The best fishing rods are determined through rigorous testing across the back country of Alaska. The Fish Alaska team puts each rod to the test and these are our top picks.
Best Fishing Rods
Rainshadow RX6/E-glass Knife Jigging Rod Blank RCKJB700-325-TC
This 7-foot blank is specifically made for vertically jigging 8- to 12-ounce lures with 30- to 60-pound-test lines. It’s a heavy-power, moderate-action jig stick that will easily handle big lings and halibut. It’s made with a proprietary blend and modulus positioning of RX6 graphite and E-glass. It provides an unbelievable combination of balance, strength, power and sensitivity. We used this rod for jigging halibut in 300+ feet of water with jigs up to 12 ounces. A 16-ounce jig would be okay on this rod, too. We spiral-wrapped this rod using Alps guides, an Alps reel seat, and Winn grips. This is undoubtedly one of the best fishing rods for jigging on the ocean.
Rainshadow RX6/E-Glass Knife Jigging Rod Blank RCKJB700-112-TC
This 7-foot blank is made for vertically jigging 2- to 5-ounce lures and is rated for 15- to 30-pound-test lines (but we used 40-pound-test braid). We built this rod in a spiral-wrapped configuration and used it while jigging for a variety of rockfish and lingcod. Our impression is that the blank is relatively light but has good lifting power. The blank is a composite of RX6 graphite and E-glass. It’s a durable, thin-diameter, heavy-walled blank with moderate action. If you’re looking for a blank to build into a jigging stick for rockfish and lings using 2- to 5-ounce jigs, this is an especially good choice.
Santiam Fishing Rods SFS-864H Spinning Rod
We’ve fished a number of Santiam rods over the last several years and they are certainly holding up to the punishment involved with catching lots of fish. The SFS-864H is an 8’6”, 4-piece, moderate-action, heavy-power spinning rod, rated for 15- to 30-pound-test line and lures weighing 1/2- to 3 ounces. The rod stores in a 31-inch tube that easily fits in the overhead bin of any commercial airline. We landed silvers in the salt, cast to kings in the fresh and did some ferrous-metal jigging for lingcod and rockfish that provided tasty fillets to enjoy all winter. We like multi-functional rods during mixed-species outings, and this is a good one to consider.
Okuma 9’9” SST-C-992H-CGA Salmon Rod
If you’re in the market for a heavy trolling, backtrolling or downrigger rod, this one fills the bill at a price that won’t break the bank. The rod is part of Okuma’s SST “A” series. We tested this rod by trolling heavy leads and 360-flashers with a variety of lures and landed numerous Chinook salmon with it. Though rated for 15- to 40-pound-test and weights from 2- to 10 ounces. We used 65-pound-test braid and 12- and 16-ounce weights with no problem. Additionally, this rod has woven carbon-fiber grips and double-locking rings on the reel seat to keep your reel secure.
Hardy Zane Pro 9’ 9WT Rod
This fly rod has really nice cork, a slim grip, REC Cerecoil strippers, REC Recoil snakes, and features Hardy’s Sintrix blank material with a very slim rod blank for its weight for less wind resistance. This is a fantastic saltwater and heavy freshwater fly rod that should do well stripping “striptruders” for kings, too. For Alaska, this is a great saltwater salmon and rockfish rod. In freshwater, it will shine for salmon and lake trout. It comes in a very nice aluminum rod tube and includes ferrule inserts to protect them. Fish Alaska Editor Flyfishing columnist George Krumm tested the rod with a RIO Striper 350-grain line punching big streamers in windy conditions and emphatically says it’s a powerful, well-designed fly rod.
KastKing Kong Series
These rods are built to tame large fish like big lingcod and halibut. Several models are available for fishing lures from 2- to 32 ounces. Rods are available in 1- and 2-piece models, in both spinning or casting versions, with line-rating ranges from 15- to 40-pound-test all the way up to 50- to 100-pound-test. Additionally, for those fishing bait, these rods have a bright-green tip section that helps you see a bite in almost any light condition.
Hardy Aydon Double Handed Fly Rod 11’9” 7/8WT
The Aydon is available in lengths from 11’9” to 14’9” and in line ratings from 7/8WT to 10/11WT. We tested the 11’9” 7/8WT version which has a line-grain window from 460- to 520 grains. One of the things we really like is that it is less than 12’ long which makes it less troublesome to maneuver than most “spey” rods, but a lot longer than 11’ so it provides longer casts and better line control than shorter switch rods. The dark-green blank and matching thread color is subtle, yet classy. The Aydon blank is made from Sintrix multi-modulus carbon fiber. This rod is a great match for big rainbows, steelhead, and salmon (other than Chinook). We matched it with a Hardy Marquis Salmon #1 with an OPST 425-grain Commando head and sink-tips from T-8 to T-14.
Stryker HLB710C Salmon Hover/Anchor Rod
This versatile rod is excellent for multiple techniques: hover fishing, backbouncing, anchor fishing, and jigging with lures or weights from 1- to 3 ounces are probably the best fit, but this is a decent rod for backtrolling plugs for silvers and kings, too. The rod has a soft tip that allows plugs to run well, and that tip also helps with visual recognition of bites while hover fishing. The butt section is stout enough for kings. Cosmetically, this is a beautiful rod. Metallic blue and black thread wraps are complimented by Alps blue zirconia guides and a matching Alps reel seat. The grip is carbon fiber, providing a good grip and incredible sensitivity. If you are looking for a good hover rod, a light backbouncer or light plug rod, or perhaps a jigging rod for saltwater salmon and pelagic rockfish, this is an specially good choice.