The truth is, you can catch a fish with a rod. But the latest and greatest graphite and fiberglass rods make catching easier and more fun. Problem is, there are about six million different freshwater fishing rods on the market, or so it seems anyway. This foolproof guide will help you put the right stick in your hand, whether you’re looking for high-elevation small brook trout or a large water lily mouth.
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What to consider
First, and most importantly, decide if you want a spinning, casting, or fly rod. The spinning setups – the simplest and most popular – are best for lines and light tackle, and will catch just about any swimming creature except, say, muskellunge or catfish. Volkswagen size. Casting rods are generally sturdier and use a heavier line, so you can pull stubborn, overfed fish out of their hiding places. And then there are the fly rods, objectively the most demanding and fun setup, but not exactly the most effective for filleting piles of fish.
Then you need to know what size of fish you are targeting so that you can choose an appropriate rod weight or power – the angler talks about the rod’s ability to withstand a fighting fish. Both casting and casting rods use easy tags – ultralight to extra heavy – that match the size of the fish. This table matches weights to species of fish if you cannot guess them yourself. Usually these rods also have their intended line weight stamped on the side (eg, “6-12 lb line”). Fly-rod weights work the same way, but on a number-based system. The higher the number, the larger the catch. Five-a-side weights are the most common and can handle almost any freshwater species except rainbow trout or large toothy predatory fish.
Two other key considerations are length – the longer the rod, the farther the throw – and the action. Slow-acting rods bend closer to the handle and, as a result, tend to be more responsive and generate less line speed, for smooth presentations. The fast-acting rods bend close to the tip, ideal for casting heavy lures. Medium stocks are, naturally, in the middle and a safe bet for most exits.
How we selected
For the past decade, I have fly fishing in the Lower 48 and Alaska, and have written about the outdoors for publications such as Field & Flow, Garden & Gun, Men’s diary, and United States today. This list includes fly rods that I have used a lot over the years, as well as spinning and casting models that have received favorable reviews from expert sources, such as Field & Flow and Outdoor living. I have also read customer reviews on Amazon and various discussion boards, for the sake of thoroughness.
Best budget casting and casting rod
St. Croix Bass X Casting Rod
If you can’t swing the cost of a GLX or Legend Glass, the lightweight Bass X will let you play bass on the cheap. Available in 14 different spinning or casting variations, the Bass X is based on the same soft-cast graphite blank as the more expensive and popular St. Croix Premier, and has a sleek black Flex-Coat slow-curing finish.
Best fly rod for the backcountry
Moonshine Rod Co. The Drifter Fly Fishing Rod
The 7.5-foot three-weight Drifter is great for diving deep into the background, primarily because its approximately two-foot canvas carry tube is easy to attach to a bag and the rod includes an end cap. spare, if you break one far from your truck. If you do worse than a broken tip, the Drifter is guaranteed for life.
Best spinning rod
St. Croix Legend Glass Spinning Rod
Fiberglass rods are making a big comeback, and St. Croix Legend glass is a prime example. This high performance fiberglass rod lacks transition points (where many others get brittle) resulting in a silly, smooth action and gives the rod increased strength and sensitivity. And, unlike old-school fiberglass rods, the medium-action Legend is thankfully light.
Best spinning rod
G. Loomis GLX Throwing Rod
A cornerstone of the Loomis line from the start and renowned for its durability, the American-made GLX graphite rod comes in about 40 different varieties. But it really shines like a rod for throwing medium to heavy bass. The much-loved Loomis NRX is a comparable model, but the GLX is generally considered the better of the two, due to its premium components and improved feel.
Fly rod at the best value for money
Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod
The five-weight, nine-foot Clearwater is a reliable, all-rounder capable of smoothly depositing dry flies or whipping woolly buggers across a stream. The high-powered, fast-acting workshop is also very well priced, given its quality and Orvis’ 25-year warranty. If I could only own one fly rod, especially one for under $ 250, a five-weight Clearwater would be a top contender.
Best Dry Fly Trout Rod
Fly rod Sage Trout LL
If you want to blow nearly a mile on a fly rod, the Trout LL is a great way to do it. This stunning, medium action dry fly rod bends perfectly at the midsection, allowing you to cast precise and soft like feathers on the surface eating trout. The Orvis Helios 3D is another premium trout rod that costs just under $ 1,000 and has a bit more power than the Trout LL.
Best Spey Fly Rod
Sage X Spey Fly Rod
I love dry fly fishing as much as I love the next trout, but pounding streamers up to 10-15 pound salmon and rainbow trout is truly one of life’s greatest pleasures. For such occasions there is the X Spey, a 12 to 14 foot medium action model made of high density composite fiber, which makes it possible to form mega-tight curls in the blink of an eye.
JR Sullivan is a contributing editor for Field & Flow. His writing appeared in The New Yorker, Time, Garden & Gun, and Men’s diary.
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