Jack of All Trades…Master of Most

Jack of All Trades…Master of Most
He ate the whole thing!

I flipped on the light switch as I headed upstairs on a mission to find a rod and reel setup I had stored away. Making my way toward the stack of rods I quickly recognized the spinning reel sticking out among the dozen or so adorned with baitcasters. Like always I grabbed a few and took a quick inventory of what exactly was in the stack, pausing to pick up each of them and perform the "whip and wiggle" to test the actions.

While doing this I spied the old brown tackle box that belonged to my grandfather, sitting there like an unopened treasure chest. I laid the rods aside and picked up the old box with the reverence and respect that is reserved for such wonderful items. My grandfather would have celebrated his hundredth birthday this year and that old tackle box was a fantastic reminder of great memories he helped create for me.

I sat down, opened the box, and just soaked up the sight and smell of the contents. For a couple of minutes I sat quietly while memories washed over me like waves and it was wonderful.

Examining the contents of the box I couldn't help but chuckle as I picked up one topwater plug after another. Rebel Pop-Rs, a Smithwick Carrot Top, SkipJacks, Hula Poppers and many other classics filled the trays. In all of the days my grandfather and I fished together he never threw any lure that went subsurface, he threw floaters exclusively and a few topwater flies. The collection of surface plugs in myriad shapes and sizes had one thing in common–they were all fished on the same rod.

Think about that for a minute. In my grandfather's day fishermen basically used only one rod and threw every lure they owned with it. Now fast forward to today and take a stroll down the rod aisle at your favorite tackle shop and prepare to have your mind blown by all the specialty rods with a zillion choices of lengths, actions, grips, intended applications, and so on.

The "one rod for one style" theory is much more prevalent in the freshwater bass world. As a matter of fact it's at times comical when you think how differently saltwater anglers see rod choices compared to their freshwater counterparts. You see it on the bass fishing shows all the time, freshwater anglers equipped with a pile of rods of varying actions, each intended for a specific lure and method of presenting it. Topwater, dropshot, Carolina rig, cranking, flipping, pitching–you name it–the modern bass arsenal is not complete without specific rods to match the range of fishing opportunities that may be encountered during any given outing.

Switch over to a typical saltwater angler's rod assortment and the scenario is startlingly bland. To say that a saltwater angler's rod needs to be multi-purpose is definitely an understatement. Most folks who primarily use artificial lures are just as likely to switch from a Super Spook to an eighth ounce jig on the same rod and will willingly tackle much larger fish than 99% of the freshwater community will ever encounter.

Saltwater wade fishermen are a perfect example when it comes to fishing all lures with one rod. In many cases, especially wading, it's not feasible to carry a double armful of rods designated for specific tasks. Fishing three or four anglers from the same boat is another instance where having a vast selection of rods available for each member doesn't make sense. Limited room on most boats necessitates the need for a functional rod that can handle many different applications.

Rather than having an assortment of rods in various lengths and actions at the ready, you will more likely see saltwater guys with two or three rods of similar length and action that they believe works best for them in a range of fishing situations. I have also begun noticing a growing number of saltwater anglers including a spinning rig among the few rods they carry.

Waders seem to have noticeably crossed over to spinning gear. The baitcaster is their primary tool and great for downwind presentations while the spinner is pulled from the holster when they turn back upwind to return to the boat or anytime a bait frenzy surfaces at a difficult angle for the baitcaster. The spinning outfit helps avoid backlashes and also helps slow a lure presentation due to lower gear ratios associated with spinning reels. I have to admit the combination of carrying both is quite nice and certainly comes in handy at times.

Now in no way, shape, form, or fashion will I ever tell the world that one particular rod is the greatest of them all because that's just asking for trouble. There are a bunch of great rod manufacturers out there and they all make quality products. Picking a rod is 100% personal preference and there is no wrong choice if you like the one you choose because, in the end, you are the guy who has to be happy with it.

I can't tell you how many times I've been approached at fishing shows and asked, "What's the best rod on the market?" My standard reply to this query is, "Whichever rod you feel makes you the best fisherman you can possibly be." No better phrase than "to each his own" describes the process of choosing your fishing rod.

As a guide who has a rod sponsor it's my duty to show folks what I fish with. It is not my duty and certainly poor form to downgrade or speak negatively about any brand or style of rod and I will never do this. If my clients are using Brand B and they like it then I am happy for them. I always offer them the opportunity to use mine just so they have a basis for comparison. I have had clients express both like and dislike my personal gear and that's to be expected because everyone is different. In the end though, they are more informed because they had a chance to actually fish another brand instead of just standing in the store shaking it as though it was magic wand. Real world experience is always best for making decisions.

Having gone through all this process I can tell you my favorite rod for everyday fishing is the 6'9" Scott Martin APC (All Purpose Casting) from Okuma. This particular rod handles all the different lure sizes and types I use on a daily basis very well. The APC is extremely light with great backbone and sensitivity. I routinely switch from topwater plugs to unweighted soft plastics when I'm chasing redfish and I really like how well this rod accommodates both.

I match this rod with an Okuma Helios TCS high-speed reel and I feel like I'm good to tackle just about anything in my part of the world from oversized redfish on down. There are literally endless options on the market for anglers to choose from and the decision for saltwater anglers in some ways is more critical due to using one rod for so many different tasks. I can tell you from experience that once you find that perfect rod you'll know it, and that rod will be the one all others going forward will be judged against. Even though anglers, including myself, have multiple rods at their disposal it seems like one of them continues to end up being used the majority of the time. It's the one rod you absolutely will not leave home without.

Hopefully this bit of advice will shed some light on how you think about choosing your next rod. Picking one that will enable you to not only do many things but, to do those many things well is the goal we all look for and sometimes actually attain.