An arsenal of surf fishing lures is usually simple, consisting of a small array of lures covering different levels of the surf column. This includes jerkbaits, soft-bodied swimbaits, spoons and topwater lures. Granted there are other options but these are the solid foundation.
The surf is one of Mother Nature’s more brutal creations, meaning your tackle will suffer as well. This is why it’s important to modify your surf fishing lures to handle both the strength of the fish and wrath of the ocean.
Spending the extra few bucks will ensure that your lures have sharp hooks, avoid corrosion and most importantly, have the strength to land every fish. Time to break it down!
Modifying Jerkbaits for Surf Fishing
The jerkbait has always been a staple for the surf. It’s tight wiggling action and flashy appearance has been a deadly weapon for years. However, the stock hooks and split rings that jerkbaits come with are not always the best quality and anglers have had their fair share of disastrous results. Here’s how you can avoid crushed dreams:
Increase Wiggling Action
One of my avid surf fishing buddies showed me two methods of improving lure action. The first is to use a larger treble in the front and smaller treble (or single) in the back. This widens the wobble and you’ll feel it in the rod tip for sure.
The other trick is to completely remove the back hook. Crazy, right?! He adds a ball-bearing swivel to the front split ring and then attaches a treble. This makes your bait absolutely thump and the swivel keeps the fish from throwing your bait.
Most of you are probably wondering how the hookup ratio is, and we haven’t had much issues with it! The fish are usually aggressive enough to smash the front end of the bait.
Upgrade Hooks On Your Jerkbaits
This is the first thing you should do for your jerkbaits, regardless of how great you think the stock quality is. Lures such as the Daiwa SP Minnow and Shimano Coltsniper Jerkbait are absolute staples for surf fishing but the hooks are weak and corrode quickly.
Always use at least a 3X strong hook as we’ve seen plenty of 2X and thinner bend out on fish that weren’t even big.
Brands such as Owner, Gamakatsu, VMC and Mustad offer an awesome selection of upgraded trebles/singles for a decent price. Play around with size, hook thickness and even color – the combos are different for every jerkbait.
Swap Out The Split Rings
Split rings are often overlooked when modifying surf lures. Even if your hook is solid, the split ring can still open up and cause you to lose valuable fish.
It’s also a good idea to remove the split ring from the very front of the lure where you tie the line. Since you use a surf leader with snaps that clip onto the jerkbaits there’s no need for the front split ring. This way you reduce clutter and avoid potential split ring failure.
I use Owner Hyper Wire split rings but if those are too pricey there are other brands such as Rosco that are cheaper and plenty strong.
Don’t Overlook Single Hooks
This is mostly for the avid catch-and-release angler. Single hooks are a great way to maintain hookup ratio while making it much easier to unhook fish. Plus, single hooks are much stronger than most trebles and are fairly cheap as well.
If you’re using a single hook make sure to place the front hook facing down and the back hook facing up. This keeps both hook points pointing outwards and forward for the best chance at sticking fish.
Modifying Spoons for Surf Fishing
Bigger spoons such as Kastmasters, Mickey Jigs, and the Shimano Coltsniper Jig often come with cheap single hooks and split rings. It’s important to swap these out to avoid any trouble out on the water.
Use Single Hooks With A Bucktail
You’ll want to have a hand-tied bucktail on the single hooks, and you can easily find these on Ebay in a variety of hook styles and brands. I usually look for a straight shank, 3X-4X single hook with either white or chartreuse bucktail.
One of the greatest saltwater single hooks to ever exist is the VMC Coastal Black InLine 4X Single Hook (no I’m not sponsored don’t worry). These bad boys are my favorite single hooks in the 4X range and have shorter shanks to keep everything nice and compact. I find that the 3/0-5/0 sizes work for most spoons. No, they don’t come with bucktails tied on but you can easily do it yourself or find them on Ebay pre-tied.
Double Up On Split Rings
This isn’t always the case, but for surf spoons like the Shimano Coltsniper Jig it’s important to use two split rings before the hook. This keeps the hook inline with the bait and maintains action while avoiding any dragging through sand.
Keep in mind this is depends on the hook eye and lure as well. The VMC Coastal Black hooks mentioned earlier have an inline eye so you would only need one split ring if paired with the Coltsniper Jig, On a Kastmaster you would need two. It’s simple, you’ll figure it out!
Tweaking Your Topwater Baits for the Surf
Just like the jerkbaits, make sure you swap out your stock treble hooks and split rings to handle corrosion and bigger fish. However, there’s one more step you can take to bring your topwater fishing up a notch.
You can drill a small hole and fill your topwaters with a bit of water, enough to keep your plug floating just under the surface. It should pretty much be perpendicular to the water’s surface with the nose barely sticking out. After finding the right amount of water, seal the hole with epoxy.
If you don’t have water or epoxy, you can also use adhesive lead strips on the belly of your lure. These strips may get worn out from the surf so if you can go the extra mile to drill it would be best.
We adopted this trick from John Skinner with the Tsunami Talkin’ Poppers and it worked like a dream. The extra weight keeps your topwater from getting tossed around when a wave hits and helps it stay down to push more water on every twitch.
If you have any personal tips and tricks that you’d like to mention please comment below! I understand I haven’t covered all surf lures (bucktails, swimbaits, etc.) but I’ll definitely get to those in the near future. Thanks for reading, tight lines.