How To Choose The Best Surf Rod
There are many myths surrounding fishing rods for surf fishing. Conventional is better than spinning. Longer rods cast farther. Surf fishing requires heavy tackle. For some clarity in the confusion, PENN Fishing Pro Angler Bill Hall and PENN Director of Brand Development Mike Rice offer the truth to dispel the myths.
Bill Hall fishes the isolated barrier islands of Virginia’s Eastern Shore for everything from panfish to big red drum. Rod choice is critical to matching his target species and the raw conditions he finds on the islands. “For any lure or bait over a couple ounces, a conventional rod will cast farthest with most accuracy,” he explains. For light tackle, such as working jigs or soaking baits in the shore break, he goes with a spinning set up.
Hall says, “A lot of newcomers think the longer the rod the longer the cast.” He admits the statement is true, to a point, then adds, “A rod that is too long can exceed the angler’s strength and affect his casting technique.”
Hall uses the line and lure ratings printed on the rod to find a perfect match. Each rod will have a sweet spot, an ideal lure weight and line test. “I take a variety of rods with me to match wind and wave conditions,” he says, explaining that high winds, heavy surf, or swift current will require a heavier lure or rig and a heavier, longer fishing rod.
For light action in the shore break, Hall chooses a spinning rod from seven to nine feet long. During a cast, a spinning reel doesn’t produce as much friction on the line making it possible
to throw light lures or rigs weighing less than an ounce. To fish a heavier lure or big bait, he grabs a conventional rod from nine to 12-feet long. Conventional reels pack on more line and are easier to load to cast a big bait maximum distance.
To survive the abuse of fishing in sharp rocks, barnacle-encrusted pilings, flying sand, and breaking waves, a surf rod must be tough. On the other hand, detecting the slightest bite with a hundred yards of line in the water requires the lightest touch. PENN Brand Development Director, Mike Rice points to the advantages of composite blank construction. “Graphite is sensitive and stiff, while fiberglass is stronger and softer,” he explains. PENN’s CarnageTMII rods use advanced SLS3 blanks consisting of thin, spiral-wrapped layers of graphite and E-glass to survive the challenges of surf fishing and still bring home the bacon.
PENN Pro Angler Bill Hall adds the rod must be more than strong, it must be light, too. He laughs, “I have to make dozens of casts with a heavy rig without wearing out.” Not only does PENN’s line of surf rods cut fat to the muscle, but the components balance performance with weight. Mike Rice adds, “Tacky grips, strong line guides, and a solid reel seat can take a beating.” PENN Carnage II rods use Fuji® K guides with Alconite eyes smooth enough to fish braided line. On the conventional rod, the Fuji reel seat is threaded from the top so it doesn’t interfere with holding the reel. To provide a sure grip with wet and slimy hands, surf rods use thin, tacky grips. PENN surf rods employ a textured, shrink wrap rubber that is easy to grip and hard to damage. Extended foregrips provide stability when fighting a big fish and long butt section allows greater leverage for longer casts.
Even with the best rod, Bill Hall says casting distance and accuracy come down to technique. “I’ve witnessed big guys trying to muscle a cast and falling short,” he says, then chuckles and admits, “I’ve seen guys with a couple decades on me cast farther with less effort.” Hall recommends observing experienced anglers, watching online videos,and even attending casting clinics to master the technique.
Hall says the key to a long cast is loading the rod with the weight, then using the spring action to launch the lure.
Achieving this requires timing and technique developed over hours of practice. Hall sums it up:“Experience is the best teacher.”
Most important, Hall points out surf fishing doesn’t always require a long cast. Many times the fish are feeding close to shore. And,accuracy is as
important as distance. Fish travel through deep sloughs along the beach and gather around nearshore structure, landing the lure or bait in the right place takes perfect aim. Choosing the right rod to match the weight of the lure and distance of the cast will also improve accuracy.
Some people think conventional reels trump spinning, longer rods make for longer casts,and it takes heavy tackle to survive tough surf fishing conditions.PENN pros Bill Hall and Mike Rice temper these myths with advice to balance weight and length to the fishing conditions and target species. Hall says, “Good casting technique and the right rod will produce the longest, most accurate cast.” And that will produce the most fish in the surf.