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January 29, 2010

Choose the Right Travel Rod

Reliable travel rods have good connections

Okuma's Nomad rods use European spigot connections to join sections without creating "flat" spots in the blank's flex. For added versatility, each Nomad comes with two different tips.
There must be a better way," I thought as I forked out a hefty tip for the airport shuttle driver, who sat rubbing his head. Unaccustomed to schlepping unwieldy tackle, my helpful wife had inadvertently smacked the driver's noggin with a 712-foot rod tube while exiting the bus.

Traveling fishermen have many reasons - besides the physical well-being of transport workers - to take easy-to-carry, multi-piece rods on trips: avoiding lugging cumbersome tubes and haggling with airline agents over what constitutes allowable baggage; personal tackle serving as backup to charter-boat gear; taking advantage of opportunities like plugging for snook in the marina after a day of billfishing; and the list goes on.

One-Piece Performance
"I wouldn't hesitate to use our three-piece rods in any situation they're rated for," says Gary Schaefer, products manager for G.Loomis. "The heaviest in our Escape line is a 30-pound rod designed for peacock bass, but I've seen it take dorado and sails."

A quality travel rod assures smooth transfer of flex and power through the ferrules. "To keep them from breaking, some companies bulk up the ferrules. But that blocks energy transfer and creates flat spots in the rod's flex. Our ferrules have a tip-over-butt design. We build each section on a specifically designed mandrel and trim the parts to match perfectly while optimizing strength and action," Schaefer says.

A travel rod delivers one-piece performance when properly assembled, or "ferruled-up completely tight," as Schaefer puts it. He starts by joining pieces with the line guides about 45 degrees off center and then pushes the parts together while rotating them to align the guides. How much force to use when pushing? "As much as you can muster," he says. "You want a good, snug fit. If not ferruled-up well, they could work loose, but if done correctly, you shouldn't have any problems."

John Bretza, director of product development for Okuma, says the European spigot connection system employed in the Nomad series of travel rods offers several advantages over other ferrules available on the American market. "The tip-over-butt connections fit deeper into each other to achieve action and transition through the bend of the blank similar to that of a one-piece rod. This system is also stronger than traditional connections," he says. "The European spigot seems to leave a space between the two sections, even when properly joined. American anglers who are unfamiliar with this connection tend to try and push the parts together to fill this gap, which is not possible. Okuma placed a rubber spacer on the ferrule to cover the gap so anglers don't try to force the sections too far together."

Every Nomad rod comes with two different tip sections, each having a different action. For example, the NT-C-703M-MH casting model has a medium and medium-heavy tip. "We designed the Nomads to accept two different tips since the middle section is mostly for backbone. Our product testers have used these rods for pitching baits to striped marlin in La Paz and Cabo San Lucas," Bretza says.

Separation Anxiety
Mark Smith, owner of CharkBait, put much thought into designing travel rods for offshore fishing. "I went with fiberglass since it's more forgiving and has a parabolic action for handling larger fish and trolling duty," he explains. "The unique connection system uses ferrules, but we reinforce them with metal and lock them together with a threaded ring. And the ferrules are gimbaled, so they always maintain proper alignment, even under load."

No matter which rods or ferrule systems you use, Bretza recommends checking the connections several times throughout the day to minimize the potential for problems when fighting big fish. "Good connections shouldn't loosen up, but as a fisherman, I take all measures possible to put the advantage in my favor," he says.

When done fishing, break down travel rods by reversing the process used to assemble them: Hold the sections firmly and twist while pulling. Resist the temptation to wrap your hand around a line guide for leverage because this can damage the guide.

There's a better way to deal with sticky ferrules.

Remember those round pieces of thin, textured rubber that mom used to grip stubborn jar lids? Schaefer always carries a couple in his tackle bag. "It's a simple little trick that can save the day," he says. "The rubber provides a safe, sure grip for separating the sections. I've had to help many people with their rods."

Some anglers say they don't trust multi-piece rods because the ferrules compromise strength and sensitivity. Ignore those dinosaurs! Manufacturers have solved the travel-rod puzzle and know how to put the pieces together.