The world of steelhead fishing falls in quite a few climates and areas, but has many similarities throughout. In the rod world, one can start to delineate what a "bass rod" or a "musky rod" is...and the same certainly applies for the "steelhead rod..."
Techniques for steelhead are many, but one variable that is often used for steelhead involves the use of longer leaders and rigs. This could mean you have weight and line ranging out that could be up to and exceeding 6 foot long.
Typical Steelhead Rod Sizes
With this in mind, steelhead rods typically start at the ever-popular 8'6" - well liked for its perfect spinner and shorter leader drift fishing ability. Great all around rod that doubles for many other species and techniques.
The 9'6" - 10'6" range is considered classic steelhead length for bobber and jig, spinner fishing, spoons fishing, drift-fishing (bottom-bouncing) bobber-dogging, side-drifting, the list goes on.
For some float fishing specific anglers, going beyond 10'6" is not a problem either - 11'6", 12', 13'6", I've seen even longer...there is a time and place for all of that, but it tends to be more specific to the technique and stream you're on.
If I was to get just one rod for steelhead, what should it be?
Well, you've got a few things to consider:
- Size of fish.
- Strength of current
- Casting Distance & Accuracy
- Fishing Techniques, Weights & Sizes
Being a Northwest Native and knowing a few steelhead anglers out in the Great Lakes, I can say with some certainty that float fishing is a top technique for steelhead, and a 9'6" - 10"6" in the 6-10 or 8-12, 8-15 range has the ability to make the casts and adequately mend the line. A moderate fast, or fast action can be helpful in assisting on the hook-set when your bobber goes down.
Spinner and Spoon Fishing
Casting and retrieving spinners can be successful with shorter rods, but with a 9'6" you can get some great casting distance provided its the optimal weight lure. From there you can operate your retrieve, drift or swing with a longer rod tip. This means you have more angles and length to work with to maneuver your cast around boulders, rocks...etc
Whether you're just fishing off of the bank or side-drifting out of a boat, sensitivity and excellent casting ability can be a giant help. A baitcaster is certainly an effective way to do it but spinning rods are also popular. Anywhere from 7'0" - 10'6" is used for bottom bouncing - all depends on the drift you're making.
'Do it All' Steelhead Rods
There's a few great 'do-it-all' steelhead rods out there. I've got a few favorites myself. If I were to recommend a straightforward "Your ONE Steelhead Rod" it would be a 9'6" around 6-12 - 8-15lb line class.
My first rod of this style was a Lamiglas rod that was a special store version of the Certified Pro rods, except this one didn't have the traditional brown coating of the original Lamiglas Cert Pros. It caught steelhead, coho, chinook, bull trout, pinks, largemouth bass and trout...it just worked for me non stop! 9'6" 8-12lb line rod...it was a workhorse.
The Lamiglas X-11 LX96LS-GH is based in that same style of rod & rod action. It's a touch faster which I prefer. Works awesome for floats, spinners & drift.Now - Lamiglas has quite a few options, including one that I love in the G1000 Pro Series (as shown above in the picture with the hatchery summer steelhead) 9'6". There are the SI's and Infinity's that are phenomenal too...and I'm a big fan of the 12'0" Redline Centerspin rod too. Just get a rod that can do what you need it to do. All those are available in your favorite retailers and stores...Lamiglas is well distributed. You can check out their site:
Written by STS Digital Media Director.
- Lucas H.