Surf Fishing Rod And Reel Setup 101 – Your 2021 Guide

| Last Updated May 27, 2021

Surf fishing is a subject that some may find frightening, but it's an activity that's relatively easy, relaxing, and enjoyable if approached with the right attitude and equipment.

What follows is an introduction and guide designed to make the beginner's experience something to remember and wanting to get more.

Photo credit:

Surf Fishing Setup Terminology and Common Concepts

  • Angler: One who fishes with a rod, reel, and line.

  • Lure: Live or artificial bait used in fishing.

  • Bait Rigs: Food or other lure placed on a hook.

  • Weight: Aka Sinker. Made from lead, brass, or tungsten steel, it sinks your bait.

  • Action: The amount and place of bend on a rod.

  • Power: Aka Rod weight. Ranges from ultra-light to heavy.

  • Line Rating: Aka Breaking strain. The weight a line can take without snapping.

  • Fishing Waist Belt: A waist belt into which the rod base fits.

  • Fishing Tackle Box: This is a durable, waterproof box fitted with an easy carry handle, designed with layered compartments to keep your tackle apart and sorted.

  • Fishing Line: A long, thin string attached to your reel made from strong material. This varies in length, breaking strain, and thickness. It usually comes in braid or mono.
  • Fishing Reel: A device attached to a fishing rod used in winding and storing fishing line.

  • Fishing Rod: A long flexible rod to which the fishing reel is attached.

  • Fishing Knots: All knots lessen a fishing line's overall strength, so the types/methods used are important.

  • Birds Nest: A massive tangle of your line on the reel. It happens with overrunning on a multiplier reel.

  • Bottom fishing: Where your weight takes your bait to lie on the bottom of the seabed.

  • Leader: A piece of line with a hook tied on one end and a swivel on the other end.

  • Natural bait: This is real bait (dead or alive).

  • Sand spike: Rod holder pushed deep into the beach sand.
  • Snap Links: Swivels with clips for attachments like weights.

  • Spoon: Shiny metal lure resembling a small fish.

  • Swivel: Small, robust device that spins.

  • Tackle: Fishing equipment.

  • Trace: Line section to which the hook is attached.

  • Disgorger: Made to remove a fishhook that is buried deep in the mouth or swallowed by a fish.
  • What Are the Components of a Good Surf Fishing Setup?

    The three key components needed for surf angling are a fishing rod, fishing reel, and fishing line. The first two are likely going to be the most expensive of the setup needed.

    If you are a beginner, we recommend you start with the least expensive equipment and only begin upgrading once you are 'hooked'. In the unlikely event that you don't enjoy surf fishing, you won't have lost an arm and a leg.

    As said in the opening paragraph, attitude is also of paramount importance. Having discussed some terminology and common concepts in the preceding section, we will now explain the three main components in more detail.


    Shore rods come in sizes ranging from 6ft to 15ft, and the one you choose will depend on where you are fishing.

    If you are on the shore and need to cast beyond where the breakers form, you will need a longer rod.

    Remember to consider action, power, and rod weight when selecting your rod.


    Reels come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The two main types are multipliers and fixed-spool. Multipliers are more complex to fish with, so we recommend the fixed spool reel for beginners

    The biggest differences between the two are as follows.


    • It lets you cast further

    • More robust build for fighting bigger fish

    • Better for heavier lines

    • Harder to use in the dark

    • Bird's nests' easily because of its spinning action

    Fixed Spool

    • Handles lighter lines easier

    • Good for night fishing

    • More beginner-friendly


    The two main types of line that a surf fishing beginner should encounter are mono and braid. 

    Mono consists of a single strand or filament of line, usually nylon. It has relatively low memory and a lot of stretches and is the line recommended for beginners.

    We give an example of memory below:

     If when you unwind a line from the spool, it bends, it has memory. If it does not bend it has no memory.

    Braided line is made up of anywhere between four to sixteen strands and has no memory or stretchability. 

    Typical Surf Fishing Rod and Reel Combinations

    As a beginner in surf fishing, the first and most important thing is to find the rod and reel combinations that will suit you best.

    Here you will need to consider your height, weight, and physique. Don't be shy about trying different combinations while you're out shopping and deciding. Remember that if you are taller, be able to cast further, so add an extra foot to your rod length.

    We will list a few recommendations for beginners in numerical order and then elaborate on each;

    1. 9' two-piece rod; 6000 size fixed spool reel.

    2. 9' two-piece medium power rod; 5000A size fixed spool reel.

    3. 9'6" two-piece medium power rod; HD 5000 size fixed spool reel.

    9' Two-piece Rod; 6000 Size Fixed Spool Reel

    The 6000 size reel allows you to add more fishing line to it, and you will thus be able to fish deeper and cast further. This size reel's recommended line rating is 12–16lb mono line or 12 - 30lb braid line. 

    9' Two-piece Medium Power Rod; 5000A Size Fixed Spool Reel

    This type of reel still allows you to add more fishing lines than its inland counterparts.

    However, the recommended line rating for this size reduces to 10–14lb mono line or 10–25lb braid line. This rating applies to both recommendations 2. and 3. above

    9'6" two-piece medium power rod; HD 5000 size fixed spool reel

    The reel already having been discussed, the additional six inches in rod length will provide you with that little extra in casting distance.

    With intermediate and more experienced anglers, there are many more rod, reel, and line combinations to consider, which can become more complex the higher you go.

    Photo credit:

    We have thus limited this section to beginner recommendations, and you will note that using a multiplier reel has not been recommended for the early stages of surf fishing.


    In conclusion, we reiterate that surf fishing can be a very relaxing and enjoyable way to spend some of your time when you have the right attitude and equipment.

    We have given you some information regarding fishing terminology, setups, and equipment, so we recommend you try it for yourself. 

    Start by going surf fishing with somebody who has a bit of experience so he/she can show you the more minor things relating to set up; things such as making leaders, tying fishing knots, best hook size to start with, right weight to attach.

    People Also Ask

    Surf fishing differs from fishing in freshwater in that you will need to use larger rods, larger reels, and setups other than those you have become used to.

    What follows are questions and answers on a pastime that is not as hard to do as it may seem;

    What Type of Bait Should I Use With My Surf Fishing Setup?

    A great bait for surf fishing is Sand Fleas. These are the most common food for fish in the surf and can be caught by digging in wet beach sand just after the water from an incoming wave has receded.

    Other things that make good bait are live shrimp, fiddler crabs, fresh peeled shrimp, squid, and frozen fish meat such as sardines, bunker, shad, and mullet.

    How Many Surf Fishing Setups Should a Beginner Have?

    We recommend a beginner uses only one setup for surf fishing at the start in case he/she does not enjoy the pastime.

    The best setup is probably a primary leader with a 3–4 ounce pyramid sinker and Kahle hooks, adaptable for virtually all water conditions and types of fish.

    Can't I Surf Fish With My Normal Rod?

    Surf rods are longer than other rods because they need to get your bait/lure out further than a rod you would use on a dam, river, boat, or small lake.

    This type of fishing is also more demanding in that you'll have to handle larger and more powerful fish than those to which you have become accustomed.

    What is Surf Fishing?

    Surf fishing is a recreational activity or sport done from a beach, rock/s, pier, cliff, or anything that juts out into a sea or ocean.

    It can involve wading into the surf to cast and retrieve a fish. Most people practice it for the excitement, relaxation, and enjoyment that it provides.

    My name is Caleb and I am obsessed with hunting, fishing, and foraging. To be successful, you have to think like your prey. You have to get into the mind of your target - and understand Big Game Logic. If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at Read more about Big Game Logic.