In our fishing fantasyland, we all have about 1,000 rods in our personal tackle emporiums. There are different lengths, strengths and actions, each ideal for a different purpose. For targeting every individual inshore saltwater species, we have a dedicated set of rods that’s perfect for the individual tactics we apply.
Take snook, for example. For casting topwaters, we own a long rod with a medium action that maximizes casting distance but doesn’t cause the lure to cartwheel as we walk the dog. But we also have a shorter, stouter fast-action rod used for slinging live baits under docks and then yanking the fish out from under them. If tossing jigs is in the cards, we have a third rod that’s longer but has a fast action for potent hook-sets. Redfish, stripers, seatrout and each and every other game-fish species we target gets its own set of perfect poles.
Back to reality, people.
Few of us can afford such a luxury, and even fewer have the space to store such an all-encompassing arsenal. So, what do we do? Most of us look for the most versatile rods around. The ones that can serve multiple purposes in multiple conditions while we chase multiple species. But considering how many rods are on the market today, choosing such a rod is no easy task. So, we went to the experts, the rod builders themselves, to find out which rods they feel are the most versatile for inshore saltwater fishing, and why.
Rod designer and vice president of manufacturing Scott Luft, of Castaway, doesn’t hesitate to nail down the Taranis CX as the company’s most versatile creation. “It’s universal,” he says. “The Taranis is light, sensitive, it can throw all sorts of baits and lures, and it’s affordable.” Interestingly, unlike the other builders, he leans toward conventional, as opposed to spinning, for the best all-around choice. “To narrow it down even further, I’d say the 7-foot moderate-action casting rod is about as versatile as rods get,” Luft says.
David Brinkerhoff heads up product development at G.Loomis, and as one might expect, he has some firm opinions when it comes to fishing rods. “Many of our rods are targeted very specifically, but the E6X is the most versatile for all-around use,” he says. “These rods are light in the tip, but you get into the backbone very quickly. That means you can cast without throwing off baits, but you can also cast lures and make fast, solid hook-sets. There’s a very wide range of what you can do with them.”
Lamiglas has been building rods since 1949 and, as a family-owned U.S. manufacturer, takes its rods very seriously. Marketing director Lucas Holmgren says it’s the Tri-Flex Graphite Inshore that wins the award for versatility. “Even the heavier range of these models maintains good sensitivity,” he says. “So, a rod that can yank a ’tog out of the rocks can also be used for throwing lures.”
Holmgren also emphasizes the importance of balancing strength with sensitivity when developing a versatile rod: “The Tri-Flex has a ton of power.”
Dave Brown, senior marketing specialist for Okuma Fishing Tackle, says he’d go with the SCT Inshore line of rods, stating rod strength is a major consideration. “The SCT Inshore rods feature our Ultimate Flex Reinforcement tip, which is the ultimate in lifting power,” Brown says. “And with Double Helix wrap configuration, the SCT rods have over 6,000 strands of carbon fiber for even more durability and strength.”
Brown also likes their length, which, at 8 feet, is a bit longer than some of the others recommended in this roundup but provides extra casting distance.
Mike Rice, director of brand development for Penn Fishing Tackle, is another expert who points to rod action as being the trait to look for. “Action is key,” Rice says. “If it’s too fast, you’ll throw live or dead baits off the hook; if it’s too slow, you lose accuracy and casting distance. The Penn Battalion rods were designed for everyday use and everyday techniques. They’re our best-selling and most versatile inshore rods and can be used with both braid and monofilament, for multiple techniques.”
Rice also notes that creating a rod like this doesn’t just happen. “We involved pro staffers, elite captains and internal co-workers to develop this series,” he explains. “And we designed them to fish inshore waters from Texas to New York and everywhere in between.”
Quantum and Fin-Nor, sister brands under the Zebco umbrella, also make über-versatile inshore rods. When it comes to Fin-Nor, saltwater product manager Chris Littau fingers the Tidal Inshore rod as tops.
“These rods went through a number of iterations,” he explains. “We wanted a rod that was designed specifically to be a high-quality offering that could be used for just about anything. We came up with our best shot, and then we put it in the hands of a number of pros. We took a lot of opinions into account, and we ended up making a lot of changes. The taper, modulus and butt length were all things we tried different combinations with, several times, before striking just the right balance.”
On the Quantum front, he IDs the Saltwater Series. “These have the most versatile action, but just as importantly, they’ll also take the most abuse,” he says. “You have to be careful because it’s easy to push hard for reducing weight, increasing strength or increasing sensitivity. We like all these things, but if you go too far in one direction, you lose sight of the others.”
Capt. Benny Florentino, a Shimano pro staffer who helps field-test and develop rods, fishes with the Shimano Teramar, which has three different regionally specific versions (West Coast, Southeast and Northeast). “The construction and light weight are a big part of the key as to why these rods are so versatile,” he says. “Just look at the wide range of how you can use these rods. The Teramars I commonly use can take 20- to 80-pound braid, and with them you can cast everything from big, heavy lures to small swimbaits.”
Capt. Blaine Anderson, a Shimano pro who fishes in the Northeast, agrees. “The best thing about them is that the Teramar rods have enough backbone to throw a really, really big topwater, but the action is soft enough to walk the same lure. On top of that, I can still use it to throw light soft plastics.”
Jeff Schluter, of St. Croix, prioritizes rod action as one of the most important aspects of a do-everything rod, such as the Tidemaster Inshore series, which is St. Croix’s most popular rod line built for multiple applications. “Fast action rules the water for versatility,” he says. “In the spinning category, it’s the 7-foot medium-power, fast-action rod. Regarding baitcasting inshore rods, the 7-foot-6-inch medium-heavy power. These designs provide a high level of versatility due in great part to the blank design and its ability to provide increased power when the load or demand on the rod blank is increased. Bigger, more powerful fish need more rod power for control, which a fast-action blank provides.
“Anglers do typically gravitate toward rod models that provide the most versatility,” he explains. When we get right down to brass tacks, that’s really the most important factor when shopping for a do-everything rod — your personal preference. So, choose your weapons carefully. Because unless you plan on buying 1,000 new rods anytime soon, versatility will probably be the overriding consideration as you add to your own personal tackle emporium.