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   MMBFC Home      Knots & Rigs      Rig Basics

Basic sea fishing rig
A rig (also called a trace) is simply the end tackle (hooks, swivels, links etc) which is attached to the line and cast into the sea. Rigs are made up of various items of terminal tackle with us either creating our own rigs or buying them ready made from a tackle shop or an online retailer.
Many members create their own rigs. This is because a self-made rig can be designed in exactly the way they want, it is more satisfying to catch fish on self-made rigs. Most rigs used in sea fishing are based on the paternoster rig. This is a simple design where the line terminates in a weight and the hooklength (snood) branches off from this further up the line. The vast majority of sea fishing rigs used in the UK will look something like the on on the right.
These very simple rigs will catch fish, and simple rigs will often outfish complicated ones.  
The weight sits on the sea bed and the baited hook moves around just above or touching sea bed to attract the fish to come and bite.
Simple paternoster rig
Features of the simple paternoster rig
  • A swivel at the top – This is essential as line-damaging twist caused by the weight and rig rolling around on the seabed will be eliminated by the swivel. It also provides a point to clip or tie the rig onto the mainline.
  • A link at the bottom – This is used to clip the weight onto the rig and is also essential as failure to include this link would lead to line damage and safety issueswhen casting.
  • A number of snoods (also known as hooklengths) branching off from the rig body – generally sea fishing rigs have one, two or three snoods. The best way of attaching them to the rig body is with a trapped swivel, although in cheaper, simpler rigs a dropper knot can be used.
  • Strong line for the rig body – The rig body should be made with strong line (of at least 60lb breaking strain) to resist abrasion with rocks and the seabed. Furthermore, if crimps are used they can damage weaker line.
  • Memory free line for the snoods – Line such as Amnesia is the best choice for snoods as it is memory free, meaning it stays straighter and is much less likely to tangle than normal monofilament.
  • A range of other components and accessories can be added to a rig such as impact shields, cascade swivels, bait clips and rotten bottoms/weak link releases.

Types of rigs
Rigs are either flapping (with the snoods and hooks free to flap around during the cast), or clipped down (where the hooks are clipped behind an impact shield or some form of bait clip). Clipped down rigs are used where distance is key, such as when casting on a clean beach where the deeper water is far away, and flapping rigs are used when fishing closer in – for example when casting into deep water from a pier, or when fishing from a beach for species which come close to the shore such as flounder or Dover sole.
When fishing over clean ground rigs can include up to three hooks as this will create a stronger scent trail and allow three different baits to be used.
When fishing from a rough ground mark use simpler rigs with less components as this means there is less metalwork to get snagged, and if rigs have fewer components they are cheaper to construct and losing a lot of rigs is less costly to the angler. In rough ground rigs the link is always replaced with some kind of rotten bottom or weak link release such as a Breakaway Escape Link,
Gemini Breaker or other form of rotten bottom clip. This is a device which cuts down on tackle losses by allowing the weight to break free if it is snagged and the rest of the rig (and any hooked fish) to be retrieved.
           Flapper                                   Clip down
Clip down and impact shield
Rig damage a re-using rigs
Of course all rigs are designed to be re-used. However, after even a single fishing session a rig can become damaged and can even become unsafe to use if the line is damaged. the type of fishing also plays a part on how re-usable a rig is, as fishing a rock/rough ground mark which will take more of a toll on rigs and terminal tackle than fishing on a clean, sandy beach. It is therefore important to check each rig after a fishing session to ensure it is still in a usable condition. Rinse the rig in cold water (to remove salt which will clog up swivels and corrode metal) and dry off excess water with kitchen roll. Check all of the line to ensure there are no nicks or cuts which will obviously weaken it. Never take a chance with damaged line – a snood snapping could lose a good fish, while damaged rig body could snap and send a weight flying down a beach! After this check all hooks to ensure that they haven’t become bent when pulling out of snags or over rocks and ensure that the points are still sharp and haven’t been blunted by being dragged over sand. If the rig gets a clean bill of health then it can be left out overnight to dry fully and then placed back into the rig wallet to use again. Partially damaged rigs may be repairable (i.e. trying on a new hook snood if this is the only part needing replacing), but with rigs with a lot of damage it is best never to use them again. If this is the case then all of the usable components such as swivels, hooks and links can of course be cut off and used to construct a new rig.
Components for making rigs

The following tools are useful when creating and storing rigs:

  • Line clippers – Either specialist line clippers or a set of small scissors or clippers are needed to cut line to the right length and clip away tag ends after tying knots.
  • Crimping pliers – An essential tool to safely and securely press crimps to line. As stated non-specialist pliers should not be used as they can cause damage to line.
  • Sea fishing rig wallet – Very useful for storing rigs once they are completed and taking them on a fishing session, although rig winders (foam discs which have rigs wrapped around them) are becoming a popular alternative. However, rig winders – such as these sold on Amazon– are becoming a popular alternative (or addition) to using rig wallets.

Most of us who have been sea fishing for several years will have built up a supply of terminal tackle components which we can use to make rigs. The following list is far from exhaustive, but having all of the components listed below will allow every single rig featured on this page to be made.


  • Large Hooks – When fishing for species such as cod, big bass or pollock large and strong hooks should be used such Mustad 79515 Uptide Viking which are available in packets containing five to seven hooks from Sea Angling Shop. A cheaper alternative supplied by the same retailer is Cronus O’Shaughnessy hooks, which come in sizes up to 6/0.
  • General Sea Fishing Hooks – When fishing for a range of species size 1/0 or 2/0 hooks are the best choice as they are small enough to catch fish weighing around 1lb such as small bass, coalfish and whiting, but can also handle any larger specimens which come along. Kamasan B950u Uptide Hooks are great hooks for this purpose.
  • Smaller Hooks – When fishing for smaller species such as flounder, dab and pouting smaller size 1 or 2 hooks should be used. Cronus Black Aberdeen hooksare strong but lightweight and would be a good choice.
  • Mini Species Hooks – When targeting small species such as rockling, topknot and poor cod Cronus Black Aberdeen hooks in size 4 – 6.




  • Large swivels (size 1)
  • Medium swivels (size 2 to 4)
  • Small (snood) swivels (size 6)
Cronus Black Nickel Swivels are ideal for rig making. They are high quality and available in the above sizes, with prices start at just 79p for a packet of twenty.
Other terminal tackle:
Making rigs is an enjoyable aspect of sea fishing and one which most of us develop over a reasonably long period of time.
When starting fishing many of us start out purchasing ready made rigs and then move on to buying their own components and slowly building up a supply of terminal tackle items so that they can build rigs to suit the type of fishing they are planning.
May of our members take a selection of rigs with them on a fishing trip so that they can change and adapt their tactics depending on how the fishing session develops.
For example and they may start fishing with a rig using a size 4/0 hook to catch cod, but if they are not biting having a supply of rigs will allow him or her to swap to a multi-hook rig with size 1 hooks to target smaller species such as whiting or flounder which may be around.
Conversely if being plagued with small species such as pouting taking the bait he or she has cast out may switch to a rig with a size 4/0 hook or larger in the hope that smaller fish cannot take this bait into their mouths and it will instead attract a large bass or cod.
Creating a selection of rigs and then choosing the correct rig for a given sea fishing situation is an important aspect of sea fishing and one that all we all enjoy developing over the time to make the  most of our sea fishing trips.