How to Choose the Best Saltwater Rod and Reel Combo for Fishing Florida


rod reels man How to Choose the Best Saltwater Rod and Reel Combo for Fishing Florida

A lot of people ask about fishing poles and which one is best for them. The knowledge that goes into answering that question can be complicated. There is not an answer that fits everyone. The components that go into this answer include:

  • The type of fishing you do
  • The species or range of species of fish you want to target
  • The environment in which you will fish

In this article, we go over how to choose a rod and reel for deep sea fishing around the Destin Florida area.

The Terminology

Four terms that are most important when selecting a deep sea fishing rod and reel are:

Rod Action – In short, it is the amount of bend in a pole from the tip A fast action pole bends at the top third of the pole. Medium Action poles bend to the middle of the rod from the tip. Slow Action poles bend from the center to the base when a fish applies pressure in a downward motion from the tip.

Blanks – Blanks are the sections of the pole. They come in a variety of materials, including fiberglass and graphite, or a composite of both.

Drag – is a mechanical “reverse” of the line spindle due to pulling from a fish. It is a tool that you use to wear out a fish while reducing the chances of the line breaking.

Line Spindle – The spinning part of a reel that holds the fishing line. It is essential to pay attention to the depth of the spindle as that tells you how many feet of the line the reel will hold.

What Is Your Fishing Style?

  • Deep-Sea fishing has a variety of options for fishing. Those include
  • Trawling – Dragging a lure or baited hook behind a boat to entire predator fish to strike a moving target
  • Top Water Plug – Fishing the top ten feet of water for those fish that hit flies or lures at the surface.
  • Mid Water Fishing is when you use a weighted lure or baited hook that hits the mid-range of where you are fishing. Fish hunt at different levels of the ocean, and they follow the baitfish throughout the top, middle, and bottom or deep layers of the water.
  • Deep-Sea Fishing – Targeting those fish in the deeper water. Mid and deep level fishing requires larger reels so that your rod holds more line.
  • Jigging – Usually, a mid-level fishing style with a set up designed to add specific motion to the jig.
  • Spot Fishing – A quick action situation where you are casting to visible fish.
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Anyone of these fishing styles and usually many of them occur during a charter fishing trip. It is not uncommon to be headed to deep water and encounter a fishing opportunity, such as a pod of tarpon out hunting. These types of opportunities are why many fishers take multiple rods with them all rigged for different situations.

What Type of Saltwater Rod and Reel Combo Do You Need?

You Must pair the Rod and Reel to the Tackle and Line and to do so, you must start with your fishing goals.

Big Fish

7′-8′ rods – fiberglass for beginners and graphite or composite (fiberglass and graphite) for those with some experience. The difference is that graphite does not hold up as well as fiberglass does in hectic situations. A little nick in a graphite blank can mean a broken pole. So, once you learn how to handle a pole and how to care for it, graphite works terrific. For learning, the fiberglass is much more forgiving, and there is a lot of excitement when you start battling big fish.

For big Fish 7-8 foot rods with a heavy/medium action is ideal. These work well for Goliath groups, mutton snappers, big dolphin, sharks, and big tarpon. The reel needs to have drag to at least 50 pounds. These are big fish, and they have a lot of pull-power. Your goal is to tire them out, and the option to set the drag higher means they have to really work for it. On the other hand, it is good to be able to drop the drag so that smaller game fish do not just break the line.

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Reel Selection

Reel selection should set to hold an 80-lb test line with a deep spool and drag to 50 lbs. A set up in this range handles big fish, including big tarpon, Goliath groupers, big dolphin, sharks, mutton snappers, kite fish, etc., with the ability to fish the top and middle layers. The longer the pole, generally, the bigger the fish it will handle. For big tarpon, hit the 8-foot range. The braided diamond line is ideal for big fish. A braided line is the key to big fish. It is thin and reliable without a lot of stretch, which makes it easier to cast long distances with reasonable accuracy.


Jigging – Medium Heavy Action with a 7-8′ length, longer is okay as you gain a bit more “feel” than you do with shorter rods.


Trolling – For big fish like tarpon a heavy action is ideal. A Medium/Heavyweight is suitable for smaller targets.

A Note on pairing Fishing Gear

The deal with picking the best rod and reel is that they pair up to fit an ideal range of specifics. The weight of a rod does not really mean the size of the fish. The rod is there to move a fish in the water. It is the strength of the line and rigging that matter when it comes to big fish. If you have a heavy rod and light line, the line is more apt to snap than the pole. If you have a light rod and heavy line, the pole is more prone to snap.

For those reasons, you must pick your rod and reel based on the type of fishing you do, the style, and the fish you want to target.

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Style of fishing – a spinner rod is used almost exclusively in saltwater fishing with exceptions for trolling and deep water fishing. But there is a difference between a spinning rod and a spin casting rod. One is more accurate when targeting and casting. Those differences have to do with the power of the rod and the type of reel. The rod’s power is its ability to cast the fishing line accurately.

There is also a relationship between the line and the rigging. These are things that also must match up with the type of fishing you do. A jigging rod versus a trolling rod is a good example. One has a build that takes the deep hits while the other will take the deep hits but also translate the light bites to your hand.

Which saltwater rod and reel combo is best for you? The real answer is most likely more than one pair. After all, fishing is all about odds and skill, and you will need more than one type of fishing rod and reel setup to take advantage of all of the changing opportunities that you encounter in a day of deep-sea fishing.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>