Every year, I have the same discussion with my buddies. Our ongoing debate revolves around the best rods for salmon fishing and how the equipment can make all the difference when angling for pink, coho, or king salmon.
With the 2023 salmon season in full swing, I set out to shortlist the best rods novice and skilled anglers can use to catch salmon. During my little project, I considered a variety of casting, trolling, and spinning rods suitable for salmon fishing.
Still, there are no universal solutions for selecting the best rod for salmon fishing, and you must consider a variety of factors to pick the model that fits your demands.
Let’s look at the outcome of my research and see which of the best rods for salmon fishing you should use in 2023.
Bottom Line Up Front
You don’t have to get the best rod for salmon fishing that money can buy if you have never tried angling for salmon before because a model like the Okuma Connoisseur gives you more than enough power to reel in a pink or silver salmon.
I recommend the Lemiglas X-11 if you’re searching for a versatile rod that will serve you well even when salmon puts up a fight.
My Top Picks At a Glance
|Model||Rod Length||Rod Weight||Price Range|
|Lemiglas X-11||From 7’9’’ to 9’6’’||Medium Heavy||$$|
|G. Loomis IMX||9′ or 9’9″||Heavy||$$$$|
|St. Croix Triumph||8’6’’||Medium Heavy||$$$|
|Fenwick HMX||From 9 to 12’6″||Ultra Light, Medium Light, or Medium Heavy||$$|
|Okuma Connoisseur||8’6’’||Medium Heavy||$|
The Key Aspects of Choosing the Best Rod for Salmon Fishing
Becoming familiar with the characteristics of different types of salmon is an essential part of becoming an expert salmon angler.
The equipment you’ll need to catch an Atlantic salmon, chinook salmon, or pink salmon isn’t the same because each species varies in weight and size.
All salmon species are anadromous, meaning they hatch in freshwater, migrate to saltwater as adults, and return to rivers and lakes to reproduce. Consequently, the rod and all the other gear you’ll need for salmon angling will depend on the fishing location.
The angling method will also affect your rod selection process because you’ll need different gear to fly fish for salmon and salmon trolling.
Hence, whether you should opt for a trolling, casting, or spinning rod will depend on which salmon species you’d like to catch. Besides the location and type of salmon you’re angling for, you must also pay attention to the rod’s specifications, like reel compatibility or rod action.
Here are some of the vital characteristics a rod for salmon fishing should have:
- Rod action: The term refers to the amount of time the rod needs to snap back into position after it bends under pressure. Rod’s action ranges from extra-fast to slow. Most salmon anglers utilize fast or medium action models, but a slow action model can be a good option if you need a high degree of control over a light line.
- Rod material: Graphite rods are commonly used for salmon angling because of their sensitivity. Still, fiberglass or carbon-fiber rods can also be a reliable option.
- Rod weight: The amount of power a rod can deliver depends on its weight. Medium-heavy or heavy rods are the most versatile because they allow you to reel in salmon of all sizes.
- Reel and line compatibility: The rod you choose should support reels like Shimano Vanford or Abu Garcia Revo that can hold between 200 and 250 yards of line and provide 11lb or more of drag.
The Importance of Rod Length
Figuring out the right rod length is, in my experience, the trickiest part of picking a rod for salmon fishing.
Generally, the rod should be longer than seven feet, but whether you should opt for a 15-foot or an 8-foot model depends on the technique you plan to use to catch salmon.
The rod you pick doesn’t have to be longer than 9’6″ if you want to cast lures, while the ideal rod length for seawater trolling is around 10 feet.
Long rods allow you to cast over larger distances and avoid vegetation, rocks, and similar obstacles. However, the fishing location also plays a role in rod selection, so you shouldn’t use the same rod size when fishing in the ocean and mountain streams.
Remember that angling with long rods takes some getting used to, and using a relatively short pole will make it easier to control and reel in a salmon.
I tested countless rods for salmon fishing since I started angling, but having years of experience didn’t make the selection process easier. My goal was to choose the best rods for salmon fishing suitable for different salmon species and anglers with a wide range of needs.
I used different parameters to shortlist the models featured in this article, including the average length or power of a rod for salmon angling. Let’s go through the critical criteria I utilized to pick the best rods for salmon fishing.
- Model’s reputation: During the selection process, I focused on shortlisting durable rods you can use beyond the 2023 fishing season.
- Rod’s versatility: Rather than prioritizing rods suitable for specific salmon species, I selected models you can use to catch pink, coho, chum, and other salmon species.
- Affordability: The final selection includes models that cover the full price range from the least to the most expensive rods for salmon angling.
Top 5 Rods for Salmon Fishing in 2023
Lemiglas X-11 – The Most Versatile Rod for Salmon Fishing
The Lamiglas® X-11 Salmon and Steelhead Spinning Rod come in specific lengths and actions for salmon and steelhead fishing. The Lamiglas X-11 offers incredible sensitivity and control as well as a comfortable price.
The glossy, burgundy-colored graphite blanks are more than great-looking—they're incredibly strong, with custom actions that let you tease, hook, and fight monster salmonids with ease.
Although I don’t think it is ideal for anglers fishing for king salmon, the Lemiglas X-11 is still one of the most versatile rods for salmon fishing I have held in my hands.
Its action is optimized for salmon, and you can choose from fast and moderate-fast rod variants. Depending on how much power you need, you can get a light or medium-heavy Lemiglass X-11 rod, and you can also choose between 7’9″, 8’6″, and 9’6″ long versions of the rod.
Aside from its graphite body, the rod features cork handles that ensure you can maintain a firm grip on the rod while battling salmon. Its maximum line weight capacity is 20 lbs, while the maximum lure weight ranges from 1/8oz to 1oz.
- All components are made from high-quality materials.
- Exceptional sensitivity
- Lemiglass X-11 isn’t expensive.
- It’s suitable for steelheads and different fish species.
- It doesn’t perform well in saltwater conditions.
- The rod might break under heavy pressure.
G. Loomis IMX – The Best Rod for Salmon Trolling
The G. Loomis® IMX® Salmon Trolling Casting Rod has a butt-section powerful enough to control large salmon, but a soft enough upper half to allow the fish to mouth the bait until they are ready to eat it. IMX rods have the perfect blend of line/lure control, power, and sensitivity.
The Salmon Trolling Casting Rod is balanced and lightweight to put you in total control—all day long with minimum fatigue. A long, premium-grade cork handle with composite rubber/cork accents enhances control for working baits, and leverage for fighting fish in currents.
Spending an additional couple hundred dollars on a durable rod, like G. Loomis IMX, than you would spend on an entry-level rod for salmon fishing, pays off if you’re planning to angle for large salmon weighing over 20 lbs.
This model is designed for trolling, and you can use it with lures weighing up to 6oz at varying depths from a boat moving at 2 to 3 knots.
This moderate-action rod delivers plenty of power, but you can only choose between two length options. Learning to use a trolling rod takes practice, so G. Loomis IMX is only a good option if you’re already familiar with this technique.
Nonetheless, the rod is one of your best options if you want to fish for salmon in the ocean or a large river because it allows you to control the lure while its butt section ensures you can reel in the fish even if it puts up a fight.
- The rod supports heavy lines.
- A beautiful design with a cork handle
- It helps anglers fight fish in a current
- It allows anglers to use light and heavy lures.
- It lacks versatility.
- It’s more expensive than most rods for salmon fishing.
St. Croix Triumph – The Best Casting Rod for Salmon Fishing
Durably sensitive with impressive power, the St. Croix® Triumph Salmon and Steelhead Casting Rod is built for savvy anglers seeking the best in performance and value.
For strength and flex, this St. Croix salmon rod is made of premium quality SCII carbon with 2 coats of Flex-Coat slow cure finish.
Sea Guide Atlas Performance slim aluminum-oxide guides with black frames reduce line friction for better casting performance.
Besides salmon, you can also catch steelheads and other saltwater and freshwater fish with St. Croix Triumph.
The rod is 8 feet and 6 inches long, but the manufacturer also offers longer versions of this model, and you can choose between light, medium, or heavy power variants.
Most variants of St. Croix Triumph are classified as fast action rods, which means you can cast lures accurately, hookset, and reel in a pink or silver salmon effortlessly. The rod’s lure weight limit is either 1oz or 2oz, which enables you to use a variety of baits.
This Carbon SCII rod has two coats of Flex-Coat slow cure finish and is highly durable and resistant to scratches. In addition, Sea Guide ECS and TCS reel seats with a sandblasted hood deliver a high degree of comfort and reduce fatigue.
St. Croix Triumph has Sea Guide Atlas Performance slim aluminum-oxide guides capable of withstanding saltwater exposure and daily wear and tear.
- The manufacturer offers a 5-year warranty.
- Impressive sensitivity and power
- It performs well in saltwater and freshwater conditions.
- Novice anglers might struggle to handle St. Croix Triumph.
Fenwick HMX – The Best Spinning Rod for Salmon Fishing
The Fenwick® HMX® Salmon/Steelhead Spinning Rod utilizes blanks of a proprietary blend of carbon fiber, with true fast tapers. Stainless steel Sea Guide SS316 sloped guides with Zirconium inserts keep line friction and overall weight to a minimum. Fuji reel seats clamp down solidly on reels.
The handle on the Fenwick HMX Salmon/Steelhead Spinning Rod features strategically placed TAC™ on cork for maximum comfort and control in all weather. These rods offer incredible power, balance, and sensitivity.
Like its competitors, the Fenwick HMX provides a perfect balance between power and sensitivity.
This spinning rod is available in different lengths, so you can opt for a 12’6″ long model if casting distance is important to you, or opt for a 9′ model if you want to emphasize casting accuracy.
However, you won’t be able to use lures heavier than 1oz, regardless of the rod length you pick. Fenwick HMX’s weight ranges from ultra-light to medium, and its action is either moderately fast or moderate.
The rod’s carbon-fiber body is flexible, and it can withstand high amounts of pressure. Its stainless steel Sea Guides feature zirconium inserts that reduce line friction.
Fenwick’s spinning rod for salmon fishing has Fuji reel seats that keep the reels securely connected to the rod.
- The cork handle prevents slipping.
- Assembling the rod is easy.
- It prevents lines from breaking by reducing friction.
- Fenwick HMX can last for years.
- Rod’s maximum line weight is 15 lbs.
- The manufacturer doesn’t offer the heavy version of this rod.
Okuma Connoisseur – The Best Budget Rod for Salmon Fishing
The Okuma Connoisseur Steelhead Spinning Rod incorporates all the nuances that go into making a great stick for the chromer specialist.
Its tough, responsive 2-piece 24-ton carbon blank provides a great in-hand feel, and with UFR-II (Ultimate Flex Reinforcement) rod tip technology, it casts even small baits extremely well yet will easily absorb the strain of a streaking fish in current.
I like the Okuma Connoisseur because it’s one of the best models in its price range. I recommend this rod if you’re new to salmon fishing and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a high-end model you’ll rarely use.
Okuma Connoisseur has 24-ton carbon blanks, and its tip is equipped with Ultimate Flex Reinforcement technology that provides additional strength when fighting large salmon.
The model is medium-heavy, and its action is moderate-fast, which is why it is best suited for smaller salmon species. However, the rod’s line capacity ranges from 15 to 25 lbs, so you should be able to handle coho, pinks, or chums without too much trouble.
The tip-over-butt ferrule connection provides excellent balance and makes casting much easier.
- The rod is inexpensive and comes with a 1-year warranty.
- Good casting accuracy
- It supports light and heavy lures.
- It’s suitable for most salmon species.
- It doesn’t have a Fuji reel seat.
- Power and action options are limited.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Often Do I Have to Replace Rods for Salmon Fishing?
Graphite and carbon rods for salmon fishing can last for decades regardless of how often you use them, so you won’t have to replace your rod unless it breaks under too much pressure.
Which Reel Size Should I Use With a Rod for Salmon Fishing?
The ideal reel size for your rod will depend on the rod’s type and length. For instance, a 3000 spinning reel could be the right fit for a 9-foot rod. You should use a 4000 reel size for spinning rods longer than 10 feet.
What is the Best Line for Salmon Fishing Rods?
Various factors can affect which line you should use with your rod for salmon fishing, since you can use a 15 lbs line when angling for pink salmon or a 25 lbs line for larger salmon species.
My Verdict: How to Know Which Rod for Salmon Fishing is Best For You?
Fishing for salmon is a dynamic and entertaining experience, but you’ll need a powerful and flexible rod to make the most of it.
The best rods for salmon angling are longer than regular casting or spinning rods, but the rod’s optimal length will depend on the fishing location, method, and other factors.
I suggest getting an Okuma Connoisseur if you’re new to salmon angling and looking for a reliable and affordable rod.
I love using the Lemiglas X-11, Fenwick HMX, and St. Croix Triumph equally, but which of these models is best for you depends on how much power and flexibility you want your rod to have and where you plan to use it.