Even if you don’t have the opportunity to try fishing in the surf, you should probably still consider getting a surf reel. That’s because the factors that make reels especially good for surf fishing are virtually identical to those that make them good for all-around use.
Take casting distance, for example. While it’s great to be able to wind out some extra yards in a pond or small lake, being able to cast for distance is essential for fishing in the surf, where you need to drop your lure behind breakers and sand bars to where the fish are.
Robust drag is also a key feature for surf reels, as the currents of the coastline tends to make the fish there very strong swimmers. You also need enough sensitivity to tell the difference between a bite and a current.
And then there’s durability. Saltwater is notoriously corrosive to metal and the question isn’t whether or not your reel will get wet, but rather HOW wet it will get.
A good surf reel will take it all in stride, and keep performing cast after cast. And you’ll have found your new favorite all-around reel.
SURF REEL SPECS
Because you’ll need to cast about 200 feet out or more, surf reels need to be on the larger end of the scale. Generally 5000 - 6000 reels are best, even though you could get away with smaller sizes.
At issue is the strength of the line. For the beefy, accomplished swimmers you’ll find in the surf, you need between 250 to 300 yards of 15 - 30 lb. monofilament. That’s gonna be a tall order for a smaller reel to squeeze in.
Bigger reels tend to release more line when the bail arm is open, which helps extend your casting distance, but the opposite is also true. They will reel in line faster, which can really help jigging lures in the surf. Remember that the fish that feed in the surf are used to chasing prey that moves very fast.
TOP SURF REELS FOR 2022
With all this in mind, let’s take a look at some of your best options for surf fishing reels.
Penn Slammer III
The Slammer III has a water resistance rating of IPX6 for handling the crashing of incoming waves. It’s fully sealed in case it goes under, but like all reels, it shouldn’t be left underwater for too long. The 5500 and below have an automatic bail, and Penn’s new CNC gear technology will give you up to 40 lbs of drag if you need it.
Shimano Ultegra C14+
One of the best long-casting reels available, Shimano’s Ultegra C14+ will get your lure out where it needs to go. It has a carbon-reinforced body, which keeps it light, yet balanced, and the 5000 sports a respectable 33 lbs of drag. While it can take a bit of splashing, it’s not sealed, so you’ll need to be careful to keep it out of the water.
Van Staal VSX
While surf reels are all fairly water resistant, the Van Staal VSX is in a class by itself. Van Staal made the first reels designed specifically to be reeled underwater, and the solid aluminum VSX is virtually impervious to saltwater. It also boasts between 30-42 lbs of drag. Of course, all that durability comes at a price, so not only is the VSX rather pricey, it’s also not the smoothest reel you’ll find.
KastKing Sharky III
This is a great entry-level option for the surf. The Sharky III is made of reinforced graphite with a triple-disc carbon fiber mechanism that supplies up to 40 lbs of drag. All of KastKing’s reels are sealed, so it’s able to handle a quick plunge if dropped, making it perfect for those who are just getting their feet wet (pun intended).
Okuma Rockaway Surf
Light and durable, the Rockaway Surf is an innovative choice that checks all of the right boxes. Built of metal and graphite composite, it’s very light and casts quite far, and is able to hold up to 375 yards of 12 lb monofilament. The Rockaway surf isn’t sealed, but instead uses proprietary rotor technology to keep water from sensitive mechanisms. It also has a drag weight of up to 26 lbs, making it a great all-around choice for the surf.
While the BG may not be the most water-resistant of surf reels, it’s smooth performance has earned it a reputation as one of the best surf reels ever made. It offers 15-33 lbs of drag (depending on size), and some of the same gear technology as more expensive reels, making it great for fighting powerful fish. It was not designed to be submerged, but it can handle some splashing and salt spray as long as you take care to rinse it off afterwards.
Which to Choose?
The reels reviewed above represent a range of options to fit your needs and fishing style. As you can see, there tends to be a lot of tradeoff between performance and durability, so it helps to know what kind of conditions you’re going to be fishing in before making your choice. Hopefully, this guide will help.