Best Surf Fishing Rods and Reels: Tested and Reviewed

Best surf fishing rods and reels: Updated 10/24/2021

penn battle 2 surf fishing rod and reel

When it comes to choosing the best surf fishing rods and reels, there’s a lot to consider. That’s why I went ahead and did the bulk of the work for you. I know it’s a lot, but we’ll cover the best rods for surf fishing and the best reels for surf fishing for a few different styles.

Choosing a surf fishing rod requires that you know your target and what you’ll be throwing for your bait or lure. You’ll also need to know what specifications to look for on a fishing rod. You’ll see specs like “Medium, Mod-Fast, 1-3 oz, 10-20 lbs” and many similar numbers and letters. If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to reach out as I’m happy to set aside some time for you. This is the current list of the best surf fishing rods and best surf fishing reels that I’ve come up with per each common style.

Navigation Menu: Light Rods | Lure Rods | Shark Rods | Light Reels | Shark Reels

A Couple of Notes:

Salmon/Steelhead rods are good for surf fishing and a good size rod is 8’6″, medium to medium-heavy with moderate to fast action. If you want to eliminate the guesswork altogether, you can check out exactly what I use here – My Surf Fishing Gear and Tackle – this page goes into the tiniest of details of every piece of gear and tackle that I use and why.

Best Fishing Rods for Light Set-Up
  1. Okuma Celilo Salmon Steelhead (8’6″) | M or MH)
  2. Tica Spinning (8’6″ | M)
  3. St. Croix Triumph (7’6″ | MF)
  4. Berry Pro Salmon/Steelhead (8’6″)
  5. Lamiglass Salmon/Steelhead (8’6″ | M or MH)
  6. Ugly Stik Elite (best for ultra light lovers- select preferred rating)
Best Surf Fishing Rods For Lure Throwing
  1. Lamiglass Salmon/Steelhead (8’6″ | M or MH)
  2. Tica Spinning (8’6″ | M)
  3. St. Croix Triumph (7’6″ | MF)
  4. BerryPro Salmon/Steelhead (8’6″)
Best Fishing Rods for Shark Set-Up
  1. Fiblink Moon Sniper (I recommend)
  2. BERRYPRO Surf Spinning
Best Surf Fishing Reels for Light Set-up
  1. Shimano Vanford (4000)
  2. Penn Spinfisher VI (3500)
  3. Penn Battle II or III (4000)
  4. Penn Fierce III (4000)
Best Fishing Reels for Shark Set-Up
  1. Penn Slammer (6500-7500)
  2. Penn Spinfisher VI (6500-7500)
  3. Daiwa BG (5000-6500)
  4. Penn Battle II or III (6000-8000)

Light Tackle: Best Surf Fishing Rods

These are the best fishing rods for light tackle surf fishing. This style of fishing is most frequently associated with the Carolina rig. Depending on your desired catch or your preferred sensitivity level and such, you can choose which pound-test rating you’d like. Given my years of experience, I would recommend using a rod with medium or medium-heavy power usually with fast action for these rods.

Many So Cal anglers in their reviews preferred light to medium-light, but I like medium to medium-heavy.

1. Okuma Celilo Salmon/Steelhead

Recommended Specs

ModelCE-S-862Ma
Rod Length8’6″
ActionMod-Fast
PowerMedium
Lure Weight1/4 – 5/8
Line Weight8lbs – 17lbs
# of Guides7+1

The Okuma Celilo Salmon Steelhead is another high quality Salmon and Steelhead rod. Very similar to the Tica Salmon/Steelhead rods:

2. Tica Spinning

ModelHLHB86M2S
Rod Length8’6″
ActionMod-Fast
PowerMedium
Lure Weight3/8 – 3/4
Line Weight8lbs -12lbs
# of Guides8+1
Blank MaterialsGraphite – 24 ton

Tica Salmon and Steelhead rods are comparable to the Shimano Clarus. Their engineering and design are quite similar and for that reason, these are high quality and reliable rods. While in global terms, Tica is not extremely well-known, the engineering in strength, and reliability is reputable. It’s popular enough here in Southern California for surf fishing purposes and within the last year, it’s grown tremendously in popularity. Its smoothness and sensitivity are the reasons it ranks number one.

3. St. Croix Triumph

ModelTSR76MF
Rod Length7’6″
ActionFast
PowerMedium
Lure Weight3/8 – 3/4
Line Weight8lbs – 17lbs
# of Guides

Backed with a 5-year warranty and a reputation that speaks volume without using words, St. Croix rods are some of the highest quality and best surf fishing rods out there. For the angler that demands the highest sensitivity along with highest performance, I present to you, St. Croix.

4. BerryPro Salmon/Steelhead

ModelHLHB86M2S
Rod Length8’6″
ActionMod-Fast
PowerMedium
Lure Weight3/8 – 3/4
Line Weight8lbs -12lbs
# of Guides8+1
Blank MaterialsGraphite – 24 ton

I hadn’t heard of BerryPro before seriously putting some research in and speaking with hundreds of other anglers. They’re up and coming and their salmon/steelhead rods are killing the game as of later. Get ready to hear a lot more about them in the near future.

5. Lamiglass Salmon/Steelhead

[click link to see photo]

ModelLS86MS
Rod Length8’6″
ActionFast
PowerMedium
Lure Weight1/4 – 3/4
Line Weight8lbs – 12lbs
# of Guides

The Lamiglass Salmon/Steelhead is a rod fit for the surf. When in your hands, you’ll feel the quality of its engineering. A perfect balance between sensitivity, strength, and power, this rod is sure to impress even the most seasoned of anglers. Of the people that I know to have owned and used this rod, I’ve heard zero complaints.

Best Fishing Rods for Lure Throwing

These next fishing rods are rods that can be used for any style of light-tackle fishing. All of the rods in this first section can be used interchangeably per style of surf fishing, but if you’re really picky then you may want separate set-ups. The optimal rod length for lure throwing in the surf is 7’6″ to 9″. Another key characteristic is that you want to select a medium to heavy rated rod with fast action. This helps with casting distance as well as sensitivity.

1. Lamiglass Salmon/Steelhead

[click link to see photo]

ModelLS86MS
Rod Length8’6″
ActionFast
PowerMedium
Lure Weight1/4 – 3/4
Line Weight8lbs – 12lbs
# of Guides

Once again, the Lamiglass Salmon/Steelhead rod is a fishing rod fit for the surf and for any other style of fishing you’re looking to pursue. You’ll feel the the high quality build. A perfect balance between sensitivity, strength, and power, this rod will impress even the most seasoned anglers. Of the people that I know to have owned and used this rod, I’ve heard zero complaints. Especially with lures, this rod can whip a 3/4 oz to a 2 oz with the very best.

2. Tica Spinning

ModelHLHB86M2S
Rod Length8’6″
ActionMod-Fast
PowerMedium
Lure Weight3/8 – 3/4
Line Weight8lbs -12lbs
# of Guides8+1
Blank MaterialsGraphite – 24 ton

Tica is a growing fishing brand. Based in Hawaii, it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing when it comes to the surf. It won’t be long before Tica is a household name for surf fishermen across the globe. The Tica HBLB and a few other of their Salmon/Steelhead-like rods are some of the best surf fishing rods out there.

3. St. Croix Triumph

ModelTSR76MF
Rod Length7’6″
ActionFast
PowerMedium
Lure Weight3/8 – 3/4
Line Weight8lbs – 17lbs
# of Guides

Again, the reputation is a tough one to beat. Considering this is one of their, “lower-quality rods”, these guys are pretty good at making rods. If you’re looking to get your first taste of a high performance surf fishing rod, look no further and take the step.

4. BerryPro Salmon Steelhead

ModelHLHB86M2S
Rod Length8’6″
ActionMod-Fast
PowerMedium
Lure Weight3/8 – 3/4
Line Weight8lbs -12lbs
# of Guides8+1
Blank MaterialsGraphite – 24 ton

Ever heard of BerryPro? Neither had I before really doing my research on fishing rods. Like Tica, it’s growing in popularity as its reputation for quality grows. BerryPro has only been around since 2017, but their rod making skills are already up there with some of the best.

Shark Rods For Surf Fishing

The following fishing rods will likely not be used for anything but sharks, rays and other big game fish. It’s simple enough, if you plan on catching sharks from the surf (successfully and consistently, you will need one of these. Important factors to look for in a quality shark rod are as follows. The optimal rod length for a shark rod is 10-12 feet. If you feel the need to get a larger rod, go for it. More length helps with casting your bait farther, but there comes a point where it’s too much to control. There also comes a point where the extra length makes the fight more difficult. You want a healthy balance and you want a rod rated for heavy and fast action. These aspects help in the fight of course, but maybe more importantly, they drastically help to add in casting distance.

1. Fiblink Moon Sniper

ModelMO-S1304 or MO-S1202
Rod Length12′ or 13′
ActionMod-Fast
PowerHeavy
Lure Weight4 – 8
Line Weight20lbs – 40lbs
# of Guides5+1

The Fiblink Moon Sniper is my go-to when it comes to sharking. I have this ranked number 1 for so many reasons but I’ll leave it at this… This is the rod that landed our land-based record Yellow Tail from the surf at 53.5lbs. It withstood the fight and much more and I have no complaints. That aside, this rod is everything you need in a sharking rod. It’s got great flick when casting, making for some real nice castability. Additionally, it’s not big or clunky by any means. It’s got great sensitivity and it’s really responsive to all action… It also looks great in full-bend.

2. Berrypro Surf Spinning

ModelMS-1102 or MS-1333
Rod Length11- or 13’3″
ActionFast
PowerHeavy
Lure Weight2 – 5
Line Weight15lbs – 40lbs
# of Guides6+1
Material TypeGraphite, IM7

This was one that surprised me. Not because I didn’t trust it, but because I hadn’t yet heard of the brand. When more than just a few anglers backed its rep, I had to check it out. Sure enough, it’s a legitimate shark rod; one that’ll land you some big ones if you know what you’re doing. Selecting the 11’2″ rod will automatically select heavy and fast and that’s exactly what you want. Looks very similar to the Moonsniper and if I have the time and money aside, I’m going to try this one next.

Best Fishing Reels for Surf Fishing: Light-Tackle

When selecting your salt water fishing reel for light-tackle surf fishing, there are a few guidelines you want to follow. For all light-tackle purposes, you want to select a 4000 series reel (or its equivalent). This just refers to the size of the reel which determines the line capacity of your reel. Personally, I like to use 12-15 pound test for light-tackle and I like my fishing reels to be capable of holding at least 160 yards of line per my desired lb-test. Some other characteristics to look for include the number of bearings, the gear ratio, and the max drag capacity. The more serious an angler you are, the more you’ll know and care about these characteristics.

Bottom line for each is that: 1.) Usually the more bearings a reel has, the higher quality it is. 2.) Gear ratio is a ratio between number of spool rotations and the number of times you turn the handle. For example, if a gear ratio is 6.2:1, that means for every 1 full turn of the handle, the spool (more accurately, the bail) will rotate 6.1 times. The higher that first number is, usually the higher the quality of the reel is. 3.) Max drag capacity refers to the maximum amount of pressure (in pounds) that the reel’s drag system can effectively restrict line from being pulled out when your drag is set to the max tightness. This becomes more important in shark fishing.

Let’s get into it. Here are the best saltwater surf fishing reels.

1.) Shimano Vanford (4000)

This saltwater surf fishing reel is one that won’t ever fail you. It’s built to withstand some pretty harsh abuse and it’ll remain smooth and reliable throughout its lifetime.

Pros:

  • Has a sealed body (though not completely water proof) and handles splashes well.
  • Very smooth drag and retrieve.
  • Spool is designed to optimize casting distance as line flies off with ease.

Cons: More complex to dissemble.

2.) Penn Spinfisher VI (3500)

Look no further than the Penn Spinfisher VI. This saltwater surf fishing reel is one of the best in its class. Coming fully sealed, expect nothing but the best when you purchase this guy.

Pros:

  • Sealed body to protect against salt water.
  • Not as heavy as one might assume.
  • Well balanced weight distribution.
  • Smooth drag and retrieve.
  • Extremely durable and strong

Cons: Complex disassembly with sealed body, but given its extreme high quality, you shouldn’t need to.

3.) Penn Battle II or III (4000)

The Battle is the reel I believe every angler should try out. It’s a durable, reliable and smooth reel. Classified in the “middle-of-the-road” category, this is what I’ve used for a long time now and I can’t complain. If you don’t plan on dropping your reel in the sand or water, this saltwater surf fishing reel is one of the best out there for the price.

Pros:

  • Equipped with HT-100 Carbon Fiber Drag System.
  • Ball Bearings are sealed off.
  • Smooth drag and retrieve.
  • Braid-ready strips built in to spool.

Cons: Some say this reel is a little on the heavy side, but nothing too noticeable.

4.) Penn Fierce III (4000)

The Fierce is a step down from the Battle. Bottom line here, it’s not going to stay as smooth as the Battle for as long. It’s still a high quality saltwater reel for surf fishing, and if it’s at your budget, it’s a good option.

Pros:

  • Smooth retrieval and casting.
  • Good retrieval rate.
  • Braid-ready strips built in to spool.
  • Durable and strong.
  • Well balanced reel.

Cons: This reel is also said to be a little on the heavier side with its full metal body. Additionally, if drag is set too tight, the Fierce has an infrequent tendency to lock up.

Shark Reels For Surf Fishing

When purchasing a shark fishing reel, the general guidelines remain the same. You simply want to find a proven, quality reel that can withstand the pressure of a big fish. For this reason, you want more line capacity, more max drag, and bigger reels.

1.) Penn Slammer (5500-8500)

For the angler looking to up his game from traditional “high performance saltwater reels”. The Slammer is a dream come true and as smooth as they come with drag capacity to fend off a beast.

Pros:

  • Smooth retrieval and casting.
  • Good retrieval rate.
  • Braid-ready strips built in to spool.
  • Durable and strong.
  • Well balanced reel.

Cons: Complex Disassembly

2.) Penn Spinfisher VI (6500-7500)

I’ve already spoken to the reputation of Penn throughout this article. The Spinfisher VI is a reliable and high quality option that will stay smooth even through the roughest abuse.

Pros:

  • Sealed body to protect against salt water.
  • Not as heavy as one might assume.
  • Well balanced weight distribution.
  • Smooth drag and retrieve.
  • Extremely durable and strong

Cons: The disassembly is always tougher with sealed bodies.

3.) Daiwa BG (5000-6500)

The Daiwa BG is very comparable to the Penn Battle. It’s going top feel just as smooth but have a different style in appearance. This comes down to which brand appeals to you more. For me, Penn has won me over.

Pros:

  • Built in braid-ready strip.
  • Holds an abundance of line.
  • Smooth retrieve and casting.
  • Epitome of a shark reel: It’s on the bigger side for reels and it’s very durable with loads of power packed in.

Cons: A little on the heavy side

4.) Penn Battle II or III (6000-8000)

A reliable reel that has landed me shark after shark after other big fish. It’s got what it takes and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to get a taste of some of the best surf fishing reels out there.

Pros:

  • Equipped with HT-100 Carbon Fiber Drag System.
  • Ball Bearings are sealed off.
  • Smooth drag and retrieve.
  • Braid-ready strips built in to spool.

Cons: Slightly heavy

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out and be sure to subscribe to my fishing reports at the bottom of the screen.

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