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Published Oct. 22, 2021

Whether you ply the suds in search of striped bass or venture beyond and abroad for exotic monster fish, you’re going to want to do so with the best surf fishing rod possible. But with all of the advancements in surf fishing technology, it can be hard to select the right tool for your arsenal. This article will help you pick the right rod and may even give you the fishing gear knowledge you need to become a better surfcaster.

My fishing colleagues call me “Crazy” Alberto“, because of the drive that forces me to fish the non-human-hours deep into the night. I am a multi-species surfcaster specializing in trophy fishing; known for all-night marathons where I catch the fish of dreams while most people are dreaming. After 50-plus years of land-based angling and surfcasting, I’ve learned a thing or two. In that time, I’ve caught over 10 striped bass exceeding the magical 50-pound class and plenty of tarpon over the 100-pound mark—all from terra firma.

I’ve watched the evolution of surf rods firsthand—and even had the opportunity to help with development. From bamboo and sections of tapered wood wrapped with horsehair glass fibers to boron and graphite composites, I’ve seen it all through the years. I even had the pleasure of working with the founder of Lamiglas rods, the great Mr. Dick Posey, to develop my own signature series of surf rods in the late 1990s.

How To Pick The Best Surf Fishing Rod

We are unquestionably living in the golden age of surf rod technology, with advancements in rod blanks driven by elaborate space age fiber, lightweight aluminum alloy reel seats, and high-tech ceramic and titanium guides. It’s no wonder the majority of today’s anglers are easily infatuated by the latest and the greatest in surf fishing equipment to hit stores. There are just too many variables surf rods in today’s marketplace to mention, but with a little guidance from yours truly we can get you pointed in the right direction.

In a nutshell, identifying the best surf rod depends on the type of fishing you are planning to do and the performance of the rod. Some rods have slow to medium actions, which are well-suited to live and chunked baits. Others are fast to extra fast, which excel at tossing lures and bucktails. Some are more parabolic than others, with the bend occurring all the way from the tip to the butt section. The deep bend allows the pressure to build slowly and steadily, so you won’t pull the bait or lure away from the fish but can provide enough hook-setting power to keep a big fish tight all the way into shore. If you’re hunting trophy fish, the C-shaped bend of a parabolic rod is probably the way to go.

I have great admiration for brands such as G Loomis, Shimano, Penn, Tsunami rods, and the ever-popular St. Croix Rods, which bear the “Best Rods on Earth” motto. I can even appreciate value brands like Tica, Ugly Stick and Okuma. Obviously, some are built with price in mind to keep the cost of admission low for entry level anglers. There are also high-end / top-tier rods, built on customized blanks with specific actions to meet specific needs. Avid and more seasoned anglers value these rods because of their higher quality components, type of action and the warranties they usually carry. Meticulous and demanding surfrats even opt to have custom surf rods built to fit their style of fishing and for maximum performance. 

Best Beginner Surf Rod: St. Croix Mojo Surf Spinning

Fishing the surf is very rewarding, but it can seem daunting to a beginning angler. Figuring out the tides, learning about the baitfish present, and learning to read the beach can keep anyone’s hands full. They also need to figure out if they prefer fishing bait, fishing lures, or both. So, anglers just starting out should pick up a quality rod that can handle a variety of techniques while they figure out their niche. A spinning rod around 10 feet long, capable of throwing up to six ounces is a good starting point.

The Mojo series from St. Croix Rods offers both beginning and more seasoned anglers excellent value. The 10-foot, six-inch medium heavy/moderate fast St. Croix model is a good starting point for a variety of species, though there is a St. Croix nine-footer for those that prefer a shorter stick. Both lengths are easy to transport and store, thanks to their two-piece construction. Specialized, weight-saving surf guides with zirconium rings and black frames wrangle braid and keep tangles to a minimum. The X-wrap handle is comfortable, and ensures you maintain a strong grip on your fishing rod even in breaking surf. Despite the budget price, St. Croix backs this rod with a five-year warranty.

Best Surf Rod for Plugging: St. Croix Legend Surf Spinning

Make no mistake about it, there is absolutely nothing better than fooling a fish with an artificial lure. You studied the fish’s habits, and you know exactly what your prized fish are feeding on in. You have just the right lure that imitates the bait’s profile and movement. But you must reach them, often at great distances. You need the best surf rod for plugging that provides the proper casting distance, the power to subdue your catch, and allows the perfect required presentation.

St. Croix’s 11-foot Legend Surf Spinning rod in medium heavy is the best surf fishing rod for plugging. The moderate fast action rod can handle lures from three to eight ounces, and the 11-foot reach gives them plenty of distance. Despite having enough backbone to stop the most powerful surf dwellers, the rod only weighs 13.8 ounces. And you won’t have to baby this stick either: The Legend Surf is built on a high modulus/high strain SCIV graphite blank, with nearly indestructible (and corrosion-proof) titanium guide frames. Two coats of Flex-Coat slow cure finish add protection. A custom neoprene handle seems to provide more grip the wetter it gets, offering comfort and durability. The off-set, slim profile ferrules on two-piece models give the rod one-piece performance. And should the unthinkable happen (like a car door), the built-in-the USA Legend Surf is covered by St. Croix’s 15-year warranty.

Best Surf Rod for Chunking: St. Croix Avid Surf Casting

It’s no secret when fish are finicky, homed in on specific baits, or when the water is muddy, chunking is the alternative to getting your line tight. Tossing the heavy payload of bait and sinker at distant rips, pockets, coves, cuts and breakers is best accomplished with a conventional or casting rod. Long casting rods have the sensitivity needed to feel the slightest finicky pickup and provide direct and stronger hook setting power and fighting leverage

My recommendation is to use a 10- to 12-foot conventional rod with ability to handle a long shock leader, and to cast bait and sinkers anywhere from six to 16 ounces. My preferred choice for best surf fishing rod for chunking is in St. Croix’s Avid series. The 11-foot conventional model can chuck three to eight ounces of bait and sinker out past the breakers. Titanium guide frames shrug off the rigors of saltwater, and soak up the bumps and bruises that can occur when anglers do battle in the surf zone. A classic cork tape handle is comfortable in-hand but is slick enough to easily slide out of sand spike at the first sign of a strike. St. Croix Avid series rods were the recipient of 2019 ICAST’s Best Saltwater Rod award, and are designed and handcrafted here in the United States.

Best Bang for the Buck Rod: Tsunami Airwave

Today’s fishing rod technology is rapidly changing for the better, giving surfcasters even more value for their dollar. Surf anglers can get a well-balanced rod with quality components, built by a reputable manufacturer, and backed by a premium warranty for short coin.

Tsunami Airwave Rods delivers the best bang for the buck surf fishing rod. They are built using strong and powerful high-density blanks, with braid-proof guides. The tough Fuji Hardloy guides provide extreme sensitivity and more resilience to transmit more power to each cast. Those looking for versatile rod should check out the 10-foot medium heavy model, which can handle a variety of plugs, tins, and lures up to four ounces. There’s also an 11-footer that can toss plugs and bait up to five ounces. Durable, non-slip, textured vinyl grips provide traction even when wet. Tsunami rods also offer a flexible warranty service when needed.

FAQs

Q: What is the best rod and reel for surfcasting?

The best rod and reel combination for surf fishing is extremely durable and able to withstand the saltwater environment. Maintenance is important, but your casting rod and reel will be exposed to elements which can cause rust that and other malfunctions. A sealed reel, like those offered by Van Staal, prevents sand and saltwater intrusion. High performance rods such as the St. Croix Legend Surf series can deal with the rigors of pounding surf. Both rod and reel companies are backed with stellar warranties and customer service when needed.  

Q: What is the best fishing rod for beach fishing?

When it comes down to high performance in casting and premium components like titanium guides, the 12-foot St. Croix Surf Legend surf rod is hard to beat. The two-piece rod fishes like a one-piece, but breaks down easily to serve as a travel fishing rod. As for chunking, my 12-foot St. Croix Avid is light and handles up to 16 ounces. This enables casting that can reach great distances with ease. These rods are also accompanied with 15-year warranty, making them my reliable fishing tools of the trade.

Q: What color line is best for surf casting?

The thin diameter of today’s advanced braided lines give surf anglers the ability to reach distant honey holes like offshore bars and deep pockets where fish feed. But these areas often draw crowds, and braided lines can tangle easily. When fishing in a congested spot, highly visible lines such as yellow or orange are desirable because they can easily prevent line crossing and untangling. Solo trophy hunters such as I like low-visibility line (preferably moss green) because it is stealthier and minimizes the chance fish will see it.

The use of fluorocarbon shock leader can be critical and necessary when fishing in gin clear water conditions where finicky, shy fish can see your line. Fluorocarbon’s invisibility and high abrasion resistance make it an excellent choice.

Bass caught with the best surf fishing rod
Crazy Alberto with a 50-pound striped bass caught on the open beach. Alberto Knie

Final Thoughts on the Best Surf Fishing Rods

In conclusion, I’ve provided insights to choosing the best surf fishing rods and wishing everyone much success in this coming fall surf fishing run. Should you wish to extend your surfcasting experience, there are great opportunities in Florida where your surf fishing gears will be great for bull reds, Snook and even the magical Silver King. With that, tight lines and wishing good fishing!

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