The 7 Best Rigs for Sheepshead

If you want to catch more sheepshead, you got to use the right rig! There are actually a few different rigs that work well, it just depends on your situation and preference. We put together a list of the seven best sheepshead rigs. Have a look and see what works best for you!

Fish Finder Rig

Our favorite rig for sheepshead in coastal areas is the fish finder rig. The fish finder rig uses a pyramid weight rather than a sliding egg sinker to hold the rig in one place.

The rig is simple. The hook is attached to a leader, which is attached to the mainline. A 3-4oz pyramid sinker is attached to a slider, which slides along the mainline. So the sinker keeps the rig toward the bottom, but the bait still has some freedom to move with the current. It’s simple, but effective.

The fish finder works well for various species, from fluke to brown sharks. It’s so popular, we wrote a whole article on how to master the fish finder rig for surf fishing.


  • Best to use with heavy weights
  • Excellent bottom rig for anglers to use


  • Can get tangled on occasion

Carolina Rig

The Carolina rig is one of the most commonly used rigs for catching sheepshead. It is the most straightforward rig and is easy to make.

To make a Carolina rig for sheepshead, attach a swivel to the egg sinker. Then attach the fluorocarbon leader line with a hook at the opposite end of the swivel. Use a minor weight leader to reach the bottom, such as 15lb or 30lb. After that, add your fiddler crab bait to the sheepshead hook.

The Carolina rig allows you to feel the bite, which makes it popular for sheepshead fishing.


  • Best for Deep fishing
  • Covers more water
  • Best rig for worm fishing


  • Not for use in dense vegetation areas, as Carolina rig tends to snag and tangle.

Knocker Rig

The knocker is ideal for catching sheepshead on the bottom and around heavy structures. The knocker rig is similar to the Carolina rig. The sinker attaches to the leader just above the hook. The sinker rests on top of the hook’s eye when you get down to the bottom.

The significant benefit of this rig is that anglers will always know where the bait is; when the sinker is at the bottom, the bait is also on the bottom. When fishing around heavy structures, the knocker rig for sheepshead is best to use—this style of rig aids in reducing snags on the bottom. This rig gets it’s name due to the natural knocking movement of the components.


  • Great rig for snapper
  • Best for fishing in 30 ft. deep or less
  • Fewer knots occur as it is a compact rig


  • It’s a little harder to cast the knocker rig for distance

Dropper Rig

The dropper rig, also known as chicken rakes, is one of the finest bottom rigs for sheepshead. This Sheepshead rig involves a sinker at the bottom and hooks tied north of the weight at the bottom of the line on short droppers at various intervals.

Anglers that like to fish vertically should pick this setup as they can catch several different species with this technique. This setup enables anglers to offer numerous baits at different levels simultaneously. The sinker’s weight depends on the water currents, so the bank sinker has the ideal weight to select for a Dropper rig. Give Dropper rig a try and go ahead to catch more fish!


  • Best offshore fishing setup
  • Ideal for fishing a range of depths
  • Easy to knot


  • Does not do well on reefs and wrecks with a lot of snags.

Split Shot Rig

The split shot rig is an excellent coastal fishing setup for sheepshead. This approach uses a split shot or two to get your bait to the appropriate depth while employing the free line rigging method. This rig is one of the most straightforward yet effective sheepshead rigs.

Sheepshead is so tricky to hook, so this is a must-have apparatus for capturing them, and you will enjoy fishing with this rig. Unfortunately, in severe currents or at greater depths, this rig will not operate. When sheepshead fish are shallow or grazing around structures on calm days, use this rig.


  • You can easily add or remove weight according to the situation.
  • Best for any coastal application
  • Simple to knot


  • Not for fishing deeper water with strong current

Weedless Shrimp Rig

Weedless shrimp rig is the most flexible rig. Because this rig is weedless, you can use it in extremely heavy structures without being caught. You can also adjust the weight to a heavier or lesser weight for a range of depths and currents.

When fishing shallow water, a weedless shrimp rig is a fantastic technique to use. Near jetties, docks, and bridges are some of the finest spots to catch shrimp; however, fishing shrimp on the bottom near these areas typically results in snagging or breaking off of the rig.


  • You can fish a wide range of depths and currents
  • Easy to set up


  • Adding or removing the weight requires the whole setup to retie

High Low Rig for Sheepshead

This High Low Rig for Sheepshead is best for anglers who want to increase the number of bites. And isn’t that everybody?

This setup provides two hooked baits from one rig. The hooks are spread out above the weight in the high low rig. If used correctly, the high low rig is one of the most effective surf fishing rigs.

Unfortunately, you can’t easily change the weight in this rig which is somehow disappointing. Anglers fishing a high low rig must set the hook fast or risk the fish losing the bait due to the unnatural strain from the weight. As a result, smaller baits, such as clams or worms, are more successful with high-low rigs.


  • Two hooks, so double your chances
  • You can also catch species like fluke, black sea bass, tautog, and many others
  • It stays tangle-free when knotted correctly


  • It’s one of the harder rigs to set up (but you can always buy it)

What’s the best bait for sheepshead?

There are a few options that work well for sheepshead. We recommend live bait. There are some decent artificial crabs from Berkley and other brands, but live bait almost always works better (at least for sheepshead). Here are the three best live baits for sheepshead, in order.


Sheepshead love live shrimp, so we always start with that. You don’t need jumbo shrimp either. We’ve had luck with smaller shrimp, or even a cut piece of shrimp. Avoid frozen shrimp if possible. They don’t have the same effect and they seem to fall off the hook easier.

Fiddler Crabs

The fiddler crab is another popular and effective bait for Sheepshead. The fiddler crab works great as they stay on the hook and alive for awhile. Depending on where you’re at, a local bait shop may have these stocked. Don’t use too big of a hook or you’ll kill the crab.  

Sand Fleas

Sand fleas (also known as mole crabs) live by the water edges in the wet sand. With the help of a sand flea rake, you can easily take them out of the sand in the surf. You can use your hands to scoop a big pile of wet sand, which will often contain a sand flea or two. If that’s not working, check your bait shop.

For more info on which bait to use, check out the 5 Best Live Baits for Catching Sheepshead.

Check out our Beginner's Guide to Surf Fishing

Wrapping up

We named a bunch of rigs here and hopefully you found one that interests you. But if you’re still not sure, just go with the fish finder. It’s a versatile rig that presents the bait very naturally.

Once you pick out your rig of choice, be sure you know the best time to catch sheepshead.

Good luck and happy fishing!