If you’re serious about catching fish from shore, then you’ll need the best surf fishing rods coupled with a quality reel.
Surf fishing isn’t one-size-fits-all either. There’s light-line surf fishing popular on the West Coast, striper fishing on the East Coast, and even distance casting competitions for those with muscle.
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Top Surf Fishing Rods
In this guide, we shed light on the rods that will help you catch more fish from the surf.
Before we get to the rest of the story, let me get to the point and share what are the best surf fishing rods…
Sections of this post include advice from surf fishing expert Sean Woodburn
7 Best Surf Fishing Rods for 2021 Reviewed
1. Breakaway HDX
Best Long Casting Surf Rod
Breakaway has been leading the game thanks to Nick Myers out in Texas. He’s been perfecting long casting from shore and has rods that are up to the task to bring in the big fish.
“Deon Hunter from South Africa and a hell of a shark fisherman and friend who I learned a lot from only uses the HDX here are some of his catches. All on HDX.
I would be able to take the HDX anywhere in the world and catch anything the ocean has to offer small or huge.“Chris Richter
2. Breakaway Omega
Best All-Around Surf Fishing Rod
If you don’t need the extra distance with the HDX, then you should look into the Omega for your nearshore fish.
We’ve been fishing this surf rod with a Daiwa BG 4500 with 40# braid and it’s been a workhorse. This would be great for any size fish from the West to East coast of the States.
“The omega is my choice for my 3oz plugs most days on the beach. It’s a great jetty rod as well.”Chris Richter
3. Penn Battalion
Best for Beach Fishing
- Graphite Composite Blank
- Fuji Alconite Guides
- Fuji Reel Seat
This is a capable surf 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.
4. Lamiglas Super Surf
Powerful, Lightweight Surf Rods
If you can’t get your hands on a Carolina Cast Pro or a Breakaway, then the Lamiglas Super Surf is the surf rod for you. It’s easy to get your hands on over at Tackle Direct and it’ll suit whatever you throw at it.
It’s 100% made in the USA and they’ve been leading the charge for over 60 years.
5. St. Croix Legend
The warranty slays all. If you want a quality surf rod and a manufacturer that’s willing to back it up, then do yourself a favor and pick up this rod.
If you’re someone who tends to break rods landing big fish or smashing them in car doors…you’ll rest at ease knowing that St. Croix has your back.
Their Gold Star + Upgrade pretty much gets you a replacement surf rod if sh*t hits the fan.
6. Penn Battle 2 Combo
Best Beginner Saltwater Rod and Reel Combo
- Penn BTLII8000102H Battle II
- Spinning Combo, 8000-sz reel, no
- HT 100 carbon fiber drag system provides powerful drag...
If you’re looking for a new reel to come with your rod then pick up the Penn Battle 2 combo pack. I use Penn Battle 2 and it’s one of the best saltwater rod and reel combo for the money!
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 then this might seem like an expensive first combo, however, it’s always better to spend a few more dollars upfront instead of having to spend more for brand new later when the cheap one fails.
7. Shakespeare Ugly Stik Bigwater
Best Low-Cost Casting Rod
- Ugly Stik Clear Tip design for extra strength
- Ugly Tech construction with a combination of Graphite and...
- Ugly Tuff one piece double-footed stainless steel guides...
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.
Surf Fishing Rod Holders
1. Sand Flea Surf Fishing Rod Holder
Best in Quality Construction
- High gloss finish UV resistant PVC and shock-resistant rod holder
- Available in two colors (black and white) and three heights to choose from
- Plastic coated tip for added protection
This fishing rod is constructed in such a way that it can be used for both fresh and salty water or, if you prefer, shore fishing or surf fishing.
It comes with a microfiber bait towel to easily handle your caught fish while keeping your hands clean. The stainless steel where the bait towel is attached also keeps the rod at your desired height.
2. Cart for Beach Fishing
Most Convenient Rod Cart Holder
- Weighs only 24.7-pounds
- Corrosion resistant aluminum tubing construction
- Providing parts and attachments for outdoor recreation
- Inflatable wheels
- Removable front, rear, and holder
- Lightweight for a cart with its 17-pounds weight
This durable and lightweight cart is not only designed to hold fishing rods, but it can also conveniently carry all your fishing gear.
No matter how heavy your load is, you don’t have to worry that it will break down easily because it is made from non-corrosive aluminum tubings. Since it is lightweight, it can maneuver by anglers in different body physique without any hassle.
3. Surf Fishing Rod Holder Sand Spike
Best for Safety and Gear Protection
- 2 inch angle, 1/8 inch sand wedger, goes up to 25 inches...
- IN PHOTOS SEE THE BEAST BEING PROFILED ON FLORIDA INSIDER...
- 100% Aluminum with stainless steel hardware
- Made from aluminum and stainless steel hardware
- Scratch-resistant plastic reel protector
- Easy to assemble
This sand spike rod holder is equipped with corrosion-free materials to assure its durability. This 57 inches rod holder is meant to be inserted into the sand.
It has a knee plate for convenient usage, wherein the angler will just have to step on it as they insert the spike deep into the sand.
How To Surf Fish
Short casting is also called inshore fishing by a lot of people, even though we usually think of that as being something done out of a boat. A lot of the same surf rods and reels work on the beach and it’s kind of interchangeable.
Getting Started Surf Fishing
We don’t want to cast into a long wave (a surfing wave) because those waves create a long profile that doesn’t create a gutter. That wave is coming into shallower and shallower water and creates a good surfing wave, but not one to find fish in.
There are exceptions in places like Hawaii that have coral, but for a standard beach break, these aren’t the waves to target.
Coral can be a nightmare to fish if after you hook the fish it runs into the coral pockets and prevents you from freeing your line.
Generally, your best break is when you can’t see a wave then all of a sudden you see a small one-foot wave crash. Usually, there is a trough right there and you have fish three or so feet from shore.
Where the wave crashes are where your trough is. It’s behind the actual breaking wave. Therefore, don’t cast to the long waves, cast to the short ones.
Refer to Richtrox’s material and you’ll see what I mean.
If you don’t know how to read the beach, then fan-casting will be useful. It’s better than nothing, right? Also, look for working birds and bait nearshore. It happens more often than you’ll realize.
Look for discolored water or sand-based bait when you’re walking around. Are you seeing a bunch of sand crabs?
If you’re on the west coast, are you seeing sand crabs or anything like that? Those fish will be eating those baits close to shore, so look at your feet while you’re walking.
For getting started in surf fishing, it’s generally recommended that you start with a shorter rod 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 good surf fishing 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 tarpon or shark.
Fan Casting Surf Rods
Fan casting fishing 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 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.
Benefits of Glass Tip Rods
Smaller soft mouth species and schoolie stripers may benefit from a softer tip, not necessarily a slower rod, but a softer tip.
They can still be a very, very fast rod. In the UK where this is an art, a lot of the best rods for saltwater fishing have a glass tip. If you look at some models of Zziplex and you see all the GTs, those are glass rods.
Century does the same thing with some of its models. You have better bite detection and you’re less likely to yank a lure if you’re casting lures out of the mouth of the fish.
Also, stripers tend to like to carry and if we hammer them quick with a fast rod…this can be a problem, but that soft tip seems to help.
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 saltwater 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 rod that looks more like an antenna than a normal rod.
They use these long casting surf rods to get their baits way out past the breakers and into the areas where the sand drops off and the larger fish rest.
Jetty Rod Situations
Some jetty situations call for shorter surf rods to manage on riprap, so there are a lot of places on the west coast where they’ve got riprap and a channel and it really depends on where the fish are in terms of length.
If you’re in a channel clean ground, for example, North Jetty in Eureka, you need to be able to cast long if you want to catch some of the species that are out there over the clean ground.
However, if you’re casting some of the rockfish that are right there, shoot, you might as well use a shorter rod that you can manage without being killed by falling off the riprap.
It’s a little easier to manage and land fish, so reaching them is the first thing. Of course, if you’ve got to use a long rod in those kinds of places, bring a friend and bring a net or a gaff. That’s a good bit of advice there.
How to Cast a Spinning Reel for More Distance
If you plan to cast braid over 3 ounces, then it’s critical for you to use a Breakaway Cannon. This will protect your finger from literally getting cut off if you use extremely heavy lead to get your bait out far.
It’s been shown to help improve the distance of your cast by 30%. If you’re serious about reaching the fish far out, grab one.
Surf Fishing Rod Features
Not all surf 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 the local environment.
Top Surf Rod Brands
Here are some of the best surf rod and best fishing rod brands for saltwater:
- Carolina Cast Pro
After you determine the brand you like, you’ll need to figure out what length rod you need for your situation.
Surf 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.
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, jetties, 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.
Surf Rod Power
What we really depend on is the line weight rating and the casting weight that the rod is designed to throw.
There’s some latitude on that. The higher performance surf rods tend to be stiffer for a given weight. Either casting weight or line. If you deflect them, it takes more to bend them.
But by then you know which rod works for you and you have the skills to make your own assessments.
Generally using the manufacturer’s recommendation is the best way to go.
Beginners Guide to 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 surf rods are better used on boats going after bluewater fish and light power rods are better for smaller fish targets.
Some manufacturers are starting to put power ratings from 1 – 5 where one is light power and five means heavy power.
Surf Rod Action
Some people think that faster rods are easier on the fisherman. That’s not true.
Rods that bend are actually easier on the fishermen. Look at it this way, if you’ve got a very, very fast Century or Zziplex rod that’s in the 14 to 15-foot range and extremely stiff, that fish is pulling against a very, very, very long lever. Your hand is the fulcrum and it’s at the short end. The other thing is that bend is kind of a shock absorber fast.
Fast rods do give more distance, due to tip speed. We want to call it tip speed not whip but they tax you and they require more refined technique.
Moderate rods are usually better for most people. That kind of rod, that fast rod takes commitment. A lot of practice, the kind that most people aren’t going to going to use.
Tournament Surf Rods
In the UK and in Europe they talk about J-curve rods…they are very, very fast. C-curve rods are more parabolic and slow. The last third of the J-curve bends, the rod is stiff below that and doesn’t bend until you load it…it looks like a J in the bend.
Something to note. A lot of records have been set and still stand on C-curve rods. The Italians were crushing with C-curve rods at the world championship recently and I think they took two out of three spots on the podium.
He’s guys are casting 260 to 270 meters to win. It all comes down to speed and timing though, and speed and timing on fast rods. Once again, practice, practice, practice, probably lessons too.
Don’t let the 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.
Faster does create a faster fishing hook set, but setting the hook quickly sometimes is a double edge sword. Sometimes with soft mouth species, we literally rip the hook from their mouth. Sometimes we need to let the fish take the lure or hook for a few seconds to let them carry, for fish such as strippers.
We need to let them carry it for a minute and suddenly whacking them with a, with a really, really stiff fast rod may actually be a problem, especially for an excited beginner. Once again, moderate is probably best for most beginners.
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?
- Beginners: stick to moderate
Surf Rod Material
Stiffer rods break especially with the higher graphite that we have today. The fifth-generation graphites are amazingly stiff.
They’re getting better, but at the onset of graphite, they were actually using a fiberglass scrim to give the rods hoop strength. They give the rod lift basically to allow you to really pull something up.
If you look at any old videos of Jack Alvey picking up Taylor, which are like a blue fish down in Australia, he’s, he’s pulling 10-15 pound fish out of the surf and swinging them under the rocks. Those are glass rods.
The graphite is getting tougher and tougher. Hybrids for the purposes of our market are probably gonna be pretty expensive rods. A lot of the best fishing and match rods are Zziplex GTs, GT stands for glass tip. The other people that are making rods in that realm also build hybrid rods.
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 comes 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 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 saltwater crankbaits or just need a medium to slow action, then try out a fiberglass rod.
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.
There have been some reasonably priced, hybrid rods in the United States, but they never seem to do well. People seem to think that glasses are a detriment and they’re just wrong.
Sometimes glass makes a better fishing rod, especially in a hybrid situation.
As you become more advanced in your angling and need something specific or maybe even a custom rod, think about researching hybrid layups.
Fuji and PackBay Minima are the dominant guides.
Most surf casters don’t like lined guidance, in other words, no ceramic, none of that foolishness. We like stuff that’s tough because we break things.
The Fuji KWAG is also highly prevalent and dominates the spinning reel game.
Quality rods come with good guides in good reel seats.
Something that is interesting, there are still people taping rods. You’d be amazed. You go to some tournaments and you’ll see taped up rods. The British and Europeans favor coasters, they move the reel up or down. Basically, they are a hose clamp that has a knob on it and allows you to move the reel around. Part of the reason for that is a lot of those guys casts with the reel in a low position, like a fly rod. They make the cast and then they want to slide the reel up.
There are also some movable reel seats out there that are pretty nice. The best one that I’ve seen is made by Abu Garcia, but there are a number of them out there
Backing Plates Aren’t Necessary
I’ve never seen it on a surf rod. I’ve seen them on rods in a beach fishing set up for big sharks and whatnot.
I’m surprised I haven’t seen one where the guys were looking for sturgeon, but generally, most surf fishermen are not going to use those. The shark guys are mostly using kayaks to get their stuff out. The sturgeon guys are using a type of canon to shoot their bait out. They’re less than one percent of the market out there.
Surf Rod Handle Style
Rod handles come in various lengths and materials depending on the application. Most are one inch in diameter and a lot of surf fishermen are using Japanese shrinkwrap on the end.
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 rods.
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.
How to Care For Your Surf Fishing Rod?
NEVER lean your rod against cars or use them as walking sticks.
In the old days, we had lifetime warranties that they didn’t care. I mean, you could, you could tell him it broke when I throw it over my knee and gosh, what happened? And they’d send you a new one.
And that’s not true anymore.
They can analyze any break that comes to them. Experienced guys in the shops know exactly what they’re looking at, and cars are the number one culprit of broken rods in the market. That is number one.
Number two is stepping on them. Walking sticks on a high-end Rod. If you’ve got somebody that’s fishing a nice Breakaway or Carolina Cast Pro or Century or something and you scratch up that, but it will eventually fail there. So we just, we just don’t even want to do that.
If you need a walking stick, buy one!
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 surf fishing rod 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?
- What 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?
- Can the rod cast out one of the best surf fishing rigs?
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best length for a surf 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.
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.
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.
What do I need for surf fishing?
A: We’ve put together a comprehensive surf fishing gear guide here. Check it out so you know what you need to be successful at catching fish.
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.
What does rod power mean?
A: Rod power is the amount of force necessary for the rod to bend.
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.
What is the best type of rod for surf fishing?
A: There are different fishing rod types for surf fishing; that is why choosing the most suitable one depending on your fishing skills is quite a challenge.
Each type of fishing rod has unique features that can be favorable to a particular angler, but it is not a convenient use for the other, so it would depend on the individual’s preferences.
To assist in choosing the best one for you, there are factors to consider, like where the rod is made from, its length and the rod power.
What is the best setup for surf fishing?
A: To be able to target multiple fish species during surf fishing, it is ideal to set up at least two poles at one time compared to setting up multiple rods.
If there are only two rods that you are managing, you can easily react as soon as the fish bites, increasing the chances of a higher catch rate.
To make your surf fishing efficient, you may use different rigs—large, small, and heavy rigs. It is also important to ensure that the fishing items like lines, hooks, bobbers, sinkers, swivels, beads, lures, beads, and other fishing tackle are in the proper arrangement.
If you want to get serious about surf fishing then you need to check out these brands:
Most great surfcasting rods are made out of the USA and cost a bit of money to ship them over to the states. There are rod manufacturers like Talon that are based on the West Coast and I’m sure you can find a quality rod manufacturer if you search.
The Anglers Behind This Article: