What Gear Do I Need for Surf Fishing?


Surf fishing, which is named that because you stand in the surf to fish (or very close to it), requires a different set of gear than what you use for more traditional boat fishing. Having this gear is integral to fishing success, so what should you stock up on?

Here’s the gear you need for surf fishing:

  • Waders
  • Fishing mask
  • Sunglasses
  • Water shoes
  • Artificial lures
  • Hooks
  • Sinkers
  • Fishing line
  • Surf fishing rod

In this guide to the required gear for surf fishing, we’ll go through everything one by one and discuss what each piece of gear or equipment is and why it’s so integral to your fishing setup. We’ll even provide shopping links throughout, so make sure you keep reading!

Going Surf Fishing? 9 Pieces of Gear and Equipment You Must Have

Waders

To reiterate what we stated in the intro, as a surfcaster, you’ll be throwing your fishing line into the sea from the vantage point of the shoreline. You might venture several inches into the water and sometimes even waist-deep.

Any surfcaster worth their salt will wear a pair of waders

Waders are made of materials such as rubber, neoprene, nylon, or polyester. They come in a variety of styles to provide waterproof coverage to areas of your body. 

For instance, wading pants go over your jeans or shorts and offer waist-level protection from the water.

Hip waders are like giant boots. These waders reach the thighs but leave your buttocks and groin exposed to the water. If you need to go deeper into the ocean than your knees or thighs, you’d need a pair of wading pants rather than hip waders.

Chest waders are worn like overalls. These encompassing waders protect you to your chest so you can go deeper into the water to make that cast. You can select from two styles of chest waders, either stockingfoot or bootfoot. 

Bootfoot waders include built-in boots for the ultimate in waterproofing while stockingfoot waders do not. You’d have to buy your own waterproof footwear (more on this a little later). 

Fishing Mask

Have you ever gotten sunburned on your face? It doesn’t matter if it’s even mild sunburn, it’s going to hurt a lot! 

Your facial skin is thinner and more sensitive, so you could be in for days of discomfort because you forgot to apply sunscreen (or reapply it) when surf fishing.

Even if you use sunscreen properly, you still may be at a higher risk of burning your face and other front-facing areas of your body when in the water. 

The reason? The sun bounces off the ocean’s waves and reflects at you. Plus, with the lack of shade at most beaches, you get no relief.

That’s why we recommend wearing a fishing mask. 

What is a fishing mask? These masks go on your head like a hat. Shrouded areas cover your face and ears so they don’t burn. The bill of a fishing mask protects your eyes, which are the only part of your face that is exposed when wearing a fishing mask. 

You might think that covering your face is going to leave you feeling stifling hot, but that’s not the case. A fishing mask is lightweight and breathable.

We like this Outrip fishing mask, which is a unisex solution for sunburn protection. The mask features snappable areas that you can leave open for more breathability. 

Safeguarding your skin at a rate of UPF 50, UV rays cannot easily penetrate. The nylon fabric and polyester net mesh construction allows the fishing mask to dry quickly when it inevitably gets wet. 

Sunglasses

The Outrip fishing mask is one style of these masks. Others are worn like tight-fitting ski masks that cover more of the face and are made of a much lighter material. Without an overhead bill, you may worry about the sensitive skin around your eyes burning in the sun.

A pair of shades is recommended when surf fishing. You’ll look cool and know that your entire face and neck will stay sunburn-free when you combine your sunglasses with a fishing mask.

If you’re shopping around for shades, you can’t go wrong with Oakley. The brand’s Split Shot rectangular sunglasses for men are compatible with hats such as a fishing mask. 

O Matter technology prevents glare and sunlight from reaching your eyes while simultaneously increasing your peripheral view. 

The Integrated Retainer System is the first of its kind for Oakley. That system is designed to keep your glasses firmly on your head. A removable leash also helps to that end. 

Water Shoes

You might not think you need any special shoes to go surf fishing. Won’t your favorite pair of beach sandals suffice? 

For walking on the beach or boardwalk, sure, but for surf fishing, not so much.

We just discussed this in another recent post, but it’s worth bringing up again. The ocean is full of all sorts of creatures that call it home, many of which are dangerous to us people. 

Some of these creatures can get washed up nearer the shoreline, like a jellyfish. Do you really want a jellyfish wrapping around your feet and stinging your bare skin? Of course not!

What about the hardened shells of crabs or lobsters? Do you want those brushing by you? Or maybe seashells? 

Those are just the natural hazards of the ocean. We haven’t even touched on all the trash that can end up dumped in our seas.

As you can see, leaving your feet exposed when surf fishing is not the best idea. You should buy a pair of water shoes if your waders don’t already have shoes built-in. 

The Orvis Men’s PRO Approach shoes are a favorite among anglers. Although they’re expensive, the Approach shoes are just what you need for surf fishing.

This water-friendly footwear features a Phylon vulcanized rubber non-slip sole. The sole is also non-marking and designed for optimal foot protection and stability. 

Enwrapping the top of your foot is a cuff that prevents debris and sand from filling your shoes as you spend hours out in the surf. Users recommend wearing socks with the shoes but expect the socks to get wet! 

Artificial Lures

If you’ve read our other posts on  surf fishing, then you’ll recall how between artificial lures and live bait, we prefer the latter. However, we recognize that in some instances, live bait might not always be available.

For example, maybe you got too overzealous with your live bait and used it all within the first hour or two of fishing.

Although dead bait is the next best thing, you may wish as well to reach for an artificial lure to catch more salmon or seatrout during your surf fishing jaunt. 

Here are the types of artificial lures we recommend.

  • Minnow jerkbait: Minnows are still an appealing meal for many oceanic fish, so artificial lures that are shaped, sized, and colored like minnows are a viable option. We recommend jerkbait especially. As the name indicates, jerkbait will jerk or twitch naturally in the ocean to attract fish.
  • Poppers: Designed with a hollow or concave nose, poppers linger nearer the surface of the water and look like a small fish that’s very injured or even dying. A metallic popper is a must if you want your artificial lure to stand out against the consistently traveling ocean current.
  • Spoon lures: Speaking of metallic lures, a spoon lure is a great choice. These concave, occasionally oblong lures have a spoon shape. Their metal bodies are excellent at moving in the water and shining light from the metallic surface. 
  • Topwater plugs: The walker or topwater plug is another suitable artificial lure choice for surf fishing. These plugs float along the top of the ocean and can cause fish nearer the surf to strike.
  • Soft bait: Last but not least, we’d suggest soft bait like rubber shad or worms to try and get an oceanic fish’s attention. These soft lures feel like the real deal and have a good degree of natural movement. 

Hooks

No surf fishing rig is complete without the right hooks. 

Hook measuring sizes are kind of strange, especially if you’re not familiar with the system used. The smallest hooks are a #10, followed by a #8, #6, #4, #2, and #1. These hooks use what is called the size hook measuring system. 

Then you get into the mid-sized family of hooks, which abandon the above categorization system and use the aught measuring system instead. A 1/0 hook is the smallest of this family, followed by the 2/0 hook, 3/0 hook, 4/0 hook, 5/0 hook, and the 6/0 hook as the largest. 

To make sense of fishing hooks, know that when you see a hook number, higher numbers mean a smaller hook while smaller numbers denote a bigger hook. For hooks that follow the aught measuring system, lower numbers are smaller hooks and bigger numbers represent larger hooks. 

How do you know which size hooks you need? Well, you’re surf fishing, so you can expect to catch larger fish species than average. You’ll mostly be using hooks in the aught measuring system. 

You can select your hook based on the fish species you wish to catch, but we recommend having an array of hooks available just in case.

Here’s the type of hook you should use according to the oceanic fish species:

  • Sharks – 5/0 circle hook
  • Tarpon – 5/0 circle hook
  • Mullet – 4/0 to 5/0 circle hook
  • Mackerel – 1/0 to 2/0 circle hook for cero and Spanish mackerel and 5/0 circle hook for king mackerel
  • Bluefish – 3/0 J-hook or circle hook 

Sinkers

Sinkers or weights are another requirement for surf fishing, especially when you want your fishing rig to reach deeper into the water’s depths. 

Let’s go over the types of sinkers you might use.

  • Pyramid: Of all the types of sinkers common to a surf-fishing rig, pyramid weights are at the top of the list. Not as adept at handling stronger currents or heavyweight fish, a pyramid sinker is better in low tides. When the sinker hits the seafloor, its pointed edges wedge into the sand but can come out when the tide is heavy enough.
  • Sputnik: The Sputnik is a sinker shaped like a teardrop. Protruding from the sinker are wires (hence the name Sputnik) that lodge into the sand when the weight sinks. 
  • Hatteras: A Hatteras sinker is shaped like Thor’s hammer but with pointed sides. It can wedge into the sand more efficiently compared to a pyramid weight.
  • Wedge: Known as the frog-tongue sinker, the wedge is your best pick when surf fishing in strong currents. The wedge sinker is adept at burrowing deep into the sand and staying where it is. Retrieving it can be tough. 
  • Coin: Last but certainly not least is the coin sinker, which is a flat, rounded weight. If you’re eager to catch kingfish especially, a coin weight is an excellent choice. Since it doesn’t weigh as much, coin sinkers can travel along the seafloor after they sink. 

Fishing Line

Surf fishing calls for a strong fishing line and a lot of it. We wrote a great post with our favorite surf fishing line recommendations that will come in handy as you consider your line options. 

Even if you don’t buy one of the fishing lines on that list, you should always stick to a monofilament or braided fishing line when surf fishing. The line must be rated for handling at least 30 pounds, but double that is better for catching larger fish. 

Surf Fishing Rod 

Last but certainly not least, you need a surf fishing rod. In most instances, your current rod is not formulated for ocean fishing. After all, a surf fishing rod should be at least eight feet, especially if you’re fishing very close to the surf for smaller fish species.

Most surfcasters will buy a rod that’s between 10 and 12 inches. The latter is recommended if you do a lot of long-distance casting. If most of your casts are not too far out there, then a 10-inch fishing rod will suffice.

We recommend the Penn Prevail & Prevail II surfcasting rod. This aluminum spinning rod includes features designed to increase your fishing longevity. The diamond X-wrap shrink tube and Winn grips are both exceptionally comfortable.

Dura-Glides, which are made of stainless steel, come in a single piece for more durability. The graphite composite bank and reel seat keep this rod lightweight so you’ll want to use it all day. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re planning on getting into the hobby that is surf fishing, you’ll need a whole new set of gear. A long-distance casting rod is a must, as is a good pair of waders, water shoes (if your waders have no attached shoes), a fishing mask, an assortment of hooks, a heavy-duty fishing line, and some good weights. 

Don’t forget the artificial lures and the sunglasses to protect your eyes! You’ll be all ready for a fantastic day of surf fishing.

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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