Expert Fishing Advice for Saltwater Anglers

Saltwater Pier Fishing Basics and Tips


So you want to go saltwater pier fishing?  Maybe it’s your first time or you haven’t been in years.  Maybe you’ve never cast your line into the waters you are heading toward, or have a newbie with you.  All very good reasons to do just what you are doing right now, a little research before you go out to gettem’ on dood! 

Let’s do a quick game of Who, What, When, Where to get you ready.

WHERE?  The PIER of Course!

A great place to start building your saltwater fishing skills is a public fishing pier.  Many offer free access, and they provide the opportunity to either fish closer to the shoreline or go out to the end of the pier in search of different, and often larger species. Depending upon where the pier is located and the time of year it is, fishing the furthest end of the structure could result in hooking up with a fat grouper or a king mackerel without even getting your feet wet.


Speak with the Locals

When it comes down to it, local anglers know saltwater fishing better than any general guide you can find. Once you’ve picked out a place and know what fish you’re going for, speak to other fisherman in the area at bait and tackle shops, on the shore or on the pier to see what they’re doing to get successful strikes. Just remember that every fisherman has their own preferences, and not every bait will be as successful on any given day, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

WHAT gear will you need?

Even frequent saltwater anglers miss something every now and then , consider this a reminder to help you avoid any pitfalls from the fishing pier.

Your gear can make or break your fishing experience regardless of where you are, and will change depending on where as well as when you are fishing.  From saltwater fishing rods and reels to the clothing you wear, your gear can make your day easier and safer.

Saltwater Rods and Reels

Choosing a saltwater rod and reel is dependent on whether you plan to fish with metal jigs, troll or baitcast, where you plan to do your fishing and what type of fish you’re aiming to catch. 

Generally speaking you will want to bring a 6 to 9-foot long medium to heavy-action spinning rod and  a 20 lb. test line for successful pier fishing,    A hoop net or a pier graff will make it easier to pull your catch up to the pier.  If you try to reel it up, you will have more difficulty and will run the risk of breaking your line and losing the fish.

When choosing your rod and reel consider the following:

  • Longer rods cast farther, shorter rods are more powerful when it’s to fight the fish.
  • When the term “power” is mentioned, it is referring to the weight the rod is capable of lifting.
  • High-speed reels are better suited for fast baits, low-speed reels are more powerful for fighting the fish.
  • Match the reel to the weight of the line on your rod.
  • As always,  match the lure weight to the size saltwater bait or lure you plan on using which should match the shape and size of the bait the fish you want to catch normally feeds on.

Fishing Line

Because of the damage dealt out by constant exposure to saltwater and intense sunlight, it is important to always buy a good quality fishing line and change it often. Stick with the brands sold by major manufacturers and avoid ‘bargains’ on lesser-known products that may fail when put to

the test. It's no fun losing the fish of a lifetime because your cheap, low-quality line snapped at a crucial moment.

The type of line that you choose is also important. For generations, monofilament line was the most popular among saltwater anglers. In recent years, however, the use of specialized braided lines has increased.

Basic Tackle

Those who are just beginning to fish in saltwater or pier/shore fishing are better off starting out with a quality medium weight spinning combo. A spinning reel will help you to cast further while avoiding the frustrating backlashes.  A quality spinning combo that is rated for 10 to 25 test line will also cover you in a variety of different setting from surf and pier fishing to drifting in bays or intertidal estuaries. 

Note: Whether you happen to be deep sea fishing, drifting, surf fishing, or fishing from a bridge or pier, carefully match your gear and technique to the circumstances.

Saltwater Fish Bait

Three things to keep in mind when it comes to bait: scent, sound and movement.  When you put these things together, you will  be able to better determine what kind of bait you will need to lure your target fish on to your line.  If you are not knowledgeable about the type of fish you might catch from that particular pier, always ask the locals, the bait shop employees and the individuals out on the pier.   There is no substitute for local knowledge!

Live bait is generally your best choice when you’re pier fishing unless you have an aversion to using live bait.  If you’re targeting a specific species, ask local angler for their recommendations based on what works for them.

Here’s our shortlist for both live and artificial commonly used and easy to find bait, food for thought (pun intended):

Live Saltwater Fishing Bait:

  • Crabs
  • Clams
  • Mussels
  • Shrimp
  • Squid
  • Bait Fish
  • Bloodworms

Artificial Saltwater Bait:

  • Soft Plastic Lures (flexibility of use)
  • Lead-Headed Jigs (used to imitate live saltwater bait)
  • Poppers (will splash over the water’s surface and draw attention)
  • Plug Fishing Lures (used to imitate swimming fish)
  • Spoon Fishing Lures ( flash and move like a swimming fish)
  • Spinnerbaits (trick the sound and movement senses)

Saltwater Fishing Tools

There are four saltwater fishing tools you want to have with you no matter where you are fishing:

  • Saltwater Gaffs and Nets
  • Saltwater Pliers and Scissors (for cutting wire, removing  hooks and tightening knots -learn to tie saltwater fishing knots)
  • Saltwater Fishing Knives for cutting bait (and cleaning fish)
  • Saltwater Hook Remover

Saltwater Fishing Clothing

To keep yourself safe and comfortable no matter where you’re fishing, we highly recommend the following attire: 

  • Rainy/stormy weather on the way? Wear waterproof boots and a rain jacket.  Nothing beats staying clean and dry and continue to fish amidst the elements.  
  • Sunscreen!  Sunscreen!  Sunscreen!  In sunny and cloudy conditions, you must protect yourself from the harmful UV rays.  
  • In addition to sunscreen, wearing quick drying long-sleeved shirts and long pants is highly advised.  Many retailers offer quick dry clothing with SPF protection allowing you to stay as cool as possible while simultaneously protecting your skin.
  • Polarized Sunglasses – will not only protect your eyes, they also make it easier to see into the water.
  • In colder weather, wear a waterproof/windproof hat and a top layer of clothing; neoprene gloves also.             


Pier fishing may not be as action-packed as other styles of saltwater fishing, but it’s a great way to introduce a new angler to saltwater fishing, or for the more seasoned angler to relax.  it is also easy to come and go as you please if you prefer not to be away from the shoreline especially when the weather is dangerous to take your vessel out.  Pier fishing isn’t as dependent on weather conditions, and you don’t need a lot of extra gear like you would need to bring in a kayak or on a boat. 

Before you go fishing anywhere, research the tides to determine when you will have the most fish swimming to increase your chances of getting ‘em on dood!


Matt Spector

Over the last 25 years, Captain Matt Spector has established himself as an expert fisherman and Captain. He's taught thousands how to be safer, smarter, more efficient anglers! There's simply nothing more satisfying than sharing a lesson, recommendation or tip that helps another angler be able to yell...GottemonDood!

Captain Matt

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