What Size Reel For Surf Fishing?

What size reel for surf fishing? That all depends on the species of fish that you are after, but there are sizes of reels that can accommodate most species.

In this article, we will cover the what size spinning reel for surf fishing and what size conventional reel for surf fishing. We will also give you some of our top picks for each.

Fishing from the beach is almost like a religion to some people. They will get up at all times of the night to spend a few hours fishing the right tide. They also take special care to use the right size gear for the species they are after.

Let's take a look at The best size reels for surf fishing.

What Size Spinning Reel For Surf Fishing

Surf Fishing Rods In Sand Spikes

The optimal reel size for surf fishing is 5000 - 6000. This is a mid-strength rated reel that can catch anything in the water that you're likely to encounter. It is going to be a bit of an overkill for small fish, and slightly less powerful than you'd want for a 6-foot shark, but you can use a size 6000 reel for just about any fish and catch it. More on this shortly!

The size of the reel you choose to use for surf fishing can sometimes mean the difference between a successful surf fishing expedition and a failed one. There is no one-size reel that is perfect for all surf fishing. The most appropriate reel to use depends on a few things.

Factors like the species of fish you intend to target and how big they get will influence your reel size choice. You can pull a 40" snook in with a size 2000 reel (my uncle did it) but it's so much better to match your reel size to the size of fish you're planning to catch. The consequence of not matching reel/rod and fish size/strength is losing a lot of fish!

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How much line and the strength of it may help you decide which reel size you need to target a specific species. You may believe you need 300 yards of 50 lb. test braided line as your main line. Will your spool handle it? Or, are you catching snapper and need only 50 yards of 8 lb. test line? Any reel will handle that. Shark fishing from the beach can require a lot of strong line and some smaller reels won't have a large enough spool.

Drag strength can influence the reel you choose. Are you catching very strong fish or sharks from shore? A 30 lb. drag might be about right. Or you may hardly need drag at all. All of this needs to be thought about in pre-planning your rod/reel purchase or as you select from gear you already have.

RELATED: Best Bait For Surf Fishing

A larger reel size helps you hold more line on your spool. It helps you set stronger drag. It can give you more cranking power as your gear ratio can be higher and allow you to retrieve the line faster. Powerful and robust reels allow you to reel in line easily when something strikes your bait.

But what size reel is best for surf fishing and why?

Let's say you're visiting Florida's gulf coast and you brought 2 rods with you, one with a size 2000 reel for bass fishing, and the other with a size 6000 reel for beach fishing. You're in luck because the optimal reel size is about 6000 as we said above. A reel of this size is good for fishing rods ranging from 6-10 feet in length, or even one of the super long surf rods used to get your bait far out in the surf.

For line, I'd probably use 50 lb. braided with a yard or two leader of mono or fluoro. The strength of my leader may be from 6 lb. to 50 lb. test, depending entirely on what I want to catch, water clarity, etc.

RELATED: Best Rod And Reel Combo For Surf Fishing

What Is the Meaning of Reel Size?

Surf Fisherman

Reel size loosely refers to the line capacity of the spool. It also refers directly to how big the reel is. A size 10000 reel is huge compared to a size 1000 ultra-light reel. When reel size increases, the size, and strength of many materials used in the reel are stronger to be able to handle bigger fish.

Reel makers use two or four-digit numbers to indicate reel size and it is not standardized across manufacturers. Size 1000 reels are for short, ultra light rods to catch panfish and other very small fish. Size 6000 is a good size for beach fishing. Size 10000 is a good size for tuna, kingfish, wahoo, sailfish, and sharks. 

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Common Spinning Reel Sizes for Surf Fishing

Common spinning reel sizes for surf fishing range from 3000, all the way up to 10000, with 5000- 6000 being the most commonly used size.

There are articles out there that talk about the 1000 - 2000 reel size for surf fishing and these people clearly do not surf fish, because those reals are way too small to have any use in surf fishing.

Below we take a look at the actual spinning reels that we use in each size, what species we use them for and where you can get them online.

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3000-4000 Spinning Reel Size

Shimano Vanford 4000XG Spinning Reel

These are great reels for catching redfish, snook, spanish mackerel, sea trout, sheepshead, bonefish and other smaller surf species.

My favorite spinning reel in this size is my Shimano Vanford XG. I have caught all of the species above as well as small tarpon and permit.

The Vanford is super lightweight at only 7.6 ounces and has 24 lbs of drag with a 6.2:1 gear ratio and 7+1 ball bearings.

It hold 200 yards of 10 lb monofilament, so it is on the small side for a lot of surf fishing applications, but for the species listed above it is ideal.

I love the super smooth drag on this reel and the light weight makes it perfect for long days of casting and retrieving.

This reel pairs perfectly with a 7.5 foot St Croix Premier Fishing Rod.

5000-6000 Spinning Reel Size

PENN Slammer IV Spinning Reel

This is the bread and butter size reel for surf fishing. A 5000-6000 level reel can help you catch most shore-dwelling species like snook, redfish, trout, pompano, jacks, big flounder, and probably anything you hook into. You can even catch big cobia or a decent-sized tarpon on a reel of this size.

Keep in mind, as size increases, so does price in most cases. 

My favorite reel for surf casting in this size range is the PENN Slammer IV 5500. This spinning reel casts a mile and has an ultra smooth drag and retrieve.

When you are on the beach with other surf fisherman, you are going to see a lot of Penn 5500s on their surf rods.

When we get into this size of reel, we find they are quite a bit heavier. The Penn Slammer 5500 weighs in at 22 ounces, but it will balance perfectly with a 10 foot PENN Battalion Surf Rod.

The Slammer IV has a 5.5:1 gear ratio and 9 ball bearings. These things are tanks and will last for years of harsh, saltwater use.

PENN durability is legendary, as a matter of fact, I still have an old PENN 5500 that my grandfather gave me many, many years ago, and I still use it to this day.

7000-8000 Spinning Reel Size

Daiwa BG8000 Spinning Reel

Reels in the 7000 to 8000 size range are great for beach fishing because you can start to get more distance when you pair it up with a long 10-11' surf casting rod like the St Croix Avid Surf Rod. Casts of 100 yards are possible with the right wind conditions (from behind!).

These reels are perfect for catching large fish like big reds or black drum, cobia, big jacks, permit, and sharks. You can run any test line on them, I typically use a 60 lb. test braid as my main line and I choose a leader based on whatever species I'm targeting. These reels hold a few hundred yards of braided or mono line so you should be fine with line capacity when you reach this size of reel. 

The Daiwa BG8000 BG Saltwater Spinning Reel is a big 8000-size reel that is popular among beach casters. Daiwa made this big reel tough and affordable. At 30 oz. in weight, it is on the heavy side, but as we jump up in size, the weight increases substantially.

Gear ratio is 5.6:1 and it has a maximum drag of 33 pounds. It retrieves over 53 inches of line per turn. The BG8000 can hold a massive amount of mono or braided line. It has a line capacity of 590 yards of 65 lb. braid.

9000-10000 Spinning Reel Size

Penn Battle III Spinning Reel

If you are targeting big fish, reels in the 9000 to 10000 size range are going to be your friend as you can be relatively sure a reel of this size isn't going to disintegrate when you have a big shark or permit on the line.

When catching the larger species, you need a tough reel and rod that can stand a beating. You'll need a heavy and smooth drag. You'll be using a heavy line that isn't going to break. Your gear may break first, so you need to ensure you're 'loaded for bear' as we say in the hunting world! Get good solid gear with great reviews.

My favorite reel in this size is the PENN Battle III spinning reel. It is a super durable workhorse that you can count on with a big fish on the line.

Spinning reels this size are heavy and they need to be to have the strength necessary to handle big sharks, tuna and other giants of the sea.

The PENN Battle III 10000 weighs in at 38.8 ounces. This is not a reel that you are going to be using to cast lures. These reels are meant to be cast out with bait and put in a sand spike, while you wait for a big fish to take the bait.

The Battle III holds 330 yards of 30 pound monofilament and 490 yards of 80 lb braid. It has a 4.2:1 gear ratio and 6 ball bearings.

You can't go wrong with the legendary durability of PENN reels.

RELATED: Surf Fishing Tips For Beginners

What Size Conventional Reel For Surf Fishing

Conventional Surf Fishing Reel

Conventional surf fishing reels differ slightly in the way they size reels. Some brands, like PENN and Daiwa is 20, 30, 40, 50, instead of 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, like they do with their spinning reels.

The best size conventional reels for surf fishing fall into the same 30 - 60 range, or 3000 - 6000 range.

Many beach anglers prefer conventional reels for their longer casts and strong durable construction.

What Size of Reel Is Best for Surf Fishing in Low Tide? 

surf fishing

During low tide, the shoreline recedes further out into the sea. If you can hit the sandbars further offshore, you can find some fish hanging out there where the water changes depth. Absolutely delicious fish like pompano can be out there waiting for you to drag the right lure by them.

As always, the size of the fishing reel you use depends on the species you're catching and your ability to cast far enough to reach them. You may need a 6000 series reel to cast far enough to reach them during low tide. You may be able to use something slightly smaller.

If you plan on fishing in the surf during low tide it would be a good idea to carry a 6000 reel and 9-foot rod in order to get far out into the surf. You can go bigger, but catching pompano on a 10000-rated reel is not the best way to fish!

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What Size of Reel Is Best for Surf Fishing in High Tide? 

Fishing On The Beach

When the tide is incoming or stationary at high tide, you still have wave action moving water around. This is one of the benefits of surf fishing because there is always water movement. Compare that to fishing from a pier, bridge, or boat, where there is no tide moving at all and the fish bite shuts down to nothing.

At high tide the fish, even the big fish, come in close to shore. You can use a medium-sized reel and rod like a 5000-8000 that will prepare you for most of the bigger species. I'd still recommend a 6000-size reel. It's just the perfect go-between size that can help you catch the smaller and the bigger shore species.

If you are only targeting pompano or something just as small, you can use a 2000-3000 size reel rated for saltwater and you'll be happy you didn't bring a bigger reel/rod setup. 

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Wrap Up

Surf fishing from the shore, or in the water (wade fishing) is a blast for a number of reasons. I like talking to people passing by, teaching people about fishing, and most of all catching fish. You can catch so many different species by casting out from shore that it's a crap shoot. Meaning, you don't know what you're going to catch.

Bring a suitable rod and reel and start with a 15-20 lb. test leader. If you break it, go heavier. If you see pompano in the surf, go lighter.

Overall, fishing in the surf is a rewarding recreational activity that requires you to choose a suitable reel size for the different variables you'll face. Factors that influence your choice of reel size include the distance you need to cast, the weight and fighting capabilities of the fish you're targeting, the drag you need, and the strength you have to hold the reel for a few hours. 

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Our recommendation is that you always use a reel from 5000-8000 size unless you know the species you want to catch requires something different. As a novice surf angler, you might find fishing in the surf is a bit of a challenge. You'll like it more and more as you gain experience from your own excursions and from people you go with or meet as you're fishing. If you're a social person, beach fishing can be a great way to pass the time!

If you’re not social, surf fishing can be a great way to bag some fish for dinner!

RELATED: Spinning Reel vs Baitcaster

Photo of author

John VanDerLaan

John VanDerLaan is the founder and lead editor at Fisherman's Authority. John is a passionate fisherman whose travels have taken him all over the country in search of different species of gamefish. He has won bass fishing tournaments, including the 1987 Candlewood Classic. He also chases winter steelhead in upstate New York, summer stripers in New England and spends a lot of time fishing the waters of Florida Keys. John is an active member of the Outdoor Writers Association Of America.

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