Best Surf Fishing Rod: Find the Perfect Rod for Your Next Adventure

Twenty years ago, I embarked on my surf fishing journey with an old, worn-out fiberglass rod. Despite spending countless hours on the beach, I couldn’t land that trophy redfish. Frustrated, I decided to invest in a modern graphite rod with top-grade components. It was a game-changer. On my very first trip with the new rod, I caught a red drum over 40 inches. It wasn’t luck or skill; it was the rod. The combination of materials and design resulted in the catch of a lifetime and ignited my passion for surf fishing.

Surf Fishing: The Ultimate Test for Fishing Rods

Surf anglers demand a lot from their fishing rods. They need rods that excel in distance casting, accuracy, power, and finesse. To meet these demands, rod manufacturers have incorporated cutting-edge materials and designs, creating action-specific rods tailored for surf fishing.

Whether you’re a beginner looking to catch your first fish in the surf or an experienced angler, the best surf fishing rods elevate your fishing experience and make it easier for you to reel in those big catches.

How I Tested the Best Surf Fishing Rods

Angler holds fish on a beach.
The best surf rods are contingent on your location, fishing style, and target species. – Ric Burnley

Choosing a single best surf rod is impossible because different fishing tactics, locations, conditions, and personal preferences require specific rods. To narrow down the options, I categorized surf fishing into five general categories:

  • Medium-action spinning rod for lures
  • Medium-action spinning rod for bait
  • Medium-action conventional rod for bait
  • Light lure or bait rod
  • Heavy-action bait rod

To gather a second opinion on each rod, I enlisted the help of my friend Ryan White, a world champion long caster and the owner of Hatteras Jack Bait and Tackle. Together, we tested each rod, evaluating its construction, materials, and overall feel.

It’s worth noting that the best surf rod doesn’t always mean the most expensive one. While some rods in my review come with a hefty price tag, others provide excellent quality and performance at a more affordable price point. As rod technology advances, these improvements trickle down to lower-priced models, allowing you to find a high-quality, solid-action surf rod without breaking the bank.

Best Surf Fishing Rods: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Medium Weight Conventional: PENN Carnage III

Key Features

  • Length: 11 feet
  • Power: Medium heavy
  • Action: Medium fast
  • Line Weight: 20 to 40-pound test
  • Lure Weight: 2 to 6-ounce
  • Fuji K SIC guides
  • Fuji DPS Reel Seat
  • S3SL Carbon and Fiberglass Blank
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The PENN Carnage III is a medium-weight rod that's great for long casts.
The PENN Carnage III is a medium-weight rod that’s great for long casts. – Ric Burnley

Every surf angler needs a versatile medium-weight bait rod that allows for long, accurate casts. The PENN Carnage III, the third generation of their top-of-the-line model, offers great components at a reasonable price. With Fuji K guides and SIC inserts, this rod ensures smooth casting with reduced tangles. The S3SL construction, which combines layers of graphite and fiberglass, provides both sensitivity and durability. The rod is designed for a 2 to 6-ounce lure, but it can handle heavier weights with ease. While it may be slightly bulkier than other rods, the extra weight translates into added strength, making it an excellent choice for striped bass, redfish, and black drum.

Best Medium Action Lure Rod: Shimano Tiralejo XX TRJXS96M

Key Features

  • Length: 9 feet, 6 inches
  • Power: Moderate fast
  • Action: Medium
  • Line Weight: ¾ to 3-ounce

The Shimano XX features spiral-wrapped carbon fiber.
The Shimano XX features spiral-wrapped carbon fiber. – Ric Burnley

I’ve been gradually replacing the rods in my arsenal with Shimano XX rods, starting with my boat and kayak rods. Now, I’m excited to add the Tiralejo XX series to my surf fishing gear. The XX in the name stands for Shimano’s Spiral X and High-Power X blank construction. This unique blank is made by wrapping vertical carbon fibers with spirals of carbon fiber tape, resulting in a perfectly balanced rod that offers optimal power and sensitivity. The medium-power Tiralejo XX excels at casting heavy lures from rock jetties and piers, where accuracy and control are essential. The fast recovery of the Spiral X wrap allows for crisp and precise casts. With this rod, you can feel the power as you fight a big fish, and the High Power X construction ensures that the rod can handle the pressure without snapping. Rated for lures up to 3 ounces, the Tiralejo XX performs exceptionally when throwing bucktails, rubber jigs, or swimming plugs.

Best Striped Bass Rod: St. Croix Seage SES106MHMF2

Key Features

  • Length: 10 feet, 6 inches
  • Power: Medium heavy
  • Action: Medium fast
  • Line Weight: 15 to 40-pound test
  • Lure Weight: 2 to 6-ounce

The St. Croix Seage Surf features Winn comfort grips.
The St. Croix Seage Surf features Winn comfort grips. – Ric Burnley

Choosing the best surf fishing rod for striped bass can be challenging, but my friend Nick Honachefsky, a New Jersey-based surf angler and the host of Saltwater Underground, had a clear recommendation: the St. Croix Seage Surf spinning rod. Honachefsky praised the rod’s versatility, emphasizing its ability to work with various lures and baits, such as wooden plugs, StingSilver lures, and bait chunks. In my testing, the medium-fast model delivered excellent casting distance while maintaining the necessary flexibility to allow a lure to swim naturally. The Seage Surf’s Advanced Reinforcing Technology carbon fiber and Fortifying Resin System make it a durable and powerful rod, ideal for handling a 20-pound bluefish or a 40-pound striped bass. The low-profile butt section and light blank enhance comfort during long casting sessions.

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Best Surf Perch Rod: Okuma Rockaway SP

Key Features

  • Length: 8 feet, 6 inches
  • Power: Medium
  • Action: Medium fast
  • Line Weight: 8 to 17-pound test
  • Lure Weight: ¼ to ⅝-ounce

The Okuma Rockaway is great for light tackle surf fishing.
The Okuma Rockaway is great for light tackle surf fishing. – Ric Burnley

Surf fishing isn’t just about battling huge fish from the shore; it also offers opportunities for light tackle fishing in the shore break. The Okuma Rockaway SP is specifically designed for West Coast anglers targeting surf perch and other small game fish. During testing, Ryan White and I were excited about using this rod for pompano, speckled trout, and redfish. The Rockaway SP features a lightweight and super-sensitive 24/30 ton carbon fiber blank with a split grip and low-profile guides, allowing you to feel even the slightest nibble on your line. The exposed section of the reel seat enhances sensitivity, enabling you to detect subtle bites and feel the lure bouncing along the bottom. While the rod is rated for ¼ to ⅝ ounces, it can handle up to one ounce without sacrificing distance or accuracy. With its combination of technology and lightweight design, the Rockaway SP is an excellent choice for fishing with light lures and targeting smaller fish.

Best Heavy Bait Rod: Century Drum Gun

Key Features

  • Length: 13 feet
  • Power: Heavy
  • Action: Fast
  • Line Weight: 17 to 20 pounds
  • Lure Weight: 8 to 12-ounce

This heavy-action surf fishing rod earned the author his best casting distance.
This heavy-action surf fishing rod earned the author his best casting distance. – Ric Burnley

Casting the Century Drum Gun for the first time felt like stepping into an F-1 race car for the first time after 30 years of driving. It was a thrilling and challenging experience. This heavy-action rod, based on Century’s long-casting blanks, can achieve distances of up to 700 feet in the hands of a skilled caster. With guidance from Ryan White, I quickly learned how to control the immense power of the Drum Gun and surpassed my previous casting distance records. The Drum Gun’s blank is created using an autoclave process that bonds carbon fibers together with graphene-infused resin, resulting in a strong yet lightweight material. The fiberglass incorporated into the tip section improves recovery time, durability, and bite detection. Thanks to its non-tapered butt section and the clever use of different materials, this rod delivers exceptional power for fighting big fish. Despite its power, the Drum Gun remains surprisingly light and comfortable to hold, making it ideal for extended fishing sessions on crowded beaches.

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How to Choose the Best Surf Fishing Rod

We tested the best surf fishing rods.
The high-intensity and harsh environment of surf fishing means you need a tough and capable rod. – Ric Burnley

Selecting the best surf fishing rod can be challenging, as different tactics and species require specific rod characteristics. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing the perfect rod for your needs:

Local Surf Fishing Info

Observing other anglers at popular fishing spots, such as beaches, jetties, and piers, can provide valuable insights into the best rods and techniques. Strike up a conversation with friendly anglers or consider hiring a local guide to help you navigate the local fishing scene. Local tackle shops are another excellent resource for expert advice and high-quality tackle options.


Matching the rod to your preferred fishing tactic is crucial. Bait rods need a strong backbone to launch heavy rigs and sinkers, while lure rods require more sensitivity to work the lure effectively. Consider the length, action, and power of the rod that best suits your chosen fishing technique. A longer rod provides greater casting distance, while a shorter rod offers better control. Fast action rods deliver more power on the cast, while slower action rods are better for heavier lures. Whether you’re bait fishing or casting lures, there are multiple rods available that excel in their specific scenario.

Storage and Transport

Surf rods are long and delicate, but they often come in two pieces for easier storage and transportation. When choosing a rod, consider whether you prefer a 50/50 or 60/40 break. A 50/50 rod breaks down into two equal parts, making it convenient for storage and carrying. On the other hand, a 60/40 or similar break offers a shorter butt section and a longer tip, resulting in a more powerful cast. Choose the break style that suits your casting needs and transportation capabilities.


Quality fishing rods can be expensive, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. Consider what you expect from your fishing rod and find one that fits your budget. Although high-end rods offer top-notch features and performance, mid-range models now incorporate many of these advancements at a more affordable price point. Ultimately, the best surf rod is the one that meets your needs and fits within your budget.


Surf fishing is a thrilling and challenging endeavor that requires the right equipment, especially a high-quality surf fishing rod. Each of the reviewed rods offers unique features and benefits, catering to different fishing styles and target species. Whether you’re casting lures or using bait, there’s a surf fishing rod out there that’s perfect for your adventures.

Remember, the best surf fishing rod is the one that combines distance, power, and durability, ultimately resulting in more fish on the beach and a smile on your face.

Best Medium Weight Conventional: PENN Carnage III
Best Medium Action Lure Rod: Shimano Tiralejo XX TRJXS96M
Best Striped Bass Rod: St. Croix Seage SES106MHMF2
Best Surf Perch Rod: Okuma Rockaway SP
Best Heavy Bait Rod: Century Drum Gun

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