Rod holders are essential kit for surf anglers. Without one, or with the wrong one, you’re inviting catastrophe. Drop your reel in the sand, or worse, wet salty sandy slurry, and it’s game over for most reels.
Firstly, you need a secure place to rest your rod while rigging, baiting, or handling your catch. Secondly, they’re a must for set baits and must stand up to angry fish trying to drag your entire rig out to the last line of breakers.
I’ve reviewed the 5 best surf fishing rod holders for 2023 and added a practical buyers guide. For the handy folk, there’s a bonus surf rod holder DIY that’s cheap, simple, and effective. Just remember, a sand spike isn't just a surf fishing accessory, it's essential.
My Review Process
A good rod holder for surf fishing must be long enough to hold your reel well above the sand, and well above the occasional wave that ventures much further up the beach than you expected. It must sit firmly and deeply in the sand, and remain there - even if the odd wave causes washouts at its base. It should be lightweight yet strong and rigid, constructed from quality material that won’t succumb to corrosion.
With these essentials covered, I look for any clever innovations such as locking mechanisms, or added reel protection – and I prefer if they’re easy to sink into the sand. Having spent over 40 years chasing fish from the beach, I still find that a simple design is always the best. Beware screws, rivets, springs, and moving parts. They don’t fare well in salty environments.
Simplicity wins it for the Sand Flea PVC surf rod holder. The Sand Flea is available in 4’, 3’, and 2’ lengths, in black or white.
The 4’ model is my choice, as it will hold my biggest and longest rods very securely. It’s hardy and durable PVC, with a rubber rim to add protection for your rod handle and reel. The rim is notched to cater to your reel arm. So long as my drag is set correctly, nothing in the ocean will rip this from the sand. It doesn’t get better than this – just different.
I understand for a lot of surf anglers, if it ain’t metal, it’s not for me. The 266 is made entirely from aluminum. The foot bar and rod tube are welded to the spike. The spike is durable, strong, and very easy to punch into heavily compacted sand.
At an impressive 50 inches, it has great ergonomics and is a pleasure to use. While I feel the spike could be longer, it seemed to hold up very well under load and wash. I’d just make sure my drag was set to a level where a fish couldn’t pull it out. The rubber rim offers excellent protection for your reel and rod handle.
Again, simple just works.
If you’re on a budget and looking for multiples, the Sea Striker PVC Sand Spikes are perfect. You can’t make a sand spike for the pocket change these guys cost.
Available in three sizes, my preference would be the 37-inch. It’s a little short, but it gets the job done. Lightweight and portable, it has a flared end for rod and reel protection and a steep angle spike for easy penetration. Bottom line – it’s very cheap but I trust it to hold my expensive surf rigs while under load.
On first appearance, the Sea Striker 2AL looks a little too lightweight. However, it’s totally up to the challenge of the majority of fish species you’ll seek in the surf.
While suitable for all anglers, it’s brilliant for the traveling angler with very limited space. At 28 inches, it can be folded to half this length for easy storage in a backpack. Importantly, this spike holds well in sand, gravel/shell beaches, and will also hold well in many soil types. While not heavy-duty, it’s a great universal sand spike you can trust.
While simplicity is best, 822 adds a cutting board and bait basket to a multi-surface, secure and functional spike. It’s an excellent length and will hold long rods and heavier rigs. The basket and cutting board are surprisingly convenient and very useful – I didn’t expect this, and thought it was a little gimmicky. I was wrong. This is a thoughtful sand spike design with well-executed construction. Keep moving parts clean, and it will be very durable. It has earned its relatively substantial price tag.
Types Of Surf Fishing Rod Holders
There are two types of surf fishing rod holders
- PVC tubes
- Metal sand spikes
PVC tubes are the simplest and are constructed from the same pipe used for plumbing. They are only suitable only for sand, in which they perform brilliantly for light and heavy-duty fishing. They’re very lightweight, with variations limited to rod and reel protection.
Metal sand spikes vary from very simple constructions to multi-part, multi-material designs, built around alloy angle. They are good for sandy beaches, gravel, stone, and shelly beaches.
There are many variations of metal spikes, with quite a number failing to offer durability and rig security. Good ones are usually very simple and built to last a lifetime, offering continued rig security.
Can I Make A DIY Rod Holder?
With access to a hardware store such as Home Depot, anybody can make the most effective rod holder there is, the PVC tube. It’s cheap, and it’s fast.
Of course, those with welders, a full workshop of tools, and alloy working skills can design and build innovative metal spikes. But the PVC pipe surf rod holder can be made by anybody and requires only the most basic handy skills and tools.
Making A 4’ PVC Pipe Surf Rod Holder
There’s nothing like custom fishing gear you craft yourself. A basic surf rod holder is one of the easiest DIY creations there is. It might be a base model, but it’s the best, most secure sand spike.
Tools and materials required. (Capitals indicate essential tools)
- MEASURING TAPE OR RULER
- Secure bench
- 1 or 2 clamps
- 2-INCH PVC PIPE. ENOUGH FOR ONE 4’ OR MULTIPLE 4’ POLES
- 180 AND 240 GRIT SANDPAPER
- Reflective stickers
1. Purchase an appropriate length of 2-inch PVC pipe from your hardware store. I like a two-inch pipe as it’s easy to insert and remove rods with large butts. It also offers better stability through surface area and friction. If only using thinner rods, consider the next pipe size down. You’ll appreciate the easier penetration.
2. Place the pipe on a sturdy bench, clamp it, then cut the spike end with your handsaw at an angle of 60 degrees. Once cut, sand both ends so the edges are rounded and smooth.
You have just created the most effective sand spike there is. It will need your body weight to sink into compact sand. But if it’s tough to sink, it’s tougher to come out.
I add reflective stickers to mine so they are easily seen at night under torchlight. There’s no need to cushion or flare the rod end. Due to the nature of PVC, it will outlast you – even with heavy, daily use.
Rod Holder Buying Guide
Rod holders are, by and large, pretty basic tools. But there are features you should be aware of to ensure you get the right one for your surf fishing applications.
Rod Holder Length
A rod holder needs to be long enough to hold the handle of your longest rod with the reel arm resting on the rim.
I prefer a minimum penetration depth of a foot and a half. Sadly, many metal designs with foot bars and other accessories don’t have this necessary length. Your rod should sit at a convenient ergonomic height.
I like it around my belt level or a touch above. Remember, the higher the pole above the sand, the more leverage you’re giving the fish, waves, and wind. That means you’ll have to sink it deeper into the sand.
Screws, Rivets, And Moving Parts
There are many metal and hybrid surf rod holders that have springs, screws, wingnuts, and rivets. These are weak points and nearly always rust and/or fail. They should be avoided in most cases, as they fare very poorly under salt conditions.
Alloy spikes that have PVC pipes connected via rivets are particularly weak. While they have a few useful light applications, the rivets will eventually fail. There are a select few metal sand spikes with moving parts and accessories that are well constructed. Look for strength and corrosion resistance in connectors.
PVC Or Metal Spike
PVC is outstanding in the sand but practically useless in gravel and stone. If you’re fishing from multiple substrates, or frequent stone beaches, a metal spike is the best choice for you, either stainless steel or alloy.
I have never seen a PVC rod holder break under normal use in over 40 years of fishing. If you use a rubber mallet to secure a PVC spike, it will eventually wear. However, the PVC will outlast every metal spike.
Purchase metal spikes constructed from heavier gauge (thicker) angle. It’s heavier to carry, sure, but it’s a must. There are a number of spikes constructed from flimsy, rounded alloys, and they are, by and large, unsuitable for holding and protecting your expensive fishing gear.
If you’re looking to purchase a metal spike, make sure the rod-holding tube, foot, or knee bars are welded. Avoid connectors – they fail.
The Fish-N-Mate 822 45in Sand Spike w/Cutting Board & Basket listed above, is one of the better examples of a well-designed, well-constructed sand spike with extras. Often, complex surf rod holders are more gimmick than performance.
Heavy Duty Fishing
I use my 4’ PVC surf spike for chasing everything including sharks. Metal is not required. You just need to set your drag so that the spike can’t be easily pulled by mega-fish.
Final Notes On The Best Surf Fishing Rod Holders
I stand by simplicity, strength, and durability as the key features of a good surf fishing rod holder. That’s why the PVC Sand Flea took first prize. The Fish-N-Mate 266 50in Deluxe Sand Spike will suit those anglers fishing stone beaches and is a secure option for those wanting metal. I was also impressed by the design and build quality of the Fish-N-Mate 822 45in Sand Spike w/Cutting Board & Basket – ideal for anglers wanting added user convenience and functionality.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.