While we’d argue there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ fly rod on the market today, the fact remains that no one rod can do it all. Choosing the right rod can make a huge difference, especially on the flats!
For years, advancements in technology and savvy marketing has lead to the belief amongst many saltwater anglers that the ‘faster’ or more ‘powerful’ the rod, the better. However, any rod designer will tell you that the quality of a rod can’t be measured by action or power alone. Instead, it must be matched to the specific scenario or fishery to which it will be most used.
Thus, when choosing a rod for bonefish, here’s what we like to look for.
- Loads Easily. Here’s something we hate to see when testing out a rod. Angler picks up a rod for the first time, dumps 60 or 80 feet of line off the reel, and sees how far he/she can chuck. We get it, casting far is fun, but considering the majority of our shots at bonefish are within 40 feet, we’re far more concerned how quickly and easily the rod loads at a realistic distance. Rods that require 50-60 feet of line outside of the rod tip to become loaded take a lot more work to deliver the fly at short distances, you know, where the fish are.
- Presents Accurately and Delicately at Short Distances. Just like we want our rod to load easily as short distances, we also want to be able to control the fly at such distances as well. So when testing out a rod (and we hope you do before you buy), test how easily you are able to form a tight loop and delicately present the fly at 30 or so feet.. At a target! You might be surprised to find that some rods might actually be too fast to control the fly at short distances depending on your particular casting stroke.
- Fighting Butt. Because bonefish make long runs over extremely shallow water, most of the time, fighting bonefish consists of pinning the rod against your body and letting the reel fight the fish for you. Fighting butts allow the rod to be pinned against the body while creating enough clearance for the reel to spin at lightning speeds. While most rods available in common bonefish sizes include a fighting butt, some smaller ‘light weight’ rods (namely 5-7 weights) might not. Therefore, when choosing a bonefish rod, make sure it has a fighting butt.
- Salt Resistance. While some rods designed originally for freshwater can make great bonefish rods, often times they are made with components (guides, real seats, etc.) not designed to stand up in salty environments. Consider the materials used for components when choosing a bonefish rod, especially if its going to be used primarily in the salt.
- Reserve Power. A rod that performs really well at short to medium distances is important, however, when the need arrises to make a long cast, or more commonly, when the wind kicks up, its always nice to have a little extra ‘oomph’ in the bottom third of the rod. Therefore, we look for a rod that performs well short, but can boost far with the right stroke. It’s a tall order, many rods do one or the other really well, but a great rod is versatile enough to do both.