The best freshwater and saltwater fishing rods that can slide into your luggage
Whether you’re vacation plans are for Disney World or Rio de Janeiro, there’s always somewhere to fish. But getting tackle to your destination can be a chore. Long, plastic airline tubes often aren’t large enough for your favorite rods and can cost a fortune in baggage fees to transport, and all too frequently they arrive damaged, no matter how carefully you pack.
That’s why travel rods are almost always your best bet. But not all travel rods are created equal. Doing some pre-dawn bass fishing on a golf course in Scottsdale, Arizona, requires drastically different gear than fishing off the beach in Bermuda. Thankfully, there are travel rods available for wherever you’re going and whatever you’re targeting. Here’s a quick list of some of your best options.
Beach vacations are a family favorite. Luckily, every inch of beach offers an angling opportunity. You might encounter a sea of stripers while summering on Cape Cod or monster jacks, barracuda, and tarpon off a Caribbean island. Having proper surf rods to launch plugs, drop chunks of bait, and tame big fish is a must. While you won’t find an abundance of travel surf rods on the market, St. Croix’s Triumph Surf Rods are a top choice. Two 4-piece models easily fit into a packable carrying case. You have a choice of a 9-foot or 10-foot spinning rod built on a quality blank with aluminum-oxide surf guides and top-notch cork handles.
For a few bucks less, Okuma offers their own line of high-quality surf rods that will help you land larger specimens. If you’re pre-vacation daydreams feature 150-pound beach tarpon or rocket-fast Costa Rican roosterfish, you’re going to need a brute of a stick. Anglers planning overnighters to land sharks from shore should also be prepared with a rod that’s up to the task. All Okuma Nomad Surf Travel Rods models feature Fuji Alconite guides compatible for use with heavy lines. The 10-foot, heavy-action Nomad is rated for up to 65-pound braided lines and can cast lures that weigh close to a half-pound. All three models break down into four pieces that stow easily inside the included rod tube.
There are more travel rods on the market for freshwater and light inshore applications than ever, but you'll need a light to medium-heavy spinning and casting rods to tackle slab bluegills at your lake house, catch bass in a farm pond, or relax on a dock while messing around with snappers. For that, the Traveler Series from Temple Fork Outfitters has a healthy offering of five spinning and two casting models. All rods are 7 feet long, break into three pieces, and are available in a variety of powers and actions. The Traveler light power, moderate/fast action spinning rod is geared for quiet trout streams, while heavier versions are perfect for bass and smaller inshore species. The Traveler Series is built on lightweight carbon-fiber blanks finished with Fuji’s Fazlite Corrosion Control K-series guides that are safe for both salt and fresh water.
If you’re the type of angler who demands the best, even in a travel rod, St. Croix has you covered with the Legend Trek. Four spinning and four casting models are available, all of which include St. Croix’s rod-blank technologies and are finished with high-end components. Medium-heavy and heavy-action spinning rods can double for labor intensive freshwater applications or inshore pursuits for redfish, speckled trout, and even small tarpon. Casting models include a 7-foot medium-fast rod that works well for bass techniques and 7-foot, 6-inch heavy and extra-heavy fast-action rods to handle small swimbaits in freshwater or plugs for saltwater species.
Another high-end option for a travel rod is the G. Loomis Escape. The 10-model series has a wide range of powers and actions in both casting and spinning models. Trout fishermen will find a 6-foot, 3-inch ultralight perfect for all of their spinning applications and inshore anglers targeting redfish and snook will like the 6-foot, 9-inch casting model, which handles up to 2-ounce lures. The series is handcrafted in Woodland, Washington, on quality blanks with Fuji Alconite guides and cork grips. Each rod breaks into three sections and comes in an attractive rod sock and travel case.
Daiwa offers freshwater anglers a variety of reliable travel rods at a low price point. The Ardito travel rod line consists of three casting and four spinning rods, and one rod that can perform both functions. The lineup is geared toward traditional black bass angling, with rod lengths ranging from 7- to 7 1/2-feet long in medium-light to medium-heavy actions. Anglers looking to take two or three rods to fish different techniques would do well with the Ardito. The rods are made with X-45 Bias graphite fiber blank construction that excels in flexibility and strength. All casting models are 3-piece, have aluminum-oxide guides, and come in a semi-hard travel case. One 6-piece hybrid model is 7 feet long and can be configured as both a spinning and casting rod.
If your vacation plans center around the monster largemouth regions of California, or far North into the land of giant pike and muskies, a heavy-action casting rod is a must. Okuma’s Nomad Xpress Travel Rods work great with swimbaits and can handle the large lures in your tackle box. They also provide the backbone you’ll need to land big fish. Two 7-foot, 11-inch, 4-piece models are available in either heavy or extra-heavy powers. The heavy-action rod is rated for 1- to 4-ounce lures, while the bulkier, extra-heavy handles lures that weight 2 to 8 ounces.
13 Fishing’s Omen Black 3-piece rods are the perfect choice for light-tackle freshwater anglers. Panfish and trout specialists can stow the Omen Black in its 34-inch case to chase their favorite quarry. If your game is catching smallmouth or largemouth bass on lighter tackle, or targeting exotics in the warmwater canals and development ponds of the South, consider the four models of the Omen Black travel series. The collection consists of a 6-foot, 7-inch medium-light rod, a 7-foot ultralight, and two 7-foot, 1-inch rods in medium and medium-heavy actions. All are constructed on 30 Ton Japanese Toray Blanks and have ALPS guides with Zirconia inserts.
If your travel plans include spending time on the high seas, you’ll want an open-water rod for saltwater species, like a Daiwa’s Saltiga G Boat Travel Rod. The two spinning and two casting models measure 7-feet in length, which is the preferred rod length for a majority of boat fishermen on both coasts, and they are available in two different actions. The medium and medium-heavy rods are rated for 12- to 25-pound test and 15- to 35-pound test, respectively. The four rods cover a huge array of saltwater applications like bait fishing for yellowtail off California or dropping for snapper and grouper on inshore wrecks in the Gulf of Mexico.
Topwater fishing for redfish in Louisiana, or throwing swimbaits for stripers in the Northeast, both require strong, sensitive rods. St. Croix’s Tidemaster series has long been a favorite among near-shore anglers and is a great travel rod option for vacationing fishermen. The travel series is made up of four casting and six spinning models that cover everything from medium-light to heavy action. All the rods break down into 3-pieces and stow easily into the included carrying case. All are constructed from quality SCII graphite and feature aluminum-oxide guides in corrosion-resistant black frames.
Written by Mark Modoski for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.