You cannot fish without a rod. Okay, technically you can fish underwater, cast a net, or even tie a string and bait to your finger like Huck Finn. But we love to shoot trout, bass, salmon and more with the proper rod and fishing gear. The right rod will allow you to present your fly or lure in a way that is compelling from a fish’s point of view.
What separates a good rod from the rest of the peloton? Many things. The best of the bunch tend to be light, flexible, and downright sturdy. Some prepare well for backcountry treks to small mountain streams, while others resist the abuse of larger bodies of water where a rainbow trout is needed.
There are many reasons to fish, from the reward of catching your own meal to the simple therapy of being in or near water. Whatever your reason for doing it, you deserve a quality cane that will set you up for success. We can’t promise 50 days of fishing on uncrowded blue ribbon rivers (you have to work for it), but we can promise a good time with a reliable tool in hand.
Keep in mind that you will need a line and a good reel before you get into the water. Some outfits offer kits that include all of the above, but it’s often best to customize them to your liking. But it’s all about the cane, so here are some of the best on the market.
Best all-round fly rod: Orvis Superfine Glass
A classic fishing device, this rod from Orvis does it all. You can get it in a variety of weights (we suggest 5 if you want an all-purpose rod), it breaks down for convenience, and it casts like a charm.
Best budget rod: Shimano Saguaro
For the money, it’s hard to beat this rod. It’s great for those new to the sport, but it performs at a level high enough that even avid sportspeople will appreciate. Lightweight and responsive, you will like its behavior.
Best Telescopic Rod: KastKing Blackhawk II
A kind of extendable rod, the telescopic rod is great because it is portable and also works as one piece. It assembles quickly, has stainless steel guides, and comes in a wide variety of lengths depending on the size and species of fish you are looking for.
Best Saltwater Fishing Rod: Ugly Stik Tiger Spinning Rod
This rod also works in freshwater, but it works especially well in ocean waters, whether you’re casting from the shore or on a boat. It boasts a solid graphite core and, best of all, a seven-year warranty.
Best Madness: Orvis 1856 Bamboo Fly Rod
The pros tend to say that nothing fishes like a bamboo rod. The Rolls Royce of the fly fishing community, it’s a luxury you’ll pay for but immediately find rewarding on the first cast.
Best Shorter Fly Rod: LL Bean Double L
Ideal for small streams where there is a lot of brush and other obstacles in the path, this rod is only 7 feet 5 inches in length but has all the resistance features of a much larger rod. In four pieces, it also travels well.
The most beautiful: Sage Trout LL
Sage makes a wicked looking cane and has been doing it for years. This exceptional fly rod is medium action and ideal for surface fishing (dry fly) in large coves and freestone rivers. The clean cone is both stylish and allows for a seamless casting experience. And it looks pretty darn cool.
$ 850 at Sage Fly Fish
Best Two Hand Rod: St. Croix Triumph
For spey throwers or those who just fish bigger, stronger species like salmon, the two handed rod is pretty much the only way. This one is worth your time, as it moves with the finesse and grace of a significantly smaller rod.
Best Guarantee: Moonshine Rod Company
Chances are, you’ll break a cane once or twice in your life. Hopefully this is the work of a monster fish, but it can also be a tree branch or an awkward step with your stream crampons. Solution? A lifetime warranty, something that Moonshine offers.
Lightest: Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Platinum Signature Casting Rod
This Bass Pro Shops rod sold by Cabela’s is a featherweight, but solid as a nail when you need it. It’s so light that you can actually throw it all day, increasing your chances of setting a new personal grip on your day on the water.
Best Fly Rod Kit: Redington Path Fly Fishing Combo
This kit from Redington is a steal and will prepare you perfectly for long days on the water, especially if all you do is get your toes wet in sports. It is well built for the price and can handle just about any size of trout.