When selecting what size reel you need for surf fishing, there are many factors to consider. While that may seem overwhelming, an incorrect configuration can lead to improper use, the loss of lines, lures, and prized sportfish trophies. Taking the time to identify your needs when it comes to selecting what size reel is recommended for surf fishing can prevent a lot of frustration.
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Choosing The Right Size Reel For Surf Fishing (Things To Consider)
1. The Targeted Fish
Research should be done, as it is important to know what species and size of fish you're generally fishing for. This is one of the greatest factors in determining what size reel you need for surf fishing, as it will guide and inform your reel size and line strength decisions. The larger the target fish, assume the larger the reel and line strength needed.
2. The Beach Structure
It's essential to be aware of the general underwater structure of the beach you're fishing out of. Knowing your target fish prefers to spend their time near sandbars or underwater debris. Knowing how far you'll need to cast to hit these surf targets is important when determining the size of your reel. Generally, a longer rod and a stronger reel will be needed to reach far out sandbars.
3. The Fishing Line
It's important to use a braided line whenever possible. Its sensitivity is critical, as the longer line will dissipate vibration from a bite. Having a braided line helps to prevent this, sending jolts and signals to your reel when you have a bite, despite casting a great distance. That being said, monofilament is a better choice if you’re expecting lots of rocks, shell or barnacle beds, or anything else that may abrade your line.
4. The Drag Setting
Drag setting is important, especially when settling in for a longer battle with a bigger catch. The drag setting will help to make fighting against your reel much harder when surf fishing. A good rule of thumb is to set your drag setting 20-25% when using monofilament, but higher at 25%-30% when using a braided line. It’s important your reel offers these functions and performs them well.
5. The Size of The Rod
10–12-foot rods are fine for most of your surf fishing. A longer rod will aid greatly in a further cast towards sandbars when surf fishing from the beach/docks. Additionally, a longer rod will facilitate the use of stronger braided and monofilament lines. The last scenario that should play out is losing a surf fish to a weak line or being unable to keep up with casting distance consistency.
Related Article: 9 Best Surf Fishing Rods: Reviews For All Budgets & Types
6. High and Low Tides
One of the best times to fish in the surf is during high tide. The water levels are up, giving access to deeper waters with far greater ease. Additionally, during high tide, many larger fish come further up the beach, looking for smaller prey lost in the madness of the tides.
Different Size Reels For Surf Fishing Explained
It is important to select the correct size reel when fishing in the surf, as nothing is worse than losing a catch due to not having a strong enough reel. Using the guide below is an excellent jumping-off point to ensure this doesn't happen to you.
Related Article: 10 Best Surf Fishing Reels: Reviewed, Rated & Compared
Reel Sizes According To Rod Length
It is very important to select the correct rod length to pair with your reel selection for surf fishing. The rod will not only help determine how far you can cast but will determine whether or not your rod has the ability to stand up to the strength of your target fish. Use this general guide to decide what the best reel size, rod size, and line strength are.
Common Surf Fishing Reel Size Questions
How much line do you need for surf fishing?
A comfortable bet is around 300 yards (~275m) of fishing line. Some anglers will splice in different line types depending on the target fish and beach structure. Check to see how many yards are on a spool when you purchase it and how many yards your reel can hold.
What is the most reliable reel brand for surf fishing?
The most reliable surf fishing reel remains Shimano, in my professional opinion. Shopping by brand recognition is a great way to ensure you’re getting a great product that you are already comfortable with from freshwater fishing. In lieu of a Shimano, Van Staal is another great brand.
Does reel size affect casting distance when surf fishing?
Absolutely. The bulk of your power sits in your reel, and casting out is no exception. If you're expecting long casts to reach sandbars, your reel size is what puts your bait as far out as you need it.
Can my rod size be too large for surf fishing?
It can, yes. While you may feel silly reeling in a small fish with a large rod and reel rig, the bigger issue is having a mismatched rod and reel combination. Using the above table will help you make sure your rod isn’t unwieldy when paired with your choice of reel size.
Surf fishing is no easy task. It’s far less relaxing than fishing by a lake or stream with a cold beverage in one hand. Ensuring your equipment has the strength and durability to get the job done is fundamental as you prepare for your trip. Check local tides, consult our table, and make sure your setup is honed perfectly. Best of luck as you rip sea monsters from the surf!