Paternoster Rig: Mastering the Fishing Technique

You might have heard of the Paternoster Rig and wondered what it’s all about.

In this article, we’ll cover what the Paternoster Rig actually is, how to make one yourself, and some tips and tricks on how to best utilize it during your fishing adventures.

This rig is perfect for both freshwater and saltwater fishing, making it a go-to option for different fishing situations.

Then let’s dive in!

The paternoster rig
The Paternoster Rig

Take a look at our best rigs for surf fishing here.

The Paternoster Rig – What Is It?

The Paternoster Rig is a versatile bottom fishing rig that has been around for quite some time.

It consists of a sinker tied to the end of your fishing line, with 2 or 3 hooks tied to dropper loops above the weight.

This setup allows you to present multiple baits at different depths, increasing your chances of attracting a variety of fish species.

It differs from other fishing rigs, such as the dropper loop rig with a key difference.

While the dropper rig typically has only one hook, a Paternoster Rig has 2 to 3 hooks, allowing for multiple baits in the water at once. This makes it a popular choice among offshore fishing enthusiasts, especially when bottom fishing from an anchored boat.

Tackle for a Paternoster Rig

When you’re setting up a paternoster rig, it’s essential to have the right tackle. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you’ll need:

  • Bait hooks (size 6/0 to #2): These are the hooks you’ll attach to your leader line. The size depends on the species you are targeting.
  • Barrel swivel: This small, cylindrical piece connects your main line to the leader and prevents line twists while you’re casting and retrieving.
  • Sinker: Choose a sinker between 1 to 6 oz, depending on the strength of the current or tide you’re dealing with. The sinker is essential for helping your bait stay steady near the bottom.
  • Leader line: Opt for a 30 to 50 lb test leader in either mono or fluoro, as this will provide the necessary strength to hold up against fish and underwater structures.

How to Tie a Paternoster Rig

Tying a paternoster rig is a breeze, and you’ll love how versatile this fishing rig is. You can also customize it for different fishing conditions.

Let’s have a look at how to tie this fantastic rig.

To begin, grab your preferred material for the leader, which could be monofilament, fluorocarbon, or wire. Then, follow these step-by-step instructions:

Tie your leader to the eye of your sinker using a single uni knot or palomar knot. This will anchor the rig and help keep it steady in the water.

The sinker on a paternoster rig

Measure out approximately 3 to 4 feet of leader line and attach the tag end to your barrel swivel using a Clinch or Trilene knot. Now you have a leader line connected to the sinker at one end and a swivel at the other end.

Paternoster Rig swivel to mainline

Next, we’ll create dropper loops along the leader line. To do this, form a loop with the line and twist it 5-6 times. Then, pass the end of the loop through the middle of the twists and pull it tight. You can add as many dropper loops as desired, just make sure they’re evenly spaced along the leader line.

Paternoster Rig dropper loop

Now, it’s time to attach your hooks to the dropper loops. Carefully thread the dropper loop through the eye of the hook, then pass the hook through the loop and pull it tight. Repeat this process for all the dropper loops.

Attaching hooks to paternoster rig

Finally, connect the other end of the barrel swivel to your main fishing line, and you’re all set! Your paternoster rig is ready for action.

Swivel to mailine on paternoster

Remember, you can customize your rig to suit specific fishing conditions. For instance, if you’re going after smaller fish, opt for a lighter line. If you’re dealing with stronger currents, use heavier line to keep the rig in place. Make sure your rod tip is positioned at a steeper angle to help keep your hooks off the bottom and away from snags.

Now that you know how to tie a paternoster rig, it’s time to hit the water and catch some fish! Good luck and happy fishing!

The Paternoster Rig – When & How to Use It?

I prefer to use the Paternoster rig on piers, jetties, off a boat, or on a steeply shelving beach.

Click here for more of the best surf fishing rigs.

The rig performs best when the mainline is tight and the snells holding the bait are able to float and wave around freely in the water column.

If you’re fishing with a Paternoster Rig from the beach, using a longer rod and a sturdy rod holder helps to keep the bait off the bottom so the bait is presented as naturally as possible.

By fishing closer to the water or using a longer rod, you’ll create a steeper angle from your rod tip to the water, helping to keep your hooks off the bottom and away from potential snags.

The rig is great for testing out multiple baits at different depths in the water. You can then see what the fish are biting on and where they are striking in the water column to home in on those prize catches and end up landing more fish.

Bait for Paternoster Rig

Target Species for the Paternoster Rig

The Paternoster Rig is a versatile bottom fishing rig that works well for targeting a variety of species.

It’s a highly effective method to catch fish like snapper, bream, flathead, whiting, and more. Its design allows you to use multiple hooks and different weights to adapt to the specific fish you’re targeting.

Target species for paternoster rig


One of the most popular targets for the Paternoster Rig is snapper. They’re attracted to the bait presented on the multiple hooks that are part of the rig.

As snappers are a bottom-feeding fish, the Paternoster Rig works great as it maintains the bait close to the seabed. A tip for snapper-success: use a heavier sinker to keep your line stable on the ocean floor without getting snagged.

Flounder and Pompano

Flounder and pompano are also commonly caught using the Paternoster Rig.

Their preference for feeding close to the seabed makes them a perfect candidate for this type of rig.

When targeting flounder and pompano, remember to adjust the size of your hooks and bait to match the fish’s size. These fish can be quite finicky, so experiment with your bait choices and hook sizes.

Whiting and flathead

Flathead and whiting are another two species that you can successfully catch with a Paternoster Rig.

Use a lighter setup with a smaller sinker and thinner main line to ensure that your rig remains as natural-looking as possible.

With the flathead’s love for ambush-feeding, your bait should be presented with little resistance, so a lighter rig will be more enticing to them.

Lighter rigs work well for Whiting too, and using worm baits are absolutely killer for catching big whiting.

Bream and Porgy

Bream can be caught using a similar setup as flathead and whiting.

They are particularly fond of crustacean baits, so consider using fresh prawns or crab as bait on your hooks – but to be honest bream eat almost anything.

With its ability to accommodate multiple hooks, different weights, and various bait types, you’ll find yourself effectively reeling in snapper, flounder, pompano, bream, flathead, and whiting using the Paternoster Rig.