A fundamental principle of the terminal rig is that it should follow a proven design which prevents it from tangling during fishing. It should include a link for attaching the lead and a clip or swivel to link it to the main line.
The most successful and popular design of rig for shore angling is the monofilament paternoster. This involves a main rig body line with hooklengths (snoods) coming off it at intervals via small swivels crimped in place between two micro beads. This simple mono paternoster design is the basis of most of the popular shore angling terminal rigs we see today.
Making your own terminal rigs is a valuable skill for the sea angler because of the options it permits, such as different designs, dimensions and hook sizes. However, the relative dimensions of all rig elements are crucial to their performance, in that hooklengths should not be allowed to overlap each other or the top and bottom links. The beginner can copy a few shop-tied rigs to get the basic rules and construction ideas.
Fewer hooks on a rig means it has less chance of snagging on weed or rocks, but it also means your odds of catching fish are reduced. There is a fine balance in this initial decision, which is governed by the type of sea bed and the size of the species sought. Successfully fishing over a snaggy sea bed is often only possible with a single bait, either with one hook or two hooks (called a Pennell rig) in the same bait. The use of a large bait increases the scent trail and greatly improves the odds of a fish finding the bait in a forest of kelp, for example.
Over clear sand or mud, three hooks increase the odds of a fish taking the bait, and this tactic is particularly successful when fishing for small fish from piers and beaches. Bait scent is again important, but three small scented baits can have the same scent trail and properties of attraction as a single large bait.
Next into the equation comes casting distance – one baited hook can be cast further than two or three, and the difference is all too apparent when casting into a head wind or with a flapper rig. This is where the hooklengths (snoods) hang down from the body of the rig, allowing the baits to spin and flap during the cast – reducing distance dramatically.
In order to improve the aerodynamic performance of baited terminal rigs, bait clips are added to pin hookbaits close behind the lead and to the rig's body. Casting distance is less important over rough ground, because the further you cast, the greater the odds of hooking up. Tackle strength is the first criterion for rough ground to enable the end gear to escape snags and allow the angler to haul fish through rock and weed.
Tackle loss is also more expensive if it involves complicated and intricate rigs with extra accessories such as bait clips and the like.
Distance can be a priority over clear ground to reach a distant fish-holding feature, and clipped rigs are generally used for increased casting distance over clear sea beds, or in order to cast past snags to a clear bottom. They also help to keep delicate baits on the hook during power casting.
The dangers of a rig or shock leader breaking and allowing a 6oz lead to fly off into a group of anglers or the public could be horrific, so safety is a high priority if you build your own rigs. The main body line of the rig needs to be the same breaking strain as the casting shock leader and in general, for power casting, a minimum of 60lb is used. For overhead casting, lighter line down to 30lb can be used, but it is not usual to go below that breaking strain for any beachcasting situation. Shock leader and rig breaking strain is calculated by multiplying the weight of the lead or sinker by 10, for example, 6oz lead x 10 = 60lb; 7oz lead x 10 = 70lb leader and rig line.
There are risks in repeatedly using the same terminal rig. Inevitable damage means rigs have to be replaced regularly, so keep an eye on their condition.