Best Surf Fishing Gear: 16 Essentials for Your Arsenal

fishing pliers for surf fishing gear

Is your arsenal getting low in stock? Does it even matter? Any good angler knows, there’s always room for additions when it comes to surf fishing gear. In this in depth overview, I’ll be taking you through my surf fishing gear checklist to make sure you don’t forget an essential piece of equipment when you head out for your next session.

Here’s the break down:

  1. Surf Fishing Rods
  2. Surf Fishing Reels
  3. Back Pack for Surf Fishing
  4. Fishing Waders
  5. Surf Fishing Lures
  6. Essential Hooks and Terminal Tackle
  7. Fishing Knife (Fillet and Bait)
  8. Fishing Pliers
  9. UPF Gear + Water Gear
  10. Head Lamp for Fishing
  11. Tape Measure
  12. Fish Scale
  13. Cooler for Fishing
  14. Squirt Water Bottle
  15. Fishing Rod Holder
  16. Fishing Gloves

Surf Fishing Rods

It all starts with the rod. You’re going to find a rod, fall in love with it, and then find a reason to get another one. It’s normal, and we all do it. So don’t feel bad. My top two rated rods for surf fishing are as follows:

  1. Okuma Celilo
  2. Okuma SST

Along with these guys, I’ll give you a few general recommendations before I refer you to an in depth article that outlines the best rods for surf fishing.

Salmon and Steelhead rods make for fantastic crossovers to the surf. Go with a rod between 7-10 feet rated for medium power and moderate to fast action. As always, there are exceptions to these recommendations but the referenced article details those nicely.

Surf Fishing Reels

Your reel is just about as important as your rod when it comes to selecting your surf fishing gear. A couple of quick recommendations here:

For most light tackle needs, a 4000 series spinning reel is fantastic. You should always match it to your rod just as you should match your rod to your reel. Again, this in depth article on the best reels for surf fishing actually walks you through the sizes and which reel to pair with which size rod. My top two spinning reels for surf fishing are:

  1. Penn Spinfisher VI
  2. Penn Battle III

A couple other reputable brands include Daiwa and Shimano. Take a look at that article referenced above and if you have questions on any of them, don’t hesitate to reach out via the contact us page.

Back Packs for Surf Fishing

As for fishing bags, this is also going to include some personal preference. Some anglers like to bring everything they might need, so they need a big backpack with a bunch of pockets and zippers, others are somewhere in between, and some pack super light-weight for ease and mobility.

Here’s the breakdown of my top 3 fishing backpacks.

I ended up just purchasing it for that exact reason, and it’s now my “on-the-go” lure throwing backpack for fishing.

Fishing Waders

While waders might not seem essential to some, they certainly are an essential piece of surf fishing gear to many. For a complete breakdown of which types of waders to get (why) and which brands are best, read this in-depth article on the – “Best Waders for Surf Fishing: Types Brands and More“.

If you don’t have time to read the article, here’s a quick break down:

  1. Best Between $250 – $500: Simms Freestone
  2. Best Between $100 – $200: Frogg Toggs
  3. Best Below $100: Frogg Toggs Canyon II

Surf Fishing Lures

Believe it or not, some surf anglers go their entire surf fishing career without ever throwing a lure. But… I’d still classify them as an essential piece of gear. So here’s the breakdown of the 3 must-have lures for surf fishing:

  1. Lucky Craft CIF FM 110
  2. Keitech Fat Swing Impact
  3. Z-man DieZel MinnowZ

The article referenced above goes into depth about which jigheads and hooks to use with the swimbaits and why you might use one over the other depending on the conditions or environment.

Terminal Tackle and Surf Fishing Rigs

Terminal tackle is so specific to the type of surf fishing you’ll be doing, so I won’t spend much time on that. This includes line, weights, swivels, hooks and everything that makes up your surf fishing rigs.

If you’re interested in fishing the Carolina rig exactly the way I fish it in Southern California for corbina, surfperch and other species, here’s the overview of every single piece of gear and tackle I use.

The most popular rigs will include the Carolina rig, the Fish Finder, the Drop Shot, Spider Hitch and a couple more.

Fishing Knife: Fillet Knives and Bait Knives

  1. Victorinox 7″ Fillet Knife
  2. KastKing Spartacus 9″ Strong Fillet Knife

A fishing knife is definitely an essential piece of gear for surf fishing. I don’t yet have a detailed article on the best fillet knives and best fishing knives for bait cutting or boning, but I do have the two knives I use.

I keep the Victorinox at home for when I fillet most of my fish and I want a really clean, concentrated fillet-job. It’s an incredible knife for the price at around 30 bucks.

The KastKing is basically my bait cutting knife, but it has enough flexibility to fillet a fish if I need/want to while I’m still at the beach.

Fishing Pliers

  1. KastKing Cutthroat 7″ Fishing Pliers
  2. Piscifun Fishing Pliers

When I started fishing the surf, this was one I didn’t take very seriously. I went to Walmart, got the $6 pair and that was that. Until they rusted out a couple months later and I was down $18 in less than a year.

For fishing pliers and many other categories of surf fishing gear, KastKing has proven itself to be pretty darn reputable. I’m still a little iffy on their rods and reels, but for pliers, I’ll admit it. they make the best for the price. The next one is a look alike that was manufactured by Piscifun. They’re a little cheaper but look almost identical and feel just as quality so they’re on here too.

I haven’t used the Piscifun pliers long enough to tell any difference in performance. But, the KastiKing one’s have yet to rust out on me. I’ve put them through hell in terms of saltwater and sand and sealed storage in my fishing bag. Still, they’re smooth as can be.

You may have to replace the cutters though as they will rust out after still a lot of abuse.

UPF Gear and Water Gear

Perhaps the most overlooked and underrated fishing gear is the UPF and water gear/apparel. Here’s a look at what I have on my checklist.

Polarized Sunglasses

UV400 Polarized Sunglasses

I would recommend that you make it a habit to where polarized and uv400 polarized sunglasses every single time you go fishing. It’s not worth it to risk your eyes and the less glare you get, the better you can see the fish in the shallows.

If you take a look at the linked sunglasses, you’ll see the UV protection and polarization labeled in the description. Look for those two factors when purchasing sunglasses for fishing.

Water Shoes

KEEN Sandals

I won’t argue if you deem water shoes to be non-essential. I only use them when I know I’ll be fishing a rocky, pebbly, or reefy beach. If it’s pure sand, you can bet you’ll find me barefoot. But, even with that, some people value the stingray protection in a good pair of water shoes with a hardy sole.

I’m still experimenting for this, but here’s the type of shoe I’ve found to work best so far.

UPF Long Sleeve Shirt

UPF Hooded Long Sleeve

For a while, I would go short sleeves or shirtless as much as I could during the summer months. While it’s nice every once in a while, it’s incredibly important to keep your skin away from excessive sunlight. These UPF, hooded, long sleeve shirts are an absolute must have piece of surf fishing gear.

UPF Face Shield

UPF 50 Face Mask

I haven’t done the research, but I’d be willing to bet a good chunk of change that the vast majority of anglers don’t apply sunscreen frequently enough to catch up to the harmful rays of the sun. Wearing a UPF face shield is a fantastic way to play it safe. I’ve used these for the past few years and you can find them for pretty cheap if you don’t buy my custom surfperch UPF face shield.

While you should still be applying sunscreen, these things help a boatload!

Waterproof Jacket for Fishing

North Face Waterproof Jacket

If you’ve been fishing the winter months without a waterproof jacket… I’m sorry. Add that to your list of surf fishing gear for next winter or get it ahead of time now because it’s a game-changer.

You might have the best hoodie out there and the best pair of waders, but if your top half takes a big wave, you’re going to be cold… period.

During the Winter months, I’ll actually wear that waterproof jacket over my hoodie even if it isn’t “freezing”. Because if I take on an unforeseen wave, I’d rather not be sopping wet for the rest of the day.

Head Lamp for Fishing

Coast Head Lamp

I often fish into the night during the summer months. A good headlamp is a nice addition to your gear arsenal.

Coast has been the most reliable brand of headlamps for me. Some anglers like the rechargeable type, but I prefer the standard replaceable AAA batteries for quick on the go swaps to full power.

Tape Measure

Standard Soft Tape Measure

If you plan on keeping fish, some species have minimum size limits. You should learn the requirements and limitations before you go out and bring a tape measure with you. I like the soft tape measures because they’re easy to store and the retractable one’s usually get sand inside of them and stop working after a couple uses.

Hog Troughs are also pretty dang handy and very accurate, but they’re pretty bulky too.

Fish Scale

Analog Fishing Scale

I’ve only used a fish scale a handful of times, but every once in a while you catch the one you were after and knowing the length and the weight makes for a better story… unless you’re really good at exaggerating.

Digital scales are cool, but unless you’re willing to fork away some extra cash, the standard water resistant ones will flake out on you after a couple splashes of saltwater or wet sand. These analog scales are a pretty handy addition when it comes to surf fishing gear.

Cooler for Fishing

Tourit Collapsible Cooler

Depending on your goal for the day and your plan for level of mobility, a cooler might be a good thing to bring (with some ice). If I’m planning to keep a fish, I will bring a cooler with ice.

Some anglers don’t like to carry the extra weight with them especially if they like to move around, but I don’t mind and I prefer my catch to remain as fresh as possible if I’m going to go through the trouble of killing it and cleaning it.

I use this cooler for both my kill bag and my bait bag. the shoulder strap is a must-have in my opinion. I spent a couple years trying out other bags and I’ve stopped with this one. It’s a solid option at least for my needs.

Squirt Water Bottle

I take back what I said about UPF and water gear being the most underrated items when it comes to your surf fishing gear checklist. A Gatorade Squeeze Bottle should be included 100% in your arsenal.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve saved my spinning reels or my fishing buddy’s gear after having dropped them in the sand or saltwater etc. A squeeze or squirt bottle can come in handy when you need to rinse your reel off in a pinch.

And, since you should be bringing water anyway, it doesn’t take up any extra space.

Fishing Gloves

Offshore Angler Nitrile Fishing Gloves

Some anglers like the extra grip, others just learned fishing with gloves. And some anglers can’t stand gloves. I prefer to not use gloves but a few years ago, I went through a two year stretch where the salt water basically ate away at my hands.

My hands would dry up, crack and peel if I went surf fishing too often. This led me to search for a good pair of fishing gloves that didn’t impede my dexterity too much. That was tough to do, but I found what I believe to be the best pair that balances protection, grip and thinness.

Of course, I still had to wear latex gloves underneath as they aren’t waterproof. It was a frustrating problem to deal with, but somehow, someway, I don’t have that problem anymore.

Some Other Things to Bring:

  • Fishing Towel
  • Rod Holder/Sand Spike
  • Board Shorts
  • Hat
  • Bait
  • Ice
  • Sunscreen
  • Fishing License
  • Snacks
  • Hoodie
  • Phone


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