Recently I spent a frustrating hour at a popular retailer trying to pick out some spinning rod/reel combinations suitable for walleye fishing. The process started out simple enough, but the waters soon got muddy. As I started reading the fine print on the rods, I quickly became perplexed that seemingly no two rods featured the same action or power rating.
There really are no standards in the fishing industry regarding the power or stiffness of a fishing rod. One manufacture calls their stick a Medium Light action and another manufacture who uses virtually the same graphite materials, length, action and power calls their product a Medium Action.
It seems that every different manufacturer goes their own direction and the results are a market place flooded with ridiculous amounts of product to pick from. Don’t get me wrong, choice is a good thing in fishing. Unfortunately, when the market becomes bogged down with too many choices anglers get confused and in the end struggle to make purchase decisions.
Besides being no standard for rod power or action, just about every series of spinning rods is available in a dozen different lengths. Honestly, does anyone really believe that two or three inches in length makes that big a difference in how a rod of the same action or power performs?
Here’s how I cut to the quick when it comes to picking out rods for the most popular walleye fishing applications. Serious anglers will need three different spinning rods to attack the most common walleye spin fishing presentations.
ROD NO. 1
The first rod in my “must have” walleye line up is specialized enough that I only apply it to one important presentation. Vertical jigging in rivers requires a rod that is a little shorter and stiffer than the typical spinning rod. Because river fishermen are often using larger size jigs in the 1/2, 5/8, 3/4 and even one ounce sizes, the rod needs to be stiff enough to handle jigs of these weights.
The typical six foot spinning rod in a medium action/power is barely stiff enough to handle a 3/8 ounce jig. Something a touch stiffer is required to fish1/2, 5/8, 3/4 and one ounce jigs. Because a jigging rod this length and stiffness is nearly impossible to find, I’ve for years fashioned my own by cutting a few inches off the rod tip using a high speed arrow saw, then replacing the tip top.
Vertical jigging requires a rod that is much stiffer than typically available. Jake is holding a Daiwa 6’-6” medium action rod that he cut about six inches off the tip and replaced the tip top. Shortening the rod makes it stiffer and speeds up the angler’s reaction time making it much easier to stick walleye when vertical jigging in deep water.
A six and a half foot medium action rod when cut down to about six feet in length will usually produce a rod stiff enough for serious vertical jigging applications. A stiff rod works wonders for detecting subtle walleye bites in deep water. Every fisherman who visits iconic walleye destinations like the Niagara, Detroit, St. Clair, Columbia, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, St. Croix, Fox or Wolf Rivers needs at least two of these extra stiff jigging sticks.
Unfortunately, this extra stiff rod is pretty much useless for any of the other popular walleye spin fishing presentations.
ROD NO. 2
The second rod in my spinning arsenal is a seven foot model that will see a lot of use pitching smaller jigs, fishing blade baits and slip sinker rigging. Depending on the brand this rod could be a Medium-Light or perhaps Medium power action.
I like spinning rods with a split-butt style handle. The skeletonize version of the traditional cork rod grip, split-butts help to lighten the rod. Another advantage of split-butt rods is they place your hand in direct contact with the rod blank, helping to feel even the most subtle strikes.
ROD NO. 3
The third spinning rod every walleye angler needs is the longest of the bunch. I like a seven foot, six inch long medium action model. This slightly longer rod is very useful for casting light crankbaits such as the Berkley Flicker Shad, Rapala Shad Raps or Salmo Hornet series plus this rod is ideal for fishing slip float rigs. For the multi-species angler this longer spinning rod is also ideal for throwing tube baits and other soft plastics for bass fishing.
On my stiffer and short spinning rods for vertical jigging, I want a very small and lightweight spinning reel. The best size reels for this application are the 2000 models. This reel is loaded about 1/3 full of monofilament line and then top dressed with about 75 yards of 10# test Berkley Nanofil.
RG-AB series features high end concept components for a smooth, powerful, and reliable performance. The beautiful pearlescent paint and double anodized spool make these reels look first class. This series is available in 3 popular sizes.
To the Nanofil I add a 24 inch leader of 15 pound test fluorocarbon line which is in turn tied directly to my jigs. Nanofil has zero stretch and makes it easy to detect even subtle bites and the fluorocarbon leader gives me an invisible connection between line and jig.
The rod I use for pitching jigs and slip sinker rigging is paired up with a slightly larger 2500 series reel. When pitching jigs line capacity is not a huge issue, but often when slip sinker rigging a significant amount of line is played off the reel.
Again I recommend loading about one third of the spool with monofilament as a backing line and then adding about 100 yards of 10# test Nanofil. When pitching jigs I add a 24 inch leader of 15 pound test fluorocarbon tied directly to the jig. For slip sinker rigging, I slide the braid through the sinker and then tie on a small barrel swivel. To the swivel I add my leader, hook and live bait.
Now for the longest rod in my spinning arsenal, a bigger reel is in order for seven and a half foot rods. I like a 3000 series reel for casting light crankbaits and also slip floats. The larger reel spool does a much better job of allowing line to play off the reel smoothly, allowing maximum casting distance.
The ultimate line for casting light crankbaits is of course Berkley’s Nanofil in either 8 or 10 pound test. I use about a three foot leader of 10-12 pound test fluorocarbon when casting crankbaits with Nanofil.
For fishing slip floats I prefer to spool up with eight pound test monofilament line. Bobber stops required for fishing slip floats tighten down on and function much better with monofilament lines. Having two reel spools and keeping one rigged with Nanofil and a second with monofilament makes it easy to switch rigs as necessary. Unfortunately, not many manufacturers provide a second spool anymore. An extra spool can however be purchased directly from the manufacturer.
SUMMING IT UP
The three spinning outfits described here have served me well for targeting walleye with all the common presentations. The real challenge of course is picking just three from the hundreds of spinning rods on the market these days.