Rods | 2016 Editors’ Choice Awards

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Cousins Tributary Series GTS 711MH-1TGwww.cousinstackle.comCousins_Tributary_Series_GTS_711MH-1TG.jpgAlthough founders Wade Cunningham and Bill Buchanan have been building quality rods for years, it is only very recently that they’ve made a push into the Pacific Northwest and Alaska markets. The Cousins GTS 711MH-1TG is one of the fantastic new designs from the very fishy mind of Josh Cooper (formerly of Lamiglas). Josh has hit it out of the park with the Tributary and Columbia series of rods. This rod is rated for 10- to 20-pound-test line, and one- to five ounces of weight. We feel the weight recommendations are correct; however, we used 50-pound-test braid with this rod when fishing for kings this year, hover fishing and back-bouncing. Of the four comparable rods we tried, the Cousins rod was the best in our opinion. Components are first-rate. The well-designed graphite handle and low-profile reel seat make this rod comfortable for the hands-on techniques of back-bouncing and hover fishing for long periods of time. We landed a couple dozen kings on this rod this summer. Our tester commented, “You can fish with mine when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

Echo Glass Switch Rod FG-7110www.rajeffsports.comSoulful. Groovy. This deep-flexing fiberglass rod is surprisingly light and responsive, considering glass is slower in action than every graphite rod in its class, but it’s a very capable, durable tool, especially in a Skagit-casting role. We paired it with an OPST Commando head weighing 325 grains. The short Commando Head is a great match for this rod’s length, and we cast tips up to 10feet of T-14 with 3.5-inch sculpin patterns with ease and pleasure. The rod loads fully and delivers the significant payload with surprising authority. An experienced caster might give up a little distance with this rod compared to a faster-action graphite stick, but we were able to comfortably reach 70 feet or so with the above line/tip/fly combinations. The Echo Glass series of two-handed rods is economically priced, and both beginning and experienced casters will enjoy fishing this rod.

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St Croix Legend Trek Casting Rod LTC76HF3www.stcroixrods.comSt_Croix_Legend_Trek_Casting_Rods_LTC76HF3.jpgWe love this 3-piece casting rod, designed for the angler who travels to find big fish. It’s 7 feet, 6 inches long, with fast-action and heavy power, rated for line from 15- to 30-pound-test and lures from 3/4- to 2 ounces. Think Chinook on the Nushagak, big baits for huge pike on the Yukon or trolling the edges of deep troughs for bruiser lake trout in Lake Louise. We sure enjoyed it while Chinook fishing this year and plan on taking it along on more adventures next year. We bet it will work well when paired with the Okuma Metaloid 5S for rockfish, lingcod and average-sized halibut when we venture to Pybus Point Lodge in 2016.

Scott S4s 908/4 Fly Rodwww.scottflyrod.comIt’s nothing new to take high-end fly rods built for saltwater applications and put them to work in Alaska; our salmon and trophy trout fisheries require many of the same characteristics in a rod, and these sticks from Scott do it better than most. From the titanium and type 3 anodized corrosion-free components to blanks that have proven themselves as exceptional fish-fighting tools, S4s rods gave us a decisive edge in 2015.

North Fork Composites F 905-4F (IM) fly rod blankwww.northforkcomposites.comNorth_Fork_Composites_F_905-4F_IM_fly_rod_blank.jpgNorth Fork Composites rod blanks are what Gary Loomis designed after selling G. Loomis to Shimano. They are made in Woodland, WA, and the quality of this blank is what is expected from Gary’s designs—flawless, precise fishing tools for the angler who demands the best. Our contributing editor George Krumm built this rod to fish Southcentral’s stillwater lakes. Of the half-dozen 5-weight fly rods he owns, this is the one he reaches for. It is light and fairly fast but will cast a short line or a long line accurately and when necessary, with authority.

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Edge Steelhead Rod StR 962x-2 (IM) – Black Widow Spinwww.edgerods.comEverything about this rod screams made-in-the-USA high-performance. At 9 feet, 6 inches in length and rated for 6- to 10-pound-test line, this is a great light-action bobber and jig, side-drifting or light drift-fishing rod. Although labeled as a steelhead rod on the Edge website, this rod performs admirably for pinks and silvers in freshwater as well. Incredibly light in hand, with high-quality components and the patented Black Widow spinning rod handle/reel seat combination, this rod is for the steelhead fisherman who demands the absolute best.

Daiwa Acculite 862MLFSwww.daiwa.comDaiwa_Acculite_862MLFS.jpgThis 8-foot, 6-inch spinning rod rated for 6- to 15-pound-test is an all-around good choice for salmon and steelhead fishing in Alaska. It’s long enough to drift a bobber and bait or a jig, and has a fast-enough action to throw spinners, back-bounce bait or drift-fish with a corkie and yarn. Seven aluminum oxide guides are placed on the rod and their tough coating resists cuts, making it well-suited for using superline. We liked how light and responsive the rod was while fishing to coho and steelhead.

Berkley Buzz Ramsey Air Series Spinning and Casting Rodswww.berkley-fishing.comThese rods offer good price points and solid value for anglers new to salmon and steelhead fishing or as backup or loaner rods for the avid angler. We tested the A94-9-6M (9-foot 6-inch, medium-power, 2-piece, rated 8- to 12-pound-test) spinning rod designed as a side-drift or bobber rod as well as the A92-9-6M (9-foot 6-inch, medium-power, 2-piece, rated 8- to 14-pound-test) casting rod designed as a drift or float rod. Both are well-suited as multi-technique steelhead, big rainbow and coho or sockeye rods. They are reasonably light and responsive, cast well and are comfortable to fish with.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>