River Cottage Australia

How to Build your own Fishing Rig

The basics of fishing are not hard to master, but it's important to get them right to increase your chances of getting that lucky catch! Follow this step-by-step guide from Paul West to building three basic fishing rigs.

Fishing has always been a much loved past time. A great way to relax and unwind with friends and family, as well as the perfect excuse to get some much needed fresh air! The basics of fishing are not hard to master, but it's important to get them right to increase your chances of getting that lucky catch!

This guide will show you how to build three basic fishing rigs; single hook with a running sinker, a gang hook rig with sinker, and a paternoster rig - also known as Float, Leader and Multi-hook.

Background on fishing rigs

When deciding what rig to use, first wait until you get to your fishing location. One of the most important elements you need to consider is how strong the wind and currents are. Other factors to consider include where you are going to fish, the type of fish you hope to catch, as well as the type of bait you will be using.

Always tie all of your rigs as if they’re going to catch the fish of a lifetime! Occasionally a bigger fish will pick up a bait that’s meant for a smaller fish; but if you’ve taken proper care with your preparation you will optimise your chances of catching that big one!

Take time when tying your knots. Always check your knots by grabbing each opposite end of your rig and giving your rig a couple of sharp jerks to ensure they’ve been tied correctly (If you are using a light line be a little more gentle when testing - as you don’t want to snap your rig!)

Frequently check your rig during your fishing session. Nicks and abrasions are the most important thing that you need to check your line for. If you find deep cuts in your leader or main line change your leader. However, if they’re in your main line, you need to cut your rig off. Be sure to cut off above the damaged line and then re-tie your rig. This may be annoying but it’s much better to be safe than sorry; because guaranteed, that one time you get lazy and don’t change it, the fish of a lifetime will swim by and pick up your bait - then break off at the weak part of your line!

Things to consider when constructing your rig


A fishhook has few different fundamental parts. The ‘eye’ is where the fishing line is attached. The sharp part of the fishhook pointing upward is called the ‘point’, and the small sharp protrusion immediately below the point is termed a ‘barb’. This helps the fish hook remain embedded in the fish.

In choosing the correct fishhook size, consider the type of fishing bait you are using - as well as the type of fish you want to catch! For instance, if you’re after a bigger fish, you’ll need a larger fishhook. Just be wary of purchasing a hook that is too big for your bait - it might frighten the fish away.

Another important factor is the hook weight. It can be fine wire or heavy wire. A fine-wire hook can go through the fish's mouth with ease. On the other hand, a heavy-wire hook can cling better to the fish and it does not turn crooked as easily as a fine-wire hook.

Sinkers from Left to Right: Ball sinker, bean sinker and barrel sinker. 

The main influences on your choice of sinker are: water flow (current), drift rate (breeze and current), the depth at which you want to present your bait, desired casting distance and size of bait.

A ball sinker rig is often termed a running sinker rig. The sinker can either run all the way down to the hook or the sinker may free-run along the line above a swivel. In the case of the sinker being above the swivel, a hook-length/leader connects the hook/bait to the swivel (below the swivel). This ‘trace’ method of rigging allows the bait to waft around and is usually used when you want the bait to have some movement to entice the fish.

In very shallow reef conditions the running sinker rig is still employed. Although, if there is incoming wash in the form of mini-breaking waves that threaten to move the bait around too much (and tangle the line) - the well-equipped angler may choose flat-sided bean sinkers as their running sinker because the beans don’t get jostled as much.

The bean sinker is like a flattened ball sinker and because it doesn’t get moved around as much in turbulence you can often use a lighter bean sinker than you would have to with a ball in the ‘washing-machine’ zone.

Barrel sinkers are often used at anchor around the reefs when you want to present a large live bait close to the bottom. The alternative if you really want contact with the bottom of the reef is to use a big bean sinker that can lay flat on the sea floor. Both the big bean sinker and big barrel weight rig are generally used in faster water flows. This is because they usually employ a long trace between the hook and the swivel with the weight above the swivel on the main line.


Use swivels on your fishing rig, since they are stable during the baiting phase and movable once you have a bite. They also make retrieval simpler and snag far less often than fixed wire sinkers do. Keep in mind that big swivels weigh down your fishing rig and may interfere with your bait presentation. Smaller swivels, however, cannot always hold up under a strong pull from a large fish.


The two most common types of knots are the uni knot and the half blood knot. Either can be used on a single hook with a running sinker, a gang hook rig with sinker or a paternoster rig. 

Uni knot:

Please see the following clip for how to tie a uni knot:

Half Blood knot:

Please see the following clip for how to tie a half blood knot:



Fishing location: Estuary fishing/off the rocks

Fish caught: Barramundi, Sea Bream, Jewfish and Flat Head

Bait commonly used: Pilchards, Prawns

Benefits: The beauty of this rig is that by running the sinker under the swivel, it makes the rig more snag resistant- which is good for when fishing in estuaries where there are lot’s of reeds and rocks in the water. Sometimes if you do get snagged and the rig isn’t coming off, if you wait a little while, the fish may pick the rig off from where it’s stuck. If they do this, be sure to wind your rig in quickly to prevent it getting snagged again.

With this particular rig your ideal sinker would be a ball. You can either thread one sinker on or use two smaller sinkers. Sometimes this is the more effective option, as they are less visible.
The sinkers will rest nicely on top of your hook for the cast. Although keep in mind that once your rig hits the water, the sinkers will move further up your leader away from the bait. This will then allow the fish to pick your bait up without feeling any immediate weight! Be mindful that as soon as your sinkers reach the swivel they will stop and the fish will feel the weight- so be sure to be swift when setting those hooks. You would use this style rig when fishing over snaggy ground.

Construct the rig as follows:

1. On the leader line, tie a half blood knot to the hook
2. Connect the leader line to the swivel
3. Connect the swivel to the sinker
4. Thread the leader line through the sinker
5. Connect the leader line to the main line

A quick clip on how to set up a simple single hook with a running sinker (Although the sinker is below the swivel):



Fishing location: Fishing off the beach

Fish caught: Salmon and Tailor

Bait commonly used: Whole pilchards – threaded onto three hooks.

Benefits: The main benefit of the ganged hook rig is that it holds the bait, so that it can be cast and retrieved as if it were a live, natural, free-swimming baitfish. The extra hooks help, but the real benefit comes from the presentation of the bait, than the extra hooks. This is because with ganged hooks, the bait is always presented as a natural baitfish, swimming through the water column.

These rigs are great for catching fish such as salmon, tailor and mulloway from the beach as you can make the rig extra strong and heavy to contend with the rough ocean conditions you most often encounter when targeting these species! They’re also great for using when bottom bouncing, as you can have quite a long rig, which is streamlined. Furthermore, they are also effective for fishing deep water as your hooks can sit a fair distance above the sinker, which is better as the fish do not feel any weight.

Construct the rig as follows:

1. On the leader line, tie a half blood knot to the hook
2. Thread through the sinker
3. Connect the sinker to the swivel
4. Connect the swivel to the main line



Fishing location: Offshore/reef fishing, rocks or jetty

Fish caught: Flathead and Snapper

Bait commonly used: Mullet, Prawns, Whole Pilchards

Bait to be used on camera: Pilchards, cut into 2cm portions

Benefits:  As well as giving you more than one hook to fish with, the paternoster is highly effective because of its tangle-resistant design.  This is a time proven deep-water rig that has been used by offshore anglers for generations. This rig employs a three-way swivel that will help reduce the risk of tangles and lost fishing time through line twist. Plus, more hooks equals more chances of catching your fish!

Construct the rig as follows:

1. On the leader line, tie a half blood knot through the sinker
2. Connect the leader line to a triple swivel
3. Connect one of the swivel eyes to a separate leader line that will connect to a single hook
4. Connect the last eye of the swivel to another leader line, and through to another triple swivel
5. Connect one of the eyes to another leader line, just as before and attach another single hook
6. Connect the last free eye of the triple swivel to the leader line
7. Connect the leader line to the main line

For a clip on how to rig a paternoster rig:


• Pliers
• Scissors (to cut the fishing line)
• Single hooks and gang hooks
• Single swivels and triple swivels
• Sinkers – small round, large round, one bean, star sinker, grip sinker
• Line – Fishing line for the fishing rod (main line), and fishing line for the leader line (rig)
• Fishing rod
• Bait Bucket
• Wet ones and paper towel
• Fileting knife

This is the line that should be used as the main line, IE: the line that is fed through the fishing rod. It is a softer line and is designed so that it will not tangle easily.

Use this line as your leader line, IE: for the rigs to be tied. The leader line will have the sinker etc and then be tied to the main line.

Single hook, to be used on the single hook with the running sinker and the paternoster rig.

Ganged hook, to be used on the Gang hook rig.

Single swivels. To be used on the single hook and the ganged hook.

Triple swivels. To be used on the paternoster rig.

Use 1 small round sinker for the Single hook. The other two can be used in heavy currents – the heavier the current, the heavier the sinker should be used.

Grip sinker (top sinker) and a star sinker. These sinkers are good for gripping onto the sand, and for holding the line still when there are fish in a deep hole.

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