Before mankind had high-powered rifles with night vision capabilities for hunting down The World’s Deadliest Duck, we had to get much of our food from the ocean. The bounty of the sea – as well as rivers and lakes – still holds a fascination for man. It is both a food source and the perfect excuse to lie to your friends about The Giant Bass That Got Away. If you’re an angler looking to upgrade your equipment, we’re here to help with our compilation of the best fishing rods.
Before you fire up your strongly worded emails, we know it is impossible to capture all of the best rods out there in one list. This is a general overview of what is topping the charts for spin casting, fly fishing, surf fishing, boat fishing, big game fishing, and general suitcase-of-Pabst-to-get-out-of-the-house fishing. These are meant to be ideal for the average buyer, not the specialist looking for a $10,000 custom job. Now that you have been warned, here are our 6 best fishing rods.
Scott Radian 4-Weight
What’s to Love: Deadly accuracy.
What’s to Hate: 4-piece rod.
For Fly Fishers: If you feel that a 4-Weight is too heavy for your needs, try the Radian anyway, it’ll surprise you. The balance is such that it feels much more like a 3-Weight so you won’t feel additional tug or get off-balance when you cast. The 8-and-a-half foot body will give you better reach for longer casts when you’re trying to lob an indicator rig or drop a hopper on the far bank. The vibrations in the Radian fishing rod are severely muted which makes it accurate as hell. Works equally well at fast-casting over shorter distances without giving you a stubby sensation. A reinforced carbon body makes it one of the toughest customers Scott makes. You can use large or small flies without sacrificing aiming quality. You can also get longer models if you need something that can really hit the long bomb. The downside? It’s a 4-piece which reduces overall strength slightly. [Purchase: $795]
Okuma Graphic Surf Rod
What’s to Love: Heavy-Duty construction.
What’s to Hate: Strange reel position.
Surf’s Up: When old-timers say they don’t make ‘em like they used to, this is what they mean. This is an older surf fishing rod that manages to outshine young pups when it comes to easy use for beginners as well as sturdy build and long-cast capabilities for surf dogs who only want the big catches. The body of the Akuma is one of the most complex ever created. It has a graphite core for flexibility coupled with blanks made of graphite composite.
The guide frames are double footed using both hooded and stainless steel seats. The guide inserts are pure Fuji aluminum oxide which are both strong and resist oxidation and corrosion from years of abuse in saltwater environments. Even at 12 feet, it still only brings 3-8 oz. to the table. You’ll find the reel sits up from the butt of the rod, which will change your casting style from many surf rods. [Purchase: $106]
What’s to Love: Limited line slap for smooth action.
What’s to Hate: Limited strength.
Spin Doctor: Californian anglers usually know about Seeker, but the company hasn’t broken into the big time yet, though if the Bushido fishing rod can’t do it, nothing can. Technical tests showed it worked best with 1/4 to 5/8-ounce lures and 6 to 12 lbs test line, but in the field it did so much more. The rigid butt section made it easy for casters to toss serious clunkers with distance and accuracy. Using braided line seems to really bring out the shine whether fast casting or trying to achieve competitive distance. You’ll get very little line-slap thanks to the new guide system. It’s as easy to load as it is to use with the blanks holding a very limited taper. The strength is great for a 400 gram rod, but there are hardier spinning rods out there – such as some offerings from Black Hole – if brute force is what you require. [Purchase: $164+]
St. Croix Legend Gold Ice Rod
What’s to Love: Adjustable strike indicator.
What’s to Hate: It’s too perfect.
Cool Customer: Every St. Croix Legend ice fishing rod is 24″ long, but they have different weight classes depending on how much heft and fighting power you need. It has a spring strike indicator that is entirely adjustable based on jig size and the kind of lure you’re employing. The bobber system was developed to give you maximum time between the strike and the time you feel the bite. The reel seat is comfortable for periods of waiting and doesn’t interfere when trying to land a catch. The durable stainless steel guides will never fray your line and can last for years and years without issue. [Purchase: $90]
What’s to Love: Very versatile.
What’s to Hate: No specialization.
Best All-Around: While this is certainly the best general use rod for anything from brook trout to heavy halibut, you’re not likely to pull in too many swordfish down in the gulf. This is meant to hit the most broad variety of fish and fishing conditions for the average angler. The Ugly-Stik is technically a spinner and therefore simple enough to use for beginners as well as experienced fishermen. In field tests it could take more than 55 lbs of weight before giving way, something rare even in rods that run 3 times as much. The body is made of a graphite core for flexibility with a fiberglass exterior that can bend but adds resiliency to the rod. Works equally well for fresh and saltwater fish. [Purchase: $50]
Penn International V
What’s to Love: Incredible roller guides.
What’s to Hate: Limited power for rail fighting.
Deep Jigger: When the bloom is off the rose and you no longer get a thrill from just snapping up snapper in the shoals and you want to get deep and start hitting reefs and wrecks, this should be the backbone of your ensemble. Naturally you can pair it with a Bushido or an Ugly Stik as backup for deep trolling. The guides are made from Aluminum-oxide which can take long days of exposure to the sea air as you seek out tuna and marlin. The parabolic tapers are specifically designed to give you extra leverage when coupled with the right fighting chair. Add in a sufficiently heavy line and a Shimano reel and you’ll land a trophy in no time. Come equipped with roller guides for reduced fatigue. Doesn’t work as well at the rail as it does off the chair. [Purchase: $160]
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