Best 8 all-round sea rigs for boat fishing

Turn up on the quay-side with the wrong rigs and you could spend your time knitting – tying rigs – instead of fishing.

Here is a selection of rigs to see you through most boat angling situations.

It’s important to remember that hook sizes should correspond to the species you’re going for. Dabs, for example, need smallish hooks while conger require meat hooks. The weight of your lead will also vary with tidal strength and the depth that you are fishing.

1. Sliding leger rig. Boat anglers all over the country frequently rely on this rig for a variety of species – dabs, tope and conger to name a few.

The lead weight is free to slide on the main line. You can use many different pieces of tackle to allow the lead to move: a simple link swivel with the main reel line passing through one end of the barrel swivel and the link attached to the lead; a purpose-designed small sliding boom (such as a Zip Slider or Clements boom); or a coarse angler’s leger bead with an oval split ring.

Before tying the main line to a barrel swivel, thread a bead up the main line to stop the lead from sliding too close to the swivel where it might get stuck on the knot. Your hooklength is attached to the other end of the swivel.

sliding leger rig

Fish a sliding snap link or split oval ring when you are after smaller species such as dabs and plaice. Use a Zip Slider when rays and tope are the quarry. For conger and cod pick heavy-duty plastic or wire booms.

double figure cod from eddystone reef

Above: A double-figure cod from the Eddystone Reef is enough to make even the most seahardened captain smile. The right rig for the job is vital if you want to catch decent fish.

2. Uptide rig. The secret of a good uptide paternoster is to keep the hook snood as close to the weight as possible – 5-8cm (2- 3in) away. Trap a swivel on the trace with two small beads and soft crimps, making the snood permanent. You can also use stop knots and beads. The swivel is free to rotate around the main line and so avoids twisting the hooklength.

uptide rig

Use short hooklengths (45-60cm/18-24in) for flatfish. In a strong tidal flow—when you need to hold your bait hard on the bottom -short hooklengths are excellent for whiting and codling. Longer ones up to 1.8m (6ft) are suitable for cod and whiting in slack tidal conditions.

At times it can be an advantage to mount the swivel directly to the long tail of a lead by opening the eye of the lead and slipping a barrel swivel and two beads on it. Use stop knots or telephone wire to secure the swivel on the stem.

The hook length is in direct contact with the weight. When a fish takes the bait and moves away, it pulls against the weight of the anchored lead. This may pick up extra fish when bites are shy.

3. Three-hook rig. This is a good choice if you’re after whiting in deep water. Three bead-trapped swivels are placed at the bot tom (tight behind the lead), in the middle, and at the extreme top of a 90cm (3ft) trace.

three hook rig

Use short hooklengths (15cm/6in of 30lb/14kg mono), baiting the hooks with strips of mackerel. The main trace should be 40-50lb (18-23kg) b.s. line.

This rig is mostly used when drifting over clean ground, but you can cast it when anchored and uptiding. It can pay when casting to add small bait clips to preserve bait presentation and to streamline the rig to gain extra yards.

4. Sliding boom bream rig. This is a versatile rig that enables you to cover a wide range of depths quickly as the tidal conditions change.

sliding boom rig

An Avis or Drennan boom is trapped between two beads and telephone wire stop knots. Position the boom anywhere along the trace. With gentle finger pressure you can slide the boom up or down to adjust for depth. Use a main trace line of about 20-25lb (9-11kg) b.s., and a 15lb (7kg) hook-length 60-90cm (2-3ft) long.

Keep in mind that bream feed along the sea bed when the tide is running but move higher in the water as the tide eases.

5. Baited spoon. Superb when trolling for plaice, this rig also takes gurnards, bass, dabs and even rays. To attach the lead, use a Zip Slider along with a bead tied to a barrel swivel — as in the sliding leger. Tie one end of a 1.2m (4ft) length of 20lb (9kg) line to the other end of the swivel and the other end to the spoon. From the spoon there should be a 15-20cm (6-8in) long hook-length of 15lb (7kg) line. Adding coloured beads – particularly fluorescent ones – to the snood may help you get more fish.

baited spoon rig

6. Two-boom spreader. The introduction of the Knotless Fishing Tackle spreader boom has greatly improved drift-fishing.

two-boom spreader rig

This wire boom has the lead weight and eye positioned centrally. The hooklengths are tied in at each end. Use one 25cm (10 in) long and one about 90cm (3ft) long to reduce the possibility of tangles. Add a few beads to both for a splash of colour. This takes dabs, whiting, gurnards and codling – and even haddock off Scotland.

drift fishing with sand eels on a two boom spreader

Above: Drift fishing with live sandeels on a twoboom spreader or a baited spoon is an
effective technique for bass. This good-sized fish was caught off the coast of Devon.

7. Killer Gear is frowned on by many anglers because it’s so effective.

killer gear rig

A large pirk, crimped to 100lb (45kg) mono (or tied to 50lb/23kg line), is used as both weight and attractor. Above this tie in two blood loops (or attach two booms) spaced equally 60cm (2ft) from the pirk and each other. Because the trace line is so heavy, don’t make too many turns for the blood loops — five will do.

The blood loops need to be about 15cm (6in) long and cut to leave a single length of line. To these add either medium-sized artificial eels or muppets. Killer Gear takes cod, coalfish, pollack and ling.

8. Flying Collar rig. This rig is for fishing artificial eels over deep-water wrecks. A wire boom up to 35cm (14in) long is attached to the end of your main reel fine which is usually 20-30lb (9-14kg) mono. Tie on your lead at the base of the trace with line weaker than your reel fine (15-18lb/7-8kg). The weak link helps keep tackle losses down, should the weight get stuck on the wreck. Attach up to 6m (20ft) of 20-25lb (9-11kg) fine to the eye of the boom, and add the eels of your choice.

flying collar rig

To avoid tangles, drop the rig slowly to the required depth. When tidal runs are strong, tangles are less of a problem.

It’s knot the solution

Many anglers avoid tying stop knots or twisting telephone wire around the trace, using an ordinary half hitch instead. This practice is not a good idea because it weakens the monofilament.

It’s not uncommon when uptiding to make long casts. A weakened trace may break, causing injury.

welding rod twist

An easy way of winding telephone wire around traces is to begin by winding it around a length of welding wire. Thread this on your line and tighten by twisting.

Corrosion-proof wallets

Tie spare rigs in the comfort of your home and store them in a rig wallet – an invaluable piece of equipment which has plastic compartments to prevent salt spray from seeping in and corroding the hooks and swivels. Each set of rigs stays dry, ready for future use.

If you store your rigs all together (as was common years ago on blocks of cork) you’ll have to wash all of them in fresh water even if some aren’t used. Any contact with salt water invites the corrosive process to begin.

best rigs for sea fishing

Having the right rigs ready-tied before you set out to sea is a real boon. You can cope with most of the demands of boat fishing with a selection of eight different rigs.

rigs for sea angling

These anglers are fishing a reef, home to bass and pollack, among other species. Fish a running leger at anchor or a Flying Collar rig on the drift.