You can’t fish without a rod. Okay, technically you can spearfish, throw a net, or even tie a string and some bait to your finger like Huck Finn. But we like to pull in trout, bass, salmon, and more with a proper pole and fishing gear. The right pole will allow you to present your fly or lure in a way that’s irresistible from a fish’s point of view.
What separates a great rod from the rest of the pack? A lot of things. The best of the bunch tend to be lightweight, flexible, and downright sturdy. Some pack well for backcountry treks to small mountain streams while others stand up to the abuse of larger bodies of water where a steelhead is necessary.
The reasons to fish are many, from the reward of catching your own meal to the simple therapy of being in or near the water. Regardless of why you do it, you deserve a quality rod that will set you up for success. We can’t promise 50-fish days on uncrowded blue-ribbon rivers (you have to work for that), but we can promise a good time with a dependable tool in hand.
Keep in mind that you’ll need line and a good reel before you hit the water. Some outfits offer kits that include all of the above but oftentimes, it’s best to customize to your liking. But it all revolves around the rod, so here are some of the best on the market.
A classic angling device, this rod from Orvis does it all. You can get it in a variety of weights (we suggest 5 if you want one all-purpose rod), it breaks down for convenience, and it casts like a charm.
For the money, it’s hard to best this rod. It’s great for those just getting into the sport but performs at a high enough level that even avid sportsmen will appreciate. Light and responsive, you’ll like how it handles.
An extend-o-rod of sorts, the telescopic rod is great as it is portable and also functions like a one-piece. It assembles quickly, boasts stainless steel guides, and is available in a wide variety of lengths depending on what size and species of fish you’re after.
This rod works in freshwater too but it functions particularly well in ocean waters, whether you’re casting from shore or out on a boat. It touts a strong graphite core and, better still, a seven-year warranty.
The pros tend to say nothing fishes quite like a bamboo rod. The Rolls Royce of the fly fishing community, it’s luxury that you’ll pay for but find immediately gratifying upon first cast.
Ideal for smaller streams where there’s plenty of brush and other obstacles in the way, this rod is just 7-feet 5-inches in length but offers all of the strength functionality of one much bigger. As a four-piece, it travels well, too.
Sage makes a mean-looking rod and has done so for years. This standout fly rod is medium action and ideal for surface (dry fly) fishing in larger creeks and freestone rivers. The clean taper is both stylish and makes for a seamless casting experience. And it looks damn nice.
For the spey casters out there, or those simply fishing for bigger and stronger species like salmon, the double-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.
The chances are good you’ll snap a rod once or twice in your life. Hopefully, it’s the work of a monster fish but it also might be a tree branch or a clumsy step with your stream cleats on. Solution? A lifetime warranty, something Moonshine offers.
This Bass Pro Shops rod sold through Cabela’s is a featherweight, yet tough as nail when it needs to be. It’s so light, in fact, you can cast all day, upping the odds you set a new personal catch best during your day out on the water.
This kit from Redington is a great deal and will set you up perfectly for long days on the water, especially if you’re just wetting your toes in the sport. It’s well-built for the price and can handle pretty much all sizes of trout.
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