What Is Surf Casting : Everything You Need To Know

What Is Surf Casting?

Surf casting is often called by the name surf fishing. Surf fishing is a form of angling where the fisherman casts his bait into the ocean and waits for fish to come along and bite it. It can be very relaxing, as well as competitive, when done on a tournament level.

Many different techniques are used in surf casting, including using an overhand cast, underhand cast, or spearing technique that involves dropping your line underwater to attract fish from below.

When you go to the beach, you may notice fish swimming in the shallow parts of the surf, very close to the shore. The ocean provides an abundance of fish from various species, and fishers can enjoy catching them from the shoreline instead of taking out a boat.

Surfcasting or surf fishing is a type of fishing that involves casting your line into the incoming waves while standing onshore. You can catch bass, sole, turbot, sea bream and more.

It would help if you had the right equipment for surfcasting, and for better results, you also need to understand how your location, the season, weather conditions and tides affect the fish you’re hoping to catch

Fishing Rods for Surf Fishing

Fishing Rods for Surf Fishing

When choosing a basic surf fishing rod for surfcasting, keep in mind that you need it to be 15 to 20 feet long to keep your line above the ocean waves. If you’re a beginner, a 4-meter rod is ideal, as it’s easier to handle. However, keep in mind that these long rods are not suitable for pier or boat fishing. 

It would be best if you had a strong enough rod to withstand hostile sea winds and propel large fish, with a casting weight of 100 to 200 Gr. Because you’re fishing in waves, you want a rod that is sensitive to the touches of fish so you can detect a catch. For this, you want a fast action rod.

The line weight you want to use depends on the type of fish you’re going for. A lighter line weight helps you achieve more distance when casting out your line. However, a heavier line can handle heavier fish. In general, a 20-pound line does the job, allowing you to catch most species.

Circle or recurve hooks are the best kinds for surf casting, as the weight of the winker is typically enough to set them. These types are also unlikely to gut hook fish, as opposed to other types of hooks.

Rod support allows you to place your rod facing the sea, keeping the line above the ocean waves, without you having to hold onto it to prevent it from being swept out to sea.

This means that sand spikes and tripods are imperative accessories for surf fishing. Sand spikes stick easily to the beach and can be moved easily and quickly, which is necessary when tides change. Tripods are harder to move around, which makes them better at pebble beaches and where there’s a lack of tide.

Ocean Bait & Surf Fishing

Ocean Bait & Surf Fishing

Because you’re fishing in the ocean, you’ll require different bait than what you’d use for freshwater fishing. Good options are shrimp, squid and mullet. Shrimp attracts most species, but fish can easily pull them off the hook without catching onto it.

On the other hand, Squid and mullet stay on the hook but won’t attract all species of fish. You may want to have a variety of bait on hand when you’re surf fishing, depending on the species of fish in the water. For example, if you’re hoping to catch bass, you’ll want to have sand eels or smelt fish on hand. Cuttlefish and octopus also attract larger ocean predators.

When using live bait in the ocean, it’s important to keep your bait off the ocean floor, where crabs can easily pluck it off the hook. To keep your bait afloat, use a piece of foam, a cork or a float from a fishing store and attach it to your bait.

You also want to use bait cotton, also called bait elastic, to wind around your bait and prevent smaller fish from stripping it.

If your bait hasn’t been eaten within 15 minutes, you’ll want to swap it out for a new one.

Using live bait is likely to be more fruitful in surf casting than using other lures like plugs. However, surf casters have luck with gold spoons, artificial shrimp, white bucktails, topwater sardine poppers and soft plastic flukes.



Sinkers are important accessories for surfcasting. With the incoming waves, you’ll want your fishing line to stick to the ocean floor; otherwise, it will wash up on the shore. There are different types of sinkers that measure in at different weights, but they’re all designed to do just what their name implies–sink to the bottom.

The type of sinker you want to use depends on the strength of the currents and the weight of your line. If you have a heavier line, you want a heavier sinker to account for its weight.

Breakout sinkers are the way to go if you’re up against strong currents because they have wire grapnels that help hook the sinker into the ocean floor. Star sinkers are great for loose, sandy ocean floors or in windy conditions. Lead shots are better for muddy bottoms and calmer conditions, as they don’t catch onto the ocean floor but work simply by holding down weight.

Surf Fishing Rigs

Surf Fishing Rigs

Surf fishing rigs are crafted from a length of monofilament line, with two hooks and bait at its end. The rig is cast into the water behind waves where fish swim in search of food items that come ashore on an outgoing wave or get trapped on shoreline structures such as jetties and piers during calm periods when the waves are small to non-existent.

Reading the Surf

Reading the Surf

Paying attention to the surf can help you locate opportune areas and boost your odds of catching larger and more desirable fish. One indicator of a productive fishing area is bird activity.

If you see birds like pelicans or seagulls diving down and scooping up their prey, you’ll know there are plenty of fish in that area. Sometimes you can see schooling fish at the shore if the water is clear enough.

Surf fishing at night boosts your odds of catching larger fish and is overall more productive than fishing in the daytime. You also won’t need to cast your line out as far from the shoreline because there are more fish in shallower waters at night, making night fishing great for beginners.

However, you will need some extra gear. One necessity is a glow stick or tip light you can connect to the tip of your rod. This will enable you to see when a fish bites your hook. You also need a headlamp so you can see what you’re doing when you reel in a catch and take it off the line.

Always Start with a Scouting Mission

Always Start with a Scouting Mission

Take a walk at low tide and find the best areas to fish off the beach. Reach out to beach access enthusiasts and find access points. Look for rocks, hard ground areas and shellfish beds that attract baitfish.

Remember to make a note of snags that may steal lures or require special rigging to prevent snags. Make a note of obstacles and snag that may take lures from the beach. Bring along a pair of binoculars and really scour the beaches for great habitat to fish when the tide rises and where waves break. 

Always ensure you have:

  • Beach buggy access
  • long fishing rods
  • found a spot close to tackle shops
  • hip length wading boots
  • Water filled float
  • intricate details about casting long distances and manuals to master two handed casting techniques
  • specialized surf fishing catalogs

Surf Casting Technique

Surf Casting Technique

Casting out your line with the right technique is critical for getting your line out far enough to reach the larger and more desirable species. Learning the fundamentals of casting can vastly improve your odds of getting a good catch, and the best way to do so is to watch the pros do it first hand.

If someone can watch you cast out your line and provide critical feedback, that’s even better. The more you practice, the more accurate and consistent you’ll become. A flat beach is a safest and easiest place from which to cast your line. Shoreline rocks can be slippery and dangerous. 

The first key to a good surfcasting technique is to cast in a straight line, which will help you achieve greater distance. Secondly, cast smoothly and let the rod do the heavy lifting, rather than putting a lot of muscle into the cast. You also don’t need to walk or run into the cast; you want to keep your feet planted for a basic cast.

After mastering the basic technique, you can try different types of casting. Some types include the overhead thump, off the ground cast, Hatteras cast and the pendulum cast. The pendulum cast uses body rotation to achieve greater distance, and the Hatteras cast involves a step and turn to get more distance.

After every catch, you’ll want to rinse off your reel using fresh water and allow it to air dry. Before rinsing, tighten your drag to prevent water from entering. Loosen it again once the reel is dry. If your finger gets sore when casting out your line, try putting some tape around your finger. This protects your finger from getting cut by the line.

Bring a cooler or polystyrene box filled with ice to store your fish. Chilling your fish on ice makes them easier to fillet and gives them a fresher taste. You also want to kill them quickly and humanely to preserve their fresh taste. Some fish just need a blow to the head, while others need to be stabbed once behind the eye for a clean kill.

Surf Fishing Spots

Surf Fishing Spots

When the weather permits, there is nothing like a good day of surf fishing. One thing you’ll need for this sport, which often surprises newcomers to the hobby, is a predetermined location from where to cast your line. These locations are called “spots.”

The most common spots that people use include piers and jetties, but they can also be found on beaches or offshore reefs. Surf fishers will even go as far as going out at night to find the perfect spot!

The familiarity with these areas really helps them figure out what kind of fish may be around during different times of year and weather conditions to know how best to bait their lines. 


Surf Casting FAQs

What is a surf rod?

A surf fishing rod is a long, flexible fishing pole, typically made of graphite with a cork grip.

What are the parts on the end of the rod? 

The reel and line that makeup one functional unit to cast or retrieve (reeling) live bait from ocean depths for an angler’s target fish species.

What do you need for surf fishing?

You need a surf fishing rod, fishing reel (spool) with line commonly in 25 to 30 lbs. test weights or more, and live bait such as fresh squid, mackerel fillets, cut-up pieces of small fish like sardines or pilchards.

Can you use other types of bait?

Yes! You can use cut-ups of big bait such as sea trout, shrimp, lobster heads, and pieces of prawns.

How do you choose your location? 

Many surf fishermen find a beach with waves that break close to shore, ideally an open stretch without rocks or other obstacles in the surf zone. The water should be shallow enough for the rod tip to be close to the surf’s crest. Some anglers wade into the water to shorten their casting distance, but this isn’t always necessary as a technique. 

What should you wear? 

As more and more of us have increasingly become fashion-conscious, every hobby gear has made a transition into its trendier selves, and Surf fishing gear is no different. 

Wear a hat and secure your hair with an elastic band, sunglasses, sunscreen on exposed skin and insect repellent; these are also important when fishing from land or boat ramps. 

Most surf fishermen prefer integrated booted waders to stocking-foot models because they keep sand and rocks out of their boots. When fishing from mossy and slimy rock jetties or in areas where the beach bottom is made up of slippery rocks, you may want to wear a pair of rubber boots that will grip better. 

Most surf casters and I have even seen a boat fisherman carry a “surf bag” with them that contains various lures to aid in rapid changes of lures appropriate to current fishing conditions, saving trips back to the beach or vehicle to change equipment.

When do I cast my bait? 

Try casting it as soon as the waves start to break and as the wave is breaking. 

Catch The Fish

Bottom Line – Catch Fish!

A new sport that requires a lot of equipment and patience can be difficult to learn – surf fishing is no exception.

The more you learn about surfcasting, the more it appears that even the slightest change in the air will have an effect on the fishing.

If the unpredictability of surf fishing isn’t enough of a challenge, consider the difficulty of selecting the appropriate tackle.

A surfcaster’s approach to catching fish from the shore is influenced by a variety of factors, including the time of year, geographic location, desired species, bait, available bait, weather patterns, tide patterns, moon phases, moon phase, planet configuration, recent seismic activity, and so on… 

Before you go surf fishing, it’s important to make sure you’re aware of all regulations and are within legal boundaries. For example, you want to stay clear of marine reserves where fishing is off-limits and be aware of regulations about endangered species. Also, you need to be licensed to fish in the state that you’re in. Carry licenses, also called beach permit kits, if you are driving.

Surf fishing is a different experience from place to place. It’s important to talk to people in your area who are knowledgeable about surf fishing because they can give you some tips about local surf conditions and tactics. Look for tackle shop owners or surf casters in your area to get their two cents. Other than that, the best way to gain knowledge is through experience, so the more surfcasting you do, the more successful you’ll be.

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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