There are many, many types of fishing rods on the market as manufacturers continue to develop rods that are technique specific. Rods seen in this section cover a wide range from float fishing for king salmon, to jigging for bottomfish, to hover fishing for coho salmon, to stillwater fly fishing for rainbow trout. At Fish Alaska, we spend countless hours each year on the water testing new rods to bring you the insight scoop on what rods to buy when you want to start to engage in a new fishing technique or what rods to buy to make you more effective at the techniques you already use.
Best fishing rods for Alaska in 2021
|Santiam Fishing Rods SFC-864H
This 8’6” 4-piece baitcasting rod is rated for 15- to 30-pound-test line, and 1/2- to 3-ounce lures. The blank combines moderate-heavy power and moderate-fast action, and the rod is outfitted with a cork handle and guides with ceramic inserts that are braid friendly. It comes with a travel case and fits easily in the overhead bin on commercial airlines, so you can take it as a carry on. We used this rod to float fish for kings on the Togiak and we landed many kings on it during the week. The rod has plenty of power in the butt, and enough tip flex to provide some shock absorption when a rampaging Chinook changes direction. It also worked well when jigging for rockfish and average-size lingcod in Yakutat Bay. We have no doubt that you could probably land a decent halibut on it too. This series of rods comes in three line classes and in both spinning and casting models.
|Eagle Claw Trailmaster 4-piece, 6’6” Spinning Travel Combo with Spinning Reel
This is a great pack rod setup for jumping on a bush plane in Alaska, when targeting sockeye, coho, pinks, chunky rainbows, lake trout, northern pike, or oversized char. It easily fits in a pack, making it perfect to transport to remote locations. The entire setup fits in the 22 3/4” x 7” case with even some room for a small tackle box. The rod we fished is rated for 6- to 14-pound-test, delivered through a moderate-fast, medium-power, graphite blank. It’s got a cork handle and aluminum reel seat that holds the five ball bearing, 5.1:1 gear ratio, spinning reel. The reel has a graphite body and aluminum spool and handle.
|Eagle Claw Sawatch Fly Rod and Reel Combo
We tested the 5- and 8-weight combos in 2020. The 9-foot, 4-piece, medium-fast-action blanks allowed us to punch out longer casts when needed, and still have some forgiveness when a big fish grabbed the fly and ran into the backing. Cork handles are comfortable and fit nicely in the hand, minimizing fatigue. Reels are mid-arbor, have a fluid disc drag and are made from machine-cut aluminum. The drag is fairly smooth and adjustable with an oversized drag-adjustment knob. Reels come spooled with a weight-forward floating line and backing. The combo comes with a case to store both the rod and reel. These combos perform well and are a very good value.
|Daiwa Saltiga 592MHB Travel Rod
This awesome, 5’9”, two-piece casting rod is super light, sensitive and strong. It has medium-heavy power, fast action and is rated for 30- to 65-pound-test braid. Publisher Marcus Weiner caught halibut, lingcod and rockfish on it last year. This is one of those rods that you love to fish with; it is ultra-sensitive, transmitting bites hundreds of feet below the surface. It’s got a strong backbone, and bends well into the butt, giving you a lot of shock absorption when a big halibut suddenly changes direction. Daiwa’s V-Joints connect the rod pieces with a flexing joint. The end result is a multi-piece rod that feels like a one-piece blank and is built to handle traveling to big fish. 2020 has been our year of testing travel rods and this one made the starting lineup for years to come.
|Eagle Claw ECIS70MMF3 Inshore Rod
In the theme of testing travel rods in 2020, we rigged up the ECIS70MMF3, and used it to fish for pinks and silvers. This 3-piece spinning rod is 7 feet long, rated for 8- to 17-pound-test line, and 1/4- to 3/4-ounce lures. We used this to toss Mepps Aglia BRITE spinners, Dardevle Devle Dog spoons, Panther Martin WillowStrike Regular spinners and Blue Fox Vibrax to freshwater coho and it has the ability to send lures where you need them and the backbone to bury hooks and subdue 10 pounds of chrome coho. The graphite blank is light and sensitive. We haven’t tried it yet, but feel pretty confident this would make for a fun jigging rod for rockfish and coho in the salt, or tossing topwater baits to northerns.
|Daiwa Harrier Jigging Rod HRJ64MHB
Editor George Krumm took this rod with him to Sitka this summer to jig for halibut. He paired it with a Daiwa Saltist 35H spooled with 80-pound-test J-Braid. The combination worked very well using jigs from 6- to 16 ounces, and he landed numerous halibut to 75 pounds. This is a fantastic rod to use when jigging for halibut. Considering its strength, it is very light and was comfortable to jig with for hours on end. What’s more, it made small halibut fun and also had the backbone to drive big jig hooks home and land larger fish.
|Okuma SST Hover Rod SST-C-7101MGMH-CG
We’ve actually been using this rod for a few years. Purchased initially as a backup rod, it has made the starting lineup of our go-to rods for hover fishing. We have one which has landed 30 or more Chinook ranging from jacks to fish approaching 30 pounds. At 7’10”, it’s just the right length for hover fishing. What’s more, it has a fast, sensitive tip combined with enough backbone to drive 4/0 hooks into Chinook jaws. It’s rated for 10- to 20-pound-test mono, but we usually use 50-pound-test braid for hover fishing. This rod is built to handle weights from 1- to 3 ounces.
|Santiam Fishing Rods SFC-632
This two-piece halibut rod is made for travel, which makes it unique since most rod companies don’t make multi-piece halibut rods. The rod is made for jigging, which is our preferred way to fish for bottomfish, and Santiam also makes the SFC-562, which is their two-piece halibut rod designed for bait fishing. Using the SFC-632, we landed halibut to 100 pounds, partnering the rod with an Okuma Metalloid M-5II, 80-pound-test Daiwa J-Braid, and an 8-ounce Ahi USA Live Deception jig. The rod features a glass blank, EVA foam handle and hardened chrome guides.
|Okuma X-series Twitching rod X-S-761M
If you want the Ferrari of twitching rods, this is it. This light, fast-action, uber-high-quality twitching rod comes from the rod-engineering mind of Josh Cooper. Rated for 8- to 17-pound-test mono, it will handle jigs from 1/4- to 1 ounce. Twitching jigs will wear you out if you don’t have a rod with the right length and action. This 7’6” rod is perfect for twitching. In addition to the 40-ton Toray carbon rod blank, Sea Guide deep-press titanium guide frames with RS Sea Guide inserts offer unmatched hardness for braided-line use. The Sea Guide Alien reel seat provides a secure hold on your spinning reel and provides all-day ergonomic comfort.
|OPST Pure Skagit 11’6” 8-weight Two-Handed Rod
OPST’s two-handed rods were designed by legendary angler and Skagit-casting proponent, Ed Ward. Although we’ve only tested the 8-weight, Ed nailed it! According to George Krumm, “The OPST 8-weight is light, strong, capable of launching big rabbit/marabou flies and sink tips ranging from T-8 to T-14, as well as handling the huge, steelhead-sized rainbows for which the Naknek is known. This rod has a surprising amount of energy stored in the lower third of the rod blank, and if that power is harnessed through a strong, bottom-hand pull, the rod casts shockingly far. It’s a pleasure to cast at all fishable distances. With this rod, a huge fly (4.5” of rabbit and marabou) and T-14 were easily launched with a 375-grain Commando Groove line to distances of 60- or 70 feet. This rod rocks!”
|Redington Crux 8100-4
This is a sweet fly chucker. The fast-action blank makes it easy to toss streamers out of the park, but also lay down precise, short-distance casts to wary fish. The rod recovers quickly and is really comfortable in the hand due to the Angled Key Grip handle, which is a dense, pre-compressed cork material. We landed coho and pinks on streamers using it in 2020 and have our sights on spring steelhead, fishing beads under indicators. The fighting butt comes in handy when you have an angry coho pinned to the line. This 8-weight model is 10 feet long and breaks down into four pieces. The rod has high-end fit and finish, and comes with a Cordura rod tube.