This section provides some guidance on the tackle you need to surf fish for striped bass.
Surf Rods - 8, 9 and 10 ft.
The rods you need for surf fishing with bait depend on two things.
1. The slope of the beach where you are fishing. A gently sloping beach means you have to cast far to reach deep water. Then you need a long rod so you can cast far, 10 feet long or more. A steeply sloping beach has deep water closer in, so you could get by with a shorter rod.
2. How rough is the sea? With normal surf you can hold bottom with a 4 or 5 ounce sinker, when fishing bait on NJ beaches. However when the surf is rough, you may need 6, or maybe even up to 8 ounces. For this you need a stiff rod.
For plugging, normally an 8 or 9 foot rod is best. But I keep a 10 foot rod handy in case a blitz develops a little further out. So many rods! This is why you see beach buggies with rod racks filled with rods. Of course some fisherman also keep multiple rods rigged with different lures, so they can switch quickly.
I have many rods, as does John. Lamiglass rods are my favorites, but I also have some Fenwick Salt Stick rods that are great. John's favorite is a St. Croix. There are many good rods on the market.
On our trips to Montauk we find that most of the locals use 10 foot rods for casting lures. There I mostly use use my 10 foot Fenwick Salt Stick that is rated for lures from ½ to 4 ounces. This lets me throw ¾ oz bucktails or a 2 ½ oz pencil popper with the same rod.
Select reels with a line capacity of at least 250 yards. I favor spinning reels for both bait fishing and plugging. John favors conventional reels. John remembers a time years ago, that he lost a large fish which he claims he couldn't handle with the spinning reel he was using at the time. Ever since he has been using mostly conventional reels. But John sometimes gets backlashes, whereas I never do. There are plenty of good reels of both types on the market.
I favor monofilament, whereas John uses mostly 30 pound test braid. I use 20 pound test monofilament for bait fishing, and 14 or 17 pound test for plugging. Braided line has both advantages and disadvantages. To see more about braided line follow this Link: Braided Line.
When casting lures from the beach I will use an 18 inch leader of about 40 pound test made of monofilament or flourocarbon with a duolock snap on the bottom to attach the lure. The leader also provides something to grab onto when landing a fish on the beach. If I am using a teaser, I use a somewhat longer leader with a "dropper loop" for attaching the teaser.
If I am using a "High Low" rig, or "Fish Finder" rig, the rig becomes the leader.
If I am trying to extra long distances, or using a sinker of more than 6 oz. that loads the rod severely on the backcast, I will add a shock leader. This is to prevent someone from getting hurt if the line would break on the backcast. The shock leader should be at least 40 pound test, and be long enough to go through all your rod guides and 4 or 5 wraps around your reel.
For surf fishing in the spring or fall you need waders. Both John and I use Hodgman Breathable Bootfoot Waders. They are waterproof, breathable, and lightweight. However Bo, who sometimes fishes rocky shores such as at Montauk, prefers neoprene waders, as they are more durable and also warmer.
Korkers are strapped on boot bottoms that have tungsten carbide cleats in their bottoms. The cleats are threaded and replaceable. Korkers come in various sizes and easily fit over your boots and are buckled on. They provide good traction, even when walking on slick mossy rocks. Korkers are a necessity for fishermen who fish on jetties and on rocky shores. Follow this link to find out more about Korkers.
Different fishermen have numerous ideas on tackle. The above is what works for me. There is, however, a wide selection of rods, reels, lines, and other surf fishing equipment available from the many manufacturers. Most are very good.
Most local Bait and Tackle shops have a good selection of saltwater fishing tackle and gear. Check them out. You can sometimes find good deals at Flea Markets and on E-Bay.
Whichever you choose, take good care of it. Lightly rinse off your equipment with freshwater after every use in saltwater.