How To Choose The Best Fishing Rod For Saltwater

How To Choose The Best Fishing Rod For Saltwater

Some fishermen like to surf fish or fish off of a pier. Others want to fish for just redfish and seatrout. For those of you that want to fish in saltwater, how to choose the best saltwater fishing rod to use? This guide will walk through all the options so you can make an educated selection.

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This article is organized by type of saltwater fishing you want to target, where you want to fish, and an explanation of the key fishing rod features.

The Best Fishing Rods For Saltwater Fishing

Shark Rods

Shark fishing requires heavy duty equipment that can handle the weight and power of the larger sharks and the speed and fight of the smaller ones.

Sizes for shark vary from 10 to 300 lbs usually and get as large as 1000+ lbs. This falls into 3 reel category that you will want to size your shark rod:

  • 6000 – 9500: 10 – 40 lb test line
  • 10,000 – 16,000: 40 – 70 lb test line
  • 20,000 – 30,000: 50 – 100 lb test line

For smaller sharks in the 3′-5′ foot range (10-90 lbs) look for:

  • Length: see pier, surf and boat recommendations below
  • Reel Type: Spinning or Baitcaster
  • Reel Size: 6000 – 9500 / 10-40 lb class
  • Material: Composite
  • Power: Medium-Heavy (rated for weights in the 1 to 5 ounce range)
  • Action: Fast
  • Guides: Normal
  • Line Type: Braid or Monofilament (10-40 lb test)

For sharks in the 4′-9′ foot (35-500 lbs) range look for:

  • Length: see pier, surf and boat recommendations below
  • Reel Type: Casting
  • Reel Size: 10,000 – 16,000 / 40-70 lb class
  • Material: Fiberglass
  • Power: Heavy (rated for weights in the 3 to 6 ounce range)
  • Action: Fast
  • Guides: Roller
  • Line Type: Monofilament (40-70 lb test)

For sharks in the 8′-12′ foot (250-1000 lbs) range look for:

  • Length: see pier, surf and boat recommendations below
  • Reel Type: casting
  • Reel Size: 50-100 lb class
  • Material: Fiberglass
  • Power: Heavy/extra heavy (rated for weights in the 6 to 12 ounce range)
  • Action: Fast
  • Guides: Roller
  • Line Type: Braid (50-100 lb test)

Redfish Rods

Redfish sizes vary from 3 to over 40 lbs usually. This falls into 2 reel categories that you will want to size your redfish rod:

  • 2500 – 3500: 5 – 14 lb test line
  • 4000 – 5500: 8 – 25 lb test line

For redfish ranging from 17-28″ inches (3-10 lbs) range, look for:

  • Length: see pier, surf and boat recommendations below
  • Reel Type: Spinning or Baitcaster
  • Reel Size: 2500-4000 / 5-15 lb class
  • Material: Composite
  • Power: Medium-Light rated for 5-15 lb
  • Action: Fast
  • Guides: Normal
  • Line Type: Braid (5-14 lb test)

For redfish ranging from 29-40″ inches (12-36 lbs) range, look for:

  • Length: see pier, surf and boat recommendations below
  • Reel Type: Spinning or Baitcaster
  • Reel Size: 4000-5500 / 8-25 lb class
  • Material: Composite
  • Power: Medium-Heavy rated for 8-25 lb
  • Action: Moderate
  • Guides: Normal
  • Line Type: Braid or Monofilament (8-25 lb test)

Spotted Seatrout Rods

Spotted seatrout (specked trout) sizes vary from 1 to over 15 lbs usually. This falls into a single reel category that you will want to size your speckled trout rod:

  • 2500 – 4000: 5 – 15 lb test line

For Spotted Seatrout ranging from 15-35″ inches (1-15 lbs) range, look for:

  • Length: see pier, surf and boat recommendations below
  • Reel Type: Spinning or Baitcaster
  • Reel Size: 2500-4000 / 10-20 lb class
  • Material: Composite
  • Power: Medium-Light rated for 5-14 lb
  • Action: Fast
  • Guides: Normal
  • Line Type: Braid (5-14 lb test / 16-20 lb fluorocarbon leader)

Tarpon Rods

Tarpon sizes vary from 10 to lbs usually and get as large as 280 lbs. This falls into a single reel category that you will want to size your tarpon rod:

  • 6000 – 9500: 10 – 40 lb test line
  • 7000 – 30,000: 50 – 100 lb test line

For smaller tarpon in the 3′-5′ foot range (10-90 lbs) look for:

  • Length: see pier, surf and boat recommendations below
  • Reel Type: Spinning or Baitcaster
  • Reel Size: 6000 – 9500 / 10-40 lb class
  • Material: Composite
  • Power: Medium-Heavy (rated for weights in the 1 to 5 ounce range)
  • Action: Fast
  • Guides: Normal
  • Line Type: Braid or Monofilament (10-40 lb test)

For tarpon in the 4′-8′ foot (100-280 lbs) range look for:

  • Length: see pier, surf and boat recommendations below
  • Reel Type: Casting
  • Reel Size: 50-100 lb class
  • Material: Fiberglass
  • Power: Heavy (rated for weights in the 3 to 6 ounce range)
  • Action: Fast
  • Guides: Roller
  • Line Type: Braid (50-100 lb test)

Kingfish Rods

King Mackerel (Kingfish) sizes vary from 3 to over 22 lbs typically and get as large as 88 lbs. This falls into 3 reel categories that you will want to size your kingfish rod:

  • 2500 – 3500: 10 – 14 lb test line
  • 4000 – 5500: 15 – 25 lb test line
  • 6000 – 9500: 20 – 40 lb test line

For kingfish in the 3-10 lbs range, look for:

  • Length: see pier, surf and boat recommendations below
  • Reel Type: Spinning or Baitcaster
  • Reel Size: 2500-4000 / 5-15 lb class
  • Material: Composite
  • Power: Medium-Light rated for 5-15 lb
  • Action: Fast
  • Guides: Normal
  • Line Type: Braid (10-14 lb test due to sharp teeth)

For kingfish in the 12-36 lbs range, look for:

  • Length: see pier, surf and boat recommendations below
  • Reel Type: Spinning or Baitcaster
  • Reel Size: 4000-5500 / 8-25 lb class
  • Material: Composite
  • Power: Medium-Heavy rated for 8-25 lb
  • Action: Moderate
  • Guides: Normal
  • Line Type: Braid or Monofilament (15-25 lb test due to sharp teeth)

For larger kingfish in the 2′-5.5′ foot range (10-90 lbs) look for:

  • Length: see pier, surf and boat recommendations below
  • Reel Type: Spinning or Baitcaster
  • Reel Size: 6000 – 9500 / 10-40 lb class
  • Material: Composite
  • Power: Medium-Heavy (rated for weights in the 1 to 5 ounce range)
  • Action: Fast
  • Guides: Normal
  • Line Type: Braid or Monofilament (20-40 lb test due to sharp teeth)

Snapper Rods

Red Snapper sizes vary from 3 to over 40 lbs usually. This falls into 2 reel categories that you will want to size your red snapper rod:

  • 2500 – 3500: 5 – 14 lb test line
  • 4000 – 5500: 8 – 25 lb test line

For red snapper in the 3-10 lbs range, look for:

  • Length: see pier, surf and boat recommendations below
  • Reel Type: Spinning or Baitcaster
  • Reel Size: 2500-4000 / 5-15 lb class
  • Material: Composite
  • Power: Medium-Light rated for 5-15 lb
  • Action: Fast
  • Guides: Normal
  • Line Type: Braid (5-14 lb test)

For red snapper in the 12-40 lbs range, look for:

  • Length: see pier, surf and boat recommendations below
  • Reel Type: Spinning or Baitcaster
  • Reel Size: 4000-5500 / 8-25 lb class
  • Material: Composite
  • Power: Medium-Heavy rated for 8-25 lb
  • Action: Moderate
  • Guides: Normal
  • Line Type: Braid or Monofilament (8-25 lb test)

Key Characteristics For A Saltwater Fishing Rod

Rod Blank Material

Fishing rods are made of sections called blanks. There are 3 main material choices for modern saltwater fishing rods.

Typical Rod Materials:

  • Graphite: inexpensive, light and fast; most popular material
  • Fiberglass: heavy, flexible, very strong and slower than graphite; second most popular
  • Carbon Fiber: expensive, very light and extremely strong; best material for saltwater fishing

Rod Length

Typical Rod Length Categories

Pier Fishing

  • Length: 7′-9′ foot

Surf Fishing

  • Length: 10′ – 12′ foot

Boat Fishing

  • Length: 5’5″ – 7′ foot (short for durability)
  • Trolling Rod Length: 7′-8′ foot
  • Handle: Bent (for boat fighting chair / straight for belt or harness)

Kayak Fishing

  • Length: 6″ – 7′ foot (short for accuracy during site casting)
  • Trolling Rod Length: 7′-8′ foot

Rod Action

The action of the rod describes where the rod bends when under weight or stress. This is useful for keeping control of the fish from the hit to retrieval.

Taper can be a synonym for action. It measures the thickness of the rod at different sections

Typical Rod Action Categories

Extra Fast Action

Bends at the tip and are stiff rods. Tends to be more sensitive and better feel of the lure location and lighter fish hits.

Noted for shorter distances and provides the fastest power to set the hooks due to rod softness.

Downside is that it’s hard to keep the proper tension with tends to allow fish to spit the hook. Fish with rod vertical initially then horizontal.

Fast Action

Bends in the top third of the rod. Sensitive rod tip allows for quick setting of light nibbles and tugs.

Great for casting short distances with single hooks like worm and jigs with great power for throwing in heavy weeds and grass.

Still fast at setting hooks. Better fish fighting then extra-fast by keeping better pressure on the line.

Medium Action

Bends in the top half of the rod and a more flexible tip. Distance increases as more the rod is used in the cast.

Easier to set the hook which allows for use of treble hooks, crankbaits, top water, or spinner baits.

Most versatile option for good control and hook setting ability. Best for targeting

Slow Action

Bends at the bottom third of the rod and has the most flexible tip that only stiffens towards the handle. Ideal for long casting distance.

Very flexible rod means that it takes a it is much easier to keep the tension to set a hook and keep a fish hooked.

Great for multi hook lures with treble hooks. These hooks are thinner and require less pressure to keep the hook set.

Rule of Thumb:

  • Fast action = stiff, sensitive, fast power but harder to set hooks, use single larger hooks, shorter casting
  • Slow action = super flexible, slow power, easier to set hook and using smaller treble hooks, further casting

Rod Power

The power of the rod is best explained by how much weight it takes to bend it. The “heavier” the rod rating the more weight the rod can leverage. The following scale will deviate from one manufacturer to another.

Typical Rod Weight Categories:

Ultralight (UL) or 1

Ideal for ultralight test lines and ultralight lures (1/32 to 3/8 oz). For small panfish, crappie and small trout. Freshwater specialty. Works best with 2-4 lb test line.

Light (L) or 2

Good for light biting fish such as panfish, walleye and trout with lures in the 1/16 range. Freshwater specialty. Works best with 4-6 lb test line.

Medium/Light (ML) or 3

Great for slightly heavier lures (1/8 to 1/2 oz). Ideal for jigs and soft plastics. Medium freshwater and saltwater fish. Works best with 6-8 lb test line.

Medium (M) or 4

Rod lure ratings (1/4 to 3/4 oz). Stiffen up quicker and are perfect for spinner baits and popping corks for freshwater and saltwater. Works best with 6-12 lb test line.

Medium/Heavy (MH) or 5

Lure rated for 3/4 to 1/2 oz (medium weight). Stiff enough for jig and wide gap hooks. Effective with light weight topwater, Texas rigs, jerkbaits, crankbaits. Works best with 10-17 lb test line.

Heavy (H) or 6

Rated for heavier lures (3/8 to 1 oz). Ideal for heavier fishing with heavier lures and deeper water. Works best with 14-25 lb test line.

Extra Heavy (EH) or 7

Stiffest rod for most manufacturers. Designed for 3/4 to 2 oz lures or greater.

Rule of Thumb:

  • Medium sized saltwater fish = choose medium-light to medium-heavy depending on manufacturer weight rating
  • Large sized saltwater fish = choose medium-heavy to extra-heavy depending on manufacturer weight rating

Other Resources

Here are some other articles that I found useful as well:

Conclusion: The Best Fishing Rod For Saltwater

When choosing the best saltwater fishing rod you want to consider the following factors:

  • What fish species you are targeting
  • Where will you be fishing: a fishing pier, beach surf, offshore in a boat, or inshore in a kayak or a skiff
  • The rod blank material, length, power, and action that addresses the target fish and where you will be fishing

Tracy Villarreal

I'm the owner of Active At The Beach. I grew up in a beach town in which I was fortunate enough to spend tons of time around the sea and the beach.

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