selection Playbooks we give our Guiding and Tuition Clients

Good news if you're trying to work out the best size and type of sinker for surf fishing. The charts and tables below will change all that.

By cross-referencing the Wave Size and Current on the bottom axis (horizontally, left to right), and the type of Tackle and Line Strength on the vertical axis (up and down), you'll get an idea of the kind of size and type sinker that's going to work best in those conditions.

For example, if the surf is 2-3 foot with little current and you're using about a 6-pound line on a light combo, a 3/4-ounce sinker is going to work great for surf fishing with a grub or fresh bait, and 4-5ft surf may require a 1oz sinker, and so on.

It's not an exact science, but this is a great place to start your approach, and it's based on years of experience of surf fishing in all sorts of conditions.

Please, bookmark this page and return to it for reference next time you're trying to work out the best size and type of sinker to use.

Choosing the best size of egg sinker

The next table will help you choose the best size of egg sinker for the type of fishing you're doing. Just match the conditions, technique and target species in the right-hand column of the image below, with the setups and sinker weights to the left for ideal sinker weight combinations.

Choosing the best size of sputnik sinker (grapnel sinker)

The next next table will help you select the best size of sputnik surf sinker to use for the conditions, species and style of fishing local to you.

By matching your target species and local conditions described in the right-hand column, with the combos and sinker weights on the left two columns, you'll have a pretty good idea of the best size of sinker to use in each situation.

If you'd like to learn more about surf fishing, we run in-depth tuition and coaching sessions in Southern California - we'd love to help you so get in touch via

Thank you for reading this guide to the best surf fishing sinkers - we hope this information on sinker selection will help you get even more bites next time you hit the water!

horn shark caught from the beach in california by a guide American Sea Fishing best sinkers
The author with a horn shark caught casting a sputnik sinker from the beach in California using the tactics and techniques described in this article

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