Picking The Best Pompano Rigs For The Conditions | Great Days Outdoors

Picking The Best Pompano Rigs For The Conditions

Pompano are by far the most popular target species for set rig surf fishermen along the Emerald Coast throughout the year. And the so-called “Pompano Rig” (Double Dropper rig) is the most popular device used by these anglers to catch pompano. But having consistent success with these fish at any point in the year requires versatility and preparation. So, anglers need to adjust with changing conditions if they want to be more successful. Part of the allure of surf fishing is knowing which rigs will work depending on the situation faced. So, more so than using a single rig all the time, “the best pompano rigs” are whichever ones will produce fish for you on a given day. 


A Wide Variety Of Pompano Rig Options

Nowadays pompano fishermen are blessed (or cursed ?) with a huge variety of options of pompano rigs to choose from. Not just the mass produced imported rigs in the big retail and online stores, but dozens of regionally available hand-tied versions of various colors in every bait and tackle shop along the coast. Such choices may seem daunting at times, even overwhelming for newcomers to the sport. But weeding out the obviously inferior rigs will at least make deciding easier. Checkout our article, The Best Surf Fishing Rigs You Need To Know, for more information on the best surf fishing rigs. 


Cost and value are basic factors involved in purchase decisions for most budget-minded surf fishermen. Often it plays out best to begin your day fishing with modestly priced (hand-tied) rigs that have a widespread appeal to pompano. Chartreuse is a favorite color for pompano and fishermen region wide. Keeping down the size of the floats and other unnecessary hardware assures it will appeal to more fish.


In addition, intermediate sized hooks afford a better hookup ratio on fish of all sizes. Leader line should be clear and fairly light, yet strong enough to prevent cut-offs. 25# to 30# monofilament works well overall, and is much less expensive than fluorocarbon. Snaps and swivels should be relatively small and painted flat black (if possible) to help prevent cutoffs. The Fishbites® Approved Pompano Rig for $4 is a good example of a basic pompano rig for the price.


double drop rig

Bright colors attract pompano in rougher conditions.



Since pompano possess excellent eyesight, in clear and calm water they may become exceedingly “leader shy”. That is when stealthier rigs built with lighter, smaller or fewer components are more likely to get bit by wary pompano. As waters become more roiled, or in low light conditions with less visibility, rigs with brightly colored beads or floats should get more attention (and bites) than the more basic versions. Certainly then, at least a modest assortment of rigs in different styles and colors would best aid the angler. More “specialty” type rigs with painted floats, rattles, or larger hooks which may target larger pompano.  


Once pompano fishermen gain experience, some choose to build their own rigs. Single drop rigs can be quickly made “on the fly” using a two foot section of leader, like 10# to 15# fluorocarbon. Simply tie a #4 kahle hook on one end, and a one to two ounce pyramid sinker on the other. Make a small loop around your finger about 1/3 of the distance from the weight. Then twist the end of the loop through itself twice, and slowly tighten the knot. Tie your mainline to the loop, bait the hook and you are ready to cast out.

The Fishfinder Rig (commonly called “Carolina Rig”) is another quick tie leader. Though often fished closer to shore in calmer water with lighter tackle and weight to better target whiting this versatile rig can catch most anything. The weight is usually a ¼ to one ounce egg sinker passed through the mainline above the leader swivel which acts as a sinker stop. The leader is 10# to 15# fluorocarbon or mono 6” to 15” long. This is tied to a #6 or #4 kahle hook. A florescent orange bead may or may not be added in front of the hook on either of these rigs to enhance the presentation by giving the bait profile a bit of a “bright spot” the fish can zero in on. 

pompano rig

Drawing of a basic Fishfinder Rig. Length of leader can vary based on the target species.


Choices of each component should be made with care and forethought. Even the choice of leader size and line type depends on factors such as time of year, water clarity, ambient lighting, surf, wind and currents that affect the presentation. Depending upon what bait is being used will determine the best hook style and size. And how far a cast is needed to reach the fish in what conditions determines the amount of weight needed and which style is best.     


Weighing The Matter

Depending upon conditions of wind and surf, anglers need to make good choices about which style and size weight best fits the scenario they face. Distance to the target zone makes a huge difference in how much weight will be needed, thus what rod, reel and line to employ. Three ounce pyramid weights are a popular starting point, but carrying an assortment of size and styles will give you more versatility. Storm sinkers and “sputnik” style weights generally hold bottom better than pyramids in rough surf. 


tackle for pompano rig

Examples of terminal tackle used to make pompano rigs.


Lure range ratings printed on any rod give an impression of how much weight it should handle, and how it might perform. Most 7 to 10 foot spinning rods in the medium or medium heavy classes will work just fine under a wide variety of conditions with weights of two ounces or less. Choosing which rod and reel to use depends very much on the ability of that rod to cast the weight where you want it to go.


Let’s Bait Up For Pompano

The option of what bait anglers put on their rigs is of fundamental importance. That choice helps determine which pompano rig is going to work best with the bait. Particular hook styles and sizes will perform better with certain baits. For instance the widely used combination of shrimp and Fishbites works well on medium sized circle hook (2/0) or (#4) kahle hook rigs. But using Fishbites by itself seems to pick up more bites using a smaller 1/0 circle or #6 kahle hooks.  


pompano rig

Pompano bite the Fishbites Pompano Rig.


The total length of the terminal bait profile (attractant + hook + bait) should not exceed what legal pompano can fit into their mouth (about 3 inches by ¾ inches). Since they lack teeth to bite their prey, all a pompano can do is suck in as much as they can, bite down and twist around to try and tear off a piece. If you consistently get bit but are missing fish, try a smaller bait profile or step down a hook size. Often those small adjustments make a huge difference in numbers of fish caught on a given day. 

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