Whether it is buying a new spey rod, walleye rod, or float rod, one thing is for certain; there is a specific type of action from the rod you’re looking for. Well, maybe you’re not looking for it because you don’t know what to look for. Hopefully this short article will help give you an idea of what to look for in a rod for steelhead fishing.
First thing you have to figure out is easy. How much do you want to spend and what’s in your budget. There are a lot of good rods out there for a fraction of the price of what you’ll pay for in a higher end rod like a Loomis, Sage, or St. Croix to name a few examples. Once you establish what your budget is, it’s onto the next step and most important. The action of your rod! (that’s what she said)
Some people will argue that a longer rod is better for steelheading. This is true, but only to a certain extent. There is such thing as overkill. Some of the longer rods do provide a nice slow action so you can use very light leader material, but at the same time they are wet noodles. In a fly rod, I like at least a 10′ rod if it’s a single hand rod for steelheading, and at least 12′ 6″-13′ 6″ for spey or switch rods. For my float or spinning rods I prefer the 12′ 6″-14′ rod length. The longer float rod helps with line mends and hero drifts. But remember, a big rod gets heavy if not properly balanced with your reel and makes for a long day and a sore arm regardless if you’re catching fish or not. I use a 13′ rod the majority of the time, since I seem to break the other ones and send them back to builder to get fixed, leaving me with one rod. Anyways, back to the topic at hand.
When finding a nice action rod for steelheading, look for a rod that has a soft tip section (soft meaning it’s kinda whippy) and a good strong butt section. The biggest thing for me is having a soft enough top half so that I can run 4lb leader material without having the rod break the line when I put some tension on it. At the same time, I want enough power in the ass end of my rod to be able to put the wood to a fish if need be. There is no rod in the world that will keep you from breaking off a 15lb fish when using 4lb or 6lb leader and putting the wood to it. It does take some fish fighting ability to land a good fish, but a decent rod can make that task a little easier.
I have fished many high end float rods and I can tell you one thing, they are well worth the money. But, there are some cheaper options available that are very decent rods also. So, figure out your budget, the action you’re looking for on your home waters, and start reading reviews and talking to people. I like to hold a rod in my hands before I buy it, but if you are confident ordering off the internet and find a good deal, then take it. You can always sell it later if you don’t like it.
Hopefully this gave you a little bit of insight into what you should be looking for in a steelhead rod. It’s different for everyone, but these are just some of the characteristics I look for.