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Surf fishing is the easiest way to catch monster fish. With the right equipment, you can fish for 500 lb monsters without even needing a boat! Surf fishing is a game of patience and preparation so when you do hook into a beast, you’ll be ready to have the fight of a lifetime. But what kind of fishing reel should you get for surf fishing? We’re here to help!
In this buying guide, we cover the best surf fishing reels at various price points and features. What they all have in common, however, is the capacity to bring a large surf going fish – like sharks, bluefish, tarpon, and more. They also are saltwater resistant to prevent them from corroding over years of heavy surf fishing use. These surf fishing reels are a perfect option when using a shark rig, fish finder rig, and pairing with our surf rod buying guide. They also work great for fishing for gar!
You can check out our choices and reasoning for the best surf fishing reels below. Keep scrolling and you’ll find our detailed analysis with pros and cons of each. Let’s dive in!
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…
Overall Best Surf Fishing Reel
Penn Battle II Spinning Reel
When it comes to dependability, functionality, and price, the Penn Battle II Spinning Reel has got it all. For the same reasons it won our best bass fishing reel comparison, best overall saltwater spinning reels, it also wins best overall surf fishing spinning reel. We did a more in-depth review of the reel earlier this year, but here are some of the highlights. The reel comes in eight different versions with varying drag and line capabilities depending on the type of fish you’re going for. For larger surf gamefish, we recommend buying the 6000 or 8000 models as they have a higher line test rating.
The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel comes with an HT 100 carbon fiber drag system that helps with keeping the reel cool while battling aggressive surf fish such as tarpon or sharks. The drag system also has carbon fiber washers that help with heat build-up.
The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel is built with five shielded stainless steel ball bearings. This is crucial for fishing in saltwater, as the salt will easily corrode anything that isn’t stainless.
The main spool system of the Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel requires no backing and is braided line ready. Most surf fishermen use a combination of monofilament (for the leader) and braided (for the backing), so this capability is essential.
The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel frame is made out of aluminum which keeps the overall weight down. This allows for agility when casting as well as battling big fish on a heavy test line. The metal side plate protects the reel from shock and adds to its durability. The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel 6000 has six bearings and a gear ratio of 6.2:1.
- Durable, time tested design that’s perfect for surf fishing
- Designed to withstand heavy saltwater use.
- More expensive than other options.
The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel is a great all-around reel for surfcasting fishermen looking to have it all. It’s an excellent reel to buy if you’re just getting into surf fishing and want a reel that will last a long time, while still performing at a high level.
High-End Surf Fishing Reel
Shimano Ultegra Surfcasting Reel
The Shimano Ultegra Surfcasting Reel is our high-end surfcasting reel of choice. It costs over double what some of the reels in our test are listed for, but comes with many features that expert surfcasting fishermen would want. It’s built for heavy-duty surf fishing, and will take on most saltwater surf-loving fish you throw its way. The Shimano Ultegra Surfcasting Reel comes in two different versions, but we recommend the bigger 14000 for surf fishing.
The Shimano Ultegra Surfcasting Reel features Shimano’s X-ship technology. The X-ship technology improved reel gear durability and eliminates friction between the spool shaft and gears which increases casting performance. This allows the surf fisherman to fling his heavy rigs further than other reels.
It also comes with Shimano’s Hagane gearing system. The Hagane gearing system provides long-lasting and strong performance in surfcasting fishing situations. The Hagane gearing system also prevents corrosion by protecting the gears from exposure to salt.
The Shimano Ultegra Surfcasting Reel features a Cross Carbon Drag system that provides long-lasting smoothness. This is especially useful when dealing with fast and powerful runs from larger saltwater fish like tarpon and bluefish.
The two different models of the Shimano Ultegra Surfcasting Reel have varying specifications. We’ll cover the 14000 since it makes the most sense for surf fishing. The 14000 can hold up to 600 yards of 12 lb test, 440 yards of 16 lb test, and 330 yards of 20 lb test. The 14000 weighs 21.9 oz.
- Perfect for the expert surf fisherman who demands the best.
- It has extra features compared to other models.
If the price is not an issue for you, we highly recommend the Shimano Ultegra Surfcasting Reel. It has the features that professional surf fishermen require, and will perform at the highest levels under pressure. Perfect for fighting 500 lb monsters or hooking something smaller for dinner.
Most Economical Surf Fishing Reel
KastKing Sharky III Surf Fishing Reel
Surf fishing reels often cost more than their smaller freshwater counterparts – mostly because their components have to be made with materials that don’t rust as easily. This means the price inevitably goes up as well. But with the KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel, you get everything you need in a surfcasting reel for under $60.
The KastKing Sharky III Surf Fishing Reel is packed with everything you need to start your surf fishing hobby, and its price can’t be beaten. As long as you treat it right and don’t do anything stupid, this under $60 reel will help you land many types of saltwater fish and last many years of heavy surfcasting use. The KastKing Sharky III Surf Fishing Reel comes in five different versions, but the 4000 and 5000 work perfectly for larger surf zone sportfish.
The KastKing Sharky III Surf Fishing Reel is built with a lightweight aluminum frame that’s been expertly balanced for smooth reel action. Its superior drag system offers incredible stopping power with up to 39.5 lbs of drag pull. It’s hardened steel shaft with mesh gear drive will withstand intense surf fishing battles and ensure your equipment won’t fail you when it matters most.
The KastKing Sharky III Surf Fishing Reel has ten ball bearings for smooth spinning. The bearings are protected by the KastKing KISS water protection sealing that prevents them from being exposed to the elements (and salt).
The five different models of the KastKing Sharky III Surf Fishing Reel have varying specifications. We’ll cover the 4000 and 5000 since they make the most sense for saltwater spinning. The 4000 can hold up to 220 yards of 10 lb test or 200 yards of 12 lb test. The 5000 can hold up to 220 yards of 12 lb test or 190 yards of 14 lb test. The 4000 weighs 10.2 oz while the 5000 weighs 10.6 oz. Both have a max drag of 39.5 lbs. Perfect for large surf-going fish!
- It cost under $60!
- It has everything you need to start surf fishing.
- No extra features.
- Not as durable as other options.
The KastKing Sharky III Surf Fishing Reel has everything you need to start surf sportfishing, and it costs less than filling up your car’s tank with gas! The 4000 and 5000 sizes are the most appropriate for surf fishing and come with everything you need to get started. The KastKing Sharky III Surf Fishing Reel is a great option for surf fishermen on a budget.
Best Balanced Surf Fishing Reel
SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel
The SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel is our balanced surfcasting reel winner for many reasons. It has more features than the most economical reels but doesn’t cost as much as the high-end options like the Shimano Ultegra. The SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel comes in five different sizes with varying line capacity and reel size. The 5000 and 6000 are the most suited for surfcasting.
The SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel comes with many custom, high-quality components. The reel features a ten count ball bearing system with corrosion-resistant stainless steel bearings. This ensures the reel will stay functional for many years of heavy action in shoreline conditions.
The SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel’s body is built out of machined and anodized aluminum and has a braided line ready spool. The reel’s carbon fiber drag system features sealed washers that stay lubricated for smoothing reeling. The reel has a 15kg/33 lb drag system, which is great for reeling in large surf-going fish quickly and safely.
The five different models of the SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel have varying specifications. We’ll cover the 5000 and 6000 since they make the most sense for saltwater surf fishing. The 5000 can hold up to 400 yards of 14 lb test, 320 yards of 18 lb test, and 260 yards of 20 lb test. The 6500 can hold up to 360 yards of 20 lb test, 280 yards of 25 lb test, and 220 yards of 30 lb test. The 5000 and 6000 both weigh 23 oz. Both have a gear ratio of 6.2:1.
- Great value for the quality of components.
- The carbon fiber drag system saves weight.
- Not as many features as more expensive options.
The SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel is another great option for surf fishermen that are just starting out or want to add another reel to their collection. The SeaKnight Rapid Surf Fishing Reel has all the features you look for in a surfcasting reel and comes in extra-large sizes for big surf gamefish or fishing for sharks from a pier.
We wanted to highlight a few overarching features we looked for when picking these reels for our top surf fishing reels.
Sealed Bearings and Anti-Reverse Switch
Sealed bearings are necessary for surfcasting due to the highly corrosive nature of saltwater. If your surf fishing reel doesn’t have a sealed bearing system, it will quickly rust with use and eventually become unusable. An anti-reverse switch is also important for surfcasting. The anti-reverse switch will help you set the hook effectively when your rod is in a holder and make sure the line doesn’t go slack if the fish if you can’t get to your reel right away.
Gear Ratio and Speed of Retrieval
Most fish that live near the shoreline are fast and enjoy long runs to deeper water when they feel threatened. If your reel has a low gear ratio, it will take hours to pull them up from the deep. This means that reels with at least a 5.4:1 gear ratio are ideal. This ratio and above allow the fishermen to reel the surf fish up from the depths faster and doesn’t tire the fisherman out.
Stronger Drag System
The drag system is responsible for putting pressure on the fish when it tries to run from shore. A good surf fishing reel needs a higher drag pressure than other reels because surf loving fish are often much larger than other species. A drag pressure of 25 lbs or more is usually a good place to start. This will help keep a strong shoreline fish (like a jack crevalle or barracuda) in check and help you tire them out faster.