During this month’s angler education campaign, we’ve discussed how length, power, and action combine to define the basic performance characteristics of a fishing rod. We’ve also heard specific rod-selection recommendations from our freshwater bass, panfish, walleye, and musky experts.
This week we look toward the salty side of angling, asking our pros the same annoying question: If you could carry just one rod, what would it be?
“That’s such a difficult question to answer,” says striper specialist, Rob Radlof, renowned guide at Waterman Charters out of Barnegat Township, New Jersey. “We target fish from five pounds to over 50 with ½- to six-ounce baits, so that’s a really diverse range of presentations. But if I absolutely had to pick just one rod to fish for striped bass from either land or the boat it would be the 8’ medium power, moderate-fast action St. Croix Legend Surf spinning rod (GSS80MMF).
A surf rod for boat duty? “You asked!” Radlof exclaims. “It’s just a super versatile rod. It throws a wide variety of lures from smaller swimming plugs to three-ounce topwaters… a lot of the lures we’re using most often. I’ve landed fish over 50 pounds on this rod with ease,” continues Radlof, who most often pairs the GSS80MMF with a 5000- or 6000-size spinning reel spooled with 30-40-pound mainline and a 40-80-pound leader, depending on the baits he’s throwing. “Its niche is throwing large topwater spooks,” he says. “Its more moderate action works the bait with ease but has plenty of power to handle larger bass.”
St. Croix Northeast Regional Account Manager, Alex Smay, shares Radlof’s affinity for the GSS80MMF. “This is one of the most versatile rods for striper fishermen in the Northeast, because it’s capable of fishing in many different circumstances. I’ll use it fishing back bays for virtually any size striper that may show up there or out on the beach when the fish are smaller or close and I don’t need the casting distance of a longer rod, or if I’m throwing lighter metal-lip plugs. But as Robbie points out, it’s also excellent on a boat. Being a Legend rod, it’s incredibly lightweight for its power, has premium components, and has no problem handling the largest stripers out there. If you boat and surf fish on the East Coast this is a must have rod.”
Smay says the GSS80MMF played heavily into the development of the new Mojo Inshore 7’11” heavy power, moderate-fast action spinning rod (JIS711HMF). “This is another really versatile rod that’s very similar to the GSS80MMF, but we designed it more as a traditional boat rod with a hybrid handle design that’s both comfortable and durable, with a rubber gimble that holds it and other larger Mojo Inshore models securely and firmly in the rod holders when running to and from the fishing grounds,” he says. “It was designed based on pro-staff, angler and dealer feedback in the Northeast striper fishery, but it’s also great for jumbo snook, jacks and permit, or live-baiting tarpon in southern waters, as well as making long casts while sight-fishing for giant cobia.”
This is another rod Radlof always has rigged and ready, especially on days when stripers are keying in on sand eels farther offshore. “The Mojo Inshore JIS711MF pairs perfectly with the smaller epoxy jigs we’re using in the 1-1/4-oz. range with 5” paddletails, as well as the heavier Savage Gear Sand Eel lures, which have been really hot,” he says. “The moderate-fast action models soak up much of the abuse anglers absorb with faster rods while battling beasts weighing 40 pounds or more. It’s a really great choice for anglers looking for a versatile, big-fish weapon, and it’s priced within the budget range of anglers.”
St. Croix pro and lifelong inshore angler, Joe Sanderson is a former collegiate FLW and BASS competitor and current KBF tournament kayak angler. He most often prowls the Texas coast by kayak, foot or skiff targeting speckled sea trout and redfish.
“For the kind of fishing I’m doing, I would carry a 7’0″ medium power, fast action spinning rod,” Sanderson says. There are a lot of choices in Sanderson’s favored configuration, but he says it’s hard to beat the St. Croix Mojo Inshore JIS70MF. “It is a great all-around rod that excels at sight casting in the wind, which is something inshore anglers deal with on a regular basis. It has enough power to land big redfish but has adequate finesse to catch trout with their softer mouths.”
Sanderson uses the 70MF spinning rod year-around. “I love to sight fish, and this is the perfect setup. I pair it with straight 20-pound FINS Windtamer braid – which is engineered to cut through the wind – on a 3000-size spinning reel. I don’t mess with leaders, because most of the time the fish aren’t that picky and that extra knot is just a weak point,” Sanderson advises.
The versatile Mojo Inshore JIS70MF is rated for eight to 17-pound line and lures weighing 3/8 to ¾-ounce. “The rod hits that sweet spot for most trout and red presentations,” says Sanderson, who advises against using too heavy a jig when sight fishing in shallow water. “People tend to go too heavy simply because they feel they can cast it farther and maintain a tighter line in windy conditions. It really isn’t necessary and you are going to spook more fish. With this setup, even in strong wind, you can cast and present smaller jigs like a dream.”
Captain Tom Rowland guides and hosts the popular Saltwater Experience television show in the beautiful and productive waters around the Florida Keys. He agrees with Sanderson that a 7’ medium-power, fast action spinning rod makes the most versatile setup for a wide variety of inshore presentations. Specifically, Rowland has a soft spot for the St. Croix Legend TournamentLTIS70MF, which matches high-modulus high-strain SCIV carbon and IPS® construction with premium Kigan Master Hand Zero Tangle Guides and a Fuji® TVS blank-touch reel seat to form a crisp, lightweight, and powerful package.
“This is the most versatile rod for the fishing I do,” says Rowland. “Redfish, snook, permit, tarpon, bonefish, barracuda, offshore yellowtail, snappers, mahi, and also freshwater bass and exotic species; it is a great tool for sight fishing all of them with great accuracy. The handle is perfect length for casting control and it fights fish well.”
Rowland pairs the LTIS70MF with a Daiwa Certate reel spooled with 20-pound Daiwa J Braid, which he connects to a fluorocarbon leader with a double uni knot.
“When sight fishing, I notice many people using a leader that is too long,” says Rowland. “If the knots are going in and out of the rod while casting, it creates a variable that can cause the presentation to be off the mark. I use a two-foot piece of fluorocarbon for most sight fishing applications and maintain good accuracy. I actually think the thin, olive-color braid is less visible to the fish than the 30-40-pound fluorocarbon, so a short leader does not bother me at all and catches plenty of fish. An accurate presentation out fishes a sloppy one every time.”
St. Croix’s mission is to serve anglers with an expansive selection of rods across a wide span of prices that give them the upper hand and elevate their experience in any fishing situation. Browse our distinct saltwater rod series to find the individual models that best suit your specific needs. Visit your nearest St. Croix Dealer or our Guide Center for additional help and information.