Rods: A complicated subject made simple

Posted: October 7, 2012 by Hellcat in Fish Reports, Fly Fishing, Gear Fishing, Out of Area, Salmon, Trout & Steelhead, Salmon, Trout & Steelhead, Sturgeon, Tutorials, Warm Water
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More than anything else discussed with unadulterated opinion in the fishing equipment world among anglers is the topic of fishing rods. And not necessarily rod specifications…although that’s part of the conversation no doubt: Anglers are much more willing to accept different opinions on specs than they are on brand of rod or principles behind the cost.

Again, in my experience the debate among rod owners tends to always surround the brand and cost of the rod in relative comparison to the method or tactic trying to be accomplished with the rod(s) in question..

For example; a classic scenario on the river might be this:

Angler A “Oh wow that’s a great fish…what’s that rod you’re using?

Angler B “I only use rods under a hundred bucks…this is an Okuma…anything more expensive than that is a waste of money. You don’t need it. I’ve caught enough fish to know.”

It’s hard to argue with someone who produces big numbers. Especially when that same person endorses cheap overseas rods…exclusively. There’s clearly reasoning you cannot argue when presented with the fruits of success. However, everything we do as not only anglers but as human beings is done based on experience. It’s the number one thing that drives each of us. It’s what makes each of us unique as individuals no matter our passion.

I would like to offer some simple explanations for a complicated subject. And I will do so by making a comparison we can all identify with. But first let me educate you a bit on how production (overseas rods) have even earned a seat at this table of conversation. This is important to understand if you wish to intelligently discuss rod making as it’s relevant to our extremely unique river fisheries.

Some History and perspective…

Twenty years ago an angler could not reasonably argue the benefit of a production rod over that of a custom or locally produced rod for one simple reason: The specifications of the rod needed for the fishery in question DID NOT exist. Meaning if you were trolling herring as a technique and decided a long rod with a slow bend which allows that fish to inhale the bait for a successful hook up is relevant to your efforts of catch improvement you would have to purchase a rod from a custom manufacturer. Most likely G Loomis or Lamiglas as a blank option.

Why is this?

Because production rods at that time were very, very basic. Most of your options were ‘cookie cutter’. Boat rods were 7’6″ and available in limited line weights. Bank rods for small rivers were all 8’6″ and only available in light, medium or heavy weights. Definitions of what is ‘Long’ and what is ‘Short’ have certainly changed as we evolve as an angling community.

It would be like going to a golf course and completing all eighteen holes with wedge and a putter. You could do it but it wouldn’t work very well overall. Sure you’d have shots that were perfect for the clubs you had…but mostly you’d be stretching to achieve optimum success. What has changed over time is the following: 1)Technology 2)Staff 3)Knowledge Exchange. Meaning as people who were once instrumental in custom spec rod design or sales moves on to opportunities with production or overseas companies so does the technology and information required to replicate the original pieces. Make sense?

So, back to the matter of the comparison every single person reading this article can understand no matter your level of skill or experience I offer you this: Imagine your vehicle. Right now. Imagine the car or truck you drive. Think about the things it’s perfect for and think about the things it’s not perfect for but will still handle. These might be tight curves, rough roads, small parking spots, tire clearance, foul weather, amount of passengers…or any other number of factors. Every car made today can take a corner or drive on gravel or pack people into it like a can of sardines. But only each circumstance presented will fit that specific vehicle perfectly.

A sportscar with low clearance and a performance undercarriage will handle the curves of Mt. Hood at high speeds much better than a 1/2 ton pickup. BUT they will both get around the corner regardless. Savvy?

Let’s look at some specific examples now. Okuma rods. Probably the most affordable rods on the market for PacNW anglers who wish to accomplish method specific techniques without spending more than one hundred dollars. You could almost lump Berkley into this pile as well. Almost. You need a mooching rod? You need not buy and Lamiglas, St. Croix or Loomis anymore to achieve the correct specs for that method. Float rod? Drift rod for specific conditions? Spoon rod? Are you a bass fisherman who needs a crank bait rod? You need not buy high end to achieve the length, lure weight and rod action to meet your needs.

This is all TRUE. But do you know why production rods are so accommodating these days with the variety I speak of? Do you even know the difference is how the rod is made? Probably not. Most of us don’t. Most of us don’t understand nor do we care about per million modulus discussions of graphite. Scrim, blank resilience to impact, resin…most of make not a darn bit of difference. But it should. If you want to understand fishing rods entirely, it really should.

Bottom line is this; production rod companies like Okuma and Berkley are successful because they have taken the knowledge originally garnered by individuals associated with custom rod companies and applied that information to reproduce specification copies. And trust me…I have plenty of production rods. They have their place…especially in this economy as most of us cannot and will not ever be able to afford a hybred Loomis or Stealth Lamiglas. But it’s important to know the difference. And only a certain method or technique..when a production and a custom rod are fished along side each other and compared..can truly impart that knowledge upon the angler. AND not every method will require sensitivity, quick material response or overall quality necessary for a long rod life.

In closing, with the myriad of option available from the companies who choose to produce their rods overseas…and the knowledge of staff most likely transferable…you’ll always be able to find what you need for cheap. I have. But when compared to a high end, superior built rod using the best material around….only then will you understand what it’s like to take a corner on a curvy Mt. Hood road at 80 miles an hour. Oh yeah. Watch out for cops.

Christopher Heller

  1. jason says:

    Great analysis. Would love to have a boat full of customs. Until then its production rods and my 20 yr old Lami’s. Ha!

  2. scott says:

    great to see some one say you dont have to spend a fortune on a rod just to catch fish. steelhead and salmon dont care if you use a lamiglas or a okuma sst. ive caught at least a 100 salmon and steelhead on my old fenwick casting rod. thanks

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