“There are many good fishermen and some great ones,” Hemingway wrote in The Old Man and the Sea. And as any angler can tell you, having the right equipment is a big step in the right direction of being a great fisherman, by improving your odds and decreasing your frustration.
Kayak fishing, like kayaking in general, involves carefully selecting your gear. You wouldn’t run rapids in a touring kayak anymore than you’d set out on a long paddle in the ocean in a play boat. In the same sense, you wouldn’t fish for brook trout with gear designed to fight bull reds. And while nearly any rod and reel will let you fish from your kayak, there are better and worse choices.
To maximize your fun and minimize your hassle, we’ve assembled these reviews of popular fishing rods. We can’t cover every possibility, so we’ve chosen to highlight gear that’s best for most people in most situations.
Best Kayak Fishing Rods For 2018
Redbone Hurricane - Editors Choice
Buying Guide: What to Consider When Choosing a Rod for Kayak Fishing
The length of your rod affects nearly every aspect of its performance, so this is the first consideration when making your choice. For adults, rods usually run between 6 feet and 8 feet, and every inch makes a difference. We’re recommending 7-foot rods as this is a good all-around length.
- Longer rods let you cast further. That can be an advantage in open water and in situations where getting closer might spook fish. Your rod is effectively a spring, absorbing impact and allowing you to fight a struggling fish. All other things being equal, a longer rod flexes more. If you’re going after strong and heavy prey, opt for a shorter, stronger rod.
- Shorter rods offer greater accuracy, and where precision is key, casting into cover, for instance, this can mean the difference between fun and frustration.
Power and Action
Power and action work together to describe how your rod behaves when you try to set the hook, play a lure, or fight a fish. For instance, when you have a fish on your hook, a rod’s power and action determine how hard you can muscle it toward your kayak.
More powerful, slower action rods allow you to drag a fish from cover, while less powerful rods demand more finesse but help you detect gentle strikes. In this review, we’ve selected rods that have medium to medium-light power with faster actions, an ideal combination for the average angler.
- Power means stiffness -Think of “power” as shorthand for how “bendy” your rod is. More power means more stiffness. It’s a measure of how much weight it takes to bend a rod.
- Fast action means sensitive -It’s fair to say that the lighter the power and faster the action, the more you feel movements of the lure, strikes, and the fight of a hooked fished. The more power a rod has and the slower it’s action, the more muscle you can apply to set a hook and control a struggling fish.
- Faster actions demand finesse -They make it easier to detect a gentle strike. Ultralight rods have very little power and “fast” action, meaning that you can feel every nudge and bump. This makes fighting even the smallest fish more exciting. They’ll feel like monsters! But this also means that you can’t muscle them at all.
- Slow action rods are rigid until near the tip -This makes it easier to set the hook, and they’re designed to allow you to fight powerful fish and have far greater control over their action. When combined with heavy or medium heavy power and a “slow” action, you get a strong, rigid rod for the biggest, strongest fish.
- Power and action should match the fish - In general, match your rod’s power and action to the species of fish you prefer and the size and style of the lures you use. Small fish like bream need less power and are more fun to catch on light or ultralight rods; big fish like tuna need lots of power and a slow action.
- Power and action should match the lure - It’s also important to consider a rod’s power and action when selecting a lure. While we could write a more intricate article on this subject, one rule of thumb is that more hooks allow you to step down in power and speed up in action. That’s because it takes less effort to hook a fish with a treble hook.
Fishing rods are made from two materials: graphite and fiberglass.
- Graphite is strong, rigid, and light. It’s also quite sensitive, allowing you to feel nibbles. Most rods are constructed from graphite, and it’s usually the better choice.
- Fiberglass is heavy, but it has a special feature in that it bends consistently. For some rod designs, this is ideal.
Handle material and design is mostly a matter of preference. Generally, there are two materials that dominate the market: cork and EVA foam.
- Cork is lightweight, attractive, and warm to the touch, but it is less durable than foam. It can even be damaged by rod holders if you’re not careful.
- Foam is lightweight, durable, and soft.
Handles come in two general styles: split or continuous. They also vary a bit in length.
- Longer handles provides more power for casting and more room for big hands.
- Split or continuous handles are mostly a question of preference.
Grab a rod and see how it feels. If you like it, that’s good enough!
Line and Lure Weight
These recommendations may be marked clearly on the side of the rod, near the reel seat, but this is not always the case. It’s important to pay close attention to these when selecting your line and lures, as moving beyond the manufacturers limits won’t help your rod’s performance.
Ferrules are the attachment points that allow you to assemble and disassemble rods for transport. Many rods break down into two more more pieces, but some come as a single unit. All production rods that break down have well-made ferrules.
Guides are the rings your line flows through as you cast and retrieve. They can be made from a variety of materials, including ceramics like silicon carbide, and metals such as aluminum oxide and stainless steel. Here are a few things to keep in mind about guides:
- Guide quality is essential, but often overlooked.
- More guides on a rod is an indication of quality.
- Quality guides reduce friction, saving your line from abrasion and breaking. Cheap guides will allow the fishing line to heat up, induce abrasions, and cause it to break while you’re fighting a strong fish.
- Test them by ‘sawing’ line against them. If the line snaps, look for another rod.
The reel seat is the attachment point for your reel, consisting of a collar that’s hand tightened to secure the reel. These are generally high quality on any reasonable rod, but it’s important to ensure proper fit. It’s always best to test a reel seat with your chosen reel: if the reel wiggles after you’ve tightened the seat collar, give the rod a pass.
Kayak Fishing Rod Reviews
The Redbone Hurricane is a 7-foot rod that offers medium-light power and a fast action. Designed for salt water, it’s equally at home on lakes, ponds, and streams, and customers have reported landing some really big fish on this relatively light rod. Its one-piece handles are made from cork, and they’re plenty long enough for even the biggest hands. It comes as a single piece unit.
This rod features Fuji graphite reel seats and cushioned hoods, and it sports Fuji aluminum oxide guides, as well. As we mentioned before, these are quality components, and you shouldn’t expect them to cause any trouble when the pressure’s on.
The Redbone Hurricane takes 6 to 12 pound line and casts lures ranging from ¼ to ½ ounces. Like the other rods we review, that’s more than enough versatility to begin your fishing adventures.
Customers note that this rod has good muscle for its size, and it’s lightweight and sensitive, too. Some professional guides use this rod for customers, and for their own fishing as well, and that’s about as strong a recommendation as you can get.
The Shimano Solara is a medium power, fast action rod. That’s a good combination in a 7-footer, allowing lots of muscle to be applied while still remaining sensitive to light strikes. Featuring a cork handle that’s 3 inches to the fore and 8 inches to the rear, there’s plenty of space for most people who use two-handed casting, though people with large hands may feel a bit cramped.
The Solara is equipped with six guides, including the tip, and they’re constructed from reinforced aluminum oxide. This is an excellent material for guides, and they should be silky smooth, protecting your line from heat and abrasion when the pressure’s on.
This rod takes line from 6 to 14 pounds, and can accommodate lures ranging from ¼ to ⅝ ounces. That gives anglers who choose this rod plenty of options. It also breaks down into two pieces, an advantage when packing this rod into a vehicle or case.
Some customers have complained that the guides are easily damaged by impacts, and others complain that this fiberglass rod is heavy, which is to be expected. Compared to similar graphite designs, that’s a drawback. And some anglers may find that this rod is closer to a medium-heavy in power, a bit more stiff than comparable rods.
The Ugly Stik Elite is a 7-foot cork-handled rod with medium-light power and a moderately fast action. While not the best for dragging a big fish from cover, you can really put this rod to the test. Ugly Sticks are known for their legendary durability and strength, and it’s unlikely that you’ll break it trying. If you’re looking for a sensitive tip to feel light strikes in a rod that won’t quit under pressure, this is a good choice.
The Ugly Stik Elite comes as a single piece, and that’s something to think about when selecting a rod. You’ll need to be extra careful during transport, for instance. It takes line in strengths from 4 to 10 pounds and lures ranging in weight from ⅛ to ½ ounces, offering plenty of versatility for the one-rod angler.
It features eight stainless steel guides, and customers have complained about their quality and durability, especially when using a braided line. Stainless steel is an acceptable guide material, but there are better (and more expensive) options.
The Fenwick Eagle offers medium-light power and a moderately fast action, a common combination in rods of this type and size. Measuring at 7 feet, it comes in your choice of configurations: a single unit or a two-piece rod. Both come with cork handles. Customers report catching everything from 35-pound salmon to small trout with this rod, and it offers the sensitivity and strength to serve as the first rod in your fishing arsenal.
The Fenwick Eagle offers eight guides, including the tip. Like the Ugly Stik Elite, they’re made from stainless steel, but unlike its competitor, customers have not complained about their quality.
This rod takes 4 to 10 pound line and can accommodate lures ranging from ⅛ to ⅝ ounces. That’s plenty of versatility, and most people won’t find they need to reach for another rod unless they’re looking for really big fish or using a technique that demands a high-power rod.
Like the Shimano Solara, some anglers may find this rod a tad stiff. The only serious complaint has been some problems with this rod breaking near the tip.
The Cadence Fishing CR5 is a 7-foot medium-light, fast action rod. It comes as a single piece with a split cork-EVA handle. It features a Fuji reel seat and eight guides including the tip. Each is made from stainless steel with a silicon carbide ring where the line makes contact. This is a top-notch material, and you can be sure your line will stay cool and undamaged by these guides during a fight.
This rod takes 6 to 12 pound line and can casts lures ranging from ⅛ to ⅝ ounces. That’s a great range, and if you’re looking for the ‘sweet spot’ of line and lure options then this is a good place to start.
Customers agree that this rod is sensitive, lightweight, and ‘premium’ in feel. But there have been problems with breakage, the durability of the cork handle, and issues with the reel seat allowing wiggle.
This Dobyns Fury spinning reel measures 7 feet and features medium-light power and a fast action. It comes as a single piece, and like other rods of this design, needs extra care during transport. Like the Cadence CR5, it offers a split grip made from cork and EVA that measures 12 ¼ inches. For anglers with large hands, this handle may feel cramped.
This rod uses Fuji reel seats, and no one has complained about their quality. It offers nine guides including the tip. These are Fuji “O” rings made from aluminum oxide, an excellent material that pampers the line when it’s under strain and stress.
The Dobyns Fury takes 6 to 12 pound line, and can accommodate lures ranging from ⅛ to ½ ounces. Like the other rods we review, that’s plenty of versatility for most people.
Customers report that this rod has a fast tip with great sensitivity. It’s also lightweight and well-balanced with a premium feel.
The Abu Garcia Ike Signature rod measures 7 feet, offering an angler medium power and fast action. Stiffer than most of its competitors in this review, it offers a bit more muscle for those who feel they might need it, while still being very light. Its split-grip handle is constructed from EVA, and no one has complained about its length. It’s available as a single piece unit, with the caveats we’ve mentioned above.
This rod, like many others we review, uses Fuji reel seats. No issues have been reported with them, and it offers eight stainless steel guides with zirconium inserts. This, too, is a premium material, and it will dissipate heat and cushion your line under a heavy load.
This rod casts well with the line ranging from 6 to 12 pounds and lures weighing 1/16 to ½ ounces. Customers have reported that this rod has a super-sensitive tip and great action. Especially for those who want the option of a bit more muscle, the Abu Garcia is a great choice.
Our Pick - Redbone Hurricane
As you can see from our reviews, all of these rods are keepers, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. If we were forced to make a choice, we’d pick the Redbone Hurricane, given its impressive strength, sensitivity, and components. With a long cork handle, there are no worries about a cramped grip, and this proven rod is tough enough for any challenge.
Offering medium-light power and plenty of sensitivity, you can count on this rod to help you feel a strike, set your hook, and fight the fish to your kayak. Its excellent guides will protect your line during the struggle, too. All-in-all, this is a formidable fishing pole, and you won’t be disappointed with it!