Saltwater Boat Fishing Rods
Story by Troy A Buzalsky
Growing up in the McKenzie River Valley I was born with Birkenstocks on my feet and a fly rod in my hand. Well, not really, but it sounds cool. Actually, my first fishing rod was a solid-fiberglass Zebco that my folks acquired using S&H Green Stamps. Self-taught at a young age, fishing was, and for that matter, still is, my passion. As my hobby grew, I took to rod building at the age of 13 mainly so I could afford the nicer rods of the day. The rod-building hobby grew into a small business selling custom rods until I entered college, which brought to a halt rod building and fishing altogether.
After relocating for my career, my fishing style changed from primarily fly-fishing to gear fishing for salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon. I can still remember walking into the local tackle store and being overwhelmed with the variety of rods. The trend for technique-specific rods has only increased since then.
No one rod fits all fishing applications, and trust me, I have to explain this to my wife weekly, as my rod collection might just outnumber her shoe and handbag collection. In this column we’re going to examine three rod manufacturers who have perfected a series of rods specifically for saltwater boat fishing rod applications, mostly aimed at the bottomfish arena. Hopefully this will help you select the right rods for your next venture into saltwater.
Daiwa launched its first spinning reel in 1955 and is now one of the largest tackle companies in the world. Since its inception, Daiwa’s emphasis has been based on innovation and product quality. Many industry firsts started with Daiwa and are now industry standard, including the development of the open-faced spinning reel. Daiwa’s corporate headquarters is in Cypress, California, with an expansive list of US dealers including many in Alaska.
If you’re a traveling angler like me, you’re going to find a nice selection of saltwater-specific travel rods within the Daiwa portfolio including the Saltiga-Saltwater Travel Series, the Sealine-X-Treme Travel Interline Series, and the 5-piece Ardito Surf Rods. In the non-travel portfolio, Daiwa has hundreds of choices from their 26 saltwater-specific models, which includes my new favorite, the one-piece Daiwa Harrier X Jigging Rod.
While fishing for huge halibut and large lingcod most anglers will go to a one-piece rod. But, if you’re like me, you like to travel with your rods and reels, and having a rod that is travel compliant is a huge benefit. Most airlines charge you a baggage fee for rods over 54 inches long, which means you either need to travel with a one-piece rod under 54 inches, have a two-piece rod, or pay the baggage fee. Although they are available, it’s rare to find a one-piece rod under these measurements that will give you the power and action needed for the 200-pound club.
The Daiwa Saltiga-Saltwater Travel Series is a true travel rod which is made possible by its innovative V-Joint ferrule system that connects the rod pieces with a flexing joint that virtually eliminates flat spots in the bend caused by conventional ferrules.
The Saltiga 592MHB is that textbook, made-for-Alaska rod that is perfectly adept jigging or bait fishing for halibut, lingcod, and deep-water rockfish. The 592 stands for 5’ 9” in length and 2-piece. It has a moderate-heavy power rating with a fast-action tip. This means you can impart nice jigging action while at the same time have the power to set the hook and play heavy fish. This rod is no broomstick!
The Saltiga 592MHB utilizes eight Fuji Tangle Free K-Series guides with FazLite Rings which work well with braided lines. The rods come with an EVA foam handle that works perfectly in the hand or in the holder and comes with a quality Fuji reel seat and rubber gimbal.
All Saltiga Saltwater Travel Rods come with a quality case that makes travel a breeze. Recently, when fishing out of southeast Alaska, my friend Randy was using a Saltiga and shared this: “The sensitivity and strength of the rod is great. I originally got it for travel but now I’m at the point where I’m using this rod on my local deep-water trips, too.” If you’re in the market for a travel rod that can truly tackle large saltwater fish look no further than the Daiwa Saltiga-Saltwater Travel Series.
Another great rod in the Daiwa line-up is the Harrier X Jigging Rod series. It is a multipurpose rod designed for the hottest new techniques in jigging with flutter and knife-type jigs as well as traditional bottomfishing with lead-head jigs and grubs. The Harrier X is ideal for all types of bottomfishing, especially when you’re jigging up those dinosaurs of the deep.
The Harrier X model HRX66MHB is a perfect rod for average-sized halibut when you’re using lighter weights or smaller-sized jigs. If you’re fishing heavy current, or like jigging big pipe or Viking jigs, check out the Harrier X rods rated as Heavy, Extra Heavy, and XX Heavy.
The Harrier X utilizes X45 construction, a special carbon-fiber material designed to improve the torsional resistance. Conventional carbon fibers are always layered in a 90° angle. The X45 material features a 45° angle and is combined with 0° and 90° layered carbon fibers. This construction makes the rods stronger, thinner, and more distortion-proof for a more balanced rod load-up and a more powerful bend.
The Fuji Tangle Free K-Series guides with FazLite rings are durable and are canted forward 70° so line pays out freely. With this innovative guide design, braided lines rarely tangle on the guides while jigging. The Harrier X differs from other Harrier rods in that it features two-foot guides on the full length of the rod rather than the lighter and more fragile single-foot guides used on the tip section of the standard Harrier rods.
The Harrier X’s sturdy EVA grip works equally well in the hand or in a rod holder. The Fuji ESC Reel Seat provides for a secure connection to the rod, and a rubber gimbal works well in the rod holder, fighting belt, or when levered against your body. Marc Mills, Field Marketing Manager for Daiwa says, “The X in the Harrier line-up stands for Xtra-strong, Xtra-tuff, and Xtra-stiff.” He should have also said, Xtra-Special. Check Daiwa out at daiwa.us.
Temple Fork Outfitters
For over 20 years Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) has prided themselves in designing and building fishing rods that will last a lifetime and not empty the pocketbook, with a focus on performance and functional design elements. They do this in their Texas factory, and proudly declare, “Our factory is home to every TFO rod…and only TFO rods,” and although not built on site, they are manufactured in their very own South Korea facility.
As a longtime fly angler, the name Temple Fork Outfitters not only has heritage, but they continue to put out some of the best-performing rods in the industry. An example is the legendary TFO BVK 9-foot 8-weight fly rod, which when introduced, dominated the Yellowstone Angler 8-weight Shootout despite costing a fraction of the high-end challengers. The BVK 8-weight has tamed many a feisty silver in Alaskan waters.
For the salty angler, TFO has launched a new addition of rods: the Tactical Seahunter series that are available in spinning and casting configurations. “Traditionally, there were three types of rods we’d use for offshore,” explains Captain and TFO National Advisor Rob Fordyce. “We’d have rods built for trolling, rods with lighter tips for casting baits and sight fishing, and rods somewhere in between for jigging on structure.” The new Seahunter series covers all the bases, a light tip for castability, yet a powerful butt section for hauling fish from depth and structure.
The Seahunter is a well-engineered saltwater rod, and much thought and input from TFO’s advisors went into its ultimate design. Little things, like the fact that it has the proper butt length so that when you slide it into a rod holder you have the proper reel clearance, and the butt length is ideal for fighting a fish, so your hands are not too far from your body when using a fighting belt.
The TFO TAC SHS 6050 is the big dog in the TFO lineup, made for bottomfishing deep water and in and around snags and structure. The rod excels at jigging and is quite capable of targeting fish in the 100-plus-pound category.
The foundation of the Tactical Seahunter series is the moderate-fast action, one-piece blank constructed with standard-modulus carbon-fiber material and a proprietary fiberglass scrim. The blanks are a midnight blue topped with saltwater-safe Fuji Concept (aluminum oxide) guides. Weighing in at just under 16 ounces, the TAC SHC 6050 is a one-piece, 6-foot behemoth, rated for 40- to 50-pound-test line with a moderate-fast action. This action makes it a jigging dynamo, and perfect when targeting the big girls of the depths.
When chasing small-to-medium-sized halibut, check out the Seahunter TAC SHC 6640 with its heavy power and 30- to 40-pound-test line rating. Guaranteed to handle 100-plus-pounders, this rod makes your average halibut fishing a hoot with its sensitive tip and incredible hook-setting power.
Jigging is what the Seahunter series does best, and the TAC SHC 7020 might just be that perfect Alaskan rockfish rod. This rod is seven feet long and incredibly light in the hand. It has a 15- to 20-pound-test line rating making it a very capable rockfish rod, and I can assure you it’s tailor-made for dropping jigs into the water column and jigging up your limit. It’s perfect for my go-to rockfish arsenal: Point Wilson Darts and Ahi USA Assault Diamond Jigs up to six ounces…It’s like ringing the dinner bell. To learn more about the Seahunter Series go to tforods.com.
Santiam Fishing Rods
The Santiam River runs clear and swift as it drains Oregon’s Cascade Mountain Range through its north and south forks until it enters the Willamette River. The river is scenically spectacular and supports both salmon and steelhead runs throughout the year. The river is also the namesake for Santiam Fishing Rods, maker of rods that were designed and perfected in their home waters of Oregon as well as Alaska.
Santiam Fishing Rods offers 60-plus rod combinations that meet the needs for targeting salmon and steelhead, trout and kokanee, and halibut as big as barn doors. They also have a complete selection of fly rods, including their popular Tenkara rod. Priced to please any angler, the rods are built to perform comparably to their high-end competition with excellent durability. All Santiam Rods come with a three-year warranty.
A few years ago, I planned a DIY Alaska fishing adventure that included an overnight trip out of Port Ashton Lodge, fishing the secluded waters on the west side of Elrington and Danger islands. For this trip to be successful I needed the right gear, which led me on a search for a travel-friendly halibut rod. Although I found a few on the market, the choices were limited. Then I stumbled upon Santiam Fishing Rods and their two-piece halibut rods. The price was good, but I wondered about the quality. After chatting with Jay Kendrick, owner of Santiam Fishing Rods, I decided to give his rod a chance. He told me the reason he designed this rod was for this exact application, and said they had fished Alaska frequently and had landed several halibut in the 200-pound range on these rods. This sounded good enough for me, so I ordered a pair for our journey!
Within the Santiam Big Species/Halibut Rods series are four very capable rods ranging from their one-piece 4’ model (yes, I mean 48”), and their three 2-piece models; 5’6”, 6’, and 6’3” respectively.
The shorty of the bunch is a one-piece wonder. In a travel-friendly 48-inch length, the “Butt Thumper” has a moderate-heavy action, a line rating of 30- to 130 pound-test and accepts lure weights from 8- to 48 ounces. If you check out these numbers, there is no doubt this rod has Alaska running through its solid-glass shaft. It will be added to my quiver before my next offshore adventure.
Weighing in at 24 ounces, the 5’6” two-piece rod, model SFC-562HBHC is the rod I traveled with for my previously mentioned excursion out of Whittier, except I requested ours without roller guides because I prefer to jig fish and always worry about roller guides and tips while jigging with braided line.
Made from solid glass, when I took delivery of this 60- to 80-pound-test line-weight rod I wasn’t sure how the solid glass would perform, but I was pleasantly surprised. The rod is rated for lures of 16- to 40 ounces, and for most of our trip we jigged large, curly tail Berkley PowerBait Saltwater Grubs on big lead heads or the deadly and sizable 35-ounce Viking Jigs for halibut and big lingcod. The rods took to jigging like champs and the tip had more action than I expected. Once hooked up with a hefty halibut or toothy lingcod the rod loaded up evenly with no noticeable flat spots caused by the ferrule system.
All Big Species/Halibut Rods are manufactured from solid fiberglass and come with either titanium, stainless-steel, or aluminum-oxide guides, depending on the model. The rods showcase heavy-duty, double-wrapped guides and a durable X-flock-covered EVA foam handle with a sizeable foregrip for better leverage. They also feature a color-matched, anodized-aluminum reel seat, a removable gimbal cap, and protective hard case.
Santiam Fishing Rods are tested and proven in Alaska waters, and for die-hard Alaskan anglers, you can also get a complimentary Santiam Fishing Rod with a seven-year subscription to Fish Alaska magazine…Now that’s a win-win! Check out Santiam Fishing Rods at santiamfishingproducts.com.
Troy Buzalsky is the Boats columnist for Fish Alaska magazine and when not writing about boats or working his career in the fire service, Troy can likely be found chasing fish in the Pacific Northwest and the 49th state and writing about those adventures. He can be reached at Troybuz@comcast.net.
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