Published Sep 8, 2022 1:00 PM Modern anglers feel a bit naked if they don’t have at least a half-dozen rods
Published Sep 8, 2022 1:00 PM
Modern anglers feel a bit naked if they don’t have at least a half-dozen rods on the deck of their boat with backups waiting in the rod box. The variety of lures and techniques to use them have definitely increased our ability to catch fish in any condition. Chatterbaits, small swimbaits and Alabama rigs have added to our arsenal of reaction lures and baitfish imposters, but there’s still plenty of room for the spinnerbait rod to stay topside and ready on just about every fishing trip. Here are a few of the best spinnerbait rods to reach for when you want to stay “old school cool” and pick up the original blade-enhanced jig.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Spinnerbait Rod
If anyone has scrutinized the makeup of the perfect bass-fishing rod, it’s Phillip Prater. Prater, who owns Fish Tales Custom Rods in central Arkansas not only assembles rods from the blank up, but also tears apart many anglers’ favorite fishing sticks to update and improve their on-the-water performance. After breaking down many rods from different manufacturers, Prater has a handle on what makes a spinnerbait rod tic. I decided there was no one better to consult for this article. With his input and my own knowledge, here’s what to look for in a well-built rod.
Get a Grip
Modern Winn grips may look great on the rod rack and even feel great during the first few casting sessions, but Prater advises anglers to think long-term when making a rod purchase. Unfortunately, these rubberized polymer tape grips simply don’t hold up to the abuse a true workhorse spinnerbait rod goes through throughout the fishing season. Instead of rubberized grips, Prater advises anglers to stick to premium cork, EVA foam and the newer carbon fiber grips some companies are putting on the shelves. Each offers plenty of grip, light weight and added durability for many years of on-the-water use and abuse.
What’s Your Handle?
The length of the grip from the base of the reel seat to the butt of the rod also is an aspect Prater pays attention to that many anglers don’t think twice about. If the butt section is too long it will make roll casting and sidearm casting in cover an awkward affair. However, if you plan to keep the rod in your hand all day, a rod with a little junk in the trunk will give you some space to make two-handed casts with a simple push-pull motion and save your elbow and shoulder from the strain of casting all day.
Drawing a Blank
The construction of the blank, particularly the modulus and weave of the graphite used, plays a key role in the rod’s sensitivity. Put simply, the higher the modulus, the stronger the weave of the graphite used. With added strength, rod blank manufacturers can use less material, which makes the finished rod much lighter and more sensitive. But modulus alone doesn’t dictate the performance of a rod. A poorly built rod can use the best components and still feel dead in the hands. Conversely, some rods with mid-range modulus ratings still have excellent sensitivity thanks to top-quality components and painstaking efforts to keep weight low during construction.
Best for Small Spinnerbaits
13 Fishing Omen Black – 6-foot, 7-inch Medium Bass Pro Shop
Why It Made the Cut: This little stick of dynamite gives you some flex to control smaller spinners but retains plenty of backbone to set the hook with authority.
- 6-foot, 7-inch length
- Medium power
- Extra-fast action
- 10-17 lb. line ; ¼- to ⅝-oz. lure rating
- Superb casting accuracy at short distances
- Light weight for all day casting comfort
- Shorter length shortens overall casting distance
- Medium power can feel a little undergunned with larger lures
The Omen Black series from 13 Fishing put this company on the map with dozens of models touting extreme sensitivity and light weight, thanks to the use of 36 ton Toray graphite in their rod blanks. I’ve long been a fan of this rod and its medium-heavy counterpart in the Omen Black lineup. The short, 6-foot, 7-inch length is the perfect tool to sling a blade under boat docks, overhangs and cypress limbs to get your lure where bass haven’t been pressured. Shorter length rods also offer more accuracy and comfort for those of us who don’t stand over 6 feet tall. Despite its shorter length, this Omen model still boasts 11 stainless steel guides with zirconia inserts, which gives maximum contact with minimal drag on the cast and no flat spots to cause excess strain when the rod is flexed. The shorter length is a bit of a hindrance to overall casting distance, and the medium power will feel a little awkward if you try to cast larger spinnerbaits in the ¾-oz. range, but if you’re looking for the ultimate small spinner stick to chase those fry guarding bass just after the spawn, the Omen Black is the rod to keep on your boat’s deck and ready for action.
Best for ¼- to ⅜-oz
Denali Attax Casting Rod – 7-foot, Medium Heavy Sportsman’s Warehouse
Why It Made the Cut: This mid-priced model doesn’t skimp on performance and covers most of the traditional waters where a spinnerbait shines.
- 7-foot length
- Medium heavy power
- Fast action
- 12-17 lb. line ; ⅜- to 1-oz. lure rating
- Excellent feel and balance
- Surprising fit and finish at a mid-range price point
- Winn grip deteriorates after serious angling use
- Hook keeper placement in poor location
The only non-custom rod currently on the deck of Prater’s bass boat is a well worn Denali Attax he can’t seem to get rid of.
“It’s just one of those rods I end up reaching for a lot when I know I’m going to put a spinnerbait in my hands all day and cover water,” Prater said.
The IM7 graphite construction gives plenty of feel and is enhanced with an aggressive skeletonized reel seat that exposes plenty of rod blank to give you good vibes from the thump of the spinning blades of your lure. Stainless steel guides with Alconite inserts keep line flowing freely and resist knicks that can shred fluorocarbon and monofilament lines. The handle is 10 inches from the reel seat to the end of the butt, which gives the angler good control of the rod during the cast but doesn’t get in the way or dig into the hip when you’re caught setting the hook sideways to negotiate some of the overhangs and docks you’re liable to encounter when making the best use of your blade. The only knock Prater has against the Attax is the Winn grip material in the handle.
“I’ve used this rod all day on many occasions, and you can tell by all the fibers pulling loose and worn spots along the grip,” Prater said. “I know they’re trendy and cool looking right now and they’re great when they’re brand new, but rubberized grips just don’t hold up enough for a real workhorse spinnerbait rod in my opinion.”
Best for ½-oz. and Larger
St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass Casting Rod – 7’5” Warhorse stcroixrods
Why It Made the Cut: If you obsess over the little details in fit and finish and are looking for elite level performance for a lifetime of fishing, this is the stick to save some dollars for.
- 7-foot, 5-inch length
- Medium heavy power
- Fast action
- 14-65 lb. line ; ⅜- to 1-oz. lure rating
- Extremely good fit and finish
- Top-shelf American-made blanks
- Too much stick for smaller spinnerbaits
- Butt section a bit long for all-day one-handed casting
“Everything St. Croix makes is pure quality.” That pretty much sums up Prater’s opinion on the best spinnerbait rod available for anyone who doesn’t want to go the custom rod route. While he doesn’t currently have a Tournament Legend in his arsenal, he did have one that was one in a bass tournament that he used for years before breaking it during a moment of frustration. “That break was totally my fault, otherwise I’d still have that rod and still be reaching for it whenever I had the chance,” Prater said.
The redesigned warhorse model from St. Croix is an ideal choice for running heavier spinnerbaits to give fish something different after they’ve been beaten on by swimbaits and Alabama rigs all day. The longer, full cork grip will give you some leverage to hurl larger spinnerbaits with two hands, but it can be a little awkward to handle with one hand all day in areas where you need to reach underneath heavy cover. The American-made SCIV+ carbon blank is a bit of a trade secret with St. Croix, and they don’t reveal direct modulus numbers, but rest assured, it’s one of the lightest and strongest blanks available with a smooth taper that eliminates weak points along the blank. But you’re going to pay a decent price for that quality, as the Legend Tournament series carries twice the price tag of some basic rods. But if you’re not going the custom-rod route, this is the next best thing.
How I Made My Picks
In addition to time spent in Prater’s rod-building room gleaning the unbiased knowledge you see above, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many rod company representatives over more than 30 years of fishing, writing product descriptions for sales publications and producing fishing reports to help anglers get on the bite. While these selections spurred from this interview, they are dead on the money with my previous experiences in the fishing industry.
Q: Can I use a crankbait rod for spinnerbaits?
If you’re in dire straights and your hooks are insanely sharp, you can get away with fishing a spinnerbait on a rod designed for crankbaits, but you’re not going to see the best performance. Crankbait rods have a slow to moderate action designed to flex deep into the rod’s blank. The flex lets the caster launch plugs much farther and prevents hard-fighting fish from tearing treble hooks loose when only one of the six hook points on a crankbait hits home. Rods for spinnerbaits and other lures that use a single hook point require a faster action to drive that hook home and get the fish’s head turned quickly.
Q: What is the best size rod for spinnerbaits?
The ideal rod length for spinnerbaits varies with the environment you’re fishing. For the brush-laden shallow water where a spinnerbait traditionally shines, a rod between 6-feet, 6-inches and 7-feet can offer more accurate presentations. The shorter length also helps roll cast the lure tight to cover with a flick of the wrist when you’re close to shoreline brush and overhangs. If you’re slow-rolling a spinnerbait on ledges or burning a blade back to the boat over open water to trigger a reaction strike, a 7-foot to 7-foot, 6-inch rod offers more leverage to cast farther. You won’t be as precise, but you’ll cover more water with each cast and have more hooksetting power if the fish strikes far from the boat.
Q: What rod power is best for spinnerbaits?
The best power for your spinnerbait rod will rise and fall with the weight of the spinnerbait you’re using. Check out this article for a sample of the varieties of spinnerbait available in today’s market. If you’re casting a tiny spinnerbait like a Booyah Pond Magic, then a medium power will allow you to cast accurately and still have enough stick to pull bass from cover. Launching a ¾-oz. or 1-oz. ledgebuster spinnerbait, however, requires stepping up to a heavy action rod to handle the weight of the lure on the cast and keep you comfortable throughout the day. But for day in, day out shallow-water spinnerbaiting with ¼-, ⅜-, and ½-oz. spinnerbaits, a medium-heavy is going to be fit right in the Goldilocks zone—not too light and not too stiff.
Q: What color spinnerbait should I use?
Spinnerbaits come in dozens of colors, but an angler could get by with a selection of two main hues. In clear to stained water, on sunny days, or any time the fish are keying on shad, a white skirt with silver blade should get the nod, as it mimics the flash of fleeing baitfish. When fishing muddy water or fishing around areas where bream are abundant, switch to a chartreuse spinnerbait body and a gold blade to properly mimic that favorite bass snack. The only exception to those color choices is when you’re probing the water after dark. Slinging a blade after dark is best suited for black spinnerbaits with large black Colorado-style blades to present a lot of vibration and a dark silhouette that fish can find when the lights are out. Of course, the blade design is going to play into the conditions as well. Check out this article for a great read on the shapes and styles of blades available.
Not all of us have the patience, time or craftsmanship to modify their rigs like Prater does, but like most things fishing, rod choice is a personal preference. “Most manufacturers make good quality rods with good components,” he said. “Unless it’s just a really cheap rod, you won’t find many that are just junk. Many companies use very similar blanks, but it’s little details and the fit-and-finish that you pay extra for. Every rod company is going to have a 7-foot, medium heavy, fast action rod that will work well for spinnerbaits, but if you’re really going to keep that rod in your hand all day, those details start to matter.”
With any of these rods, you won’t miss those details. Straight from the factory, they’ll get the job done, and they’ll feel as close to a custom as you can get from mass market rods.