Not all fishing rods are equal
As I refine my fishing tactics and preferences, I am learning that not all rods are the same.
I have always been serious about my reels, but until recently, I wasn’t as discriminating about my rods. For my brand of recreational fishing, I was satisfied to use cheap but decent rods.
A disclaimer is in order. In the late 1990s, I provided photos to Falcon Graphite Rods to use in its catalog and on its website. For many years, one of my photos adorned the hang tags of Falcon’s Cara rods. Falcon paid me with rods, and I got their best, but I don’t subject my Falcons to the abuses of canoe fishing.
For that, I use Berkley Cherrywoods and closeout Shimanos and Castaways.
In time, I learned that there’s more to a rod than light, medium, medium-heavy and heavy. You’ve got fast tips and slow tips, and actions aren’t uniform, either. Some are stiffer than others, and you have to experiment to match a rod to a particular application.
Stephen Browning, the Bassmaster Elite Series Pro from Hot Springs, recently told me, “If you can only afford one really good rod, splurge on your worm rod because that’s the one you need to be most sensitive.”
As I become more proficient at topwater fishing, I find that a fairly limber rod that loads quickly, but has good backbone, works best.
I found what appeared to be a great one at the Bassmaster Classic Expo in Houston, a Fenwick HMG. It’s a 6-foot, medium-light action with a fast tip that loads up quick and springs like a trap. I mated it with a WaveSpin 1500 spinning reel and 8-pound test Berkley Vanish flourocarbon line.
I took it to the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area in Minnesota two weeks ago. As I retrieved the first cast, my line frayed as if it were being shaved. The terminal guide was chipped, and the sharp edges indeed shaved the line on the retrieve.
Fortunately, I had a light-duty baitcasting rig consisting of a Lew’s Speed Spool and a trusty Berkley Lightning Rod. I use that rig for fishing soft plastics in creeks, and the rod is too stiff for topwaters. Instead of spring-loading the lure into the hookset the way a proper topwater rod should do, the stiffer Lightning Rod pulled it away from the fish. I caught my three biggest smallmouths ever with that rig, but I missed three times as many fish as I caught.
I have a checkered history with Fenwick Rods. I bought a fabulous rod for trolling stickbaits for walleyes several years ago, but it snapped in the middle on its first trip.
I returned the rod to Fenwick for a warranty replacement.
A few weeks later, the UPS man handed me a cardboard rod tube.
“Before I go, let’s make sure there’s actually a rod in there,” he said.
He opened the tube with his pocketknife, and sure enough, the tube was empty. He filed a claim for me on the spot, but Fenwick never sent a replacement.
My new HMG has a fiveyear warranty, but I learned my lesson. A local repair shop installed a new ceramic Fuji tip for $7. That’s less than shipping would have been for a warranty return, and now the HMG is back on active duty, but that brand is on personal probation.
I’ve got special rods for drop-shotting (Aaron Martens Enigmas), special rods for lipless crankbaits and special rods for jerkbaits. My 7-foot, Mark Davis Edition fiberglass Falcon is still the best cranking rod I’ve ever used. I even have a special rod for using topwaters and broken back crankbaits from kayaks, a McCain Line Cutterz Kayak rod.
The point is that all anglers go through a phase when one or two rods fit all, but eventually you’ll get a feel for things that are better suited for certain situations. Specialized equipment will also enable you to catch more and bigger fish.
Specialized rods don’t have to be expensive, though. For example, Shimano now owns the G. Loomis brand. You can pay $300 or more for the G. Loomis label if that’s important to you, but you can get a Shimano rod of similar quality and construction for $100 or less.
As for me, I’m still a Falcon man at heart. For $70, the Falcon HD is the best general purpose rod you can buy.