Finding the best mackerel rods

In this guide I will show you a few different mackerel rods that might work for you. The needs of a holidaymaker looking to catch a few mackerel for dinner are different from those looking to maximise casting distance or the sporting value of fish. As an angling guide based in Cornwall, I have helped many people find the right rod.

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Budget mackerel rod and reel combos

You don’t need high-end rods and reels to catch mackerel with feathers. However, most rods at the low end are barely functional. They are typically sold to people looking for a good day out, that’s all.

Ignore the rating on the side of the rod. Pick up these 3oz torpedo leads and a few packs of these mackerel feathers. Then, tie them to the end with a blood knot (or other strong knot) and you’re fishing. If you go to a rock mark with rough ground, this float rig will help you avoid snagging on the bottom. The Daiwa Sensor Combo and Shimano FX set up is for use with single spinners only (no added weights, no feathers).

  • Shakespeare Firebird Combo – from veals or amazon
  • Daiwa Sensor Combo – from veals
  • DENNETT SEA BASS SPIN – available at veals
  • Shimano FX 4000 Reel – available at veals

Best mackerel feathering rod

Longer rods cast further

Eager anglers often desire to cast further to reach mackerel when they are not yet close inshore. To achieve this, they frequently need to use a beach casting rod. When paired with a robust reel that can handle the leads in use, this becomes the best mackerel set up for feathering. A mackerel fishing set-up rated to about 3-4oz can cast leads and feathers to the horizon. In terms of efficacy, no other type of mackerel kit can compare to this.

The reason I like these rods for feathering is because a rod that casts this kind of weight can load properly during the cast with mackerel feathers. A heavier beach casting rod would not load properly and would limit your casting distance.

Feathering rods allow you to lift 4-5 mackerel up a harbour wall

A lighter rod could not lift 4-5 mackerel up a wall. A 10ft beach caster rated to a max of 4oz is also a great general purpose sea fishing rod. It allows you to fish with bait with light bottom fishing rigs, use sea fishing float rigs and of course mackerel feathers. This set up is quite similar to what is used for bass fishing with bait. It’s essentially a ledgering rod for bass, flatties or estuary fishing.

  • 10ft Shakespeare Rod 1-3oz – available next day on veals
  • Daiwa Ninja Reel size 4000 or 5000 – available next day on veals
  • Mackerel feathers deal – on amazon
  • 3oz torpedo leads deal – on amazon
mackerel fishing
Abu Garcia Devil Spin with Shimano Crossfire 3000

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Spinning rod for mackerel

You need a spinning rod to cast single lures without extra weight

A spinning rod is designed to cast lighter weights. This is so it can load properly when casting single lures with no added weight. Lures like the dexter wedge, toby spoon, or a modern bass lure like the Fiiish Minnow. Mackerel are not particularly fussy fish, so this kind of finesse is not a requirement for them. However, a lighter rod will bend much more. Many prefer targeting them this way for the fun of catching these muscular fish on light tackle.

An 8ft rod rated to 40g is excellent for mackerel spinning

Any spinning rod between 7-10ft that casts no more than 40g will work for mackerel fishing. The real secret is to use good line and choose spinners that are close to the maximum casting weight of your rod. I have selected some excellent choices below. These spinning rods are great choices for anglers that also enjoy float fishing with bait. It’s much more fun to catch mackerel on the float with a lighter rod than a traditional sea fishing rod that casts over 3oz!

  • Penn Pursuit Rod & Reel – available at amazon and veals
  • Penn Fierce Spin Combo – available at veals in 30g version, so would need to stick to the lighest lures
  • Abu Garcia Devil Spin – available at amazon

Best light spinning rod and reel combos for mackerel

Go as light as you can for if you enjoy the fight

If you’re interested in catching a wider variety of species beyond just mackerel and enjoy spinning, you might want to think about a lighter option. A traditional spinning rod can cast up to about 2oz or 60g. This is useful for anglers with a more generalist approach, but not ideal for casting single unweighted lures and spinners.

You basically want a bass rod if you’re looking for a nice lure rod

If you prefer to use modern bass lures or fish with lighter lines, you’ll need something that casts more like 30g. Essentially, you’re looking at a bass rod. At this point, you’re stepping into the world of more specialist lure fishing equipment. These rods are a lot of fun to use because they bend significantly. They allow you to target a vast range of species with much more control over your lure presentation.

If you buy a light rod, everything else must be light also!

If you buy a rod like this, it’s important to use monofilament (regular) fishing lines of around 10-12lb. Otherwise, it can be tricky to cast lighter lures a good distance. The better alternative would be to use braid, if you are happy tying leader knots. Rods like this are just perfect for casting 30g dexter wedges, toby spoons, casting jigs, paddle tails etc. They allow you to explore a lot of methods and the lure fishing options are limitless. I like to use these when mackerel fishing because if there are no mackerel around, I can just target wrasse with soft plastics instead.

  • Daiwa Ninja Rod – available at veals
  • Daiwa Ninja Reel – available at veals
spinning for mackerel
The rod here is the £500+ Nories Rockfish Bottom. It’s certainly not required for mackerel (or anything really), but was damned nice to use.

Read our full guide to mackerel fishing or else our guide on the best mackerel lures

Other mackerel rods

lure fishing for garfish

Best LRF rods for mackerel fishing

Undoubtedly, this method is the most sporty for catching mackerel. If you choose to use very light fishing gear, a single mackerel can easily pull out line. Our modest mackerel are after all closely related to tuna! They share a similar pelagic lifestyle and fight hard. During summer, you’ll notice a growing number of individuals opting for ultra-lightweight lure rods.

LRF Rods are Designed for Catching Mackerel

LRF rods have casting weights not exceeding 10g. Designers originally created them for catching Pacific scad mackerel in Japan. These fish resemble our horse mackerel. The Japanese have mastered deriving more sporting value from these smaller fish. This fishing method can become very technical. At these casting weights, small changes to your lure, line, or reel choice can completely alter the balance of the set up. There’s so much fun to be had with one of these rods. In 2016, I worked with a Japanese LRF brand and loved every bit of it.

Nobody ever regrets buying a lighter rod for mackerel fishing. If you’re going to do it I suggest going all the way and seeing what happens…

  • Shakespeare Salt LRF Rod – available at veals
  • With Shimano Sweepfire 2500 Reel – available at veals
  • Shimano Basstera LRF – available at veals
a float rig for mackerel fishing in the UK
A standard 1oz sea fishing float rig is fine for mackerel fishing

Float fishing rods for mackerel 

Float fishing for mackerel is a very different approach from both feathering and spinning. Instead of fishing actively, you have the satisfaction of watching your float bob on the surface, until TAP TAP TAP and suddenly it disappears beneath the surface.

If you have coarse fishing gear, use it

The best float rods are actually freshwater rods. These are useful because their longer length means you can make contact with the bait quickly after a bite. You don’t need to strike because sea floats create a lot of resistance on their own. You don’t see many people using this method in the UK. It’s more common to see people using a beach caster for float fishing, even though the rod is completely overpowered. The only advantage of the beach caster is you can easily switch to a heavy ledgering rig if you want to. Instead, I’d recommend using a lightweight rod that casts a couple of ounce – the set-up linked below is ideal.

Advantages of float fishing for mackerel

Float fishing lets you catch a wider variety of species than feathers or hard metal lures likely would. Experimenting with fishing at different depths is crucial. If the fish feed lower in the water and you’re only fishing 4m under, you may not catch anything. You will catch garfish and mackerel nearer the surface. You’ll catch more wrasse and pollack towards the bottom.

Balanced tackle is key

Any rod will work if you pair it with appropriate weights and lines for the rod in use. Conversely, any rod will perform poorly if paired with the wrong reel, line or weight. For instance, you must use much lighter lines when using a light spinning rod for the set-up to function well. 10lb mono is ideal, and braid is even better if possible. Failure to do this leaves you in the same predicament as most anglers on harbours nationwide. They have line so thick that it coils around their spools, preventing them from fishing with light spinners. As a result, they resort to using clunky weights and poorly presented rigs.

So, whatever rod you choose to buy, make sure the line and lures all fit together. If you want to avoid working this out, you could buy a rod and reel set up and just buy some feathers and 2-3oz leads.

I would recommend to anyone that wants to have a lot of fun mackerel fishing to buy a very light spinning rod and reel, fish with braid, a fluorocarbon leader and casting jigs. A lot of people find this to be a fun way to catch mackerel.

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