So, you’re after a new stick? This guide covers the best spinning rods, beach casters and float rods and crucially, tips for choosing the best rod for your purposes. Most people can’t fish as much as they like, so it’s worth getting the most enjoyment out of the time you do have by the sea and having gear that works and is a pleasure to use.
There are two broad types of fishing rods that are commonly used for shore fishing: spinning rods and beach casters. Spinning rods are designed for using lures and spinners, and are flexible, sensitive and whippy. Beach casters are designed for using bottom fishing rigs, baits and heavy weights. They are good for casting very long distances when the fish are further out, and allow you to hold baits on the bottom without the weight being pushed around by the current. There are rods that position themselves in-between categories. Spinning rods typically cast 3oz at the most and beach casters often cast up to 8oz. Spinning rods are also generally shorter and are easier for beginners to use. If you’re looking for an all-round sea fishing rod, you have to sacrifice sensitivity, the sporting value of what you catch, casting distance and the ability to fish with static rigs in moving water. However, for people starting out and using a variety of methods with one rod, this can be a good place to start before specialising more, as it means you can fish with a variety of rigs for every species with one rod.
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Beach Casting Rods
If you prefer to a slower fishing style that allows you to catch much larger fish, such as cat sharks and conger, you’ll be wanting a beach caster.
- Beach Caster Reel Sizes vary by brand, here’s a guide to sizes across the brands: Tronix 8000, Daiwa 5000-6000, Shakespeare 70-80, Penn 7000, Shimano 14,000
- If you are fishing from a shallow beach, or any location where a long cast is required, a beach caster allows you to get your bait out beyond the waves.
- When rock fishing on rugged coasts, they also allow you to lift fish over structure more easily, but are of course harder to manoeuvre in close quarters.
- Beach casters give you lots of leverage so are useful for pulling the largest species away from structure – such as getting a conger away from its hole.
- Beach casters are perfect for anglers that are actively targeting large fish species that are over 10lb or that simply enjoy bottom fishing with traditional baits. It’s relaxing fishing an estuary or beach mark at night, perhaps more so than spinning.
If you are mostly after predators like bass, mackerel and pollack and you enjoy a more active, light weight and fast paced fishing style, then you will be looking at spinning rods.
- Your rod needs to be the right size for your reel. A 7ft rod balances with a size 3000 reel and a 9ft rod is best off with a 4000 size reel. Sizes vary by manufacturer.
- If your kit is balanced, you’ll feel in control of the kit – your line won’t snap off, your reel won’t get tangled line, you’ll cast a lot further and when you play fish, the rod and drag will work together to absorb the power of the fish, putting less strain on your line and knots and preventing snap offs.
- If you’re an occasional angler, a pre-made kit like this one makes fishing simple and you can get it and get out on the water immediately.
- If you want a very high end spinning rod, look at bass rods.
Spinning Rods in Depth
The shortest spinning rod length I would recommend is 7ft and the longest length is 10ft. Shorter than this can be useful when spinning close in to shore from a boat, because length is a liability in a boat. Longer rods (10ft) can be useful for getting extra distance when fishing with mackerel feathers. However, distance is rarely the limiting factor in how many fish you catch, and rod length is rarely the limiting factor in how far you can cast! Poor line quality limits most anglers from casting long distances, not short rods. Braid is the answer for that. I would suggest 7-8ft for lure fishing from harbours or rocks. My favourite spinning for is under 7ft, but I tend to use it when fishing from a dingy just off shore.
Dream Spinning Set Up
- This rod (Amazon) in the 2.4m model is the best one online in its price range. Avoid Abu Garcia and Shakespeare – they are lower build quality in comparison and this rod leaves them in the dust.
- This reel (Amazon) is excellent for the price – Daiwa and Shimano make some extraordinary spinning reels. The 3000 size goes well with the rod above. If you select the longer version of the rod above, a size 4000 reel is preferable.
- The Ugly Stik (Amazon) is a hugely popular beginners rod that I was sceptical of at first but became increasingly impressed with. It’s basically unbreakable, but the bend in the rod isn’t progressive and some may not like this. I’d definitely rate an Ugly Stik for versatility and durability.
It can be surprising when somebody with a 7ft rod and a 12g lure can cast further than you can with a 12ft beach caster and a 6oz weight, and catches more mackerel even though you have on four hooks and they have one. Yet this happens all the time.
In a feeding frenzy, a heavy spinning rod with mackerel feathers is of course going to be a more productive rod, but when finesse is required, you’ll have the edge with lighter gear.
The beauty of spinning with light rods is the ability to fine tune your approach and present lures in a way that makes them realistic to fish. It’s also just incredibly fun using lighter gear!
Light spinning rods gives you more control over the depth you fish, since you have greater awareness of where your lure is in the water with the sensitivity that comes with lighter gear. With a heavy spinning rod or a beach caster you know when you’ve hit the bottom because your line goes slack. With a super light spinning rod you get to know which type of weed your lure is bouncing over based on the resistance it creates. Devils hair is a jolty resistance that comes through fairly easily, kelp is a fixed snag that sways with the current and light green weed in the water is a constant weight and resistance. You can tell what fish you’ve hooked within seconds by the vibrations they create in the butt of your rod. Light weight lure fishing is an entirely different experience.
Fishing lures over time have been getting smaller and smaller to cater for spinning rods that get lighter and lighter. It’s partly that technology has got a lot better, so rods with fast actions and low casting weights have a lot of strength, and the drags on reels can be fine tuned so that the rod takes just the right amount of energy from the fish. If you fish with a really old fashioned set up, you’ll notice that the rod feels clunky, and the drags on the reels aren’t smooth, which puts more pressure on your line, so you have to fish with heavier lines and ultimately, heavier lures. The same is true of the very low end of the market today. Lighter rods allow you to fish with smaller lures, which are what most UK fish species go nuts for.
Beach Casting Rods in Depth
Beach casters are rods of 11ft+ in length that cast over 4oz. A typical beach caster would be 12ft long and cast up to 8oz. A long rod that isn’t overpowered like this beach caster (amazon) is ideal for anglers that want huge casting distances while still being able to detect gentler bites.
These rods are designed for bottom fishing for larger fish at longer distances. You need one if the fish are further out so you can cast far enough to reach them. Beach marks where the water becomes deeper quite gradually often require a long cast. You also need one if you plan on fishing in areas with moderately strong currents, such as estuaries, since these rods allow you to cast weights that are better able to hold in a current. If you need something that can cast miles, land monster fish and hold weights in strong currents, a beach caster is the perfect solution.
There longest beach casters are called Continental Rods, and these are around 15ft in length, which is useful for beach marks where an extremely long cast is required. They also tend to be lighter weight and flex much deeper into the cast before whipping back with a fast action – perfect for getting extra distance into your casts when you need it most.
Continental rods are the most modern beach casters available and have noticeable lighter tip sections than the much shorter traditional beach casters. They are always three piece, which makes them easier or the same as many traditional beach casters to transport.
Beach casters are great for those patient anglers that want to catch monsters and are willing to wait for them.
The Best Beach Caster For You…
If you are fishing in estuaries with fast flowing currents or from surf beaches where you need to cast beyond the waves, then you will need a rod that can cast 6-8oz gripper leads. If you’re fishing a lot from beaches, you will probably enjoy having extra length to get your baits further out. Be cautious however about buying a rod that is longer than you need, because there are restrictions that come with fishing with a rod that long. For instance, a 14ft rod is going to be irritating to fish from a busy harbour wall from, or from a precarious rock mark.
If you mostly fish over rough ground, look for a stiffer beach caster. If you fish mostly over sandy ground it’s common to fish with a much lighter rod, more like a flat fish rod that casts up to 3oz.
If you are mostly fishing from harbour walls in areas without much current and you aren’t targeting larger species like Bull Huss or Conger, you may have more fun bottom fishing with something much lighter, such as a 10ft rod that casts under 4oz. For most of the fish you’ll catch it has all the power and distance you need. It would only fall short with decent sized conger, since with a rod like this you’d find it very challenging to get the fish away from the kelp and rocks and would most likely be grounded. Many of the species caught in the UK would be better targeted with a lighter rod such as this, since bites would be easier to detect.
Finally, do you want the rod that will make landing your dream fish manageable or do you want a rod that makes landing the average fish a dream? If you choose the later, you’ll want something much lighter weight to maximise the sporting value of the fish you catch. If you’re all about landing huge, bloated cod and mega-conger eels then the answer is clear – you need all the power you can get.
Best Float Rods
The best float fishing rods are light weight with sensitive tips and are generally longer than spinning rods. It’s common to see people lined on harbour walls float fishing with light weight beach casters, but I’d much rather use a spinning rod than a surf rod if I didn’t have a dedicated float rod.
Float fishing is possibly the most relaxed fishing style going. You cast out and wait, meditatively watching a float bobbing around until it starts to jerk downwards aggressively as fish snap at your bait. It’s the most tantalizing method of fishing because it is the most visual method, and the activity of fish can often be seen before the fish has actually been hooked. When your float disappears into the depths with unexpected speed, or when you wake up from a day dream and see your float is long gone – it’s pretty exciting. This is a great way to fish with kids too, because it doesn’t require a lot of casting and prevents you from getting in snags.
To enjoy this style of fishing as much as possible, I would strongly recommend avoiding the heaviest sea fishing floats and instead looking towards fresh water tackle for inspiration. My advice would be to get a float rod 9-10ft long that casts one ounce – no more. You want a rod that light because you need to be able to cast small sea fishing floats rigged on light lines, and a rod that’s too stiff which lead to line snapping as you cast, forcing you to fish with heavier than necessary float rigs.
Best Bass Rods
Bass rods are essentially high end spinning rods that are targeted at more specialist anglers. Many of the best ones are imported from Japan. You can target bass with a spinning rod you can pick up online for £60, but when you’re fishing with lures that often cost £10-20, lines that cost £30 most people choose to upgrade their rod to something that helps them feel as much as possible, cast as far as possible and work their lures with precision. You also don’t want a dream fish getting away because the butt of your rod lacks the power to steer a sizeable catch away from structure and snags. If you’re somebody that goes fishing a few times a year though, a bass rod like this is perfect and will meet all your basic needs from a rod – but no more than that.
If you’re serious about lure fishing or fishing for other predators such as wrasse or pike in fresh water, a bass rod is where you can expect to find the quality you’re after.
Bass rods can be between 7-10ft and cast between 21-50g, or just under one to two ounce. In calm conditions where you can get close to the water, shorter and lighter rods are ideal. This is because you don’t need any extra length to help you get fish away from the structure above water where you’re fishing. An 8′ rod that casts one ounce or about 25g is perfect for those British summertime conditions. However, on more rugged coasts or in rougher seas, a 9ft rod that casts 35g-40g (still under 2 ounce) is superior for most people.
If you’re fishing mostly with hard lures, consider going for a slightly longer and stiffer rod (this includes Fish Minnows and Savage Gear Sandeels. It’s tricky to work a Patchinko on a rod that’s too light for it because your rod’s going to be bending too far into every twitch. If you fish with soft plastics most of the time, then the lighter end of the bass rod spectrum is going to give you a better feel for what your lure is doing.
My favourite bass rod is under 7ft in length, because I mostly use it while boat fishing from a dingy just off the coast, where extra length isn’t helpful. It gives me excellent manoeuvrability and is great fun when targeting Wrasse in the kelp.
Many people that have come from bait fishing find it hard to get their heads around how light bass rods are. Rods of a high quality have a lot of power in their base and you’ll start feeling very uncomfortable about the bend in the rod well before it’s going to break. Also, assuming you have a decent reel with the drag set properly, there’s no reason your rod should ever break even if you hook the side of a cruise ship. The limitation of light weight rods is not that they snap when playing fish, but that they can’t cast heavier lures into a head wind and some species that dive into the kelp can be tougher to get away from snags once they’re over a certain size, especially for people new to angling.
Should I buy a spinning rod or a beach caster?
I would suggest that there are two different mindsets among anglers. Some prefer to catch the biggest fish they can and prioritise rod strength, others focus on the fun of playing fish and prioritise sensitivity and flex. The first group are willing to sit and wait in anticipation for those fish. They go into tackle shops and buy a rod that could handle the biggest fish they might catch – the kind of fish you get once a year. The second group optimise for the battle and are buying tackle for the *average fish* they will catch, and if they hook into that once-a-year fish, they are happy to give the fish the upper hand!
Can you buy an all-round fishing rod for bottom fishing and spinning?
Many anglers that enjoy spinning for mackerel with feathers and fishing on the bottom will buy a light weight beach caster and use it for both purposes. The logic is that you can use it for spinning and catch four mackerel at a time, then switch over to fishing on the bottom into the evening, all with one rod. The downside of this approach is that you have a rod that doesn’t allow for much of a fight while spinning and is clumsy to use. However, for some people the utility of such a rod makes it worthwhile.
How strong does my beach caster need to be to land huge fish?
Beach casters are utilitarian and have more than enough power to land anything you hook in British waters bar 500lb tuna. These rods are so strong not because they need to be to land big fish, but because they need to be able to cast heavy leads long distances. You can land Blue Shark on a heavy fly fishing rod if you have balanced gear, but then a light weight rod isn’t going to hold a gripper lead in a current…