Mackerel are a frequently targeted gamefish on the eastern and western coasts of the United States. When choosing rods and equipment for mackerel fishing, there’s a wide range of options depending on your conditions and the target species.
Fishing for larger king mackerel and Spanish mackerel species requires different gear than Pacific and Atlantic mackerel. Mackerel setups also change depending on the fishing environment. Specific rod tyles are better for boat fishing, while others are designed for pier and jetty casting.
This guide reviews the best rods for mackerel, with rod recommendations for King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, Pacific mackerel, and Atlantic mackerel.
Range of Mackerel species that are covered in this article. Aggressive fighters, no matter the species. Generally, light spinning equipment is all that’s needed for pier fishing.
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Best Rods for Mackerel Fishing
This guide will start by reviewing rods for larger mackerel species. King mackerel and Spanish mackerel are aggressive fighters and require stronger equipment. Both species are found on the east coast of the U.S., from Florida to Maine.
While these fish are usually caught from a boat, they are sometimes caught from a beach or jetty.
King Mackerel Rods
The King Mackerel is the largest mackerel species in North America. These fish can weigh up to 100lbs; however, they’re typically caught in the 20 - 40lb range. While most fish weigh around 30lb, you should be prepared for the big ones with strong enough gear.
Since anglers typically troll for king mackerel from a boat, a conventional rod and reel setup is best. Specifically, live-bait conventional rods are ideal because they have softer tips to absorb movements from the boat. A live-bait conventional rod will keep the presentation moving realistically, even with artificial lures.
Penn Squall Conventional Combo
4.5 Stars | 230 Angler Reviews | $219 - $240
The Penn Squall Conventional Combo is the best rod and reel combo for king mackerel fishing. Penn designed the Squall rod and reel to compliment each other, making the combo balanced, strong, and resistant to wear.
A sized 30 reel has plenty of power to fight king mackerel, but a larger 40 or 50 reel size will have more line capacity. The size 30 Penn squall reel has a 6.1:1 gear ratio, six ball bearings, and comes with a 7’ conventional rod.
This rod has a lever drag reel, ideal for higher drag pressure and fighting big fish. The Penn Squall has a lightweight graphite frame and an instant anti-reverse. The Penn Squall rod is constructed from reinforced graphite that gives you more leverage when reeling fish to the boat.
Penn Carnage III Conventional Boat Rod
4.7 Stars | 72 Angler Reviews | $180 - $240
Another exceptional king mackerel rod is the Penn Carnage III Boat Rod. This new generation of the Carnage series features Fuji K-series tangle-free guides with SiC inserts. Penn also included Fuji DPS reel seats.
The Carnage III is one of the most reliable boat fishing rods on the market. Penn uses SLS3 construction, which makes the blank lighter and stronger by reducing the diameter. This slim profile is created without reducing any of the strength and performance anglers are used to.
Simply put, this rod is a workhorse. Penn makes the best value boat fishing rods on the market, and the Carnage III is sure to last through years of intensive use.
Spanish Mackerel Rods
Spanish mackerel are also an Atlantic fish species, but they’re much smaller than king mackerel. These fish grow to 2-3 pounds and are frequently caught along the coast.
The best Spanish mackerel rods are spinning setups designed for in-shore fishing. Since these fish are frequently caught from a jetty, beach, or pier, an 7’ to 9’ rod helps increase your cast distance.
Daiwa BG Rod and Reel Combo
4.2 Stars | 54 Angler Reviews | $170
The Daiwa BG Rod and Reel combo is one of the best in-shore saltwater spinning setups ever made. Specifically, the 4000-size BG combo is an excellent Spanish mackerel rod, and it has the versatility to handle any other species you run into. The rod is 7’ long, but the premium guides and Daiwa build quality help it cast farther than other similar 8’ to 9’ rods.
Daiwa’s BG reel features six ball bearings and an aluminum ABS spool. The rod is constructed from a mix of graphite and carbon fiber, making it incredibly strong and resistant to damage.
The grips on the Daiwa BG are phenomenal. They’re made from premium cork and provide excellent dexterity and control. You can cast for hours before your hands start to fatigue.
Pier Fishing Rods for Mackerel
Pier fishing for mackerel requires different equipment than boat fishing. The mackerel species caught from a pier are smaller and aren’t fun to catch on heavy-duty rods. However, Pacific and Atlantic mackerel are fun to fight on smaller spinning rods.
When fishing from a pier, you want to use a strong rod with enough leverage to swing fish onto the deck. This is especially true when using a rig with multiple hooks, such as a Sabiki Rig, because you might need to lift multiple fish simultaneously.
Pacific Mackerel Rods
Pacific mackerel are found on the western coast of the U.S. These fish can grow up to 6lbs, but they typically only weigh about 2 pounds. If you’re using a Sabiki rig or anything with multiple hooks, make sure to account for the weight of 2-3 fish.
The best setup for Pacific mackerel is a lightweight 2000 spinning reel with a matching spinning rod. While the spinning rod should match the reel's weight, a strong backbone will help you fight the larger 6lb fish.
Freshwater bass and crappie rods have the ideal specifications for these fish. However, since mackerel are a saltwater species, it’s vital to find corrosion-resistant equipment.
KastKing Resolute Spinning Rod
4.6 Stars | 858 Angler Reviews | $60 - $75
The KastKing Resolute Spinning Rod is an ultra-sensitive carbon fishing rod with a two-piece design. This rod is an excellent value for the money, as the components are usually found on high-end tournament rods.
A 7’ medium power fast action model will give you enough leverage for pier fishing without taking the fun out of fighting mackerel. This rod has corrosion-resistant materials and a water-wicking handle that gives you extra dexterity.
KastKing is known for producing high-quality rods that don’t break the bank. Whether you’re looking for a specialized mackerel rod or a versatile pole, the Resolute has 27 different models to suit your needs.
Atlantic Mackerel Rods
The smallest mackerel species in the U.S. is the Atlantic mackerel. These fish grow to a maximum of 2lbs, although they typically weigh less than a pound. Lightweight spinning rods with a sensitive tip are best for Atlantic mackerel.
While these fish are small, they can still put up a fight. Atlantic mackerel are relatives of multiple tuna species and have the same aggressive attitude. You can still have fun fighting these fish back to the pier with lightweight gear.
Pflueger President XT Spinning Combo
4.5 Stars | 53 Angler Reviews | $140 - $200
The Pflueger President XT Spinning Combo is the best rod and reel combo for Atlantic mackerel. While initially designed for freshwater fishing, this corrosion-resistant combo showed its potential for inshore fishing. The combo has two size options, but we found the 6’ light power model is the best for mackerel fishing.
Pflueger’s XT spinning reel has ten ball bearings, an aluminum shaft, aluminum pinion gears, and a braid ready spool. The drag system is completely sealed off from the elements, preventing saltwater from damaging the internal components. The reeling action is silky smooth and doesn’t need frequent lubrication.