The 7 Best Saltwater Fishing Rods Reviewed & Tested ( 2018 Hands-on Guide )

man fishing on sea

Any fishing experience is really fun but there is nothing like chucking a lure out into the great blue ocean and waiting to see what you pull back up.

Unlike fishing in ponds or rivers, which usually harbor only a half dozen gamefish at most, the ocean is a different kettle of fish. Dozens of species are lurking over every reef and under every pier, not to mention that many of them are huge.

But to have a good chance of landing the best haul, you need a rod suited for saltwater angling.

There are as many ways to fish in saltwater as there are fish in the sea. Above all, you need to select a rod that suites the type of fishing you prefer.

Anglers who prefer to head out into the open water will benefit from different features and characteristics than one who puts around shallow reefs and flats.

In this article we:

  1. We break down best saltwater rods for variety of fishing situations
  2. Then we explain what featured and specifications you need to pay attention to when choosing a saltwater rod

The 7 Top Saltwater Rods of 2018: Outdoor Empire Reviews

These are our top recommendations for saltwater rods in 2018:

  1. Best spinning: Take the St. Croix Mojo
  2. Best baitcasting: Take the Penn Bluewater Carnage
  3. Best rod and reel combo: Take the Penn Squall Lever Drag
  4. Best inshore: Take the Penn Rampage
  5. Best deep sea: Take the Fiblink Offshore Boat Rod
  6. Best for pier fishing: Take the Okuma SCT
  7. Best jigging: Take the Penn Carnage II Jigging Rod

 

*Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:

ProductPenn Squall Lever Drag Combo
Penn Squall Lever Drag Combo

Penn Rampage Boat Casting
Penn Rampage Boat Casting

Fiblink Offshore Boat Rod
Fiblink Offshore Boat Rod

Okuma SCT Inshore Rod
Okuma SCT Inshore Rod

Rod Length7'7'6'8' 6"
Rod Weight(not specified by manufacturer)(not specified by manufacturer)29 oz9.6 oz
Line Weight15-25 lbs12-20 lbs30-50 lbs20-40 lbs
PowerMediumMediumExtra HeavyExtra Heavy
No. of Pieces1121
CostCheck Price



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1. Best Overall Saltwater Spinning Rod: St. Croix Mojo

Whether you’re chasing bonefish, tarpon or redfish, you’ll need a good rod to catch fish on the flats. It must not only provide excellent casting range, but it should have a fast action tip to make flawless presentations and rock-solid hooksets easy.

St. Croix Mojo

But the St. Croix Mojo Inshore Spinning Rod has you covered and will make it easy to catch more fish.

Made from premium-quality SCII graphite, the Mojo Inshore Spinning Rod is a rugged rod that’s built to last and provides all the backbone you need, yet it is still sensitive enough that you won’t miss delicate nibbles from skittish fish.

It’s made with Batson Forecast® hard aluminum-oxide guides with 316 stainless-steel frames, which will last much longer and resist rust better than the 304 frames included with many other inshore spinning rods.

The Mojo Inshore Spinning Rod is available in both 7-foot and 7-foot-6-inch-long versions, depending on whether you prefer a rod that’ll provide greater casting distance or maneuverability.

 

 

2. Best Overall Saltwater Baitcasting Rod: Penn Bluewater Carnage

The Penn Bluewater Carnage is a fantastic baitcasting rod that’ll not only stand up to years of salt-water fishing and provide the backbone necessary to wrestle big yellowfins but deliver the kind of sensitivity you need to present the lure in an enticing manner and detect more bites too.

Penn Bluewater Carnage

Made from a graphite composite blank, the Bluewater Carnage features a woven carbon fiber outer shield to protect it from the elements. It is also equipped with Fuji aluminum oxide guides and frames and Hypalon handles to provide you with the best grip possible.

The Bluewater Carnage comes in a variety of lengths, but most saltwater anglers will prefer the 7-foot model to enjoy the greatest fish-fighting leverage and casting range.

It’s also available in several different power ratings, to suit the needs of anglers fishing for different species. Most saltwater anglers will, however, probably find the model rated for 20- to 50-pound-test line to be ideal.

 

 

3. Best Saltwater Rod-and-Reel Combo For The Money: Penn Squall Lever Drag Combo

If you are new to saltwater fishing, it is ideal to start with a rod-and-reel combo rather than trying to select a rod and reel separately. This helps newcomers avoid mismatching poles and reels, and just start fishing.

Penn Squall Lever Drag Combo

The Penn Squall Lever Drag Combo is a great option for those who want to try out saltwater angling without having to worry about matching a rod and reel correctly.

Available in two lengths and two power ratings, you can use one of these rods to catch a variety of species. They are ideal for inshore rather than offshore angling.

Notable Features

  • One-piece, tubular glass blank with a solid tip for improved strength
  • Reel features a graphite frame and an aluminum spool
  • Lever drag system allows you to make adjustments on the fly and better battle large fish
  • Features heavy-duty Dura-Drag washers
  • Graphite construction provides great sensitivity

 

 

4. Best Inshore Fishing Rod: Penn Rampage Boat Casting

Inshore anglers typically work shallower water and target slightly smaller species than their offshore counterparts, and this influences the characteristics of the rods they use.

Penn Rampage Boat Casting

Penn is one of the leading manufacturers of saltwater rods so it’s not surprising to see they’ve made our list twice. The Penn Rampage Boat Casting provides all of the things you need in an inshore rod at a very reasonable price.

Notable Features

  • 1-piece tubular glass blank with a solid, reinforced tip makes it easier to lift big fish from the water
  • Triangular EVA grips provide the comfort you need for those long days on the water
  • Stainless steel guides with aluminum oxide inserts
  • Heavy-duty graphite reel seat
  • Available in sizes ranging from 5’6” to 7’6”

 

 

5. Best Deep Sea Fishing Rod: Fiblink Saltwater Offshore 2-Piece Conventional Boat Rod

If you head out to the deep ocean, you’ll probably be trolling or vertically jigging more than casting. So casting distance isn’t as critical for offshore anglers as it is for those fishing closer to the shore. Instead, offshore anglers need rods that are great for playing fish.

Fiblink Offshore Boat Rod

The Fiblink Offshore Boat Rod is a great option for anglers who prefer to fish in the deeper waters far from the shore. They provide both the strength and sensitivity to help you detect light bites and wrestle giant fish.

Notable Features

  • Two-piece, solid glass construction provides enough durability and strength to last through years of abuse
  • Some models feature corrosion-proof, stainless steel guides, while others feature roller guides
  • EVA foam grips provide a comfortable grip without compromising sensitivity
  • Designed for either 30- to 50-pound-test line or 50- to 80-pound-test line
  • Great looking finish with fluorescent tip for added visibility in low light

 

 

6. Best Saltwater Pier Rod: Okuma SCT Inshore Rod

Fishing from a pier lets you access fairly deep water without the need for a boat. However, it requires you to adapt your techniques to the unique circumstances involved in fishing in what are often crowded locations.

Okuma SCT Inshore Rod

Okuma SCT Inshore Rods are perfect for catching a limit while working your favorite pier. Lightweight yet sturdy, they are comfortable to use and handle. They’re long enough to let you cast great distances when you have the space to do so.

Notable Features

  • Constructed from extremely lightweight, 24-ton carbon rod blanks for incredible sensitivity
  • Made with Fuji Alconite guide inserts so you can fish with braided line if you like
  • Split EVA grips provide great comfort while saving a bit of weight in the process
  • Available in 8’ and 8’6” lengths and power ratings ranging from medium-heavy to extra-heavy
  • Trigger grip provides improved leverage for hoisting fish from the water

 

 

7. Best Saltwater Jigging Rod: Penn Carnage II Jigging Rod

Penn makes another appearance in our review, but this time it is with the Carnage II Jigging Rod. Perfect for catching grouper, tuna and other big fish in deep water, the Carnage II is easily one of the best jigging rods on the market.

Penn Carnage IIIt not only provides the kind of power you need, but it is built to withstand the rigors of saltwater fishing for years to come.

Measuring 6-feet-and-4-inches long, this medium-heavy rod features Sls3 blank construction to provide the kind of power you need to drag big fish to the surface (if you fish on a crowded boat, you may want to opt for the 6-foot-long, heavy-power version instead).

It also features plenty of high-end components, including Fuji K guides with alconite inserts, a Pack Bay aluminum reel seat and an aluminum gimbal. It also comes with a non-slip foregrip so that you can impart better leverage on the line.

 

 

What Makes a Good Saltwater Rod?

rods in line

 

Power

Choose a rod with the proper power for your purposes.

Power is the amount of force or weight it takes to make a rod bend. It is typically characterized as:

  • ultralight
  • light
  • medium-light
  • medium
  • medium-heavy
  • heavy

If you are after a huge yellowfin or blacktip sharks, you want a heavy rod because it can haul these big beasts in.

In contrast, it is an overkill for those trying to catch snappers and bonefish – you’d want something in the medium-light to medium power range.

 

Action

Action is the amount of the rod that flexes when loaded.

  • Fast and extra-fast action rods only flex at the tip.
  • Slow action rods (sometimes called parabolic rods) flex along most of their length.

Slower actions usually provide better casting distance and they help reduce the odds of you yanking the lure out of a fish’s mouth too quickly on the hookset.

On the other hand, fast-action rods allow you to cast with much greater accuracy and can help experienced anglers set the hook in large fish.

 

Length

rods of different lengths

When all other things are equal, longer rods enable you to cast farther than short poles do. So you want to use the longest rod that you are comfortable with when casting distance is important.

By contrast, if you spend a lot of time fishing from crowded piers or using jigging spoons, a shorter rod is more useful.

 

Rod Style

Choose a style that suits your skill and experience level.

In most cases, experienced anglers will get better results from baitcasting rigs than they will with spinning setups because baitcasting rods:

  • cast farther
  • hold much more line
  • ideal for the heavy tackle than spinning rigs
  • have superior drag systems than spinning rigs

However, baitcasting combos are much harder to cast and use than spinning gear which can be frustrating for novices.

 

Material

Select a fishing stick built from materials that excel for your fishing purpose. There are two primary materials used to construct most rods:

  1. fiberglass
  2. graphite

Fiberglass rods are cheaper, tougher and better for battling big fish. On the other hand, graphite rods typically offer better sensitivity that allows you to detect even the lightest bites.

Several manufacturers also make composite rods which combine the best characteristics of fiberglass and graphite. However, you have to pay dearly for this type of performance. Casual anglers can just choose between fiberglass and graphite.

Nevertheless, there are a few things you’d want in just about any saltwater rod. For example, you’ll want a durable fishing stick that will last a long time after being exposed to salt, sun, and sand.

 

Final Thoughts

Many anglers who are new to saltwater angling become a bit overwhelmed when selecting a rod but this doesn’t have to be the case. Simply consider the criteria listed above and check out the rods we recommended.

Are there any other characteristics of saltwater rods you like to consider before making your purchase? Let us know in the comments below.

If you want to learn more about fishing rods in general, check our “Choosing The Best Fishing Rod In 2018“.

Ben Team
Ben is a lifelong environmental educator, former ISA-certified arborist and avid angler who writes about the natural world. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his beautiful wife and spoiled rotten Rottweiler. You can read more of Ben’s writing at FootstepsInTheForest.com.

2 COMMENTS

  1. These are excellent rod choices for offshore fishing. If you do any inshore fishing these rods might be a little overkill. Down here in Texas we use a lot of custom made rods for throwing lures. Nice list though man. Thanks!

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