my Surf Fishing Set Up!

Surf Fishing Setup Rods, Reels, Line, Lures and Surf Fishing Belt…

I have had many inquires about my surf set up while fishing Baja.  I am in no way an expert at this so I have basically begged, borrowed or stolen ideas from the real experts I have fished with from the beach… Stephen Jansen, Wesley Brough, Jeff DeBrown and even Jeff Klassen from many years back.  Everyone has their ideal set up and what fits them best.  So for what it is worth here is my Surf Fishing Set Up. Let the screaming reel begin!!!

Surf Fishing Rod:

I like at minimum a 10′ rod but prefer 11-13′. Here are 3 examples of what I think are good choices:

G Loomis IMX SUR Surf rods are amazing …light and powerful with an adjustable reel seat for dialing in the position of the reel where YOU want it. Cool!!!

-Carolina Cast Pro Series Model 12′  3-7oz weight.  These rods are designed by casting pro Tommy Farmer who just recently threw a cast 826′.  That is not a miss print, nearly 3 football fields!!! This guy can chunk it!  see for more info

-Jansen Baja Beach 360 -12′  2-4oz weight!

These are available right in Cabo from Jansen Inshore Tackle and are a proven winner. Also available a the 7-piece model for easy traveling! Nice!!!

Surf Fishing Reel:

Get ready to drain your wallet a bit here but these reels are really worth it …reelly _lol:

– Shimano Stella 18000  (can take 65#’s of drag pressure…if YOU can stand it!)

Diawa Saltiga SA-Z Dog Fight (66lbs of drag! …had to be 1lb better!)

Shimano Spheros 18000

For a great performing reel with still a lot of available drag pressure it is hard to beat this reel …a great price too!!! Another Great reel is the Daiwa Salitst 6000H (4500 pictured here). Not as much drag as the Stella or Dog Fight but on 1/5 the price at about $215!!!



I prefer to go with the lightest braided line I can stand regardless of the situation.  Braid for several reasons:1)the small diameter allows me to get more line on some of my smaller reels, 2) it cuts the wind better than larger diameter line, 3) there is little or NO stretch which makes working a big popper or other lure easier, is more sensitive, cuts through the water better and really helps when setting the hook on boney mouthed predators!, 4) I can fight a big fish to shore quicker and not tire them to complete exhaustion resulting in more successful released fish!

– my go to line is Power Pro 30# for open water or 65#  Power Pro for rocky situations.  Both in green color but I don’t think it really matters as these fish are not particularly line shy.


I like to use mono leaders with a loop connection to most lures and live bait hooks. To the running line, the braided line, I use a loop and an Albright knot. Here is a good illustration of the Kreh Loop for the connection to the lure or hook:

If targeting toothy critters like Sierra mackerel in the winter or if they get too pesky at other times I will go with 20-30″of 60# wire leader with a swivel at the line end and a quality snap to the lure at the other.

For a whole list of great knot animations see this link below. Very easy to see and understand!

Animated Fishing Knots by Grog


I have a few all time favorites and having been the American partner of SEBILE lures for 5 years I am bit skewed to the brand.  But here are my favorites in the surf in the Baja:

SEBILE Stick Shadd 155 in almost any color …I prefer the Black Gold Shiner, Ghostescent, and American Shad. I like the sinking models because they cast a mile but the floating models allow you to let the waves move them back and forth in rocky areas … a deadly technique for Pargo! The Stick Shadd is a HUGE producer for me in Baja from Roosterfish to Pargo to Sierra to Grouper!Jansen Cabo Killer  is probably the best distance lure and a close second is the Jansen Ballyhoo. Both Awesome!

Roberts Ranger Lures of different colors and sizes. Cast great and you can really get reluctant Roosterfish to blow up on them when RIPPED thru the water. This is why the Stella is so great …56″ of line retrieved with each turn of the handle!!!

SEBILE Splasher 152- The Splasher is unique among poppers as it pops AND walks if you know how to work it.  Also this lure moves TONS of water …another reason to have the braided line.  With mono you have SO much stretch the action of a big popper is really diminished!

Wading/ Surf Fishing belt:

Having a good quality wading/ surf fishing belt really helps to make your day on or in the water much more enjoyable.  The one pictured here is made by  Jansen Inshore Tackle and is really handy and very economical.  Three separate zippered pouches with nice Cordura construction and available with lure tubes to keep things from becoming a mess.  Having your pliers handy right off the belt is a real key especially for toothy critters like Sierra and ‘Cudas!

Retrieve and techniques:

This really varies but a great way to find fish if you don’t know where they are or are not sight fishing is to RIP ( and I mean reel as fast as you can stand and sustain) a Cabo Killer or Ranger after a swing for the fence cast.  If you have everything set up right you will be casting in the 150 yard range. That is not a mis-print, 150 YARDS.  With the right conditions I am convinced I have made 200+ yard casts from off elevated rocky areas with a favorable wind!  This allows you to cover huge areas and vast amounts of water to find the fish then you can slow down, change lures and get bit!  Don’t be surprised at what might come to the lure from the surf.  I have caught Dorado (Mahi Mahi) from the surf and have had friends in Cabo that have hooked Striped Marlin from the beach which they didn’t land :(.  A deadly technique that Wesley Brough taught me is using a floating SEBILE Stick Shadd in rocky areas with big waves.  Cast beyond a rock and as you retrieve the lure stop it on the ocean side just as a wave is coming off the rock.  Let the wave wash the lure back out to sea a bit and twitch it or swim it in the surf.  This also works very well with the SEBILE Magic Swimmer as the wave causes the lure to swim in place as it washes back out.  Reluctant or tentative species like Pargo really find this hard to resist and I have seen them come from 40′ deep to eat a surface lure with this technique!  Good luck and please add your comments to this blog so we can all learn some new stuff!


“Aquarius this is Launch Control …you are cleared for lift off!!!”


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  1. This is great. Watching the shows like the rosterfest a couple weeks ago just makes you want to go do it. Knowing what you need for getting the job done is so helpful. I have a passion for the Baja and for fishing. You show helps with the cabin fever until the next time I get to go. For now, watching the snow fall in Montana. Thanks, Dave

  2. Cool post. Now that’s a fishin pole!

  3. jeff pope says:

    great post! thanks dave. i agree with dom, the more i watch the shows, the more i want to get down there and fish. great info on what you use, i feel it gives us all an idea of where to start on fishing a new way or spot. as for you dave, awesome stuff! keep catchin and we’ll keep watching……thanks again

  4. Rory Goggin says:

    I, too watched that rooster-fest a couple of weeks ago and was very curious as to the tackle you were using. Thank you for posting this Blog! I’m impressed that you cast LURES with 10+ foot rods. Here on the East Coast, I and most of my mates usually use a 9 foot rod or smaller for casting lures to the surf.

    One concern I had though was the handling of the fish! I was glad to see that you practiced C&R fishing, but you seem to drag the fish up the beach by the tail, probably filling it’s gills with sand. Then, on releasing it, you sort of dropped it into the wash and pushed it without wading out deep enough to get past the sandy wash, so once again I’m concerned about the fishes gills! Here on the East coast, we catch large Red Drum in the surf, and often never take them out of the water, and we walk them past the sandy area of the surf and help the fish recover.


  5. Dear Rory,
    Thank you so much for watching “Fish the Baja” and expressing your concern for the fish handling. I agree with you on doing the best for the fish but in this particular spot there are what I believe are greater concerns. The surf on the Pacific side of the Baja is extremely strong and it drops off to deep water very quickly. I believe Stephen Jansen you wrote concerning this after your comment and he is absolutely correct. What he failed to mention was that we had just lost a surf fisherman there a short time before this filming. This was a seasoned veteran that just got a bit careless and his body was found just down the beach from where we were filming. On the Sea of Cortez side we venture out a bit further in the water to release fish. Most of the surf fisherman I know that are not local release their fish and I encourage that as much as possible. I will endeavor to be gentler if the conditions allow and please keep up the comments as it helps me strive to improve!


  6. Thanks for the tips it helps a lot
    How long of a Mono leader do you normally use? Why not Flouro?

  7. Floro is great just the cost AND availability in Baja is limited depending on where you are!

  8. Dave, I’m headed down to the Eastcape next month and I’m going to try surf fishing for roosters and jacks. Never done it before, but after watching your video, and one of Jeff Klassen’s, it looks like a great time in a great setting. I’m going out for a day with Martin from Jansen’s there in Cabo. Can’t wait!

  9. Don Kiser says:

    Good Day. Sorry to bother you again. I read your article on equipment that you use down in Cabo from the beach. Was wondering if you would give me your opinion on the attached info on a reel that I’m thinking about purchasing. I know you mentioned the Diawa Dogfight and the Shimano Stella. They are both great reels.But the $1,000 price tag is pretty steep. After extensive searching, found this reel for about $215.00 It has a very fast retrieve and was wondering what you might think. I’ve been using a middle of the road Penn, and it has worked good, but it’s done about 3-tours of Cabo and its time to upgrade the equipment. Is the Dogfight and Stella really worth that much. Are they that much better reel than something like the reel in the photo. Would really appreciate your thoughts on the subject. Thanks Regards Don
    As the Saltist name implies, these reels were designed for all-out serious saltwater fishing. And that means simple, straight forward mechanisms that can withstand the punishment and still work flawlessly, time after time. Like a manual bail trip for fewer moving parts—greater strength and reliability. Even a dual, full-time anti-reverse you can depend on, with no lever to accidentally turn off or snag line. Reliability and performance—that’s Saltist.

    Saltist® Features:
    Rugged, all-metal construction
    Fast 6.2 to 1 gear ratio retrieves up to 53 inches of line with every crank!
    Five CRBB corrosion resistant ball bearings
    Digigear™ digitally designed and machined gearing, ultra-strong and ultra smooth
    Tubular stainless Air Bail
    Sealed, waterproof drag
    Rotor brake keeps bail in convenient position when opened
    Dual, full-time anti-reverse
    Reliable manual bail trip
    Machined aluminum handle
    Twist Buster®


    Digital gear design ensures a perfect mesh.

    Super Corrosion Resistant Ball Bearings.

    Number Action
    FW / SW Bearings Gear Ratio Line Per
    Handle Turn Wt.
    (oz.) Line Capacity
    (Lb. Test / Yards) Drag Max
    STT4000H – / H 5CRBB, 1 RB 6.2 : 1 44.5 20.30 12/260, 14/210
    SAMURAI BRAID: 40/320 22.0
    STT4500H – / H 5CRBB, 1 RB 6.2 : 1 44.5 20.10 14/300, 17/220
    (SAMURAI BRAID:40/440,55/330) 22.0
    STT5000H – / XH 5CRBB, 1 RB 6.2 : 1 53.1′ 25.60 17/310,20/240
    (SAMURAI BRAID:55/440,70/330) 33.0
    STT6000H – / XH 5CRBB, 1 RB 6.2 : 1 53.1 25.40 25/250,30/210
    (SAMURAI BRAID:70/440,80/330) 33.0
    STT6500H – / XH 5CRBB, 1 RB 6.2 : 1 53.1′ 24.40 25/300,30/250
    (SAMURAI BRAID:70/550,80/440) 33.0

    CRBB = Super Corrosion Resistant Ball Bearing, BB = Stainless Steel Ball Bearing, RB Roller Bearing

  10. jason rowe says:

    great write up….Thanks for sharing. What a reel fisherman does

  11. i’m going to baha in march.i’ll be there through oct. if you were to pick one place to stay ,in your opinion,to experience the best surf fishing.what town would that be?i am not afraid to travel 30 to 50 miles,in either direction thank you steve campbell

  12. i learned quite alot from this article. thanks

  13. Hey Steve I would be in Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo. You have access to miles of beach in either direction but still have the amenities of the city! Have fun and let’s see some pix! Dave

  14. thank you


    k you

    thank you very much dave san jose del cabo or small pueblo nearby sound like what i’m looking for. if you ever want to fish sabalo or rabalo on the western yucatan the trip is on me tarponhunters western yucatan
    contact me

    very much dave

  15. that last one kind of typed up funny

  16. Bob Buzzard says:

    Enjoyed and thanks for your surf set up info.
    I have normally fished the pacific while in Cabo.
    We are considering fishing the Sea of Cortez
    Do you have any particular beaches on the Easy Cape
    that Rooster can be caught. Is it true that the marina
    Outlet in San Jose del Cabo can be good fishing.
    We will be staying at the Grand Mayan.
    Is there any good fishing near the Mayan.

    If you would please respond.

    Bob Buzzard

  17. dont know the beaches in East Cape very well. Try Jeff deBrown at! Gracias!

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