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Best Surf Casting Rod and Reel Combos Reviewed (2021)

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Anglers on a budget, or fishermen who are just looking for tackle for a vacation, often take a hard look at combos - rod and reel pairings offered by the same manufacturer.

When done well, these combos are a thing of beauty: excellent reels matched to capable rods - the complete package, so to speak - without breaking the bank.

But when not executed properly, you typically end up with a good reel or a good rod, but not both, leading to plenty of frustration.

If you’re in the market for a surf fishing rod and reel combo, we’ve covered all the bases and done the research. Below, you’ll find reviews that separate the wheat from the chaff, letting you know what to consider and what to skip.

Quick look at the best surf rod and reel combos:

Related:

Best Surf Fishing Rod and Reels Reviewed

PENN Battle III Surf Fishing Combo - Best Surf Fishing Rod and Reel Combo

Penn Battle III 5000

Maximum drag: 25 lbs.

Gear ratio: 5.6:1

Capacity: 15/200 (mono)

Weight: 

Bearings: 5 + 1

Length: 8’

Action/power: medium heavy

Material: graphite composite

Handle: continuous EVA foam with rubber shrink tube wrap

Guides: one-piece Penn Dura-Guides

Line weight: 12 to 25 lbs.

Lure size: ¾ to 2 oz.

Pieces: 2

While the Penn Battle III may not be the best the brand has to offer, I’ve been in love with the Battle series for a long time, and they just keep getting better.

This particular combo unites the big 5000 reel with a capable rod, making it the best of the surf casting combinations on the market.

Let’s take a closer look at why that is.

The Battle III runs the same incredible HT-100 drag system that’s at the heart of the much more expensive Spinfisher, and from super smooth release to ultra-durability to automatic let-off as line really starts to be taken out, there’s probably no better drag on the market.

Capacity is pretty much industry standard for size, with nice indicator lines to let you check where you are at a glance.

Torque and power are delivered in spades, and this is a great reel to fight mean fish all the way up to small sharks.

Paired with an eight-foot medium-heavy rod, you’ve got plenty of sensitivity from the graphite composite and lots of backbone. You can really “lean into” this rod, and it won’t let you down.

There’s plenty of fight and cast in that long, long handle.

Most combinations skimp on one component or the other, with the reel companies delivering less than impressive rods and the rod companies offering minimal reels.

In this case, Penn gives you a winning pairing, and it’s one every serious angler should consider.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Superior drag system that’s sealed
  • Excellent casting
  • Lots of torque and power
  • Great rod that casts well
  • Strong backbone
  • Good guides

Cons:

  • ???

Daiwa D-Wave Combo

Daiwa D-Wave Saltwater Spinning Combo (2 Piece)

Amazon 

Maximum drag: N/A

Gear ratio: N/A 

Capacity: 14/410, 17/310, 20/240

Material: N/A

Weight: N/A

Bearings: 1

Length: 9’

Action/power: medium/moderate fast

Material: fiberglass

Handle: continuous EVA foam

Guides: stainless steel with aluminum oxide inserts

Line weight: 12 to 30 lbs.

Lure size: 1 to 5 oz.

Pieces: 2

Every saltwater angler is familiar with the Daiwa brand, and though the name is synonymous with quality and the price that buys that performance, they also offer surf fishing combos that are remarkably affordable.

Keep in mind, however, that at this price point, compromises must be made, and this combo is a better buy for a beginner or occasional angler than a die-hard fisherman.

Let’s look at why I say that.

This Daiwa rod measures a full nine feet, and the fiberglass blank is plenty strong and very durable. It leads well and casts effectively, too, but I wouldn’t put it up against Penn’s combos in terms of casting performance. Nevertheless, that fiberglass blank lets you cast surprisingly heavy lures without worrying that you’ll break your rod on the forward snap.

Medium power is plenty for most things you’ll catch from the surf, and from snook to specks, reds to blues, you’ll be pleased at the fight this rod has once you really start to engage the backbone.

So far, so good.

But Daiwa’s not talking a lot about this reel, and clearly, this is the low end of the reel line-up. While the capacity is fine, and while the drag supplies ample tension that’s smooth enough, when you do hook a big fish, you’ll feel the reel working hard to produce enough torque to win that struggle.

That’s just a hard fact of pricing, making this combo a good buy at the price, but not serious competition for some of the more expensive offerings on our list.

Pros:

  • Awesome price!
  • Durable rod that casts heavy lures
  • Good blank that loads well and provides plenty of casting distance
  • Plenty of backbone for larger fish

Cons:

  • Don’t expect a miraculous reel for this price

Daiwa BG Surf Spinning Combo

Daiwa BG 4500

Maximum drag: 22 lbs.

Gear ratio: 5.7:1

Capacity: 14/350 (mono)

Weight: N/A

Bearings: 6 + 1

Length: 9’

Action/power: medium heavy/moderate fast

Material: graphite composite

Handle: split EVA 

Guides: stainless steel with aluminum oxide inserts

Line weight: 14 to 20 lbs.

Lure size: 1 to 4 oz.

Pieces: 2

Daiwa is a reel manufacturer, first and foremost, and their BG Surf Spinning combo demonstrates that.

The Daiwa BG 4500 is simply an awesome inshore reel, providing the kind of performance you hope to get when you lay down your hard-earned cash.

The drag on the BG 4500 is very, very good, delivering smooth, predictable performance across a wide range of settings. Offered with a maximum of 22 pounds, you can run some very heavy braid to a mono leader and tackle big reds and small sharks if you know how to fight them.

I’m not sure if Daiwa runs carbon fiber discs in these reels--I’ve never disassembled a BG--but I can tell you that whatever the components, the drag works like a charm. You won’t experience binding or skipping--just smooth, continuous, fight-winning resistance.

Daiwa knows that fights are won with drag and torque, and they’ve equipped the BG with solid metal gearing with massive teeth. The result is greater surface area, more traction, and torque delivery that makes a HEMI envious.

The teeth on the BG are strong, delivering loads of torque.

So far, we’ve got a real winner on our hands, and anyone who’s fished a Daiwa BG knows it's a great reel.

But when you look at pricing, you’ll notice that the reel itself is almost as much as the combo together, and that tells you something right away about the rod.

With nine feet of graphite composite blank, armed with stainless guides with aluminum oxide inserts, the stats describe a capable rod that’ll work well with the excellent reel in wears.

In the real world, that rod tends to break pretty easily toward the tip, and the guides tend not to be nearly as durable as you’d like. 

It casts efficiently, however, and loads well.

You’ll find plenty of backbone for a fight about 1/3rd from the tip, and it’ll handle pretty much anything you manage to hook well enough.

But consider that this is probably a $20 rod on a much, much better reel.

Pros:

  • Excellent reel
  • Loads of torque and a great drag
  • Impressive speed
  • Awesome anti-reverse

Cons:

  • The rod is nowhere near the quality of the awesome BG reel

Ugly Stik Bigwater Spinning Rod and Reel Combo

Reel size 50

Maximum drag: 25 lbs.

Gear ratio: 5:1

Capacity: 14/215 (mono)

Weight: N/A

Bearings: 1 + 1

Length: 7’

Action/power: medium 

Material: graphite/fiberglass composite

Handle: continuous EVA foam 

Guides: Ugly Tuff guides

Line weight: 10 to 25 lbs.

Lure size: ¾ to 3 oz.

Pieces: 2

Shakespeare’s Ugly Stiks are known for their nearly indestructible build, and I own two, fish them both, and can attest that they perform at a much higher level than their price point suggests.

But Shakespeare is known for its Stiks, not its reels, and that’s pretty much immediately evident.

The size 50 reel that comes with this combo isn’t going to impress. Yes, it’ll cast, has a drag lever, and will crank and retrieve line, but it tends to rust, has problems with the bail breaking loose, and performs like the $10 reel that it is, if we measure by the price of the rod versus the combo.

These Ugly Tuff guides are real winners.

But the rod itself is a real winner, offering plenty of sensitivity and fight-winning power. It also loads and casts like a dream, and those Ugly Tuff guides - which I’ve put to the test repeatedly - really do work like a charm.

Much like the Daiwa BG combo - but in reverse - you’re getting one great component paired with another that you’d rather be without.

Pros:

  • Rod loads and casts well
  • Rod is very, very durable
  • Excellent guides
  • Lots of backbone and plenty sensitive

Cons:

  • Almost any reel is better than this

What We Look for When Buying a Surf Fishing Rod and Reel Combo

Be Realistic

Right off the top, if you find a combo that retails for $200, and the reel alone typically goes for $180, you can bet that the rod will be disappointing.

Don’t expect pricing miracles, and be realistic about what a good rod and reel should sell for.

The reel should offer smooth, long casts

Most reels cast pretty well. After all, there’s not much to make a spinning reel cast correctly, and they’re the preferred choice in the wind, an omnipresent force of nature at the beach, because they don’t tangle and backlash like baitcasters.

That’s why you’ll find every combo wearing a spinning reel rather than a baitcaster.

But to get the most from your reel, you need to spool it properly, and if you need a refresher on how this is done, check out this video:

Excellent drag

A good drag system cushions your line against sudden shocks to prevent breakage, and it helps to tire a fish during a long fight.

Spinning reels typically offer a drag knob on the front of the spool, and by turning that knob, you can loosen or tighten your drag. An ideal place to start is about ⅓ of your line’s rated test strength, and typically, drag systems work best around the mid-range of the maximum setting.

Some drag systems previously used oiled felt to provide friction on the spool, but newer technology employs carbon fiber discs that work better and last longer.

Among the best systems available is Penn’s HT-100. It’s simply an awesome drag system, making the Penn Battle III combo a very good buy.

Capacity

Capacity is important, both because you'll be making long casts, and because if you do tie into a big fish after that launch, you’ll need plenty of line in case it runs.

We’ve listed capacities for each reel for nylon monofilament. If you need more line on your reel, consider switching to braid with a mono leader.

A word about surf casting rods

Surf casting rods aren’t just overgrown spinning tackle. Instead, they’re custom-designed to provide ultra-long casting and tremendous strength. And whether you’re hunting for bluefish, throwing for specks, or hoping for a shark, they’ve got to deliver across an incredible range of conditions and species.

Unfortunately, you'll often find internet sites recommending inshore tackle for surf casting, and while these otherwise excellent rods will work, they won’t cast like the real thing or handle the heavyweights you’ll need to keep your terminal tackle in place.

To better understand what sets these rods apart, let’s begin by breaking down the most basic elements of a surf casting rod.

Action

A rod’s action describes where on the blank you’ll begin to feel its backbone, that is, where along its length it really starts to become stiff.

For instance, a fast action rod will remain stiff though most of its length, usually bending about a fifth to a third from the end. By contrast, a slow action rod will bend along most of its length, forming a long arc that begins very near the handle.

Power

Power is a measure of how much force it takes to begin to bend a rod. Whereas action tells you where it will bend, power tells you how much it will bend under a given load.

Power and action together describe how a blank behaves. Fast action, heavy rods take a lot of strain to bend, and most of their length will remain straight. On the other hand, a medium action, heavy rod will take the same weight, but it’ll start bending nearer the handle. You can keep combining action and power terms--running through all the possible combinations--and in each case, you’ll have a good sense of what a rod with those descriptions will do.

This matters for determining how a rod will behave in a fight as well as how it will load and cast.

Virtually all surf casting rods will be medium power and heavier, though action varies quite a bit.

Blank Material

Three materials dominate the surf casting rod market: fiberglass, graphite, and carbon fiber.

  • Fiberglass - is generally heavier, tougher, and less expensive than graphite. Indeed, its chief advantage is strength and durability, and rods like Shakespeare’s Ugly Stiks, legendary for their toughness, are composed of fiberglass.
    Fiberglass also flexes more easily than graphite, which can be a good thing when you need a rod to load well or cushion a hookset on a treble-hooked lure.
  • Graphite - is generally lighter, less durable, and more expensive than fiberglass. It’s very stiff and sensitive and allows large, heavy rods to maintain a good feel. Many rods are now made from graphite, ranging from whip-like ultralights to heavy bass rods.
  • Carbon fiber - is the lightest, strongest, and most expensive rod material you can find. Ultra-light and incredibly stiff, it makes a great rod if it can be made sufficiently durable and perfectly flexible through the addition of fiberglass.
  • Composites - some rods combine a graphite or carbon fiber core with a fiberglass wrapping, using both materials to draw out the advantages they offer. Ideally, the result is a rod that’s strong and sensitive, that loads well, and that’s tough as nails.

Surf casting rods are subjected to extreme stress with every cast, and unless the blank is very well made, they have a tendency to break. This is a common failing--even on expensive rods.

Rod Components

Surf casting rods experience incredible stress on the cast, as the heavy weights used to keep your bait put in tide and wave place enormous forces on the rod as you snap it forward after loading it.

And to create the kind of casting distance surf anglers demand, these rods feature some unusual design parameters that separate them from inshore tackle.

Handle

You’ll find that all surf casting rods have extra-long handles.

Two reasons necessitate this.

First, when you do hook a monster, you’ll need that length to fight, and longer handles mean greater leverage. Second, the long handles allow you to place your hands far apart, using a technique known as snap casting to launch a lure incredible distances.

Handles are generally composed of one of three materials: cork or EVA foam, and some are covered in rubber shrink tubing.

  • Cork - is warm to the touch, often attractive, and generally more expensive. It’s typically not quite as durable as synthetics, nor can it offer as sure a grip as rubber shrink tubing.
  • EVA foam - is a tough, durable synthetic that provides a thicker grip than rubber shrink tubing.
  • Rubber shrink tubing - is a common--and excellent--choice for surf rods. No slip, it provides grip as well as continuously uninterrupted territory for your hands. It’s durable, long-lasting, and relatively inexpensive, too.

Guides

It’s difficult to overemphasize the importance of guide quality on a surf casting rod.

Guides distribute the strain of a big fish along the length of the blank, but they also create friction during casting and add weight to the rod. Surf casting rods sport far fewer guides than other styles of tackle, typically just 5-6, regardless of length. 

That may seem strange to anglers who are used to a more-or-less standard rule of one guide per foot, but it helps when you’re looking for ultra-long casts from the beach. The downside? Surf casting rods are a little more prone to breakage under a heavy load, as that force isn’t as evenly distributed along the blank.

These rods require a large “stripper” guide--the first guide after the reel--to accommodate big spinning reels and avoid the line slap that impairs casting. Typical diameters for the stripper guide are 40mm, and any smaller than that risks shorter casts.

They also need to be strong enough to take a beating on the beach and in transit without breaking.

But guide material is important for more than durability: this component has work to do!

During a fight, your line will be forced against and through the guides. This generates friction, and even a little heat will quickly break heavy line! Smooth guides that provide as frictionless a surface as possible are ideal, and ceramics and silicon oxide inserts are common at the high-end.

But I’ve tested stainless steel guides, and when well-made, they’re very, very good, too.

An easy way to check guide quality is to saw at the largest one with some 6- to 8-pound mono. 

If it breaks, take a pass on that rod!

I’ll be sure to assess guide quality carefully in each review.

Our Pick - PENN Battle III Surf Fishing Combo!

The weakness of rod and reel combinations is that the quality of one (or sometimes both!) components is going to suffer to keep price down, meaning that good reel manufacturers (Daiwa) will give you a great reel, but the rod will be far less impressive.

By contrast, great rod manufacturers (Shakespeare) will offer a tough as nails surf casting rod, but pretty much any reel you already own will outperform the one they’ve paired with their rod.

And that’s where Penn really excels. 

The Battle III Surf Fishing Combo pairs the excellent Battle III 5000-series reel, armed with the amazon HT-100 drag, plenty of capacity, and torque to spare with an eight-foot medium-heavy rod that’s made from sensitive graphite composite.

That’s just a winning combination right out of the box, and the other combos on the market just can’t touch this pairing.

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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