Saltwater Fishing Gear Checklist: Everything You Should Never Forget (Essentials for Beginners)

Saltwater fishing is a step up from freshwater fishing. The species you are targeting will likely be bigger and stronger, the salty environment is harsh on equipment, the sun is always brutal, and safety is a bigger concern.

This means when packing for a saltwater fishing trip, you’re going to need some different gear.

But what should you be packing?

For any seasoned saltwater anglers reading this, you likely have your saltwater gear list down to a fine art and pack it neatly and safely. For any novice saltwater anglers, here is what you need to bring with you on a saltwater fishing trip.

boat fishing rod and reel for saltwater fishing

What Fishing Gear do I Need for Saltwater Fishing?

The Right Rod for the Right Occasion

Saltwater fish species range in size from 2 lbs to over 1000 lbs. The only saying “don’t bring a knife to a gun fight” rings true when it comes to tackle selection for saltwater fishing.

Always bring a rod that is up to the task and can handle whatever species you are going after. If you’re trolling for big marlin, 80lb trolling rods are a good idea.

For anyone targeting inshore bonefish, a light medium action spinning rod will do the trick.

A Reel that can Handle the Salt

Saltwater destroys reels that are not made to handle it. Make sure you are using a reel that is made for saltwater with graphite, brass, and stainless steel components that resist rust.

You should also match your reel and line to the species you are targeting. Going after tuna with 12 lb braid on a light spinning reel isn’t a good idea, but that setup would work great for smaller inshore species.

Don’t forget to rinse your reel in freshwater after each outing and do regular maintenance. There is nothing worse than getting offshore and finding your reel doesn’t work due to improper maintenance.

A Range of Lures

There are thousands of different lures available for saltwater fishing from rapalas to poppers, trolling lures and more. Make sure you have got a good lure selection ready and that it is packed away neatly in a tackle bag so you can change lures quickly if the situation requires it.

Your lure selection also needs to match where you are fishing and what you hope to catch.

For example, a selection of different sized trolling lures will cover a lot of pelagic species. But for inshore fishing, bucktail jigs, soft plastics, and crankbaits will be needed.

large tackle box fully stocked with lures and fishing gear

Spare Terminal Tackle

Things can go wrong very quickly at sea, especially when the fishing is hot! Be sure to bring spares of everything.

You will need spare leader lines, hooks, swivels, crimps, split rings, and sinkers plus a few new spare lures is never a bad idea either.

A Landing Net or Gaff

Depending on the type of saltwater fishing you intend on doing, you are going to need a way to land a fish with ease.

For example, when offshore fishing for mahi-mahi, a gaff is essential to get the fish in the boat. If you are catch and release fishing inshore, then a landing net is a safe way to get the fish into the boat, remove the hook, and release it.

Tailing Gloves

Some fish have very sharp tails, and others are heavy and require you to physically pull the leader to get them close to the boat.

Both of these moments require good tailing gloves that will protect your hands from being damaged in the process.

A Bucket

If you are saltwater fishing on a boat, a bucket is essential. You can use it to hold bait, keep live bait alive, clean the deck and lots more.

fisherman casting rod and catching big waves in ocean

What Tools do I Need for Saltwater Fishing?

Saltwater Fishing Pliers

A good pair of saltwater fishing pliers are a must. These will make your life at sea a lot more efficient and a lot more safe at the same time.

Make sure the pliers come with a separate line cutter on the outside, have a long nose, and a lot of grip. They also need to be made from a material that does not rust like stainless steel or titanium.

You can use them for rigging, removing hooks from fish’s mouths, cutting lines, and lots more.

Crimping/Split-Ring Tool

If you use crimps and split rings while saltwater fishing then having a tool for each or a tool that does both is key to rigging your tackle correctly.

Split-ring pliers come with a little point that opens the rings that hold hooks on crankbaits, making changing hooks quick and easy. Some models also come with crimping slots too.

Make sure the tools you buy are made to handle salt so they do not rust.

A Fishing Multi-Tool

Having a multi-tool with pliers, knives, screwdrivers, etc on it is a valuable thing to have while saltwater fishing. It allows you to do basic fixes on things like engines, reels, and more.

fisherman using fishing pliers to release small shark

A Sharp Bait/Filleting Knife

If you are cutting bait or planning on taking your catch home, you are going to need a high-quality fishing knife.

Make sure it is 100% top quality stainless steel and is super sharp. This will make cutting bait and fileting a lot quicker and easier.

Braid Scissors

If you fish with braided lines on your reels then some braid scissors are a must when saltwater fishing.

The only way to cut braid cleanly is with braid scissors, and this is essential for rigging your tackle quickly, easily, and neatly. They are a must on a saltwater fishing equipment list.

A Tool Kit

If you are fishing on a boat, a basic tool kit is a must. Make sure you have all the right size spanners and screwdrivers to fix your engine on the fly and your fishing equipment too.

fisherman fishing from boat

What Extra Accessories Should be on My Saltwater Fishing Gear Checklist?

A Fully Waterproof Backpack

There is nothing more useful than a fully waterproof backpack. You can use it to keep anything you want dry and safe from the salt that wants to corrode it.

It is perfect for phones, cameras, extra clothing, and your fishing gear too.

Also, if you plan on doing some wading inshore, then a waterproof backpack is a saltwater fishing essential as you can carry all you need for your session.

A Big Insulated Water Bottle

Generally, it is very hot when you are saltwater fishing and therefore staying hydrated is key. If you are on a boat, then a cooler full of water will likely be on board. But, it always pays to have your own insulated water bottle with a 1-liter capacity plus.

Insulated water bottles ensure your water stays cool even in hot temperatures. Also, when the opportunity to wade while inshore fishing comes into play, you can carry water with you.


The biggest danger when saltwater fishing is the sun as you are dealing with direct sunlight and its reflection off the water. Make sure you have some SPF 30 or above sunscreen with you and that you use it.


When saltwater fishing you have to constantly look for signs of fish activity. This might be birds diving, weed lines, and FADs.

All of these are hard to spigot at distance but with a good pair of binoculars on board, it becomes a lot easier.

A First Aid Kit

Saltwater fishing doesn’t come without its risks and things can go wrong, especially in rough weather.

Make sure you have a comprehensive first aid kit with you so you can deal with any accidents that happen while you are out fishing.

man fishing on a stand up kayak in the sea

What Clothing Should be on My Saltwater Fishing Equipment List?

Polarized Sunglasses

The sea is a very bright place and if you go saltwater fishing without good sunglasses, you will damage your eyes.

Make sure your sunglasses are polarized so you can see through the glare. They should also have a blue or green mirror lens to reflect back the light coming into your eyes from the water.

A Fishing Hat

Wearing a fishing hat while saltwater fishing is essential. Not only does it keep the strong sun off your face but it also reduces the light going into your sunglasses.

This improves your vision so that you can spot fish more easily.

A Buff

Buffs are one of the best things ever in saltwater fishing, especially if you are fishing with no shade – like inshore wading for example.

Buffs are made from light stretchy fabric and sit around your neck. You can then use them to cover everything on your face from your nose to the bottom of your neck to stop any sunburn.

A Long Sleeve Sun Shirt

A good long sleeve sun shirt makes life in the heat a lot more tolerable. They are light, keep you cool, and you can roll the sleeves down for extra sun protection.

A Rain Jacket

Even in tropical climates, it can get very cold very quickly. When it starts to rain with a 20 knot wind behind it, you will freeze without a rain jacket so make sure to pack one.

Winding Up

This is an incredibly comprehensive saltwater fishing gear list. You may not need everything featured on the list for every occasion, as some suit inshore more than offshore and vice versa.

But, if you go saltwater fishing with everything listed above, you will be covered in most situations.

Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or think of something we might have missed. We would like to hear from you!

Jamie Melvin

Growing up fishing on streams and lakes in Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles and offshore, there are not many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand.

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