Top 5 Best Tarpon Fly Rod (2022 Buyer’s Guide)

Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.

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Saltwater fishing for tarpon on the fly is addictive.

If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it.

The explosive eats and the adrenaline rushing fight when a fish starts backflipping and shaking the hook is something no other fish can replicate.

In order to get a tarpon on fly to hand, you’re going to have to be equipped with the right fishing gear, and most importantly the right rod.

That’s why I’m here, to help you find the best tarpon fly rod saltwater solution to suit your needs and level of fishing.

Here are the top three best tarpon fly rods from the review…

The Best From The Review

Top Pick

G. Loomis GLX Crosscurrent

Its design is focused on being able to cast long distances of 80ft quickly and accurately into the wind. Expensive, but not as pricey as the other fly rods while providing similar or better performance.

G. Loomis GLX Crosscurrent

There can only be one choice for this category and it’s the GLX Crosscurrent.

The one thing the GLX Crosscurrent does better compared to others is give you some of the best power and lightweight performance to cast incredible distances quickly and accurately. 

It has saltwater fishing in its bones and it’s a little more affordable than most of the others.

Best Value

Hardy Demon

For a mid-range and more affordable option, the Demon is solid and it comes with a lifetime warranty.

Hardy Demon

Where budget is a priority and when one is only going to saltwater fish a couple of times a year, the Hardy Demon is best.

It’s almost half the price of most of the other rods while still providing a solid accurate casting distance and being durable and strong.

Editor’s Choice

G Loomis NRX+

One of the best in terms of both distance and accuracy. The NRX+ is expensive but it’s worth the money when you think about performance and build quality.

G Loomis NRX+

I’ve been the fisherman on the bow of a skiff and the guide on the platform a lot.

I’ve seen a lack of accuracy end up with a fly landing on a huge GT’s head, scaring it and screwing up a chance of a lifetime too many times that it makes me a little stressed just writing about it. 

You have to take every chance you get when fishing on the flats, and putting the fly in the right place is the most important thing.

Best of the Best

The NRX+ is by far the most accurate rod out of them all while doing everything else to the highest specs too – it’s my best from the review.

Our Best Tarpon Fly Rods

Here is the complete lineup of all the top fly rods…

Orvis Helios 3D

It feels incredibly light in the hand but still has all the gusto you need to make long casts and fight a solid tarpon.

Orvis Helios 3D

The Orvis Helios 3D is one of the best rods Orvis has ever made.

The power to weight ratio is off the charts.

It feels incredibly light in the hand but still has all the gusto you need to make long casts and fight a solid tarpon. 

Build

The Helios 3D is made from a strong reinforced graphite blank with an anodized aluminum reel seat, REC recoil snake guides, and SiC/titanium stripping guides.

These materials are all top-quality and are excellent at surviving any corrosion saltwater will send their way. 

Blank

The reinforced blank helps to increase your loop strength and line speed while dampening any vibrations.

This gives you better tracking by absorbing casting variables and makes the Helios 3D an awesome but forgiving rod to cast with. 

You’ll be able to push 80-90ft with ease, into the wind, and with accuracy. 

The Helios 3D is light, saving you an arm ache but it also has great lifting power. In those last moments of the fight, you really have to use the strong butt section to lift the fish in order to land it.

Model

The model below is an 11 weight, ideal for fish around the 100lb mark and you can take it offshore to catch sailfish and other species too. 

It is expensive but it’s worth it for the quality and performance, and it comes with a 25-year guarantee if anything goes wrong.

Specs

  • Model: 3D 911-4
  • Weight: 11
  • Length: 9 ft
  • Line: 11/12 wt
  • Action: Fast
  • Tube: Yes

Pros

  • Light for fatigue-less casting
  • Tough with some serious lifting power
  • Absorbs casting variables for more consistency
  • Great casting distance and accuracy
  • Made for surviving saltwater
  • 25-year guarantee
  • Forgiving when casting

Cons

  • Expensive

Top Pick

G. Loomis GLX Crosscurrent

Its design is focused on being able to cast long distances of 80ft quickly and accurately into the wind. Expensive, but not as pricey as the other fly rods while providing similar or better performance.

G. Loomis GLX Crosscurrent

The GLX Crosscurrent was built for saltwater.

The design is focused on being able to cast long distances of 80ft quickly and accurately into the wind, which is what saltwater fly fishing is all about.

Build

The GLX Crosscurrent is made using a graphite blank that is tapered to reduce the over materials used and therefore weight while strengthening weak points. This gives you a light rod that’s made to cast incredible distances while having some serious lifting power and fish fighting ability.

Reel and Guides

The GLX Crosscurrent comes with an anodized aluminum fly reels saltwater seat that will keep hold of your saltwater fly reel no matter the situation and will survive life in saltwater. 

It features a nickel-titanium guide system that reduces the overall weight and gives you friction-free casting for those extra few feet you sometimes need.

Model

The model below is a 10 weight that can be fished with a 10 or 11 weight line.

It’s ideal for fish under 70lbs and it may not have the lifting for anything over that – You can use it for permit, big jacks and snook too.

The GLX Crosscurrent is expensive but not as pricey as a lot of the others, while providing similar or better performance. It also comes with a lifetime warranty.

Specs

  • Model: FR10810-4
  • Weight: 10
  • Length: 9ft
  • Line: 10/11 wt
  • Action: Fast
  • Pieces: 4
  • Tube: Yes

Pros

  • Superior build quality and durability
  • Excellent for casting in any conditions
  • Makes quick, long accurate casts
  • Powerful butt section for lifting stubborn fish
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Excellent blank, guides, and reel seat
  • Made to survive salt-water

Cons

  • 10 wt is light for fish over 70 lbs
  • Expensive

Best Value

Hardy Demon

For a mid-range and more affordable option, the Demon is solid and it comes with a lifetime warranty.

Hardy Demon

The Hardy Demon is a mid-range and more affordable option compared to others.

It’s a solid choice if you only plan to use it a couple of times a year but you do sacrifice some performance for the drop in price.

Build

It’s made from the Sintrix 330 blank which Hardy uses for their top of the range rods. It’s light, powerful, and durable.

It gives the Demon some great lifting power to raise stubborn fish from the depths and it keeps it light for easy all-day casting.

The Demon comes with a bar stock 6061 aluminum reel seat that handles corrosion like a boss, just give it a rinse after each use.

It also comes with Fuji titanium stripper guides for reduced friction to assist with your casting distance.

Casting

The Demon is great for sending out accurate 60ft casts but when you try to push to around 80 ft, it lacks power and line speed.

Most of the time, 60ft will suffice but you may miss out by not having the option to push to 80ft or more.

Model

The model below is a 10wt and like the GLX Crosscurrent above, it’s great for fish under 70lbs but will struggle with anything over that.

For a mid-range and more affordable option, the Demon is solid and it comes with a lifetime warranty.

Specs

  • Model: HD1090-4
  • Weight: 10
  • Length: 9 ft
  • Line: 10/11 wt
  • Action: Fast
  • Pieces: 4
  • Tube: Yes

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Blank construction is strong and powerful
  • Accurate casts at 60ft
  • Powerful butt section for great lifting power
  • All features are corrosion resistant for saltwater
  • Light for tireless fishing days
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Not great for long casts to 80 ft
  • Needs a heavier line like an Airflow Tropical Punch/Rio Flats Pro to perform
  • Light for fish over 70lbs

Sage SALT HD

It’s designed for making long, accurate casts into the wind and living a long life on the salt.

Sage SALT HD

The Salt HD is Sage’s newest addition to their top of the range saltwater line up.

It’s designed for making long, accurate casts into the wind and living a long life on the salt.

Build

The Salt HD is made from a graphite blank that utilizes Sage’s KonneticHD Technology that gives it a quick recovery time after a cast.

This means you can make a quick cast, and then another quick cast without any lag from your rod in between.

Action

The Salt HD is stiff and powerful for punching into the wind with ease, but this does make it a little unforgiving for any beginners out there.

It comes with a gloss black anodized aluminum up-locking reel seat that stays secure until you undo it.

Guides

The guides used are oversized Fuji ceramic stripper guides on the bottom section with oversized hard chromed snake guides and tip-top on the upper sections, both of which reduce friction for a longer cast.

Made For Saltwater

All of these materials are made to handle a saltwater environment and will last for years. 

The Salt HD is great for casting distances around 80ft quickly and accurately, which in saltwater is far enough.

However, it does seem to fade out when you try and push over 80ft.

In terms of lifting power, it has your back with a strong butt section that’ll raise large 100lb fish to the boat easily.

Model

The model below is a 12wt, ideal for big fish pushing the 100lb mark and offshore pelagics like sailfish, striped marlin, tuna, and more.

It’s expensive but it performs, and comes with a lifetime warranty.

Specs

  • Model: Salt 1290-4
  • Weight: 12
  • Length: 9
  • Line: 12
  • Action: Fast
  • Pieces: 4
  • Tube: Yes

Pros

  • KonneticHD Technology blank gives awesome feedback
  • Excellent build with great lifting power
  • Casts 80ft with accuracy
  • Stiff and powerful for punching into the wind
  • Top-quality guides and reel seat for life in saltwater
  • Lifetime guarantee

Cons

  • Not great for long distances over 80ft
  • Heavier than others

Editor’s Choice

G Loomis NRX+

One of the best in terms of both distance and accuracy. The NRX+ is expensive but it’s worth the money when you think about performance and build quality.

G Loomis NRX+

The NRX+ is an upgrade of the NRX and is 15% lighter than its predecessor while still maintaining incredible performance.

Qualities

The NRX+ is one of the best in terms of both distance and accuracy. You can push a line over 100ft and have your fly land right where you want it to.

It’s abilities are mouth-watering when you imagine it in your hand with a tarpon 90ft in front of you, knowing that the NRX+ is going to help you make the perfect shot.

Build

The NRX+ is made with a fast action graphite blank that features Dynamic Recovery Technology which allows the rod to correct itself after bending, faster.

This creates impeccable line speed and tight loops that give you that extra distance.

When casting the NRX+, you have to let it do the work and create the power.

If you try and push it too far it doesn’t respond so well.

Power

When you slow down you’ll feel the NRX+ wake-up and give you great distances with minimal effort.

The NRX+ is incredibly tough with superior lifting power whilst also staying light.

You won’t get tired casting it and you’ll be able to lift fish with ease.

Model

The model below is a 12 wt and is perfect for any species around the 100-150lb mark.

The NRX+ is expensive but it’s worth the money when you think about performance and build quality.

It comes with a lifetime warranty which makes it an investment and a rod for life.

Specs

  • Model: NRX+1290-4
  • Weight: 12
  • Length: 9 ft
  • Line: 12
  • Action: Fast
  • Pieces: 4
  • Tube: Yes

Pros

  • Incredibly strong and light
  • Excellent line speed for casting long distances of 100ft plus
  • Powerful butt section for awesome lifting power
  • Exceptionally tough and durable, almost impossible to break
  • Effortless casting due to relaxed fast action
  • Super accurate casting
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Expensive

What Is A Tarpon?

Tarpon Swimming in Water

A tarpon is a migratory fish that you find close to shorelines.

They live in the Caribbean and off the west coast of Africa.

You most likely relate them to the flats of Florida where tarpon fishing was made famous thanks to their annual migration that runs up the coast.

FUN FACT

Tarpons can grow up to 200lbs + and have found a place in many a fly fisherman’s heart. 

A Hard Catch

They become an obsession for many guides and anglers because they’re tricky to understand, find, hook, and bring to hand.

The jumping adrenaline fuelled fight is like a drug.

Their feeding patterns and locations change from one day to the next and once hooked all they do is jump to try and shake the hook.

NOTE

When tarpon fishing, you’ll most likely be fishing from a skiff with a local guide who knows the area and how the tarpon behave like the back of their hand.

What Is A Tarpon Saltwater Fly Rod?

Person Holding a Fly Rod
Person Holding a Fly Rod

To find the best tarpon fly rod, you must know what tarpon fly rods are. A fly rod for tarpon is a normal single-handed fly rod that is the right weight to handle these fish.

Considering their weight, in order to land one you’re going to need to match their size with the rod’s abilities.

Your average sized tarpon is between 50-80 lbs, so the setup we are looking for will be based on this size rather than the rarer 200lb size fish.

Fishing Technology

In the old days, the technology of the rods and reels we have today didn’t exist and it’s only thanks to the evolution of gear like the Scott Meridian rod or the Ted Juracsik tibor reel that has made big 100lb tarpon accessible to fly fishing. 

Is A Specific Rod Necessary? 

Yes, absolutely. 

You 100% have to have a setup that can handle the size of the tarpon you intended to catch, or it’ll be tears at the dock when it breaks on that tarpon of a lifetime.

This is not to say that your tarpon rod can’t be used for other species, it can.

You can use it for sailfish, wahoo, GT’s, and any other species that have an average weight of around 100lbs.

What Is The Ideal Size Fly Rod For Tarpon?

Fly Rod Placed on a Dock
Fly Rod Placed on a Dock

When fishing for tarpon you want to use a 10 weight, 11 weight, or 12 weight fly rod.

Which one you choose depends on a few things, the first being the size of tarpon you’re after, and the second, what other species do you want to catch with your rod?

A 10 weight can handle tarpon up to around the 60lb mark and is a good weight for targeting other species like permit, barracuda, and triggerfish.

An 11 or 12 weight can handle tarpon over 100lbs and are a great size for going after sailfish, tuna, GT’s, and big jack crevalle.

What Makes The Best Fly Rod For Tarpon? 

Tarpon rods have to be able to handle the size of tarpon you’re going after and you’re going to have to pick a 10 weight, 11 weight, or 12 weight. 

Once you have the right weight rod, it has to perform well enough to help you catch the fish. 

When saltwater fishing for tarpon you are stood on the bow of a skiff in the wind, rain, sun, waiting for your guide to spot a fish for you to cast at. 

Once a fish is spotted you need to make a long 70ft cast or further, quickly and with accuracy.

Casting

If you cast too short the fish may move on and you miss your chance. 

Cast the fly behind the fish and it won’t see the fly.

Cast too close to the fish and you risk it seeing the fly land and scaring it away. 

The pressure to get it right is huge and the nerves are hard to manage too.

Difficult Without a Proper Rod

Can you imagine doing all this with a rod that doesn’t have you back?

It’s not even worth thinking about when you have the fish of a lifetime in front of you with your guide shouting in excitement. 

The right fly rod for tarpon will give you great casting distance, accuracy, be able to punch through the wind, survive in a saltwater environment, and have the strength to subdue a large tarpon.

Things To Consider When Looking For A Fly Rod For Tarpon

Man Casting a Fly Rod
Man Casting a Fly Rod

Weight

How heavy your rod is makes a big difference when you’re doing a lot of casting.

A heavy rod will give you an arm ache and tire you out quickly.

This can result in you not enjoying your day on the water or not being sharp for that late in the day opportunity that often comes by.

It’s always best to pick a light rod if you can.

Now, 10-12 weight fly rods are not made to be light because they need a lot of strength, but some are lighter than others. 

TIP

Be sure to check the different weights to help you make the right decision.

Length

The best length for tarpon is 9 feet. It’s long enough for you to shoot a long line while being short and powerful enough to lift a heavy stubborn tarpon from the depths.

A longer length than 9ft might help your casting distance but it’s not going to give you enough lifting power, as the tip will be too weak and likely to snap.

A shorter length may give you some solid lifting power but it’s going to struggle to push a line over 60 ft.

Winding Up

Picking the right rod for saltwater is key to your success and if you’re still struggling to decide, here is my advice. 

Top Pick

For an all-round performer, pick the GLX Crosscurrent. 

It can push a line 100ft accurately and into the wind, plus it has the gusto to fight the fish you’re going after. With the GLX Crosscurrent in your hands, anything is possible. 

Best Value

If you’re only going to fish a few times a year or don’t want to spend too much, the Hardy Demon is a solid choice.

It’s half the price or more of others in the review and it’ll get the job done for your bi-annual trips to the Keys. 

Editor’s Choice

I’d pick the NRX+ simply for its effortless castability that pushes lines to 100t with deadly accuracy.

A rod that does this will increase your chances of catching every fish that you see, and that is one of the most important things in saltwater, making every chance count.

When I moved to using the NRX+ when I worked in the Bahamas, I could put my fly right where the bonefish wanted it and my success increased no ends. 

Make It Worth Your While

There is something you have to realize when flats fishing, and this comes from my heart as a flats guide.

A day out there is expensive, you don’t get to do it all the time, and your opportunities have to be taken.

I hope you found this article useful and have found the right tarpon setup for your next trip to the Caribbean. 

If you have friends or family who share a passion for saltwater fishing, share this article with them, or take a look at other useful articles such as, ‘Best Steelhead Fly Rod‘ or ‘Best Fly Rod For Bass‘.

Got something to say? Share it with me on social media!

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Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.
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