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Surf fishing requires a bit of planning and some different methods to other kinds of fishing.
Some of the equipment you’ll need for surf fishing will be quite specific to this type of fishing, while other equipment is quite generic and can be used across multiple facets of fishing.
In this article, I run through the basic surf fishing equipment so you can get an idea of what you need and better plan your surf fishing trips.
Table of Contents
Surf fishing equipment
Surf Fishing Rods
Surf fishing generally requires a much longer rod than inshore or freshwater fishing. It also needs to be a stronger design as longer casts with heavier weights or lures are usually required.
Surf rods come in two main categories, surf spinning and surf casting. While you can use one rod for casting both lures and baited rigs, it is a good idea to have one for each method so you can quickly switch up methods when needed.
There are so many good options to choose from when it comes to surf rods. The PENN Carnage II is an excellent mid-range surf rod, but to get a better idea of what is available then read my article on the best surf fishing rods.
The reel you use for surf fishing is also an important piece of the puzzle, and you have a couple of design options to consider here as well.
Spinning reels can be used for surf fishing, and some have been designed specifically for this purpose, with deeper spools to contain more line.
Then you have the baitcaster reels, which operate in a completely different way to a spinning reel.
Some of the baitcaster reels are excellent for surf fishing as they allow you to cast long distances. But these reels are not for the beginner as they require some setup adjustments to be made, and also a different technique for casting.
To get a full rundown on the type of reels available, read my detailed article on the best surf fishing reels
Surf fishing often requires walking long distances on soft sand, and this can be a hard thing to do if you are carrying a large heavy tackle box.
A fishing backpack is ideal for this situation, and makes those long walks with heavy tackle so much easier!
A fishing backpack is a little different in design from a regular backpack.
They usually have varied compartments that are designed to hold smaller tackle boxes and allow you to slide them in and out from the front, so you don’t have to take anything else out to get to them.
Some of the better fishing backpacks have very useful elements such as a built-in internal LED light, so you can clearly see the contents within the pack in low light or nighttime darkness.
Then some have USB charging packs for keeping your mobile devices charged on longer fishing trips.
Read my detailed post on the best fishing backpacks
Look for a backpack that has a sufficient amount of compartments to put things like your reels and other accessories in, and attachments where you can clip things that you need easy access to such as pliers, line clippers, pre-made rigs and sunscreen.
A good quality fishing backpack can make a big difference to your surf fishing trips, and really help you keep things organized, so it’s worth spending a bit of money on a good quality one.
As with all types of fishing, the type of line you use for surf fishing is quite important, and there are so many options to choose from.
One of the main things to consider when surf fishing, is that you will generally need more line on your spools (and of course a suitable reel that can accommodate more line), and a heavier breaking strain than inshore fishing requires.
While you will need to go with heavier line than the usual inshore fishing requirements (usually up to 15 lb maximum for that), I would caution against going too heavy.
Unless you are fishing for bigger species such as billfish, tuna or shark, then I recommend you use line of up to 50 lb maximum for braid, and 20 to 30 lb for mono.
The braid vs mono conversation is just as apparent for surf fishing as it is for any other type of fishing, and there are pros and cons for each. But both have their place in surf fishing.
Don’t forget, if you are going to be using braided line you will also need to get some leader line as well.
I highly recommend that you always take a few lures with you when you go surf fishing, even if it isn’t your intended primary method of fishing while you’re there.
Lure fishing will allow you to move around more and explore different holes and gullies to see if there is an abundance of fish located within them.
The selection of lures that are suitable for surf fishing is vast, and it’s great to have some different options.
Here are some popular lure options to take with you when surf fishing:
- Soft plastic lures
- Topwater poppers
- Metal spoon lures
There are many different baits you can use when surf fishing, and it’s always good to try different baits to see what the fish are feeding on, on that particular day.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to always use a bait that fish will already be feeding on. If a specific type of worm is present in the location you fish at, then you know that the fish swimming around the surf will be feeding on these, so this is one good option.
Then if you know what type of baitfish frequent the area you will fish, then try and use the same type of fish as bait.
Crustaceans such as crabs and shrimps can often prove a successful bait to use, as these are usually prevalent around most coastal areas, so predatory fish will feed on them as part of their regular diet.
Squid is also another good bait to use. You can cut the squid into strips, or sometimes use whole. Try both.
It is advisable to always take a few bait options each time you go on a surf fishing trip and try them all out earlier on to see what the fish prefer that day.
If you are using a surf rig that includes multiple hooks, then you can try different baits on each hook to see what the fish prefer.
Keeping your bait fresh is going to help you catch fish. You can do this by getting yourself a good bait bucket.
You can also get some smaller bait buckets that you can strap around your waist, so you don’t have to keep running back to your main bait bucket if you’re constantly throwing baits around in the surf.
Rod Holder Tube or Spike
A rod hold designed specifically for surf fishing is an essential part of your equipment.
You can buy these, or you can simply use some old plumbing tubing and just modify it a bit so it can be driven into the sand easily enough to get a firm holding.
It’s also a good idea to take a rubber-headed mallet with you so you can bank the tube or spike far enough into the sand that it holds the rod securely.
The last thing you want when a fish takes your bait is for the rod holder to fall down and the fish drag your rod and reel along the sand, into the sea!
Your choice of sinker may vary depending on how you want your bait to sit. If you want your bait to hold firm in the position you cast it too, then flatter sided options such as pyramid sinkers are best for this.
But if you want your bait to roll around the seafloor in the surf, then a ball sinker is the ideal option. You then have a wide variety of shapes in between.
It is advisable to get a variety of different shape sinkers, and also in different weights too, as different sinkers may work better depending on the current and the strength of the surf.
You also need to think about the casting distance you want to try and achieve. If you are fishing fairly close to the shore then you may not need that heavy a sinker, but if you need to try and get out beyond the breakers then you’ll need something a bit heavier to achieve this.
Another important piece of tackle to have for all kinds of fishing is a decent pair of fishing pliers.
These tend to be long nose style pliers and are very useful for a variety of things such as removing hooks from a fish’s mouth or if it’s further down their throat, and for helping to tie knots or clamp weights onto the line.
Some fishing pliers will also have a line clipper built into it, which is also a useful tool to have any time you’re fishing.
As mentioned above, line clippers are useful for all kinds of fishing, but certainly for surf fishing as the line will likely be heavier than inshore fishing, and harder to cut.
If you don’t have a line clipper built into the fishing pliers you have, then you can buy them as a separate tool.
Protecting yourself from the elements when you’re fishing is extremely important, and with the potential risk of too much exposure to the sun being so high (skin cancer), then you have more than just sunburn to worry about.
Facemasks designed for fishing are lightweight, are comfortable to wear, and come in a wide range of different designs.
Make sure you get a face mask that has UV protection so it blocks out the sun’s powerful rays.
Look for a high UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating of 30+ or more.
You can also get face masks that are designed for colder weather as well, where you need to keep your face from freezing off!
It’s highly recommended that you get one or more of these for your surf fishing trips, as it will be hard to shade yourself from the sun when you’re on the beach.
A decent pair of polarized sunglasses is also an important addition to your fishing equipment to protect your eyes from the glare.
Not only do they protect your eyes from the glare, but they also take the glare off the water and enable you to see fish easier.
Not always applicable when surf fishing, but any time you can do any sight fishing then polarized sunglasses are essential.
A better design of sunglasses for fishing is more of a wrap-around style so that they keep the sun from impeding your vision by creeping in at the sides.
Don’t forget your sunscreen! Get yourself some factor SPF (sun protection factor) 50 to give you the best protection, and replenish it on your exposed skin every 2-3 hours to ensure you keep the sun off your unprotected skin.
Your average sunscreen is scented, and can actually put fish off if you handle your bait or fishing line with this sunscreen on. The fish can smell it and will not touch your bait if they detect this.
So look for a sunscreen that has been created specifically for anglers. Either a sunscreen stick so you don’t need to get it on your hands, or a sunscreen that doesn’t have any scent added and won’t repel the fish.
Tips for your Surf Fishing:
A few tips for you before you go on your next surf fishing trip:
It’s a good idea to get as much prepared for your surf fishing trip before you go, so you don’t have to waste valuable fishing time once you get to the beach.
One of the things you can prepare before you go is a few different rigs that you may want to use while fishing. These can be a bit fiddly to make, so doing them at home is a great time saver.
Be prepared to try a few different methods (lure fishing, different baits, different weights) while you’re there. It’s about giving the fish what they want to eat the most on the day, so it can change each time you go fishing.
Look for the feeding spots in the surf
It’s beneficial to learn how to read the way the waves break so you can identify any potential fishing holes where the feeding fish may be lurking.
Look for holes and gullies and cast your baits into these areas. You can tell this by looking at the way the waves break. If you can see an area’s where the waves stop breaking then this often indicates a deeper area under the water, and these are the areas you want to focus on.
Read this additional article for more tips for surf fishing
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