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Surf fishing from a sandy shoreline is definitely one of the most exciting forms of fishing. But it’s also different than other types of fishing and, in many ways is more demanding, on both the angler and the tackle.
Take the wrong equipment with you to the beach and you are setting yourself up for a disappointing outing. That rod and reel combo that you use to fish from the pier or bridge is not going to cut it. Surf fishing requires more durable and specialized gear.
For this review, I’m going to cover one of the two most important pieces of your surf fishing gear – the surf rod, along with a close look at a handful of the best surf fishing rods available to anglers today.
Some time ago we featured a review of the other piece as we covered 3 of the top, affordable saltwater reels on the market today. In that review, we looked for certain qualities that would allow a good saltwater reel to deliver exceptional performance while standing up to rigors of use – and the occasional abuse – in severe angling environments, including the surf.
In this review, we are pretty much looking for the same kind of qualities we highlighted back then, except in surf rods this time around. To be a little more precise, we will be looking for those same qualities in some of today’s top surf spinning rods.
Sure, arguments can be made for surfcasting rods (conventional rods) but, in my opinion, unless you are casting out some really heavy lures or chunks of natural bait and chasing some really big fish – like sharks – you are going to be better off with a spinning model at the beach.
You will find that It’s going to be a lot more versatile as far as the types of lures and baits you can use, easier to cast, and certainly more sensitive to the bite.
But exactly what features do the best surf fishing rods share? Well, we are looking for qualities such as a strong, yet lightweight blank, corrosion-resistant components, and premium workmanship, just to name a few of the more important ones.
We are not looking for a throw-away piece of tackle but, instead, we want a surf rod that we can expect to give us many years of trouble-free performance and enjoyment.
Fortunately for us, the current lineup of top surf rods is extremely durable, strong, and far lighter and more responsive than yesterday’s heavy and not so sensitive fiberglass surf rods.
This is achieved by using moderate to high modulus (stiffness to weight ratio), high tensile strength graphite (carbon fiber) rod blanks and other materials to produce quality graphite and graphite-composite (a combination of graphite and fiberglass) surf rods.
The result is a strong, yet lightweight spinning surf rod that casts accurately to greater distances without leaving you exhausted after a long day of surf fishing.
The major brands – Penn, Shimano, Tsunami, Daiwa, Okuma Fishing Tackle and CTS – all manufacture a series of rods to match any tackle, budget or experience level. No matter what coastline you plan to fish, there is a high-performance surf rod waiting for you.
But with a wide variety of spinning surf rods on the market, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. So, we have compiled a shortlist of five of the top surf spinning rods currently available on the market to help save you countless hours of research and help you choose a surf rod you will enjoy for many years to come.
The 5 picks in this surf spinning rod review are all made from the highest-quality materials, components and rod-making technology available today. If you are looking to buy the best surf spinning rod for your money, read on – you will likely find it on this list.
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The Shimano Tiralejo (TRS120MHA) Spinning Surf Rod is built around Shimano’s new and innovative C4S high modulus blank construction which increases pulling power without sacrificing sensitivity. This design gives you the backbone to subdue big fish but also the enhanced ability to feel the smallest bites.
The Tiralejo TRS120MHA is a 2-piece, 12 ft. moderate-fast action, medium-heavy power surf rod that is well suited to various lure sizes and even big chunks of bait, and it loads easier for powerful, long casts.
This rod is appropriately named: “tira lejo” in Spanish means to throw or shoot far. That is exactly what it does. If you like rocket-launching your bait or lure to targets in the far distance, this surf rod is for you.
The powerful, moderate-heavy action of this surf rod also means it is able to handle heavy loads while also letting cast more accurately. Plus, this unique design helps to significantly increase the recovery rate of the line.
One of the most impressive things about this rod is its weight. It is an extremely lightweight surf rod for its size (about 15.2 oz.). That should allow you to cast all day without much fatigue.
If you need maximum power and a fast action taper, the 11 ft. Tiralejo TRS110HA can handle 40 – 65 lbs test line and will let you easily throw lures weighing 3 – 6 ounces.
- One slight issue with these rods for big fish anglers is the small diameter handle which can start to feel somewhat uncomfortable during long fights with your catch. Gloves are a practical option to avoid discomfort if looking to land big fish.
- Line rating: 30-50 lbs braided line
- Lure rating: 2-6 oz
- Stainless steel Fuji K guides
- Alconite guide inserts
- black shrink tube handle/grip
- Fuji” DPS” Standard Pipe Reel seat
- One Year Limited Warranty
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The Airwave series has been around for a while and are affordable, premium surf rods. The Elite model is an upgrade to the popular series, designed with thicker, stronger blank walls without any added weight for all-day casting.
Two words immediately come to mind with this rod – lightweight and powerful.
The Airwave Elite TSAWESS-1102M is a medium power/moderate action surf spinner that has enough backbone to easily handle fish up to the 30 lb range. In addition, its high fiber, the high-density blank design makes it lightweight (about 13.4 oz.) with faster shock recovery for better casting and increased sensitivity.
For those looking for more stiffness and pulling power, the Elite TSAWESS-1102H (14 oz. rod weight) heavy power/ fast action surf rod is your stick.
The Tsunami Airwave Elite casts extremely well, works with natural baits and plugs and is an excellent value, with features found in surf rods costing twice as much. It’s a great rod for the surf as well as jetty fishing. From scup to stripers, this lightweight and versatile rod has you covered.
One of the things I really like about this 2-piece rod is that it has a 70/30 split, meaning it will give you the strength and performance of a one-piece unit, but with the added benefit of better portability and storage.
Another is the manufacturer’s reputation for excellent customer and warranty service. This shouldn’t be overlooked when making your choice.
- The only possible con with the Airwave Elite just so happens to be what many others like about it – the 70/30 split of the rod. While many like the added one-piece solid feel it gives them, there are others who may not like it for taking up more space in transport and/or storage where it might prove a tight squeeze, such as in a small vehicle.
- Line rating: 15-30 lbs
- Lure rating: 1-4 oz
- Stainless steel Fuji K-Series guides
- Alconite guide inserts
- textured vinyl handle/grips
- Fuji graphite/stainless steel reel seat
- One Year Limited Warranty
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Okuma may be better known for their fishing reels, but they also make some of the highest quality and best saltwater fishing rods today. The Cedros Surf CSX rod is no exception.
Okuma’s medium-heavy power, moderate-fast action surf rod offers a lightweight design (12.7 oz.) with top-notch components, plenty of backbone power and good looks – in fact, it’s one of the most attractive rods on the market.
The Cedros Surf CSX (CSX-S-1102MH) Graphite Saltwater Spinning Rod is a durable, quality 2-piece blank design constructed from 30-ton carbon fiber to give it superior strength, balance, and sensitivity.
Combine this with a price tag that’s lower than many other premium rods, it is one of the best values on the market today for anyone on a budget looking for the best surf fishing rod in this price range.
A welcome feature of the CSX-S is its low-profile butt cap design that contributes to an unhampered fishing experience. Pair that with its lightweight design, tapered rear grip, and non-slip rubber shrink tube handle, you have a rod made for comfort, all-day casting.
The Cedros CSX rods come in six 2-pc models in sizes from 9′ to 11′ with power/action ranging from M/MF to H/MF. To top it all off, this rod comes with a Lifetime Limited Warranty that underscores Okuma’s commitment to its products.
- One slight issue with this Cedros Surf rod is that the first guide on the rod (nearest the reel seat) is somewhat smaller than what is typical for spinning rods, potentially causing a bottleneck if using the heavier mono line. This is becoming more and more a common design feature in modern surf rods as more anglers are going with thinner diameter braided lines instead.
- Line rating: 20-50 lbs
- Lure rating: 2-5 oz
- ALPS marine-grade ss double-footed guides
- ALPS zirconium guide inserts (hard/light, good for braid use)
- Textured, non-slip shrink wrapped handle w/ tapered rear grip
- Pac Bay graphite/anodized aluminum reel seat/rings
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
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St. Croix is widely recognized as one of the best fishing rod brands and has been that the forefront of rod-building technology for the past 70 years. Over that time they have produced some of the most innovative, high-quality fishing rods in the industry.
Their Mojo surf spin series, which currently comes in 10 models and sizes from 7 ft. to 12 ft., has been one of their best sellers since being launched in 2009. They also come in a wide range of powers and actions (medium-light to heavy power/ moderate to moderate-fast action) for use in a variety of surf settings.
A good choice for surf fishermen who want to fish a variety of surf conditions or species is the St. Croix Mojo MSS106MM2 surf model, for example. This is a sensitive, lightweight (just 12.8 oz), and powerful rod that’s certain to help improve anyone’s casting while having the backbone to haul in big the catch.
The Rod is a 10 1/2 ft. two-piece, medium power, moderate action surf spinning rod that represents the best of high-performance surf fishing tackle. It’s the choice for surf anglers who want high-end performance along with an affordable cost.
Built from cost-effective, high-grade/high tensile strength SC2 graphite, all Mojo surf rods are engineered to be lightweight and provide exceptional sensitivity, durability, and performance whether playing bluefish close to shore or fighting big tarpon deep in the surf. The Mojo Surf has the sensitivity and backbone to do both.
Lightweight surf guides with zirconium rings improve the Mojo’s casting accuracy and distance. Pair this rod up with a Penn Slammer 3 and some braid and you’ll be able to throw that bucktail, or whatever else you’ve got, a country mile. Not to worry, a sloped-frame design helps to make sure you avoid issues related to line tangles.
St. Croix Mojo surf rods, like the Tsunami Airwave Elite, come with a 70/30 split at the ferrule in their 2-piece models (rods 9 ft. and up), giving them the solid feel and strength typically associated with one-piece surf rods.
- The only con with this surf rod is the same we had with the Okuma Cedros CSX. By design, the line guide nearest the reel is smaller than we are used to. But again, if you are using braid, which I feel is the best line for surf fishing, this is a non-issue.
- Line ratings: 6 – 12 lbs to 20 – 60 lbs
- lure ratings: 3/8 – 1 oz to 6 – 16 oz
- Rod weighs: 6.2 – 21 oz
- Lightweight surf guides w/ zirconium inserts
- Comfortable/durable X-Wrap handle
- Fuji DPS reel seat/hoods
- 2 Coats of premium Flex Coat finish for durability/protection
- 5-Year St. Croix Warranty
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The Tica UGSA (Dolphin) Series Surf Spinning Fishing Rod is built of high-grade modulus TC3 Japanese graphite found in more expensive rods. The high-grade blank Tica has been around for some time now but continues to be one of the most powerful and versatile surf spinning rods on the market today.
The moderately-priced USGA is a premium surf rod that has long been a favorite of Northeast striped bass fishermen.
Constructed to withstand the demands of fishing in saltwater, the rod comes in almost a dozen different configurations, ranging from the one-piece 7 ft. medium-heavy rod to the 2-piece, 12 ft. extra-heavy production.
For this review I will focus on the Tica Dolphin/UGSA11MH2S, the 11 ft 2-piece, medium-heavy, fast action rod – a great choice for the surf when paired up with a high-quality saltwater reel like the Saragosa SW.
The UGS has plenty of useful features such as a corked tape slip-resistant handle, a sliding hook-keeper that folds, and a rigid, lightweight Fuji DPS reel seat. It also comes with a convenient 50/50 split which makes it a practical setup for transportation as well as storage.
The Tica Dolphin surf rod has the strength to cast and work heavy jigs and baits and the sensitivity and flexibility to also work well with top-water poppers, pencils and just about everything else.
Overall, the Tica UGSA is a well-balanced, lightweight (though at 17.9 oz not as light as some of the other brands on our list) and powerful rod that can be fished in a variety of styles and surf environments.
- The only possible knock on this otherwise excellent surf rod might be the handle length of the models in the series, which some anglers may find a little short for a surf rod.
- Line rating: 10 – 25 lbs to 20 – 50 lbs
- Lure rating: 3/4 – 3 oz to 6 – 12 oz
- Rod Weights: 6.4 – 23 oz
- Fuji alconite rod tip ring, Hardloy ceramic guide inserts
- Fuji DPS reel seat
- Comfortable cork tape non-slip handle
- Limited One-Year Warranty
Surf Fishing Rod Buying Advice and FAQs
Surf Rod Materials and Construction
At the beginning of the article, we talked briefly about surf rod construction. Keeping in mind that our focus here is surf spinning and not conventional surf rods. We favor carbon fiber (graphite) and composite rods (carbon fiber and fiberglass blend) but let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of the 3 major rod construction types.
Fiberglass Surf Rods
- Durable, less prone to breaking
- Less expensive than other types
- More backbone/power for bigger fish
- Comparatively heavy to graphite
- Slower action than graphite
Carbon/Graphite Surf Rods
- Excellent casting distance
- Lightweight, better sensitivity
- Excellent power/weight ratio
- More expensive than glass and composites
- Does not handle abuse well
Composite (Graphite-Glass) Surf Rods
- Incorporates the best features of graphite and glass
- Affordable performance
- Good durability, action and power
- Some of the inherent weaknesses of both glass and graphite
What Is the Best Surf Fishing Rod Length?
Surf spinning rods can range anywhere from 8 to 15 feet in length, generally. There are no set rules for length; it really depends on where you are fishing and the type of fishing.
If you are fishing exclusively for small croakers in the trough right in front of you, there really is no need for a long surf rod or even one with lots of power. A 7-foot off-the-rack budget rod should suffice.
However, if you want to be able to take full advantage of the surf, you’ll want a rod that has great versatility. In that case, a 10-12 foot surf fishing rod hits the sweet spot. You will be able to fish close to shore when the conditions are right but also be able to sling your bait or lure beyond those distant sandbars and to openings in the surf where fish may be holding.
Some other things to think about when selecting a surf rod is having a rod long enough to keep the waves near shore from dragging down your line and the occasional (sometimes frequent) beachgoers who will need to pass under your line near the surf. Of course, long sand spikes can greatly help out here.
Surf Rod Action and Power
These are two important considerations when purchasing a surf fishing rod – rod action and power. They will greatly impact the way the rod tip reacts to those subtle nibbles and even hard strikes, as well as how the rod performs in fighting the fish in the surf.
With surf fishing, you will generally want a rod with a tip that reacts quickly to those nibbles and bites yards away from you. A moderately fast to fast rod will give you better casting accuracy, enhanced bite sensitivity and firmer hook-sets.
Slower action rods can come in handy when fishing big, heavy baits or with heavy sinkers for large fish, particularly when the surf is really strong.
What to Look for in Surf Rod Components and Features
Corrosion resistance has to be at the very top of the list. The things that can potentially rust, and lead to failure when you can least afford to have them do so, have to be top quality.
That means quality ceramic/stainless steel line guides, graphite reel seats and anodized aluminum hoods and rings that will be durable and strong enough to stand up to the harsh surf elements.
Th handle is an equally important feature of the surf rod. EVA foam is a popular, comfortable and durable material. Some like the feel and throwback look or cork. Either is excellent choices for grip, comfort and performance in a surf rod. I happen to prefer the feel of cork but this is an individual choice.
One-Piece or Two-Piece Surf Fishing Rod?
Okay, this has been a running debate for a long time. Some surf fishing purists swear by one-piece rods. They point out that a one-piece surf rod casts better and feels stronger throughout the blank because it lacks a ferrule (where a two-piece rod connects).
Most surf rods on the market today are two-piece for convenience and space-saving sake. I have used both one-piece and two-piece models through the years and can say I cannot tell the difference in performance or durability. Today’s two-piece surf fishing rods are very good and will last many years with care.
One thing you’ll want to watch out for is sand getting in/on the ferrules. Damaged ferrules can quickly lead to failure. Always look at both the male and female ends before and after use and be sure to remove any sand or other debris present.
An occasional small application of ferrule wax is good maintenance that will decrease ferrule wear and tear while also making connecting and disconnecting the two ends a lot easier.