Selecting the right fishing rod can at first seem daunting due to the sheer number of rods on the market. This unfortunately isn't made any easier by the general lack of available fishing rod reviews and comparisons. While fishing and outdoors magazines may occasionally give overviews of new rods or test a certain brand, few provide comprehensive, side-by-side reviews that test and rank available fishing rods, and rods that perform poorly are rarely listed at all.
Of the available reviews, Outdoor Life's coverage is the most dependable, though even its reporting can be less than thorough. A 2006 review tested rods on a wide set of criteria, including strength, casting accuracy, ergonomics, balance and craftsmanship. The article names the top two editors' picks, but only gives a brief description and doesn't list other rods that might have been considered. A 2002 review covers a wider range of fishing rods and offers recommendations for the conditions for which each rod is best. The article does not rank the rods, however, and is light on details. Field and Stream Magazine also provides its editors' top picks in an annual roundup of fishing gear. The article only lists the chosen rods, however, and does not discuss the selection process or other rods that were considered.
Reviewers rarely say anything bad about their rods, but a few get mixed reviews. The St. Croix Triumph (*Est. $60) receives a little attention from users for its high sensitivity and fast action, making it ideal for smaller fish. MyFishing-Guide.com says it is best suited for beginners. Users on Cabelas.com say they can feel the smallest bites through the graphite rod and praise the comfortable high-grade cork handle. Other owners, however, say the rod is poorly balanced and doesn't perform well outside of small rivers and streams. One owner reports that the rod snapped after only a single fishing season. This partly demonstrates that fishing gear has become incredibly specialized, so matching the rod to your fishing style can be important.
Note that this report covers spinning rods; depending on reader feedback, we may cover fly fishing rods, reels and other types of fishing gear in subsequent reports.