BY DANNY CORRAL
WHITTIER — When determining the best rod is to use for trout fishing, an angler needs to be specific about what kind of fishing they’re going to be doing. If you ask a group of trout anglers, you’re likely to get a long, varied list of comments about what they like best for their own particular style of fishing. Without knowing what kind of trout fishing someone will be doing, it’s a disservice to give them advice on how they should spend their hard-earned money. Different rod and reel setups are best for different situations
For example, a guy sitting on the shoreline and bait dunking doesn’t need a 7-plus foot fast-action jigging rod or a reel made from ci4. Here’s a break down on some of my different trout rods.
Almost all of my trout fishing is with jigs, but not just any jig. Specifically 1/16- to 1/8-ounce swimbaits with a paddletail, and that matters when it comes to the rods I use for that method. I have a 7-foot Phenix Mirage with a Stradic ci4+ 1000 and a 7-foot, 6-inch Phenix Mirage with a Vanford 1000, also made from ci4.
I choose the Mirage because it’s a moderate-action rod and gives my swimbait the best action on a slower bounce retrieve. Those baits tend to get bit more on the fall, so this rod suits them well. If you are throwing smaller tube jigs, 1/32-ounce or lighter, I would suggest something with a faster action because those baits swim/move differently. I recommend something like a 7-foot Phenix Elixir, Okuma Guide Select or Daiwa Presso, based on your budget.
The ci4 reels are important for those throwing any kind of jigs because they’re lightweight, and when you make over 1,000 casts in a day you want to be light on your wrists. If you’re not throwing jigs, there’s really no need to have a reel made from ci4.
For throwing heavier lures like jerkbaits (Rapala) or Kastmasters, I use a Shimano Nasci 1000. It just feels more balanced with some weight on the bottom. For those baits, I use a less expensive rod with a little more backbone. I’ve been using a Californian (Okuma version) 7-foot, 6-inch. They call it an “ultralight” but it’s actually rated a little heavier with a 2- to 8-pound line rating.
Side note: Always look at a rod’s line rating and stay within that range. It’s printed somewhere on the rod and will sometimes give a range for recommended lure weight. Line weight should always be matched properly with rod. Your line and rod are designed to work together to absorb the tension when you have a fish on and minimize the load. Those numbers are there for a reason.
For trolling, I use two different rods. For top water trolling, I use an inexpensive Shakespeare 6-foot 6-inch light rod and a Shimano Sahara 1000. Most of my trolling is with leadcore, and for that I have two Daiwa 6-foot-6 Heartland rods specifically made for leadcore, and I use two Shimano Tekota 300 reels. I can barely get 10 colors on each one, so if you want to go deeper, you’ll need a bigger reel.
Lastly, for the rare occasion that I’ll throw some bait out, I have a 5-foot-6 Phenix Mirage with a Shimano Sahara 1000. This is the style of trout fishing done by the majority of people. There’s no need for an expensive lightweight jigging reel or a rod over 7-feet for this.
As for brands and quality, I hear a lot of people say “I can catch just as much fish with my $20 rod-and-reel combo as you can with your $500 setup.” And that may be true, but they are worlds apart in feel. Aside from having quality gear that will last and have a good warranty, it’s also about the experience. A Bentley and a Prius will both get your from Point A to Point B, but one will feel awesome driving. It’s the same with fishing gear. When you fight a fish with quality gear, it’s just a different experience. But regardless of how much or little you spend, you still need to match the gear with how it will be used.
Lastly, I’ve only listed brands/models that I’ve personally used, but I hear that the Bass Pro Shops brand rods are excellent quality and best bang for buck. They make different trout rods that are ideal for each method of fishing and they have a good warranty. Also, a lot of folks say that Pfleuger reels are a solid and more economical substitute for more expensive reels. One of my best fishing buddies only uses Bass Pro rods and Pfleuger reels for trout fishing, and this dude uses only high-end gear for ocean, so it’s not like he’s on a budget. He swears by those brands.