A successful journalist and news reporter in the past, George is now focused on freelance work to be able to dedicate more time to the most important things in his life: family, friends, his dogs, and fishing.
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Last updated: April 12, 2021
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Surf fishing is an extraordinarily relaxing hobby – you can cast off into the waves with sand between your toes and a few of the horizon in front of you. While you could use your standard fishing rod for surf fishing, having the right gear for the sport will go a long way towards making your casts successful. Choosing the best surf fishing rod can allow you to return from the beach with a cooler full of fish for that night’s dinner.
In order to help you find the right surf fishing rod for your needs, we considered a number of factors. First, we looked at the rod length, which affects the distance and accuracy of your case. We also considered the rod action and power, which together affect everything from the length of your cast to the responsiveness of the rod when you start reeling in a fish. Weight was also a factor, since you need a rod that is strong enough to stand up to the surf without weighing you down. At the end of the day, there’s no single perfect rod – each of these factors is a compromise that depends on your fishing style and the fish you’re aiming to catch.
We spent tens of hours researching surf fishing rods, poring over technical specifications and customer reviews. The result is our picks for the five best rods for surf fishing, highlighted in the table below. Continue reading for detailed reviews of each rod, complete with pros and cons. Our buying guide covers everything you need to know about why you need a surf fishing rod and how to choose the rod that’s right for your fishing goals. Finally, we sum up our three overall favorite surf fishing rods on the market today.
This versatile surf fishing rod from vaunted rod-maker Okuma is ideal for many surf fishermen because it leaves open a range of possibilities. The moderate fast action is suitable for longer casts, without sacrificing too much accuracy or responsiveness. At the same time, the medium heavy power allows the rod to be used to catch the widest possible range of fish, from flukes to medium-sized tarpons. To top it all off, the 11-foot length of the rod is right in the range that most surf fishermen need to balance casting, portability, and control.
Users especially liked that the 30-ton carbon blank rod construction is able to handle a wide range of lure weights and line thicknesses. This improves the versatility of the rod and allows your setup to be customized depending on the type of fish you are trying to catch on any given day. Plus, users felt that the carbon construction was durable while also being comfortable to hold and very lightweight.
Although the rod is designed to be paired with spinning reels and braided line, users noted that it can also be used with conventional casting reels. The guide frames are double-footed and easy to thread even when casting into the night, and users appreciated the non-slip rubber handle when casting long distances into the surf.
Overall, users had few complaints about this rod, especially given the modest price. Better yet, Okuma backs their craftsmanship with a limited lifetime warranty on the rod.
What we liked:
Versatile medium heavy power and moderate fast action
This rod from St. Croix is our pick for the best travel surf fishing rod thanks to its four-piece construction and relatively short nine-foot length. The rod can be broken down to a length of just over two feet for travel, making it easy to throw inside a large suitcase or in the included protective case for plane travel. On top of that, the rod weighs in at just 9.2 ounces, making it the lightest rod we reviewed.
That said, this lightweight design does have some limitations. The rod is rated as medium power and can accept lures only up to 2.5 ounces in weight, which is quite light. As a result, this surf fishing rod is mostly useful for catching flounder and whiting. That said, St. Croix recognized this and opted for a medium fast action that is better suited for allowing the hook to sink into these soft biting fish to help increase your catch rate.
The short overall length of this rod also limits casting distance, which may mean that you have to think twice about where you’re fishing. For this reason, most fishermen use this rod as a secondary surf fishing rod for travel, rather than as their primary surf rod. Still, users were happy with the comfortable two-hand grip on this rod and were overall thrilled with its performance when catching lighter fish.
St. Croix also includes a five-year warranty, which users found helpful since some parts of the rod can snap easily in rougher surf conditions. However, users say that this is an overall great light-tackle saltwater rod.
This surf fishing rod from St. Croix is a jack of all trades, with a moderate length, action, and power. The rod’s 10.5-foot length is suitable for most fishermen to handle, sacrificing a little bit – but not too much – casting distance in favor of control and casting accuracy.
At the same time, the moderate fast action and medium heavy power are together suitable for catching a huge diversity of fish and enabling you to really customize your rod setup. The rod accepts an extremely wide range of lure weights, from one to six ounces, as well as lines ranging from 12 to 25 pounds. The rod can be outfitted with either a casting or spinning reel and the titanium surf guides are specifically designed to reduce tangles while you’re fishing.
While this rod is slightly heavier than others we reviewed, users didn’t mind the extra weight. The neoprene grip is comfortable to hold and actually gets more grippy once it’s wetted, and users felt that the weight of the rod is well balanced in the two-hand handle.
On top of that, the high-strain graphite construction is extremely durable and holds up to abuse in the roughest surf conditions. Note, however, that St. Croix doesn’t specify a warranty on this rod as it does for many of its other surf fishing rods. That said, users haven’t reported any issues with the construction or durability.
This fast action rod for surf fishing is a perfect choice for anglers who prefer a highly responsive rod and find themselves frequently fishing for smaller species like flounder and trout. In addition to having a fast action, the rod is relatively light on power with just a medium heavy rating, so you’ll be limited to lures less than two ounces in weight – not a problem if you’re trying to catch lightweight fish as the rod is designed for.
Keep in mind also that this rod is the shortest surf fishing rod we reviewed, at just 8.5 feet. That’s extremely short by the standards of most surf fishing rods, so you will need to be careful where you use it. You won’t be able to fish beaches with far-out breaks with this rod, but it’s the perfect companion for jetties and docks and areas where you need to cast accurately in between rocks. With that in mind, many users were happy with the short length of this rod and its two-piece design because it made it very easy to transport and handle.
The price of this rod is something of a steal since it comes with a spinning real included. The reel is of moderate quality and can be upgraded later, but users found that it won’t tangle and is relatively durable. One complaint that users did have is the design of the handle. While the EVA molded foam is not uncomfortable, the handle is designed for just a single hand resting in front of the reel. While there is a spot for a second hand at the butt of the rod for fighting with fish, this doesn’t allow you to easily perform a long-distance two-hand cast.
What we liked:
Comes with spinning reel
Fast action is ideal for trout and flounder fishing
This budget-friendly surf fishing rod from Penn is offers a curious mix of design – a fast action, heavy power, and a 12-foot length. The fast action would seem to make the rod better for small fish that prefer to nibble, while the heavy power and leverage provided by the 12-foot length would seem to be designed for reeling in large tarpons and other heavy fish. Users found that the net effect was that the rod is versatile, but takes some getting used to compared to standard surf fishing rods that offer moderate fast action and medium heavy power.
Keep in mind also that the heavy power means that you are forced to use heavy-duty lures – greater than four ounces – with this rod. That can be problematic if you are trying to catch flounder or trout, since many of these lures will be simply too large for these fish.
In addition, note that the stainless steel guides and reel seat and aluminum-oxide inserts can rust and corrode over time if you are not diligent about keeping the rod washed after use in saltwater. The rubber grip is relatively minimal and does not provide much padding for your hands, although there is enough grip space for casting with two hands. Overall, users were pleased with the durability of the rod, and the inexpensive cost makes it easy to replace in the absence of a warranty from Penn.
What we liked:
12-foot length provides leverage and casting distance
What could be better:
Requires lures heavier than four ounces
Stainless steel reel seat can corrode
Rubber grip doesn’t provide much padding
Things to Consider
Now that you’ve learned more about our five favorite rods for surf fishing, how do you choose the rod that’s the perfect fit for your fishing style and the fish you are typically aiming to catch? Our buying guide will cover everything you need to know about surf fishing rods, from how they can help your fishing to the features you’ll want to consider when choosing a rod.
Why do you need a special rod for surf fishing?
While you could fish in the surf with nearly any style of fishing rod, having a rod specifically designed for surf fishing is a better bet for improving your cast and catch rate.
If you’re fishing for larger fish species, this extra Surf fishing rods are typically longer than other types of rods, since you often need a longer casting distance to reach all the way from the shore to where the waves are breaking with your line. In addition, surf fishing rods tend to be more responsive than, for example, crankbait rods, since most fish species you’ll be fishing in the surf will hook themselves more thoroughly than bass.
So, if you want to really get good at surf fishing and plan to make this one of your hobbies, it’s well worth investing in a specialized rod for this type of fishing.
Features to consider depending on what you aim to catch
Not all surf fishing rods are designed the same – in fact, there’s a lot of variation in rods for surf fishing in everything from the length of the rod to its action to its reel type. Ultimately, the type of surf fishing rod that is right for you depends on what fish you’re trying to catch.
Surf fishing rods range in length from as short as seven feet to as long as 15 feet. Length is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a rod, since it has an outsized effect on the distance and accuracy of your cast.
Shorter fishing rods like those from St. Croix and KastKing will give you a more accurate cast, but it may be hard to cast long distances from a beach to waves that break far out. These short rods are ideal for beaches where the waves break close in to shore, or for fishing from a dock or jetty. On the other hand, long rods like the 12-footer from Penn will allow you to cast longer distances into the waves, but it may be harder to control where your hook ends up.
Importantly, using a longer rod also gives you more leverage.
If you’re fishing for larger fish species, this extra leverage can make a big difference in your ability to land a catch.
As a result, most anglers should choose the longest rod that you can handle comfortably – usually between 10 and 12 feet in length.
The power of the rod refers to the amount of pressure it takes to induce the rod’s action or bend. A rod with more power will take more force – a bigger fish or more pulling on your part – to make the rod respond. More powerful rods, like the Penn model, are better suited for catching larger fish like tarpons and bull reds.
Less powerful rods, such as those with a medium power rating like the St. Croix rod, are typically more responsive and so may be better suited for catching fish like trout, flounder, and whiting. Keep in mind, though, that less powerful rods will also be limited in the weight of lure that they can cast since they will bend more easily.
If you don’t have a particular fish species in mind, medium-heavy rods are a good all-around choice for rod power.
The action refers to the bend of the rod itself when it’s under pressure. A rod with a fast action will bend near the tip, which makes the line respond extremely quickly when you move the rod. A rod with a slower action will bend more towards the center of the rod and will leave a brief delay between when you move the rod and when the line responds.
Rod action is extremely important both for casting and for your style of fishing, and both fast and moderate actions can work for surf fishing. Fast action rods will typically allow you to land larger fish since you can sink the hook faster, as well as increase your catch rate for fish that like to nibble before biting like flounder. Faster rods also give you more accurate, but shorter casts.
Moderate action rods are ideal for live bait, since they won’t fling the bait off your hook when casting. You’ll also have more leeway in fighting with a fish, since the extra bend in the rod gives them room to run and you to slowly reel them in.
Learn the difference between power and action from this video.
Line and lure rating
The line and lure ratings of a rod specifies the range of line thicknesses and lure weights you can use with your fishing rod. These should be considered hard limits – using lines and lures outside the rated ranges can break your rod.
Typically, more powerful rods will be able to accept thicker lines and heavier lures, while less powerful rods will accept thinner lines and lighter lures. While thick lines are more durable if you’re fishing in a rocky area, using larger, heavier lures may also limit the types of fish you will be able to go after.
Reel seats and handles
The reel seat and handle are two parts of surf fishing rods that are often taken for granted, but they are extremely important to look at. The reel seat needs to be built with a non-corrosive material such as graphite, since the saltwater and salty air can quickly corrode a standard metal alloy reel seat. Most surf fishing rods use long handles that allow you to hold the rod with both hands, which accommodates the traditional two-hand casting method that is needed for long casting distances. The material of the surf rod handle – typically cork or foam – depends on your preference as one is not necessarily better than the other.
You can use the same rod for either salt or fresh water surf fishing. However, if you plan to fish in both types of water, it’s a good idea to opt for a rod with a non-corrosive graphite reel seat so that it does not degrade after use in salt water. If you plan to only fish in fresh water, you can choose a rod with a metal alloy reel seat.
If you are planning to travel with your surf fishing rod, you may be interested in a shorter two-piece rod or a rod that comes in more than two pieces. For example, the St. Croix rod can be broken down into four sections, which makes it exceptionally easy to travel with.
You can use either a casting or a spinning rod for surf fishing – it largely comes down to preference and which style of reel you are more comfortable with. Spinning reels have a very low learning curve, but are susceptible to twisting your line when you are fighting a fish. Traditional casting reels can allow you to cast further distances and to use heavier lures, but also require dealing with backlashes on the reel.
Our three overall favorite surf fishing rods on the market today are the Okuma Fishing Tackle CSX Surf rod, the St. Croix Triumph Spinning rod, and the St. Croix Legend Casting rod. The Triumph Spinning rod is the ideal travel surf fishing rod thanks to its overall short length and the ability to break it down into four pieces. St. Croix even provides a travel case with the rod to encourage you to bring it with you. The Legend Casting rod is an all-around performer that allows you to fish for anything from flounder to tarpon, and users were very happy with the rod’s construction and the fact that it can accept either spinning or casting reels. We feel that the Okuma rod is the overall best surf fishing rod thanks to its excellent design that features a moderate fast action, a medium heavy power, and an 11-foot length. This design makes the rod extraordinarily versatile, while being offered with a lifetime warranty and at a price that any angler can get behind.