Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Salmon and Steelhead Fishing Rods

The Best Salmon/Steelhead Fishing Rod!

I have finally determined what the best Spinning or Casting rod is for Salmon or Steelhead for our area.(Columbia River)  It took a lot of trial and error with some decent expense over numerous years.   I didn’t believe it initially, but there is no question there is a “Best” fishing rod.  It really comes down what you’re fishing for, where you’re fishing, how you’re fishing, and when you are fishing.   The best fishing rod is very specific to the task at hand.   People always comment when they see my rod racks.   They forget I need at least 5 of everything for my guiding not just one of everything.  I did mean everything because even with one I would expect to have at least 10-20 different rods available.  There is no doubt one rod can be used in a multitude of situations just fine.  If you really want the full experience of hooking, fighting, and landing a fish use the correct rod for the situation. 
What is the correct rod for each situation?  It is all a matter of what you like, and you will never know what you really like until you try several.  No fishing rods are not like the opposite sex so don’t try it.   Remember we all must have Integrity, Honor, and Discipline or we are nothing more then animals.  (I know I lost focus it happens a lot..back to the task at hand.  They have Alphabet soup to describe and fix it now, but back a few years ago my dad called it “Lack of Focus” and tried to cure it with a 9 1/2 on the butt cheek.   See, I go off track in half a thought even today.)

I know it sounds kind of weird (Don’t go there!), but the correct rod greatly enhances the experience.  The most important factor is the rods “Action” the blank was designed for.  Also sensitivity (usually high modulus) is very important, but the felt difference after a certain level (+ - 38 Million)  is minimal compared to the cost increase.   Does a $500 Loomis, Sage, St. Croix, Fetha Styx, etc. have a better feel then a $100 Shimano, Okuma, Cabelas, Diawa, etc.?   Absofreakinglutely!   It is a word I promise…just sound it out.   Do they have $400 worth of better action?   Absofreakinglutely Not!   

The major thing with the high cost rods is they have a lot more action variations available in each rod.   Obviously that allows for more specific tailoring of a rod to a situation.  If you have the funds and want to spend it on $500 rods to get a specific feel then please do.   Just don’t sit there and tell me how great your particular fishing rod is because you spent $500 on it.  Spending extra money for status is not important to me.

The action is what matters.  If I can get the action I want with a little compromise I’m good.  If I had the money then no doubt I would be using the $500 fishing rods.  A quick story then I will try to give some general guidelines for what I have seen a lot of people prefer for rod actions.  Most of them have or had no idea about what the rod action was they just commented how much they liked the feel while using it both fishing and fighting fish.  A first time client called and wanted to fish for Steelhead, but “I only fish Loomis GLX or better rods..do you have any Loomis rods?”   I told him no I did not have any Loomis rods I use Cabelas for Steelhead.  He said “Well I don’t know, does anyone else use them?”  I told him I didn’t know what other guides were using but I would make him a deal.  If he would try the gear I provided, and if he did not think it was good enough quality the trip would be free.  All I asked was that he be absolutely honest with me about what he thought.  He booked the trip.  It was a $600 dollar risk but I don’t gamble.  He is a very good angler, and hooked the first Steelhead.   Before he landed it he commented on what a good rod it was.   He books 3-4 trips a year with me using my “cheap rods”, and we joke about our first conversation every fish he hooks.   I just checked and Cabelas has them on sale for $45!!!  (9’ Fish Eagle II Md Spin)   BUY THEM!

I also like a lighter weight and longer rod then most regardless of action.   I think it allows more angler input to the lure and fish.  I seldom fish with anything shorter then 8’6” and prefer a 10’+ rod if I can get it.  I also found the rod weight and action were similar for me either spinning or casting.   I have more accuracy casting a level wind with a little heavier rod with fast action.  Everyone has different terms but I will try to give a quick run down.  I also go down a weight when fishing from a boat compared to shore.  I will also use Spinning rods over casting rods with most clients.   Not as accurate for experienced casters, but extremely fewer tangles and more accurate with the average person.  I also shrink the rod length with most clients because it is easier for them to handle and control a shorter rod casting and moving around the boat.

Drifting/Bottom Bouncing Bait:  8’6” MD. weight Fast action bait caster Steelhead and MH for Salmon.  Need a lot of feel to the bounce and bite.   High modulus helps.

Casting Spoons/Spinners:   9’+  Same as above with Moderate action. A little more length for more pull on the bite/hook set.  Slower action doesn’t pull the lure instantly for more hook ups.

Drifting Bobbers: 10’+ MD to ML with a Mod. to Mod. Fast action.   Don’t need feel, but quick line pick up helps hook sets. 

Trolling Gear/Divers: 10’+ MH to HVY with Mod to Slow action.  Need some give on the bite due to no give from boat trolling.  Takes more finesse to fight fish, but gives more hook ups.

Trolling Down Riggers: 10’6”+ MD to MH Slow action.  Rod is already loaded for the bite and you need as much bend as possible for line take up.

Plunking:  8’6” ML to MH Mod. to Slow action.   They have just swallowed it to their &*%$ so all you need is a soft tip for give while they feed.  Helps to put your bait on a slider.

Jigging:  9’ MD to MH Fast or Ex Fast action.  When I move the rod I want the jig to move.

Again, just my experiences and I did not pick any brand names or models.   I can tell you I rarely spend more then $150 a rod and most are around $100 each.  Reels I am a little different about but that is another blog.



  1. Im thinkin we should get together for a tuna trip this summer!

  2. On a private boat or commercial? Only caught Bonita before trolling at 15mph. Send me a note and maybe we can make it work.