If you’re still a beginner in the wonderful world of surf fishing, it’s easy to be confused with reel sizes. Fishing reels come in different sizes, and choosing the right one might mean the difference between a wasted afternoon waiting for fish to bite or a bountiful sea harvest.
In general, the bigger reel you have, the better. But the perfect reel size will largely depend on your target fish, which would dictate how long your line should be. It will also depend on the fishing rod that you own and the beach’s environment where you’re fishing.
The list of considerations might be too lengthy, but it does not need to be confusing. Read on as we talk about why you should consider these factors when choosing the best size reel for your fishing plans at the beach and how you can choose the perfect reel size for your needs.
What Is the Best Size Reel for Surf Fishing?
Peter Kaminsky writes that it is always good to talk to a local fishing tackle shop owner if you want reliable advice. You can mostly ask for guidance regarding fishing reels and other equipment, but it certainly helps you know the basics.
It is also instructive to look at the recommendations by reel manufacturers and sellers. For instance, an Australian retailer, Fishing Tackle Shop, recommends larger spinning reels for boat fishing, rock, or beach fishing.
Starting with size 6000 or 60 that will fit anywhere from five- to 10-foot (1.52- to 3.05-meter) fishing rods, right up to size 25,000 that can handle fishes weighing around 33 pounds 15 kilograms and is best for fishing rods that measure 12 feet or longer.
If you are going for a huge fish such as mulloway, tuna, sharks, marlin, and others, you will need bigger reel sizes.
But, what does reel size mean, anyway?
Reel size pertains to the line capacity or how long a line can you put on the spool. As such, a bigger reel will allow you to cast a line much further than a medium-sized reel.
Just how much line do you need?
In-Fisherman.com recommends a line capacity of at least 300 yards or 274.32 meters.
Author and fishing mentor Tom Rosenbauer advises that the reel only serves to keep your line orderly and in place for smaller fishes.
It doesn’t require strong drag tension, and it’s sure to reel in the trout or bass with no problem.
For bigger fishes and those that live in saltwater, Rosenbauer says that these species often yank the line anywhere from five feet to more than a hundred yards (1.52 to more than 91.4 meters.
As such, bigger reels also need an extra line capacity of around 100 to 400 yards (91.4 to 365.8 meters) of backing. If you are angling for bigger fish, which means you’d need a bigger reel.
What Is the Environment in and Around the Beach?
More than having extra line capacity to ensure backing, you will also need the right reel size to fish in areas around the beach where the fishes are.
You don’t need to have a fish finder to find where they are and where they are biting.
Reel Adventure Fishing writes that you can easily find a good fishing location if you know several things, such as where the sandbars, the troughs, pockets, and openings, among others.
Sandbars, for example, are sand slopes found at the bottom of the ocean and close to the beach.
There are sandbars with tops above the water, and there are those below the surface. Undersea sandbars are excellent fishing locations.
Troughs are low points between the beach and a sandbar. You can identify troughs by looking at the quiet areas between cresting waves. It’s also an optimum place to fish.
Further, you can also look for openings present in a sandbar, which is a good place to catch game fish. Another good area to catch game fish is those around rocks.
On the other hand, pockets are deeper but have smaller holes along the bottom and are excellent locations for angling for bottom fish such as flounder.
Here’s a video that will explain how you can identify these features on any beach:
Vide Credit: Rich Troxler
Having the right reel size will allow you to easily cast your line from the beach to a sandbar, a trough, or over rocks.
If you can’t reach these areas with your line, then it’s going to be a disappointing day for you and your group; as such, getting the right reel size can help you catch more fish.
Bigger Is Not Necessarily Better: Some Considerations When You Choose the Best Size Reel
It would seem that the bigger the reel size is, the better it is for surf fishing. You can be sure that you have enough line to reach the area where the fish are.
More importantly, you will have enough to pull them back in when they do bite.
But that’s not necessarily always the case. For one, it’s easy to get tired holding because you have to hold up a heavier reel on your fishing rod.
Plus, there are some other considerations that you should take into consideration to get the best size reel for surf fishing.
Price: Bigger Reels Are More Expensive Than Their Smaller Counterparts
All things being equal, bigger reels will have a more expensive price tag. Bigger reels will have more gears, bearings, and other parts and materials.
Even different sized reels from the same manufacturer and within the same series will have different prices, with bigger sized reels being more expensive.
The price difference is more pronounced for those that have more bearings and other features.
As such, if you only need a smaller reel like a size 6000 or 60, then you can save some dough when you buy these instead of their bigger counterparts.
There are times when you just need a smaller reel, such as when you’re angling smaller fish species.
What Kind of Fish Are You Going For?
Depending on where you go for a round of surf fishing, there are several species of fish that you can catch. For example, striped bass is abundant in the Gulf of Mexico or the East Coast.
According to this book, these fishes can go as big as six feet (183 centimeters) and weigh as much as 125 pounds (56.7 kilograms).
Then you have bonito, which averages 18 to 22 pounds (8.2 to 10 kilograms) in Hawaii during the summer and around five to 12 pounds (1.4 to 3.2 kilograms) for the rest of the year.
According to retailer Tackle Express, if you’re going for smaller and lighter fishes, you need to buy a larger sized reel.
Depending on the species of fish you want to catch, what is the perfect reel size? Fishing My Way has these recommendations:
|Reel Size||Best Use|
|4000 or 40||Surf fishing targeting fishes up to 20 pounds|
|5000 or 50||Fishing off wharves, harbors, or boats for fishes up to 20 pounds|
|6000 or 60||Great for rock fishing, wharf and boat fishing for fishes up to 20 pounds|
|7000 or 70||Great for heavier surf fishing for fishes up to 20 pounds|
|8000 or 80||For fishes up to 50 pounds if you’re fishing off a boat or 25 pounds for surf fishing|
|9000 or 90||For fishes up to 60 pounds when boat fishing and 25 pounds for surf fishing|
For more experienced surf anglers who want to catch the bigger fishes.
If you want to know what kinds of fishes are found in your preferred fishing locations, some books can help you, such as:
- Fishing Georgia: An Angler’s Guide To More Than 100 Fresh- And Saltwater Fishing Spots
- Fishing North Carolina’s Outer Banks
- Catching More Fish from Surf, Pier, Sound, and Ocean
- Fish Florida Saltwater: Better Than Luck―The Foolproof Guide to Florida Saltwater Fishing
- Saltwater Fishes: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar North American Species (Wildlife and Nature Identification)
- Saltwater Fishes of Florida-Southern Gulf of Mexico: A Guide to Inshore & Offshore Species
What Fishing Rod Do You Have?
If you already have a fishing rod and you’re just looking for a reel, you must know what reel size it can accommodate.
The general rule is that shorter rods will be able to accommodate smaller reels and have weaker line strength. Beginners and kids might want to practice with shorter rods.
This table helps you know what reel sizes are best depending on the length of your fishing rod.
|Rod length||7 feet or 2.1 meters||8 feet or 2.4 meters||9 feet or 2.7 meters||10 feet or 3 meters|
|Reel size no. (e.g. Shimura)||2000||4000||6000||8000|
|Reel size no. (e.g. Mitchell)||100||200||250||250|
|Line strength using pound test||10||12||15||20|
Line strength denotes the most weight that the line can hold without breaking. For instance, a line strength of 10 means that the line can hold up to 10 pounds or 4.5 kilograms before it breaks.
Being able to match your reel and rod will make it easier for you to cast your line. It also feels more comfortable in your hands.
Here’s a video that will help explain how to properly match your reel and your fishing rod.
Video Credit: DINGA Online
If you still don’t have your own fishing rod, then you can buy combos online that include the reel, the rod, and other stuff.
Getting kits like the PLUSINNO Fishing Rod and Reel Combo ensures that you have a balanced outfit that also includes grubs, fishing lines, jig hooks, sinkers, lures, and swivels, among other things.
What Other Characteristics Should You Look for in a Reel?
According to author Eric B. Burnley, fishing reels must be well built and durable. Surf fishing can put a lot of pressure on a reel, more than any other type of fishing.
It should allow you to cast your line over a long distance. A reel can help you in casting over long distances where the bigger fish are. But it should be sturdy enough to bring whatever you catch to the shore.
Further, maintain the balance between the rod and the reel. An improperly balanced outfit will tire you out more quickly and can severely shorten your unbalanced distance.
If you already have a surf fishing rod, consider buying a reel from the same manufacturer as you can ask for recommendations on which reels are best.
Lastly, saltwater can be savage to metals, so choose a fishing reel that is made with stainless steel. Resistance to corrosion and rust should be a priority when you’re choosing your reel.
Select something like the Daiwa Spinning Fishing Reels that are made with triple disc aluminum alloy, stainless steel, and manganese brass.
Or you might want to take it a step further and get a Shimano Saragosa SW, which not only has the durable and tough Hagane Gear technology but is also an IPX9 waterproof rating.
The Types of Reels You Can Use for Surf Casting
Burnley writes that spinning reels are ideal for most beginners because these are easy to learn and use.
It also works for just about any situation in surf fishing. So if you only have one surf fishing rod, you can do better with a spinning reel.
However, baitcasting reels with a revolving spool have longer casting distances than spinning reels with a fixed spool.
The revolving spool can store casting energy, which helps propel the bait and lure when you cast your line. There’s also less friction between the line and spool.
The fixed spool on a spinning reel can cause considerable friction that can shorten casting distances.
Being able to cast your line further away might make it worth it to learn how to work with a revolving spool, which admittedly takes more effort and time to master.
Baitcasting Reels: How to Choose
Baitcasting reels might be known for being hard to handle, but it allows you to use a heavier line and try out other fishing techniques.
Choosing a baitcasting reel, you will look more into the gear ratio, rather than the size. You will often encounter gear ratios or 7.1:1, 6.4:1, 5.4:1, and any other ratios.
These ratios relate to the number of revolutions the spool makes for every turn of the reel handle. So a gear ratio of 7.1:1 means that the spool revolves around 7.1 times each time you turn the handle.
The speed of your spool’s revolution can be adjusted using the braking systems on these reels. Braking systems help you avoid getting your line tangled.
Baitcasting reels also have two profiles that you can choose, depending on the types of fish you are looking for. The low-profile shape is best if you’re angling for bass and crappie.
Get something like the Sougayilang Fishing Baitcasting Reels with its speedy 8:1 gear ratio and magnetic braking system. With its red and black color, this reel looks amazing.
Its ergonomic design also makes it very easy to handle. Plus, it can be used both in saltwater and freshwater.
This reel has all the best features that you can find in some of the most expensive baitcasting reels:
- Comes in right and left-hand versions
- Aluminum or graphite frames
- Ten quality ball bearings
- Aviation grade aluminum spool
- Soft rubber and wood handles
- Titanium-plated line guide, which is better than its ceramic counterpart because it’s not prone to breaking
You get all that without having to shell out a lot of money. This product sells for around $40 online.
Meanwhile, if you target pike, muskie, steelhead, or salmon, you should get the round profile that holds a longer and heavier line and can toss larger baits.
Check out the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3 that uses three stainless steel ball bearings and a roller bearing for extreme smoothness.
Making It Simple: Choosing the Best Size Reel for Surf Fishing
The right reel size will largely depend on how long your line would be. Your fishing reel should hold as many yards of line that you need to reach the sandbar, the trough, or the pockets, as well as locations where your target fish are.
What’s more, if you are going for bigger game fish, you will need a longer line, so you will need a bigger reel.
You should also consider the line diameter. Bigger fishes will require thicker fishing lines, which in turn will generally call for bigger reels.
Lastly, if you want to save and already have a rod, it’s important to keep your rod and your reel’s balance. So if you have a shorter fishing rod, you will do well with smaller reels.