Best Surf Rods

As well as explaining the basics of surf fishing, this section is designed to help you understand how to choose a surf rod for the specific type of shore fishing you have in mind. We’ll explain the difference between spinning and casting rods, will give you an idea of how much you should be spending and the kind of rods you might need, and we’ll give you details of what we believe are some of the best value surf rods on the market.

Surf rod design

Surf rods are generally used only when fishing from the beach or a rocky shoreline. They perform two key functions – first, getting a baited hook as far out into the sea as possible; and second, pulling the fish back in, through the breaking waves, to the shore. This means they are built for distance and power.

The first thing you’ll notice about a surf rod is its length. It will almost definitely be longer than any other kind of rod you’ve used. This is for good reason. The longer the rod is, the more power the angler can generate for casting, and the easier it is to hold the line out of the rough water once you’re fishing. The power comes from the speed at which the rod tip (and therefore the bait) is moving during the cast. Thanks to the laws of physics and mathematics, when the angler makes his cast, the further away the rod tip is from the fulcrum of the casting action, the faster it will move and the further it will travel. Long rods create greater tip speeds, which result in longer casts.

The second reason for using a long rod when beach fishing is to keep as much line out of the surf as possible. If you’re fishing with bait, you’ll want to leave it sitting in position for a decent amount of time to maximize your chance of hooking a fish. Ideally, thanks to the length of your rod (and your fantastic casting ability!) you’ll be able to land your bait beyond the furthest ‘breaker’, where the sea is relatively calm and undisturbed. This should help you maintain your bait’s position (if you cast into the white water, the bait will be knocked about and moved continually, which is considered far less desirable and is usually less productive!). Having a long rod can help you keep the bait in position even longer. By raising the rod tip as high into the air as possible, usually with the aid of some kind of ‘pod’ or rod holder, the angler can keep most of the fishing line up and away from the breaking waves. No matter how thin your line might be, breaking waves have an uncanny ability to grab hold of it, meaning your bait will slowly get dragged in the direction of the current and tide. Having a longer rod helps you avoid this process for longer, which means reeling in for a re-cast is a less frequent problem.

How to choose a surf rod

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: before you start rod shopping, fix a budget that you’re happy to spend. Fishing tackle has an uncanny ability to make a person spend more money than they intended and, unless you have a budget in mind, you’re in very real danger of overspending! Once you have your budget in mind, you need to consider the following two factors:

  1. What kind of bait will you be fishing with: live, dead or lures? The size and weight of your bait can have a big impact on rod selection.
  2. How big and strong are the fish you’ll be catching?

Although there are other issues to consider, like reel and line, it’s the bait and target species that will have the biggest impact on what rod you choose. If you’re planning to spin with lures, you might need a slightly different rod that if you’re fishing with bait. What’s more, large, pelagic species will require a much beefier set-up than small, inshore species. These factors will depend largely on where you’re going to be fishing. The coastal waters of the United Kingdom, for example, might yield some cod, whiting, pollock, bass and various types of flatfish, which will probably feed mostly on worm or fish baits, but you’re unlikely to hook into anything huge. Compare that with the southern United States, where large jacks, rooster fish, tarpon and striped bass roam, and it’s a whole different kettle of… err… fish!

Spinning versus casting

You may have witnessed people discussing the pros and cons of spinning rods over casting rods and vice versa, but you may not know what that means. Casting rods are designed for use with conventional or casting reels, where the spool is perpendicular to the rod. When you cast, the spool turns, releasing the line straight down the rings, with minimal twist. Casting rods will usually have smaller rings and may be slightly more powerful, as they are designed for casting heavier baits. Spinning rods, on the other hand, are designed for casting lures using spinning or ‘fixed spool’ reels. To cast such reels, the angler must remove the ‘bail arm’ to allow the line to spin off the spool, which sits parallel to the rod. Due to the way the line twists off the spool, there is more lateral movement, which creates more drag, reduces distance and requires slightly bigger rings – especially those nearest the reel seat. The reduced casting distance sometimes means that bait fishermen avoid this set-up, while those fishing lures are happy to sacrifice some distance in favour of the generally easier and more forgiving nature of a fixed spool reel. There are many different feelings and opinions on this matter, but we believe it’s possible to use one rod for both casting and spinning – just make sure you choose one with large rings and plenty of casting power. To keep things simple below, we’re going to recommend two classes of surf rod – a middleweight rod and a heavyweight – either of which could be used for both spinning and bait fishing.

Recommended surf rods

Based on the assumption that you only need one rod for both casting and spinning, this section is going to be fairly straightforward. This is compounded by the fact that, although you can catch plenty of small fish from the beach, you also need a rod that’s powerful enough for casting. This effectively means there’s no point in fishing with a lightweight surf rod. It’s far better to use a rod that overpowers the fish than to have one that can’t cast far enough to reach them! So, we’ll ignore the idea of a lightweight surf rod from the get-go. Instead we’ll be focussing solely on middleweight and heavyweight options and, in both cases, there are certain features you should look for:

  • Length: for the reasons described above, we advise getting a rod that’s at least ten feet long – ideally between eleven and fourteen. This will help with casting and will make it easier to avoid too much line drag.
  • Spinning vs casting: we want a rod you can use for both, so you want a rod that can be fished with either a top-mounted casting reel or a bottom-mounted fixed spool or spinning reel. Don’t worry too much about the reel seat – it doesn’t need to adjust to be able to work for both. Instead, look at the size of the rings or guides. If you want an all-round rod, pick a reasonably long casting rod with large rings, which is powerful enough to cast heavy weights while being soft enough in the tip to be able to spin as well.
  • Weight: following on from the last point, you’ll find that most surf rods come in a choice of weight: light-to-medium, medium, medium-to-heavy or just heavy. These speak for themselves.

Best middleweight surf rods

Unless you’re fishing for really big stuff like sharks, rays, big snapper, tarpon or the likes of kingfish, you’re probably going to be able to use a middleweight surf rod for more or less all of your shore fishing. We don’t want to blind you with lots of different options, so we’ve whittled our suggestions down to the best two in each weight class. It wasn’t easy – there are some seriously great rods out there – but these two won us over with their combination of capability, reputation and value:

Option 2: Tsunami Trophy 11-foot Surf Spinning Rod

We’re going slightly off-piste with the Tsumani but don’t worry if you’ve never heard of the brand – with graphite composite blanks and Fuji guides, they are very much the real deal. It’s hard to see how these ‘lesser’ manufacturers do it – there’s so little to distinguish these cheaper rods from the premium rods on sale at the luxury end of the market. In the case of this rod, don’t be put off by the term ‘Heavy’. It’s a solid spinning rod, but doubles up nicely as a middleweight casting rod and, at 11 feet in length, should give you all the firepower you need for all but the biggest baits. If you’re caught between middleweight and heavyweight and you’re worried that the Trophy isn’t up to the job, check out the Airwave Elite. It’s more expensive but packs a much bigger punch, casting 6oz with ease.

See details and reviews of the Trophy >>

Option 3: TFO Gary Tactical Series GTS 10’6″

Here at Drowning Worms we’re big fans of Temple Fork Outfitters, which is why we’ve included this rod despite it being only 10’6″. Designed to be a spinning rod, it will cast up to 8oz comfortably and can be used quite easily with bait. Recommended line breaking strain is between 15 and 40lbs but we’d suggest the smaller the lures/baits you’re using, the lighter the line you should use. It’ll give you more casting distance! If you’re going to be doing more spinning than bait fishing, this is a serious contender.

See TFO details >>

Best heavyweight surf rods

Unless you’re fishing for really big stuff like sharks, rays, big snapper, tarpon or the likes of kingfish, you’re probably going to be able to use a middleweight surf rod for more or less all of your shore fishing. We don’t want to blind you with lots of different options, so we’ve whittled our suggestions down to the best two in each weight class. It wasn’t easy – there are some seriously great rods out there – but these two won us over with their combination of capability, reputation and value:

Option 1: Lamiglas Surf King Series

Although, as you can see below with the Penn, you don’t have to pay a lot of money for a heavy surf rod, the price does seem to increase dramatically when you step up from a middleweight to a heavyweight. At below $250, the Lamiglas ‘Surf King’ probably sits somewhere in the middle of the scale. It’s a graphite rod with all the usual trimmings, sold as a surf spinning rod but with more than enough grunt to cast a 5 or 6oz weight over the breakers. Because it’s a ‘spinning rod’ the rings are large, allowing the line to run freely and, at 11′, it fits into the lower end of our recommended length bracket.

Check out the details and reviews here >>

Option 2: Daiwa 405G Saltiga Ballistic Surf Rod

OK, I know, this is an expensive rod, so it won’t be for everyone, but Daiwa have been making surf rods for years and they do it very well. The 405G Saltiga will cast a 5 or 6oz lead seemingly over the horizon, yet it’s sensitive enough to indicate even the slightest bite on bait. It’s a powerful, 3-piece rod that can be used for both casting bait and spinning, although at this end of the power spectrum you’ll probably be doing more bait fishing than spinning anyway. Pair this a good reel and 40 or 50lb line (or braid) and you’ll be the envy of all the other anglers on the shoreline.

See Saltiga details and reviews >>

Note: there is some confusion about the difference between the Prevail 10/11 and the 10.0/11.0. Please note the 10.0, 11.0 etc are the spinning models and the 10 and 11 are casting models. In our opinion, you could use either rod for both spinning and bait casting, but it’s probably easiest to make your selection based on what style of fishing you’re going to do more of. We hope this helps!!

Disclaimer: Please understand that these are simply our opinions, it’s not advice, and you should read plenty of reviews before making a purchase. 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 doesn’t change.