Having the right gear can make all the difference when it comes to the success and enjoyment of your saltwater fishing experience. Not only will your gear make the sport easier, but it will also make it safer while you’re in or around the water trying to get the strike. When it comes to choosing your saltwater fishing gear, you need to consider where you’re going to be casting in your line. Whether you’re fishing from the pier, off a standing platform into the ocean, or trolling flats is going to impact what type of rod, reel, line and other gear you want to have at the ready.
From the bait you need to the type of fish you hook and the waters you fish, saltwater fishing is a whole different experience. And this experience can quickly leave you heading home disappointed if you go out on the water without the right gear. We are here to help make sure that doesn’t happen to you. In general, there are a few basic necessities you want to be sure you include in your saltwater gear ensemble. Here are our saltwater fishing gear recommendations and what you need to saltwater fish.
Outfitting Your Boat for Saltwater Fishing
If you’re planning to spend long days out on the water it’s important to be sure that your boat is outfitted with all the equipment you’ll need.
A Folding T-Top is going to give your boat the versatility it needs for any type of fishing you plan on doing, whether you’ll be in shallow or deep waters. By outfitting your boat with a t-top that folds, you can freely go under bridges or move it out of the way to keep it from interfering with your casting; but no matter what type of fishing you’re doing, having one on your boat is essential to keep you protected from the sun.
A Casting Platform is going to help give you better sight out over the waters, which can make a critical difference for any sight fishing angler.
An Electronics Box is essential for keeping your fish finder, GPS, radio and valuable safe and secure from direct contact with water. Choose one that is water-resistant and features stainless-steel locks for safekeeping.
A Leaning Post is going to make your travels through choppy or rough waters easier as it provides added stability without hindering your ability to operate your boat’s controls. Combine the post with a Rigging Bracket for storage and you’ll have an all-in-one system that makes saltwater fishing that much more efficient.
Rod Holders and Outriggers with swivel mounts and rotating clamps are going to give you the freedom you’ll need to position your rods at any angle while you’re out on the water. If you want to keep all of your favorite rods at an arm’s reach, these are an absolute must-have.
Essential Saltwater Fishing Safety Gear
First and foremost, let’s talk safety. Keeping safety in mind should always be a priority to ensure you have an enjoyable fishing experience. Start with the basics:
- First aid kit
- Fire extinguisher
- Life jacket(s)
- Throwable flotation device(s)
- Visual and sound signaling devices
Fishmaster’s T-Top Storage Bag is designed to keep all of these items stored, organized, and ready for use at a moment’s notice. Once you have the basics packed and ready to go, consider whether you should have the following saltwater fishing safety devices for your trip:
A VHF radio is an excellent safety device to bring with you when saltwater fishing to keep you in touch with other anglers and up to date with the weather, to the minute. Channel 16 is your go-to for information from the U.S. Coast Guard and authorities. For offshore fishing, this device is a definite must-have and the antenna can be easily mounted to your t-top with a Fishmaster Ratchet Mount Antenna Base. We suggest investing in one with a distress beacon, if possible, in the event of an emergency. The beacon runs through GPS to send your exact coordinates to search-and-rescue teams, getting help to you quickly.
Like the VHF radio, having a radar on board will help you monitor storms and safely navigate the waters. There are a lot of options out there, but if you have a quality radar that can help you mark weather patterns, other vessels and potential hazards, you should be good to go. Another must is having a space to mount your radar. At 12” x 12” the Fishmaster Radome Mounting Plate offers ample mounting space for every need.
Another must-have device for picking up on potential hazards is a GPS. This is an absolute necessity when you are on the water, especially when offshore fishing, to get you home safely. As a bonus, a GPS will also help you locate structures such as wrecks and reefs – in other words, where the fish are.
Saltwater Fishing Electronics
Many of your safety devices are going to have multiple purposes. For example, your radar and GPS are going to help keep you safe as you navigate the waters, but they are also going to help you find where to fish. Another device to help you cast your line where the fish are is a saltwater fish finder. Fish finders work by sending pings of sound around your boat into the water beneath. It picks up structures, bait fish, and the thermocline. You’ll want to be sure to have a Fishmaster electronics box on your boat to safely stow your electronic devices when they aren’t in use.
Essential Saltwater Fishing Tools
With your safety gear and electronics in tow, saltwater fishing is quite literally a vast ocean full of possibilities. Your gear will likely change based on where you fish and what you are fishing for, but there are some essential tools you will want to have on-hand for anywhere you saltwater fish:
- Saltwater Gaffs and Nets to help you land the fish once it’s on your hook. These are also going to make it easier and safer if you practice catch-and-release fishing.
- Saltwater Pliers and Scissors to cut wires and tighten knots as you create rigs, or remove hooks once you’ve landed the fish.
- Saltwater Fishing Knives for cutting your bait or cleaning fish that meet established requirements for keeping.
- A Saltwater Hook Remover to make removing the hook quicker and safer for both you and the fish on your line.
Pro Tip: Saltwater fishing means your gear will be put up to the test in a harsh, corrosive environment. When investing in gear, look for reliable, durable construction. Materials such as copper and stainless steel will offer rust and corrosion resistance, making them more desirable.
Saltwater Rods and Reels
Once you have your saltwater fishing tools, you’re ready for some of the most critical components of your gear: the rod and reel. Saltwater fishing often means going for those larger trophy fish and going for larger fish means needing specific gear. Saltwater fishing rods are thicker, heavier, and sturdier than a typical freshwater rod. This helps them hold up against longer, harder fights. Your saltwater fishing reel is going to be more specialized and you might want some options depending on what fish you are going for that day. But, in general, there are some things you can keep in mind as you’re choosing your rod and reel.
You need to match the reel to the weight of your rod. To pick the right rod, you need to match the lure weight to the size of the saltwater bait or lure you plan on using, which is dependent upon the fish you’re going for. “Power” refers to the weight the rod is capable of lifting, which becomes important especially for deep sea fishing. Longer rods are going to cast farther, while shorter rods are more powerful when it comes time for you to fight the fish and land it. High-speed reels are going to be better suited for fast baits, while low-speed reels, like shorter rods, are going to give you more power for fighting the fish on your line.
Still not sure exactly what rod and reel is right for you? Our recommendation is to talk to a local shop. The local anglers know their waters best, and they will be able to get you the reel (and bait) you need.
Customize Your Saltwater Fishing Gear
If you know you’ll be deep-sea, pier or surf fishing, or fishing the flats or in a bay, then you can get even more customized with your gear to increase your odds of getting strikes. For a more comprehensive look at what saltwater rods, reels, tackle, bait, and tied flies you should use based on where you’re fishing and what fish you’re after, check out our articles Saltwater Fishing Basics, How-to Choose Saltwater Live Bait and How-to Saltwater Fly Fish.
Saltwater Fishing Clothing
Finally, you want to take a look at what you’ll be wearing. This may be one of the last things on your list, but when it comes to maintaining safety and comfort around the water, your clothing can have a big impact. Here are a few basics to consider:
- Foul-Weather Gear, such as waterproof boots and a rain jacket to keep you clean and dry in the event of a sudden storm or rainfall. (Note: Remember to check weather conditions before heading out on the water and keep your radio tuned to the appropriate channel in case these conditions change and you need to head to safety.)
- Cold-Weather Gear, like a waterproof or windproof hat, top layers of clothing and neoprene gloves. Even on warmer days it can be cooler out on the water if you are fishing early in the morning or in later evening hours, so you want to be prepared for these conditions.
- Saltwater Waders that are comfortable and breathable for when the water is 65 degrees or warmer, or neoprene waders for cooler waters to keep you warm.
- Sun Protection that will keep your skin protected from the sun whenever you’re on the water. Even if you have shade from your Fishmater T-Top, wear long sleeves and pants and regularly apply sunscreen. Cover your eyes with some sunglasses – polarized will help you see into the water better – and your head with a hat. You may also want to consider a face mask to protect your neck, nose, and cheeks.
The final thing you should consider is what you will be wearing out on the water. There are a couple key considerations to be made:
- Where are you fishing (offshore, near-shore, inshore)?
- When are you fishing (check the weather)?
Saltwater Fishing in the Surf or a Kayak
You may find yourself saltwater fishing in a kayak, or even in the water, not on a boat. In that case, you are going to want to wear saltwater waders. You will want to have two pairs: neoprene waders for colder waters and breathable waders for when the water is 65 degrees or warmer. Pair them with wading boots and you’re ready to go.
Saltwater Fishing from a Boat
If you are fishing from a boat, you have a little more flexibility with your clothing. No matter what the weather might say, however, have foul-weather gear with you. This means clothing items such as boots and a rain jacket to keep you dry offshore, where you’ll get hit with spray no matter what. PVC attire is always a recommended go-to for saltwater fishing, especially for offshore deep fishing. If you’re hot and don’t mind the water, light, breathable clothing that still protects your skin from the sun’s rays is fine as well.
Final Tip: Clean Your Gear!
Remember that your gear is going to be in saltwater every time you hit the water, so you need to clean it after each trip to make it last. Once you are home, take a few minutes as you unload to rinse your rods, reels and other gear to get the salt off and prevent rust and corrosion.