There are so many great rods out there it is hard to choose which model to use. Rods come in different lengths, power, action etc. I’m hoping to simplify the process a bit by breaking down the outfits I use for charter fishing and also my personal use.
In all my years of running a charter boat on Cape Cod, I carried just two different spinning rod sizes on with me, 7-footer and an 8-footer. In a nutshell, I use shorter rods for lighter tackle and heavier longer rods for more power and greater casting distance.
7’ Spinning Rod
A nice lightweight 7-foot outfit is perfect for lighter lures both from boat and shore. Look for a rod that can cast lures in the range of 3/8 to 1-ounce. In the pre-braid days, I would rig this outfit with 12-pound test Yozuri Hybrid line, but in a braid era, I rig this outfit with 20-pound test braid. My favorite brand is Suffix Power Pro, rigged with a 20-pound test fluorocarbon leader connected with a uni-to-uni knot.
I use this outfit almost exclusively in the springtime when many smaller stripers show up. With 20-pound braid, a good 7’ rod will launch your baits a country mile. Also, when the bonito and albies show up, I re-spool with 12-pound Yozuri Hybrid and tie direct. While great for small poppers and jigs, a lightweight 7’ rod is perfect for throwing unweighted soft baits.
People often buy rods bigger than they really need when fishing from shore. A light 7’ rod is perfect for fishing estuaries, jetties, inlets etc. This size will be well suited for throwing small unweighted soft baits, small jig heads, poppers and swimming plugs. It’s a nice easy rod to manage, fits in a car and is enjoyable to use. And it’s certainly capable of landing 99% of the fish we catch from inland nooks and crannies.
8’ Spinning Rod
When I start throwing heavier lures, later in the season, I switch over to a medium heavy spinning rod, spooled up with 40-pound test braid and 30-inch piece 40-pound test fluorocarbon leader tied direct.
A good medium heavy 8-foot spinning rod is perfect for throwing larger soft baits, poppers, pencil poppers, etc. A longer rod is also better for lobbing live eels, as it allows a casting motion that pulls fewer hooks out of the eel’s mouth during the cast. I also like the longer length for casting purposes, as I get greater distance and a better ability to clear lobster pots when fighting a big fish running for cover.
While an 8’ rod is considered “too big” by many for use on a boat, I actually think it’s the perfect length. If not only for the longer casts, the extra foot helps with presentation, the ability to clear structure and helps with rod angle assuming you’re fishing with your rod tip pointed toward the water with a swimmer, spook or soft bait.
As I mentioned above, I think most anglers fish from shore with outfits that are overkill. An 8-foot rod will work just fine in 80% of the shore spots on Cape Cod, (Cape Cod Canal excluded). It’s a great length for throwing Danny plugs, spooks, pencil poppers and 10 to 14-inch soft baits. Best of all, you can still use an 8-foot rod on a boat.
9’ Spinning Rod
Although I’ve used a 9-foot rod on a boat, I would argue that this size is almost exclusively a shore fishing rod and probably the size I would recommend if you are planning to fish the “surf” pretty seriously. A medium weight 9-foot rod will throw lures from one to three ounces with ease.
Fishing the strong flow of the canal presents unique challenges and often very long casts are required to hit fish breaking far out in the middle of the flow. Large lures are often required too, such as 3 or 4-ounce pencil poppers and heavy lead head jigs. Because of this a rod with both fast action and some serious backbone is required equipment. Many canal regulars prefer the Ron Arra series rods from Lamiglas. Model XSRA 1084 (9’, 1-piece) and Model XSRA 1084-2 (9’, 2-piece) are very popular and pair well with the Shimano Saragossa 8000. Both are moderate/fast action and although rated for lures weighing 1 to 3 ounces can throw slightly larger lures with ease. Power Pro braid in 40-pound test with a 30, 40 or even 50-pound test fluorocarbon leader is standard for the serious “canal rats.”