If you’re an avid fisherman and live close to a saltwater beach, surf fishing presents a great opportunity to test your mettle from shore. Whether you live on the west coast of the U.S. or in some exotic tropical locale, surf fishing provides a great opportunity to not only learn a new method of fishing but tremendous excitement as well. Regardless of your location, it is quite possible to catch dozens of different species of fish that fight hard and provide mouth-watering table fare.
If you’re serious about getting into surf fishing, you’re going to need some specialized equipment that is different from the equipment you might be used to. Not sure where to begin? You’re in luck as we’ve taken the time to try and review the best surfcasting rods and surf reels for all different surf fishing conditions. If you take the time to do a little research ahead of time, you’ll be able to make an educated decision and find the surfcasting equipment that best suits your needs.
Top 9 Best Surf Rods
Shakespeare Ugly Stik Bigwater
The Ugly Stik Bigwater is the perfect choice for a budget-friendly and value-packed surfing rod. With an impressively durable blank construction combining graphite and fiberglass and clear tip design, both power and control are ensured.
The Shakespeare Ugly Stik Bigwater features durable and comfortable EVA grips that allow you to maintain a firm grip when battling tough fish. While the Bigwater is a strong rod, it also provides a lot of sensitivity, which allows you to feel even the slightest pulls.
The Bigwater is so price-friendly that you may even consider getting two models with various sizes to easily swap for certain surf fishing scenarios. The rod also features Ugly Tuff™ one-piece double-footed stainless steel guides which is a big pro. No need to worry about popouts.
The Ugly Stik Bigwater comes with a 7-year limited warranty.
PENN Battalion Spinning Rod
Our top budget pick is the PENN Battalion surf spinning rod. PENN always seems to provide immense value with its fishing tackle and the Battalion is no exception.
Ranging in lengths from 8' to 12' and with several handle types, actions and rod powers, the PENN Battalion surely comes in a variation tailored for you. The Battalion uses a two-piece blank design in graphite composite.
Its rubber shrink handles are highly comfortable and seem to provide the necessary grip to take on most challenges.
Although it isn't the pinnacle of surf rods, you get everything you need as a beginner or casual surf fisherman. It's an excellent jetty and Ulua rod all in all.
When testing the 10-footer, we were impressed by the amount of power we got. We were able to cast the bait notably further than most equally-priced competitors.
Shimano Tiralejo Spinning Rod
Shimano has been a major player in the fishing rod industry for decades. While they are best known for their high-quality spinning and bait-casting rods, the Tiralejo Surf Spinning Rod is one of the best on the market. When paired with the Shimano Ultegra XTD or Stradic Ci4+ reels, the combination is tough to beat. The combination incorporates Shimano’s Long Cast Concept which allows surf anglers to cast long distances and cover lots of water.
The Tiralejo surf fishing pole is made using C4S construction that incorporates a high modulus blank that is wrapped in four layers of high-grade graphite allowing surf anglers maximum stability and strength without sacrificing the sensitivity needed to detect even the most subtle strikes.
This rod and reel combo is specifically designed to use PowerPro line that is five times stronger than monofilament and doesn’t stretch and become weak.
Length options are 9’6”, 10’6”, 11’ and 12’.
If you’re looking for one of the best rod and reel combos on the market, it’s hard to beat the Shimano Tiralejo Surf Fishing Rod.
Okuma Nomad Travel Surf Rod
The Okuma Nomad Travel Surf Rod is a great option for any surf angler that travels to different destinations but prefers the familiarity of his own equipment.
This rod comes in three pieces that make it easy to pack when traveling. Each rod comes with a heavy and light tip section giving surf anglers versatility while minimizing storage space. The Okuma Nomad also comes with a custom carrying case that is padded and waterproof. The design allows it to easily fit into overhead storage bins and eliminates the cost of checking cumbersome traditional rod tubes on airlines.
The Nomad features a graphite blank with a carbon outer wrap making it both lightweight and durable.
Fuji guide frames eliminate wind knots and are compatible with braided line for anglers chasing bigger fish.
European spigot ferrules give the rod the sensitivity and feel of a one-piece rod.
Length options are either 9’ or 10’ and the rods are moderately priced making them perfect for surf anglers that travel, are on a budget or simply desire top-notch quality and performance.
Tica UGSA Series Spinning Rod
The Tica UGSA Series Surf Spinning Rod consistently receives some of the highest praise of any surf rod out there.
Made of high modulus TC3 graphite, the blank brings together the very best in power, durability, and responsiveness.
A Fuji aconite tip guide and Fuji Hardloy ring guides virtually eliminate tangles and allow the line to pass through the guides seamlessly for consistent accuracy and distance.
The non-slip cork handle is easy on your hands and allows for full control of the pole. The foldable hook keeper saves you the hassle of having to re-tie your bait or lure every time you change locations so you’ll spend more time with your line in the water as a result.
Length options vary from 8’ to 12’ meaning there are plenty of options to choose from depending on the conditions in which you fish.
PLUSINNO Telescopic Combo Kit
If you want to get all your necessary fishing gear in one purchase or you’re not quite sure what to get that special angler in your family, look no further than the Plusinno Telescopic Fishing Rod with Reel Combo and Saltwater Kit.
The telescopic design of this rod means that it retracts to a size that can be easily stored in a fishing backpack or other small compartment for easy transport.
Even though the combo kit is one of the best values on the market, it’s proven to stand the test of time and perform consistently. The blank is made of high-density carbon fiber making it durable, responsive and light.
The set includes a rod of your choosing, reel, carrying case, pre-loaded line, hooks and a tackle box of lures that are proven to be effective for a variety of different species and conditions.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly telescopic fishing rod and reel combo that you can fit in the tightest of spaces, this is a solid option.
St. Croix Mojo Surf Spinning Rod
Having been in business for more than 70 years, St. Croix has a reputation for building quality fishing rods that fit any budget. The Mojo Surf Spinning Pole is no exception.
The Mojo’s design features Integrated Poly Curve Technology that eliminates all transitional points in the rod blank providing surf anglers with smooth action, ultimate strength and unmatched sensitivity.
Not even the smallest of details go unnoticed in the design of the Mojo rod. The Fuji reel seat, X-wrap handle and slope frame reduce tangling and give you complete control over the pole. SCII graphite and light-weight guides make the Mojo exceptionally durable and accurate.
Weight ranges are from 7’ to 12’ meaning there is a St. Croix rod for any surf fishing conditions you find yourself in.
Penn Battle II Spinning Rod and Reel Combo
The Penn Battle II Spinning Rod and Reel Combo is a great option if you’re just getting into surf fishing. By including a rod and reel in one package at a reasonable price, you’ll save time doing unnecessary research and won’t have to worry about buying the wrong or mismatching equipment.
The technology in the reel is the most modern available and is sure to have you landing more fish. The HT-100 Versa Drag system made of carbon fiber engages both sides of all drag washers to create maximum drag while the anti-reverse bearing eliminates pullback so all you have to do is keep reeling when you’re landing a fish.
The spool functions best when using Berkley or Spiderwire Superline.
The Battle II is available in lengths ranging from 6’6” to 10’. We highly recommend opting for one of the bigger models if you’re looking to use it for surf fishing.
Fiblink Surf 2-Piece Spinning Rod
If traveling light is important to you, look no further than the Fiblink Surf Spinning rod. Two-piece or three-piece construction makes this one of the most compact rods on the market and takes up minimal storage space leaving plenty of room for all your other surf fishing equipment.
The Fiblink is also one of the best options for surf rods under $100. Just because it’s moderately priced, however, doesn’t mean that quality is sacrificed in design, materials or technology.
State-of-the-art carbon fiber construction gives you both enhanced durability and sensitivity.
Then guides are made from a combination of ceramic and stainless steel and are strategically placed on the blank to minimize tangles and improve distance and accuracy.
The ergonomic non-slip cork handle provides control over the rod but won’t tear up your hands after a long day of fishing.
The Fiblink rod is available in lengths of 9’, 10’ and 12’.
If you’re looking for a budget surf rod that delivers consistent performance, the Fliblink Surf Spinning Rod is worth considering.
Surf Rod Buying Considerations
There are countless questions to consider when purchasing a surf fishing rod. Questions like how much money you’re willing to spend, what species you’ll be pursuing, your skill level, the conditions you’ll be fishing in and what equipment will give you the best chance to catch fish should all be considered before you pull the trigger.
Surf Casting Rod vs. Spinning Rod
The nature of fishing in saltwater dictates that you’re going to need to cover more water than if you were fishing in a lake or stream. The ocean is a big place and fish aren’t always as concentrated as they are elsewhere. That’s where surfcasting rods come in. Unlike spinning rods, they are usually meant to be cast with two hands to achieve maximum distance. They also tend to be stiffer than spinning rods as you’re often pursuing larger fish that a spinning rod might not be able to handle.
Type of Fishing & Rod Length
There are three general styles of surf fishing.
The simplest, most recommended for beginners is bank or pier fishing. This method usually involves still fishing with bait and targeting smaller bottom fish like flounder. Fishing for species that are close to shore doesn’t require anything more than a small surf rod with a light action and a length of 7’ to 9’. Starting out fishing with this simple method will allow you to have some early success and develop a sense for the way fish in the ocean behave.
The next method involves using lures that you cast and retrieve to target slightly larger species like Blue Fish and Mackerel. For these species, you’ll want a rod that can handle throwing lures weighing ¾ of an ounce to an ounce and a half. The weight of these lures not only allows them to sink in quick ocean currents but enables you to cast greater distances and cover more water. Stiffer rods with lengths or 9’ to 11’ are best for this type of fishing.
Maybe you want to target large species of fish like Tarpon or sharks. You’ll need a rod that can throw up to 8 ounces of weight and handle hard-fighting fish weighing 20 pounds or more. You certainly don’t want to leave anything to chance in these circumstances. Spending the money on a quality rod with a stiff action and 12’ or more in length is your best option. Just like with carp rods (a good guide from carpnbait.co.uk on that), you want that extra bit of length.
Rod Action & Power
Action/weight and power go hand in hand.
Rod power is a term used to describe a rod’s strength. Power ranges from light to heavy and most surf fishermen prefer the versatility of a rod with a power of medium-heavy. This power set-up is sensitive enough to feel the bites of small fish but also has enough backbone to land larger species without risk of breaking the rod or line.
Rod action references the bend or taper of a surf casting rod under stress when you’re landing a fish. Rods with slow action bend in the middle of the rod while rods with fast action bend at the tip. Rod action is most relevant when considering casting distance. Because of the added flex in the tip, fast action rods are ideal for casting lures. Fast action also aids in hook sets for fish that strike quickly and aggressively. Slow or medium-action rods are best for still fishing with bait.
What Reel and Handle Setup Is Best for You?
In order to maximize distance and accuracy with the two-handed setup of a surfcasting rod, making sure the reel seat and handle are optimized to your liking is imperative. Due to the fact that you’re fishing in a saltwater environment, reel seats made of stainless steel are prone to corrosion. For this reason, making the investment of reel seats comprised of graphite that won’t rust is worth it.
Two-handed grips are considerably longer than those of baitcasting rods or spin casting rods. For this reason, choosing a grip material that is comfortable in your hands yet gives you control goes a long way. In most cases, your options are either cork or foam. Firmness, density, and size vary depending on the grip and it’s highly recommended to test different grips out to find the one that is best for you.
Making The Best Decision For You
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or brand new to surf fishing, doing the necessary research ahead of time will ensure that you make an informed decision when you go to make a purchase. Keeping in mind the fishing method you’re going to use, the type of fish you’ll be chasing and the conditions you’re going to be fishing in are all good places to begin your search. Seeking the advice of an experienced friend or trusted industry expert will take a lot of the guesswork out of the equation as well.
Even though surf fishing can take a while to learn, it’s a rewarding experience and accessible to anyone for a minimal investment. The different conditions in which you can fish and the anticipation of what might be at the end of your line keep the experience exciting and enjoyable. If you’re willing to do a little leg work on the front end, surf fishing is a sport you can enjoy for years and years.
Further reading: Buying Guide for Shore Fishing Spinning Rods