11 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 Penn Battalion II Inshore Spinning Rod. This corrosion-resistant fishing rod has the backbone to take on the monster fish and the sensitivity to detect timid bites. Most important of all, it won’t break the bank.

Everyone has different preferences though. Some of you may be looking for 2-piece and others might be looking for telescopic rods.

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

Our Top 11 Picks

  1. Penn Battalion II Inshore (Best Overall)
  2. St Croix Triumph (Best Inshore)
  3. Ugly Stik Bigwater (Best Budget)
  4. Cadence CR5 (Best 2-Piece Rod)
  5. Sougayilang Telescopic (Best Telescopic Rod)
  6. St Croix Legend Xtreme Inshore (Best Splurge)
  7. St Croix Legend Tournament Inshore (Best Legend Xtreme Alternative)
  8. Fiblink 2-Piece Saltwater (Best 2-Piece Rod Sensitivity) 
  9. Shimano GLF (Best Triumph Alternative) 
  10. Okuma Cedros Surf CSX (Best For Surf Fishing)
  11. Daiwa D-Wave Combo (Best Rod and Reel Combo)

The 11 Best Saltwater Fishing Rods

Before we get started, you’ll notice that a good number of the saltwater fishing rods don’t even cost more than $100. This isn’t because they’re bad or anything like that. Rather, it’s because you can already get excellent saltwater fishing rods at these low prices. 

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


Best Overall

1. Penn Battalion II Inshore

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

I’ll start the ball rolling with the Penn Battalion II Inshore Spinning Rod. This top-of-the-line fishing rod manages to be strong and durable while still remaining a sensitive and lightweight rod.

It’s not every day that you see an extra heavy rod, because such rods have a lot of power behind them and aren’t easy to make. It’s even rarer 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.

Another benefit of the carbon fiber 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 rod 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, the Penn Battalion II Inshore Spinning 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. You’ll find that it’s quite moderately priced.


Best Inshore

2. St Croix Triumph

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

On to our next rod, the St Croix Triumph has everything you’ll want in an inshore fishing rod. 

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. That’s why it’s only the best inshore fishing rod.

But other than that, 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 always 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 inshore fishing. It’s also very affordable. If you plan on doing only inshore fishing, this is the rod for you.


Best Budget

3. 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 unlike the previous two saltwater fishing rods, this one 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 the previous two 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.


Best 2-Piece Rod

4. Cadence CR5

  • Blank Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Handle Material: Cork + EVA Foam
  • Power: Ranges from Ultra Light to Medium Heavy

If you’re looking for a 2-piece saltwater fishing rod, the Cadence CR5 is your best bet.

Once again, it’s made with carbon fiber, so it’s no surprise that it’s very lightweight. 

Strength-wise, its power ratings go up to medium heavy. It’s not the strongest, but it’ll suffice as long as you’re not going after monster fish.

It’s also equipped with stainless steel guides that can stand up to saltwater well.

It does have its share of downsides though. Firstly, I find it is not that responsive. Despite being a fast action fishing rod, it feels more like a moderate action fishing rod. The handles were also rather thin and could be thicker for more comfort, especially in battles against larger fish.

All things considered though, for the price you’re paying, you’re getting a ton of value. For this price, you won’t find a better 2-piece fishing rod for saltwater.


Best Telescopic Rod

5. Sougayilang Telescopic

  • Blank Material: Composite
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Handle Material: EVA Foam
  • Power: Medium

When it comes to telescopic rods for saltwater, the Sougayilang Telescopic Rod takes the win.

Telescopic rods are infamous for breaking easily. Luckily, this rod is an exception. 

As you should know by now, the fiberglass in composite will provide additional strength to the rod, preventing it from being as fragile as other telescopic rods.

Most importantly, it shortens from 9.9 ft to just 18.7 inches so you can store it in your suitcase or your backpack and bring it anywhere you need.


Best Splurge

6. St Croix Legend Xtreme Inshore

  • Blank Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Guides: Daiwa AGS Carbon
  • Handle Material: Xtreme-Skin
  • Power: Medium Heavy

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 4 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 rod that’s stronger and more durable than any other rod on the market. Needless to say, this rod will last you a lifetime.

The next two technologies are the Integrated Poly Curve (IPC) tooling technology and the Taper Enhancement Technology (TET). IPC further enhances the rod’s strength and boosts its sensitivity by eliminating transitional points in the rod blank. TET works with IPC and uses an advanced computerized pattern cutting machine to create more responsive blanks. Together, these two technologies create 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 Xtreme 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.


Best Legend Xtreme Alternative

7. St Croix Legend Tournament Inshore

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

Just like the Legend Xtreme Inshore, this rod is handcrafted in the USA and unrivalled in power and lifespan. It’s also remarkably light and sensitive.

The St Croix Legend Tournament Inshore was built with 3 of the 4 St Croix technologies. The only one it lacks is TET, which boosts sensitivity. However, since it’s got all the other technologies, this rod also possesses unparalleled robustness and superior lightness and sensitivity.

Both saltwater fishing rods are strikingly similar, with this rod being only slightly less responsive. Aside from that, they’re alike in every way, except for the fact that this rod is more than $300 cheaper.

I’m not sure about you, but $300 for a little less sensitivity and still top-notch performance is a no-brainer deal. If you had your eyes on the St Croix Legend Xtreme Inshore but it was out of your means, this is the perfect alternative.


Best 2-Piece Rod Sensitivity

8. Fiblink 2-Piece Saltwater

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

Next up, the Fiblink 2-Piece Saltwater Rod is for those who want a more sensitive 2-piece rod.

Earlier, I mentioned that the Cadence CR5 is a pretty good 2-piece rod, but it is a tad unresponsive. Well, this rod is the opposite. It isn’t as powerful as the Cadence CR5 but it’s more sensitive.

There isn’t much to say about this fishing rod. It’s basically a more sensitive but less sturdy 2-piece rod. For those who value sensitivity more than strength, get this rod instead of the Cadence CR5.


Best Triumph Alternative

9. Shimano GLF

  • Blank Material: Composite
  • Guides: Aluminum Oxide
  • Handle Material: Cork + EVA Foam
  • Power: Ranges from Medium Light to Medium Heavy

For those who found the St Croix Triumph too dull, the Shimano GLF’s aesthetics may be what you’re looking for. 

The Shimano GLF boasts a composite blank. The fiberglass gives it the muscle for saltwater fish, and the carbon fiber enables it to feel timid tugs.

Its power ratings go up to medium heavy, making it well-suited for inshore fishing like the St Croix Triumph. Whether it’s sensitivity, power, or price, both are quite evenly matched. This makes the Shimano GLF a great replacement for the St Croix Triumph.


Best For Surf Fishing

10. Okuma Cedros Surf CSX

  • Blank Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Handle Material: Rubber Shrink Tubing
  • Power: Ranges from Medium to Heavy

Surf fishing is one of the ways in which anglers do saltwater fishing. The thing is, the minimal rod length you’ll need for surf fishing is longer than most anglers use for normal saltwater fishing. Most saltwater fishing rods don’t have the required length, but the Okuma Cedros Surf CSX does.

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 Okuma Cedros Surf CSX starts at 9 ft and goes all the way up to 11 ft.

Those who want to go surf fishing should seriously consider this fishing rod.


Best Rod and Reel Combo

11. Daiwa D-Wave Combo

  • Blank Material: Fiberglass
  • Guides: Aluminum Oxide
  • Handle Material: EVA Foam
  • Power: Medium

I’ll include a list of awesome reels to pair with saltwater fishing rods, but for those who want a rod and reel combo, the Daiwa D-Wave Combo is a great choice.

Choosing the wrong reel to pair with your rod could damage your fishing rod. This is why some people prefer to get a rod combo. 

Some rod and reel combos even come with fishing line pre-spooled so you can start fishing right away. If you like this convenience or just aren’t that confident in choosing the right reel, you’ll want the Daiwa D-Wave Combo.


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.

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 length 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 it’s offshore or inshore fishing, 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 inshore fishing.

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

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 bigger fish. Rods with heavier power also work better with bigger and heavier lures, which you need for bigger 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 inshore fishing. 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. 

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 inshore fishing 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.

Blank

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

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.

Brand

Last but not least, try to get rods from well-known brands. This includes Shimano, Abu Garcia, Penn, Okuma, St Croix Rods, and so on. 

A rod from a big brand isn’t a guarantee that it’ll be a good rod and a rod from an unknown brand doesn’t mean the rod is subpar. 

That being said, the odds of a rod being great are definitely higher if the rod comes from a reputable brand.

FAQs

Here are some questions that you might have.

What Makes Saltwater Rods Different From Freshwater Rods?

Freshwater rods can certainly be used in saltwater, especially the high-quality ones that have corrosion-resistant components. 

The fact is, the fishing industry has come a long way, and nowadays, even freshwater rods employ very durable materials. 

However, the fact remains that a saltwater fishing rod will be made with saltwater fishing in mind. 

While it may not always be the case, the majority of the time, saltwater fishing rods will be more impervious to rust. This is because the materials in the rod construction for saltwater rods will be specially chosen to resist rust. 

There are some rods for freshwater fish that are highly corrosion-resistant, but those are the exception rather than the norm. It’s always better to get a fishing rod designed for saltwater if you’re fishing in saltwater.

What are the best saltwater reels to pair my saltwater rod with?

Like saltwater rods, saltwater reels will be better equipped to withstand corrosive saltwater conditions. 

Here are the best saltwater spinning reels to pair with the best saltwater spinning rods.

Why Isn’t There a Single baitcasting rod in this list?

I chose to include only spinning rods so that everybody, regardless of skill level, can use these saltwater fishing rods. 

A baitcasting rod won’t be harder to use than spinning rods are, but a baitcasting reel will be harder to use than a spinning reel. 

Most new anglers and even some intermediate ones have trouble using baitcasting rods and baitcasting reels.

No doubt your lure weight and line weight can be heavier with baitcasting rods. But since a spinning reel and spinning rod will be easier to use, I decided to only have spinning rods in the list.

Many anglers also catch more fish with spinning gear because catching more fish is easier with gear that you can handle with ease.

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 best saltwater fishing rod at delivering affordable quality is the Penn Battalion II Inshore Spinning Rod. It stands out even among the best saltwater rods because it offer everything you’ll need for saltwater fishing at a very reasonable price.

With that, all the best in your saltwater ventures!

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AUTHOR

Reuben went on his first fishing trip when he was 9. That's when he fell in love with fishing. When he's not fishing, he's searching for new gear and ways to fish better.