From rods to rod holders to bait ventilation, GearJunkie representative Elliott Stark can help you get started with a surf fishing kit.
Surf fishing is perhaps the most geographically available species fishing in the world. Anyone who comes to the beach can throw in the surf and catch some kind of fish or other. Depending on your location, coastal fish are some of the best-tasting and hardest-fighting fish in the ocean.
What follows is a guide on how to put together a surf fishing setup that will prepare you no matter where you live.
A Guide to Surf Fishing Rigs & Gear
Choose surf fishing rods & reels
Photo credit: Elliott Stark
Most of the places where you can surf there are opportunities to catch large and small fish. So buying three or four rods and reels of different sizes is your best bet.
You might consider buying a large, two medium / universal, and a lighter tackle outfit. Depending on your fishing experience, your best bets are either spinning or conventional tackle.
Traditional reels hold a little more line, but can be the most difficult to cast (the inexperienced angler will hit back a few times before they get the hang of it). Spinning reels are great too. You can give the fish some air resistance and also pack a lot of line onto the reel with braided line.
Your light tackle outfit will likely be a bait throwing or light action spinning reel spooled with 12 pound mono or 10 pound braid. You can get a light to medium weight rod. This is well suited for throwing small baits or baits into small and medium sized quarries.
Here are some good options:
Both these rods and reels are castable and useful for a variety of scenarios. If you’re interested in tangling up with large sharks from the beach (fish that could weigh 300 pounds or more), larger rods and reels that are well suited for this application stand in the way.
DIY or buy rod holders
One of the best things about surf fishing is to put rod holders in the sand. The sight of a rod arch and a scream that screams when a fish is hit are some of the most famous images of surf fishing.
Rod holders can be simple or complex. For the home improvement, just get a 3-inch diameter PVC pipe from your hardware store. You can then measure 3.5 feet of it and cut at a 45 degree angle. The result is a rod holder that can stick to the sand on one side and the stub of the rod on the other.
If you don’t feel like breaking out the hacksaw, you can also purchase your own rod holders. Here are some good options:
Bait & bait storage
Your final bait choice will likely depend on where in the country you are fishing. The general idea is to “match the hatch” and use any type of local food fish that is available on the beach you are fishing from.
If you’re on the Gulf Coast, it might be mullet and shrimp. If you are in the northeast this might be menhaden.
When it comes to natural baitYou can choose to have it live, dead, or cut into pieces. Each option has its advantages. If possible, you can provide a combination of offers spread across many poles.
The best, most affordable choice for live bait fishing is to catch your own. The best way to do this is to learn to cast a cast net. Not only are cast nets great fun to cast (once you get the hang of it), but you never know exactly what you’re going to catch. If you’ve never cast a net before, here are some Instructional videos.
Depending on how tall you are, you can start learning on a 5 or 6 foot network. In most cases, opt for a three-eighth inch mesh size. The Fitec EZ Throw is designed for beginners of Castnet throwers. The Fitec 6 foot super spreader is another great option.
If you don’t feel like going the cast net route, you can also purchase bait from your local bait and fishing shop. The added benefit of this approach is that these fine people can give you clues as to what is biting where. They can also sell you a castnet and any equipment you need.
Bait Bucket & Ventilation
The author’s bucket ventilator
Whether you are catching your bait or buying it, you need a place to store and keep it alive. Your best choice is a bucket and aerator combination – don’t forget the lid. Portable, battery powered pumps that shoot air into your bucket through a hose that ends in an air stone that diffuses it into the water. Aerators are inexpensive and quickly pay for themselves.
In most scenarios, a 5 gallon bucket is the best choice. You can buy the $ 4 model from your local hardware store or even an old pickle bucket that you can sometimes find at your favorite deli. If you want to get a little more out of your bucket, this is it YETI LoadOut is almost indestructible.
Aerators are an important consideration in keeping your live bait alive. Perhaps the most used is that Bubble Box from Marine Metal Products.
Other surf fishing must-haves
The cutest surf fishing companion and her beach cart; Photo credit: Elliott Stark
If you’re carrying your entire kit along the beach, a cart will come in handy. You can use one of the old school red ones, or buy a purpose-built beach tug – like This one here.
You’ll also need a cooler, a bait knife or two, and some pin cushions. You can have everything you need in one Multitool from Gerber.