Essential Saltwater Tackle (May 2019)

Getting started in saltwater fishing The Essentials

  • Rods- more than one for most saltwater excursions
  • Reels- to match your rods
  • Line- probably braided
  • Tackle- probably a variety in a tackle box
  • “Tools”- Knife, Scissors, Net, Gloves, Pliers
  • Cooler with Ice
  • Fishing License
  • Tape Measure
  • Appropriate clothing
  • Sunscreen, first aid kit, bug spray

Breaking down Essential Gear

Saltwater Fishing Rods:

The rod you’re using must match the target you’re pursuing and the environment you will be in. If you’re fishing in saltwater, its important to buy the best fishing gear for the type of fish you are pursuing.

The difference between a saltwater fishing rod and a freshwater fishing rod comes down to the difference between fishing in saltwater compared to fishing in freshwater. It’s simply harder to survive in the ocean! That means fish out there are tougher.

3 things you need to know before buying a saltwater rod

  1. where you will be fishing
  2. what technique you plan to use
  3. the species you are targeting

If you don’t know the answers to those, do the research first, ask other people, and then consult our guide below!

How to pick a saltwater fishing rod

1. Rod Material

Saltwater rods can withstand the corrosive properties of salt. They are almost always made from fiberglass, graphite or composite material (combination of fiberglass & graphite) Fiberglass rods will be powerful and tougher (for bigger fish), graphite rods are stiffer and more sensitive. Composite rods are newer and many are made to support up to 200LB line.

2. Rod Action

  • Fast-action rods bend near the tip- they are great for casting accurately
  • Medium-action rods allow for longer casts and better hook-sets
  • Slow-action rods (also called parabolic) start their bend earliest and are good for longer casts.

3. Rod Strength

Here we’re talking about supporting line strength.

  • Ultra-heavy rods exist and support 130-200 pound lines.
  • Heavy rods will accommodate lines from 80-130 pound-test. They are used for trolling marlin, swordfish, and large tuna for example.
  • Medium-Heavy rods can support 30-80 pound lines.
  • Medium rods support 20-30 pound lines.
  • Light rods are designed to support 10-20 pound lines.
  • Ultralight rods might only support 8-pound lines and would be used to fish for smaller species line seatrout, striped bass, or mackerel among others. 

4. Length

Rule of Thumb: longer rods mean more casting distance; shorter rods give you better leverage.


  • 6-foot rod
    • that is medium-heavy with fast action will give you an advantage when fishing bigger more powerful fish
  • 6 ½ foot rod
    • when you’re trolling or jigging and need power instead of distance
  • 7-foot rods:
    • 12-20 pound lines with fast, extra-fast, or even medium action using lures and live or natural baits
  • 7 ½ foot rod or longer
    • If you’re looking for more distance with your casts
    • if you’re doing primarily pier fishing you might want a longer rod

How many rods do I need?

This depends on you. Our “Essentials” list suggest having more than one. There are many reasons for that. First, in the tragic event that something happens to your first choice rod, you don’t’ have to cut the trip short if you’ve got a backup. Second, conditions can change midday (often times more than once) and you might just want to have a different option available to you. Third, when you’ve got the chance to take someone along for the trip, you can fish at the same time. It’s not as fun when one person is always sitting around waiting.

There are so many great rods out there, most of us start with one, which is great! As you continue to enjoy and learn about the intricacies and ever-changing adventures of saltwater fishing, pick up a new, and hopefully slightly different rod here and there. Before you know if you’ll have a diverse collection that will keep you and your friends and family fishing for a lifetime!

Rods we recommend:

  1. St Croix Tidemaster Rods- great all around saltwater rods that are known for their sensitivity, which means they are excellent at setting the hook!
  2. Loomis Spinning Rods- great for inshore fishing, they cost more because they are better, and by better we mean, you’ll catch more fish!
  3. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX@ Spinning Rod- much cheaper than the other options, and yet still durable. Not nearly the sensitivity, but this is a great rod when you’re first starting off as it’s still sensitive enough to get the job done.
  4. Daiwa Beefstick Surf Spin Rod- great pier fishing rod, at 12 feet long and with heavy action this rod will give you the power you need to reel in your catch.
  5. Shimano Sojourn 1-Piece Casting Rod- the best bait casting saltwater rod out there.
  6. St Croix Mojo- with great stopping power this rod is best if you’ll be jigging snapper or grouper
  7. Sougayilang Rod and Reel- this is the top saltwater fly fishing rod on the market for the price. (for more see section below on saltwater fly fishing)


Saltwater Fishing Reels:

Your Reel needs to match your Rod.

Choosing between 4 Types of Saltwater Reels

1. Spinning: These are most commonly used, that’s because they are good for going after small to medium fish, like bass, which is what a lot of anglers primarily fish for. Typically used to handle as much as 50lb test.

Pros: Easier to cast

Limitations: Line capacity and drag

When to use: fishing for smaller species

2. Bait-casting: Generally used by more experienced anglers because they tend to offer more control and accuracy. Typically used with under 30LB Test. You’ll have to practice more to become effective at using this type of reel, but once you’ve got it down, you’re going to love it!

Pros: line lays directly on spool, typically more accurate

Limitation: takes time to learn, less versatile (only used for lures)

When to use: fishing for bigger fish

3. Conventional: Conventional reels consist of level and non level.  Level wind are primarily used for casting and retrieving, you wouldn’t want to use level wind with anything over 40-50lb tackle.   See more on Level vs Non Level Reels

Pros: counters that display the amount of line that is out

When to use: when fishing in large bodies of water

4. Electric Power Assist:  Power assist reels are designed for catching large deep sea fish and big size fish.  It is easy to use as a beginner and makes battling trophy fish easier.

Pros: Aids in catching large deep see fish

Cons: Requires a battery source for the reel such as a 12v battery

When to use: Deep sea fishing, catching large fish

* No matter what type of saltwater reel you choose, stainless steel ball bearings are a must for to prevent erosion from saltwater.

Saltwater Fishing Line

What type of saltwater fishing line should you use?  When it comes to fishing in saltwater, we prefer braided fishing lines. However, we recognized the properties, as well as the pros and cons for nylon monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided lines in this section.  Saltwater line can be purchased up to 1000+ LBs.

Monofilament: There really is nothing wrong with monofilament lines, it is a great choice for people new to the fishing scene.

Pros Cons
  • less expensive
  • knots hold well
  • versatile because they will stretch
  • the line stretches, making it harder to feel the fish
  • forms to the spool, causing more friction, and less distance with each cast over time
  • dries out in sunlight decreasing performance

Fluorocarbon: This is really more of a freshwater line in our opinion, although some people use it for saltwater fishing.

Pros Cons
  • nearly invisible in water
  • abrasion resistant
  • minimal line stretch
  • fast sink rate
  • less “spool-memory”
  • more resistant to UV rays
  • expensive
  • stiff, not always compatible with spinning rods
  • knots don’t hold as well
  • line sinks, not good for top water lures

Braided: synthetic materials woven into a rope.

Pros Cons
  • thinner without sacrificing strength
  • more casting distance
  • little to no stretch- this means more sensitive, more solid hook, and much better feel
  • slightly less abrasion resistant

*In the saltwater world we can’t overstate the value of having more distance without sacrificing strength coupled with the increase in sensitivity that comes from using a braided line.


Tackle Box and Tools:

You may be asking – What saltwater tackle do I need to get started? Having a tackle box stocked with the appropriate inventory is critical to check before heading out for any fishing trip. Exactly what’s in there will change from person to person and trip to trip. What we offer here is a short list of things every angler should have in their tackle box before every trip.

  1. Extra Line
  2. Extra hooks
  3. Worms
  4. Sinkers (or weights)
  5. Bobbers
  6. Lures
  7. Needle nose pliers: for taking hooks out of the fish you catch
  8. Knife: primarily for cutting your line, but having a handy knife comes in use for quite a number of things when you’re out in nature
  9. Tape measure
  10. Fishing License

Basically, you want to have a decent variety of options to suit your needs. If you have at least a couple different options in terms of worms, sinkers, bobbers, and lures you’ll be ready for most situations.

Extra lines and extra hooks are critical because if you run out, your day is over.

Marine Cooler vs Regular Cooler

Every fishing trip requires a good cooler whether it’s to store your fish or your food and drinks.  Some coolers are better suited for being more permanent for your boat versus portable for going in and out.

Marine Cooler Qualities

A high quality marine cooler is often used for off-shore fishing on extended trips or kept out in the sun all day. Many guides and charter boats use marine coolers for storing fish they catch rather than food or drinks.

What is a marine cooler?

  • Superior Ice Retention
  • Thicker Insulation
  • Built in UV Protection
  • Typically white in Color
  • Anti Rust for Saltwater
  • Resistant to slipping on deck
  • Seat Cushion

Regular Cooler & Roto Molded Cooler

A regular cooler such as a coleman 48-quart cooler are typically what you see on a beech or a party.  Their are high end and low end versions of these coolers.  High end coolers will have thick insulation,

When choosing your cooler you may come across the term “roto-molded”.

What is rotomolding? 

  • Roto molding is a manufacturing process that creates a continuous thick wall with no imperfections


Fishing License and Tape Measure

It’s the nature of the modern world we live in, rules exist and you would do best to adhere to them. The rules and regulations exist for a reason, primarily, it’s so that we can all continue to enjoy the sport and recreation of fishing for as long as possible. Do yourself and the fishing community a huge favor, go get your fishing license and read up on the rules for fishing in your area. It is easy to get a fishing license, and it’s easy to find the standards that are allowed for fishing in any environment.

How to get a fishing license?

This will be a little different state to state, but for every state that requires a license there is information available online.

Tape Measure

Fishing tape measures come in many forms.  You can use a regular tape measure to see how big your fish is.  Use a fishing ruler that comes with a cooler or slap a measuring sticker on your boat!.