Surf Fishing in Southern California - SC Surf Fishing

The Ideal Light Tackle Surf Fishing Outfit

That old bass fishing rod is all that you need to get out on the water. Here are some things that I look for in a light tackle surf fishing outfit for surf fishing in Southern California.

1. It has to be made for light line - You never know what you're going to catch when surf fishing in Southern California. I prefer to fish with light line because the average barred surf perch, which is the most common catch, range from 4 to about 12" in size. They might bite on 12# or 15# but it's just a lot more fun pulling them in on a 6# outfit. The corbina, arguably the most sought after species, will usually only bite when using light line. There is always a chance that you'll hook up into a big halibut or a shark but the light tackle makes that even more fun!

Ben pulled in a 46" Leopard Shark
on his 8# outfit

2. A longer rod with fast to medium action - I prefer my light tackle surf rods to range from 7 to 10' in length and rated anywhere from 4 to 10#. My current rod is 9' and I like the longer length because it adds distance to the cast and helps to keep the line above the waves. Some people prefer shorter rods for greater control.

Action wise, I want my grub rod to be really tippy (strong and stiff butt section with a softer tip). I want something that's super sensitive and allows me to set the hook fast.

I prefer a slightly softer rod when fishing with bait (like sand crabs). A medium action rod gives the fish some more give so it can really grab the bait. It also prevents you from ripping the bait out of its mouth on the hook set.

Be careful of lighter rods that are too parabolic (it bends throughout the whole rod). A rod that's too soft or parabolic is going to make casting very difficult and harder to control.

3. A medium ranged spinning reel - The first reel that I took out surf fishing was a small Zebco spinning reel that I got at Kmart. It only lasted 5 sessions before the insides rusted and it seized up. Make sure that your reel is salt water resistant! Avoid reels with cheap bearings, cheap gears, and non-coated magnesium frames. That said, you don't have to spend too much money to get a decent light tackle surf fishing reel. Just don't go too cheap or you'll learn about the following saying the hard way. "Buy cheap, buy twice." Ask some other surf anglers for recommendations in the forums if you want to know about specific models. Also, tackle maintenance will be discussed in greater detail in a future article, but always rinse your rod and reel with freshwater after every trip.

Consider the line capacity of the reel. As mentioned above, you have a chance of hooking up with some beasts, even when fishing for small perch. It helps to have some line on your reel in case that happens. For example, I fish a 2000 sized Shimano that holds about 180yds of 6lbs line. I have some 10lbs spectra (2lbs diameter) as backing on my reel. This way I have more line on my reel, and I can save some cash by only having to replace a top shot of line rather than the whole spool (it adds up because I use P-Line CXX).

Related to having enough line is to have a solid drag system. Make sure that your drag is smooth and continuous. If it feels jerky or the drag comes off in spurts, you may want an upgrade.

Finally, try to get a reel that balances well with your rod. The light tackle surf fishing that I'm talking about requires holding your rod for hours and making repeated casts. If your wrist is hurting, you should do something to balance your outfit (change the reel or add some weight to the rod butt).

Some surf anglers also prefer bait casting reels instead of spinning, even when using light line. I agree that there are advantages to using casting reels, like letting a corbina run with the bait before setting the hook, but I personally don't like throwing 1/4oz lead heads and 1/2oz carolina rigs with casting reels. Spinning reels are a lot easier to use so I stick with them. I've never had a problem catching corbina on them either.

The above are just some recommendations but I'm going to take it back to the first sentence of the article. That old bass rod is all that you need to get into the water. It's easy to get started with surf fishing in Southern California. Give it a shot and you can worry about customizing your tackle as you get more experience.

Article written by:
Tom Ito (aka Catfish)

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