Let's face it: We all have that wish list, dream list, or bucket list piece of gear that we drool over but never seem to pull the trigger on. For anglers, many of us dream about top-of-the-line fishing rods, with their advanced materials and smooth hardware. Even if it feels like a pipe dream, it doesn't cost anything to enquire about it, and you just may learn that it's not as far out of reach as you might think.
While not every expensive rod is worth it, the cream of the crop truly are more responsive, have the greatest amount of backbone, are able to detect the most sensitive bites, generally last much much longer, and are, frankly, way more enjoyable to use than any discount rod.
The pricier rods also require more tuned-in care. But the reality is that holding a once-in-a-lifetime rod in your hands while targeting your favorite species is like driving a race car, and we can all get behind that.
Here are what we're lusting after for every kind of fishing:
The Best Rod for Fly Fishing: Orvis 1856 Bamboo Fly Rod, $4,498
This isn't the only high-end bamboo fly rod that Orvis offers, but the 1856 bamboo rod for five-weight line is a classic for style and responsiveness. While its original purpose was for larger Western rivers, rest assured that this rod will be more than useful in any freshwater stream, creek, or river system. Now you're just going to need a reel to match.
The Best Rod for Bass Fishing: G. Loomis Conquest Mag Bass, $775
At $775, depending on length and action, this might seem like a lot to pay for a bass fishing rod. That's until you realize that it's little sister, the G. Loomis NRX+, was used by Jeff Gustafson to win a cool $300,000 the 2023 Bassmaster Classic.
The Conquest Mag Bass comes in eight different one-piece rods of varying length and actions for any discerning bass angler who takes his or her bass fishing seriously. One undeniable fact about the G. Loomis lineup is that they just look great.
The Best Musky Rod: St. Croix Legend Elite Musky Casting Rod, $634+
Throwing whopper ploppers and giant tandem spinnerbaits at adult muskellunge all day is a dream come true for those who have invested in one of St. Croix's Legend Elite Musky rods. For any serious musky fisherman, power, durability, and strength are the first order of business when looking for an elite muskellunge fishing rod in earnest.
Add to that the some of the best graphite that money can buy, great style, and a made-in-the-USA label, and you've got all the makings of a musky rod to be proud of for years to come. It's just that you'll be wanting another length and rod action before too long.
The Best Steelhead Rod: G. Loomis IMX-PRO Steelhead Centerpin, $445
Anyone who's been chasing steelhead for a lifetime know these fish can become quite large and aggressive, even in streams and smaller rivers, and they can defeat an angler quickly without a great rod that will stand up to it all. The length of your steelhead rod is paramount when it comes to having the backbone to handle a crushing strike, a screaming drag, and still have the ability to turn a big fish. The IMX-PRO Steelhead Centerpin has all of these things in abundance.
The Best Rod for Catfish: Phenix Rods Black Diamond Hybrid, $590+
Coming in either 7-foot or 8-foot models, the Phenix Hybrid is a one-piece, extra-heavy rod that will handle anywhere from 30- to 130-pound test lines. This is the serious catfish rod you've been looking for and you didn't even know it. They are insanely lightweight for the amount of backbone that they provide due to the fully woven carbon fiber blank reinforced with Kevlar.
Now, when a big blue or flathead tries to go to the bottom and stay there, you'll have every bit of power to keep up with them and turn them right into the net. This is not your daddy's catfish rod.
The Best Saltwater Fishing Rod: St. Croix Legend Surf Spinning Rod, $500+
You haven't lived until you've casted with one of St. Croix's legendary surf spinning rods, especially the models in the 10-to-12-foot range. This is one of those rods that will have you looking again and again to be sure that it's not sticking out of the window of your beach vehicle right before you lock it up.
Great on the sand, jetty, or the pier, this rod won't just land you big fish but will also have you trying to decide if you want to reveal where you got it—but you will.
The Best Rod for Saltwater Trolling: Daiwa Seaborg Dendoh Rod, $500+
Swordfish, grouper, and a host of other saltwater species don't stand a chance against the new Seaborg Dendoh series. Whether you choose the standard bent butt model or the Winthrop Adjusta butt model, you will have a rod that performs well under pressure and doesn't give in to the mass of big game saltwater species.
When it comes to saltwater equipment, you may find some brands that are ultra expensive, but in truth the manufacturers we know and trust have found a place in hearts and our rod racks for a reason.
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