Not so long ago many of us would be using a surf fishing rod manufactured from a hollow fibreglass blank and would be around 11 feet long, and by today's standard they were heavy. But recently, there's been something of a revolution...
It's the developments in carbon fibre technology and state-of-the-art manufacturing processes we have to thank for these advances.
Now affordable surf fishing rods of up to 16ft are enabling anglers of even modest casting ability to achieve distances that would have challenged the most expert surfcasters of just a few years ago.
Now that's progress!
On this page ...
Developed in Continental Europe for presenting small baits at long range, whilst still being delicate enough to detect the bites of small fish, these beach rods are becoming increasingly popular with UK Shore Match Anglers.
These new designs of surf fishing rods are regularly seen on European and British beaches, but whether they're available on the other side of the Atlantic yet, I'm not so sure.
They don't seem to be stocked by the popular online US tackle suppliers yet.
The first place to look is on the butt section of the rod. Along with the manufacturer's name and model identification will be the rod length, the range of casting rates it can handle and the type of reel it should be used with.
Surf Fishing Rods start at around 11ft long and, like the Continental Surf Rods described above, can be as long as 16 ft. In general terms, the longer a rod is the further it will be capable of casting - in the right hands of course.
Depending on the country of origin, the marked rod length will be in feet or metres, but if you're not ambidextrous in the imperial/metric department, the table on the right will translate between the two systems.
The length of this one is 13ft
The 'S' and '5oz' are significant too, as you'll see a little further down this page.
Here the rod manufacturer has marked the optimum range of lead weights that the rod will perform best with.
The range usually covers a spread of 3oz or 4oz - for example 2oz to 6oz, or 4oz to 7oz.
This doesn't mean you can't use a lead outside these ranges, but the rod won't load up to its optimum power for a lighter lead, and may be over-powered by a heavier one.
The weight range will be marked in either ounces (oz) or grammes (gr) - the table on the right will convert these units.
All quality surfcasters are marked with either an 'M' (for 'multiplier' reel, or baitcaster as they're known in the USA) or 'F/S' or 'S' (for 'fixed-spool', or spinning reel) indicating that they're designed for used with a either a spinning reel or a multiplier reel - but not both.
And this is why ...
So surfcasting rods designed to be used with spinning reels have relatively few rod rings, but the one nearest the reel will be large diameter with the others becoming increasingly smaller as they progress towards the rod tip.
So surf rods designed to be used with multiplier reels have relatively small diameter rod rings, but there are more of them and they're closer spaced.
Some manufacturers proudly proclaim that their surf fishing rods 'can be used with both multipliers and fixed spool reels'. And so they can, by incorporating rings that are both large and plentiful - but they'll never achieve the distances of surf fishing rods specifically designed for one or other of the reel types.
Surf fishing rods designed for use with multiplier (baitcast) reels, where the lead is swung through a wide arc in high energy casting techniques like the pendulum cast, will usually been built from a fast-taper blank, whilst surf fishing rods designed for use with fixed-spool (spinning) reels, where casts are made from a standing start require a softer (or more 'through') action.
The most vulnerable items on any rod are the rod rings. All rods get dropped now and again, either by its fumble-fingered owner while tackling-up, or blown out of the rod rest or pulled over by a fish which hasn't read the rules of fair play.
So good quality rod rings are a must, and it's a wise angler who is suspicious of any but those of the highest quality, such as those made by Fuji or Seymo.
These will have ceramic liners such as silicon carbide, not just for superior robustness but also for the hardness of these materials. This latter property is essential to avoid grooving, particularly if super-braid lines are to be used.
The quality of the bindings that secure the rings to the rod are clearly as important as the rings themselves.
But they can be too long, particularly in the rods fast-tapered upper sections, where they will be more closely spaced which can stiffen up the action of this sensitive part of the rod. Some manufacturers overcome this with single-leg rings, which of course in careless hands can make them more prone to failure.
In the lower butt sections of the rod where hard spots are not such an issue, triple-leg rod rings double-whipped provide the ultimate in security.
Most surf fishing rods have coloured tip section to improve bite detection in low light conditions. Even better are those that sport hi-viz reflective tape for night fishing.
Some manufacturers provide push-in quiver tips of various stiffnesses to provide the ultimate in bite detection - no self-respecting competition angler will be without a few of these!
But these are only really effective in calm conditions and relatively close range conditions. If it's windy, or there's much of a tide running, the quiver tip will be pull round and be a total waste of space.
Whatever rod manufacturers may tell you, there's little doubt that a rods spigot joints are its weakest points. So the fewer of them the better - from the structural point of view any way.
But you'll probably have to get it in the car at some point, where a two-section 16 footer would be something of an embarrassment. 3 sections would be far more practical, unless you live on the beach and don't want to do your surf fishing anywhere else.
Some surf fishing rods take this travel convenience to extremes, calling telescopic and multi-section versions of their rods 'travel rods'.
Two choices here - nylon monofilament or braid line. Let's just remind ourselves of the benefits of braid line ...
Its low diameter, high strength characteristics
Well that's a fairly convincing argument for me, but it does rule out the use of a baitcast reel.
Why? Read on ...
Multiplier reels (baitcasters) where the first choice of most UK surfcasters until the modern super-braids arrived on the scene. But you just can't use them with braid as the coils of very small diameter line bind into each other on the narrow diameter spool of the baitcast reel - with fairly predictable results in mid-cast.
Fixed spool reels with their larger diameter spools and oscillating line lay mechanisms don't share this problem, so if you want to use braid line for surfcasting, it has to be a spinning reel - and a surf fishing rod designed for it.
There are a band of surf fishermen that prefer to position the reel well down towards the end of the butt, claiming that it gives the rod a longer lever length and allows them to cast further.
I'm not one of them having never properly mastered the casting technique for this configuration - but each to his own.
Some surf fishing rods have adjustable reel seats which can be located anywhere along the butt section. This is very useful for all anglers as it lets you get the reel in exactly the right position for your physical build and casting style. But it's absolutely essential if you want to join the band of low-reel-position surfcasters.
With the reel in the low position, line recovery can be quite awkward - or in would be were it not for the push-in butt extensions that you can get for them.
So choosing a surf fishing rod isn't exactly a straightforward affair, but I hope this article has given you some food for thought.
In the USA
In the UK
Downrigger ~ The cranelike device incorporating a line-counter reel often seen on the sterns of sport-fishing boats, which lowers a trolling weight on a wire line to a pre-determined depth. The trolling line is attached just above the weight, which gets the lure down to depths that would otherwise be unachievable.