6 Best Saltwater Fishing Rods Reviewed

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Best Saltwater Fishing Rods

Hi there! Welcome to my review of the best saltwater fishing rods.

Saltwater fishing calls for only the best rods. You’ll find all sorts of fish, from the tiniest panfish near shore to the largest monster fish far out in the waters. This means your fishing rod has to be sensitive enough for those minuscule fish, as well as strong enough for the prize fish you’ll meet. Since saltwater is more corrosive than freshwater, a saltwater spinning rod has to be corrosion-resistant too. It’s also crucial that the fishing rod is affordable because a perfect fishing rod is pointless if you can’t have it.

The best fishing rod at satisfying all these criteria is the St Croix Legend Tournament Inshore. This corrosion-resistant fishing rod has the backbone to take on the monster fish and the sensitivity to detect timid bites. It may cost lot of pennies, but it’s worth every penny.

Everyone has different preferences though. Some of you may be looking for budget rods and others might be looking for surf fishing rods.

I’ve included them all, so jump right in!

The 6 Best Saltwater Fishing Rods

Before we get started, we wanted to let you choose for yourself whether to get a spinning or baitcasting rod, where possible. As such, by default, the links are to the spinning options, but we’ve also included links to the baitcasting rods of the same model where applicable.

With that out of the way, let’s begin.

Best Overall

1. St Croix Legend Tournament Inshore

  • Blank Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Guides: Aluminum Oxide
  • Handle Material: Cork
  • Power: Ranges from Light to Heavy

I’ll start the ball rolling with a saltwater rod that’s handcrafted in the USA. Designed to be unmatched in strength and durability and to have incredible sensitivity and lightness, this is the best saltwater fishing rod that money can get.

St Croix is famous among anglers for making the best premium rods. They’re always researching and developing new technologies for their rods. To date, their R&D has yielded 3 groundbreaking technologies.

The first two technologies are the Fortified Resin System (FRS) and the Advanced Reinforcing Technology (ART). Rods built with FRS are 33% stronger than rods built with the usual methods. ART is an exceptional carbon fiber that makes a rod 10 times stronger with no increase in diameter or weight. These state-of-the-art technologies combine to produce a saltwater rod that’s stronger and more durable than any other rod on the market. You’ll have no trouble even when up against the largest offshore fishes. And needless to say, this rod will last you a lifetime.

The final technology is the Integrated Poly Curve (IPC) tooling technology. IPC further enhances the rod’s strength and boosts its sensitivity by eliminating transitional points in the rod blank. Plus, carbon fiber is the most sensitive material available for rod blanks. The carbon fiber, coupled with IPC, creates an unbelievably sensitive fishing rod.

Another nice benefit of having those technologies is lightness. With these technologies, less material is needed to get the same amount of strength. As such, the rod is also extremely light.

To sum it up, the St Croix Legend Tournament Inshore excels in every aspect. But be warned, its price is not for the faint of heart. Only serious anglers who are looking to invest in the best saltwater fishing gear available should get this fishing rod.

Of course, for the premium price tag, you’ll be well-protected by the 15-year warranty. If you won’t settle for anything less than the best saltwater fishing gear and have the money to spare, this is it.

Also, as promised, here’s the link to the baitcasting version.

Best Legend Tournament Alternative

2. Penn Battalion II Inshore

  • Blank Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Guides: Fuji Alconite
  • Handle Material: Rubber Shrink Tubing/Cork
  • Power: Ranges from Medium Light to Heavy

On to our next saltwater rod, the Penn Battalion II Inshore manages to be strong and durable while still remaining a sensitive and lightweight rod. It’s no Legend Tournament, but it’s a damn good substitute.

The Penn Battalion II Inshore boasts a heavy power blank. It’s not common to see such a power rating on a carbon rod since carbon fiber is weaker than fiberglass. However, Penn achieved this with their SLC2 construction that has spiral carbon wraps for the first layer and longitudinal carbon fibers for the second layer. The result is a powerful fishing rod you can use for both inshore and offshore fishing.

Next, it’s equipped with Fuji alconite guides for a long lifespan. Fuji alconite guides are the gold standard in fishing guides. These guides are not just smooth, but also super corrosion-resistant. With the hardy SLC2 construction and these long-lasting guides, this rod will last for years to come.

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Another benefit of the carbon blank is the sensitivity. As the most sensitive material, carbon fiber allows this rod to be responsive and feel the subtle bites of small fishes. In fact, it even has an extra fast action option which proves how sensitive this rod is.

As for its weight, it weighs a mere 5.3 ounces for its medium power 7 ft option. This is once again thanks to its carbon blank, as carbon fiber is the lightest material for blanks. This rod is light enough that you won’t feel tired even after a long day of fishing.

I also really like the rubber shrink tube handle. As compared to EVA and cork grips, rubber shrink tube handles provide the most secure grip and maintain this grip even when they get wet.

All in all, this top-of-the-line fishing rod delivers on all fronts, and it’s no wonder. Penn is a brand that is renowned for their quality components and tournament-tested products and rods. They hold about 1,400 IGFA world rankings for their superb performances in various saltwater game fishing tournaments.

And fret not, just because it’s a first-rate rod doesn’t mean it’ll make a hole in your wallet. It’s a fair bit less durable and a tad less strong and sensitive than the Legend Tournament. But it’s also $200 cheaper while still having all the strength and toughness needed for both offshore and inshore fishing. That’s what makes this the perfect alternative to the rather pricey Legend Tournament.

Once again, here’s the link to the baitcasting version.

Best For Surf Fishing

3. Penn Carnage III Surf Conventional

  • Blank Material: Composite
  • Guides: Titanium
  • Handle Material: Rubber Shrink Tubing
  • Power: Ranges from Medium to Medium Heavy

If you’re looking for a saltwater surf rod, the Penn Carnage III is your best bet.

For surf fishing, your rod has to be no shorter than 8 ft or you won’t be able to cast past the breaking waves. The Penn Carnage III comes in 10 ft and 11 ft to reach the monsters far out.

Of course, length isn’t the only reason to get this rod. Strength-wise, it doesn’t disappoint with its medium heavy power. You won’t be taking home any giants, but sharks and such will be no issue.

Sensitivity-wise, the moderate fast action enables you to feel the soft bites of small fish. It isn’t responsive enough for tiny fish though, so you’ll miss out on those. Still, this isn’t a huge boon since no one goes surf fishing for tiny fish anyway.

Durability-wise, the titanium guides are the sturdiest on the market. There’s also the rubber shrink tubing that’s relatively tough, very secure, and comfortable to grip.

In short, this is a well-rounded saltwater fishing rod, and the best at its length. You won’t find a better saltwater surf rod than this.

Best Carnage III Alternative

4. St Croix Triumph Surf Spinning

  • Blank Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Guides: Aluminum Oxide
  • Handle Material: Cork
  • Power: Ranges from Ultra Light to Medium Heavy

Just like the Carnage III, the St Croix Triumph Surf was designed for saltwater surf fishing.

First off, it features a SCII carbon blank that has a higher strain rate than normal carbon fibers. This means it’s stronger than other carbon fibers. Naturally, this makes the St Croix Triumph able to wrestle down any inshore fish. Unfortunately, the highest power rating for this rod is medium heavy, which isn’t enough for the bigger offshore fishes. Nevertheless, it will more than suffice for medium sized fish and even some of the larger sized species like sharks.

Other than that though, it doesn’t have any flaws.

The aluminum oxide guides are almost as corrosion-resistant as the Fuji alconite guides, and will still give you a long-lasting fishing rod.

And as mentioned earlier, carbon blanks are sensitive and light. You’ll have no trouble fishing for hours with this rod because of its lightness.

It’s also worth noting that this is a one-of-a-kind rod that uses eco-friendly parts.

Overall, this rod will perform fantastically for surf fishing. It comes in lengths from 8-10 ft, perfectly. Since surf fishing calls for 8-12 ft rods and the Penn Carnage III only runs from 10-12 ft, you can get this rod if you want something from 8-10 ft. It’s able to match the Penn Carnage III in strength and sensitivity, but loses out in hardiness, this the lower price.

That said, it’s lower price but still top-notch performance makes it a great alternative to the Carnage III. Whether you found the Carnage III out of your budget or are just looking for shorter surf rods, this is the rod for you.

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Best Budget

5. Ugly Stik Bigwater

  • Blank Material: Composite
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Handle Material: EVA Foam
  • Power: Ranges from Medium to Heavy

This next rod is the cheapest way to get started saltwater fishing. The Ugly Stik Bigwater Spinning Rod offers rugged strength without compromising on sensitivity.

Right off the bat, you’ll notice that this saltwater fishing rod has a graphite composite blank. This allows you to have the sensitivity of graphite and the strength of fiberglass. The graphite composite rod is further strengthened by Ugly Tech Construction. Ugly Tech is known to make unbreakable rods. This is made possible by their unique way of constructing rods. With it, you’ll be able to pick up on soft bites and handle gigantic fishes.

On top of that, this rod comes with stainless steel guides and an EVA grip. Stainless steel holds up well in saltwater and EVA foam is the most comfortable material for rod handles.

The catch is that this rod is much heavier than all the previous saltwater fishing rods. While fiberglass is stronger than carbon fiber, it’s also heavier. And while Ugly Tech Construction is strong, it uses more material.

At this price point though, those downsides are only to be expected. If you’re looking for a quality saltwater fishing rod on a tight budget, look no further.

Here’s the link to the baitcasting version.

Best Inshore

6. St Croix Teramar Southeast

  • Blank Material: Composite
  • Guides: Fuji O-Ring
  • Handle Material: Cork
  • Power: Medium Heavy

Last on the list, the St Croix Teramar Southeast lacks the strength for offshore fish, but excels for fishing inshore.

As a glance at the features would tell you, this rod sports a cork handle and Fuji O-Ring guides. O-Ring guides are made with aluminum oxide. This, together with the long-lasting cork grip, guarantees many years of service for this rod.

However, its strength is capped at medium heavy, which isn’t enough for the bigger offshore fishes. That’s why it’s only the best inshore fishing rod.

Moving on to responsiveness, the fast action guarantees you won’t miss the tugs of even tiny fish.

You’ll also be glad to hear that this rod is quite affordable, coming in at a little under 150 bucks. For those who only plan on inshore saltwater fishing, this could just be the rod you’re looking for.

Here’s the link to the baitcasting version.

What To Consider Before Buying A Saltwater Fishing Rod

By now, you should know which rod you’re going to get.

However, each rod has multiple options and each represents a different rod length, power, action, etc.

For the best saltwater fishing experience, make sure to read this buying guide so you pick the right one.

Blank Material

Rod blanks are typically made of either carbon fiber, fiberglass, or composite which is a mixture of both.

You may also have seen some graphite rods, but graphite is just another name for carbon fiber.

Carbon fiber is more expensive, more sensitive and lighter than fiberglass. On the other hand, fiberglass is stronger and more sturdy.

Composite is a material that contains the good qualities of both materials.

Composite rods have the sensitivity of carbon and the strength of fiberglass.

Of course, a pure carbon fiber rod would still be lighter and more sensitive and a pure fiberglass rod would still be stronger. But composite offers the best of both worlds.

I prefer carbon saltwater fishing rods for fishing inshore and fiberglass or composite saltwater fishing rods when I fish offshore. However, this ultimately comes down to what you value in a fishing rod.

Rod Power

Rod power refers to how much force is required to bend a rod, aka stiffness.

It’s quite commonsensical. You’ll need a stiffer rod for bigger fish.

It isn’t just the fact that a flimsy rod won’t hold up against big fish. Rods with heavier power also work better with bigger and heavier lures, which you need for big fish.

As such, you’ll need to consider where you’ll be fishing and what fish you’ll be targeting.

You’ll find smaller fish inshore than offshore, so you can go with lighter power saltwater fishing rods.

I recommend using a medium light to medium power rod for fishing inshore. You can deviate from this if you plan on only targeting panfish, in which case a light power rod will be fine.

Offshore fishes are larger, so go with at least medium heavy rods.

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If you’re going after prize fish though, make sure to get at least heavy rods and get extra heavy power if possible.

Rod Action

Rod action is a measure of how high up your rod bends when you apply pressure on the rod tip.

The higher up it bends, the faster the action and the more sensitive your rod will be.

For fishing inshore where the fishes are smaller, you’ll need faster action saltwater fishing rods to feel the softer tugs.

I recommend getting at least a moderate fast action rod, although a fast action rod would be more ideal.

For offshore fishing, the fishes will be larger, meaning they’ll have stronger bites.

As such, you can afford to get a moderate or even a slow action fishing rod. Of course, more sensitivity is always good, so if you see a fast action rod available, go for it.

Rod Length

It’s critical that you get the right length because it’ll determine how far you can cast, how stiff your rod is, and your rod weight.

A longer rod gives you more leverage to cast further and is the biggest deciding factor in how far you can cast.

A longer rod also tends to mean more strength, although it will only affect your rod stiffness to a small degree.

And lastly, more length means more material and thus more weight.

As such, whether you’re fishing offshore or inshore, stick with 6-8 ft.

Unless you’re surf fishing, you won’t ever need more casting distance than an 8 ft rod will provide. A longer rod will only add on unnecessary weight. At the same time, a shorter rod than 6 ft may not cast far enough, especially if you’re fishing inshore.

If you’re going surf fishing, follow this guide to find the right rod length.

Line Guides

It is particularly important that your line guides are corrosion-resistant since you’ll be fishing in saltwater for long periods of time.

The good news is that most metals are corrosion-resistant, and ceramic is completely rust-proof.

Some of the better metals to look out for are titanium and alconite. Both of these are the best materials for guides, being strong, smooth, and highly corrosion-resistant.

Reel Seat

Lastly, though not of huge importance, reel seats will affect sensitivity to some extent. Inferior reel seats won’t hold up against larger fish and your reel can end up being ripped off.

The best reel seats will be made of metal or graphite, so look out for those materials. Minimal reel seats that expose the rod blank also provide an extra sensitivity boost, although it won’t really matter as long as you have the rod action that you want.

How To Take Care Of A Saltwater Fishing Rod

  1. After fishing, always clean your rod with a cloth, using either freshwater or lukewarm water and vinegar or a mild detergent.
  2. If there’s any remaining dirt, clean it off with a toothbrush, or a brush with soft bristles. You can then wipe it dry with a cloth or just let it dry by itself. However, there will always be some moisture on the rod even after wiping, so make sure to let it dry for a while more even if you’ve cleaned it with a dry cloth.
  3. Once a month, remove the spinning reel (or your baitcasting reel, depending on which you have) and lubricate the reel seat and other moving parts, like roller guides.
  4. Next, wipe off excess lubricant
  5. After putting back the reel and tightening all the respective screws, apply a final layer of silicone lubricant. This will not only lubricate, but also resist water and protect the surface from wear and tear.
  6. This next step is optional, but recommended if you want a sleek-looking rod. After you’ve completed all the previous steps, you can lightly coat your rod with bowling alley wax. This will keep your rod looking sleek and shiny. Just note that this only works on modern rods that have that polished finish.
  7. Finally, when aboard boats, make sure to store your rods safely so that they won’t collide against hard surfaces or other rods. Rod racks are very useful for this purpose, but you can also wrap up your rods with towels to protect them.

My Verdict

Saltwater conditions are harsh, and lesser saltwater spinning rods just won’t cut it.

While all the saltwater fishing rods on this list will get the job done, the absolute cream of the crop is the St Croix Legend Tournament Inshore. It stands out even among the best saltwater rods because it excels in literally every aspect.

With that, all the best in your saltwater ventures!

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Sean Campbell’s love for hunting and outdoor life is credited to his dad who constantly thrilled him with exciting cowboy stories. His current chief commitment involves guiding aspiring gun handlers on firearm safety and shooting tactics at the NRA education and training department. When not with students, expect to find him either at his gunsmithing workshop, in the woods hunting, on the lake fishing, on nature photoshoots, or with his wife and kid in Maverick, Texas. Read more >>