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17 Best Surf Fishing Gear Essentials To Get You Started

Surf fishing with the correct surf fishing gear is one of the most exciting ways to catch fish!

Imagine watching a beautiful sunset as you cast far out over the breaking waves. If you’re like me, you enjoy covering a lot of ground by flinging your bait in all directions.

Standard Surf Fishing Setup

As the waves crash on your legs, you feel the tip of your rod start to quiver.

And you’re on!

Is it a ray? Could it be a shark? Maybe it’s a halibut?! The excitement is almost too much to handle as you reel it in fast.

It’s a surf perch…Well, at least you got a bite! Send it back and keep the casts flowing.

If this sounds like something you’d like to try, then the first place to start is by understanding the surf fishing gear needed to catch fish.

I’ll start by saying that there are endless combinations of gear choices, and ultimately it’ll come down to your personal preference after you try out different items.

Listen to this post on the Cast & Spear Podcast

In this article, we’ll dive into some of the surf fishing tips I use and what others who surf fish like their go-to setups for easy surf fishing.

Whether you’re a beginner or a more seasoned surf fisher, this guide will help make sure you have everything you need for a fun day out in the sand.

Surf Fishing Gear Guide
Surf fishing is one of the best hobbies you can have…simply for the sunsets and the excitement of having tight lines.

Let’s get started and see what you should have in your surf fishing gear setup.


Surf Fishing Rods

If you decide you want to heave out a huge piece of bait far out into the ocean and wait for a fish to come by and take it, you’re going to want large surf fishing rods. This method requires a rod between 10 and 15 feet long.

This size rod will take some getting used to for casting, so your first few times might be unpleasant. Also, note that you’ll need to have plenty of space in front and behind you to cast it without having anything obstruct your action.

This size fishing rod tends to be a bit heavy, so you won’t be holding the rod for a long while waiting for the fish to bite. It’s better to place the pole in the sand or a holder or lean against a structure until the fish bite.

Looking for a quick pick surf rod to get started?

Catching Hard to Reach Fish

Depending on the structure of the beach, there might be a trough that drops from around three feet to, say, 20 feet. That’s usually where the larger fish are active, and that’s simply too far for a smaller pole to cast out there.

You’ll need to use heavy weights to be able to cast out far. With 3 ounces of lead, it’s not uncommon to cast it out 250 feet or more.

When using a big rod, it tends to be harder to feel when a smaller fish is on the line. This isn’t a big problem if you leave the rod in the ground and wait for a solid bite before reeling in.

It’s not uncommon to see videos of anglers pulling in massive sharks from the beach using large surf fishing rods.

If you’re interested in trying that out, ensure you get the appropriate line that can withstand their sharp teeth.

Surf Fishing Fan Casting
Fan casting is a fun way to quickly get in the water and try many areas.

Light-Line Surf Rods

If you want to be more active in surf fishing, then you should try getting a medium to short rod to hit the troughs where the fish are near shore.

If you don’t know how to spot troughs, you can try fan casting, throwing out in different areas up and down the beach to hit a place where fish are located.

For beginners who just want to get their feet wet, try these surf fishing rods:

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

More on How to Pick the Best Surf Fishing Rods


Surf Fishing Reels

When you’re surf fishing, you’re going to be dealing with the harsh salt water and sand that will damage anything that moves…and since reels have moving parts, it’s essential to opt for quality.

The two styles of reels standard for surf fishing are:

  • Spinning Reels
  • Conventional Reels

Looking for a quick pick reel to get started?

Surf Fishing Spinning Reels

This is a typical reel style, especially for beginners who try to surf fish. They are easy to use and robust, depending on your brand and type.

The size of the reel you choose depends on the size of the fish you’re going after and the size of the rod you’re using.

Spinning Reel Size Guide

  1. Small Spinning Reels
  • Size: 1000 – 3500
  • Suggested Mono: 2 – 10lb
  • Suggested Braid: 4 – 20lb
  • When to use: It’s good to use a smaller reel when surf fishing since you hold your rod and reel for long periods. Since you’re not casting super far with a short to medium-length pole, a small reel will have plenty of line for most fish you catch.

2. Medium Spinning Reels

  • Size: 4000 – 5500
  • Suggested Mono: 8 – 14lb
  • Suggested Braid: 8 – 25lb
  • When to use: These rods are great when you’re going for the larger fish and need a little more line than a smaller reel. These reels work well for surf fishing rods larger than 8 feet and can even be used for dropping a line off a kayak or small boat.

3. Large Spinning Reels

  • Size: 6000 – 8500+
  • Suggested Mono: 12 – 30 lb
  • Suggested Braid: 12 -50 lb
  • When to use: Large reels can be massive; however, for surf fishing, you probably won’t need anything more significant than 8500. These reels are enormous and will most likely be used for large poles where you must cast out far and put the pole in the sand while you wait for the big fish or shark to come by.

Surf Fishing Conventional Reels

Conventional reels are great for distance casting at the beach, especially if you want to go for a leopard shark or other big fish.

Conventional reels require you to lay down the line yourself using your finger, which can take some practice. Depending on the manufacturer, some come with a star wheel drag or lever drag.

The biggest challenge most new surf fishers have with conventional reels is their tendency to bird nest if you aren’t careful placing your thumb back on the spinning spool near the end of your cast. However, once you master this, you’ll be able to cast farther than a spinning reel due to the reduced drag design.

Some conventional reels come with magnetic brakes, which tend to be better than centrifugal brakes.

If you use a big surf fishing rod, it’s worth trying a conventional reel to get the most distance out of your casts.

More on How to Pick the Best Surf Fishing Reels


Surf Fishing Lines

There’s a host of fishing line setups for you to choose from, but the standard line options are braid and monofilament.

Essential Surf Fishing Gear
Nothing beats being out in the ocean with a line in the water.

The essential items to consider when picking your line is:

  • Price per yard
  • Abrasion resistance
  • Stretch
  • Amount of line that can fit on your spool

Looking for a quick pick fishing line to get started?

Price

Mono tends to be cheaper than braid of the same breaking strength. Expensive doesn’t mean braid is the clear winner; it depends on the application.

Abrasion Resistance

Mono is the clear winner. Anytime mono is rubbing against something sharp like a rock, it tends to wear but not snap instantly, unlike braid.

Stretch

Mono stretches more than braid. This is important if the fish you’ve hooked has a soft mouth and you need some leeway during the fight to prevent the hook from pulling off.

Some anglers like braid for artificial lures since it doesn’t stretch, giving them the sensitivity and responsiveness they desire.

Line Diameter

Braid is significantly thinner than mono for the same breakage strength. This means you can spool more braid on a reel than with mono.

This is beneficial because you can use a smaller reel that weighs less and won’t make you tired after a long day of fishing.

Casting Diameter

Braid is thinner, which means you can cast them farther than mono. Some empirical tests show that braid gets at least 7% further cast than mono.

Braid Backing With Mono Topshot

The new trend in surf fishing is to braid back at least half your spool and top-shot the rest with mono.

This means you’ll be fishing primarily with the mono since you most likely won’t be using the entire length of your reel, but you have the security of knowing if you catch the big one, you have the line necessary to bring the fish in.

This is also helpful when you want to replace the cheaper mono and keep the braid on there since it’s barely used. This saves you money over the long haul, plus you get to use a smaller reel when otherwise you’d need a bigger one.

More on How to Pick the Best Fishing Line for Spinning Reels

Fluorocarbon Leaders

Many anglers like to use a fluorocarbon leader because they are ultra-clear and make it hard for fish to see the line. They also sink more aggressively than mono or braid, which is nice when trying to get your line below the waterline.

Fluorocarbon tends to be more expensive than mono as well.

More on How to Pick the Best Braided Fishing Line for Surf Fishing


Surf Fishing Tackle

Your tackle needs will differ depending on where you’re fishing and the conditions. Below are some general tackle items that should work for most surf fishers.

Looking for a quick pick saltwater lure to get started?

Sinkers

Regarding weights, different styles depending on how you want your bait to behave in the water.

Most anglers will use a 1 to 3 oz bullet, slip, or pyramid sinker to get their bait far beyond the breakers.

If you’re going for a halibut or want to get a fish’s attention, add a colored bead between the weight and the swivel. Red and orange tend to work well.

If you’re using a swimbait, check out the ½ and ¾ oz jig head weights that come with an integrated hook to hold the weight to the bait.

Hooks

You’ll want a bunch of different hooks depending on your setup needs. You should have at least ten of each size between 4 and 8.

Get different styles such as the mosquito, bait keepers, octopus, etc.

As for colors, red and black seem to do well, but I’ve caught on to pretty much all colors in the past.

More on How to Pick the Best Fishing Hooks

Soft Bait Lures

You can never have enough soft bait lures to test in your waters. I’ve had great success catching small- to medium-sized fish using Berkley GULP!

Camo Sandworms (2-inches) and Big Hammer Perch Grubs in Motor Oil Red Flake and Motor Oil Red Flake and Green colors.

Get a wide variety of colors and types to try out since it depends on the water conditions. If the area you’re fishing is murky, then get a dark-colored bait. If the area is bright and clear, then try some vibrant colors.

Hard Bait Lures

Certain species don’t go for the soft baits, which require you to spend some money on the hard baits.

Some hard baits that have worked well for me:

  • Lucky Craft Flash Minnow 110
  • Rapala Maxrap 13 (in Flake Hot Blue and Sardine colors)
  • ⅝ oz Krocodile Spoons (in Green and Blue Mackerel colors)
  • ¼ – 1 oz Kastmasters

More on the Names of Fishing Lures


Surf Fishing Rigs

Knowing how to rig a fishing line is essential so you’re not stuck out on the beach looking like a beginner. One way to make it easy is to bring pre-made surf fishing rigs with you.

Surf Fishing Accessories
Make sure you have all the gear ahead of time so you can enjoy your time without worry.

Carolina Rig

The most straightforward surf fishing rig is the Carolina Rig. It’s the setup for someone who wants to get out in the surf, get wet, and fan cast all over the place.

It’s comprised of a slip weight with an optional colored bead, swivel, leader, then a hook with an attached lure or bait. For most surf conditions, you’ll need a ½ oz weight, but feel free to opt for a ¾ or 1 oz if the waves are more significant.

The best bait for this setup to throw on your hook is a Gulp! 2-inch camo sandworm, Big Hammer perch Grub in Motor Oil Red Flake, or a live sand crab.

More on How to Pick the Best Surf Fishing Rig

Drop Shot Rig

This fishing rig is popular in Japan and uses a weight, hook, and lure in a specific configuration. Using a Palomar Knot

Place a ¼ to 1oz weight at the end of your leader. Bell sinkers work well.

12 to 14 inches above the sinker, attach a hook using a Palomar knot. You can then place a soft lure that looks like a fish on the hook. Hook the other end of the leader line to your swivel, and you’re ready to go.

Keep your rod at 9 o’clock when you cast out and hold the line tight. As you reel it in, move your rod between 9 and 12 o’clock to have the lure flutter up and down realistically.

Most of the time, a Carolina rig will get the job done, but sometimes if you’re having a hard time, you’ll need to spice it up, and this rig might just land you a Halibut. Worth a shot!

More on How to Make a Drop Shot Rig


Surf Fishing Accessories

Now that we’ve covered all the essentials for surf fishing, it’s time to dive into the various nice-to-haves to make your life comfortable.

Most of these items are not needed for beginners until you spend more time in the water.

Surf Fishing Rod Holder
Having a spike or rod holder makes it easy to chill and wait for a bite

Sand Spike

Sand spikes are plastic, wood, or metal rod holders that you drive into the sand. If you’ve gone to the beach and seen a giant fishing pole pointed near vertical in the sand, it was most likely supported by a sand spike.

These come in handy to keep the line high up so that people can walk along the beach without being clotheslined by the fishing line. They also make it convenient while waiting for a fish to bite without your pole flying off towards the ocean.


Buckets

Buckets make great seats while waiting for the big ones to take your bait. If you’re fan-casting, it’s nice to have a bucket to throw the keeper fish in with some ice. This helps you not get all the fish juices inside your car.

Keeping them in a bucket is helpful if you’re using live bait, especially if you pick up a cheap aerator to oxygenate the water.


Fishing Backpack

It helps transport your gear from your car to the beach without needing to carry anything in your hands except your pole and bucket.

Looking for a quick pick tackle bag to get started?

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Key Features:

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Plano Z-Series Tackle Bags are the perfect way to store and organize your tackle. With five 3750 Stowaway Boxes included, this bag will keep everything neat while you’re on the go. 

The Kryptek Raid/Blue design is perfect for any fishing enthusiast, and the no-slip molded bottom design keeps everything in place.  

Its gusseted top closes neatly and securely with buckles, while the Plano-exclusive Utili-Tackle Rail System keeps everything within reach. This bag is a must-have for any angler, whether you’re headed to the lake or the river.

More on How to Pick the Best Fishing Backpacks and Tackle Bags


Fishing Pliers

Looking for a quick pick fishing plier to get started?

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Key Features:

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  • You can quickly remove or replace hooks
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Nothing makes you feel guiltier than having a fish swallow a hook, and you can’t remove it because you don’t have pliers to get leverage on the point of the hook. Pliers help remove hooks easily and are a must-have for the ethical angler.

Bubba Blade 7.5 Inch Fishing Pliers with Stainless Steel Jaws are the perfect tool for any fisherman. With their quick hook removal and rust-resistant design, these pliers are a necessity for anyone who loves to fish.

The Ti-Nitride coating makes them extra durable, while theNon-Slip Grip handle ensures you have a firm grip on them at all times. The included sheath has a belt loop for close, hands-free carry.

Made of aerospace aluminum, construction makes them light and easy to carry. Whether you’re an experienced fisherman or just starting, these pliers are a must-have for anyone who loves to fish.

More on How to Pick the Best Fishing Pliers


Measuring Tape

Measuring tapes are handy for measuring your fish after it’s been caught. If you want to keep your fish, it must be of the legal limit, and without a measuring tape, you’d never know.

Even if you catch and release, measure your fish to keep track of the biggest ones you’ve caught of each species.


Fingernail Clippers

These come in handy to cut lines, especially when removing the excess line around a knot. Some surf fishing anglers opt to use their teeth…however, these are more effective.


Tackle Containers/Dividers

Pick up a cheap clear container with dividers to store your tackle. This helps you keep it organized and easy to access when you need to swap out or replace your rigging.

A common way to organize is to have three small containers, one for your soft lure packages, another for your various hooks, weights, leaders, etc., and a final one for your hard baits.

If possible, get different colors to help you easily identify each container in your backpack.

More on How to Pick the Best Fishing Backpack and Tackle Bag


Hand Towel

Sometimes rinsing your hands in the ocean after catching a fish can’t get all the slime off. If you have a cheap old towel, it’ll help get your hands dry and slime-free so you can get back after it.

Just note, don’t hold the fish with a towel since it’ll remove their natural slime and could lead to disease or illness for the fish.


Camera

Fishing is better when shared. If you catch something, sharing a picture or video with your friends is always an enjoyable experience.

I like using a GoPro, but most smartphones are more than adequate for capturing awesome pictures.

More on How to Pick the Best Fishing Camera


Sunglasses

If you’re going to be out mid to late afternoon, it’s helpful to have a pair of sunglasses so you don’t stare directly into the sun without UV protection.

Polarized lenses are great for reducing glare out on the water.


Sun Protection

Make sure you wear ample sunscreen and apply it liberally if you’re going out during the day. You don’t need to get unnecessary wrinkles from the sun.

Looking for a quick pick fishing mask to get started?

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The Fishing Mask Camo Headwear is the perfect way to protect yourself from the sun while fishing. These wrap around your face and protect you from the sun and even the wind. Windburn is real and can leave your face red and in pain! 

Made of multi-functional breathable seamless microfiber, this mask is perfect for any fishing enthusiast. The UPF 50 sun protection ensures you stay safe and protected from the sun’s harmful rays, while the moisture-wicking design keeps you cool and comfortable all day long. 

This mask can also be worn as headwear, neck gaiter, beanie, or balaclava. When you’re not out fishing, this mask makes a great addition to any outdoor enthusiast’s wardrobe. If you’re hiking, biking, or just enjoying the outdoors, this mask is a must-have for anyone who loves to be outdoors.

More on the Types of Fishing Masks

More on How to Pick the Best Fishing Hats


Food & Water

If you’re going to be out for more than a few hours, do yourself a favor and bring some snacks and water to stay hydrated.


Fishing License

Ensure you have the proper fishing license and ocean stamp for your state or country. No need to get in trouble doing something fun!

If you’re in the States, pick up your fishing license here.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is surf fishing?

Surf fishing is when you’re fishing the surf zone. This could be from the rocks, near reefs, or other structures. You’re looking for underwater structure and currents to present lures or bait to entice fish to bite.

What size hook for surf fishing?

It depends on what you’re targeting and what bait you’re using. Small fish will likely use around a size 6 and big fish like sharks can use 5/0 or larger.

What is a surf rod?

A surf rod is used to get your bait or lure to the right zone. It’s also used to help fight the fish so you can tire them out and reel them into shore. Rods range from 7-15 feet depending on your required casting distance.

What size reel for surf fishing?

It depends on what you’re targeting. Big fish have been brought in on spinning sizes 4500-5000 with 60-pound braid. Conventionals are often used for sharks and tend to be large to give you an extra line. Light line surf fishing usually uses 2500-3000 spinning reels.

What bait to use for surf fishing?

It depends on what you’re targeting. Whenever possible use live bait. Cut bait work and are improved with bait elastics. If it’s allowed, be sure to chum the water to wake up the reef.

What’s the best size for a surf fishing rod?

It depends on what you’re targeting. If you’re getting started with small fish, opt for 7-9 feet. If you need distance, go for 12-15 feet.

What pound test for surf fishing?

If you’re going for small fish, go for 6-12 pound mono or 30-pound braid.

If you’re going for bigger fish, bump it up to a 60-pound braid, a shock leader, and leader.

What is a shock leader surf fishing?

A shock leader is a thicker section of leader that takes the initial casting force.

What tackle to use for surf fishing?

For light-line sure fishing try a Carolina rig with a 1/2 ounce egg sinker, bead, swivel, and number 6 hook.

For bigger game, try a pulley rig. When in doubt, try pre-made rigs then learn to make your own.

What kind of bait to use for saltwater fishing?

Shrimp, squid, and cut fish make great bait.

What do I need for saltwater fishing?

Make sure you have all the required legal documents, rod, reel, tackle, sun protection, and hydration.

What is the best line for surf fishing?

We like a good quality braid like J-Braid. For mono we like Andes. And for fluorocarbon, we like Seaguar blue.

What line to use for surf fishing?

It depends on what you’re targeting. Keep it simple with mono first then adventure into braid and fluoro where required.

What size weight for surf fishing?

Keep it less than 2 ounces if fishing close to shore. Check your rod specs if you’re casting out far.

What is a good rod and reel for saltwater fishing?

There are tons of options, but we like the Breakaway Tackle LDX or HDX with a Diawa 4500 spooled with a 60-pound braid.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing and spearfishing enthusiast. He's been fishing since he was 5 years old in the backcountry of Yosemite for trout and in the surf near his home in SoCal. Over the past 4 years, he's been spearfishing up and down the coast of California. He started Cast and Spear to help inspire others to get outside and chase their dream fish. Notable catches include spearing a 65-pound white sea bass, large grouper, and yellowtail down in Baja. When he's not in the water, he's usually fishing from his Gregor Baja aluminum boat or inflatable Takacat catamaran.
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Articles » Gear Reviews » 17 Best Surf Fishing Gear Essentials To Get You Started