Have you noticed that newly innovated fishing lures or rejuvenated lures continue to line the never ending shelves of your favorite tackle store? Making it that much more difficult to make a simple decision, what color? Size or type of crankbait do I want to buy today? Well, the fishing rod selection continues to be just as innovative and challenging to navigate the shelves of the big box stores looking for the perfect rod. After several years of tournaments angling and guiding, I can tell you that the perfect rod and lure is the one that sees’s the water versus the garage wall. I don’t know of too many stories of anglers reeling big ones off the couch. Do you?
With that said there are certainly a few factors to take into consideration when purchasing a new rod that will definitely help you identify bites better and fish particular presentations to their full potential. There are several rods manufactures on the market today and the hot new trend is these custom rods and or building your own. All of which is great I’m sure. I may be a bit bias as being a lifelong fan of St. Croix Rods. Any company that can continue to produce quality rods for 70years and has top notch customer service gets the nod from me.
The first factor in choosing your rod is probably the type of fish you are targeting. Don’t get me wrong the rod is pretty un-bias to whatever fish it hooks up with but you can certainly put the odds back in your favor when properly equipped for the target species. To keep this short of 25 pages let’s just refer to walleye rods as that is my wheel house. When I’m choosing a new rod for walleye it comes down to the technique I plan on using that rod for. Of course price point could be your biggest factor in this decision and that is where a wide variety comes in handy. When price point is the key factor I tend to lead customers to put their money toward their jigging rod. The jigging rod rather vertical jigging or pitching jigs for walleye your rod may very well be the most crucial tool in your arsenal. A rod is much more than just the pole to mount a reel too and sling fish into the boat. Your rod can make all the difference in your technique and has at many times turned a good day of fishing into a great day buy having the properly designed rod for that specific technique and species.
I personally run two sets of rods. One for my guide clients and one set for my tournament angling. I’m not being a cheap stake on my guide rods just a bit more economical as many clients tend to get a bit excited and reel the lure all the way into the rod tip or get a bit careless and step on them in the boat. When shopping for my guide rods I look at the St. Croix Eyecon series. These are mid-level price point rods yet very sensitive and will help my clients feel those light bites when jigging. 6’6” to 7’ rods for pitching jigs or dragging jigs is my go to a length which helps the accuracy of casting and my ability to whip those lightweight jigs out there further. Medium action or Medium-light action depending on the structure I’m fishing around as well as the size of lure I’m using. Most avid anglers will be set up just fine with a Medium light action jigging rod. A fast action tip or extra fast tip is paramount for quick hook sets as the majority of the bend in the rod will be in the top third driving that hook into the walleye’s rock hard mouth faster. For those of you fishing from shore, I recommend getting the 7’ rod to help you reach out there a bit further when that bite is just out of reach from the shore. Of course, us that fish from boats are always fishing toward the shore and vice versa. Makes you wonder huh? If the price point is not a major factor I would go all in on the St. Croix Legend Elite series these rods are second to none and continue to win best in show awards from Freshwater to Saltwater models. The sensitivity that comes with a high-end rod will blow your mind and won't take you long to be glad you made the purchase.
When I’m vertical jigging I like to shorten my rods up to 6’3” models with the same principles for medium light vs moderate action. When vertical jigging I want to shorten the distance up between me and the fish. The less line out the faster I can feel the bite that is directly below the boat so I can get a quick and solid hook set. Your longer jigging rods can convert into our rigging rods as well, however, be aware of how your deploying rigging rods. I personally like a 7’ medium rod that is very sensitive which allows me to feel every little pebble it drifts over. However, If I’m going to use a heavier rod for this I must have it in my hand with the bail open so that the fish doesn’t feel the resistance when it strikes. If your running these rods as a dead stick or just kicking back keeping it simple placing the rod in the rod holder then a medium light may be a better set up for you. I still like a 7’ or longer in length so that it gives the fish a bit more flexibility before feeling the backbone of the rod and allows me to give a good swooshing hook set.
Casting cranks for walleye is a great way to cover water and pinpoint those spot-on spots. A crankbait rod should be in that 7’ Medium range again but with a moderate action. This allows the fish to hit the bait without you ripping it out of the fishes mouth. The moderation action will allow the rod to bend further down toward the middle section prior to getting into the backbone of the business end. This will allow you to make a further cast with a lightweight crankbait as well. A lot of these same principles go with your trolling rods rather your pulling lead core line or trolling with Off Shore Tackle Planer boards. Let the rod fight the fish! When I’m trolling with lead core line I like to use a 10’ to 12’ Medium, Moderate action rod out the side and 5’ rods out the back of the boat. These long rods really allow the fish to hook it’s self before I even touch the rod. They are just soft enough to not pull the crankbait out of the fishes mouth while moving in the opposite direction at 2+mph. The short rods aren't quite as forgiving due to the nature of thier lenght, therefore, I keep the drags set pretty loose to allow for a sure hook up prior to picking the rod up. I actually love these short rods and have lost very few fish on them ever. The mix in sizes is great for keeping your lines spread apart and covering water. A sensitive tip is very important on the lead core lines as the lead will dense the vibration of the lure coming back to the rod tip. Being able to see the rod tip vibrate lets you know that your lure is running true.
Planer Board rods are a bit different though. You need a rod with a solid backbone to not only handle the weight of the 8lb walleye as well as the crank bait’s resistance and the planner board’s tug. I prefer a 7’6” to 9’ rod. Recently I made the switch over to the new St. Croix 8’6” (MMT) telescopic trolling rod. This is the perfect set up for planer boards and takes up less room in the boat with telescopic option making it very easy to store in the rod locker.
I could go on forever talking about bottom bouncer, slip bobber, snap jigging rods etc… but I think you get the picture. There is a rod made for just about any type of presentation you plan on deploying that day and for that particular species and matching the proper rod with technique fished isn't’ guaranteed to catch you more fish but it sure as heck is going to give you the edge you might need.