No matter what kind of fishing you do, selecting the right fishing line is one of the most important tasks to master. It is after all, the only link between you and your catch. At first glance, surf fishing seems pretty straight forward. Just about any line should get the job done, right?
Actually, not so fast. There is a lot more that goes into an effective lure or bait presentation when fishing from the beach. And choosing the best line for each situation plays a big role in your surf fishing success.
Usually, 20-30 pound test monofilament or braided line works best in nearly all surf fishing situations for smaller fish such as surfperch, bluefish or stripped bass. If there is any chance you might hook into a shark or tarpon from the beach, use a setup with 50-80 pound test line.
That answer only scratches the surface though. There’s a lot more to consider if you want to have the ultimate surf fishing setup for any beach. Read on and we will show you the most important factors behind choosing the best surf fishing line.
Braid vs. Mono
As anglers, we probably spend too much time stressing over the monofilament versus braid debate. Really, what it comes down to is personal preference. In most surf fishing scenarios, mono and braid work equally well and you’ll catch plenty of fish regardless of the line type you use.
However, there is a time and place where one is superior to the other. The angler who recognizes the advantage of one type of line over the other in certain situations always seems to catch more fish and loose less gear than everyone else on the beach.
So when is braid better than mono or visa versa? Before we answer that, let’s take a look at what makes each line unique.
Today’s modern braids are made of woven strands of spectra, dacron or micro-dyneema. All of which are man-made materials that have low stretch and incredible strength with a thinner diameter than monofilament .
In terms of surf fishing, braid provides the following advantages:
- Thin diameter for long casts and cutting through the wind.
- Ideal for surf fishing with lures and artificial baits that require sensitive feel.
- Resists the damaging effects of saltwater for longer.
- Low stretch for instant hook sets.
- Cuts through water when you need lures to sink fast.
- Less drag in strong currents.
However, keep in mind that there are a few drawbacks with braid too.
- Repeated casting with braid is hard on your line finger.
- Susceptible to wind knots. If tangled, it’s nearly impossible to undo.
- Not the best choice for bait fishing.
- Braid is easily cut when dragged through sharp rocks, pier pilings or structure.
- Tendency to pull hooks from fish with soft mouths.
So, when is braid the best choice for surf fishing? We prefer braid on structure or rock free beaches where extreme casting distance is essential. Anytime we cast plugs, bucktails or spoons into the surf, you can bet we are using a braided main line.
As you might assume, monofilament is composed of a single strand fiber. The most common material used to make mono is extruded nylon. When it comes to surf fishing, mono is a long time favorite and often the only kind of line you’ll ever need.
Mono really shines when fishing from the beach for several reasons:
- Readily available and affordable.
- More durable than braid around rocks. It handles more nicks without breaking.
- High stretch acts as a shock absorber with hard fighting fish.
- Ideal for fishing bait rigs.
- Slow sink rate provides natural presentations with live bait or lures needing finesse.
- Large range of color choices adapt to various water colors and clarity.
- Easy to manage.
- Great leader material for surf fishing.
But mono isn’t always the best choice and several issues might make braid more appealing.
- Larger diameter requires larger reel classes to spool on enough line.
- Mono does not cast as well as braid. Especially in the wind.
- Heavy line drags in the current and tides more.
- Lots of stretch makes it hard to detect bites or lure movement. Fish spit the hook before you know they are there.
- Requires frequent line changes. At least once per season but more if you fish often.
So, when is monofilament the best choice for surf fishing? We like the advantages of mono when using bait rigs like the high/low rig or the fish finder rig. Mono is also an ideal leader or top shot material when using a braided mainline. Anytime we are using a natural bait, mono is our top choice.
What about fluoro
I’m sure someone will disagree but we find very little use for fluorocarbon main line or leaders while surf fishing. For one thing, the turbulence and white water created by breaking surf pretty much negates any need for the invisibility of fluoro. In our experience, most fish in the surf are not line shy.
Also, fluoro tends to break more often than mono or braid around structure and rocks. It resists dings quite well but once it get a tiny nick, say goodby to your expensive tackle. It will snap.
Selecting the right line for every beach
When I first started surf fishing, I lost a lot of gear. On top of being expensive to replace, breaking off line and donating another rig to the ocean isn’t exactly environmentally friendly. After asking more experienced anglers, it quickly became obvious that I was loosing gear because I spooled up with the wrong line for the specific beach I was fishing.
One of the biggest distinctions between line type is their durability against abrasion. Every beach has unique structure and bottom composition that can wreak havoc with your line. Whether you fish on a smooth, sandy beach or along a rock strewn jetty, make sure you tie up with the right line.
Sandy beaches – Either mono or braid with work. The fish you are after and the rig you’re tying up determines line type.
Small rock and cobble beaches – Even small rocks or smooth cobble will inflict some punishment on your line. Mono is preferred but heavier braid will work too.
Beaches with large rock – Avoid braid if you constantly rub up against jagged rocks or structures covered in barnacles. Braid is cut easily whereas mono resists that type of damage better.
Piers – Mono is our first choice around piers. The pilings are usually coated with abrasive sea life that chews up braid. Step up to higher weight mono so you can keep fish away from the pilings. Heavy braid above 50 pound test works fine too.
Weedy areas – If there are lots of weeds in the area, we prefer braid. It cuts through vegetation better than mono.
Line choice for Lures vs. Bait
Taking advantage of a hot reaction bite in the surf with lures is a blast. Yet there are times when fishing with bait is better. Unfortunately, one type of line won’t do both styles of fishing equally well. In general, braid is better for casting lures and mono is better for fishing bait rigs.
With lures, casting distance is priority number one, closely followed by the ability to feel the action of your lure. The low stretch and thin diameter of braid addresses these needs. But that doesn’t mean you should tie your lure directly to braid. An appropriately sized mono leader provides shock and abrasion resistance so you loose fewer expensive lures.
If you are using a bait rig, mono provides some crucial advantages over braid. Mono’s stretchiness generally improves your hook up with soft mouthed fish and reduces a fish’s ability to detect tension on the bait. In addition, mono’s near neutral-buoyancy gives baits a more natural drift and appearance.
Obviously, having both a lure casting setup and a bait setup is preferred. However, if you only have one surf fishing rod and reel, go with a braided main line. That way you can cast lures and if needed, it’s possible to add a short mono top-shot for a bait rig.
Choosing surf fishing line by species
Maybe even more important than choosing the right line for every tactic is gearing up with the best line for each kind of fish. There are usually many species of fish swimming close to the beach. Your line type and strength depends on the type of fish you’re targeting. Let’s go over some common species and what line matches up best.
|Species||Mono (pound test)||Braid (pound test)|
|Bluefish||20-40||30-50 (use mono leader)|
|Shark||Not recommended as |
|65-80 (heavy mono leader |
plus steel leader)
Best pound test for surf fishing overall
Not all anglers want to head to the beach with a half dozen rods rigged up for every imaginable surf fishing scenario. If you are like me, then a simplified approach to fishing is more enjoyable for you.
When I head to the beach, 1-2 rod setups (3 tops) is all I need. That means I put a lot of thought into what line is spooled on each reel. Not only am I geared up for my intended target, I also can take advantage of a sudden school of bluefish or the occasional mackerel.
So, what is the best all around pound test line for surf fishing? A 20-30 pound test braided main line with an appropriately sized monofilament leader is immensely versatile when surf fishing. For anglers that prefer mono, consider using 15-20 pound test for most fish. You also have the option to use a “top-shot” setup where you spool on a braid backing and top it with 50 yards or more of mono.
The idea behind a top-shot setup is to increase your line capacity. Some saltwater surf fish make powerful runs that peel line off your reel like there’s no tomorrow. You can reverse the top-shot as well with the benefit of saving money on expensive braid. We often spool on 50 to 100 yards of mono first as a filler and top with braid.
Best braid for surf fishing
There are many braids on the market and everyone has their own brand preferences. Use the brand you have the most confidence in. For us, Power Pro Spectra has proven to be a super resilient and versatile line that has yet to fail us. It can be pricey but you get what you pay for.
Power Pro’s rounded profile casts laser straight as though wind doesn’t even exist. Plus, it is the most durable braid we have ever tried out for surf fishing. We recommend 30 pound test in most cases. Around structure or heavy current, go with 50 pound test. Light tackle techniques work well with the ultra-thin diameter of 15-20 pound test Power Pro.
Best mono for surf fishing
Our first pick for mono is the Hi-Seas Quattro. This line delivers everything you need for surf fishing with monofilament. The variegated 4 color scheme actually does provide pretty good camouflage in a variety of water conditions.
It also ranks at the top of our durability expectations. It is nearly indestructible against the meanest set of teeth on bluefish. You’ll get good solid knots but there is a fair bit of memory. For that reason, it makes a better leader than a main line.
Try out Hi-Seas Quattro from Amazon.
When it comes to castability, Trilene Big Game line works phenomenal for any surf fishing diehard. It has superior shock absorption and smooth, uniform stretch. We like the strong hold we get from knots on this line and it has decent durability compared to cheaper brands. For the best universal saltwater monofilament, choose Trilene Big Game line.
If you could only choose one line
Hopefully by now, you see that picking the best surf fishing line is hardly a simple task. Every situation is different and every angler has their own opinions. Yet for anglers looking to find the most versatile surf fishing line available, there is a solution.
If you could only choose one surf fishing line to use, make it 30 pound test Power Pro braid.
It is versatile enough to handle casting big plugs to ferocious bluefish or lobbing sand fleas into breakers for pompano. Combine a Power Pro main line with a high quality mono leader like the Quattro or Big Game and there isn’t much you can’t catch from any beach.
Ready to pair your new line with some of the best surf fishing lures money can buy. Check out our 11 favorite surf fishing lures you need to try!