The Search for Specialty Travel Rods

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I probably travel by airplane to fish more than the average angler, and I hope to do a lot more of it in the future – ideally to increasingly remote areas. Once you’re committed to flying, especially on regional or charter jets, the chances of bringing a full-sized rod tube decrease substantially. The lodge or charter operator might have quality gear, but if they don’t you better bring some good sticks of your own.

That’s why I was pleased to see in the post-ICAST reports that companies including Abu-Garcia and Falcon introduced travel rods to add to the small selection that already exist in the large manufacturers’ space. I was particularly pleased to see that Abu’s Ike Signature Series Travel rods come with two tips, which essentially gives you two options for the price of one, a paradigm first introduced by Abu’s Pure Fishing sister company Fenwick a few years back. When space is at a premium, that can be a valuable attribute, much like the Daiwa Ardito pack rod that can be converted from a spinning rod to a baitcasting rod, as I’ve written about before. 

Despite the increasing number of offerings, I’m still disappointed that most of them cover the same bases. There are lots of medium-light, medium and medium-heavy rods in the 6’6” to 7’6” range. I own two of them myself – a G.Loomis Escape and a custom model made by Lance Stringer of Impulse Rods. They’re both fantastic tools that cover a lot of ground, but they’re still well within the range of “normal.”

Where are the quality travel rods for popping for tuna, or mooching salmon, or giant catfish in the Amazon? They exist, if you look hard enough, but it’s not always easy.  Ron Colby at Yamamoto pointed out a Daiwa travel halibut rod that he takes on his yearly Alaska trips, but beyond that there aren’t many domestic options for specialty sticks. Okuma makes several 7’11” heavy and extra-heavy versions that would work for species and situations where my medium-heavies don’t.

If you want to take a deeper dive, there are several European and Japanese manufacturers who’ve taken a crack at more specialized markets, like giant snakeheads and tuna and peacock bass. I’m sure part of that involves necessity being the mother of invention – they have smaller vehicles in many of those countries, and have to travel long distances to chase even more mundane species, so packability is at a premium. Alas, I’ve never heard of some of these brands, so I’d be buying sight-unseen. Some of the ones that have come highly recommended, like the Deps Monster series, are $600 to $800 apiece, which is more than I’m willing to pay for a rod that I’ll use only occasionally, if that.

Still, I can’t help but think that if some custom rod builder were to market himself as the global travel rod specialist, he could make a killing.  No Tackle Warehouse on the atolls off the Seychelles, in the wilds of New Guinea, or deep in the Amazon. Besides, the people who are heading to those places have already committed a fair number of coins to the experience. Unless that’s emptied their bank accounts, they’re going to want the best of the best, built to their specifications, to get the job done. They might even buy a spare to put within their 33- or 44-pound weight limit, because if it breaks, that’s game over, dude.