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Fishing Rods: The Ultimate Buyers Guide [For 2020]

Choosing a fishing rod to fit your needs is a challenging task. It’s not a simple matter of choosing this years newest rod. You need to consider your own preferences and fishing styles to make the right choice.

Each rod is painstakingly designed and tweaked to produce a unique combination of action, power, weight and length with a deliberate set of tradeoffs made along the way.

To help home in on the right reel we’ve broken down the key first steps to making your decision…

  1. Which type of rod do you want to buy?
  2. Which style of fishing will you use your rod for?
  3. Which fishing rod brands should you consider?

So lets get to it…

1. What are the different types of fishing rods?

Fishing rods used to be as simple as a bamboo stick… but not any more! With modern manufacturing and refinement, fishing rods have become highly specialised tools, each one customised to a specific style and reel pairing.

The first part of your decision will be narrowing down which type of rod you are after…

Fly Fishing Rods

The most obvious distinction is if you’re fly fishing. In which you’ll want the best fly rod for your fishing style.

If you’re not in the fly-fishing camp then you’ll need a traditional rod. Here’s were things get a bit tricker.

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  • The best fly fishing rods of 2020…

Spinning Vs Baitcasting Rods

You’ll need to make the choice between a spinning rod or a baitcasting rod. This decision will be entirely based on your preference between using a spinning reel and a baitcasting reel

If you’re a baitcasting die hard then you’ll be looking for the best baitcasting rod to match. On the other hand if you’re a spinner at heart then you’ll need to hunt down the best spinning rod to compliment your reel of choice.

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Ultra Portable and Telescopic Rods

Finally you should consider if you have any unique requirements regarding size, weight and portability. If you’re traveling, backpacking or camping you may want to opt for an ultra portable rod. In that case you should consider the best telescopic rods on the market before making your final decision.

If you don’t like the compromises telescopic rods have to make you might find an ultralight rod is a better fit. Some of the best ultralight rods stand up surprisingly well against their heavier siblings.

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2. Choosing a rod for your fishing style...

It’s not just the type of fishing rod that will shape your final decision, the kind of fishing you intend to use it for will play a huge role in your final pick.

With the ever growing number of rods on the market, manufacturers have tried to differentiate their new products by making them even more targeted at specific uses.

Whether you are a jack of all trades angler, a saltwater specialist or an extreme wilderness backpacker, theres a specialized rod for you. More than likely, theres actually are quite a few out there…

Travel Friendly Fishing Rods

If you’re an avid traveler, backpacker or wilderness junkie you’re probably not keen on the idea of dragging a 7 ft baitcasting rod alongside your carefully curated essentials.

Thankfully theres several categories of reals that have been specifically engineered with portability in mind.

If you’re entering the wilderness with nothing but a bag on your back you’ll be optimising for weight as well as compactness. When choosing the best backpacking rod theres a number of options out there that, given the tradeoffs, have surprisingly good results.

If you’re looking for size and speed of use then a telescopic rod might fit the bill. The best telescopic rods take little more than a flick of the wrist to get going. They are amazing for angling when speed and efficiency are the priority. They’re also great for beginners or kiddos starting out.

It you’re a jet-setting angler then you’ll need to consider which rods you can safely take as hand luggage given the standard carry on restrictions. Weight is a bit less of a consideration here, but you’ll still want to try and keep things relatively light. The best travel rods can be easily broken down and packed for a plane, but still pack a punch when it comes time to play.

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Picking The Right Rod For Your Environment

Once of the key deciding factors for your rod is the environment you intent to use it most in. If you’re a saltwater angler, then you’ll need a rod build for the salt to withstand the harsh elements. The best surf rods are built with resilience in mind, they are constructed of quality, corrosion resistant materials to stand the test of time.

On another extreme if your an ice fishing enthusiast then you’re dealing with an entirely different beast. The best ice fishing rods can withstand extreme temperatures and are easy easy to handle with gloves on for long periods.

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Picking The Right Rod For Your Catch

All good anglers know: “If you wanna catch the right fish, you gotta use the right bait”.

But what about using the right rod?!

Rods are not only best suited to a specific angler and fishing style, they’re also best suited to targeting specific catch

Whether you’re reeling in great whites or landing fresh water lunkers, theres always a decision to make about which is the right rod for the job.

If you’re targeting trout you should consider the very best trout rods on the market. These rods will have the perfect balance of trade-offs optimized for trout fishing.

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Picking The Right Rod For Your Lure

Different choices of lure tend to go hand in hand with different fishing styles and catch. But fishing with spinners or swimbaits isn’t just about buying the best lure from your local tackle shop. 

It’s not the tools that make the angler but the angler that makes the tools!

Fishing with specialized lures is much more about the skill of the angler to turn a lump of metal and plastic into an irresistible meal for your catch…

This is all down to how well you can finesse your lure and retrieve. It goes without saying that a huge part of your ability to do this is how well you can handle your rod.

Rod weight, action and length all come into play when making these tiny movements and you should always consider this if you are partial to a specific lure type.

If you’re a swimbait artist then you’ll want to check out the best swimbait rods available. Something around 8 feet with at least a medium-heavy power should do nicely.

If you’re into precision spinnerbait angling then you’ll want something nice and light. The best spinnerbait rods don’t bend too readily with the added drag from the spinner and are around 6’6″ to 7′ in length

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Picking The Right Rod For Your Experience Level

It’s important to think about your own skill level when choosing a rod and how far you want it to take you. If you’re buying for a beginner you’ll want a beginner friendly rod. The best beginner rods will sacrifice some of the finessing control for ease of use to avoid the worst parts of starting out.

It’s generally recommended that you start with spinning rods before learning how to wield a baitcaster. Many people stick with spinners for life but its usually sound advice to have a level of competency with a spinning reel before tackling baitcasters.

The best spinning rods are engineered from the ground up to work with spinning reels. The most common mistake I see new anglers make is buying a baitcasting rod for their spinning reel.

If you’re already a seasoned expert then you might be an avid baitcaster at this point. It goes without saying that if you’re using a baticasting reel you’ll need a baitcasting rod. The best baitcasting rods will hold your reel snugly on the top of the rod giving you maximum control over your casting.

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3. What are the top fishing rod brands you should consider?

Recreational fishing is a huge industry, each year the number of companies manufacturing rods is increasing and now more than ever its hard to know which are reputable brands and which are cheap knockoffs.

Luckily as anglers we’ve done pretty well at supporting our own and some of the highest quality manufacturers have ridden the waves over the years. When buying a rod you should default to the brands you know and trust. You’ll need to be very confident in yours and other peoples opinions of a new manufacturer before you put down your hard earn money on one of their rods.

To make it easy to decide we’ve covered a shortlist of our favourite and most trusted rod manufacturers below. If you buy a rod from any of these brands you can rest assured you’re in safe hands

Shakespeare Fishing Rods

Shakespeare Fishing have been making high quality fishing rods for over 100 years. They’ve got a huge range of lines but their most well known Shakespeare fishing rod is the famous Ugly Stik.

You can rely on quality construction and reputable warranties with Shakespeare so you should definitely consider them as one of your go to brands for when rod shopping.

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Shimano Fishing Rods

Shimano places a special focus on “sexy”, as everything from their rods to their apparel range is produced to catch the eye (and not just a record trout).

One of the best aspects of Shimano is the diverse range of rods and peripherals that they offer. They produce a rod for practically every type of fishing, experience level, or budget.

Once you’ve held a Shimano in your hands, you instantly understand why they are one of the top rod manufacturers out there!

Daiwa Fishing Rods

Daiwa quite proudly talks about their dedication to innovation and quality –  and anyone that’s owned a Daiwa rod knows it’s true!

Based in California, they’ve been produced quality rods for well over 50 years and show no signs of stopping! If you’re looking for a fishing rod that pushes the boundaries of comfort and practicality, you should definitely check out Daiwa Fishing!

Penn Fishing Rods

Penn Fishing produces rods with quality in mind – something you wouldn’t expect from a brand that offers such a diverse range of options in terms of price.

They offer products that fit the budget of any angler while maintaining a quality that is hard to beat. With rods named “Carnage” and “Wrath”, Penn focuses on providing a next level fishing experience every time you drop a line.

Okuma Fishing Rods

Even beginner anglers know the name Okuma and for good reason. Okuma specializes in delivering an adventure every time you head out. 

They painstakingly optimize their rods to with precision and sensitivity in mind. With an Okuma you’ll feel every bite, finesse every retrieve and be confident that you’ll come home with a story to tell.

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