How to Choose a Fishing Line for Surf Fishing on Any Beach


Given the constant motion of the oceanic waves, the abrasiveness of the saltwater, and the size of the fish you’re targeting, surf fishing requires the right fishing line. How do you choose a fishing line for surf fishing?

You can select from fluorocarbon, monofilament, and braided fishing lines for surf fishing. The best type of fishing line is determined by the species of fish you’re trying to catch as well as the conditions of the beach, such as a sandy versus rocky beach.

In this highly detailed, informative guide, we’ll help you choose the best fishing line for surf fishing on any beach. If you’re new to surf fishing, then you’re certainly not going to want to miss this!

Braided vs. Monofilament vs. Fluorocarbon Surf Fishing Lines: The Basics

Before we can discuss choosing a fishing line for surf fishing, we must review your line options. As mentioned in the intro, you can choose from three types of lines: braided, monofilament, or fluorocarbon fishing line. 

Let’s go over each fishing line now.  

Braided Fishing Line for Surf Fishing

A braided fishing line includes a series of polyethylene microfibers that are extruded via a machine. The microfibers are gathered into strands or bundles that comprise the braided fishing line.

The abrasion resistance of braided fishing line makes it an excellent choice for surf fishing. 

That’s not to say that a braided line can’t snap, especially if you’re fishing on a rocky shoreline or trying to reel in an especially large fish.

However, a braided fishing line’s strength and wear resistance are both excellent. This fishing line is also UV-resistant so hours upon hours of sunlight exposure will not wear the line down or cause it to thin.  

Braided fishing line will float on the water. Depending on your surf fishing setup, that’s either fine or not so bueno. For instance, if you have a lure that sinks deep into the water, then the braided fishing line would impede the lure’s ability to do that. 

You’ll also find through time and use that braided fishing line has very little stretch if any stretch at all. This increases the sensitivity of the line so that each time a hungry ocean fish bites on the line, you’ll notice it, even subtle bites.

Some anglers have reported that braided fishing line is so sensitive to line changes that they could feel the sinker along the bottom of the seafloor as well as any fish that passed by the line. The price of braided fishing line turns some anglers away. 

Also, in clear waters, braided fishing line stands out like a sore thumb. It doesn’t become invisible in the water, so fish will see your line and give you a wide berth. 

Monofilament Fishing Line for Surf Fishing

A monofilament fishing line is made of nylon. Compared to the Kevlar strength of a braided fishing line, mono line isn’t nearly as strong, but it does have plenty of other benefits when surf fishing.

For example, monofilament is a very reliable type of fishing line. It’s considered rather forgiving and thus great for beginner anglers. The line is also more durable than you might have thought, but it does stretch, especially under pressure.This fishing line has less sensitivity. You won’t be able to feel subtle pulls or bites on your line. 

That doesn’t mean you won’t know when a fish is biting, but it usually takes a more overt presence.The abrasion resistance of monofilament line is surprisingly good. Fish teeth and rocks might damage the line but not snap it outright. Then again, if braided fishing line can snap, then you know that mono line can do so as well.

If you have to cut the line or tie knots in monofilament, it’s very easy to work with. It’s also adept at lighter casts with a fishing line pound test rating of 12 pounds and under. 

You can use monofilament fishing lines with all sorts of swivels, bobbers, sinkers, hooks, and snaps, but not heavier lures. 

Monofilament line also has memory, which means the line will twist, loop, and curl around itself depending on how you use and store it. 

Fluorocarbon Fishing Line for Surf Fishing

Then there’s fluorocarbon fishing line, which is made of polyvinylidene difluoride or PVDF. PVDF is harder than monofilament line, so the sensitivity of fluorocarbon fishing line is better. 

Once you venture into deep waters, you’ll notice more vibrations. That said since you don’t fish in very deep waters when surf fishing, you could miss out on this feature of fluoro line.

The UV resistance of fluorocarbon line is fantastic, and this fishing line is great at resisting the elements as well. You’ll get more bang for your buck as the fluorocarbon line lasts you season after season.

Fluorocarbon line is abrasion-resistant, especially against gravel, sand, wood, and rock. 

It also doesn’t become saturated with water the longer you use it. This enhances the abrasion resistance of the fishing line. 

The best feature of fluorocarbon fishing line is how it turns invisible underwater. This is due to how little light fluoro fishing line refracts. Fish will have a much harder time spotting your line, so you can easily reel them in.

Tying fluorocarbon line too much can cause it to break. This line is also very inflexible, so even if you wanted to tie fishing knots, you’d really struggle to do so. 

Check out our other article, “The Best Situations to Use Fluorocarbon Fishing Line.”

Visit Our Fishing Gear Page for More Great Info!

The Right Surf Fishing Line for All Types of Beach Fishing

As we touched on before, the type of surf fishing line you’ll select is in part determined by the beach you’ll be fishing on. Beaches are predominantly sand but not exclusively. In this section, we’ll recommend surf fishing lines according to your settings. 

Sand Beaches

When the terrain on the beach is sandy, you have some versatility with your surf fishing setup. Depending on the rest of your setup and lures, you can easily use a braided fishing line.

Keep in mind that if you do choose braided line, it’s going to be very visible in the water. If the sand is light in color and the ocean water is clear, then the braided fishing line might be too overt to attract many bites.

In murkier waters or if the sand is clouding up the ocean water, then a braided fishing line won’t be such a deterrent. 

Monofilament fishing line is another suitable choice for sand beach surf fishing. Even if you’re fishing in clear waters, you can usually buy monofilament line in various colors that can more easily blend into the sand. 

Weedy Beaches

Although not the most attractive, you can bet that a weedy beach won’t have too many tourists. That should give you more freedom when surf fishing.

The weedier the environment, especially if the weeds are lingering in the water, the clearer your choice. This time, you have only one option, and it’s braided fishing line.

While mono line can handle vegetation well enough, it’s still more prone to snapping than a braided fishing line. As we’ve discussed elsewhere on the blog, the fishing line will win every time in the battle of weeds versus braided fishing lines. 

You don’t want your line to get snagged when you’re about to catch the big one, so use a braided line. 

Piers

You don’t always have to fish at the water’s edge when surf fishing. You also have the option to fish off a pier if one is available and open to the public. 

There will exist pilings around the pier that can be rather abrasive. A braided fishing line thus is a good choice when fishing from a pier. However, it might be a little too heavy in some scenarios, so monofilament fishing line is usually the better choice.

You will want to buy a weightier mono line than usual, but make sure that it’s not so heavy that it becomes difficult to handle. 

Rocky Beaches

Some beaches are surrounded by extensive cliffs or have rocks jutting out of the water. 

Monofilament fishing line is abrasion-resistant enough that if you’re close to the rocks and your line is connecting with barnacles or sharp rocky surfaces, the fishing line should be able to withstand the damage without snapping. 

Braided fishing line is another suitable choice for surf fishing on rocky beaches due to its high degree of abrasion resistance. 

Cobble and Small Rock Beaches

Smaller rocks, such as cobble, can consistently damage your fishing line. In some regards, that’s almost worse than rubbing up against barnacles, and in other regards, it’s better. 

A heavier braided line is tough enough to handle these fishing conditions, and a monofilament line might even be the better choice in this scenario. 

Table showing what type of fishing line you should use when either fishing on a sandy beach, weedy beach, piers, rocky beach, or cobble beach

The Right Surf Fishing Line Weight by Fish Species

If you read our article about pound test line ratings for bass fishing, we’re going to talk about pound test line weights again here.

We’ve basically narrowed it down in the last section to braided and monofilament fishing lines for surf fishing. 

Now, we’ll recommend the pound test weight for each type of fishing line depending on the species of fish you want to catch. 

Shark

That’s right, some especially brave anglers capitalize on the opportunity when surf fishing and will catch sharks. 

You need a heavy braided fishing line with a pound test weight rating of 65 to 80 pounds. 

You’ll also require a steel leader and a heavy monofilament leader line since sharks are huge creatures!  

Tarpon

Speaking of large, tarpons are quite the impressive catch to reel in! They can swim at speeds of 35 miles per hour, so catching one when surf fishing isn’t necessarily easy. It’s always rewarding, though.

You’ll need a monofilament line with a pound test line weight of 35 to 50 pounds or a braided line with a rating of 40 to 65 pounds to catch tarpon. 

Bonito

The ray-finned bonito is a smaller fish but still quite sizable. It belongs to the same family as the Spanish mackerel and tuna.

You can use a much lighter line this time. A monofilament surf fishing setup should be rated for 10 to 15 pounds, and a braided fishing line should have a pound test weight of 15 to 20 pounds. 

Snook

The common snook is big enough that you’ll go home happy if you catch it. The fish is renowned for its exquisite flavor.

For both monofilament and braided fishing lines, the pound test rating is 20 to 30 pounds for catching snook. 

Pompano

The flat marine fish, the pompano, is tasty and simple to cook. These fish are also small enough that you can stuff several in your cooler if you get lucky on your surf fishing expedition.

The pompano also requires the same pound test rating for monofilament and braided fishing lines, and that’s 20 to 30 pounds. 

Weakfish

Belonging to the drum family, don’t let the name weakfish deter you from catching it. A long, skinny fish common along the east coast, its flavor is something you must try to believe. 

You’ll need a 10-to-15-pound test rating for monofilament fishing line used to catch weakfish when surf fishing. Increase that limit to 15 to 20 pounds for braided fishing line. 

Tautog

The blackfish or tautog is a fish with scarily human-like teeth. If you can get past that, these fish taste quite delicious, akin to red snapper. 

You’ll need a heavier monofilament fishing line with a pound test rating of 30 to 40 pounds for catching tautog. The braided fishing line needs a pound test rating of 40 to 50 pounds. 

Redfish

Red drum or redfish is a game fish that’s also known as the spottail bass, the puppy drum, and the channel bass. The fish is about 24 inches, but many are smaller. 

The pound test rating for redfish is the same whether you’re using a monofilament or braided surf fishing line. It’s 15 to 30 pounds. 

Spanish Mackerel

Silvery, large, and delicious, you have plenty of reasons to target the Spanish mackerel the next time you go surf fishing. If you catch a big one, make sure a fishing buddy snaps a photo!

You don’t need as much weight on your fishing line as you’d think for the Spanish mackerel. Your monofilament fishing line should have a pound test rating of 12 to 15 pounds and 10 to 20 pounds for braided fishing lines. 

Bluefish

The average size of a bluefish is 20 feet, but some are as large as 39 feet. They can also weigh over 30 pounds. The strength and aggressiveness of bluefish can make them difficult to catch. 

A monofilament line for surf fishing must have a pound test rating of 20 to 40 pounds. 

If using a braided fishing line, you’ll need a monofilament leader. The braided fishing line should have a pound test rating of 30 to 50 pounds. 

Striped Bass

The Atlantic striped bass is also known as the rockfish or linesider. This large fish can reach lengths of 28 to 38 inches in total.  

To catch striped bass when surf fishing, the monofilament line should have a pound test rating of 20 to 30 pounds and the braided fishing line 30 to 40 pounds. 

Croaker

Spread abundantly across the coasts of North America, the Atlantic croaker is a much smaller ocean fish than most. Its flavor has been likened to trout. 

Reeling in croaker when surf fishing doesn’t require a heavy-pound test rating. A monofilament line can be rated for 15 to 25 pounds, and a braided fishing line for 15 to 30 pounds. 

Corbina

The California corbina favors shallow bays as well as beaches. This fish is an average of 10 to 22 inches long, with the record-breaking corbina measuring 28 inches long and weighing 5.5 pounds! 

Hoping to catch a corbina? You can use a monofilament fishing line when surf fishing with a pound test rating of 15 to 25 pounds and a braided fishing line that’s rated 15 to 30 pounds. 

Halibut

The flatfish, known as halibut, is a common fish on many seafood menus. Save yourself the cash and begin catching halibut yourself during your next surf fishing trip. 

Catching halibut requires a weighty surf fishing setup. Your monofilament fishing line should have a pound test rating of 20 to 40 pounds, and the braided fishing line needs a rating of 30 to 40 pounds. 

Flounder

Another very common fish, flounder, is about 17 to 18 inches long on average so you can catch as many as you’re allowed to. 

Choose a monofilament fishing line with a pound test rating between 15 and 25 pounds to reel in more flounder. A braided fishing line should be rated for 20 to 30 pounds. 

Surfperch 

A Pacific Ocean fish, the surfperch is only eight to 11 inches. It’s always good to catch a few smaller fish among the big ones, especially so you don’t fatigue yourself too much when surf fishing. 

Since surfperch are relatively light, your monofilament line should be rated for 12 to 20 pounds and the braided line for 15 to 30 pounds. 

Final Thoughts

Monofilament and braided lines are the most commonly used when selecting a surf fishing line. These two types of lines are versatile when fishing on sandy and rocky beaches and any terrain in between. For our recommendations of the best line for surf fishing, click here!

Now that you’ve decided what type of fishing line is best for your situation check out what is the best bait for surf fishing.

We hope this information helps you successfully catch more fish when surf fishing! 

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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