Surf Fishing Rods and Reels

The North Carolina Coast

offers up a wide variety of beach environments for surf fishing. Sandy beaches with deep water close to shore like on the Outerbanks or like the beaches in Brunswick County where the ocean takes a long, shallow and almost featureless approach to shore; there are also inlets with hidden coquina, oyster shells or other structural features. An entire book could be written about the different environments along our shore, for that matter an entire book could be written about picking out the right equipment to fish the urf could be written as well. I will try to keep the writing on the subject short and succinct.

Picking out the right rod and reel for surf fishing our beaches can be bit daunting due to the sheer variety and choices out there in the market. The most common reels used to surf fish our beaches are conventional reels and spinning reels. Occasionally you will see an angler using a fly reel or an Alvey side casting reel (I keep a couple of those handy); for the most part the use of these reels are uncommon sights in surf fishing so they will not be part of this writing. Rods used in the North Carolina surf runs the gambit from lightweight, one handed rods to heavyweight “Hatteras Heavers” favored by Red Drum fishermen seeking a catch of the lifetime in the rough Hatteras Island surf. There is no perfect choice. You should weigh your budget versus your interest in the sport and try to find the right balance.

Lightweight Combos

A lightweight conventional or spinning combo is good choice if your interest is in targeting the small (small being a relative term) gamefish found in the suds or first troughs running along the shore. A 6 to 7 foot, fast action graphite rod coupled with a small saltwater reel that can hold around 200 to 250 yards of 10 to 12 pound monofilament line would be a good choice. Use this combo to target flounder, tailor blues, whiting, pompano or spot. You may be suprised by a young puppy drum in the suds, if so, the great, enjoy the sport. A slot drum landed on light tackle will be something to remember.

Medium Combos

If I had to pick and overall best choice as the first purchase for a new surf fisherman, I would recommend a medium/heavy action graphite rod measuring between 9 and eleven feet. For me, a 10 and 1/2 rods works best. Again, look for a saltwater reel that will hold 200 to 250 yards of line, however think in terms of 20 pound mono, not 12 pound. I like to fish this rod and reel combo up to and just beyond the first sandbar and the break between sandbars where the riptide is present. Your rod should be stout enough to cast 4 ounces of lead and your bait. On occasion you might want to even cast out 5 to 6 ounces of weight. With a medium combo, you’ll still be catching many of the same fish you targeted with the lightweight combo, however if you run into something bigger and stronger, you’ll have more of a fighting chance at landing it.

Heavywieght Combo

The heavyweight combos are big. They are heavy. They are also perfect for casting a heavy lure or bait a long distance. They range from 10 to 15 feet in length. Store bought rods in this size vary in quality. Should you buy one, look for one that is rated for casting at least 6 ounces. Your reel coupled up to one of these rods should at least be able to handle several (greater than 300) yards of 20 pound mono. Do not skimp on quality here, if you are targeting the big Red Drum, you will seriously need a quality reel. Don’t skimp here. The custom-made rods are designed to cast 6 to 8 ounces of lead and big piece of bait into heavy surf against a strong onshore wind. Work with your custom rod maker to build that perfect rod. It is not an off the shelf item and should be tailored to you. Fishermen dreaming of catching that once in a lifetime, big Red Drum in the Cape Hatteras surf can spend a lot of money on these rods and most feel the price is well worth it.

Fly Reels

Fly Fishing is not my forte. I do on occasion travel to the North Carolina mountains to attempt catching trout on the fly. Ok, with the disclaimer out there, I will say that I’ve had conversations with fly fishermen I’ve encountered on the sound side of some of our islands and what was suggest to me was to find an affordable 8 wight, 9 foot rod. Use a 400 grain sinking fly line and reel with 200 yards of backing. The point being, find something light and easy to use. Do not expect to fly fish in rough conditions, stick to targeting smaller species. Mostly, I think I will stick to spinning and conventional rods and reels.

Side Cast Reels

Alvey Reels Austrailia produces a unique reel that cast like an open face reel and reels line on a revolving spool. It accomplish this because the reel is made to face forward in casting and it is turned to its normal position for the retrieve. The reels are quite large and hold an immense amount of line. The large open face design allows for very good long distance cast.The reels themsleves are simple in design and rugged in performance. Sand and saltwater do very little to harm them. Casting an Alvey is different from either the conventional or spinning reel, so you will have to learn a new technique. The rods designed for Alveys are also different, primarily the butt section is small and the foregrips are longer than those found on other rods. There is an open runner just forward of the foregrip and the guide sizes and spacing on the rod is different from regular surf rods. The source for Alvey rods and reels in the United States can be found at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.