What I always tell people at the piers I fish, “Any rig that doesn’t get twisted up and keeps your bait out of reach of the crabs will work!” A key is to use enough weight to hold in the current you are fishing and if you can fish only one ounce of weight, do it. I would say a sliding sinker is most common up and down the coast of California (and will work just about anywhere). Other than the most common method, I have tried all types of methods and have had success with them all. The slip-float, the trolley, 3-way swivel, plain old dropper loops with foot-long hook lines, sliding rig beads with a barrel swivel perpendicular to the hook-line. And plugging has gained some popularity from piers with swim baits whether vertically jigged, casted and retrieved and bounced off the bottom, or drop-shotted.
To catch them, you will need to feel them taking the bait or see it. Same as that old article, you can feed them a little line before you set if you like. If you watch your line, many times you will see your line take off in a direction. Some will wait until the line takes off running again to set, some will set immediately. I have even picked up the line in my hands, inched it back in my fingers slowly to feel weight on the line and even stimulate the fish to take off running again. If you use the old slip-bobber, I have more than once looked over the pier rail to see the float submerged without the halibut running anywhere or without even one click sound on a clicker. Don’t wait around because you will witness the submerged float pop back up to the surface as the fish has eaten the bait, missed the hook, and taken off.
When the float is submerged, halibut sometimes simply snap on the bait and sit back down on the bottom. If you see the float under in this case, reel in your slack, and give an upward swing on your rod. You should receive in return headshakes from an awake fish taking off.
Circle hooks are another way to catch halibut and light wire are the best type for Cali-Hali. I would adamantly recommend these hooks for anyone that is having problems hooking halibut. Many times you will hook a fish that you did even know was there. The key is to have your pole in a holder (or secured). Then, set a couple pounds of drag on your reel (less than your fighting drag) to set the hook when the fish takes off. When it takes off, the rod will load up, double over, and the hook will set in the mouth (usually the corner) and will apply and maintain pressure when you start reeling. The good thing about the offset, wire circle hooks is that you can set your hook in a traditional fashion as well, and that works too.