Surf Casting Florida

Learn how to catch more fish off of the beach.

What sized reels should I use for surf fishing?

The answer to that question depends upon what species of fish that you will be targeting and on the environmental conditions of the beaches where you fish.

How far out are the sand bars in your area?

Are you surf fishing for big fish like 100 pound tarpon or little fish like 2 pound pompanos?

Are you fishing with lures or baits?

Does your beach have a lot of current or big surf?

There are lots of questions that you have to ask yourself before you can know the best size reel for surf fishing in your specific area.

I am a FISHING CHARTER CAPTAIN on the Treasure Coast of Florida. I have been fishing the beaches, oyster bars, mangroves and just about everywhere else in Florida for over 40 years. In the article below, I will teach you everything that I know about getting the best sized reel for surf fishing off of the beaches in your area.

Let’s get started.

Watch the video below to learn the reels that I like best for surf fishing.

What sized reel should I use for surf fishing during low tide?

Let me first say that I am not sponsored by Penn fishing reels. I like them because they last a long time and can handle the harsh saltwater environments that I like to fish in. At the time of writing this article, my Penn Spinfisher V 5500 has caught everything from 100 pound tarpons and sharks all the way down to 1 pound bluefish.

It is 5 years old and it’s drag system and gears are still working just fine. The day that it dies I will buy whatever the next version is because the Vs are already out of production and the VI is the only new version available today. Hopefully my reel will last until the Spinfisher VIII or Spinfisher X is the new version. That would be great.

Okay let’s talk about getting the right sized reel for surf fishing during the lower parts of the tide. The problem with fishing the lower parts of the tide is the fish are further out than they are during the higher parts of the tide.

Let’s say that you are fishing for pompano during the last couple of hours before low tide. Your best bet for catching them will be to get your baits to the backside of the far sandbars. The backside of the outer sandbars will probably be around 18 inches or deeper and as the tide goes out it will bring the pompanos crabs, shrimp and little clams for them to eat. So that is your best bet to find the schools of pompano during low tide periods.

BUT if you can’t get your baits out that far then you won’t catch any fish. You will need a reel that can accommodate a lot of line to cover the distance between the beach and the outer sand bars. In my opinion, you will need at least a 5500 sized reel to have enough line to get out that far.

If you are using braided line, then you might be able to get away with a 4500 or a 5000 sized surf fishing reel. If you are using mono filament fishing line, then you will definitely need a 5500 or maybe even a 6500 to hold enough line to cover that distance.

Pompano don’t even pull much drag when they are hooked. Imagine hooking a big tarpon or a shark that is out a long way from the beach. You will get spooled by one of those fish very quickly if you don’t have a ton of line on your reel so you might need a 7500 or larger for those types of fish.

What sized reel should I use for surf fishing high tide?

High tide is much easier to surf fish than low tide is. The fish might literally be at your feet during the higher parts of the tide. You might be able to use a cane pole to catch the fish because they are so close. They are often in the trough right next to the beach during high water times.

During the higher parts of the tide you can use your normal sized fishing rod that is 6 or 7 feet long and a much smaller reel. I use a 3500 sized reel and a 7 foot rod for fishing during the higher parts of the tide. That sized reel can hold plenty of line for catching the smaller fish near the beach at high tide.

You can get away with a 2500 to a 4000 sized reel at high tide depending upon the size of the fish that you are targeting.

What sized reel should I use for surf fishing for snook?

I love to catch snook off of the beach during high tide. That is one of my favorite things to do. When the higher parts of the tide coincide with the sunrise or the sunset then you have the perfect confluence of factors to catch a ton of snook.

All that you need to do is cast parallel to the shore about 5 or 6 feet out to be in the snooks’ strike zone. I use my 3500 sized reels for surf fishing for snook. That will hold plenty of fishing line to handle the amazing first run that a snook will give you. They are small enough to allow you to cast small lures when the snook are feeding on anchovies, minnow and other small bait fish.

Watch the video below and catch more snook off of the beach.

What sized reel should I use for surf fishing for tarpon and sharks?

Tarpon and sharks are drag pullers so you will need a reel that can handle some pretty long runs. If you are fishing for sharks and tarpon that are under 4 feet in length, then you can get away with a 4000 or 4500 sized reel during high tide. During high tide they are usually pretty close to the beach so a smaller sized reel with give you access to them when you are surf fishing.

Once you step up to the 4 feet to 6 feet range of sharks and tarpons you will need a 5500 to 7500 sized reel to handle a fish that size. You will need 50 pound plus braided line or mono filament line and lots of it on your reel. You still might get spooled if the sharks and tarpon are big enough but you can always just break them off if it looks like they will take all of your line.


You need different sized reels for different circumstances when you are surf fishing. It all depends upon what you are going after and how far out you will need to cast to get at them. My biggest reel is a 5500 sized reel that can handle big fish and hold a lot of line. My other reel is a 3500 sized reel for catching fish close to shore during high tide.

Only you know what sized reels that you will need for your individual surf fishing needs.

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