Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best fishing rods for northern pike, walleye

(This blog item was updated on Jan. 12, 2015 to reflect changes that have taken place in equipment since it was first posted in 2008.)

You can purchase excellent quality fishing rods and reels for northern pike and walleye quite  inexpensively.
The trick is to stick with top name brands which although probably made in China like the real cheap junk are usually still better quality than lesser-known companies.
For reels, the best deal will always come on open-face spinning reels. Companies like Daiwa, Shimano, Phlueger and Penn are usually good bets. Look for models that are made for 8-12-pound test line. Then spool this with the new fusion super fishing lines, rather than monofilament. Lines like Fireline Crystal are excellent and nearly as invisible as monofilament but far, far stronger. Although these lines are smaller in diameter than the mono recommended by the reel company, it's best to still get the same-rated line. For example, get 10-12-pound test fusion line, NOT 20# line that is the same diameter as 10-12 pound. The reason is the smaller diameter allows you to cast smaller lures and is less visible than the heavier line. If you tie proper knots and check your line for fraying from time to time, this stuff absolutely will not break provided you have your reel drag set properly. It is also has less stretch than mono and is more sensitive. These two attributes make it better for trolling (thinner line is less resistant to the water so pulls less and its sensitivity lets you know the difference between bumping the bottom and hits from fish.) You can also feel the tiniest bites from picky walleye when still-fishing or jigging. These eagle-eye fish can't see the line if it is 10-pound test or less. But if you still worry you can always make a leader out of mono or fluorocarbon.
A very good quality spinning reel in today's market should cost $75 to $150.
What about the spinning rod? Again, stick to name brands like Daiwa, Fenwick, St. Croix, Shakespeare, Berkeley. You want a medium (sometimes called moderate) to medium-light (sometimes called medium fast) action. You never want a heavy action.
Choose rods made of graphite. They are lighter and more sensitive than fiberglass. The best lengths are 6-7 feet. Although one-piece rods may have a slight edge for sensitivity, they are a pain to transport. There's nothing wrong with two-piece rods that will fit in a conventional rod case. You can get very good quality rods for $50 to $100.
What about spincast, also known as closed-face, reels? These are not as versatile as the spinning reel, can't cast as small of lures and in particular, their drag systems don't function as smoothly. However, in most instances they will handle most of Canada's gamefish. A tried-and-true performer is the Zebco 33 and an upscale model is the Zebco Omega. The 33 sells for about $25 and the Omega about $65. Something to keep in mind with spincast reels is they are very short-lived. It wouldn't be a mistake to get a new one for every major fishing trip.
Casting (sometimes called baitcasting) reels are always more expensive than spinning. They have a more complicated type of mechanism and if you want a decent one, expect to pay at least $150. Same advice goes on the brands -- get the well-known ones.
Casting reels cannot cast as small of lures as spinning and so aren't as versatile but their drag systems are far superior. When a lunker pike is streaming away from you at 10-20 yards a second, the casting reel drag plays out as smooth as silk. Spinning reel drags are far rougher. For this reason a casting reel is a better choice for northern pike but is not so good for smaller walleye.
Again, use the new fusion superlines and don't be tempted to get extra-heavy line strengths. 10-pound to 14-pound is plenty. I believe you could anchor the boat with just 10-pound. The smaller weight lines let you cast further and also let you cast smaller lures although 1/3-ounce is probably the limit. With a spinning reel you can cast 1/8-ounce, even 1/16-ounce lures with light line.
Casting rods are a little pricier than spinning but you can still get very good ones for $50 to $150.
A medium to medium-light action is best for casting. For trolling go with a medium action. It doesn't bend as much from the drag of the lure and line behind the boat.  A casting rod and reel is a premium setup when trolling crankbaits. For larger lures or trolling with deep-diving crankbaits, a medium-heavy action rod might be better.  You never want a heavy action rod. It's like fishing with a pool cue -- no feeling and no bend to help fight the fish.
 See Trolling for Walleyes and Pike.
Rods have their actions usually written on them down near the butt.

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1 comment:

Tim D said...

Thanks for all the great tips on the blog. I find myself checking this blog every couple of days and love the different tips and information you write about. Thanks for the great blog and I hope to make my way to Bow Narrows in 2010.