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Best Surf Fishing Rods: How to Pick the Right Length, Weight, Action, and More

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My Uncle Mike used to take me surf fishing as a kid down at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

From the blur that remains from that time decades ago, one this is certain…it was a blast!

Before we get to the rest of the story, let me get to the point and share what surf fishing rods we like the best…

Top Surf Fishing Rods

Best surf fishing pole
The best surf fishing pole is one that gets your bait or lures out to where the fish are ready to bite!

Before you jump ahead and buy a pole, it’s good to know a bit more about surf fishing so you can make a sound decision.

Let’s jump in!

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How Do You Surf Fish?

The two most common ways of surf fishing are short casting and long casting. Whichever method you enjoy the most will dictate the length, power, and action of the rod you buy.

Child with a surf fishing rod
It’s never too early to start the next generation caring about catching fish and taking care of the environment.

For getting started in surf fishing, it’s generally recommended that you start with a shorter pole and have fun fishing where the water is close to breaking on you. You’ll get more casts throughout the session and you’ll probably catch a few smaller fish.

After you get comfortable with the shorter rod, you can slowly make your way up to the long surf rods and go after the big fish. These types of rods tend to have a steeper learning curve for casting, but once you master it, there’s nothing like having a huge bait way out past the breakers while you wait for a tarpon or shark.

Fan Casting Surf Poles

Fan casting is a great way to cover a lot of ground while surf fishing. Cast straight, cast to the right, cast to the left at various angles and try to cover the largest amount of surface area as possible until you catch a fish.

The theory here is that a fish won’t bite your bait if it’s never presented the opportunity. So rather than cast and wait, you are trying to drag the bait or lure (spoon lures work well for this) in front of them hoping they will bite.

A rod for this task will be one that is shorter and responsive so you can cast it out many times per hour.

It’s recommended that you have a rod:

  • Length: 7 to 9 feet
  • Power: Medium to medium-light
  • Action: Fast

Since you don’t need to get your bait far out, a 7 to 9-foot rod will have more than enough length to give you the whip to get it out far. The medium to medium-light power will give you a nice flex in your rod and not be too stiff to make it hard to cast.

The fast action will allow the tip to bend and give you the feel to set the hook when you feel the bite.

Long Cast Surf Fishing Rods

I’m sure you’ve seen some anglers at the beach and they are standing next to a massive fishing pole that looks more like an antenna than a normal rod.

They use these long casting rods to get their baits way out past the breakers and into the areas where the sand drops off and the larger fish rest

Surf Fishing Rod Features

Not all rods are created equal. It’s helpful to know the different aspects of a rod so you can make an informed decision on which one is right for your target fish and local environment.

Let’s first determine the length of the rod we need.

Rod Length

For a surf rod, you’ll need to decide if you’re going to be surfing from shore casting regularly, if you’re going to be on a jetty, or if you’re a beach banger throwing out the long cast.

Best surf fishing rod for cities
The length of surf fishing rod you choose depends on where you plan to use it.

Rod sizes will range from 7 to 15 feet.

  • 7 – 9 feet will be great for fan casting in the surf to catch small to medium size fish, rays, and sharks.
  • 9 – 12 feet will work for pretty much all surf fishing conditions from fan casting, jettys, and even throwing out the long cast.
  • 12 – 15 feet is only for long casting. This is where you’ll be throwing your bait out as far as you can and hopefully land the monsters.

Rod Power

Surfcasting rod power is the amount of pressure you have to put on the rod to make it bend.

It’s common to see manufacturers list the rod power from heavy to light. For a surf fisher, you’ll want to play in the medium-heavy to a medium-light range. Heavy power rods are better used on boats going after blue water fish and light power rods are better for more freshwater applications.

Some manufacturers are starting to put power ratings from 1 – 5 where one is light power and five means heavy power.

Rod Action

The action on a rod can be the difference between an easy day or an exhausted day in the life of a surf fisher. The faster action will bend the top third of your blank, whereas a moderate action will bend more into the handle.

This might not seem like a big deal but if you’re fighting large fish all day and you’re losing mechanical advantage because your rod tip is bending too much, you’re going to get sore.

Who wants a tight neck or shoulders?

A faster action will give you more distance in your cast due to its ability to whip. Don’t let distance of a cast be the final determining factor. If you’re going after bigger fish, then it might be worthwhile to have a shorter cast if it makes it easier for you to bring them in. Then you’ll want to opt for a moderate action rod.

Remember the rod is your tool for fishing and it should be working for you to its full potential.

Which action is right for you?

  • If you’re going for the long cast: moderate to fast.
  • If you’re going from the jetty or shore: faster will help you land the hook easier.

Rod Material

Most rods are made from either two types of material, graphite or fiberglass. Depending on your budget and the type of fishing you’ll do will dictate the material choice you go for. When in doubt it’s advised to go graphite, but from time to time there will be applications where fiberglass is better suited for your needs.

Graphite Rods

Graphite rods are the popular choice due to their lightness and sensitivity. Graphite is a strong material and anglers all over the world swear by them.

Not all graphite is the same so make sure you go with a quality brand. To process graphite, it takes extremely hot ovens to form and shape the graphite to have its impressive strength. These ovens aren’t cheap and the process of great shops come at a premium.

Just because a rod says it’s graphite doesn’t tell you much. Depending on how many layers of graphite sheet used between the resin could make for a quality rod or a piece of junk. If you want a rod to last for a long time, look for a brand that uses an ample amount of graphite material. You might have a little stiffer rod, but it won’t break on you either.

Fiberglass Rods

Fiberglass is another type of material commonly used in fishing rods for decades. They tend to have a softer action while still being tough. If you’re going to be throwing a crankbait or just need a medium to slow action, then try out a fiberglass rod.

Hybrid Rods

Since graphite and fiberglass are sheets of material that get fused together with resin, a rod manufacturer can get creative in their layup of the materials. This allows for some novel types of actions and power profiles to be created.

As you become more advanced in your angling and need something specific or maybe even a custom rod, think about researching hybrid layups.

Best surf fishing rod for jettys
Fishing off of structures is fun because usually fish like to eat near them.

Rod Line Guides

It’s important to pick a rod with quality guides. The last thing you want to have is a guide breaking and leaving a large section of your line floating around in the wind. This could lead to shorter casts or tangles that will ruin your day.

Unless you’re making a custom rod you probably won’t have much say over the size guides that come with your rod. The best thing you can do is just make sure they are Fuji guides or an equivalent and trust that the rod manufacturer has installed them correctly.

In this article, we mainly covered spinning rods, but if you opt for a conventional reel then you’ll need to find a conventional rod that suits your needs. With this style of the rod, the guides are facing towards you and are usually a bit smaller. This keeps the line nice and straight as you cast far with the conventional reel.

Reel Seats

Another component of a quality surf rod is the reel seat chosen by the manufacturer. Again, you probably won’t have much said as to which reel seat comes with your rod, but hopefully, they installed a Fuji rail seat or equivalent.

Worst comes to worse, I have seen anglers pull out the big roll of electrical tape or duct tape and bond their reel to the rod. It might look janky and make it hard for you to swamp rods when you need too, but it gets the job done in a bind.

If you’re going for the bigger fish make sure the reel seat has a backing plate to help take some of the load when you’re pulling hard against the fish.

Rod Handle Style

Rod handles come in various lengths and materials depending on the application. If you’re going for fan casting on the beach or jetty, you’re probably going to use a shorter handle than the long casting poles.

The materials used are usually between the cork and EVA foam. Both work well as they are easy to grip and tend to be light. Sometimes you’ll find a rod with both types of materials, it just comes down to personal preference. If you want, you can always regrip a rod to fit your liking.

On the end of some rods, you’ll find a rubber cap. This gives you some grip when you lean your rod against your car or if you need to use the rod as a walking stick on the jetty.

Split Grip vs. One Piece Grip

Most times this comes down to personal preference. Split grip uses less material which makes the rod a bit lighter. If you like to cast with two hands you should probably opt for the one piece grip as it gives you more surface area to grab on too.

I’ve been using one piece grips all my life and they work fine. Unless you have a preference for split grips, I’d say stick to the tried and true.

How to Care For Your Surf Fishing Rod?

Always rinse off your surf rod after each use to get the sand and salt off the material. If you want to be thorough then it’s important to disassemble your rod down to its parts and give it a good rinse as well.

Don’t let your rods sit in standing water for too long. After you rinse them, put the pieces in a warm dry spot out of the sun and let them dry before putting them away in storage.

Surf Fishing Rod Buyer’s Checklist

  • What type of fish are you trying to catch?
  • Do you want to fan cast from shore or jetty or do you want to do the long cast?
  • What length do you feel comfortable casting?
  • What type of reel are you using? This will dictate the type of rod you should get as well.
  • What’s your budget?
  • Desired power and action do you want?
  • What type of handle do you like better, cork or foam?
  • Do you have a trusted brand?
  • Split grip or one piece grip.
  • What color do you want?
  • Should you get a short and a long rod so you can experience the full range of surf fishing?

Best Surf Fishing Rods Reviews

Best Surf Casting Rod

Tica UGSA Surf Fishing Rod

Tica UGSA-90M2S Dolphin-UGSA Surf Spin Rod, 9-Feet, 2-Piece
  • Constructed of high modulus TC3 graphite material
  • High quality FUJI alconite tip top guide and FUJI...
  • FUJI DPS reel seat

Anglers swear by it. Most even say it’s the best rod they’ve ever owned. I know a guy who’s been fishing for almost a half century and he says this rod is his baby.

This rod will excel with a 2oz weight and can even get up to 3oz if you are a smooth caster.

You won’t be upset with a 9′ and a nice spinning rod for a day out in the sand.

See Prices >


Best Long Distance Surf Casting Rod

Bass Pro Shop Ocean Master 12’

bass pro shop best spinning surf rod Offshore Angler Ocean Master Surf Spinning Rod

“Designed to deliver heavy sinkers far past the breakers, the Offshore Angler Ocean Master Surf Spinning Rod has balance, leverage, accuracy, and the raw power to battle hard fighting saltwater fish. The Ocean Master surf rod is crafted from”

Just go on YouTube and type in Bass Pro Ocean Master…this rod is the shining joy for long distance casters. It’s been newly revamped so it’s lighter, stronger, and can put your bait on the other side of the planet.

If you want to reach those hard to reach fish, try this one out.

See Prices >


Best Jetty Rods

Penn Battalion

Penn BATSF2040S12 Battalion 2-Piece Surf Spinning Rod (12-Feet)
  • Penn BATSF2040S12 Battalion surf
  • Spinning rod, 12', 2 pc, mod. Heavy
  • 4-8 oz lures, 20 lb - 40 lb line, 7 guides

This is a capable rod and it’s not going to let you down. Just don’t expect many bells and whistles. It’s good for light surf or an enjoyable day on the jetty.

If you grab the 9′ you’ll be able to load 0.5 to 2oz weights and cast it pretty far. Pick up the 11′ or 12′ and you’ll be slinging to the moon.

See Prices >


Best Saltwater Rod and Reel Combo

Penn Battle 2 Spinning Combo

Sale
PENN Battle II Combo
  • Penn BTLII8000102H Battle II
  • Spinning Combo, 8000-sz reel, no
  • Line, 5BB + 1RB, 3.3: 1, alum spool, 340/20,...

If you’re looking for a new reel to come with your rod then pick up the Penn Battle 2 combo pack. I use the Penn Battle 2 and it’s an amazing reel. If you have a chance to play with it, even the clicking over of the line guard sounds like a well-made machine.

Super smooth and worth every penny!

If you’re just getting started than this might seem like an expensive first combo, however, it’s always better to spend a few more dollars up front instead of having to spend more for brand new later when the cheap one fails.

See Prices >


Best Low-Cost Long Casting Rod

Shakespear Ugly Stik Bigwater Spinning

Shakespeare Ugly Stik Bigwater Spinning Rod
  • Durable and tough fishing rod designed for the...
  • Ugly Tech blank construction with a combination of...
  • Clear Tip design delivers added responsiveness and...

If you’re looking for something under $100 that isn’t fancy and will give you a long life, then pick up an Ugly Stik.

This rod will pull in the big ones and for this price, you can get a few different sizes and just swap out your reel depending on where you want to fish that day.

See Prices >


Final Thoughts

Now that I’m entering my early thirties, I’ve found the love I had for it as a child. The perk about re-finding it is that I’m doing it because I want to and I now have the money to get some of my own gear instead of relying on the parents.

As I popped open Google and started looking at what the best surf fishing rod would be, I was shocked by the sheer number of them out there.

How would I know which is best? What are the metrics I should judge a rod?

All of these questions needed to be answered otherwise I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my time out fishing knowing that my gear was sub-par.

I started reaching out to my friends who surf fish often, started watching hours of YouTube videos, and browse forums.

Here are the recommendations I found based on the different surf fishing scenarios out there. Whether you like to fan cast up and down the beach or take out the big rod and huck it out a mile, there are specific surf fishing rods up for the task.

Some will break the bank and some are near free. I wanted to present you a few options to help you pick the surf rod that’s right for you.

I hope you were able to find the best surf fishing rod for your needs. Let me know which you ended up getting in the comments below!


FAQ

Q: What length fishing rod?
A: It depends on what you’re going after and what style you want to fish. If you want to cast more often then go shorter between 7 – 9 feet long and if you want to cast far go between 10 – 15 feet.

Q: What is a surf rod?
A: A surf rod is a rod that’s meant for fishing in the ocean usually from shore or a jetty. They tend to be longer than most other rods to allow you to cast far out.

Q: What does rod action mean?
A: Rod action is the amount of bend the rod will give you in especially within the first third near the tip. If you have a fast action, the rod will bend more than a medium or heavy action.

Q: What do I need for surf fishing?
A: We’ve put together a comprehensive surf fishing gear guide. Check it out so you know what you need to be successful at catching fish.

Q: What is a medium action rod good for?
A: Medium action is good for having the fishing rod take more of the force from the fish. If you find yourself going for large fish then a medium action will have you less tired at the end of the day than a fast action rod. You just might not be able to cast out as far, so that’s the trade-off.

Q: What does rod power mean?
A: Rod power is the amount of force necessary for the rod to bend.

Q: What does medium heavy mean on a fishing rod?
A: Medium-heavy on a fishing rod means that it’s just below heavy on the power scale. It will take a large fish to bend the rod significantly.

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