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Best Setups, Rigs & Baits for Surf Perch Fishing in California, Oregon

Updated: Feb 1

If you're wondering how to go Surf Perch Fishing in California, Oregon or Washington, this detailed guide to the best setups, tackle and rigs for Surf Perch will be like your personal tournament-winning playbook with tons of tips to get you on those big fish and a limit next time you hit the beach.

barred surf perch caught surf fishing with the best surf perch setup and rig
Surf Perch Fishing Setups for California, Oregon and the whole West Coast are listed in this article

This page contains lots of detailed information on the best Rods, Reels, Sinkers, Rigs, Tips, Carolina Rigs, Baits, Lures, Hooks, Grubs, and Bait and Wait Surf Fishing Setups to use for catching lots of tasty slab-sided Surf Perch - mostly of the Barred, Redtail, Calico. Shiner, White, Black, Rubberlip, Rainbow or Walleye variety.


Starting with a geographical tour of the different setups needed for Southern California, Central California, Bay Area, Monterey Bay, Northern California, Oregon and Washington State surf perch fishing, we'll then look at the best setups for lure and grub fishing, and bait and wait fishing for surf perch.



By the way, these are all tried and tested set-ups, as used and perfected by a professional guide in our surf fishing guiding service on the West Coast in all of the aforementioned areas, from Oregon down to San Diego.


barred surf perch
This ultimate guide to all the surf perch setups, rigs and rigging tips you need will help catch lots of big surf perch this season
 

Surf Perch Fishing Setup and Rigging Ultimate Guide Page Index


Setup 1: San Diego to Point Conception

Setup 2: Point Conception to San Francisco (Bay Area)

Setup 3: Northern California, Oregon and Washington

Setup 4: Lure fishing for Surf Perch

Setup 5: Bait fishing for Surf Perch

 

Setup 1: Southern California Surf Perch Fishing Setup


The first fishery we're going to get set up and rigged for is surf perch fishing in Southern California.


By this, we mean anything south of Point Conception in Santa Barbara County, down to the border near San Diego and beyond through Mexico.


surf perch southern california
Surf fishing in California - here's how to get set up and rigged for surf perch fishing in SoCal

This includes surf perch fishing in Oxnard, Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, Redondo, San Pedro, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Pedro, Orange County, San Diego County and Mexico, where conditions, target species (mostly barred, shiner, and walleye surf perch) and bait will have lots of common ground.


Light Line Surf Fishing in Southern California


With the slightly mellower conditions generally experienced along Southern California's Pacific coastline, compared to the North and Central areas, it's possible to get away with a lighter set-up with 4lb to 6lb leaders and 1/2 to 3/4oz sinkers.


The availability of bait dictates a couple of other factors, too.


In the summer months, when sand crabs of all sizes are plentiful along the beaches of SoCal, surf perch will stack up close to shore to feast on the crabs.

sand crab beds surf perch
In summer surf perch will come in close to feed on sand crab beds like the one shown in this photo - a light spinning combo is the best setup for surf perch in this case

A Light spinning set-up with a small hook and small sand crabs for bait is the best way to target them between about May and Christmas (details on this setup shortly...)


best setup and rig for surf perch fishing in southern california
A simple Carolina Rig with one medium or several small sand crabs for bait is the best setup for surf perch fishing in Southern California in summer

But when the sand crabs aren't present in large numbers, when the water temperature is at its lowest in winter months, an artificial bait like a curlytail grub, like the one pictured below, is the best bait option for surf perch fishing in Orange, LA, San Diego, Ventura and Santa Barbara County, and beyond.


surf perch fishing bait for california and Oregon
A curlytail grub bait is a great all-round option for surf perch fishing in the cooler months in California and Oregon


This is usually during the January to June period when water temperatures fall below and hover around 60 degrees.


The perch will be more keyed into chasing small prey items in the colder water and will also be noticeably more aggressive in spring and early summer during their breeding season, usually around this time.

barred surf perch caught on a small grub on light spinning gear - the best setup for surf perch in california
A Southern California barred surf perch caught on a small grub bait and the setup listed in this article

From hook to rod and reel, here's what a guide's go-to Southern California surf perch setup and rig consists of:

  • Size 6 or 4 Tanago J Hook for Sand Crabs or Size 6 Grub Hook for artificial baits like curlytail grubs or sandworm grubs

  • Red attractor bead on the leader if using grubs

  • 30 inches of 4, 6 or 8-pound leader line (fluorocarbon or mono)

  • Palomar knots for all connections

  • Stainless Steel Micro Swivel (30lb)

  • Clear rigging bead to buffer sinker against swivel knot

  • 1/2 or 3/4oz egg sinker (set up Carolina Rig-style)

  • 40 inches of 6, 8 or 10-pound mono top shot between main line and swivel

  • Crazy Alberto or FG mono to braid main line knot

  • 10- or 15-pound braided main line or 8-10-pund mono

  • 8'6" - 10' Light to Medium Light-rated spinning rod

  • 2500 to 3500-size spinning reel



 

Setup 1: Best Reel, Pole / Rod Combo for Southern California Surf Perch Fishing


The best pole or rod for surf perch fishing in the calmer, warmer waters of Southern California is a Light to Medium-Light rated spinning model 8'6" to 10', rated to cast sinkers in the 1/2 to 3/4oz range, and suitable for line in the 4 to 12-pound bracket.

barred surf perch caught light line surf fishing in california on sand crabs
A Southern California barred surf perch caught on a small bunch of sand crabs (see the perch's mouth in the photo) and a Light spinning combo with a Carolina Rig

This length and style of rod is perfect for managing a light Carolina-Rigged sinker with sand crabs or grub-style lures as baits in typical SoCal surf conditions for most of the year round.


Our guiding service has a number of the Okuma Rockaway SP rods in the Medium-Light, 8'6" configuration and they work great for roving surf perch fishing.


Clients often end up buying the same rod after using them on a session with us, which speaks for itself. Check out our review of these handy rods here.


barred surf perch caught on an Okuma Rockaway SP rod
The best rod (pole) and reel for Surf Perch fishing in Southern California is a Light to Medium-Light, 8'6" to 10' model like the Okuma Rockaway SP in this shot

The best reel for surf perch fishing in Southern California is a good quality spinning reel in 2500 to 5500 size - ideally one with saltwater-proof components and the highest level of sealing technology your budget can stretch to.


Currently, we like using two reels on for guiding clients for surf perch fishing in SoCal – Okuma Neymar HD in 3500 size, or a Penn Slammer DX 3500. Both are great options.


Load with 10 or 15-pound braid main line or 6- to 10-pound mono. Avoid heavy mono or heavier braid.

 

Setup 2: Central California and Bay Area Surf Perch Fishing Setup


As we head north of Point Conception up to the Bay Area, including surf perch fishing in Monterey Bay, conditions become a little tougher with the high energy Pacific coastline becoming more of a factor when it comes to gear selection.


surf perch fishing central coast tips rigs baits setups

In simple terms, handling that higher energy, rockier ocean means that a heavier rated rod, stronger line and a bigger sinker is needed, but with broadly similar elements to the SoCal rigging.


Surf Perch Fishing in Central California & Bay Area


As we work further north, you might may want to be casting 1, 1.5 and 1.75-ounce egg sinkers to stay in touch with the fish, for example, and not have your rig swept away by the stronger current and big waves before you've put it in front of a hungry surf perch.

surf perch fishing central coast california Morro bay
Surf perch fishing the central coast on a mellow Morro Bay, Cayucos area with a Medium spinning combo - an ideal setup for surf perch in this area

That's assuming you're fishing open ocean beaches, of course - an environment much preferred in general by most surf perch - rather than a harbor or enclosed area, in which case the Southern California surf perch setup (Medium Light) is more than adequate.


The main difference being that with fewer sand crabs available as the water temperatures fall further up the West Coast, a small artificial curlytail or sandworm grub, or scent-laden real sandworm / bloodworm, is the best surf perch bait choice, especially for those fish taco-size slabs in Central California and Bay Area.


barred surf perch caught surf fishing on the central coast california
Central Coast barred surf perch caught on a Medium-rated spinning combo and half a real worm bait (see to the right of the perch's mouth)

Also, with the line-shy species like corbina and spotfin croaker becoming less common as you head north on the West Coast, the use of a subtle fluorocarbon leader also becomes unnecessary. A good quality mono leader is the better (and cheaper) option.


We've used Izorline XXX Super Co-Polymer mono for years and found it to be a reliable and effective leader line and topshot material for this style of surf perch fishing on the Central Coast and above in 6, 8 and 10-pound breaking strains.


Use 6lb or 8lb for when surf perch are the only targets, or 10lb when striped bass are on the menu too.



From hook to combo, here's what our best setup and rig for Surf Perch fishing in Central California, Bay Area, Monterey Bay and San Francisco consists of:

  • Size 6 Grub Hook with a small artificial curlytail or grub-style bait, or size 4 or 2 hook with half a real worm (Sandworm, pileworm, bloodworm, lugworm etc - whatever's favoured locally)

  • Red attractor bead on the leader

  • 25 inches of 6, 8 or 10-pound mono leader line

  • Palomar knots for all connections

  • Stainless Steel Micro Swivel (30lb)

  • Clear rigging bead to buffer sinker against swivel knot

  • 1oz to 1.75oz egg sinker

  • 40 to 50 inches of 20-pound mono top shot

  • Crazy Alberto or FG mono to braid knot

  • 15 to 20-pound braid main line

  • 8'6" - 10" Medium-rated spinning rod

  • 3500 to 4500-size spinning reel



 

Setup 2: Best Reel, Pole / Rod Combo for Central California and Bay Area Surf Perch Fishing


With the bigger waves, heavier current and chance of a striped bass on many surf perch venues along the Central Coast, Monterey, and Bay Area, upping the gear strength a notch is a wise move. The fish tend to be bigger and live in harder-to-fish places, generally.


striped bass caught on surf perch tackle medium spinning rod and reel combo central coast
Surf perch fishing in the Central Coast and Bay Area around San Francisco can often produce rogue catches like this striped bass. Gear up accordingly!

The perch don't mind the heavier leader line, and you'll need a combo with the ability to cast and manage a larger egg sinker to stay in touch with the fish.


You'll also stand a great chance of landing a rogue striper and any giant fish taco-worthy surf perch.


With this in mind, a Medium-rated rod or pole is the best option for Central Coast and Bay Area surf perch fishing with the length still in the handy 8'6" - 10" bracket.


A heavier line rating in the 8 to 20-pound is necessary, as is a casting weight to take into account the size of the egg sinker - up to 2oz will cover almost any fishable conditions.



The Medium-rated Okuma Rockaway SP pole, and Daiwa Emcast Surf Spinning 10' Medium models are both great options for this style of fishing, paired with a good quality saltwater spinning reel in 3500 or 4500 size loaded with 15 to 20-pound braid main line.

 

Setup 3: Northern California and Oregon Surf Perch Fishing Setup


As we head north of San Francisco, the Pacific Ocean ramps up the even further intensity and its the surf anglers job to adapt their gear accordingly.


surf perch Oregon
Surf perch fishing in Oregon often requires heavier tackle and a few tactical tweaks compared to California tactics to get those fish taco-size slabs

Generally, this means taking into account that the fish will be highly localized and probably living in some fairly inhospitable conditions and areas, requiring a big egg or sputnik sinker and heavier combo to get and hold a bait in the right place.


Surf Perch Fishing in Northern California, Oregon, Washington


Small Carolina-rigged artificial grubs (like the setup below) and heavier bait and wait tactics reign supreme for this style of fishing and will catch every species of surf perch in California and Oregon, really coming into their own when beds of natural food are increasingly sparse and the surf perch are aggressively looking for a meal.



Keeping the bait or lure small - in the 2 to 3-inch bracket, and rigged like the one in the photo above - takes into account the fact that most surf perch have fairly small mouths and will be preying on little bits of food and scraps in the shore break, like sand worms, shrimps and small bait fish.



calico surf perch
A Calico surf perch caught in Oregon on the tactics, setups and rigs described in this guide - note the small mouth that lends itself to small, slim baits like a sandworm grub

Leave your big swimbaits and plastics over this size at home if surf perch are the target. Check out the size of the mouth on the above calico surf perch and you'll see why!


So, from hook to handle, here's what our best setup and rig for Surf Perch fishing in Northern California and Oregon consists of:


  • Small Grub Hook (size 6) with a small artificial curlytail grub or sandworm bait

  • Red attractor bead on the leader

  • 25 inches of 8-10-pound mono leader line

  • Palomar knots for all connections

  • Stainless Steel Micro Swivel (30lb)

  • Clear rigging bead to buffer sinker against swivel knot

  • 1oz to 2oz egg sinker

  • 40 to 50 inches of 10-20-pound mono top shot

  • Crazy Alberto or FG mono to braid knot

  • 10-20-pound braid main line

  • 8'6" - 10' Medium to Medium+ -rated spinning rod

  • 3500 to 4500-size spinning reel



 

Setup 3: Best Reel, Pole / Rod Combo for Northern California and Oregon Surf Perch Fishing


When fishing Oregon and Northern California, we use exactly the same combos as we do for the Central Coast and Bay Area: Medium-rated rod in 8'6" to 10' lengths, designed for 8 to 20-pound line, and casting weight up to 2oz.


The Medium-rated Okuma Rockaway SP pole, and Daiwa Emcast Surf Spinning 10' Medium models are both nice options, paired with a good quality saltwater spinning reel in 3500 or 4500 size loaded with 20-pound braid main line.


 

Setup 4: Surf Perch Lure Fishing Setup for California, Oregon, Bay Area, West Coast


For surf anglers looking to be more selective, a larger hard bait or jerkbait-style lure is a good option for surf perch fishing anywhere between San Diego and Oregon.


It'll require more casting and cranking than a Carolina Rig setup, but if a big perch is what you want, this is the way to target those slabs. Just be prepared to do a lot of casting.

As we head North out of SoCal and away from the giant beds of sand crabs and more into the big barred surf perch territory of the Central Coast and beyond, this style of surf perch fishing really comes into its own and can be responsible for some monster limits of edible surf perch when you really find them stacked up in the shallows in spring and early summer.


So, from bait to rod handle, here's what our best setup and rig for surf perch lure fishing anywhere in California, Oregon, Washington or Mexico consists of:

  • 90 to 110-size (1/2 - 1oz) jerkbait / crankbait / stickball in bright, light or white color

  • Small stainless steel 30-pound rated clip for attaching lure

  • Clip attached to line via a Palomar or Rapala Knot

  • 40 inches of 20-pound mono or fluorocarbon top shot / leader

  • Crazy Alberto or FG mono to braid main line knot

  • 20-pound braid main line (filed to spool rim)

  • 9 - 11' Medium to Medium Plus-rated spinning rod

  • 3500 to 4500-size spinning reel

 

Setup 4: Surf Perch Lure Fishing Reel, Pole / Rod Combo for California, Oregon, Washington, Mexico, West Coast Surf Perch Fishing


The best rod (pole), reel and combo for surf perch lure fishing consists of a Fast-action rod in the Medium to Medium+ rating category with a suggested line usage around 10 to 20lb and a casting weight around 1/2 to 2oz.


Length-wise, it's a good idea to go for a rod a foot or so longer than a conventional bait fishing rod – a spinning model in the 9 to 11ft range is ideal.


This extra length will not only aid casting distance when trying to cast lures, it'll also offer more control over the bait, greater leverage over the fish, and the same rod will likely double as a useful bait and wait pole when that tactic comes into play.


You'll handle a rogue striped bass on it far easier, too, and fishing off rocks and jetties will be a nicer experience with the extra reach.

best pole or rod for surf perch fishing california Oregon
The best pole or rod for surf perch fishing with lures is a Medium or Medium Plus-rated, Fast action model like the Okuma Rockaway SP in aforementioned versions

So, for surf perch lure fishing in California and Oregon, the Okuma Rockaway SP Medium+ 10ft pole is a great tried-and-tested all-rounder - read our review of this pole here.


The Daiwa Emcast Surf Spinning 10' Medium is a little cheaper and heavier but still a good option for casting larger lures over an ounce and much larger.


A Phenix Trifecta Lite 10ft, 6-12lb model is a more expensive but really sweet, lightweight option for casting smaller jerk baits under an ounce in Light configurations.


Try the Medium or Medium Heavy 9ft Phenix Trifecta Lite models for more advanced adult surf casters casting slightly larger baits around the ounce mark - small spoons (Kastmasters, Krokodiles etc) and sinking jerk or stick baits, for example.


Paired any of the above with a good quality saltwater spinning reel in 3500 or 4500 size loaded with 20-pound braid main line.


We love the HD versions of the dependable Okuma Ceymar in 4000 sizes (Model number: CHD-4000A) for a great all-rounder.


A Penn Slammer IV DX in 4500 sizes is another great performer but a little more costly. Any good quality, saltwater-specific spinning reel around the 3000 to 5000 size range loaded with a good quality 20lb braid main line will work great.

 

Setup 5: Bait and Wait Surf Perch Fishing Setup for California, Oregon, West Coast


Fishing for surf perch with fresh bait can be deadly when conditions allow you to present a static, scent-laden bait right into the structure or area where the perch are hunting - a deep hole or trough close to shore, for example.


bait and wait surf perch fishing setup and rig for california Oregon
Bait and wait fishing with fresh bait for surf perch in california with a Medium+ combo and Single Dropper Loop rig - the best setup for surf perch fishing with fresh bait in California or Oregon

Baits such as sand crabs, sidewinder crabs, bloodworm, sandworms, pileworms, lugworms, ghost shrimp, mussels, clam meat and FishBites strips are all proven surf perch baits for fishing up and down the coast, and require a slightly different setup, rig and approach to the methods mentioned so far.


The name of the game when it comes to bait-and-wait fishing is to anchor the bait in place, and not have it wash down the current or into the shore break through the force of the waves or current.


You need your bait and rig holding securely out there in the well structured water, with the scent from the fresh bait leaking out into the water column, attracting and helping the surf perch find your bait.


surf perch bait and wait rig and setup with mussel meat bait trick for holding soft bait on the hook bait elastic
Bait and wait setup and rig for surf perch fishing - a Single Dropper Loop rig with a 3oz sputnik surf sinker and mussel meat bait attached with light bait elastic

To achieve this aim - of holding your bait and rig static in the surf zone - you need to have three things taken care of.


One, your line should be braid and around the 20lb or 30lb mark. Braid is thinner than mono and will allow you to hold your rig out there longer and get more bites using a smaller sinker than the equivalent monofilament main line.


Two, you must use a wired sputnik surf sinker to hold the bait in place in a anything but the mildest, lake-like conditions. For SoCal and the milder portions of the Central areas, we use 20lb braid main line and 2oz to 3oz sputnik sinkers, and for the areas with bigger waves and more current, we use 3.5oz, 4oz and 5oz sinkers.



Three, you should use a longer rod in the 10 to 12ft range to help keep the line clear of the water and out of the surf, and to aid casting distance and accuracy. Use a suitable sand spike to keep the rod in place and off the ground - a 5ft length of 2" PVC pipe cut to an angle at one end works perfectly.


For bait and wait (static) surf perch fishing in California, Oregon, West Coast, the best setup and rig we've arrived at over several years guiding experience is as follows:


  • Single Dropper Loop or Double Dropper Loop Rig

  • 2oz, 3oz, 3.5oz, 4oz or 5oz Sputnik Surf Sinker

  • Rig top swivel tied to main line with a Palomar or Uni Knot

  • 50 inches of 20 to 30-pound mono or fluorocarbon top shot / abrasion leader

  • Crazy Alberto or FG mono to braid main line knot

  • 20 to 30-pound braid main line

  • 10 - 12' Medium to Medium Heavy-rated spinning rod rated to cast 1 to 5oz

  • 3500 to 5000-size spinning reel



 

Setup 5: Best Reel, Pole / Rod Combo for Bait and Wait Surf Perch Fishing in California, Oregon, Bay Area, West Coast


Longer bait and wait rods that aren't ridiculously thick and heavy aren't too common, but we've used and can recommend a couple of good brands and models for bait and wait fishing for surf perch.


The 11ft Okuma Rockaway SP is a good all-rounder and will handle sinkers to 3oz no problem. Useful heavy (ish) lure rod for stripers and halibut, too.


The Penn Carnage III Surf Spinning in 12ft, 6-12lb format will handle a slightly larger sinker and is a great performer for fresh bait fishing for this size of fish. It's a little more money and not really suitable for lure fishing, but it excels at bait and wait.


best reel for bait and wait fishing for surf perch in California, Oregon west coast
A mid-size spinning reel like this Penn Battle III 4000HS is the best reel for bait and wait fishing for surf perch in California and Oregon

Reel-wise, a mid-range 3500 to 5000-size spinning reel loaded, respectively, with 20lb (preferred) or 30lb braid will do the job perfectly.


We run a few different models from Okuma, Daiwa and Penn ranging from an Okuma ITX 3500A for light work, to a Penn Spinfisher IV 4500 and Daiwa Emblem 5000-size for heavier gear.


I hope you've found this rundown of the best surf perch fishing setups for the West Coast and how to use them useful.


If you'd like to learn more, I run specialist surf perch fishing tuitions in Southern California – come join me on the beach if you're looking to take your surf fishing to the next level.


You can email me on ben@americanseafishing.com if you have any questions or suggestions for additions to this article. I'd love to hear from you.

surf perch
The author and professional guide Ben Hervey-Murray with a big barred surf perch caught on the tactics and tackle described in this article



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