Spey fishing for king salmon is not for the light hearted. It puts rods, reels, lines, knots, and mental toughness to the test. It’s not uncommon for one (or more) of the aforementioned to break, and more often than not, its the latter.
However, today we’re not talking about broken hearts, we’re talking about rods.. Namely, spey rods for king salmon.
A suitable two-hander for kings is not your average spey rod. A ‘stout’ 8-weight winter steelhead rod might to get the job done most of the time, until you know, you hook the fish you’re really looking for. Rather, in our opinion, a proper king stick should do a few things well:
- Turn over heavy sink tips and flies easily. Most of the time, king salmon flies range from small and unweighted, to comically huge and heavy. Sink tips tend to range from pretty darn heavy to really stinkin’ heavy. The ability to turn over the heavy stuff is important.
- Create tight loops and high line speed. Its true that not all kings are caught on long casts. However, some are, and on rivers with long, slow, low gradient runs like the Kanektok, the ability to cover more water can be helpful. Plus, king season can bring some ugly weather, and a rod capable of creating tight loops and high line speed to punch through the wind can make a difference.
- Fight fish well. King salmon pull hard. They’re also really heavy. Thus, the pressure required to maintain a hook hold often surprises most people. Case in point – We tell people all the time, “if you can’t feel the handle bending while fighting a king, you’re not pulling hard enough.” Therefore, in our opinion, a rod in the 9-10 weight range, with a super stout butt section, coupled with a shorter overall length (the shorter the rod, the more pressure that can be applied to the fish) makes for a rod worthy of battling a king.
As we wrap up the 2017 king season at Alaska West, we can’t help but look back on what gear worked well, and it didn’t take long to realize that amongst our guide staff, only a handful of rods on the market made the cut.
So, if you’re in the market for a king rod, the following are our six favorite spey rods for king salmon, with photographic proof they’re up to the challenge, in no particular order.
1. Sage X 9120-4
At only 12 feet, we thought Sage’s new 9 weight X was going to feel a bit broomstick-esque. Not the case. The X features a very comfortable flex for a more relaxed casting stroke than we would have thought for a short rod. As is expected, its also extremely light in hand, which is welcomed after a long day of straining water.
For more information, check out the X on Sage’s website, here.
2. Pieroway Renegade 9120-4
Designed by Alaska West alum, Jerry French, the Renegade 9120-4 is 12 feet short for putting the steam on hot fish, yet features a more moderate action than some of the rods listed below, thus likely accommodating the widest range of casting styles.
Not sure what to go with? The Renegade is a safe bet. Learn more about it, here.
3. G. Loomis NRX Scandi 9126-4
Listed as a 12 foot 6 inch 9/10 rod, the NRX Scandi was originally marketed to the European market for Scandi style casting where shorter, faster action rods are popular. However, we have a hard time believing it wasn’t built to be the perfect king rod..
Short-ish, casts a mile, and has an extremely powerful butt section. Yes, please.
For more information, check it out on Loomis’ website, here.
4. Echo King 9130-4 or 10130-4
Available in a 13 foot 9 weight and a 13 foot 10 weight model, and built specifically for swinging for king salmon. At only $424.99, its hands down the best value on the market, and one we see a lot of at Alaska West.
Casts well, fights fish even better. Get more info by clicking right here.
5. Loop Opti NXT 9132-4
At 13 foot 2 inches, Loop’s new 9 weight Opti NXT bridges the gap between those who like a more traditional ‘winter steelhead length’ spey rod, yet slightly shorter for a little more muscle.
Our first impression in one word? Crisp. Laser tight loops, light in hand, a real joy to fish. Check out more specs on Loop’s website, here.
6. Sage Method 9140-4
A little more rod than needed on smaller rivers like ours, but at 14 feet and super fast, there is no river too big for the Sage METHOD 9140-4. Capable of huge casts, yet still plenty of feel, the Method is a win if covering big water with heavy flies and tips is your prerogative.
Find out more on Sage’s website by clicking right here.