Saltwater Rods -- The Right Tool For The Right Job
Saltwater fishing spans a vast array of conditions and game fish. Here's some help in looking for the characteristics of the best rod for your style of fishing.
By Mike Marsh
Carol Marsh, the author's wife, caught this speckled trout with a Shakespeare rod. The cork handle and light weight of this rod are matched to smaller inshore species, such as trout. Photo by Mike Marsh.
While it takes a lot of gear to catch fish from salt water, there is nothing more important to success than the selection of the right rod for the job at hand. During battles with heavyweight big-game fish, I've seen rods broken in two, roller guides that stopped rolling, flimsy guides that have folded over or shattered and reels jerked completely free of broken reel seats. I've seen gimbles and grips come unglued during a battle and tip tops fall off during a cast.
All of these disasters have essentially the same results -- a disappointed angler and a fish that swims away free after many dollars and much time have been spent in the attempt to catch it. In most cases, the angler was using a rod that was under-matched to the size of the fish, a rod that had not been properly cared for, or a rod that was undersized for the terminal tackle that was being used. Pulling a heavy planer or deep-diving lure on a lightweight spinning rod instead of a heavy-duty trolling rod is inviting rod failure, as is any other misguided attempt at adapting a finely crafted tool to perform a job it was not meant to do in the first place.
The great thing about saltwater fishing rods is that they are relatively inexpensive for what they are expected to accomplish. Any high-quality saltwater fishing rod will last a lifetime with a bare minimum of care. The simple act of gently washing a rod with fresh water after each trip is usually enough to keep any rod from one of the top tackle manufacturers working for years. Storing them in rod holders, rod tubes or cabin racks where they don't get knocked around by choppy seas or stepped on by crewmen with poor sea legs are the only other things necessary to give any high-quality saltwater rod great longevity.
So what makes saltwater fishing rods so durable? How does an angler go about selecting a new rod that is the right one for his type of fishing?
Durability in a saltwater rod stems from having the ability to flex along its length and remain flexed under enormous pressure repeatedly without cracking or breaking. It also means corrosion resistance for all metal surfaces exposed to salt and the ability of all polymer and composite surfaces to withstand degradation by sunlight and chemicals, such as boat fuel, solvents or lubricants.
Selecting a rod size and style depends upon the type of fish an angler wants to catch and just as much upon the method he will use to catch the fish. A lightweight spinning rod, if pressed into duty for pulling planers or speed lures, will pop its line guides or break at a flex point quickly. Conversely, using a big-game boat rod to cast a spoon to a school of small surface-feeding fish will not only prove to be very ineffective, it also takes the fight out of any fish that is hooked.