TFO Traveler Spinning Rod TAC TRS 705-3 / Casting Rod TAC TRC 705-3
These rods have flown many miles across Alaska as part of our starting lineup of travel rods that we use to catch coho. From tossing spinners, spoons and twitching jigs to plunking bait, we’ve tamed many fiery silvers on these sticks. Over the years we have fished a lot of different TFO rods—they were among the early manufacturers creating travel-sized conventional rods that could fit in overhead bins—and we still have many of those early models. Over the years their rods have become more refined, technique specific and extremely capable. We think they provide exceptional value considering cost to performance. For the better part of the last 15 years, we have steadily fished fly and spin, one-handers and two-handers, conventional and salt, in a wide range of various TFO models from ultralight to heavy and consider them among the best in our rod armory.
Pieroway Renegade 11’6” 8-weight switch rod
There are lots of switch rods on the market these days, but they aren’t all created equal. Jerry French, consummate pioneer in the swing game, partnered with Pieroway Rod Company of Canada to create the Renegade series of two handers. The rods are available in line weights 3 through 9. According to Jerry, the rods were designed to be the ultimate in casting efficiency and performance. We’ve used the 11’6” 8-weight for three seasons now and it’s a versatile, well designed and constructed switch rod. We typically pair it with an OPST 400-grain Commando head, and 10-foot T-8, T-11 or T-14 tips with flies up to four inches in length. The rod is easy loading, yet surprisingly crisp recovering. The result is that both beginners and experienced casters can cast this rod well. Jerry and Pieroway tried to make the casting process easy and efficient with this rod design, and they succeeded. The fit and finish are superb, the styling progressive. We use this rod primarily for steelhead and large rainbows, and it has become our go-to weapon on the Naknek where we’ve landed rainbows to 33.5” inches with this rod.
Daiwa Lexa 300 Line Counter Reel
Whether Pro-trolling for kings with heavy leads and flashers, mooching for Seward silvers, jigging for salmon or rockfish, backbouncing, backtrolling or even bobber fishing Nushagak kings, the low-profile Lexa 300 Line Counter reel has proven itself as a reliable workhorse. We’ve probably landed over 100 Chinook with this reel, as well as numerous other species since the reel came out in 2014 or so. We own several of these reels and all are still in service today with no failures. The 300 size is small compared to traditional reels used for these applications, but don’t let that fool you. With its 22 pounds of drag and roughly 250 yards of capacity of 50-pound-test J-Braid, this reel is more than enough for most salmon-fishing applications. It’s available with either dual paddle handles or a power handle and comes in both left-hand and right-hand retrieve.
Hardy Wide Spool Perfect, 3.75” “The Taupo”
With a name like Perfect, it must be good. And it is. The first rendition of the Hardy Perfect was made in 1891. Aside from improvements in machinery used to manufacture them, the Perfect hasn’t changed much in the last 100-plus years. That is a powerful testament to superior design. The Perfect is still a click-and-pawl reel, with little inside to break. That makes it astonishingly long-lived and reliable. The Taupo version is the perfect size for swing fishing big Alaska rainbows and steelhead with a switch rod. Our tester used this reel extensively and landed Naknek rainbows to 33 inches while using it. The tradition behind it, the Hardy workmanship, and the reliable functionality makes the Taupo a work of angling art that you’ll be able to pass down to your children or grandchildren.
Daiwa Fuego LT Spinning Reel
The Fuego LT is jam-packed with high-end technology features in an affordable package. Designed to be light and strong, we can attest to the reel’s smooth operation and durable construction. Fuego LTs use Daiwa’s Magsealed main gear—a sealed, magnetic oil system that prevents intrusion of water and debris. It’s available in sizes from 1000 to 4000. We use the size 2500 for fish like big rainbows, steelhead, and silver salmon. We’ve been using Fuegos for a few years and strongly endorse this reel.
Penn Spinfisher Reel
We’ve grown to respect Penn reels after using them throughout the magazine’s history. Publisher Marcus Weiner can attest to using Penn reels for 45 years. From the classic International series, to the well-known Senator, quality spinning reels like the Spinfisher to various fly reels, we’ve had a vast array of experience using Penn products and we can unequivocally confirm that Penn makes reliable, virtually indestructible reels. The Spinfisher VI 3500 that we currently use has a smooth and strong drag, casts well, piles line on the spool quickly, has ample capacity, and has put many hot coho on ice.
These Test of Time awards orginally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Fish Alaska.