If you have ever shopped for the perfect musky rod, you may have noticed that the selection can be a bit overwhelming. There are a lot of different muskie rods for sale. It didn’t always use to be this way. In fact, years ago, the selection of best muskie rods was actually quite poor. Before you go into the top 3 muskie rods that every tiger muskie angler should have, let’s take a quick look at the past and present of muskie rods.
Muskie Rods: The Past
Quite a few of you TigerMuskie.net readers are old enough to recall the days when the norm was simply one all-purpose musky rod. The standard for best muskie rods was a stiff, short, 5 1/2- to 6-foot pool-cue type of rod, and we all pretty much had that one single muskie rod. Back in the day, this was the only musky rod carried in stores. Sport shops would almost certainly offer a wide variety of actions and lengths in fly casting or spinning tackle, the best muskie rods were just that one single rod.
This wasn’t due to a lack of a diverse selection of muskie lures. While the muskie lure department of yesteryear couldn’t match what is available today, there definitely was a complete array of musky lure weights and styles. In northern Wisconsin, lightweight, small bucktail spinners, usually weighing in at no more than 1 1/2 ounces, were for certain the most popular, but they also had a good selection of 4 to 6 ounce heavyweights. Large jerkbaits made of wood were, not surprisingly, even more popular back then than they are today.
So why was there a lack of selection with musky rods? Well, for starters, the musky rod industry simply wasn’t producing the selection of rods needed to cover the wide range of tiger muskie lure techniques and weights. Few manufacturers even offered a true complement of muskie rods to handle musky lure diversities, with the exception of St. Croix muskie rods and a small handful of others. Another reason for the lack of selection with muskie rods was that the retail industry itself was not as knowledgeable on musky fishing the way stores are today. As soon as you were about 30 minutes outside of an area containing tiger muskie waters, the sport and tackle shops simply did not see stocking the best muskie rods or other muskie tackle as a priority.
Thankfully, that has changed dramatically.
A third and decisive reason for the lack in selection of muskie rods in years past was due to the available materials used at the time in larger big game fishing rods. While today’s graphite fishing rods and their various components are light but powerful, rigid, and responsive, yesterday’s muskie rods and components were both slow and heavy with very little sensitivity. In order for a muskie rod to attain proper action stiffness to effectively cast a larger 4- to 6-ounce musky lure, for example, the fiberglass needed to be beefed up a fair amount. Doing so added weight. Fishing rod weight slows down the response and deadens the sensitivity while also promoting angler fatigue.
Best Musky Rods: The Present
A growing interest in musky fishing along with new technology has spawned an industry that today now features muskie rods with components, lengths, and actions that can rival a pro tournament bass anglers selection. Now you can buy a muskie rod to fit basically every lure weight, and even further refine your choice to fit your height. Additionally, today’s best musky rods are manufactured with the very best components. To go along with this 21st Century selection of muskie rods, muskie reels are better than ever, as well. Let’s not forget the fishing lines we fish for tiger muskies today are also so superior to the products available just 5-10 years ago that when combined, the reel, rod, and line are perhaps the three most technologically-advanced fishing items available.
The end result is a solid collection of musky rod and reel combos that enables today’s tiger musky fishing angler to fish and perform at a much higher level. Superior lure manipulation, less fatigue, fewer lost fish, far better casting ability, and a slew of other benefits are the result of the many new musky rod and reel combos. Along with there being more places to fish for muskies today, the tackle available now is also far superior. Including a great selection of muskie rods. With this in mind, let’s take a look look at three must-have muskie rods which any angler should have in their arsenal when tiger muskie fishing.
Top 3 Must Have Muskie Rods
7′ to 9′ Medium Heavy Muskie Rod
This is perhaps the least crucial of the three must-have muskie rods. It has to strike a balance between being stout enough to cast out the big lures and also set the hook well, while at the same time it should not be too stiff on the tip action in order to perform well during the battle. With this type of rod, a fisherman of shorter stature may want to go with a 7-footer, while a taller angler might want to select something larger towards the 9-foot range. For the average height angler, the Abu-Garcia Volatile Series Muskie Casting Rod is a great rod that won’t break the bank.
Although not the most critical, you should have this specific rod action to accommodate topwaters and larger swimbaits and crankbaits.
Considering most of these lures are in the 3 to 6-ounce range, this style tiger muskie rod cannot mirror the action of the 7’6″ that we will discuss next. Instead, it must have a little more backbone with less tip action in order to handle the sheer weight and size of these larger lures. At the same time, it needs to be less rigid and less stout than 6’9″ that we will discuss later.
This musky fishing rod should have a perfect amount of bend that enables you to fight a big muskie or pike with good control. It is important to keep consistent pressure and tight line on a big monster after the hook is set. The bigger 3 to 6-ounce muskie lures typically have larger treble hooks. That means they use a thicker gauge metal on the hooks with a larger barb surface area. Because of this, you need for more power in the hook set, while at the same time have consistent, solid pressure after the hooks are driven home. A musky rod that is at least seven feet in the medium heavy action range will surely offer this.
One of our personal favorites in this category is the Shimano Compre Muskie Rod 8’6″ Medium Heavy 1pc. The Shimano Compre is an exceptional all around musky rod that is fully capable of casting both 1 1/2-ounce bucktails and a 6-ounce swimbait. This is a solid crankbait stick. It’s great for working deep divers over the rocky humps and also along weedy edges. This muskie rod is a top choice for straight retrieve topwater lures.
When tiger muskie fishing with topwater lures, a musky rod that is a little bit slower on the hookset is usually preferred. If you have super quick reflexes, you may very well miss way too many pike and muskies using a 6’9″ heavy action rod, but that won’t happen nearly as often with a medium heavy, slower-tapered rod.
Swimbaits, an increasingly popular style of musky lure, are larger, soft plastic musky lures that often weigh as much as six or more ounces. It requires a big fishing rod to cast these lugs. Once they hit the water, a steady and slow retrieve with an occasional stop-go crank sort of action will frequently attract some tiger musky movement. So jerkbait-like, quick musky rod responses are usually not necessary. A long sweeping motion for the hookset with consistent pressure is essential to musky hookups.
6’9″ Medium Heavy Musky Rod
Jerkbaits are a large part of today’s musky tackle, and they have pretty much always been a productive tool. Years ago, the main jerkbait fishing rod of musky hunters was a 6-footer. 6-feet is short by today’s standards. While not as popular today, the shorter 6-foot musky rod did have it’s advantages. Using simple wrist action, it was easy to work with. Throwing larger baits was also quite easy. The lighter weight of the 6′ musky rods made them easier to fish for extended periods of time without too much fatigue.
But, the shorter muskie rods also had some noticeable drawbacks. Two of the main ones are a lack of hookset sweep at greater distances, and a lacking of overall bend in the rod while fighting the fish. These contributed to a high number of lost muskie after the initial strike. This is because it is rather difficult to keep the fishing line tight with a shorter stiff rod.
Yes, the 6′ muskie rods did work a jerkbait well, they simply couldn’t keep the fishing line tight. Therefore the musky would often get loose after the strike. While trying to keep the line taut and the rod bent while battling a fish, too much pressure was very often exerted on the muskie. This usually resulted in a bent-out hook or even a hole torn in the muskie’s mouth. Either of which would result in a lost fish.
One other key disadvantage to the shorter traditional 6′ tiger muskie rod happened at boatside during a figure-8 procedure. Muskie rods that are less than 6’6″ simply are too short for an effective figure-8.
It used to be that when length was added to a muskie rod over 6′, either the rod became too heavy, or the tip action softened too much. Thanks to newer technologies, rod manufacturers have been able to develop the right taper, while also maintaining the rigid stiffness that is critical to good action while using jerkbaits.
Today’s best muskie rods deliver by being longer while preforming similar to a short 6-footer while casting and jerking the bait, and also bending properly during battle. Additionally, they work far better on shorter line hits at boatside.
By far our favorite in this category is the 6’9″ St. Croix Legend Tournament Musky Casting Rod (LTMU69XHF). The LTMU69XHF is a super fast action musky rod that delivers on all fronts. This is our all-time favorite muskie rod for tight wrist action snaps using either minnow baits or traditional jerkbaits. This rod is also great with the longer sweep-like action that is needed with a lot of the newer glide baits. We have also successfully used this rod for topwater lures and crankbaits in heavy chop where a short, accurate cast is very important.
The 6’9″ St. Croix Legend Tournament Musky Casting Rod (LTMU69XHF) tiger muskie rod is arguably the most accurate casting rod we’ve ever used. If, for example, you need to thread the needle and land your lure into open pockets and holes in slop, or if you are trying to cast a jerkbait accurately to muskies hunkered down in tight brush or other wooded cover, this is without a doubt the muskie rod for you. It’s really amazing how accurate this heavy, stiff, fast action musky rod is versus longer models with more bend. Give this tiger muskie rod a shot and see for yourself. You will be truly amazed at just how accurate and easy to work this model is. We can’t imagine ever muskie fishing without it.
7’6″ Medium Heavy Muskie Rod
In spite of the vast variety of muskie lures on the market today, bucktails and similar spinnerbaits remain probably the number 1 musky producer overall. Check out any online musky lure merchant and you will see just how popular these lures remain. Spinnerbaits and bucktails catch everything from pike to bass to muskies, and more muskie fishermen are adding this bait to their tackle box every year.
Fishing on a slightly longer rod that offers some tip bend is best for these popular lures. In order to effectively cast these lighter lures, a fair amount of tip bend is essential. You might get away with a 7-footer in this case, but our experience has taught us that a muskie rod that is at least 7 1/2 feet is most ideal. The six extra inches really makes a big difference while casting with low to medium weight lures. Truth is, the 7 1/2-foot medium heavy musky rod makes casting bucktail spinner a real pleasure. Additionally, this length of rod has some other advantages which may not seem quite so obvious, but are nonetheless equally as important.
Our top recommended best musky rod in this category is the St. Croix Premier Series Musky Rod (7’6″, Medium-Heavy Fast).
When selecting a fishing rod for any style of fishing, you should think of it from these two perspectives. First, consider how the fishing rod will both cast and work a particular lure. Secondly, how will that particular rod set a hook and then fight the kind of fish that you are after. Setting the hook and fighting the fish are key aspects to success with musky fishing, yet few anglers consider these in their rod selection.
If the muskie rods that you are using don’t set the hook well, a bigger tiger musky will likely spit out the hook in no time. This becomes more of a concern with the longer rod types that we mentioned earlier in the 7 1/2- to 8-foot range. In the past, a lot of the longer muskie rods were simply too slow and soft. They didn’t deliver enough power when needed during the hookset.
Due to the superior rod building techniques used today, fishing rod manufacturers have solved this problem. Today’s best muskie rods are perfectly suited for this specific lure application and we find ourselves using this rod more than any of the others. This type of muskie rod has been designed uniquely so that it will maintain the proper rigidity and stiffness in proper areas of the rod. The part near the tip of the rod is where the bending needs to happen for both casting and fighting big fish. This is all done without adding any significant additional weight near the middle and tip of the musky rod which would result in casting fatigue and slows down hookset speed.
Another great advantage of the 7-foot-6 medium heavy muskie rods is boat-side while doing the figure-8. Longer muskie rods are greatly superior versus shorter versions while making a large figure-8 to hook a following fish. Executing a figure-8 and setting the hook is much easier with a 7’6″ rod.
As mentioned, we find ourselves using this rod far more than the others. And we like the St. Croix rod so much that we actually keep several of these on board at all times. Usually, we have one rigged up with an in-line spinner and another with some type of spinnerbait. Often a third rod is rigged with a 5″-7″ crankbait. This rod is a winner and solid choice in every respect.
Check out this quick video explaining the different muskie rods available and how to select the proper one.