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Best Surf Fishing Rods Reviewed: Casting From The Beach

Fishing from the beach can be amazingly exciting - but only if you have a rod capable of long casts and hard fights.
Reviewed by: John Baltes
Last Updated:
surf casting rods

My Top 3

Surf casting rods are a breed apart from standard sticks. They’re designed to cast heavy sinkers, launch rigs yards rather than feet, and fight powerful fish without giving an inch.

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Summary
Specifications
Pros & Cons

Penn’s outstanding Carnage III is in many ways the surf casting rod that sets the bar for its competition, and if you’re on the fence about which rod to buy, this is the one to pick.

 

The 10’, medium-power, moderately-fast model is a great allrounder for the beach, and from top to bottom, it’s been built with long casts and hard fights in mind.

 

Penn delivers the Carnage III with a composite blank that combines the strength and durability of fiberglass with the feather-weight and sensitivity of carbon fiber. It can handle heavy sinkers on the hardest snap cast you can muster, and it will load and launch your rigs a ridiculous distance.

 

It also provides plenty of backbone for species like drum, snook, and stripers.

 

The Fuji K guides will pamper your line, providing the friction protection you’ll need in a tough fight. And the long, rubber-shrink-tube handles assist you in translating your strength to casting and fighting, as well as riding well in a sand spike.

Durable, long casting, and hard fighting: the Penn Carnage III is everything you want in a best fishing rod for surf casting.

Material: fiberglass/carbon fiber composite

Length: 10’

Power/action: medium/mod. fast

Line weight: 15 - 30 lbs.

Guides: 8 Fuji K SiC

Handle: rubber shrink tube

Pieces: 2

Pros:

  • Strong, durable, sensitive blank
  • Casts extremely well
  • Excellent guides
  • Excellent handle

Cons:

  • ???
Summary
Specifications
Pros & Cons

If Penn’s Carnage III pushes your fishing budget too far, take a close look at the Squadron III. Far less expensive than the top-of-the-line Carnage III, it’s nevertheless among the best rods for surf casting out there.

 

Penn uses a proprietary composite in the Squadron III’s blank, resulting in a rod with plenty of durability, head-turning strength, and the guts to cast a country mile.

 

It’s not as sensitive or light as the Carnage III, but there’s no question that it’s very capable.

 

The Penn Dura-Guides are great, and while perhaps not as top-flight as the Fuji Ks, they work well in hard fights. Something’s got to give for the price, and equipping the Squadron III with Fuji components would push the price skyward quite a bit.

 

Ditto on a shrink tube handle. Instead, the Squadron III comes with a nice Winn EVA foam grip that provides plenty of real estate for snap casts.

 

Overall, the Squadron III is a great budget alternative to the Carnage III.

Material: fiberglass/graphite composite

Length: 9’

Power/action: medium/mod. fast

Line weight: 10 - 20 lbs.

Guides: 6 Penn Dura-Guides

Handle: Winn EVA foam

Pieces: 2

Pros:

  • Strong, durable, sensitive blank
  • Casts extremely well
  • Great guides
  • Great handle

Cons:

  • Neither as light nor as sensitive as the Carnage III, Rockaway, or St. Croix Seage
Summary
Specifications
Pros & Cons

Okuma knows how to deliver quality at a reasonable price point.

 

Its Rockaway line of surf casting rods are among the best budget options out there, though the Squadron III is the better allrounder.

 

Where the Rockaway shines, though, is in sensitivity - and as a surf perch rod that’s more capable than a standard medium-light option, I think this rod is a fantastic choice.

 

This Rockaway features a 24-ton carbon fiber rod which is very sensitive, even in medium power. This makes it a great option for typical inshore species like flounder, blues, specks, and other fish you’re likely to encounter from the beach. And for smaller species like the surfperches, it’s still sensitive enough to detect strikes.

 

In contrast to the Penn rods above, the absence of fiberglass means that these rods will be lighter in hand but also much more fragile, especially at the tip. 

 

The 10’ medium, sporting a medium-fast action loads well and casts beautifully, but I’d be a little more cautious on hard snap casts with heavy rigs than I would be with either Penn. I’d stay below 2 ounces on my sinkers and overall rig weights, as going heavier did not inspire me with confidence that the rod tip would survive.

 

That’s just the reality of unmixed carbon fiber on a surf rod - and obviously a nod in the direction of affordability.

 

That said, this blank is admirably stiff, providing plenty of power in a hard fight should you need it.

 

The guides are made with zirconium inserts to protect your line, and the long handles are covered in shrink tubing, providing both grip and space for snap casts.

 

Okuma’s Rockaway is a great surf casting rod at a reasonable price, and if the Penn and St. Croix sticker shock has you down, this might be the best option for you.

Material: 24-ton carbon fiber

Length: 10’

Power/action: medium/med. fast

Line weight: 10 - 20 lbs.

Guides: 7, with zirconium inserts

Handle: shrink tubing

Pieces: 2

Pros:

  • Great price!
  • Very sensitive
  • Good blank that’s very light and casts well
  • Great light allrounder
  • Excellent handle
  • Nice guides

Cons:

  • The blank isn’t as durable as I’d like, forcing me to stick with less than 2-ounce sinkers
Summary
Specifications
Pros & Cons

In contrast to what you’d typically expect from Daiwa, the Emcast is affordably priced, making it a direct competitor for the Okuma Rockaway that slips in just under its rival’s price point.

 

And like the Okuma, Daiwa has used graphite - or carbon fiber; they’re the same material in this context - unalloyed with fiberglass. This results in a very light, very sensitive blank that fishes and casts like a rod one step lower in power.

 

In this cast, the medium-heavy Emcast fishes more like a medium rod, making it a great allrounder for anglers on a tight budget.

 

The blank loads and casts well, but I’d stay away from rigs and sinkers that weigh more than four ounces, and watch just how hard I snap cast with this stick. Expect the sensitive tip to be equally fragile and you’ll be fine.

 

The medium-heavy Emcast has the power for fights with big fish, but my concerns for durability mean that I rely on my drag, keep my line weights reasonable, and fish this surf rod like a medium, despite its stated power.

 

The long EVA foam handles provide plenty of space and are well executed by Daiwa.

 

If you’re looking for an affordable allrounder, the Emcast is a great buy.

Material: graphite

Length: 10’ 6”

Power/action: medium-heavy/fast

Line weight: 12 - 30 lbs.

Guides: aluminum-oxide inserts

Handle: EVA foam

Pieces: 2

Pros:

  • Great price!
  • Very sensitive
  • Good blank that’s very light and casts well
  • Great allrounder
  • Good handle
  • Nice guides

Cons:

  • The blank isn’t as durable as I’d like, forcing me to stick with less than 4-ounce sinkers
Summary
Specifications
Pros & Cons

St. Croix makes some of the best rods you’ll find at any price, and they’re well-known for their commitment to quality, attention to detail, and high-end performance.

 

The Seage is a true testament to these qualities, and if you like a really sensitive rod that can handle heavy lines, it might be the best choice for you.

 

The 10’ medium is a fantastic one--rod-does-it-all option for the beach, offering legendary sensitivity, long casts, plenty of backbone, and excellent components throughout.

 

St. Croix delivers the Seage with an SCII carbon fiber blank that delivers unrivaled stiffness and sensitivity. Of course the drawback of carbon fiber is reduced durability, especially to hard knocks, but the engineers at St. Croix have placed reinforcement at critical points to offer added protection.

 

That reinforcement also helps the blank weather the forces of snap casts, and I think you’ll be impressed by this rod, but I would treat it with more respect than a composite alternative.

 

St. Croix uses Sea Guide Heroes on this surf rod, and they’re worth their weight in gold in my opinion. They really work to keep your line safe from friction during a fight, and they distribute weight beautifully over the blank.

 

Of course the handle is excellent as well, providing everything you need and want from a surf rod.

 

If you can treat a rod with a bit of respect, the St. Croix Seage is a great option. It feels and fishes like a lighter rod while still offering the possibility of heavy lines, and as an allrounder from the sand, it’s hard to beat.

Material: SCII carbon fiber

Length: 10’

Power/action: medium/mod. fast

Line weight: 15 - 40 lbs.

Guides: Sea Guide Heroes with aluminum oxide inserts

Handle: X-Flock covered slim-diameter handle and Winn comfort foregrip

Pieces: 2

Pros:

  • Very sensitive, light blank
  • Casts well
  • Reinforced for greater durability
  • Outstanding guides
  • Outstanding handles

Cons:

  • Not as durable as composite blanks

Buying Guide: What Should You Look for in a Best Surf Casting Rod For Distance?

Blank material

Two blank materials dominate surf rods: graphite/carbon fiber and composites of this material blended with fiberglass.

 

Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of these two options.

 

Graphite/carbon fiber is ridiculously light, extremely rigid, and uncompromisingly sensitive. 

 

These are great qualities in a surf rod, and there’s no question that options like the St. Croix Seage are more sensitive, and lighter in hand, than composite alternatives.

 

And when properly reinforced, this material can withstand the forces of hard snap casts with heavy sinkers. 

 

But - and this is a big but - graphite/carbon fiber is susceptible to micro-fracturing from hard impacts. So slamming your surf rod into a piling or any other hard surface may break it.

 

Composites of graphite/carbon fiber and fiberglass are amazingly durable.

 

The addition of fiberglass improves durability and strength by leaps and bounds, resulting in a much tougher blank.

 

This adds weight, and reduces sensitivity, but when executed well as in the Penn Carnage III, the resulting blank is die-hard strong, casts beautifully, and still offers sufficient sensitivity to feel small fish take your bait.

Loading and casting

A good surf rod should lead well under a sinker and snap casts at least 100 feet or so with a bit of practice.

 

All of the rods on our shortlist are excellent on this front, though you need to take care with the graphite/carbon fiber models when using heavy sinkers.

Power and action

We’ve reviewed rods that make great one-rod-does-it-all choices.

 

As a result, we’ve focused on medium-power rods that run fast or moderately fast actions.

 

These rods will be right at home fishing for common surf species like redfish, speckled trout, blue fish, wahoo, snook, flounder, croaker, and surfperch.

Guides

Guides don’t just channel line from your reel to your hook; they protect your line from friction in a hard fight.

 

All the force a big fish generates is concentrated on your line at the guides, creating intense friction. That friction builds heat, and heat destroys line almost immediately.

 

Good guides are so smooth that friction is reduced to an absolute minimum.

Handles

Long handles that allow for a wide grip are ideal for snap casts from shore.

 

Two materials are common to surf casting rod handles: rubber shrink tubing and EVA foam.

 

Rubber shrink tubing offers excellent grip, is super easy to clean, and is awesomely durable. But it’s more costly than EVA foam, and that extra manufacturing cost will be translated directly to the consumer.

 

EVA foam is soft and spongy, offering good grip and being relatively easy to clean. It’s generally inferior to rubber shrink tubing on a surf rod, but much cheaper as well.

Final Thoughts

The best surf casting rod set themselves apart by enabling long casts, winning hard fights, and shrugging-off the abuse of snap casting.

 

And while our two top picks were both from Penn today, there’s no question that the rods offered by St. Croix, Okuma, and Daiwa are also excellent options, especially if you’re looking for superb sensitivity and don’t mind the inevitable reduction in durability that this trade-off creates.

 

As always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have, so please leave a comment below.

About The Author
John Baltes
Chief Editor & Contributor
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.
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