Best Line for Surf Fishing: Complete Guide
Surf fishing is a great way to catch big fish without spending money on a boat. With the right surf fishing rod and surf fishing reel, you can cast a fish finder rig far out into the surf and get it in front of very large saltwater gamefish. Especially if you own a pair of surf fishing waders. But what kind of fishing line should you use for surf fishing? As with many answers on our website, it depends!
Surf fishing can put a lot of strain on your line depending on where you cast your lure/bait. If you’re casting near underwater rocks or other structure, you’ll need a line that can withstand scratches and extra roughness. When you’re fishing for large game fish like sharks or tarpon, you’ll need an extra-strong test fishing line that can withstand the pressure a huge fish will put on your line. If you’re fishing for smaller saltwater gamefish like striped bass or redfish, you’ll need a different setup.
In this article, we cover the different types of fishing lines that work well for surf fishing as well as which ones we recommend for different surf fishing situations.
If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to read about the specifics, we recommend the following for the best fishing to use for surf fishing.
What Kind of Fish Can You Catch While Surf Fishing?
The type of fish you can catch while surf fishing is dependent on where you live. On the west coast, you can catch striped bass, sharks, halibut/flounder, surf smelt, jacksmelt, and surfperch. On the east coast, you can catch striped bass, bluefish, red drum, tarpon, snook, and much more the farther south you go.
How Do You Surf Fish?
There are many ways you can surf fish for the above types of saltwater gamefish. The most common rigs are the fish finder rig and shark rigs. We’ve written up detailed guides on how to make them and how to fish them!
Types of Surf Fishing Line
So how many different types of surf fishing lines are there? Fishing line is broken up into three categories: monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided line. Each type has its pros and cons.
Monofilament tends to be the cheapest and most flexible, while fluorocarbon is more expensive and stiffer. Braided is around the same price as fluorocarbon, but has an even stronger tensile strength per diameter. Braided line, however, is susceptible to tearing if it gets tangled around rocks or other underwater structures.
If you’re interested in learning more about the differences between fluorocarbon and monofilament, check out our comparison article on which is better.
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Best Monofilament Fishing Line
The most common type of fishing line that works well for surf fishing is monofilament. As we detailed in our monofilament vs fluorocarbon article, the line is called monofilament because it’s extruded as a single strand of material – as opposed to multiple strands that can then be fused or braided together. Monofilament can be made from several different materials, but the most common is nylon plastic. Usually, brands use multiple different types of nylon that they blend together before extruding. These polymers are engineered to have different specifications depending on the application.
For surf fishing, the best kind of monofilament to use is dependent on the size of saltwater fish you’re fishing for. For smaller species like mackerel and mullet, 20lb to 30lb monofilament works well. We choose to use a larger line than necessary for these species as you never know when you’ll hook into something bigger and need the extra strength.
For larger species of surf fish, we recommend using 30lb to 50lb test. This ensures that if you hook into a monster you’ll have enough strength in your line that you won’t risk losing the fish. If you are worried 50lb test line isn’t going to be enough, feel free to bump up to 60lb or 80lb. This could be a good idea if you’re fishing for tarpon or sharks.
When picking out the color of monofilament, check the color of the water where you’re planning on fishing. You’ll want to match your line to the color of the water. If in doubt, pick clear.
Best Fluorocarbon Fishing Line
Fluorocarbon also works well for surf fishing. It used to only be used for intense industrial saltwater applications, but in recent years it’s become more common for casual fishermen to use. Fluorocarbon is made from a variety of compounds, including fluorine, chlorine, carbon, and various hydrocarbons. The most frequent combination used for making fluorocarbon fishing line is polyvinylidene difluoride.
Like monofilament, the mixture is extruded in a single strand. Fluorocarbon’s molecules are packed tightly together so the line is more dense and heavy than monofilament. This density also adds to its strength and decreases stretch.
For surf fishing, we recommend the same test ratings and coloring that we did for monofilament: 20lb to 30lb for smaller fish and 30lb to 50lb for larger species. Look at the color fo the water where you’re planning on fishing and match your fluorocarbon line to a similar color. If you’re not sure, pick clear.
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Best Braided Fishing Line for Surf Fishing
Unlike monofilament and fluorocarbon, braided line is made by braiding filaments of synthetic plastic. It may come as a surprise, but braided fishing like is actually what the first fishermen used to fish.
Braided fishing line can be great for surf fishing due to its very high tensile strength and small diameter. The only issue that can arise is if you’re surf fishing near rocks or other underwater cover. If your braided line gets tangled around rocks or a big fish drags the line across them, the line can tear.
When fishing near rocks, we recommend avoiding braided line altogether. If you aren’t, then feel free to use braided line. It can be a great option if you’re fishing for especially large surf fish (like sharks) because you can hold a substantial amount of 80lb or higher braided line compared to the other options. Go with 30lb to 60lb for regular surf fishing, and 80lb when fishing for monsters.
Another technique you can use is to put 100 yds of monofilament on your reel then use the rest of your capacity with braided backing. This is the fishing line that you load onto you reel for extra length if you hook into something huge that likes to run (like a tuna).
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Depending on the type of surf fish you’re going for, there are many types of fishing lines that work well. After deciding to go with mono/fluoro vs braided, it’s a matter of what test you want to load onto your reel. For surf fishing, we always recommend going a bit higher on test strength just in case. Got a specific combination of color and fishing line type that works really well? Let us know what it is down in the comments!