Fishing over Fifty: Fishing rods and steel leaders

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette This section of the Gratiot River, in Keweenaw County, is ideal for brook trout. But because of the heavy growth along the steam banks, a shorter rod is ideal.

For those of us who want to fish just as a hobby, the appropriate rig for the appropriate fish is usually not so important. A light action rod with a small reel, spooled with four-pound test line, for panfishing or stream fishing, along with a medium heavy rod with a larger reel with 10-pound test line for larger fish like bass and perch may be a bit much for many. However, rods are something worth looking at a bit more closely.

Rods come in different lengths. Many experts say that rods under six feet, six inches are ideal for panfish while rods seven feet and longer are preferred for larger fish like pike, steelhead and salmon. My brother, who has always enjoyed stream fishing, uses a bright red rod he bought for his son years ago when he was small. Why? Because it’s only four feet long. Because of the thick scrub brush that grows along stream banks, combined with the tight twists and turns of streams (creeks) make casting a lure or baited hook any distance impossible. At the same time, the four-foot rod is stout enough to handle the brook (speckled) trout most people fish streams for.

On the other end of the spectrum, a seven-foot, medium to heavy-action rod equipped with a larger reel and 10-12 pound test line is well suited for lakes or rivers, such as the Sturgeon River. The Sturgeon River, where it flows through Chassell Township, is home to several species of fish, including large and smallmouth bass, walleye and Pike. It is a wide river with long, straight stretches that make long distance casts possible and advantageous.

Another advantage of a rod seven feet and longer is that they tend to have a more flexible tip than shorter rods, creating a whip-like action when casting that allows for longer casts. A more flexible tip is also more sensitive, allowing for the angler to feel more subtle movements of the lure or bait when bitten by a fish. This is, however, partially depends on what the rod is made of.

The most popular rods are either made of fiberglass, graphite, or a combination of both.

Fiberglass rods, as you might guess, are the least expensive. They are very flexible and heavier than graphite rods, but are not as sensitive. They are slower to react to sudden jerks used to “set the hook” when a fish bites, which gives the fish more time to take the bait. Because they are stronger, they are more capable of dealing with heavier fish. Graphite rods are more sensitive, but not as strong as fiberglass. Composite rods are supposed to be a happy medium between the two. Whichever you decide to go with, any of the above is fine for an afternoon of fishing.

While discussing bigger rigs, this is probably a good time to talk about using steel leaders.

A leader is an extra length of line tied onto the end of main line of spool that is primarily used when fishing for walleye, pike, muskies, or other fish with teeth. In the event the fish swallows the bait when striking, its teeth will not sever a steel leader like it might with a nylon line. Leaders also provide protection of the end of your fishing line from abrasion on rocks and other things. While not necessary for panfish (because they can’t bit through your line), they are still beneficial for protecting against abrasion.

Some anglers will argue against using leaders for situations like stream fishing. But, most streams have rocky bottoms that can chew up your fishing line. Some also argue that because leaders are visible to the fish, they will discourage a fish from striking the bait. However, fish are not the most brilliant of creatures, and I have successfully caught panfish, brook trout, and larger fish while using steel leaders.

Another advantage leaders provide is that they have snaps on the end that allow for fast hook or lure changes, without having to cut and re-tie the line every time you change a hook or lure. Most leaders also have a swivel, which allows for the lure to spin while its being retrieved without twisting your fishing line and causing problems between the reel spool and the line..


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