The Best Surf Rods of 2020

two men surf fishing

In the world of angling, there’s nothing quite like surf fishing. It’s the best way for anglers to get the thrill and challenge of battling those large saltwater species without having to charter a boat.

But to be successful, you need gear that’s built for the job. What you take to your favorite stream or lake probably isn’t going to cut it when you go to battle the surf.

The most iconic piece of tackle you’ll need is a surf rod. Everyone knows these rods need to be long to cast your bait out past the waves. But there’s a lot more that goes into making the best surf fishing rods.

In this article we’ll go over some of the most important features to consider when choosing the right surf fishing rod. We’ll also review some of our favorite surf rods to help you pick the best one for you.

The Best Surf Fishing Rods of 2020

Detailed List of the Best Surf Fishing Rods

Tica UGSA Series

If you’re looking for an excellent all-round performer surf rod, the Tica UGSA surf rod is a great choice. While it boasts a high modulus TC3 graphite construction, this model is quite reasonably-priced. Guides are made from high quality Fuji Hardloy ceramic rings to give that much needed casting distance to get out past the waves. These guides have great heat dissipation which improves your lines longevity and will prevent that big fish getting away from a line failure.

The UGSA series also uses graphite Fuji DPS reel seats which won’t corrode from the steady spray of salt water while fishing. The simple-but-durable cork handle is perfect for a versatile rod like this and is long enough to give you great control and excellent comfort while casting. 

Anglers will also appreciate the sheer number of options it offers. Lengths are available between 8’ to 12’ with powers from medium to extra heavy. There are also both one and two piece models available to suit your preference.

The Tica UGSA Series is perfect for anglers who want a surf rod with great sensitivity and castability at a decent price.

Pros

  • Excellent all round performing rod
  • Light and sensitive high modulus graphite
  • Fuji Hardloy ceramic guides for improved casting
  • Graphite Fuji DPS reel to prevent corrosion
  • Wide range of lengths and powers 
  • One and two-piece options

Cons

  • Only available in fast action
  • Graphite rods tend to be more fragile compared to composites

PENN Battalion Surf

This PENN Battalion is a reliable and all-around performer rod that won’t crush your budget. It’s a composite rod so isn’t going to be as lightweight or sensitive as straight graphite alternatives. But it makes up for this with improved durability and reliability on the water. 

High quality Fuji components are included in this rod. Aluminium oxide guides for the all important casting distance, and graphite reel seat that isn’t going to corrode from the salt water. The Battalion Surf also features a long sturdy rubber handle to give you a good secure grip during the cast, whether wet or dry.

There’s plenty of options for the Battalion Surf rods, including both spinning and casting designs. It has a good range of lengths from 8’ all the way up to 11’. Actions come in either moderate-fast to fast and powers between medium-light to medium-heavy.

If reliability is a concern for you on the water and you don’t want to skimp too much on performance, the PENN Battalion Surf is a rod that’s hard to pass up.

Pros

  • Reliable all round performer
  • Durable composite construction
  • Fuji aluminum oxide guides for improved casting
  • Corrosion proof graphite Fuji reel seat
  • Long sturdy rubber handle for secure grip when casting
  • Both spinning and casting designs

Cons

  • Heavier and less sensitive than graphite
  • No heavy powered option 

Ugly Stik Bigwater 

Ugly Stik is known for providing durable, reliable fishing rods, and their Bigwater model is no exception. This composite rod is built strong and heavy, so it’s practically guaranteed not to fail you in the water. 

The Bigwater uses Uglytuff one piece double footed steel guides. They don’t include any ceramic inserts which means you don’t have to deal with broken guides if you accidentally drop or step on your rod. As you’d expect, the reel seat is also made from graphite so it won’t corrode from battling the salty sprays of the ocean. You also get a nice solid EVA foam grip that is durable and built to last.

You can find the Bigwater in a wide array of lengths, from 6′ all the way up to 15′ and powers from medium to heavy. It’s also available in both one and two-piece designs, so you can easily transport it from spot to spot. 

The Ulgy Stik Bigwater is a durable and reliable rod – a true workhorse when it comes to surf fishing that will last season after season.

Pros

  • Tough and reliable
  • Durable composite construction
  • Durable Uglytuff double footed steel guides
  • Corrosion proof graphite reel
  • Lengths from 6’ all the way to 16’
  • Great range of powers
  • One and two-piece options

Cons

  • Composite design reduces sensitivity
  • Heavier design 
  • No ceramic guides will reduce casting distance a bit

St Croix Triumph Surf 

The St Croix Triumph Surf is a high-performance rod for the serious angler looking to max out on performance. It is handmade from premium quality graphite to make for a super lightweight and sensitive build.

This St Croix rod also features a high quality graphite Fuji DPS reel seat which will firmly hold your reel without corroding. Handles are constructed using a custom cork tape for a great feeling lightweight design.

You can find the Triumph in several lengths, but it tops out at 10.6′. This is shorter than some surf anglers would prefer, making this model better-suited to piers or ledges than from the sand. To make up for the lack of length, the Triumph is engineered to deliver long distance casting performance with hard aluminium-oxide surf guides. Durable and double-footed, these are sure to help you get every extra inch out of your cast. 

In terms of power, this St Croix rod is available in both medium and medium-heavy options. However, action is limited to moderate-fast. While it’s not as extensive a range as other models, they are quite versatile and suited to many applications.

The St Croix Triumph Surf is for the angler who wants that extra edge in performance with a premium surf rod and is willing to spend a little more.

Pros

  • Handmade premium quality rod
  • Lightweight and ultra-sensitive 
  • Double-footed aluminum oxide guides for improved casting
  • High quality Fuji DPS reel seat that won’t corrode
  • Perfect for fishing ledges, piers, and outcroppings

Cons

  • Shorter design will limit casting distance
  • On the more expensive side
  • Smaller range of powers

Fiblink Surf

Budget-conscious anglers will love this Fiblink Surf spinning rod. Despite its affordability, it features 100% graphite construction. While this makes it more fragile than composite rods, it also keeps the Fiblink light and sensitive. So, when fish come nibbling, you’ll be able to feel it no matter how far out they are. 

The Fiblink comes in two designs: 10′ medium heavy and 12′ heavy. This isn’t a lot of options, but these specs make for quite a versatile rod. They also have a good length to offer plenty of casting distance. To make sure you get over those waves, this two-piece model also comes with ceramic guides and an extra-long rubber polymer handle. 

If you’re a budget-conscious angler or a surf fishing first-timer, the Fiblink Surf will give you a chance to get your feet wet.

Pros

  • Light graphite design for sensitive build
  • Ceramic guides to improve casting distance
  • Long rubber handle for great control
  • Low cost – great for newcomers to the sport

Cons

  • Limited to spinning reels only
  • Only two length / power options
  • Graphite rods tend to be more fragile than composite

When to Use a Surf Rod

It is important to remember that surf rods are specialised rods for the most part. They’re designed for casting distance and battling larger fish. It’s not the type of rod you’d take to catch crappie – you’re fishing the ocean!

The most obvious of these is their length. When we are talking surf rods, we are really looking at rods between 9 and 14 ft.

Something else you’ll often notice is they have longer grips compared to standard rods as well. This allows for two-handed casting, which can help them get the bait over those crashing waves.

How to Compare Surf Rods

Rod Material

In the fishing world, every type of rod has its place. Fiberglass rods are less expensive, more durable, and more flexible than graphite rods. However, they are also heavier and far less sensitive. 

A more popular alternative is graphite. These rods usually have less flex and are much more sensitive. The modulus of the graphite is also important, with higher modulus carbon making for a lighter and more sensitive rod. This material however is a little more expensive and can be more fragile compared to fibreglass. . 

You can also get what are called composite rods, which combine both fibreglass and graphite into their construction. These are great for a good mix of durability and sensitivity.

Most surf rods will have either a graphite or composite construction. For a more durable and flexible build, a composite rod is ideal. These rods are also excellent if you plan to leave your rod in a holder after the cast to wait for a bite.

If you want a more sensitive rod with a harder hookset, go with a graphite rod. These are perfect for anglers who want a more active surf fishing experience. They let you feel out the bites and engage the fish with a fast hookset.

Reel Seat

While fishing the surf, your rod is going to be bombarded with salt spray all day long. So having corrosion resistant components is almost a necessity for surf fishing rods. One area that is particularly important is the reel seat.

Reel seats can be made using a few different materials such as aluminium, graphite and sometimes steel. Metal based seats are usually going to be stronger which can be good for reeling in those big fish. However, they aren’t too fond of salt water so will gradually corrode and may eventually fail.

Graphite or carbon fibre seats are still quite strong and won’t experience any corrosion. So high quality carbon based reel seats are a big plus when it comes to surf rods.

Guides

The two main types of guides you’ll come across are ceramic and stainless steel. If durability is what you’re after, steel is definitely the way to go. They are much more sturdy and won’t break if you accidentally drop or step on your rod. However, it’s worth noting you’ll lose some of that much-needed casting distance. 

Though a bit more fragile, ceramic guides can give you better performance overall. They have small inserts in the guide which reduce both friction and heat generation during castings and retrieval. This is going give you that much needed casting distance and will help improve your lines longevity through less what generation.

Handle Material

The most common fishing rod handle materials are cork, EVA foam and rubber. For most anglers, this will all come down to personal preference. Your only real concern is making sure your surf rod’s handle is durable and long enough to support two-handed casting.  

Choosing the Specs of your Surf Rod

Casting vs. Spinning

Surf rods can come in both casting or spinning models and is the first place to start when choosing your rods specs. 

What the best type for you is will depend most on what you’re most comfortable with. However there are some differences between the two.

Casting surf rods are great when you want accuracy and power. They have more of a backbone compared to spinning rods and are better suited to heavier lines and lures. Casting models are more difficult to use however and less experienced anglers may experience backlashes. This can happen during casting when too much line comes off the spool and creates a tangled mess.

Spinning surf rods are the easier option to use. They are easy to cast, versatile and sensitive. These rods also tend to have a bit less backbone compared to casting gear which can help dampen the power form a surging fish and keep them pinned. Using spinning rods can also be beneficial at night where you won’t have to worry about or deal with backlashes.

If you’re new to surf fishing and don’t know which type to pick, my recommendation is to go with a spinning rod.

Rod Length

There are three main considerations for choosing the length of your rod – casting distance, accuracy and leverage.

Longer rods between 11’ and 14’ are best suited for casting distance. They are a great option when standing along the beach to help get your bait or lure out past the surf. 

However, longer rods actually give more leverage to the fish during the fight. This isn’t too much of a problem if targeting fish like pompano, whiting or redfish.

If you are targeting monsters like sharks or tarpon, a shorter rod in the 8’ to 10’ range might be more suitable. They will give you much more leverage and control in the fight. Shooter rods also give better casting accuracy which is another consideration. 

The downside is that they cannot cast as far which can be a problem depending on the scenario. If the waves break close to shore or have access to a pier or ledge these shorter rods will be just fine. 

Power

Power refers to how much weight it takes to bend the rod. Light powered rods are right out when it comes to surf fishing, as they usually can’t handle the fish. 

Medium powered rods are great for lighter lines and are much more versatile than their heavy counterparts. However, if you’re after the big game, you want a more solid rod that can handle bigger lures and heavier lines.

Make sure to also check the line and lure weight ratings for the rod, as each power classification isn’t standard across all the manufacturers.

Action

Where the rod bends is just as important to surf fishing as the pressure it takes to bend it. 

In fast action rods, the bend occurs towards the tip. These rods have a stiffer backbone which is great for fighting larger fish. They also give faster and harder hook sets, as less of the rod will flex when you sweep after a bite. 

Faster action rods are also more sensitive which is a huge benefit in surf casting. This is because there is a lot of line between you and your hook, so it’s usually harder to feel bites. If you like an active style of surf fishing with your rod in handle, a faster action will usually be better suited.

Medium and slow actions bend further down the rod, which is extremely helpful when you want a nice long cast. The rod flexes during the cast to load up and help launch the lure out further. 

They act as shock absorbers when a fish jumps or surges which prevents the hook from tearing out. If you plan on putting your rod in a holder on the beach, you should gravitate toward a slower action.

Takeaway 

One thing all surf rods have in common is that they are designed for casting distance. Longer blanks and generous handle size are almost a must for these rods. However, there are lots of other factors that you have to consider before picking the best fishing rod for you. This will depend on the location, fishing style and how experienced you are.

For the best all-round surf rod, we recommend the Tica UGSA Series. With enough options to suit any style and the added sensitivity that comes with graphite, this rod is sure to please most anglers. Combine a 12′ model and those Fuji Hardloy ceramic guides, and you’ll be sure to hit the horizon with every cast.