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OTHER ITA SITES:
Choosing The Right Salmon And Steelhead Rod
Recently I had a chance to make a new friend with someone looking to get into fishing. When I asked him what he intended to fish with, he told me about some of the recommendations he’d been given. As a result of the “advice” he received, he ended up with a "tweener". That is, a rod that is in between, or can be used to fish for more than one species.
When choosing a rod, you want to pick one that BEST suits what you are fishing for. As I mentioned in one my earlier articles, when I first started fishing for these larger fish (Salmon/Steelhead), I didn’t know anyone who was really into it. So I asked the guy at the store, and he showed me a "tweener" rod. Let me tell you right away...it doesn’t work like that. It can catch you fish yes, but to really get into fishing, you want to use what works best.
Depending on where you intend to fish, these guys can reach the 50+ lb class. Are you going to be able to work one of these guys using the 10-20 lb rod (“tweener” rod) you got? Probably not. When fishing for Silvers (Coho) that rod is perfect, as these fish typically run in the 10-20 lb class. Sometimes a bit bigger but you get the idea.
When hooking into a Chinook, you need something with backbone and power. Something heavy enough to handle the ride these fish are going to give you.
Typically, your average salmon rod is rated 12-25 lbs. and 8'6" in length. This rod will give you the strength you need, as well as the length for casting ability. This rod is not going to be quite as sensitive, but that’s okay since Salmon typically are not going to "nibble" at your presentation. They will smell it, maybe think about it, but once decided...they just take it. No pecking at it like a steelhead would.
Once you set the hook...Look out! When that hook gets set these guys will come un-glued. Again, at that point you need some power in the rod in order to control or fight them. Remember, these fish are running 20 lbs on up. You’re in for a fight.
If you’re going to be fishing from a boat, you may want to go a bit smaller in length. Maybe 7'6", or 7'9". You don't need quite as much length when you aren’t casting out far, or not casting at all, as when running Kwik-fish, or bait with diver or back-bouncing.
When these monsters hit and bury your rod you’ll be glad you have that stiffer, heavier action. Again, hang on. Once hooked they’ll go nuts. Not out of the water nuts (usually not), but straight down, and up and down the stretch of water you’re fishing.
Steelhead are totally different critters. Where salmon will bite primarily out of hunger, steelhead will also strike out of irritation. Steelhead will strike at something simply because it is in there way, or territory.
With that in mind you need a rod that is more sensitive where you are able to feel the bite or strike. I recommend a fast action rod. These are also 8'6" in length, but this time we want to go with a 8-12 lb rod. This class of rod is much lighter than those of 12-25 lbs. If you are looking at the G-Loomis rod, you are going to see 8-17 lb extra-fast action. This is the rod of all rods. You will feel everything with this rod. It’s stiff, but surprisingly sensitive. Having that stiffness will also help in your hook set.
In my experience with steelhead, they usually come at you quick. Whether bite or strike, it happens fast. Sometimes they slam you, and sometimes your line or drift will stop, but usually for me it happens quick. Bang, or "tap tap", in these instances you need a quick hook set. That is where a good, light fast action rod is an advantage. The rod picks up on the hit, and gives you time to react. Again, with my IMX rod...there is no missing it. I may miss the hook set, but I know when the fish was there.
When you do set the hook and get a fish on, oh baby, be ready for some action. I love the mass of a salmon, but in my opinion there is no fight like a steelhead. These guys come up out of the water head-shaking, upriver, downriver, you name it.
Again, if you are in the boat you can afford to go a bit shorter for the same scenario as above...plugs, bait/diver, etc...
Brands can be hard to choose from as there are quite a few. If you aren’t going with the top 2 (Loomis & Lamiglas), go with something reasonably priced but dependable. I have narrowed my search to the IM7 rod by Berkley. It's a great rod for the money, and gives you great dependability. Depending on where you are geographically there are more or less options, but the Berkley rod can easily be found just about anywhere.
Lastly, don't be afraid to ask questions. Just don't ask for a rod that "can do both". We all know what that gets you. If you tell them what type of fishing you are mostly doing they can get you started. They will probably ask you how much you want to spend at that point. After that it all boils down to opinions.
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