Surf fishing is one of the most unique and exciting ways to catch saltwater fish, but it also involves having the right gear. Just like any other type of fishing, you’ll need to have specialized gear, tackle and surf fishing equipment if you really want to maximize your success.
If you’re ready to get started catching fish from your favorite beach, we’ve put together this handy surf fishing gear list guide to help you prepare.
Surf Fishing Gear Essentials To Get You Started
Rod and Reel: Standard Surf Fishing Setup
When it comes to the kind of surf fishing rod and reel you’re going to need, bigger is better. Both rods and reels used for saltwater fishing on the beach are going to be larger and longer.
Most surf fishers tend to prefer spinning reels as opposed to conventional reels. This is mostly because spinning reels are better-suited for packing on huge amounts of fishing line without getting tangled. Surf fishing requires you to make tremendously long casts and it’s also likely that you’ll have a big fish that will pull off hundreds of feet of line from your reel.
Some anglers might opt for conventional reels if they want even more distance in their casts. This is common among shark anglers who usually need to get their bait out well past the breaking waves.
Surf Fishing Rods
Surf rods are typically much longer than your average freshwater fishing pole. Fiberglass rods will be heavier but offer more pulling power and flexibility while graphite blanks are often lighter and more sensitive.
Most surf fishing rods are anywhere from 8 to 15 feet long and built using a medium heavy power blank. I’d recommend using an 8′ rod for fishing around the suds close to the water’s edge, but if you’re trying to launch a heavy bait as far as possible, go with a 12′ or 15′ surf rod.
Most surf fishing anglers consider a 10′ rod to be the all-around best surf fishing rod that gives you optimal sensitivity and casting distance.
My go-to surf fishing setup consists of a 10′ Penn Prevail Surf Spinning Rod. This is a high-quality rod blank that’s made of graphite composite material that’s light, but gives plenty of backbone for fighting big fish.
Surf Fishing Reel
A surf fishing reel is usually going to be the most expensive gear item you’ll need. It’s wise to invest in a good reel that will hold plenty of line and is made with quality components to withstand the rigors of handling surf fish and regular saltwater use.
There are basically two types of surf fishing reels: conventional and spinning models. There are certain advantages to each type of surf fishing reel and whether you’ll need a spinning reel or conventional reel will often be determined by your skill level and your target species of fish.
Spinning reels are great for beginners as they are easy to use and less likely to cause issues like tangles. They are especially useful if you’re fishing for smaller species that are close to the shoreline such as pompano or others.
My favorite spinning reel to use when it comes to surf fishing is a Shimano Stradic Ci4+ 4000. This is an expensive reel, but it’s a solid all-round pick for catching saltwater fish of any size with silky-smooth action.
Conventional reels are often the choice for shark anglers or surf fishing anglers who want to cast long distances with less effort. Most conventional saltwater reels have a large star drag or lever drag system that is extremely useful when fighting monster fish.
One of the main problems many anglers run into with conventional reels is backlashing. Since you’re required to stop the spool’s rotation with your thumb on each cast, it’s easy to have too much line spin off the spool if you don’t stop it quick enough once your rig hits the water.
If you’re going to use a conventional reel, it’s recommended that you get one that is equipped with a magnetic braking system to help avoid such issues.
Spinning Reel Sizing
Smaller spinning reels up to about 3500 size are best for smaller fish while bigger reels that are 8000 or more will work better for larger fish. Spinning reels are generally more affordable in most cases.
If you’re going to be using artificial lures or making lots of casts and holding your rod and reel most of the time, it’s better to use a smaller sized reel that’s no larger than 3500 size. It’s recommended to go with a 4000 to 6000 size reel if you’re going for bigger fish or you want to have more line on your spool.
Reels larger than 6000 are best if you’re going after sharks or other massive fish species while beach fishing.
Surf Fishing Line Choice
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing what type of fishing line to use when surf fishing. Mono and braid are the two most commonly-used for surf fishing, but some anglers might use a fluoro leader line if they are going after a certain species or using a type of rig which demands a high amount of sensitivity.
Mono is usually considered best for anglers who want as much distance as possible, as well as abrasion resistance. This type of line can be nicked without breaking or losing strength and is very commonly used as a leader line since it’s capable of stretching without breaking. Some shark anglers will use mono line with braid backing.
Braid is typically better if you’re fishing with artificial lures, but it’s also thinner. This means it can cast just as far or even farther than mono line that’s the same pound test rating. Fluoro is seldom-used as a main line for surf fishing, but some anglers might opt for it if the water is exceptionally clear or they’re fishing for small fish species.
I generally go with Berkley Trilene Big Game Monofilament Custom Spool line for surf fishing, but occasionally will incorporate Sufix 832 Advanced Superline Braid when shark fishing.
Surf Fishing Rigs
Fish finder rig
The Fish Finder rig is an excellent go-to choice for getting started in surf fishing. It involves using a pyramid sinker on your main line with a steel leader line that’s about 40-lb test, which is connected with a barrel swivel.
This rig is great for catching anything from flounder and sea trout to striped bass and drum species. It keeps your lure in place with the pyramid sinker while the weightless leader line lets your bait flutter around like a wounded fish near the bottom.
- Fish Finder Rig – Surf fishing tackle box with tackle included – premium tackle to make surf fishing rigs. Great for travel & fishing gifts. Ideal fishing gift for men dad husband etc.
- Effective – The fish finder rig is one of the simplest, most effective surf rigs used for beach fishing. Whether for beginner or experienced surf fisherman alike, it help increase catch rate.
- Fishing Equipment – 135pcs surf rig kit include 4 pyramid sinker, 30 circle hooks, 6 J hooks, 20 sinker slider, 20 barrel swivels, 5 wire leaders, 50 fishing beads.
- Saltwater Tackle – All the fishing terminal tackles are made of premium material, high hardness, good corrosion resistance, strong and durable, will not easily rust or break.
- Convenient – All fishing tackles are packed in a reusable plastic box which is easy to carry, and convenient to get the exact fishing tackles you need. Great for travel & fishing gifts.
The Carolina rig is not just used for bass fishing. It’s known to be very effective in surf fishing and is simple and easy to set up. It involves basically the same kind of setup used in the fish finder rig, but using an egg sinker instead of a pyramid style sinker, as well as mono or fluoro instead of a steel leader line. Be sure to include a bead separating the sinker and your knot.
Both artificial lures and cut bait or live bait work well with the Carolina rig. I like to fish this with a live shrimp and slowly bounce it across the bottom for bites from flounder, drum and many other fish species.
- All the gear needed to create effective Texas and Carolina Rigs for bass
- Includes bullet weights, beads, swivels, hooks and more
- High quality and great value
Drop Shot Rig
The Drop Shot rig is perhaps the most simple way of surf fishing with both live bait and artificial lures. To set up the Drop Shot rig, all you need is a drop shot weight and the hook size of your choice. Be sure to use a Palomar knot when tying on your hook roughly 18-24 inches above the sinker.
This one works great with soft plastic fluke baits (get one here), as well as cut bait or live bait and is one of my favorites for flounder fishing along the beach.
- Effective for catching largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass, as well as other fish. The Punch Shot works great in shallow or deep grass, dragging along edges and points, and flipping into shallow cover such as stick-ups, dock pilings, walls, and more.
- Hooks are made of high carbon steel, with super sharp, durable and corrosion-resistant, whether fishing in freshwater or saltwater.
- Makes16 Drop Shot Rigs with 16 EWG Hooks (size 3/0)
Surf Fishing Lures
Soft Bait Lures
It’s essential to have a good assortment of soft bait lures as part of your surf fishing gear. Soft bait lures are often able to mimic types of real prey that certain fish species target and they work in a variety of rigs and presentations.
I prefer using Z-Man EZ ShrimpZ 3.5” when flounder fishing or going after other kinds of surf fishing species. Another must-have soft bait lure is the Berkley Gulp! Sand Crab 1” in either Amber Glow or Natural Flea color.
My number one choice for any soft bait lure is the Fishbites E-Z Shrimp, which I’ve used to catch redfish, striper, mullet and many other species.
Hard Bait Lures
Sometimes certain fish might prefer prey that deliver more action, which means hard bait lures will work best. These often include jerkbait-style lures or topwater poppers when fishing at or near the surface, and spoons or jigs for catching fish near the bottom.
I always enjoy using a Yo-Zuri Pins Minnow or Heddon Super Spook Topwater popper when fish are biting at the surface. If I’m going after mackerel, striped bass or other species in deeper water, I’ll use a 1 oz. Spro SBTJW-1 Prime Bucktail Jig or a 1/4 oz. Kastmasters spoon.
Surf Fishing Tackle
Sinkers are one of the most valuable surf fishing gear items as they allow you to create a variety of different lure and bait presentations. It’s good to have an assortment of 1 to 3 ounce bullet pyramid sinkers for good casting distance.
In addition to these, most surf anglers will use drop shot weights and egg sinkers for various other rigs used for artificial lures. I prefer a 3 or 4-ounce pyramid sinker for fishing in rough surf conditions or strong ocean winds. The pyramid sinker’s shape helps keep it in place, even in the middle of crashing waves.
It’s good to have a wide assortment of hooks when surf fishing. Knowing which hook is best will be determined by the size of your bait or lure, as well as the size of the fish you’re going after. If I’m fishing with cut squid or some kind of cut or live bait, I like to use 1/0 or 2/0 circle hooks.
Depending on the fishing rig you’re going to use, you might need octopus hooks or bait keepers. I generally prefer using Eagle Claw’s Lazer Sharp circle hooks for most cut bait rigs, but it’s also good to have a few backup treble hooks in case the ones on your artificial lures break off.
I often keep a few Mustad Classic treble hooks on standby just in case I lose one off of my jerkbait or topwater popper.
Surf Fishing Accessories
One of the most useful things you can have for surf fishing is a sand spike. This is a seemingly insignificant thing compared to all the gear you have, but it allows you to keep your rod in place without risk of losing it and also makes it possible to fish with multiple rods.
You can usually purchase sand spikes at local tackle shops, or you can make your own out of PVC pipe material. If you’re fishing for sharks or other large fish, it’s best to go with a quality sand spike like the Sea Striker 28″ spike.
Buckets serve a few important purposes when surf fishing. They allow you to keep our live bait in a container that ensures anything won’t leak out into your tackle bag, but a bucket can also be used as a seat or for storing keeper fish in while you’re fishing. I always carry a 5-gallon bucket on any surf fishing trip and you can always find them at any bait shop.
A fishing backpack is light years better than a standard tackle box or bag when it comes to surf fishing. It allows you to tote all of your essential surf fishing gear while also freeing-up your hands.
I used a standard tackle box for many years in my surf fishing ventures. It’s necessary to have a waterproof tackle bag or box to store all of your gear items and fishing rigs in while you’re on the beach.
Fishing pliers are a must-have item if you’re ever going to surf fish. Many of the fish you catch will have sharp teeth, which can be quite dangerous. A good pair that I use are the Rapala Salt Angler’s 8.5″ Pliers.
If you’re planning on keeping any of the fish you catch, you’ll need a measuring tape to make sure they are keeper-size. Any waterproof tape will do and can usually be found at local bait shops.
Surf fishing involves using heavy pound test line that you should never try biting with your teeth. Always keep a good pair of line nippers handy to easily and safely cut your line when you need.
Most anglers will bring a fillet knife with them to the beach and clean their catch on-the-spot. This is not necessary, but I usually pack my KastKing 5″ Fillet Knife on my surf fishing trips.
If you’ve ever been surf fishing, you already know that it can be a messy business. Handling bloody baits and slimy fish calls for a good quality hand towel to wipe your hands clean.
A good pair of sunglasses is another item that’s strongly recommended for a number of reasons. In addition to offering good protection from harmful UV rays, a good pair of polarized sunglasses allows you to see into the water with greater clarity. This makes it possible to see fish easier, or spot troughs and depth changes as well.
Regardless of your skin complexion, always have sun protection when surf fishing. Be sure to wear long-sleeves and a neck-gaiter, as well as a wide-brimmed hat. It’s crucial to bring sunscreen spray or lotion (get one here) on any surf fishing trip as there will be no shade along the sun-soaked beach.
Last, but certainly not least, be sure to purchase your fishing license before you set out on your surf fishing trip.
Final Thoughts on Essential Gear for Surf Fishing
If you’re looking to get the most out of your efforts and actually catch fish along the beach, be sure to have all of the necessary gear items we’ve listed. Surf fishing is incredibly fun and is a great way to take in the beauty of the beach and ocean while enjoying your favorite hobby at the same time.