Surf fishing the structure and knowing what to look for is key to finding the fish. When you’re new to surf fishing all the water looks the same but once you can identify different kinds of structure it changes everything.
When I say look for the structure, what comes to mind? Let me explain. The structure I’m referring to is the underwater terrain that is only detectable after you study the surface of the water. Sometimes it’s very obvious but other times it’s quite subtle.
To get good at it you have to learn what to look for and it does take practice. It helps if you have an experienced angler who can show you the different kinds of structure and how to best fish them.
If you have to learn it on your own this article will get you started. Then it’s up to you to work with it to get good. In a previous article I explained how to locate a hot spot by scouting at low tide. But what if you didn’t have a chance to do some scouting at low tide? That’s where the real skill comes in.
The picture at the top of the page is an aerial view which makes it much easier to see how the water reveals the substructure. When I don’t have a chance to scout at low tide I will study the water from the high point of the walk over. I’m looking for anything like the image above that might give me a clue.
Structure Type #1 Sandbars
The easiest structure to locate is a sandbar. It almost needs no explanation. A sandbar is always revealed by the waves that rise and crest as they pass over it. If your still developing the finer details of reading the other types of structure you can at least learn to fish the deeper water between the sandbars.
The troughs between the sandbars form the underwater highways traveled by the fish. Since surf anglers will fish more than one rod, target the closest trough and the next one further out to see if you can find fish. Sometime they’re in close and sometimes not but the only way to find out is to get some bait in different locations.
Structure Type #2 Run Outs (Or Rips)
See the rip located in the photo above. This is the holy grail of hot spots. The fish will stage themselves on the far side of the bar waiting for food sources to wash through the rip.
You can free line bait through and right into the waiting predators on the other side. Free lining bait is best done with a reel that has a baitfeeder built into it. You can learn more about free lining and baitfeeders here.
If you don’t have a bait feeder you can try to get your bait anywhere on either far side of the sandbar where you should find some action.
When locating a rip at high tide look for a steady flow of surf suds flowing out away from the beach. Pay close attention to the waves as they pass over the sandbar. The rip will be where the wave height disappears while either side of the wave passes over normally.
Structure Type #3 A Hole
You’ll usually find a hole closer to the beach. It may be part of a rip or a deeper section of water located next to a point. Look for water that is darker than the water around it. Also look for wave action that disappears over that area.
Fish will stage in and around the slope if the hole. Work your bait around the sloped areas that you can identify.
Structure Type #4 A Point
A point is merely a section along the edge of the beach that juts out. Stand at the edge of the surf and look both ways up and down the beach. Look for locations that interrupt the straight line of the beach and waters edge.
Get closer and study the color of water to determine if there are deep areas located where it juts away from the beach line. Sometimes it’s just a small change in the waters edge and probably not productive. What you want to find is a spot where the bottom has been scooped out by the wave action and the water is noticeably darker in that area.
Fish your bait around the sloped edges of the formation.
If your very new to finding and surf fishing the structure your in for an exciting experience. The first time you realize you caught fish because you picked a likely productive spot your whole outlook on surf fishing changes.
The good news is once you get good at identifying potential fish holding spots your success rate will change significantly. The bad news is the beach structure changes often. So you will need to find new hot spots on a regular basis.
Even if your not that good at identifying structure yet, just look for the anomalies and try your bait around those areas. Sooner or later it will start to make sense.
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