Salmon rods: How to pick ’em

Posted: May 7, 2013 by Hellcat in Fish Reports, Tips & Advice
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New article by Christopher H3llcat Heller. Your comments are always appreciated as are your FB link shares. Thank you for your support.

As an active and willing participant in the Pacific Northwest river and stream fishing scene I often provide instruction for anglers of all skill levels. Many of the questions I receive from fishermen and women who follow me in the community may appear very basic. However upon a detailed and thorough examination of the most typical answers from the most typical questions comes a veritable spider’s web of sub topics presented.

I’ll give you an example of a question pertaining to a very popular fishery occurring right now in our local rivers; choosing a salmon rod to best suit your chosen target water for spring chinook. And chances are ninety percent of springer fishermen are using trolling methods to this end.

Let’s look at a few different determining factors involved in this question and see if it doesn’t help you become a better angler. Or at the very least, a better judge of which rod specs (specifications, dimensions, etc) will best accommodate your needs. To do this subject justice and provide you, the readers, with the most comprehensive evaluation possible we must evaluate this question from a total rod spec standpoint of rod length, rod power and rod action.

Let’s begin the discussion with the most popular spring chinook angling method(s) currently being utilized in our big rivers locally. Trolling bait. Presenting your bait correctly and consistently is an absolute contributing KEY FACTOR when attempting to catch spring chinook salmon. Accomplishing this during your hard-earned efforts on the water you must first employ the appropriate salmon rod for the task at hand. Make sure the rod you’ve chosen is not only physically capable of performing the task properly but has also been designed for such a method. I often compare fishing rods to golf clubs when I’m speaking to anglers interested in learning more about rod performance and designation. There are many similarities to clubs and rods the biggest being that there are ultimately multiple ‘tools’ are required to effectively prepared. I’ll often say ‘you can successfully finish an entire golf course with a putter and a wedge as your only assailants. This doesn’t mean you’ve done a very good job getting there.’ The same principal rings true for salmon trolling. In my estimation six out of ten anglers I see on the water are using a less than desirable rod spec to accomplish the chosen method of trolling prawns or herring for salmon.

Should the best rod to use for trolling bait be a fast action rod with an extra-fast bend toward the tip that is used most often? Or should the most effective rod be a slow action rod with the classic parabolic bend or rainbow bend that loads slow and steady when the bait is being taken that is certainly your ‘go-to’ solution? How about somewhere in the middle? The answer to these questions easily lies in some very simple instruction.

While length is an important contributing factor to all rods of all specs it’s the S L O W rod action and soft rod power that makes the best trolling rod. The recommended length for a springer trolling rod will vary tremendously based upon the action and power of the rod. And the action of the rod is ultimately at the mercy of the material used in the rod itself and whether adding more or less length makes the rod slower or faster. As I said before we’re going for S L O W. A rod with this action will allow the salmon to hold onto the bait longer before spitting it out which lends you better odds for a successful hook up. Fiberglass rods are by nature extremely slow to react which is exactly what you want when trolling bait. The slower the rod is to react…the slower the angler is to react…the more likely the bait bite is going to produce a hooked fish.

Remember the fish needs to hold the bait for several seconds before you set the hook if you want a legitimate chance at keeping that fish buttoned up until you land it thus creating an above average hook-up to land ratio from your rod. The length of your rod will vary between 8.5’ and 10.5’. Just make sure when the rod is bent appropriately it looks even and parabolic in its bend. It should look like a big rainbow bend. Glass rods, by design, will typically be softer and therefore shorter (8.5’) to produce the desired action. Since graphite is a much tighter, reactive material you typically have to be longer in overall rod length(10-10.5’) to accomplish a similar and effective action.

My recommended fiberglass rod would be in the range of the following overall rod specs: 9’ in length, 10-25 in line rating (relevant to power) and capable of demonstrating a traditional slow bend when loaded. The graphite solution to this puzzle would naturally be a much longer rod to accommodate the need for an even, slow, rainbow bend. Say 10 to 10.5’ and a typical line rating of approximately 10-30lb.
While there are a myriad of overseas produced product in the specs I’ve described there are only two local Pacific NW companies providing models in all the described specifications and those would be Lamiglas and G Loomis.


Christopher Heller

  1. Great info there Chris. Well written 🙂

  2. Derek Reed says:

    Great article Chris. Learn something new from your site everyday. Thanks

  3. Hellcat says:

    Thank you so much, John. I’ve used this article as an audition for a writing job. Cross your fingers.

  4. Hellcat says:

    Thank you Derek! I appreciate your support and that you are spreading the word in your region about Triple A!

  5. REEL LIfestyle says:

    Mr.Heller, Quite the article, very informative and full of wisdom. Your knowledge is a benefit to us and I certainly need all I can get my Friend

  6. Hellcat says:

    Hahahaha…..oh Rod…somehow I find that hard to believe. I’ve seen your photos. 🙂 Thank you for supporting these AAA posts by taking some time to read and comment on them. Your participation is a bright light for me. Cheers!

  7. Brian says:

    Really great post. This answered the majority of my questions. When I read this I actually opened up a word document and started taking notes haha.

  8. Hellcat says:

    Thank you so much for the comment! It’s an old article I’ll have to go back and read it again. Maybe I will pass it on to one of these publications I’m trying to get published in. How did you hear about my website?

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