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Pier Fishing Gear

Pier Fishing Gear and Tackle

​Fishing from a pier gives you access to a wide range of different species which means there is a lot of different pier fishing gear and tackle required if you want to target every type of fish in every type of water conditions.

If you are just starting out then I would strongly suggest sticking to using bait and targeting smaller species of fish.

This of course will depend on the exact pier you are fishing from and the time of year it is.

Spend a little time observing the locals or regulars at the pier they are usually the best sources of information about what king of pier fishing tackle you will need.

​Pier Fishing Gear and Tackle

​1. Rod 

A good pier fishing rod should be matched to the type of fishing you are doing and what species of fish you will be targeting the most often.

You have a few different options when it comes to choosing what kind of rod you will need for pier fishing:

  1. ​Light spinning rod for baitfish and light jigging work
  2. ​Medium sized spinning or conventional rod for heavier bait and lure casting
  3. Heavy conventional rod for bigger species and larger lures

​Once you've spent a bit of time at your local pier you'll notice that a lot of fishermen will use multiple rods at the same time.

They may use a light rod for bobber fishing or catching baitfish and a much heavier outfit for using live bait or casting longer distances out from the pier.

​2. Reel

Your reel will need to be matched to your rod and line. Either a spinning reel or a conventional reel.

Either option needs to be capable of handling heavy use in saltwater conditions.

Always remember to rinse your eels thoroughly will fresh water once you get home to help protect them from the corrosive effects of salt water.

​3. Line

The two most common types of line for use on a pier is either braid or monofilament. You would want to use 10 lb monofilament as a minimum and 20 lb braid.

Mono gives you a bit of extra stretch in the line when compared to braid. For lighter work I prefer mono especially on a smaller sized spinning reel.

​4. Sinkers

Sinkers are a crucial piece of pier fishing tackle for getting down to the sea floor when bottom fishing. That is not their only purpose though.

Sinkers also help keep your bait on the sea floor once you have cast out into the spot you have targeted.

There is a choice of either round or pyramid style sinkers.

Round sinkers are best on rocky bottom as there is less chance that they will get stuck in between the rocks when compared to pyramid shaped ones.

Pyramid style sinkers are great for working on sandy bottoms as their shape helps to anchor then in the sand and they are less likely to be moved around in the current or on coming tide.

​5. Hooks and Rigs

Circle and traditional J hooks are probably the most popular type of hooks used when fishing with bait but there are other options also and this will depend very strongly the method or kind of bait presentation that you are trying to use.

Premade rigs are a real time saver especially if you are using something like a sabiki rig. Just pull them straight out of the packer and you are ready to go, a real time saver.

​6. Rod Holder

​If you are using a short rod then a rod holder is quite a useful piece of pier fishing gear.

If you rest a short rod against the pier wall then it will only start to bend at the point where it touches the wall or railing.

With a rod holder you retain all of the action of the rod whilst it is securely fixed in place.

With longer rods this is usually not an issue and they are normally just left up against the railing. Just make sure that it is tied to the rail in some way as you can lose rods even heavy ones if a big fish strikes.

​7. Pliers

A good stainless steel pliers is a must when fishing in salt water. A lot of species have row after row of sharp teeth and you need something that protects your hands whilst removing the hooks.

Pliers are also useful for cutting line and sqeezing on tradional style sinkers onto your line.

​8. Fishing Cart

What pier would be complete without a few carts crammed full of pier fishing equipment.

Once you need to carry multiple rods, a tackle box and a drop net for pier fishing then investing in a decent fishing cart is a wise decision.

They take all of the pain out of carrying lots of awkard and bulky gear around with you.  

​9. Tackle Box

When you have lots of sinkers hooks and rigs then a tackle box is a bit of a no brainer.

Once you start using lots of lures and jigs on top of the basic bait fishing tackle keeping then in a separate compartment is the only way to stop all your lures and bait rigs getting tangled.

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pier fishing rod setup

Pier Fishing Rod Setup

​If you are just starting out fishing on your local pier then you may be a little confused as to all of the advice you will get online about what kind of pier fishing rod setup you should use.

The number one thing to remember is that you need to match you rod to what you will be fishing for and just how exactly you'll be doing it.

If your is to use small jigs then a big beefy rod is not going to give you the type of feedback that you will need.

And, conversely if you are targeting much bigger species that require and rod and reel setup with a lot of backbone then a lighter setup is virtually useless. 

If you can have a chat with the local fishermen that are already fishing there. Some of them may well be fishing on that same pier all their life and their advice will be thoroughly invaluable when it comes to what kind of tackle you will need.

For the most part you reduce down the number of different setups to just three:

  1. ​Light - for jigging, catching baitfish and other smaller species
  2. Medium - for bait work and light lure casting
  3. Heavy - for large species and large lure casting work

​However, if you are just starting out then I would recommend just one rod and reel as your first purchase.

The best pier fishing rod for a beginner roughly 7 feet in length and have a medium power rating. Paired with a spinning reel and 15 lb mono. 

​This is a fairly generic type of rod and reel that can over a lot of species and as ever with pier fishing it really does depend on your local pier and what type of fish you will target regularly.

​3 Pier Fishing Rod Setups 

​1. Light Setup for Jigging/Baitfish

For catching smaller species and baitfish then you are going to need to use some light tackle.

​When using light tackle I would always opt for a spinning rod and reel for pier fishing as they are better at handling lighter lines.

If you are doing a lot of finesse style jigging then you will need to have a lot of feedback from the jig back through the rod, you won't get this kind of sensitivity with a heavy rod.

Graphite is usually preferred over a fiberglass rod when doing lighter work as agin they will have much better tip sensitivity.

Aim for a 6'6" to 7' foot rod with a medium/light power rating and a fast action or a moderate/fast action.

​You'll need to pair a reel to that rod and a size 2000, 2500 or a 3000 depending on the rod and reel choice as each manufacturer is different.

You'll need 10 lb monofilament or 20 lb braid. Mono has a bit more stretch in it but is better suited to beginners. Braid on the other hand has very little stretch which is great for jigging but it can result in wind knots.

​2. Medium Setup for Bait/Lure work

A good medium setup could easily end up being your most used out of all three. When you are targeting fish in the 5 to 10lb range then a good choice is still a spinning rod.

Aim for between 7 and 8 feet in length and a medium/heavy power rating.

That extra length gives you both the ability to cast longer distances and also can help to steer fish away from the pylons beneath the pier which is usually their natural reaction once hooked.

Spinning reel of 3000 or 4000 and you can load that with 12 to 15 pound mono or up to 30 lb braid.

​3. Heavy Setup for Larger Species and Heavy Lure Work

Bigger species mean bigger stronger tackle especially if you are using large sinkers or casting bigger lures.

If you are not looking to cast any great distance then you can use a spinning rod with a heavy power rating or roughly 9 feet in length.

If you are targeting really big fish like sharks then a conventional rod and reel is the better choice.

​A conventional reel gives you a lot more cranking power.

They can also handle a lot more heavy braid than a spinning reel. Low profile baitcasters are rarely used as the casting distances are normally shorter than if you were doing a lot of heavy lure work looking to cover a lot of open water.

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best pier fishing rod

Best Pier Fishing Rod [Buyer’s Guide]

​Pier fishing can b​e one of the best ways to start out fishing in saltwater. There is a huge variety of fish that live in and around the submerged structures of the pier.

​Cobia, Spanish Mackerel, Pompano, Flounder, Tarpon, Redfish even Sailfish and sharks are all available to you throughout the year from a pier.

​Give that there is so many different species that range from smaller baitfish all that way up to sharks then it's pretty clear that the really is no one rod that can handle all of these species.

The best pier fishing rod is one that matches what kind and size of fish that you are targeting.

If I had to be pushed and could only choose one rod for per fishing then I probably go with some along the lines of the following:

  • Type - spinning
  • Length - 7 to 8 feet long
  • Power - medium or medium/heavy

Although not ideal when using a jig rig for smaller mackerel you can still get by with a rod like this and also be able to handle larger species and cast fairly heavy sinkers for bait fishing at the same time. 

You have a choice of either 12 to 15 lbs monofilament or 20 lb braid as your main line.

​What type of Fishing Rod is Best for Pier Fishing ?

​Ideally you would run up to three different types of rods for pier fishing a light and a medium/heavy spinning rods for jigging and bait fishing close in to the pier and a casting rod for throwing larger lures or bait at a distance.

  • ​Jigging/baitfish ​- spinning rod, 7 feet, medium/light power rating
  • Medium Bait/Lure​ - spinning rod 8 feet, medium/heavy power rating
  • Larger species - spinning rod or conventional, 9 feet, heavy power rating

​Materials wise your choice is between a fiberglass or a graphite rod blank.

Fiberglass is much tougher and pier fishing is particularly hard on rods. However, they are also slightly heavier and if you are doing a lot of casting or jigging then a lighter graphite rod is the way to go.

It you are just dropping bait down from the pier then fiberglass is the better choice. Graphite is pretty brittle/fragile and if you are leaning it against the hand rail of the pier it is much more prone to getting damaged.

​What is the Best Length/Size Rod for Pier Fishing ?

​A good length/size rod for an all round pier fishing is roughly seven to eight feet in length.

Longer rods are better casting but not that great up close, shorter rods will be better for jigging and dropping bait down vertically but make it harder to turn a fish if they decide to run under the legs of the pier.

The sweet spot in length allows you to turn a fish away from the pier pylons with out it being so long like a surf rod that it will become awkward and cumbersome to use on a busy pier.

The first three rods below are better suited for lighter work especially if you are a beginner.

​Best Pier Fishing Rod

​Our first pick is actually a pier fishing rod and reel combo, the Penn Battle II spinning combo is an excellent choice if you are just looking to try your hand at fishing from a pier for the first time.

For a beginner a combo is a a real no brainer and it takes out any of the guess work when it comes to making that all important choice.

​Penn are one of the most respected names in saltwater tackle and this pier combo is no exception when it comes to their legendary quality and reliability.

A combo like this gives you a perfectly matched rod and reel for pier fishing and also when bought as the one deal you'll also get a decent saving over buying a separate rod/reel.

The Battle II reel is the real star of the show and although you might out grow the rod, the reel if maintained correctly should still be working away in ten years time.

​For light work the 2500 size is great for jigging and targeting smaller species. The rod is a medium/light power rating and the rel can hold 140 yards of 10 lb mono or 160 yards of 20 lb braid.

For larger species and bigger baits you can go up to a 4000, which would cover you for a lot of different species and different rig setups.

​Specifications:

  • ​Penn Battle II high quality reel
  • Range of reel sizes, rod length and power/actions
  • Aluminum oxide guides

​Don't let the name fool you although not strictly what some anglers would consider a pie​r rod the Mojo inshore series from St Croix are excellent rods for jigging and light lure work around structures.

​If you are routinely throwing a lot of light lures and smaller jigs depending on your location. If that is the case then you will need a graphite rod that has a lot of sensitivity.

​A more sensitive rod with a fast action and responsive rod blank is a must when targeting smaller species on light tackle.

Fiberglass rods will not give you the kind of feedback that you need. Clear and crisp tip sensitivity can make or break your jigging.  

​All of the rods have a fast action and are available in a ice pread of power ratings.

​Specifications:

  • ​Aluminum oxide guides
  • SCII graphite
  • Fuji reel seat
  • Split grip cork handle
  • 5 year warranty

​The Shimano South East Teramar Spinning rods make great all rounders.

They come with very high spec hardware like Fuji reel seats, Hardloy guides and a premium cork handle.

​The 7 foot medium action rod will cast 1 ad 2 ounce lures or weights a mile so if you are looking to get out from the pier this is a solid choice.

​Specifications:

  • ​TC4 rod blanks
  • Fuji Hardloy guides
  • Fuji reel seat

​Pier Fishing Rods

​If you are just starting out pier fishing then I would strongly suggest that you should target smaller fish that are under five pounds and that you buy a pier fishing rod that is suitable for this type of fishing.

Learning how to rig a bait and cast smaller lures is the single best way to improve your knowledge and experience.

Why?

Because you will probably catch more fish than if you are to target larger species. It's all about practice and working your way up from the easier to catch smaller fish eventually to the large ones once you gain the skills and experience.

You can have a lot of fun catching strings of mackerel on a sabiki rig and with a light enough spinning rod you will not need anything like a dedicated sabiki rod that you will see on a lot of boats.

For this I would suggest a spinning rod as your first pier fishing pole. Spinning reels are more forgiving than a conventional or baitcaster.

Casting is much easier with a spinning setup. Casting should not be a bottle neck that stops you from catch especially when you are fishing right above the fish on a pier.

When you are using a bobber with bait or lure and jigs a good spinning rod can handle all with ease.

Ask around on the pier and look for guidance from the more experienced fishermen. They can point you in the right direction when it comes to what type of tackle and bait to use for that particular pier.

You can choose either a fiberglass or a graphite rod , but if it is your first time fishing then a fiberglass rod will be an excellent per rod for a beginner.

They are all lot tougher and can take a lot more abuse than a graphite rod blank.

Fall and Winter Fishing

Temperatures are dropping, the leaves are turning colors and the fishing is HOT.   These are sure signs that autumn has started in the Topsail Island area.   

That and those little yellow butterflies we see dotting the landscape.  

Old timers will tell you when the yellow butterflies show up, so do the fish, especially spots.    Ask local fishermen about their favorite fishing season and you likely will hear the word fall mentioned more often than not.

It certainly is the busiest time of year for our ocean fishing piers.  Our sounds, creeks and river have a lot of visitors this time of year too, from near and far away.    As the catches of Spanish mackerel, bluefish and pompano begin to taper off, the Spot, Speckled trout and Red Drum bite picks-up.

Spot is one of the area’s favorite catches this time of year.  Fishermen (and fisherwomen) line the pier rails and waterways.  They come armed with fresh shrimp pieces, blood worms and similar baits.  So grab your best rod for pier fishing and get to it.

Many use a typical two-hook bottom rig.  When the bite is hot, you’ll hear that Spot are being caught “two at a time”, meaning both hooks come up with fish on.  Some will fill their coolers with this tasty little fish in just a few hours.

Others are more interested in the Speckled Sea Trout, commonly called “specks” in these parts.   This prized fish is caught year round in our area.  However fall is one of the best times of year to catch them.  They can be found not only in the inshore marshes and creeks but in the surf and from the ocean piers.

Specks are a prized catch and good eating too!  Live bait such as shrimp or finger sized mullet and large minnows are good baits.  Many anglers prefer using artificial baits like Mirrolures or soft plastics on jigheads.    

The live baits are often fished under a popping cork and are retrieved using a jerking motion.  The hard baits and soft plastics are most often retrieved using a zig-zag or jerking pattern and allowing the baits to drop a bit between retrieves. 

Speaking of good eating, another prized fish in these parts is the flounder.  These flat fish are often found in the same places as Specks.  Many of the same baits can be used to target both.   Flounder lie on the bottom and ambush prey when they pass close by .

 My favorite way to target flounder is with a Berkley Gulp! ® shrimp on a jighead.  I’ll “bounce” it along the bottom with frequent, short pauses.  If there is a hungry flounder around this will get its attention. 

Topsail Island is blessed with three ocean fishing piers.  These piers offer good access for ocean fishing and amenities such as bait, tackle, rest rooms and even a restaurant.  Most will even cook your catch for you, adding the sides and a drink for a very reasonable price.  This is fishing’s version of the “EASY” button.  Not that catching is guaranteed but it sure is nice trying from one of our piers. 

Each of our three towns has a pier. So no matter which section of the island you visit or live near, there’s a pier close by.   Seaview Pier is located in North Topsail Beach, (910) 328-3172.  Near the south end of the island in Topsail Beach Township is Jolly Roger Pier, (910) 328-4616.  And last but not least, smack dab in the middle of the island is Surf City Pier, (910) 328-3521. 

And don’t forget about winter fishing.  Our mild winter season provides some of the most serene fishing you will find anywhere.  I love to wet a line on a nice clear, crisp winter day.  There are fewer folks around but still fish to be caught.

 Inshore is your best bet this time of year.   The marshes and creeks are the best places to try for catches of flounder, specks and red drum.  Yes, some of each of the species stays here year round.  Not in the numbers found in the fall, but still some to catch for the avid angler.  Just remember a  s-l-o-w  retrieve is key when the water temperatures are below 60 degrees.

So go get ya some. 

Tight lines to all!

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