GT caught on Halco Roosta popper

What is the best beginner rod and reel for topwater fishing?

Finally decided to bite the bullet and buy yourself a saltwater topwater fishing outfit? We’ve got the perfect starting point for you.

With 2020 pretty much down the drain in terms of international travel and fishing, anglers have adjusted to the ‘new normal’ way of online tackle shopping.

As you all should know by now, the add to cart button has become some sort of stress relief but also keeps tackle shops in business.

Online shopping has exploded during these pandemic-driven times.

And one might be forgiven to think that a new rod and reel outfit has been well deserved after months of baby-sitting and home-schooling.

Newer anglers to the sport may have stumbled upon the crazy world of topwater fishing for GT and other apex predators of the ocean and have developed a lust for the ecstasy seen on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

This lust for fishing nirvana pulled on your heartstrings and pushed you to invest in a GT popping outfit for your next trip when borders are finally open.

You jump into your favorite online tackle store and click through to the popping section, only to be surprised with the plethora of options available.

If you are new to the game and feel a bit overwhelmed, not knowing where to begin, read on and we might have the best option for you.

Maybe you’ve got a quiver of GT and Tuna rods ready at your disposal and are just looking to add a ‘daily-driver’ to your arsenal. Read on and you might find this post helpful.  

I want to go GT popping!

triple GT

We’ve discussed GT fishing before and how hard this kind of fishing is to our gear and equipment.

The constant abuse from the elements, traveling, and fishing requires the gear to be as close to bulletproof as possible, making specialized topwater fishing equipment very expensive.

Let’s face it. Unless you live in Vanuatu as we do, how often would you be in a situation where you can cast to GT infested waters?

For those unlucky enough to live far inland, or to over-fished and unhealthy reef systems, there is a need to travel long distances to find quality big game topwater fishing.

If you are just starting and want to test the waters to find out how keen you are to test your physical and mental abilities to battle giant saltwater fish we recommend a PE 4 – 6 outfit.

Should I splurge on specialized tackle? Or test the waters with an intermediate set-up?

We’ve always preached – “buy the best that you can afford” when setting up saltwater fishing gear.

The ocean is no place for substandard fishing gear.

But this doesn’t mean that your setup should cost you an arm or a leg.

There are plenty of reasonably priced high-quality options available that can perform very well consistently when the pressure is on.

If you have the money to spare and you are 100% set on chasing GT for the most of your fishing life, then please, by all means, get the best of the best.

You will soon find out how demanding this type of fishing is on equipment. Having the best gear can give you the upper hand at times.

But remember, having the best gear won’t matter if you don’t have the techniques down pat.

Expect to spend around US$ 5000 – 6000 for one top of the line rod and reel outfit.  

What does a good “starter” topwater outfit consist of?

rod arsenal

A saltwater ‘outfit’ consists of a rod, reel, and the fishing line.

But lets focus our efforts on matching a multi-purpose rod and reel build for now.

For a first or ‘starter’ setup, we want to build an all-around topwater outfit.

Something that can be used to target a wide range of saltwater species but will also be more than capable of handling GT and Tuna in the 20kg to 30kg class.

This is where the PE4 – PE6 class outfits will shine.

What is PE4 – 6? Around 50 – 60lb or 20 – 30kg class.

Capable but not too demanding on the body and you will be able to cast and fish the whole day without too much fatigue.

Depending on your current physical fishing fitness of course.

Physical fitness? What does that have to do with how I select my rod and reel?

You’ll be playing tug of war with some of the strongest saltwater predators willing to take an artificial lure.

Without a balanced outfit, the battle will either feel underwhelming or overpowering depending on the gear you use.

We highly recommend the PE4 -6 class range of rods and reels because they require the least amount of physical strength from the angler while still being capable.

For example, if an inexperienced angler uses a near-locked PE10 setup and hooks up to a 50kg class GT.

A lot of pain and struggling for both the angler and fish. Also, a prolonged battle will be detrimental to the fish’s chances of survival. 

Start with a medium-light outfit to get your casting, lure working, and battle techniques honed and refined.

Once these movements are second nature, upgrading to “bigger” gear will be a cinch.

Getting used to catching 10, 15, and 20kg class fish will improve your fishing skills drastically, making the move to larger gear easy.

Now that we’ve gone through the basics, let’s proceed to the meat and potatoes portion of this post. The rod and reel recommendations.

Please note that we are not sponsored by any of the brands mentioned below or are getting any sort of payment for recommending them.

We’ve just personally used them and find that they work well for the purpose, without being too expensive.


You’ll want to get yourself an all-around rod that can handle both poppers and stick baits.

Japanese made rods are second to none, and they get quite expensive. Luckily, we have former rod blank supplier and now specialty rod builders Yamaga Blanks offering reasonably priced, high-quality fishing rods fit for the job.

Our top recommendation is the Yamaga Blanks 82/6

It can cast lures from 50g to 130g making it extremely versatile, allowing you to target schooling tuna to even 30kg class GT. It is rated PE 5 – 6 so it sits perfectly within our PE class range.

With a length of 8 feet 2 inches, long-distance casting will be easy, and applies to both popping and stick baiting.

If you aren’t that keen for a Japanese rod just yet, look no further than trusty ole Shimano.

Their Shimano Ocea Plugger OPFTS80M is an amazing value that performs extremely well.

Just to keep it in the middle of our class range, the specifications below will be based on the PE5 model. 

The PE5 model is 8 feet long, allowing long-distance casting with ease. 

Lures from 30g to 100g can be used with this rod, which also allows us to target a multitude of saltwater species using poppers or stick baits. 

But remember, having the best gear won’t matter if you don’t have the techniques down pat.


Top tier reels are the way to go for saltwater topwater fishing to avoid disappointment. Shimano and Daiwa are considered the best by most fishermen.

In the Shimano range, the Saragosa would be the bare minimum while the Stellas are the best overall option.

The same applies to Daiwa with the Catalina and Saltiga models. 

shimano saragosa

But, I will always recommend the Shimano Saragosa SW when it comes to reels as it has amazing longevity and performance at a reasonable price.

There you have it, folks. We hope this post provided some insight as to where you should begin when it comes to setting up your first GT popping or topwater fishing outfit.

Don’t be surprised when this outfit turns into your ‘daily-driver’.

No matter where your saltwater fishing takes you, you’ll have this jack of all trades setup with you, perfect for the odd bust-up or feeding frenzy.

Do you have a multi-purpose outfit for your saltwater fishing yet? 

If you are looking for a true sport fishing company that offers you more than just a Vanuatu fishing adventure, look no further than Ocean Blue Fishing.

For more fishing news, updates, gear reviews, tips and tricks, don’t forget to subscribe to our Web Magazine .

Call us now at (AU) 1300 564 616 or at (INTL) +61 436 020322 or you may also contact us through our website at

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What is the best beginner rod and reel for topwater fishing?

John is originally from the Philippines. John has extensive guiding experience throughout Asia and...Learn more
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4 thoughts on “What is the best beginner rod and reel for topwater fishing?

  1. Not having caught a GT myself but a few Kingies and other species I’d still rate the Yamaga rods up there in price, they are still $979+NZD, The new Daiwa Spartan rods and the Shimano Grappler’s have proven to be pretty successful at about 30% better in price, the new Daiwa BG reels will test the Saragosa’s. As you state just having the best gear won’t mean you’ll land the biggest fish. I reckon the angler & technique is just as important as the gear, rod’s 95% of the time just don’t brake, majority of the time it’s the angler and technique.
    “A poor tradesman will always blame their tool’s”

    1. I 100% agree with your quote “A poor tradesman will always blame their tools”. Regarding Yamaga Blanks, I also agree. They are quite pricey, but very good quality. Shimano Grapplers and Ocea Pluggers are definitely a more affordable avenue, without sacrificing performance. I’ve heard tons of good stuff from those who’ve used the Daiwa BG’s as well so we might give them a go once the borders open for international guests. Thanks for your comment Gordon. Cheers!

  2. Oceanblue Vanuatu is on my bucket list and I will be looking into booking a trip in the near future once we know what the boarder’s are up to.
    You guys produce some great content and look forward to the read’s. 🍺👍

    1. Thanks Gordon! Looking forward to hosting you here in beautiful Vanuatu. Appreciate that you love our posts!

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