Salmon fishing rods are the launching pad of either catching that monster Coho or merely telling a good fish story. It is heartbreak to the Nth degree when you finally catch one, fight with it, and reel it in – only to lose it at the last moment, because your pole flexed too much and broke or it wouldn't flex enough for proper sensitivity, letting the fish jump the hook.
Not Created Equally
Salmon are discriminating fish. They don't dart after just any old worm on a bent paperclip at the end of a length of twine tied to a cane pole. Salmon fishing rods must also be discriminating. Having a great rod can still be a detriment if it is not designed for the type of fishing you do or for the right environment in which you fish.
Fortunately, regardless of other factors, there are some basic rules or rules-of-thumb to bear in mind when choosing from among a kazillion rod choices:
Rod Butt Length: The length of rod from the base of the pole to the reel should be between 6 and 12 inches, depending on height and preference. The extra length is for stability and support while teasing and tempting—and tiring out—the salmon that just caught the hook.
Make sure the rod butt length allows for easy leverage but neither stifles arm movement or overstretches your arms to reach beyond the reel as the fish and you maneuver.
If you're using a spinning rod, you'll need more room for your cast, so an overly long one is prohibitive. On the other hand, seawater trolling often requires seating the rod in a holder, so a longer rod butt is advantageous. One that's too short could slip out of the holder and trail that Chinook away faster than an angler can often grab for it.
Weight: Think light thoughts only. Heavy salmon fishing rods can tire an angler before the line is completely wet—if it that long. Traipsing through brush and around rocks with a heavy rod is asking for broken equipment, sprained ankles or short days fishing.
Not only is the total weight of the salmon fishing rod important but so is its balance. Too much weight at one end or the other will cause awkward and uncomfortable casting and reeling. Balance the rod on one finger and adjust the position until it rests horizontally to the ground. The balance point should be where your hand would naturally hold the pole. If the balance point is off, find another rod.
Length: Seawater salmon fishing rods are usually longer to keep the line from tangling, keep the bait and hook away from the boat, and allow for above-water height. If you're fishing by yourself, however, remember that a long pole means netting difficulties, because the line must be kept taut.
Salmon fly rods, even with a casting reel, come in 6 to 8 feet lengths and usually provide great play. Even a moderate sized salmon will feel like Moby Dick on the end of a shorter rod.
Casting distances also play a part in rod size. Don't 'over-poke' a cast either in back or in front from a too-long rod.
Choose salmon fishing rods carefully. A salmon fisherman is far better served with two or more rods to serve specific conditions and environments than he or she is by trying to adapt an ill-suited fishing rod and end the day with bragging rights to only headaches, ill-gotten aches and empty nets.