By Dave Anderson
It can be easy to forget how important the rod, reel and line are in the bigger picture when trying to target big fish in the surf. You can do everything right as far as location, timing and presentation are concerned and then find yourself under-gunned with the fish of a lifetime comes along. In the video above you'll see that I use a Van Staal reel, a Lamiglas 1321M and Daiwa Samurai line. It is a fact that these are all top of the industry choices, but I picked them for a reason--and it's not because I want to look like I know what I'm doing.
I chose Van Staal and Lamiglas for a lot of the same reasons--their longevity and reputation. Both the Van Staal and 1321-M have been around for a long time and have been used by some of the saltiest, scariest and successful surfcasters on the planet. This exact rig was used by many of the pioneers of wetsuiting, and they have both proven themselves worthy by remaining at the top of their class through three decades of further innovation by many other companies, they still can't be topped. That says more about these products than any online review or highliner posting rod selfies from the Canal. I can say with the utmost confidence that this combo will withstand any level of punishment that surfcasting can deliver. I never worry about my reel or rod when I'm fishing, they are 'givens' in the equation.
I started using Samurai braid before Daiwa had even named it, back in 2008 when I spooled up for the first time with, what was then called 'Daiwa Boat Braid' I was immediately smitten with it's combination of round construction, slick outer coating, limpness and it's impressive castability. Here again, it's been 11 years since it's inception and nothing--in my opinion--has topped it. So here again, I'm going on more than a decade of personal experience here, Samurai is worth the extra money and I will never stop using it--as long as it's available.
Does that mean that my preferences represent the best and only way that you can equip yourself to catch your personal best surf striper? The answer, of course, is no. Over the past five or so years, several affordable surf rods have been released that combine amazing power and top quality components with shockingly low price tags--like the Tsunami Airwave Elite series and those from Temple Fork Outfitters. Daiwa has recently released some economically priced surf rods that feel great to me as well. The most important things to focus on are the weight ratings of the rod, how much backbone they have and how the rod's action matches with your fishing/casting style. And if you're having trouble picking between two rods that feel good for you, go with the heavier one.
As for reels, just know that a high price doesn't always translate to better in surfcasting. Many of the higher end reels geared toward surfcasters (that aren't made by Van Staal or Zee Baas) were made with emphasis on longer casts--in my style of fishing, casting distance isn't even a consideration. Beware of reels with 8-million ball bearings or any frivolous bells and whistles, all these extra moving parts are just more places for sand and salt to wreak havoc. Keep it simple, look at the reel companies that have been around the longest and then go with the best one you can afford, Penn makes great mid-level reels for the surf and they will last a long time if you treat them with love and affection.
Line is probably the place where you really can't go wrong for the most part. I have only used one line that I thought was complete garbage and that was Daiwa J-Braid--it's hard to believe that they sell the worst and the best braids on the market! But Spiderwire, PowerPro, Suffix, Yo-Zuri SuperBraid... they all work great, and then it becomes a matter of personal preference.
I think the bottom line is that it's wise to do your research and then buy the best rod, reel and line that you can afford. And then do your best to take great care of it. If you treat it well, it will treat you well and it won't abandon you suddenly in the moment that you need it the most.