If you’re into ocean sport fishing and you’re ready to move from your sea kayak to a paddle board for fishing, then let us help you out. We’re assuming that you already have a SUP all kitted out for fishing and you’re now in need of the perfect rod to reel in your catch. Even if this is going to be your first time trying saltwater fishing, we can give you some tips that will hopefully help you catch that big one.
We’re going to assume that you need a lot of guidance, so our guide below is gear toward beginners to the sport. If you already know the basics of saltwater fishing rods, then you’ll likely benefit most from our rod recommendations.
Best Saltwater Fishing Rods for The Money (good for beginners) 2017 - 2018our top rod picks are based on value, quality, weight, durability, and performance
*Prices subject to change at any time and valid price is always that represented at retailers.
|PHOTO||MODEL||BEST FEATURE:||BUY AT:|
|St. Croix Mojo Inshore Spinning Rod||Offer superior performance, ultra lightweight||Amazon, Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops|
|Cabela's Salt Striker® Inshore Travel Spinning Rods||Lightweight + lifetime warranty guarantee||Cabela's|
|Shakespeare® Ugly Stik® Inshore Select Spinning Rods||Best cheap saltwater rod under $100 (*)||Amazon, Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops|
|Shimano® Teramar Southeast Inshore Spinning Rods||Good Sensitivity, Casts Well||Amazon, Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops|
|St. Croix Tidemaster® Spinning Rod||Lightweight and well balanced||Amazon, Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops|
Buying Your First Saltwater Fishing Rod – What To Consider
Not all saltwater fishing rods are the same. Not by a long shot. That’s why before you buy one, you need to make sure you’re choosing what’s best for you.
With that in mind, you should consider the type of fish you’ll pursue and the many factors that make up your own fishing style. Once you have those locked in, you can hone in on what will help you have the most fun and productive time out on the water.
- Fiberglass: Because it’s strong, durable and flexible, fiberglass is the most popular fishing rod material today. Its durability enables a fiberglass rod to stand up to the harsh elements and challenges that come with saltwater fishing. On the downside, the light weight of the fiberglass material makes it hard for anglers to notice gentler strikes and bait pickups with the rod.
- Graphite: A graphite rod helps anglers get results with smaller diameters and lighter blanks – or core of the pole that makes up the rod. That makes it incredibly sensitive and great for noticing subtle pickups, strikes and the variations among different fish. On the downside, graphite is brittle. So the activity of angling easily nicks the rod, which weakens the blank and can lead to further damage.
- New-Generation Composite: This rod is a melding of fiberglass and graphite. The durability of fiberglass and the light weight of graphite enable this rod to handle up to 200-pound lines. But it’s the manageable size of a 15-20-pound bait casting or spinning rod that makes this choice shine.
Choosing from the choices of rod material available will depend on your own personal choice that will be determined by both how you use it and what you’re comfortable with.
The action, or how far the rod bends from the tip down the blank, is the principle factor in a saltwater fishing rod’s performance. But what is optimal for one angler could be completely different for another. That’s because those seeking high casting accuracy, along with solid-hook sets for large bait and lures, tend to lean toward a rod that has fast to extra-fast action. However, anglers aiming for an extended casting distance, while pitching small or live bait and working with smaller lures, gravitate toward a rod with medium to slow action. Of course, there are numerous variations between these two extremes for optimal performance in unique situations.
Another distinct action to consider is parabolic, which stores energy for longer casts. It accomplishes this when the built-up pressure only allows the first several inches of a fast-action rod to bend while the rest of the blank stays steady. This results in a robust hook that is sturdy enough to stop, turn and exasperate a fish. This rod is great for live-lining, chunking or jigging such big bait as menhaden, goggle-eyes, herring or blue runners when seeking out sailfish, big striped bass, big dolphin, amberjack, cobia, snook or tarpon.
When considering your saltwater fishing rod, think about how exactly you’ll use it. Taking that into account and factoring in the action will be a big help in narrowing down your choices.
A rod’s power refers to how powerful its blank is. Generally, the strength of the line is how that power is categorized. An example is the heavy rod’s ability to support lines from 80-130-pound-testing. It’s most often among the new-generation composite spinning and jigging rods utilized to hone in on yellowfin, school bluefin and swordfish.
Meanwhile, an ultralight rod works with lines in the 8-pound class used to go after such small targets as schoolie dolphin, seatrout, bonito, red drum, mackerel and striped bass.
In between those two classes are light rods that hold 10-20-pound lines, medium rods that handle 20-30-pound lines and medium heavy rods for lines ranging from 30 to 80 pounds.
Depending on such variables as manufacturer, materials and purpose – fishing inshore, surf, jigging or trolling – power classifications among rods can vary a lot. So think about what you’re going after. Factoring in the power needed will help with your selection.
If you’re really looking for accurate casting, fast and extra-fast action rods give you more speed and pitching power while resisting wind-related deviation. On the downside, they are stiff. And that keeps casting distance shorter than those with medium or slow actions.
In medium-action rods, the bend is a bit more pronounced than in fast-action models, generally extending from the tip to nearly midway down the blank (depending on the type of rod and the materials). And the bend is even more aggressive on slow-action rods.
A stronger bend compounds more energy, which is how casting distance is generated. On the down side, this characteristic diminishes casting accuracy. Nevertheless, these two actions provide soft deliveries that many anglers like to have. That’s because they work well when using live bait that stays secure on the hook when going after such game fish as barracuda, snook, cobia, tarpon, red drum, striped bass or schooling bluefish. In addition, medium to slow actions are great when you light jig such fish as snapper, sea bass, fluke, blackfish and smaller grouper.
The purpose of a rod should determine what length you go with. Generally, longer rods extend casting distance and shorter rods give you better leverage. With that in mind, casting with 12-20-pound lines needs a 7-foot, fast to extra-fast-action rod when using live baits or lures. That length is also ideal for medium action with natural bait or small lures. On the other hand, when casting with 8-12-pound lines, a light or medium rod with medium or fast action works well. For optimal casting distance, try one that’s at least 7½-feet.
If angling with power is more important to you than casting further, such as those times you want to troll or jig, a shorter rod is more ideal. Thus, a variety of rods are designed for this purpose by sporting a length of 6-6½ feet, while some composite models are even shorter. This allows anglers to stand while fishing. So a 6-foot, medium-heavy rod that has extra-fast action, along with 50-100-pound lines will go a long way toward helping you get the best of those oversized targets.
Additional Saltwater Fishing Gear
Once you settle on your ideal saltwater fishing rod, you need to make sure you have the right gear to go with it. After all, the right tackle makes all the difference between a good and bad day of fishing.
Reel: A saltwater fishing reel needs to be robust and able to stand up to the water’s erosive properties. Line casting with the reel should also be simple. Most of the time, a spinning reel is appropriate because it can cast a long way without being impeded by strong wind. The reel, which sometimes comes pre-spooled with fishing line, must be able to hold 100 yards of line.
Line: Saltwater fishing line is thin. But it’s also strong and should be able to easily stretch. What it should not do is easily retain the shape of the spool, or have low memory.
- Monofilament Saltwater Fishing Line: For most fishing applications, monofilament is the most popular fishing line anglers use because it’s thin, strong and has a subtle characteristic, is water-resistant and gives you good knot strength. It’s more abrasion-resistant than braided line. However, monofilament has a more optimal width-to-pound test and elasticity than braid. When choosing monofilament, find line that has the lowest diameter-to-pound test ratio. Just so you know, monofilament can break down when it’s exposed to direct sunlight. You should change your line every 6-12 months.
- Braided Saltwater Fishing Line: As the name indicates, braided lines are made when several strands of fiber are fused together. This makes them stronger than monofilament. Plus, they’ll cast farther and cut through the water faster than monofilament line. They also hold up to the sun and elements longer. With an incredibly low stretch, braided lines are very sensitive, making them an ideal choice for bottom fishing. On the down side, having a low stretch keeps braid from working well when trolling. It also needs a lighter drag setting and less aggressive hand when reeling in your fish.
- Fluorocarbon Saltwater Fishing Line: A recently introduced type of fishing line, fluorocarbon is virtually invisible when it’s underwater because of its very low light refraction ability. Ideal for tying leaders to lines, luorocarbon is stiff and more abrasion resistant than monofilament. Because it’s dense, fluorocarbon sinks more quickly than other lines. On the downside, fluorocarbons’ stiffness makes tying knots more challenging. Plus, its strength and invisibility properties can weaken because It more easily breaks down in sunlight.
- Wire: When going for more aggressive fish, wire is a good choice. It is also effective when trolling in deep water. Wire is available in braided form or single strand. While single strand is thinner and stronger than braided wire, it isn’t as flexible. On the other hand, braided wire is flexible enough to tie in knots as to be used as a main line.
Don’t forget to factor in the drag of fishing line. Drag is how much pressure the reel puts on the line when a fish is struggling. It should be about 1/3 of the line’s pound-test. For instance, a 30-pound line can withstand 10 pounds of drag. Drag is calibrated by placing your rod in a holder and then pulling on the line with a hand scale, tightening the drag until the scale shows you the exact amount of pressure you’re looking for.
Bait: Shrimp is the most commonly used saltwater bait and should ideally be kept live in a bucket of water. However, cut bait, especially in deep-sea fishing, is also acceptable. For surf fishing, sand fleas can even be used.
Hooks: Using saltwater fishing hooks that are the appropriate size for the fish size is best for optimal results. They can be made out of high-carbon steel or stainless steel.
- Hook Sizes: The size of the hook refers to the distance between the point and shank. When considering what size to use, factor in both the size of your bait and target fish. Sizes for saltwater hooks range from the incredibly small .32 to the large 19/0. With sizes 32-1, the number gets smaller as the hook size gets smaller. However, for 1/0-19/0, the number goes up as the size gets bigger. Keep in mind that hook sizes vary from brand to brand.
- J-Hooks: J-Hooks vary in style so they’ll work for different types of fish. For instance, Kahle hooks work for summer flounder, which are flat fish with mouths closing horizontally. Another example is long-shank saltwater fishing hooks, which are easily taken out of the fish’s mouth. Other hooks work best with a specific bait types. An example is the O’Shaughnessy hook, which is favored when rigging ballyhoo bait.
- Circle Fishing Hooks: The circle fishing hook is ideal for catch-and-release fishing because it prevents the hook from getting lodged in the fish. That’s because it’s shaped with the point turning to the hook shank to create a near circle.
- Treble Fishing Hooks: The purpose of a treble fishing hook is to snag a fish when it strikes your bait. Plus, by the time the fish grasps the fact that is has eaten a lure, you’ve hooked it. While this hook’s sizes are categorized the same way as others, a smaller treble hook is needed to catch the same size fish its circle or J-hook counterparts.
Care and Maintenance
Once you’ve selected the right saltwater fishing rod that will best serve your needs, it’s vital that you take care of it with regular maintenance. After all, angling exposes your rod to numerous merciless elements. Exposure to ultraviolet rays, humidity, extreme temperatures, sand, mud, salt spray and coral can give it a beating. Not to mention the fact that the fishing action can do its own fair share of damage when the rod hits the boat deck or gets dropped in sand or rocks. Don’t forget that tangles with larger targets, such as running sailfish, can wear on both the rod and reel.
It’s true that every time you use your fishing gear, you add wear to it, regardless of how it’s designed or what kind of material it’s made from. However, taking a little time to keep it maintained will help expand its life so you can continue enjoying those special moments on the water and even pass that coveted tackle gear on to the next generation.
- After each time you take your saltwater fishing rod out on the water, rinse it thoroughly in fresh water and towel dry. Give extra care to the guides and reel seats.
- To keep your gear in working order, periodically remove the reels from the rods. Then lubricate the reel seats, fasteners and roller guides.
- Inspect the guides for nicks or deterioration and the guide wraps for indications of wear. To check the guides, simply pull a thin piece of fabric through each one. If the fabric even slightly snags, a guide is damaged.
- When out on the water, place rods in a rack on the boat so they won’t move around and hard surfaces or other rods when the ocean waves get active.
- To maintain your rod’s slick, polished finish, be sure to periodically apply a light coat of bowling-alley wax.
When you select the saltwater fishing gear that works best for you and keep it properly maintained, you won’t be able to help making memories – and hopefully catching the big one.
top image credit: DepositPhotos/ftlaudgirl