I’ve given out my rod system recommendations for freshwater kayak fishing before. Bass fishing can be highly specialized necessitating the need for a different rod for every technique and bait you plan to employ. A freshwater angler may carry 6 or more rods with him rigged and ready to go on a typical bass fishing trip. My milk crate is loaded with multiple Plano tackle boxes full of each type of bass bait should I need to change further throughout the day.
Saltwater fishing though, isn’t necessarily so specialized. In this post, I’m going to give you a look into what I choose to use to stay organized and efficient on any typical saltwater inshore fishing trip looking primarily for game species like redfish, snook, trout, and maybe tarpon.
I generally use a 3 rod system for inshore saltwater fishing. As I said, it’s less specialized, but each rod does have its place. I also take less tackle overall. I usually only have 1 or 2 Plane tackle boxes with me. Saltwater fish can be prone to a particular bait pattern, but probably not as much as bass fishing. So the 3 rod system I choose to employ looks like this. Let me explain the purpose of each.
7 Ft. Medium-light power, fast action spinning rod with a 2500 size reel
This rod and reel set up is primarily for small jigs. I spool this reel with 10 pound braid and attach a 3-6 Ft. 20 pound fluoro or copolymer leader. I can fish just about any kind of soft plastic that will accept a jig head or things like Gulp. I love the D.O.A. C.A.L. Shad Swimbait. I use these baits to fish primarily the middle of the water column, but will occasionally, bump or drag the bottom with them too. If the bottom is just too grassy or muddy, I’ll keep it up off of there. I can employ a variety of retrieves and cover a lot of water to find the fish with this set up.
7 1/2 Ft. Medium power, fast action spinning rod with 3000 size reel
This rod and reel set up, I primarily use for larger baits and for casting further when needed. Or, if I know I’m definitely targeting some larger fish or fish in structure. I still spool it with 10-15 pound braid and a 3-6 Ft. 20 pound leader. Unless it is really heavy structure and I may forego the leader altogether. I will fish larger baits on the bottom and sometimes with larger offset weedless or weighted hooks like a 3/0 keel weighted swimbait hook with a hitch hiker coil spring at the eye. I can really cast a larger bait a long way with that extra 6 inches on this rod. I can stay well away from fish without spooking them or just cover a lot more area on my retrieves with that long of a cast. In one instance, I sat anchored way off the edge of a channel with fast current, but could easily cast out into the channel from where I was to hook into the many trout that were feeding in that moving water in the channel adjacent to a grass flat. I’d make a long cast with a large 5-7 inch Gulp jerkbait on an offset weedless hook. Let it sink to the bottom and bump along with the current until a big trout smashed it. This is primarily a rod and reel set up for fishing the bottom of the water column.
7 Ft. Medium-heavy power, extra fast action, with 4000 size reel
This rod and reel set up, is somewhat versatile. I can use it to stand and cast top water baits like a Spook or Bomber Badonk a donk and walk them back on the surface. The extra fast action allows you to impart that action on the bait easier. I spool this reel with 20 pound braid and about a 3-4 Ft. 30 pound mono (because it floats) leader. I go a little shorter with the leader because the larger diameter leader lines tied in knots repeatedly going through your guides tends to weaken knots or knock out the inserts if you have them. You should still be able to cast normally with a 3 ft. leader extending out the top of your rod. That way you don’t have to damage your rod guides or lose fish on broken knots.
So, with the 3 rods rigged and at the ready, I can fish the top, middle, and bottom of the water column at a moment’s notice. If I find the fish, the particular bait may not matter so much, but where the bait is in the water and what speed it is moving may be more of a concern. If I find the fish are more tuned into pattern details than that, I’ll change to try to narrow down more details.
Now, I said this rod may be more versatile. Most times, I’m lure fishing with artificials out there. But, if I catch some baitfish like pinfish and I decide to hook them up, I’ll use this rod to do it. I’ll just remove the artificial lure and tie on a circle hook. I figure with a large live bait fish on the line, you have a good chance of hooking into a pretty big fish that may want to grab it and run. If that happens, the medium-heavy power, extra fast action, and bigger reel should help me battle the fish and land it before running into some structure. Just a little bit more advantage for me to horse them up out of wherever they may want to go and hide.
This is also the rod I could easily tie on a popping cork to with either a live or artificial bait on a leader below it. The same properties that allow me to work a top water bait allow me to work a popping cork well.
I may deviate from a 3 rod system if I decide there may be some good conditions to where I could fly fish on that trip. Sometimes I’ll stow an 8 or 9 Wt. fly rod just in case the opportunity presents itself, but it doesn’t primarily make up my rod system on any given day.
You may also notice that these are all spinning rod models? Why no baitcasters? Not a lot of big reasons. Most Florida saltwater inshore fishing is done using spinning gear. But, it’s personal preference mostly. But, out on large open water, I think many times, there’s a better chance for more wind and casting into the wind with spinning gear is usually easier. I can use lighter baits and lighter lines. A large volume of light line on a reel will help if I have a fish that really wants to run a long way. I do use baitcasters in saltwater, just not on a regular basis. I just personally feel spinning reels are 1 less thing to present a problem out on the open water in the wind. You could certainly make a case for using them for things like burning swim baits on a high speed baitcaster reel. Or pitching and winching snook out of heavy structure with a low gear baitcaster and a heavy power rod. You can adapt this list to your location, preference, and given situations.
What do you think? Would you add or remove or do anything different here? What does your inshore rod system look like?