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Regardless of whether you’re going after a behemoth king salmon or a robust sockeye, you must pack the right gear for the job.
While a novice angler might use the same fishing rod for every fishing excursion, the expert knows the importance of having the best salmon fishing rod.
Not only will this kind of rod equip you with the proper gear you need to haul in these massive fighters, but it will reduce the likelihood that your pole or other equipment becomes damaged.
It will also make it more difficult for that prizewinning fish to escape from your clutches!
Yet buying the right rod can be overwhelming. There are thousands of great salmon rods out there, so how do you know which one is right for you?
Have a look at our salmon fishing rod buying guide, and take a peek at our top selections before you head out on the water.
What to Look for in a Salmon Fishing Rod
New to salmon fishing? The first thing you ought to know – besides where to find the fish, that is! – is what kind of rod you need.
This buying guide will acquaint you with the most important features of the best rods on the market.
Weight and Balance
Salmon spinning rods are different from other rods because they have the power and strength you need to enter into battle with aggressive salmon.
They don’t necessarily emphasize casting ability but instead have the strength you need for a secure, powerful hook set. Salmon have tough jaws, so you must be able to lock in during a prolonged battle.
The lighter the rod is, the better it will be, as it will offer maximum sensitivity.
Plus, your salmon fishing rod should have a nice balance in your hand when you’re holding it near the reel seat.
The highest quality salmon fishing rod will be comfortable to use, even after prolonged fighting to reel in a massive fish.
The ideal rod length for your salmon fishing rod will depend primarily on where you intend to fish and what fishing techniques you plan to incorporate.
In most cases, salmon fishermen will use rods that are between eight and ten feet. This length is perfect for challenging large fish without reducing casting ability.
That being said, it’s also important that you look at the butt section length.
The ideal butt section will be roughly half a foot to a foot long.
Because you will be holding the butt of the rod against yourself while working the fish, a long butt can cause your arms to feel overstretched and tired when you are battling.
Don’t risk the fatigue – instead, opt for a shorter butt section. But not too short!
A butt section that is too short can make it difficult for you to place your rod in the proper position in a mount. If you’re trolling, this might not be ideal.
Most spinning rods are built with blanks that are made out of fiberglass or graphite – this is ideal.
What’s even better, though, is when the two are combined.
This will give you a rod that is not only durable but also incredibly strong.
Some salmon rods come with an outer layer of E-glass along with a graphite inner core – these are even better.
Regardless of what your rod blanks or salmon rod is made out of, keep in mind how easy it will be to transport and store your rod.
If you plan on hiking into backwoods ponds, a unit that breaks into two pieces might make your life easier.
Salmon vs Steelhead Rods: What’s the difference?
Head to any sporting goods store, and you will likely see fishing rods being marketed as salmon/steelhead rods.
What does this mean – are salmon and steelhead the same type of fish?
Not quite. Steelhead and salmon look quite a lot alike, and you fish from the two species in an almost identical fashion, which is why the gear is more or less interchangeable.
A steelhead is a type of trout, one that is closely related to salmon but not identical to a salmon.
The steelhead starts its life as a rainbow trout but as soon as it makes its migration to the Pacific Ocean, it becomes a steelhead.
Salmon, on the other hand, are native to the tributaries that empty into the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. There are several species of fish that belong to the salmon family.
The habitat of the two fish is different, but there are very few other significant differences in how you fish for the two species.
If you’re in the market for a good steelhead rod (or a salmon/steelhead combo), make sure you check out my review of 5 quality steelhead options to choose from.
The 5 Best Salmon Fishing Rods
Here are our top choices for the best all-round salmon fishing rods on the market today.
Okuma Classic Pro GLT Salmon Rod
The Okuma Classic Pro GLT Salmon Rod is one of the best salmon fishing rods you could hope to find.
It has hook keepers made out of stainless steel along with double-foot construction guides for casting.
This rod also has a dynamic rubber shrink tube butt section. This makes the rod more durable and it’s also easier to remove the rod.
It has unrivaled strength when compared to its weight, too.
The Okuma Classic is made out of titanium oxide guide inserts and has a butt ferrule section for added strength. No more worries about breaking your rod when you’re struggling with a tough fish!
This salmon rod is packed full of so many great technical qualities that it’s challenging to list them all! However, what you need to know is that this rod is effective and also attractive.
Designed for larger fish, the Okuma Classic comes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.
The rod is durable and even if you do experience issues (unlikely, since the rod is so durable) the company’s awesome customer service department will handle them promptly for you.
- Flexible and sturdy
- Casts well even with smaller guides
- Great for trolling and for casting
- Not ideal for smaller fish
KastKing Perigee II Fishing Rods
The name here says it all – KastKing truly is king, especially when it comes to producing high-quality spinning rods for salmon.
This rod is innovative and great for going after both salmon and steelhead. It can be purchased in either a one-piece or two-piece form.
Made out of high-quality Fuji O-Ring guides and Saf-T Keeper hook holders, this rod also has strong and ergonomic reel seats made out of graphite. You can really fish in comfort when you’re using this rod.
It’s not just functional – it’s also good looking. This rod has a sleek appearance which will really stand out among the rest of the rods in your collection.
Great for freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, or anything in between, this high-quality carbon fiber rod offers accuracy, power, durability, and strength – all encapsulated in one efficient rod.
If you purchase the Twin Tip two-piece rods, you will even be backed by a lifetime warranty from the manufacturer.
- Casts smooth and is lightweight
- Durable and backed by a warranty
- Available in both one and two-piece formats
- Guides have a tendency to become bent
Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod
The Ugly Stik Elite is one of the best salmon fishing rods you will find. It offers the perfect action and length that you need to catch salmon as well as steelhead.
This salmon rod has 35% more graphite than previous models. You will enjoy a lightweight rod with plenty of actions and lengths available for purchase, depending on your needs and fishing techniques.
Ugly Stik is a well-known brand when it comes to angling gear, and this spinning rod does not stray from the great reputation in the slightest.
It includes proprietary Ugly Tech Construction and a Clear Tip design so you have all the strength you need, exactly where and when you need it.
Plus, this rod has graphite for a more sensitive rod. It includes one-piece guides made out of stainless steel.
These operate smoothly and ensure durability while also reducing the likelihood that inserts will pop out.
A great spinning rod for beginners, this rod has the ideal length and flexibility for someone who is new to fishing – or just new to fishing for salmon.
You will get all the flex you need with this rod – plus the backbone necessary for fighting and reeling in relentless thirty-pound salmon.
An easy to handle rod, the Ugly Stik Elite Spinning rod has a traditional reel seat style and a stainless steel hood that is cushioned. Your line will be easy to control without any worry of wobble.
The unique cork grip on this rod offers users a lightweight, strong, and sensitive feel. You will feel every vibration of the fish on your hook!
- Clear Tip technology makes this rod highly responsive
- Ugly Tuff guides made out of durable stainless steel
- Graphite enhanced star do’s sensitivity and power
- Medium-heavy feel makes it difficult to sense smaller fish
Shimano Scimitar Spinning Rod
The Shimano 0068 – 2723 might look simple, but truly, it’s anything but. One of the best rods you can hope to own, it comes with its own reel and is made out of durable, high-quality materials.
A powerful but lightweight rod, the Shimano is built with rugged graphite. It’s 51 inches long, making it perfect when it comes to ideal rod length.
The rod is best for use when fishing for salmon or in freshwater settings. It can also be used for light inshore fishing trips, too.
This rod can feel a bit heavy if you’re using it to cast all day, and you’ll need to clean it well if you use it in saltwater. However, it’s perfect as a go-to rod for any setting. It’s a true hybrid!
- Extended length allows you to get around obstacles with a hooked fish
- Allows for a smaller reel for smaller fish
- Enables you to make longer and more accurate casts
- Comes in a plastic cover
Fenwicks 9’6″ Salmon Rod
This rod is made by Fenwicks and has a traditional feel with an upgraded blend of carbon fiber.
At a 9’6” length, this rod offers unrivaled balance, sensitivity, and power – plus you’ll get smooth functionality every time you use it.
This rod has everything you can possibly want and is designed to fish small and large fish. It has a Fuji reel skeleton and reel seats – a must-have when you’re going after salmon.
It also has a sea guide SZ316, treated with zirconium inserts, which increases the rod’s durability.
This rod is best used for casting light lures and baits, so you’ll want to keep that in mind when ordering.
However, when you order you also get premium tac and cork grips in both models of this rod – the split and full handle.
You’re even backed by a five-year manufacturer’s limited warranty! You will truly get everything you need in this one handy rod.
- Ultra-sensitive action lets you feel any fish movement
- Can be used in a variety of settings
- Allows for a quick hookset so you can handle heavier fish
- Not as durable as some of the other rods
Why You Need a Salmon Fishing Rod
There are hundreds – perhaps thousands!- of salmon fishing rods on the market. Why waste your time shopping for the wrong one?
Salmon not only has thick jaws, making it more difficult to feel a bite or nail a hookset, but they can be difficult to locate in the water. They are some of the most elusive and difficult-to-catch fish of all time.
In my years of salmon fishing, I’ve never once regretted having a rod that was specially designed for the job.
Sure, you can opt for a one-size-fits-all rod, but you are not going to have the power and sensitivity you need to go after these tough fish.
Instead, opt for one of these best salmon fishing rods – you really can’t go wrong.