Beginner Saltwater Fishing Tips

Updated on December 8, 2022 by
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The best way to improve your saltwater fishing is to select the right-sized gear, start on the coast, and use attractive baits.

Anglers who are fortunate enough to live near the coastline often become acquainted with saltwater fishing at an early age. Those of us who grew up hundreds of miles from the seashore likely cut our teeth on the small ponds, lakes and rivers around our home catching freshwater fish species. 

It’s never too late to start a new hobby and saltwater fishing is widely considered to be the big leagues of sportfishing. A great deal of research and study should always go into preparing to fish any part of the ocean, but we’ve compiled this article to cover some of the basic equipment, gear and tackle items you’ll need to get started saltwater fishing. 

Saltwater Fishing Overview 

There is a major difference between saltwater fishing and wetting a line at your local farm pond. While freshwater fishing usually doesn’t involve many surprises, saltwater fishing is just the opposite. You truly never know what might end up biting your hook when fishing from the beach, or deep sea fishing many miles offshore. 

It’s because of this concept that it’s important for saltwater anglers to always have a rod and reel that’s large or powerful enough to handle bigger fish. If you’re fishing in an area where large fish exist—sooner or later—you’re going to hook one. Fighting and landing a 100+ lb fish is an exhilarating experience that is truly hard to describe to anyone who’s spent their life catching small trout or panfish in freshwater lakes and rivers. 

Saltwater tackle should always be proportionate to the fish you’re targeting. It’s acceptable to use a light rod and reel for going after small saltwater species around the coast in flats or inlets, but saltwater fishing almost always involves using heavy, powerful gear and tackle. 

offshore fishing

The Right Gear (Saltwater Rods & Reels)

When it comes to surf fishing, it’s essential to have a long, heavy rod that might look comically large to beginners. The length on a typical surf rod is often anywhere from 7’ to 15’ long as they are designed to allow anglers to cast farther instead of being engineered for more sensitivity. For getting started in saltwater fishing, it’s generally best to have a rod that’s roughly 8’ to 10’ long as this allows you good casting distance, as well as plenty of power and backbone to handle monster fish when you need to. 

Spinning reels are the most widely used surf fishing setups, but offshore anglers commonly opt for conventional rod and reels that are no longer than 6’ or 7’ in length. A conventional (round) reel offers a more convenient setup for bottom fishing or jigging while the spinning reel is obviously more appealing to a beginner who might be fishing from the beach. 

Saltwater reels are also going to be larger than most freshwater models as they must be equipped to handle large amounts of heavy pound test fishing line. These reels are also often subjected to much greater stress and pressure than you typically experience with freshwater fish. Saltwater fish often vastly outweigh the majority of freshwater game fish species and are known to put extreme amounts of pressure on an angler’s tackle. 

It’s generally recommended for beginner saltwater anglers to start with a spinning reel that’s anywhere from 3000 to 6000 size and is also paired with a 8’ to 10’ surf fishing rod. You can usually find affordable surf fishing rod and reel combos for a reasonable price that’s comparable to any freshwater rod and reel combo. 

Always be sure to purchase rods and reels that are made of corrosion-resistant material. Saltwater is highly-corrosive and using your favorite freshwater rod and reel setup might lead to disastrous consequences as they are usually not designed to withstand this corrosion. The inner workings of a fishing reel are often the most susceptible to saltwater corrosion and some saltwater reel manufacturers even encourage anglers to wash and clean their reels with freshwater after each use. 

Start on the Coast 

If you’re seeking an answer to the question of “how to get started saltwater fishing,” we recommend starting your journey fishing from the shoreline, which is known as surf fishing. This will allow you to become acquainted with some of the customs and techniques related to catching saltwater species. Once you’ve mastered surf fishing, or at least gotten the hang of things and learned the ropes, you’ll be ready to venture out to sea in search of larger game. 

Piers are an excellent place to get started saltwater fishing for a number of reasons. They are typically frequented by many other saltwater anglers and can usually serve as a learning center for beginner saltwater anglers who might want to learn some tips and tricks from a salty old fisherman who has decades of experience. 

You can usually gain access to a fishing pier for a small fee of around $5, which often grants you the right to fish for that day. If you’re able to find a pier that allows anglers to fish without charge, you should count yourself very fortunate and take advantage of it. Many times, piers have small bait and tackle shops nearby where anglers can stock up on any gear or bait they need. 

Pier Fishing Guide

What Kind of Bait Do I Need for Saltwater Fishing? 

Saltwater fishing often involves the use of natural or even live bait instead of artificial lures. Many of the predatory species of saltwater game fish are highly adapted to detect the slightest amount of blood or scent in the water, which makes live bait nearly unbeatable when compared to the use of artificial lures. 

Artificial lures do work quite well when used for certain species of fish in many parts of the world, but if you’re looking to get started, live bait is going to be the best choice. Using live bait allows you to focus more on other parts of saltwater fishing instead of learning the nuances of using an artificial lure. 

Figuring out the best kind of bait for saltwater fish is something that will be determined by a number of factors, which all revolve around the particular fish species you’re hoping to catch. In many cases, you can bait your hook with a widely-used type of natural bait and have the opportunity to catch a vast number of different fish species when saltwater fishing. This is one of the reasons why so many anglers greatly prefer saltwater fishing over freshwater angling. 

We recommend starting out with shrimp, or any kind of cut bait that’s considered a good choice for the area you’re going to be fishing. In most regions throughout the world, saltwater fish will often bite a shrimp when given the opportunity. However, there are certain types of ‘cut bait’ that are known to be a much more potent concoction than anything else you can bait your hook with. 

Beginner Saltwater Fishing Tips 3


There are many other points that could be made regarding the types of saltwater fishing rigs, different fishing line choices, accessories you might need and other items when it comes to getting started in saltwater fishing. If you follow the tips and advice contained in this article, it should be a good head-start that will help you get started saltwater fishing with exactly what you need. The most important tip one should always remember when it comes to saltwater fishing is to relax, enjoy the ocean views and have fun! 

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Donny Karr

Donny Karr is a Tournament Angler and writer whose work has been featured in magazines for nearly a decade. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He enjoys bass and crappie fishing in the lakes around the south-eastern United States, as well as trout fishing in the streams and rivers of the Appalachian mountains. He enjoys keeping up with the latest news and gear items in the fishing industry and is always looking forward to his next outdoor adventure. Donny has written for Georgia Outdoor News, Paddling Space, Man Can Outdoors, Alabama Outdoor News, and Bassmaster.