This page compares some of the best sea and boat fishing rods on the market, and provides information that may help you understand how to choose one. We’ll discuss the differences between inshore, surf, boat and trolling rods and will give you an overview of the different size and strength sea and boat rods you might need. For convenience, we’ll also provide some links through to Amazon in case you want to purchase right away.
Of course, using a boat is one of the most popular types of sea fishing. The ocean is a pretty big target and the fish aren’t always close to shore. Boats can be used to transport sea fishermen between known fishing spots, dragging baits along with the engine – what we call ‘trolling’ – or dropping baits down to the fish from above – known as bottom fishing or jigging. These are all fantastic ways of covering a lot of area, as well as getting to those harder-to-reach areas that receive less angling pressure. Of course, that’s one reason why such a large percentage of commercial fishermen fish from boats as opposed to the shore.
Sea or boat fishing rods can be subdivided into three different sections: inshore fishing rods, trolling rods and jigging or bottom fishing rods. Don’t panic – it’s not essential to use different rods for all three of these approaches – but you’ll certainly find rods manufactured specifically for one or the other. If you’re in the market for a new boat rod, we hope this guide might steer you in the right direction.
- 1 What’s the difference between inshore, trolling and jigging rods?
- 2 Recommended sea and boat fishing rods
- 3 How to choose a boat rod
- 4 Best sea and boat fishing rods
- 5 Inshore rods
- 6 Trolling rods
- 7 Jigging rods
What’s the difference between inshore, trolling and jigging rods?
Some of these rods are very similar, others are quite different – all depending on what the rod was designed to do. Typically the main variables are length, strength, stiffness and guide size. Unlike most boat and trolling rods, inshore rods are designed for casting. Like most surf rods, they can be fished with either lures or bait, and will usually be designed to fit either a spinning or bait casting reel. To assist casting, they will have larger rings/guides, which allow the line to pass through more freely. The main difference between inshore rods and surf rods, on the other hand, is that inshore rods are designed for use from both shore and boat. Surf rods are longer and built primarily for casting heavy weights long distances. Inshore rods will typically be shorter, more sensitive and better suited to casting smaller lures at closer range, sometimes from within the confines of a small inshore boat.
Trolling and jigging rods can be used inshore too but more often will be fished further out to sea, where the really big fish can be found. Unlike inshore rods they are not generally used for casting, so they will usually be set up to accommodate conventional multiplier reels rather than spinning reels. Unlike inshore rods, which are usually designed to handle smaller, inshore species like bass, redfish, mackerel, pollock and snook, trolling and jigging rods will be bigger, stronger and able to manage bigger fish like tuna, groupers, wahoo and large billfish. They are usually shorter, have smaller rings, and are designed for fishing the blue water, where the larger ‘pelagic’ species roam.
There is perhaps less to distinguish between trolling and jigging rods, which is why they are sometimes grouped together simply as ‘boat rods’. Both are relatively short, powerful and, because they are never really used for casting, built almost solely for fighting fish. You could argue that jigging rods need to be lighter, as anglers may be required to stand and handle them for a whole day, but trolling rods cant be too heavy either, as the reality is you may have to fight a big fish for two hours or more. That’s a long time to hold a heavy rod! One feature that may be different, especially on the heavy-rated rods, is the guides. When trolling a bait, the boat will often be travelling at speed. This means you’re generally catching fast fish like wahoo, marlin and the fastest fish in the sea – the sailfish. When these fish hit a lure, turn and run, your line can be pouring off the reel at 40mph or more. To reduce the friction on the line, heavy trolling rods will sometimes feature rollers instead of rings, which turn, like a line of pulleys, to aid the passing line on its journey. Of course there’s nothing to stop a fast fish taking the bait on your jigging rod, but most of the species you’ll catch hard on the bottom will be slower moving: sharks, grouper, snapper are hard-fighting in their own way, but the battle tends to be more dogged and less spectacular. For this reason, although jigging rods can have rollers, they’re also perfectly ok when fitted with rings.
Recommended sea and boat fishing rods
I expect most people reading this page will be looking for sea or boat fishing rod recommendations, but I want to start by explaining what I think would make a good set-up for those who want to cover all the bases. If you’re a few steps ahead of me and simply want to compare one rod with another, click here or scroll down to our ‘best rods’ section. If your aim is to set yourself up with a good selection of boat rods that will cater for most boat fishing situations, read on. To get you started, you could do worse than to buy yourself at least one of each of the following:
- 1x inshore rod
- 1x jigging rod
- (2x trolling rods)
Much of this will depend on whether or not you own a boat. If you’re chartering or fishing on a friend’s boat, you may well find that they already have trolling rods onboard. If that’s the case, you can give those a miss and save your cash for jigging and trolling. Although I’m happy borrowing trolling tackle, personally I like to use my own rods and reels for both bottom fishing and inshore spinning.
How to choose a boat rod
When buying any rod, make sure you start with a budget and/or a brand. Get in a tackle shop and it’s easy to get home and realise you’ve spent more than you intended! The rods we’ve included below will give you an idea of the price range you’re looking at. Secondly, work out what kind of fishing you’re going to be doing most of, and (as we mentioned above) what tackle you can beg, borrow or steam instead of buying.
Once you’ve established a budget, style of fishing (casting vs trolling vs jigging) and you’ve explored all the available borrowing options, have a think about the following:
- What species will you be fishing for?
- How big will they be?
- What size bait will you be using?
All rods should have some kind of rating. This may be light, medium or heavy, or perhaps a weight ranking, like 20-30lb. A rod’s rating is based loosely around the strength or line you’ll be using, as that effectively reflects the size of the fish and lures. With each of the sea rod categories we’ve mentioned – trolling, inshore/casting and jigging – there will be a range of rod ‘weights’ available. Although you should consult each manufacturer’s manual or user guide before buying, a rough guide would probably look something like this:
|ROD TYPE & WEIGHT||APPROXIMATE LINE BREAKING STRAIN||APPROXIMATE FISH WEIGHT|
|Light||10 to 15lbs mono / 20 to 30lb braid||2 to 20lbs|
|Medium||15 to 20lb mono / 30 to 50lb braid||10 to 40lbs|
|Heavy||20 to 30lb+ mono / 50 to 80lb+ braid||30 to 60lbs+|
|Jigging / bottom fishing rod|
|Light||10 to 15lbs mono / 20 to 30lb braid||2 to 20lbs|
|Medium||15 to 30lb mono / 30 to 80lb braid||10 to 50lbs|
|Heavy||30 to 100lb+ mono / 80 to 200lb+ braid||50 to 200lbs+|
|Light||20 to 30lbs mono / 30 to 50lb braid||2 to 20lbs|
|Medium||30 to 50lb mono / 50 to 100lb braid||10 to 50lbs|
|Heavy||50lb+ mono / 100 to 250lb+ braid||50 to 200lbs+|
Best sea and boat fishing rods
There’s so much fishing tackle out there that selecting something suitable can be a bit of a minefield. This section is designed to give you an idea of how much some decent boat rods might cost you, which brands have a reputation for making quality blanks, and which rods we like for each of the fishing types we discussed above. We’ve selected our favourites not only based on outright quality; instead we’ve made these choices based on a combination of quality, value, reputation and personal experience. Any feedback you have on these recommendations would be warmly received.
Best inshore rods – Option 1
Although Penn are best known for manufacturing reels, they also produce a lovely line in sea fishing rods. We’ve selected their Squadron inshore spinning rods because they’re such a capable all-rounder, which, in Penn’s own words, can be used for just about every live and artificial bait technique. We also considered the more expensive Penn Legion but find the Squadron to be both a better rod and cheaper… Result!
Best inshore rods – Option 2 **OUR CHOICE**
We’ve been banging the Ugly Stik drum for many years, but that’s because you’ll struggle to find a rod that comes close for the money. It’s sensitive and light, yet powerful enough to drag in a 20lb fish with no hassle. Don’t be fooled by the price tag, this is an excellent inshore rod and worthy of consideration. Of course, if you’re happy spending more than this, there are plenty more options. Our pick of the bunch would be the Abu Garcia Veritas spinning rod, which you can see in our spinning rods section here.
Best inshore rod – Option 3
We’ve included these Tica rods, as they provide the inshore angler with an amazing variety of lengths and weights. If you’re looking for something specific, perhaps something slightly longer, shorter, lighter or stronger, these rods give you options. They also have a reputation for combining quality with great value and their spinning rods are no exception (ignore the description, these make excellent inshore rods). Our choice? The 7 or 8-foot medium 2-piece is a terrific all-rounder.
Best trolling rods – Option 1
What we like about the Penn Mariner is its versatility. It can double up as both a trolling and a jigging rod, made possible by its combination of power, short length and sensitivity. It can withstand the heaviest of hits while still being responsive enough to detect a gentle bite at 50 metres. This is because it’s made of solid glass – a material that’s known for its ability to transmit bites from hook-to-angler. Rated from 20 to 50lbs, this would be slightly heavy for small fish and a little too light for big sharks, tuna and marlin, but anything between should be fine.
Best trolling rods – Option 2 **OUR CHOICE – MEDIUM**
If you’re prepared to step up to the next price point, you won’t be sorry to grab yourself a Vendetta.. It’s been a very popular rod for Abu Garcia, and deservedly so – it offers a fantastic combination of pulling power and strike-sensitivity. As an alternative to the Abu Garcia Veritas (below) this comes a close second. It’s built from the same high-grade graphite, aluminium, stainless steel and “Intracarbon” technology and, for the price, is a very impressive rod. We’d happily use it for both trolling and jigging.
Best trolling rods – Option 3 **OUR CHOICE – HEAVY**
I know we’ve already recommended one version of the Ugly Stik, but the fact is we’re big fans of these rods and, if you need something for battling giant fish, this is a darn good option. Not only do these rods offer a great combination of power and feel, but also they’re virtually unbreakable, not to mention amazing value for money. The Ugly Stik brand hasn’t been around this long for no reason. This rod is suited to catching big fish – tuna, sharks, sailfish, dorado and marlin. Like all Ugly Stik rods, it also comes with their “Ugly Back” 60 day/5-year warranty. Awesome. Alternatively check out the Penn Senator or treat yourself with a very expensive but appropriately capable Penn Gold Label Series International IGFA V.
Best jigging rods – Option 1 **OUR CHOICE – MEDIUM/HEAVY**
If you’re looking for something with a bit of backbone, that will show a 50lb grouper who’s boss and yet still allow you to feel when a smaller fish is on the hook, this is a great option. Made in the USA, Lamiglas are renowned for using high quality materials and components (e.g. they have excellent real seats) and for offering customer service that you just don’t get from some other manufacturers. This is a rod that will last you a lifetime – or the best part of it!
Best jigging rods – Option 2 **OUR CHOICE – MEDIUM**
Realistically, this could be the only boat rod you’ll going to need for your jigging, bait casting or trolling. It’s an absolutely brilliant rod. We’ve made the Veritas our choice in both the spinning rods and the casting rods section (i.e. this one) because, for the money, we can’t think of better. If you’re only going to buy one rod for your jigging and trolling, make it this one. If you’re going to spin with it as well, get the spinning version.
Disclaimer: Please note, although we feature advertisers on the site, we are not paid to promote any rods or brands in particular and these are our own true opinions. We do use Amazon affiliate links, which is one way that we make money from this site, but the price to you is not affected.