Home Fishing Tips & Advice How to Use a Fireball Rig for Surf Fishing

How to Use a Fireball Rig for Surf Fishing

A fireball rig, also known as a bluefish rig, is a popular set-up for many anglers in a variety of situations. It can be used to catch many types of fish including bass, trout, black drummer, etc. So how exactly do you use a fireball rig for surf fishing? They can be used exactly like any other standard high-low rig, simply bait and cast. But, fireball rigs definitely some with some specific quirks, which we’ll be going over in the article, so keep reading to find out more. 

What is a Fireball Rig?

A fireball rig is extremely similar to every other version of a bottom rig, with a few specific differences. Because it’s commonly used to catch bluefish, you may here a fireball rig referred to as a bluefish rig. The first of which is that a fireball rig is at most four feet long, but often closer to three feet.

A standard swivel is also used to attach the rig to the main fishing line. It is normally comprised of two hooks, and a sinker attachment if needed. If there is a sinker attached, it’s done with a snap swivel attachment. This makes the bait look more realistic by preventing the line from twisting. Most models also have two dropper loops between the hooks. The most defining characteristic of a fireball rig is that it has to floater (typically Styrofoam balls) right before the hooks. 

There are two types of fireball rigs: single drop, and double drop. Single drops are known to be better for bigger baits, while double drops are better for smaller ones.

Double drops don’t necessarily replicate what baitfish would look like in their natural schools, so larger baits are less likely to be effective with them.

Single drops are more likely to have their bait stolen by crabs as they tend to float closer to the sea floor. However, the risk of this with a fireball rig is still relatively low due to the floater system. Some fishermen also prefer to use single drop rigs as a way to avoid wasting their bait. 

How to Set Up a Fireball Rig

There are a few important parts to pay attention to when you’re setting up a fireball rig: the floaters, the hooks, the leader line, and the sinker. 

Floaters

There are a huge variety of floaters on the markets, but the best ones for fireball rigs are round or oval, and bright colors like red, orange, or yellow. Floaters are great for eliminating a common problem with bottom rigs: hooks getting stuck on the ocean floor. By preventing the hooks from reaching the sand, floaters will also mitigate the risk of crabs eating your bait. If you don’t want to buy floats, you can also make your own out of corks. 

Hooks

Your choice of hook will have more to do with what kind of fish you’re after than which rig you’re using. As a general guideline, it’s a good idea to stock your tackle box with a good variety of hooks. That way you’re able to switch out hooks depending on which fish are biting. 

The most popular hooks for surf fishing are 4/0, 3/0, and 2/0 circle hooks, but it’s a good idea to carry 1/0-6/0 and 1-6 just to cover the whole spectrum. If you’re fishing for bluefish specifically, it might be better to stock up to 9/0. 

While circle hooks are the most popular and work for fast-biting fish like cobia or redfish, J hooks are often used for slow-biting fish like bass. However, if you’re considering using J hooks, it’s important to note that they are more likely to cause lethal damage to the fish. Another important consideration is what hooks are allowed in your area, as sometimes local regulations ban some types of hook.  

Leader Lines

There are two types of leader lines that are ideal for fireball rigs: heavy fluorocarbon, and monofilament. If you’re fishing for bluefish, a nylon coated line is also an option. Exactly how strong your line should be will depend on what type of fish you’re after, but generally a test strength rating of 30-60 lbs. is a good place to start. 

With a fireball rig, it’s important to avoid braided leader lines. A braided spool line will work fine, but braided lines don’t have the flexibility to preform well with fireball rigs. They are also easier for fish to bite through, and have little to know shock absorption, both of which are disadvantages when it comes to surf fishing. 

Sinkers

You have a few options when it comes to sinkers, but the best option for a fireball rig is a pyramid sinker that weighs 2-4 oz. However, water and weather conditions can mean a heavier or lighter sinker may work better. In general, low currents and slow water allows for a lighter sinker (down to 0.75 oz), while rougher conditions may necessitate using a sinker of up to 10 oz. In order to adapt to changing conditions, it’s a good idea to keep a good variety of sinkers in your tackle box. 

Pyramid sinkers are popular for surf fishermen for a few reasons. Firstly, even the heavy ones are pretty easy to cast. Secondly, their shape makes them able to settle into the sand easily and prevents them from rolling around on the ocean floor. Overall, this makes for a very stable set-up. 

However, there can be scenarios where a pyramid sinker isn’t the best option. In rough waters, for example, a sputnik sinker may perform better. This type of sinker has wires sticking out of it, granting more stability in strong currents. Sputnik sinkers are also easily retrievable, so they’re good for areas where your line is at risk for snagging. They also have a low sinking weight, decreasing the total weight of the fireball rig. 

Using a Fireball Rig

A fireball rig is pretty simple to use, and if you’re familiar with other high-low rigs it’ll be easy to pick-up. You can use almost any bait you want, including mackerel, squid, herring, clams, etc. depending on what fish you are trying to catch. After you’ve decided which bait to use, it’s as simple as putting the bait on the hooks and casting the line. One good thing about a fireball rig is that even with a shorter fishing rod, the floaters near the hooks will prevent the bait from falling to the ocean floor. 

While it sounds like a simple process, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when using your fireball rig. As important as picking a good bait is baiting your hook with the right technique. Make sure you’re pushing the bait onto the hook far enough that the barb of the hook sticks out. This will prevent the bait from acting as a layer of padding between the fish’s mouth and the hook.

It’s also important to use double hooks if you’re using a heavy bait. Otherwise, the bait may slip off the hook too easily. 

Pros and Cons

Like any rig, a fireball comes with advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to look closely at them before deciding if a fireball rig is right for you. 

Positives

  • Double the hooks mean double the bait; this also means that if your bait gets stolen by a fish, they can come back for another bite.
  • Fireballs are great for catching a large variety of fish species.
  • The bait floats in the water making it more likely to be seen by fish, and less likely to be stolen by crabs. 
  • Fireball rigs can be cast long distances, making them good for shoreline fishing.
  • The snap swivel sinker attachment prevents the line from twisting.

Negatives

  • Fixed-weight fishing rigs allow fish to feel the tension when they bite, which may scare them off. 
  • The bright floaters can scare off some fish, but this can be mitigated by using cork floaters. 
  • Unlike with a fish finder rig, fireball rigs don’t allow you to feed the fish line.

What is Surf Fishing?

Surf fishing is a general term which refers to all types of shore fishing involving saltwater. This can mean anything from beach fishing, to standing on a cliff or jetty. It can be a competitive sport, or a leisure activity and may or may not involve using a lure or bait. One common misconception about surf fishing is the distance you need to cast to reach fish. Popular opinion would tell you that you have to cast as far from the shore as possible in order to reach the fish, but the reality is that in the U.S., you really only need to cast into knee-deep water to reach a variety of species. 

Conclusion

A fireball rig can be a great set-up for surf fishers, due to its adaptability and easy to use features. They’re easy to use for surf fishing as long as you take into account the water conditions and are careful to bait your hooks correctly. If you’re familiar with bottom-rigs, it’s an easy change to switch over to a fireball rig and you may see an increase in the number of fish you’re able to catch. Choosing between a single drop system and a double drop system will depend on the kind of bait you’re using, as well as the type of fish you are trying to catch. 

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Growing up on the south shore of Long Island, Chum Charlie has always had a passion for fishing. His favorite fish to catch is a striped bass and his favorite bait to use is bunker. Off the water, he enjoys blogging and sharing his favorite fishing tips & tricks that he has learned over the years.