For beginners, picking a location is the easy part. It is usually a matter of finding the closest or favorite family beach. The tricky part of surf fishing for first timers is figuring out which type of rods and reels to buy. Before breaking out your wallet, consider how often you intend to go surf fishing. If you are only planning on a few occasional fishing trips each year, then an inexpensive rig is perfectly acceptable for you.
A spinning rod is the best type of reel for beach fishermen because it is easy to clean, easy to access the fishing line, and most anglers agree it is easier to cast. Spinning rods usually also provide a longer cast, too. A spinning rod is an open faced reel with a bailer that you can flick back and forth to either hold or release the line to cast. Essentially, you release the line when you cast, and hold it when the pole is sitting in a pole holder or in your hands.
Most of the reputable tackle companies have inexpensive models of spinning rods. Daiwa, one of the biggest, makes a large selection of cheaper rods for the beginning angler on a budget. This equipment, with a graphite rod and reel, is dependable and very low maintenance. The Eliminator tackle is a good place to start, with the cost for a 12-foot Eliminator Spinning rod starting at around $55. A durable rod, the Eliminators will last for quite a few years. They are just heavy enough to cast easily, but still train beginners how to handle the big rigs. If the angler wants to try a conventional rod later, this rod also works fine "upside down," which for conventional rods, is actually top-up.
If all you need is a reel, Daiwa, Shakespeare and Penn are all reliable companies that offer a good selection of reasonably priced gear. While slightly more expensive than the Eliminators at approximately $65, these reels handle well with big surf rods, and are known to last a long time. Most of North Carolina's coastal tackle stores have these reels in stock, and the fishing pros who man the counters can help you pick out the best gear for you.
More and more anglers are also choosing their gear ahead of time by shopping online. Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops are two of the biggest outdoor suppliers with the largest selection. If you plan on surf fishing on a regular basis, you might want to look into these stores for a higher end surf rod and reel. This could easily run about $100 or more, but if you are an avid angler, the cost is worth it versus regularly having to replace a cheaper rod and reel. Remember that surf fishing can be addictive, especially after that first big catch of the day, and the more fish you catch, the less likely you are to think about how much you spent on your gear.
When you need a rod that can hold out for many days of fishing, Daiwa, Shakespeare and Penn offer higher quality models. Look into the Daiwa Sealine X series, a very light but very strong graphite rod that comes in varying lengths and costs. As an example, a 12-foot rod, considered a medium size, can cost around $150.
The Shakespeare Ugly Stik Big Water series is considered to offer some of the strongest rods available, ideal for big fish and big surf. At $70 for an 11-foot rod, these rods are very reasonably priced. For beginners, the only issue can be the weight, which can be a little heavy and hard to manage for even the most experienced fishermen. This does add to the rod's strength, however, and it can pull in just about anything that finds its way to the shore.
When deciding on a good surf spinning reel for surf fishing, consider an alloy model. Aluminum reels are the strongest, and one of the best of these reels are the Penn SS reels. This reel works well with most surf rods and it is known as one of the best performers, as well as being easy to maintain. At $140, it's one of the pricier varieties, but will most likely last as long as you fish.
Another good surf spinning reel is the Daiwa BG series. The BG 60 is a good across the board 20-pound line reel, and offers a somewhat more simple design than the Penn. It has been tested for years and at $85, it is one of the better deals for high quality reels.
Once you have purchased your rod and reel, it is imperative to maintain it so it lasts a long time. Never reel in too quickly, unless absolutely necessary, so the fishing line can properly recoil itself onto the reel. You should also never leave your rod in the sand, where little particles can easily seep into the mechanical parts. Pick up a couple inexpensive pole holders at a local tackle store, and bury them deep into the sand when you go fishing. Many anglers bring a small rubber mallet to pound the pole holder into the sand, so if something large lands while in the rig is in the pole holder, it will stay rigid. This will also let you relax, wander around, and simply enjoy the beach while keeping a cautious eye on the fishing pole for those quick jerky movements, indicating there's something on the end of the line. It is important to not leave your rod and rod holder unattended while your rig is out in the water. If a large enough fish gets on your line and you don't notice it is there, it could pull the rod holder out of the sand and your new fishing rod and reel into the water with it.
Regardless of what type of rig is the best fit for your area, which varies along the entire North Carolina Coast, most tackle shops sell balanced rod and reel combinations in a variety of lengths and weights.
Seasonal conditions can make your rig ideal in certain types of the year, and not quite as good in others, but 8 to 9 feet is a versatile rod length and a good starter for beginners. Overall, look for rods that are not too soft, which can lead to too much deceiving flex in the tip, and can handle up to four ounces of weight to hold a rig on the bottom.