If you’ve read this far then you’ll know that there are hundreds of different kinds of fishing rods – long, short, stiff, whippy, powerful, sensitive – they vary in every way possible. There are fly rods, sea fishing rods, ice fishing rods, rods for competitions, rods for travelling – you name it, if you can think of a way to fish, someone has designed a rod for it. The world of fishing rods is vast and, for someone who’s new to fishing, it can be a bit of a minefield. In fact, even for the most experienced anglers, there are simply far too many alternatives out there to be able to make a truly informed, ‘right’ decision. To try to help out, we’ve created this page of some of the leading fishing rod brands and manufacturers, with a short summary about each to give you our impression of what each one offers. It’s not an official review: although we have tried many rods from these companies, we haven’t tried them all and there are many we’ve never even seen, let alone used. This section is based on a combination of personal experience, reputation, hearsay, what we’ve learned over our years of writing and blogging about fishing, and what we think we know, even though we’re not sure how! Take it in the spirit it’s intended – a basic introduction to some of the world’s largest and most widely marketed rod brands. If it helps a few of you to find the rod of your dreams, our mission is complete.
The idea behind this section is this. It is, quite frankly, impossible to compare similar rods from one brand to the next. In many cases there are dozens of similar rods produced by one company alone – with very little to separate them. We believe that one sensible approach, when choosing a rod, is to start by identifying a brand you like. This could be a combination of design, price, look and feel, or simply something you’ve heard from friends. But the fact is that, if you can choose a brand you like first, choosing a suitable rod will be a whole lot easier. Happy hunting.
- 1 Fishing rod brands
- 2 Penn
- 3 Pen
- 4 Berkley
- 5 Fenwick
- 6 Greys
- 7 Silstar
- 8 Mitchell
- 9 Kunnan fishing rods
- 10 Carrot Stix fishing rods
- 11 Hurricane tackle – Redbone fishing rods
- 12 Powell fishing rods
- 13 ANDE fishing rods
- 14 Sage
- 15 Shimano rods
- 16 Daiwa rods
- 17 Redington fly rods
- 18 St Croix
- 19 Leland fly fishing rods
- 20 Echo fly rods
- 21 Hardy fly rods
- 22 Ugly Stik rods
- 23 Loop fly rods
- 24 G Loomis fly rods
- 25 Tica rods
- 26 Blue Marlin fishing rods
- 27 Shakespeare fly rods
Fishing rod brands
What may surprise you when you look down the following list of fishing rod brands, is that many of what you thought were completely independent rod makers are actually owned by the same company. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything significant, but it may interest you to hear that Penn, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Fenwick, Greys, Hardy, Mitchell, Shakespeare and Ugly Stik are all owned by the monster sporting goods company, Jarden Corporation. I have no doubt that there are some economic advantages to one company controlling these discrete fishing brands and I have heard it said on many occasions that many of the world’s fishing rods are made in the same few factories in South East Be that as it may – each began life as an independent brand and each offers its customers something unique. Read on…
Penn is a highly respected and long established fishing brand – known more for its reels than its rods – having been founded in the USA in 1932 by German expatriate Otto Henze. To complement their highly regarded sea fishing reels, they make four different families of rods – boat, jigging, inshore and surf rods, each of which, they claim. is “selected for a specific action and application”. Like most mainstream brands, the rods are factory made, but as you would expect from a quality reel manufacturer, they are well finished, nicely packaged, come in a wide range of different price points, and come with a one-year warranty against defects. A good brand to go for if you’re into sea fishing. Shop for a Penn Fishing Rod now >>
Sounding similar to, but very different from Penn, Penfishingrods.com is an online business selling what they market as “the world’s smallest fishing rods”. They’re the smallest telescopic rod we’ve ever seen, folding down to a miniature eight inches long. There are plenty of other similar rods out there, but these guys claim to be the original and best. They carry several different models of rod, although they’re all tiny. If you’re in the market for one of these tiny rods, please be aware that you can easily break them on a fish and, in their own words: “there is no warranty if you break a pen fishing rod”. They do have a very lengthy page explaining how to use the rod and what to do if you break it, so they come across as genuine enough:
“If there’s a problem with your products we’ll solve the problem amicably for LIFE!!! If you break something, we’ll work it out so you can get a brand new rod or reel at a discount. Now THAT’S peace of mind!!!”
They also offer worldwide shipping for a fixed fee of $20.00 USD per order. So for a rod and reel combo, delivered anywhere in the world for a total of less than $50.00 USD, perhaps the lack of warranty isn’t such a big issue.
Clearly at this tiny size Pen fishing rods are very lightweight, which makes them suitable for travelling, backpacking and camping, so as long as you’re prepared to play your fish very gently, it could make a convenient ultra-light option.
Berkley makes a small range of budget one and two-piece casting and spinning rods. Manufactured from carbon fiber or graphite, they’re a decent option for someone not looking to spend a fortune, with prices ranging somewhere between $15.00 USD and a little more than $100.00. Despite them being considerably cheaper than many other brands, the reviews we’ve read suggest that they’re pretty well made and durable. There have been reports of some rod tips breaking, but nothing that seems higher than average. In the words of one happy customer:
“With the price and the features that come with this rod, its hard to beat. I am going on 7 months of heavy use with this rod and have not had any issues so far. Cork is somewhat stained, but still holding up very well. After repeated uses with braid and fluorocarbon, all the guides are still intact, show no signs of wear and no grooves at all. Berkley’s claim that its a rod for super lines and can handle them, seems to be very true so far.”
Like Ugly Stik, Shakespeare and a few others, Berkley is a member of the Pure Fishing family of brands, which suggests they have a pretty solid supply chain. Between the Drowning Worms team, we have owned at least one Berkley rod between us and found them to be solid, dependable and good value. Shop for a Berkley fishing rod now >>
US firm, Fenwick, has been making rods since 1952 when a group of Seattle businessmen set up shop near Lake Fenwick in Washington. Its first fifteen years were spent catering to the needs of fly, spin and saltwater anglers, before the company moved to Westminster in 1967. This move would prove something of a breakthrough. Around the same time the company became one of the first to spot the significance of the emerging sport of competitive bass fishing. It developed some of the first tournament bass rods on the market and, in doing so, gained a reputation and loyal following among a growing army of bass anglers all over the USA.
1973 saw another milestone: Fenwick became the first rod manufacturer to introduce an all-graphite fishing rod – a landmark that would go on to revolutionise fishing rod manufacture entirely.
Today, Fenwick continues to cater to specialist rather than generalist anglers – creating a wide range of spinning and casting rods, ice fishing rods and fly rods. The company defines its brand with the phrase: “the most thought-out fishing rods in the world.” Shop for a Fenwick rod now >>
Greys claims to be “the gear of choice for … many top flight anglers”, whose loyalty they attribute to great design, materials, build quality, value and lifetime guarantees. Their backing is as good an endorsement as you can get in game fishing. They have independent divisions making fishing rods for carp, coarse, sea (including surf, boat and rock fishing), as well as fly fishermen and predator anglers. They retain design and a degree of in-house manufacture, rapid prototyping and composite expertise at their headquarters in Alnwick, England, although, like many other rod brands, most of the manufacturing is outsourced to partners around the globe. They leo employ a range of experts, who are tasked with testing each product to the limit before before they introduce it to consumers. Although perhaps not considered a premium brand among fishing rods, Greys are well designed, have a good reputation and, while not particularly expensive, are definitely not cheap either: a good option for a serious angler not wanting to break the bank. Shop for a Greys rod now >>
Silstar have been manufacturing fishing tackle since 1984 – serving a worldwide audience from their base in Australia. Unlike other brands, like for example Penn, Silstar are first and foremost a rod manufacturer and over the years their products have met with international acclaim. Their range of ‘Silstar Power Tip’ rods were a big hit with Australian anglers in the late 1980’s and continue to do well in today’s graphite composite market. They claim to offer customer support that’s second to none and also offer what they call a “respectable warranty”.
Although perhaps better known as a reel maker, Mitchell also produces a range of rods, including spinning, match, feeder, surfcasting, jigging and boat rods. It’s not a premium brand but Mitchell is part of a wider family of fishing brands, which also includes Abu Garcia, Shakespeare, Penn and Fenwick, showing there’s a wealth of tackle making knowledge behind them. We would recommend Mitchell as a good starter brand, offering reasonable build quality, sturdy composite blanks, strong, braid-proof rings/guides and, overall, excellent value for money. Shop for a Mitchell rod now >>
Kunnan fishing rods
Kunnan was probably best known as a manufacturer of golf club shafts but they were also one of the first companies to introduce cheap carbon fibre fishing rod blanks. For reasons unknown to the DW team, the company whose base was in San Diego, California, went out of business. Some say this was the result of a factory fire, although it’s unclear whether the factory was based in the USA or overseas (some reports claim the fire occurred in Korea; another says it happened in Taiwan). Kunnan started making rods in the late seventies. One report we found suggested it was started by a group of disgruntled ex-Fenwick employees, although we haven’t been able to verify it. What does appear to be true, however, is that, with the introduction of cheap carbon fibre rods, Kunnan may have been responsible for something of a fishing rod price revolution. Some claim that Kunnan rods were more than three times cheaper than similar rods on the market, which gave other brands little option but to follow suit. The rods were allegedly ‘made in the USA’, which may have been the case in the early days, but it is now widely recognized that the company used factories across Asia for much of the manufacturing. Whatever you believe, it’s clear that the brand has a loyal following, who believe that Kunnan products were superior with better blanks, stronger components and a better build quality. They made a range of casting, boat and shore fishing rods, most of which featured an unusually slow action, which divided (and at times still divides) opinion. Kunnan rods can still be purchased today from Amazon, Wallmart and in eBay’s second hand market. Shop for a Kunnan rod now >>
Carrot Stix rods have something of a chequered history. Having earned an initial reputation as being extremely robust, winning three separate best in show titles at their first ICAST appearance in 2007, they began to suffer complaints. The company that owned them, Toronto-based E21, received some very negative reports for lack of build quality. Customer-after-customer began uploading photographs onto various online fishing forums, showing damaged or broken rods. The problems seemed to be compounded by poor customer service and lack of warranty and so, having previously promised world domination, E21 began to falter.
In stepped Pomona, CA-based Cartonix – a Fortune 500 company with a global supply chain and distribution network. They began work to repair the damage and issues left by the previous owner. To the new owner’s credit feedback improved dramatically. Here’s just one example of many:
“I guess this new company are doing things right now. I broke my old wild orange while casting 2 weeks ago. The next day I put my warranty claim in and already they are shipping me an upgraded rod. I had no problems what so ever with their customer service.” (Deerod)
Believe it or not, the name Carrot Stix came from the fact that the rods are made from, among other things, real carrots. Natural fibres from carrots are woven into what the company calls its “bonding matrix”, making the graphite rod blanks tighter and more responsive, and improving compression strength by as much as 75% without adding weight. The company claims that more than half-a-million anglers worldwide use Carrot Stix rods – including both amateurs and professionals – all of which benefit from the rods’ unique design and manufacture. With load and stress being evenly distributed throughout the blank, they claim the result is an extremely powerful yet lightweight rod, which is much less prone to failure. You can see it demonstrated in this video recorded at the 2013 ICAST. Shop for a Carrot Stix Rod now >>
Hurricane Tackle is the company behind the Redbone series of casting, spinning and offshore rods, designed, it is said, by charter captains. Featuring graphite blanks with Fuji reel seats and rings, there’s no doubting the quality of the materials or components, although we have seen a number of reviews claiming the heavier test rods are prone to breaking. The rods range from 6 to 7.5 feet and from 4lbs to 40lbs test and were named after a renowned series of fishing tournaments (www.redbone.org), which takes place each year in the USA to raise money for cystic fibrosis research.
In case the bit above about rods breaking puts you off, Hurricane offers what they call a “limited Lifetime warranty”, which says:
“Hurricane Redbone products are covered by a limited warranty against defects in workmanship and materials for the lifetime of the original owner. Should damage occur due to defect in workmanship or materials, Hurricane will at the company’s discretion, replace the product. Sales receipt, proof of purchase and registration is required. Damages occurring due to neglect, accident, or normal wear and tear are not covered by this warranty.”
All Redbone rods need to be registered to activate this warranty. To register your rod you have to visit www.hurricanetackle.com and click on the ‘warranty registration’ icon. And if that’s still not enough, here are two more positive reviews we found:
“These are phenomenal rods and I would rate them just as good as any St Croix, Loomis, or Star rod.”
“I am a second generation fishing guide. I use them for my personal and customer rods. They fish close to 200 days a year and have caught over 40# red fish and 50# black drum. I use their MH spinning rods. I also have two 8wt fly rods. I have owned most of the big named rods and don’t like them near as much as my Red Bones. I HIGHLY recommend these rods.”
Although more than 100 years old, Powell has narrowed its focus to becoming one of the main competition fishing brands in the US – making bass tournament fishing its home. This is definitely a premium brand, claiming to offer superior quality, using the most advanced materials and striving for superior performance, durability and lightweight at every turn. Powell is all about producing an excellent product. It also produces a range of 4-piece fly rods, running from 4- to 9-weight.
What sets Powell apart? Well, if you believe the hype, the first differentiator is a new material that they’ve introduced, which they call “Maxumfiber”. This material is so strong that it enables the company to use less of it, which “decreases rod weight, increases sensitivity, durability, and allows for a smoother transition in overall rod performance and feel in your hand”. I won’t go on. Suffice to say that, in their own words, you will “marvel” at their features, some of which they claim are truly “space aged”. Seeing past the hyperbole, however, it’s clear that Powell didn’t last 100 years without doing something right. With rods at the mid-to-high end of the scale, their commitment to ongoing research and development is clearly paying off.
ANDE fishing rods
With a range of ‘stand-up’, conventional, spinning, surf and jigging rods, ANDE claims to be a premium brand, using full-length ‘blank-through-handle’ construction, with high modulus, unidirectional graphite used throughout the range. Unlike some of the brands in this list, ANDE only use full length EVA foam grips, which can be easier to clean and more durable than traditional cork handles. ANDE rods are designed to be light, sensitive and powerful, and feature an unusual, added layer of carbon fiber, which sits alongside the graphite blank for improved strength and casting performance.
The design of the range has been well thought through – the stand-up rods are designed specifically for anglers who will be fighting fish (presumably from a boat) while standing, while each model can be fished from rod holders thanks to the full length blank-through-butt design and tough gimbal butt with its removable cushioned protective cap. Reel seats are corrosion proof thanks to a combination of graphite and stainless steel, while the guides are manufactured from aluminum oxide and either shock mounted or attached with strong, braced frames. These rods appear purposeful and robust – just what you need what tackling the rigours of saltwater fishing. Shop for an ANDE rod now >>
Sage fly rods have a reputation for being top-of-the-line, and their price reflects just that. Their entry-level rod starts at US$295 while their top-of-the-range, all-bells-and-whistles, titanium-trimmed ‘Method Elite 8-weight’ goes for a cool US$1350. There’s no doubting it, these are great rods, resulting from decades of doing whatever it takes to be the best. As professional casting instructor, Tom Bell, says:
“I have no idea what Sage are putting in these things but its brilliance lies deep within the blank.”
Sage believes in no compromise, consistency and craftsmanship and, while you definitely pay for it, there’s no doubt that these rods are pure class. What may surprise you, however, is that you don’t necessarily need to go for the most expensive rod to get a fantastic rod. In fact, as Mr Bell says of the all-singing-all-dancing ‘Method’ range:
“The Method is […] a really great rod, but if you want perfection, this aint it.”
Tom believes the best rod for the money is the slight less expensive (at a mere $800 – give or take) ‘ONE’. He says:
The Sage ONE Fly Rod“is a rod I didn’t want to put down. [… It] comes to me as a kinda try before you buy scenario for my destination company. I’m looking to buy rods for my clients to use. I instantly bought this rod in my head, so I want you to know that I am putting my money where my mouth is in this review.”
In Tom’s view, the pick of the range is the 9-foot 7-weight…
“What a rod. The ultimate bonefish rod for me. Felt like a 5 weight, cast like an 8. Loops were just micro size, slotting them under branches and into holes. Like a laser. Stability was incredible, tracking was almost cheating. Listen, I’m not this good, the One disagrees. ‘Let me take over for you sir, I see where you’re going with this…….sllllllllllllot.’ Cast complete. I couldn’t put this one down. Bought!”
I want ONE.
When Shozaburo Shimano founded the Shimano fishing brand in 1921 he already had a plan. He famously stated:
“I aim to make Shimano’s products the best in Kansai, then the best in Japan, and finally the best in the world.”
Today, based from headquarters in Osaka, Japan, Shimano may very well have fulfilled that vision. The company’s products are now available all over the world and they have become synonymous with high quality engineering and innovation. But, for Shimano, that isn’t enough. The company has now taken fishing tackle a step further – no longer making “fishing tackle as a mere tool to catch fish” but instead making tackle that will actually help anglers enjoy the fishing itself. We love that concept. Shimano aims to enhance “the enjoyment of fishing [by dealing with] not just technologies, but also anglers’ sensitivity, and even their subconscious expectations”. Nice, huh?
Although perhaps most highly regarded for its precision gearing mechanisms, which are available both in fishing reels and bicycle parts, they also manufacture a large range of rods, which share the same reputation for quality and finish.
Shimano’s rods come in all shapes and sizes and they classify their products into the following families: saltwater rods, jigging rods, inshore rods, surf, freshwater, muskie, salmon/seatrout and trolling rods. Within these families are yet more types of rod – possibly (in our view) more a case of catching the angler than of catching fish. There is a vast amount of crossover between different styles of fishing and one could argue that one conventional spinning rod could work equally well for inshore fishing, boat fishing, casting, jigging, trolling etc etc. What’s most important is the weight and power of the rod relative to the size of fish you’re pursuing. However, it will almost certainly make a muskie fisherman feel comfortable knowing he or she is buying a rod that has been specifically designed for catching muskie.
If you can navigate your way through Shimano’s list of swimbait rods, crankbait rods, spinnerbait rods, 3-piece travel rods, telescopic fishing rods (you get the idea), then you can feel fairly confident you’re going to end up with something that will last the test of time. Here at Drowning Worms HQ we’re surrounded by quite a lot of Shimano tackle, which we’ve acquired over many years. For many of us Shimano has been go-to tackle for over a decade. Shop for a Shimano rod now >>
It’s very difficult to mention Shimano without mentioning their arch-nemesis, Daiwa. Like Shimano, Daiwa began as a fishing reel manufacturer, founded in Japan by Yoshio Matsui in 1958. The guiding principles behind the brand were design, quality and innovation – features that are still evident in today’s products. Since its formation, the company has expanded into a worldwide fishing brand, as well as entering other markets like golf and cycling. They are undoubtedly one of the premium fishing tackle manufacturers on the market and their fixed spool reels are among the best in the world. Expect excellent build quality, customer service and a good warranty. Shop for a Daiwa rod now >>
Part of the large US company, Farbank Enterprises, Redington is a fly fishing brand through and through, backed up by serious research and development capability and budget. Although not one of the oldest fishing tackle makers, they were founded back in 1992, so they are certainly well established. Redington’s ethos is based on having as much fun as possible on the water. They aim to make high quality products that are also affordable and accessible, not just to the elite but to anglers from all backgrounds and walks of life. Think a nice combination of quality and value with a decent warranty and a reputation for customer service.
Buy a Vapen >>
or watch this video:
The strapline of the St Croix fishing rod brand is “Best Rods on Earth”. Quite a claim, although if you do a search online you’ll probably soon see that it might not be too far from the truth. St Croix have an excellent reputation, which may be partly down to some of the proprietary technologies they’ve developed. A number of brands claim the same thing and many of them label their technologies with a special name (remember Powell’s ‘Maxumfiber’? Hmmmm). St.Croix use a series of acronyms – IPC® – Integrated Poly Curve, ART™ – Advanced Reinforcing Technology, TET and FRS… The list goes on. Suffice to say, certain brands, like St Croix, Powell and Sage, for example, spend an awful lot of money trying to create a point of differentiation from other fishing rod brands. They employ professional fishermen to test and help them refine their designs and they invest money protecting their technology and IP from copycat brands.
St Croix make several different rod ranges – freshwater (aimed predominantly at bass, walleye, musky, salmon, trout and pike anglers); saltwater rods (including several lines of inshore, surf and boat rods); single-handed fly rods; and, rather unusually for a premium brand like this, ice fishing rods.
What we like about St. Croix is that they’ve clearly given some thought to their marketing and they’ve identified with a specific target audience. Where some of the premium brands use sophisticated language and aspirational imagery, St. Croix is much more down-to-earth and light-hearted, perhaps even a little tongue-in-cheek. Their rod ranges include the Mojo, the Bank Robber and the High Stick Drifter and, no matter how good their rods turn out to be, some of their writing is pure quality:
“To the gentle readers who still think fly-fishing is nothing more than the quiet pastime of stately figures in tweed, we have someone we’d like you to meet. Yeah, that’s right, the guy over there with the musky on his line […]. These bad boys put it all right there, and then some. Wrap your hands around the grip of a Legend X and hang on.”
And our favourite:
“Maybe you fish in a beret. Maybe you don’t. But when you fish with a Legend Elite® fly rod, chances are your cast is a work of art.”
As the name suggests, Leland specialises in fly tackle. They sell reels, lines, waders, clothing and, of course, rods. But that’s not where it ends – Leland is a rather unusual business. As well as selling Leland rods from their new “fly fishing ranch” on Highway 121 in southern Sonoma County, California, they also sell a wide range of tackle from other manufacturers. Loop, Scott and Red Truck fly rods are all available both in store and online. What’s more, Leland offers a few things other brands just don’t. For starters, they have what they call “Leland Upgrade”, whereby they will take your old tackle and sell it for you when you upgrade to Leland kit. Reading some of the reviews, it seems they can get very good prices for used tackle, which they pass on directly to you. Clever! They also believe in fly fishing education – offering classes covering casting and what they call “environmental stewardship”. And perhaps most surprising of all, Leland combines tackle making and outfitting with wine making! Yes indeed, as well as offering a range of fly rods, they also do a nice Pinot Noir or Syrah – just what you need when you’ve landed that fish of a lifetime.
They make the comparison themselves:
“Fine wine should be memorable for you, just like the perfect catch; a flash of color, a notable scent, a dance with Nature…if only for a moment.”
Echo fly rods
Finally a fishing rod company who actually make sense of their own rod range! It’s amazing that more fishing tackle brands don’t do what Echo have done – write a quick summary to explain how each rod compares to the next. Buying a fishing rod from most of the companies on this list is nothing short of a mission. But Echo present a nice explanation all on one page, which you can find here.
Echo comes across as being a fly rod maker for the people. In their own words: “From our new lightweight high modulus Echo3 series to the Gecko kid’s rod we make something for all pocketbooks, skill levels, and angling situations.”
Echo rods range from $99 to $549, although the latter is made specifically for casting instructors. What we love about the instructor rods is the thought that’s gone into the colour. The rod blank is finished in bright white – perfect for demonstrations, as the pupils will be able to watch what’s happening much more easily. They do say the best ideas are the simple ones. I’m sure other rod brands will follow suit. Shop for an ECHO rod now >>
Hardy might be the oldest surviving fishing tackle maker anywhere in the world. The company entered the fishing market way back in 1874, initially selling tackle from other manufacturers, then launching its first in-house product, the now famous Hardy Perfect reel, in 1891. Headquartered in Alnwick, Northumberland, where the company first opened as gunsmiths in 1872 (and where it remains to this day) the business became synonymous with quality. It dominated angling with a prodigious range catering to fly, sea and coarse fishermen. The company’s catalogue, the ‘Angler’s Guide’ regularly exceeded 350 pages.
Since those early days, Hardy has been through a number of transitions. Having been the world’s dominant fishing business pre-war, receiving numerous royal warrants, winning casting competitions both sides of the Atlantic, and achieving fame and popularity worldwide, it eventually ceased being a family business in 1967. The booming tackle trade in the Far East meant that Hardy’s, who still made everything in the UK – even tying their flies by hand – could no longer compete. They were purchased by the Harris and Sheldon Group, later renamed House of Hardy and later, again, named Hardy and Greys Ltd. During this period they suffered from quality issues, to the point that many of their loyal customers deserted them. Today, however, they are back to their best. Their Sintrix range of rods achieved wide acclaim and, many say, set the bar for other manufacturers to aspire towards. Several members of the Drowning Worms team have bought or used these rods and we can say, wholeheartedly, that they are very special indeed. Hardy also make collector’s reels and, believe it or not, continue to make the Hardy Perfect – well over a century after it was first introduced. That’s some feat.
For those who are interested, Hardy’s is a very interesting company history, filled with cute little facts and surprising details. Take, for example, the Fortuna reel, which caused much hilarity within the company as it was, indeed, designed for tuna fishing. Ha!). You can read more here.
Many people don’t know that Ugly Stik rods are actually part of the Shakespeare family – a company that’s been around since 1897, when it was founded in Kalamazoo Michigan. The Ugly Stik itself was simply one of Shakespeare’s rod ranges – introduced in 1976. Its fame came partly from its unusual clear tip and, perhaps more so, from its strength. The first rod to be constructed via the Howald Process, it earned a reputation for being virtually indestructible. The Ugly Stik, or more precisely the Ugly Stik GX2, was such a sensation that it became a brand in its own right. This was embraced by Shakespeare and, after 2007, by the Pure Fishing group, with which the company merged. The rod was marketed on its own momentum and, even today, it has its own website and marketing materials. Although the range is limited to casting and spinning models, Ugly Stik rods offer fantastic value. They are priced at between $20 and $30, making them a familiar feature in many anglers’ tackle rooms. Buy an Ugly Stik >>
Loop was founded in 1979 as a mail order business and small retail store by Christer Sjöberg and Tony Karpestam – two young enthusiastic fly fishers. As the business grew into a fly fishing specialist, they partnered with American fly rod manufacture, Sage, and recruited casting guru, Göran Andersson. This was a turning point for the company. Göran designed Sage’s two-handed rods and revolutionary new adjustable fly lines. Soon afterwards the new team developed the first large arbor reel. Although slow to catch on, today (over 20 years later) nearly all fly reel design shows some element of Loop influence.
Unusually, Loop manages every element of their manufacturing process internally – from design and development through to production. Alongside the likes of Sage, Hardy and St. Croix, they’ve earned a place among the best of the premium brands.
Interestingly, Loop not only innovated in tackle manufacturing. They put their reputation to good use in discovering fishing destinations too. Christer Sjöberg was one of the first to discover the fantastic Atlantic salmon fishing in northern Russia and built lodges on the Umba, Kharlovka, Litza and the Yokanga. They sold that business and now focus on sea trout fishing in Argentina and saltwater fly fishing in various countries all over the world.
Listen to Christer Sjöberg’s explanation of what makes Loop special.
G Loomis is one of the most prolific rod manufacturers in the USA. They’ve been making rods for more than 30 years and now produce a truly massive range, which they divide into conventional rods and fly fishing rods. The conventional rods alone are enough to baffle even the most seasoned angler. Just as an example, G Loomis sell six separate ranges of bass rods alone. Each of those bass ranges is subdivided into between three and twelve sub-ranges. Within those sub-ranges, you will then find up to eighteen different rods – varying in length, line weight, action, power and handle stye. That’s a total of 249 bass fishing rods. Excluding smallmouth rods, of course.
That should give you an idea of the scale of the G Loomis operation. Add to that rods designed for muskie, walleye, salmon and steelhead, trout and panfish, travel and, of course, saltwater, you soon get the impression there’s plenty to choose from.
And then of course there’s fly fishing. Catering to every kind of fly angling you can imagine – trout, salmon, steelhead, stalking, stream, river, saltwater… and so on, G Loomis fly rods range from the $300 range up to well over $1,000. I’ve watched the following video about Loomis’ premium rod range, the NRX. It includes some impressive testing footage and of course there’s plenty of fishing rod terms and jargon. I won’t repeat it here – see for yourself.
There’s no doubt that G Loomis makes some fabulous fishing rods – I only wish you didn’t need a degree in rod making to understand which rod you might want to buy.
Why do so many brands feel the need to use a cheesy strap line? Tica use “born to perform”, although I’m not really sure what that means – isn’t every product created to perform some kind of function? Anyway, we digress!
Tica Fishing was founded in Taiwan in 1965. The company was actually called Everwinner Ltd, which started as a manufacturing supplier – initially making athletic equipment and machined parts. A few years later, Everwinner started producing fishing tackle for a number of well-known brands – they were one of the protagonists featuring in the Far East tackle explosion we mentioned in the Hardy section above. Seeing how well their equipment was selling for these fishing brands, Everwinner decided to launch their own brand and sell direct. And so the Tica brand was born.
Unlike many of the better-known fishing brands, Tica has always done its own design, development and manufacturing, and it has the IP and patents to show for it. Everwinner now has branch operations in Taiwan, USA, Japan, China and Europe and the Tica brand is represented by more than 30 agents worldwide.
If you want to buy a mid-range rod directly from the manufacturer – Tica wouldn’t be a bad option. Check out some reviews here.
Blue Marlin Fishing Rods are made in South African, and have been since April 1960. Their main market is local – they manufacture their tackle locally to compete with the imported tackle from better-known, international brands, many of which, ironically, have their tackle made in Asia.
The people behind Blue Marlin pride themselves on creating rods that people want to use, which is only made possible by their commitment to listening to their customers. They believe that form follows function, which was proven in a number of innovations. One such feature was the introduction of ‘multi-tip technology’ in their surf rods, which was later endorsed by and implemented in Assassin rods. This set-up used a put-in joint, rather than the regular ferrule-type joint and, today, almost every three-piece rod sold in South Africa uses the same or a similar design.
Refreshingly, Blue Marlin are also trying to reduce the number of rods an angler needs. For example, by introducing a rod where you can adjust the position of the reel seat higher or lower, they aim to create a set-up that anglers find comfortable when both casting AND fishing. Finally, a brand that’s trying to keep its rod range down to a sensible number. They also make replacement parts in-house, so you don’t need to worry about having to purchase an entirely new rod each time you shut a rod tip in the car door!
And now the bad news. Currently Blue Marlin Fishing Rods are only available in Africa and they don’t sell via their website. If you really want one, you can probably give them a call and do a deal, but I guess you’ll need to be pretty sure this is what you want.
Please note – this brand is not to be confused with Blue Marlin Fishing – formerly a local fishing tackle manufacturer in Hong Kong, and now an international tackle maker, with production facilities in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, and offices in the UAE, Russia and Monaco. You can read more about this company here.
We’ve already mentioned Shakespeare, as they are now one of the main pillars of the Pure Fishing family of fishing brands; but Shakespeare is more than just another fishing tackle maker – they were one of the pioneers.
William Shakespeare Junior founded the company back in 1897, changing its name to the Shakespeare Company in 1915. It was one of the earliest and most dominant tackle brands of its era, launching a number of products that achieved widespread popularity and impressive sales. One such product was the ‘Wondereel’, which incorporated Shakespeare’s innovative ‘Backlash brake’. The company moved to Columbia South Carolina in 1970, from which location it enjoyed a further 37 years of successful trading. In 2007 Shakespeare merged with Pure Fishing to create the world’s largest fishing company. Their objective? To make fishing easier and more enjoyable.
The people behind Drowning Worms have something of a close affinity to the Shakespeare brand. In 1988, James Green – then 12 years old – landed two common carp on a fishing rod he’d owned since he was 5. The carp, both commons, weighed 25 and 23.5lbs respectively and came in two consecutive casts on floating crust. The tackle should not have been capable of such a feat: 5lb line, a beginner’s rod and a closed face reel with no more than 75 yards of line on the spool. Somehow, the carp didn’t make it to the end of the spool and both were landed successfully. Such was the amazement of James’s father, Mike, that he wrote to Shakespeare HQ to say thank you. And there ends the story… or so they thought. A few months later, Mike and James entered their local fishing tackle shop, the Sportsman’s Lodge in Northampton. On seeing them come in, the shop staff congratulated James on his success. Not knowing what they were talking about, Mike and James were shown the latest Shakespeare catalogue, in which a picture of James with his two carp was displayed across the page. “Master Angler of the Year” was the title of the page. It turned out that Shakespeare, on receiving Mike’s letter, has automatically entered James into their annual competition. Without their knowing, James had won the award, and with it, GBP£350-worth of tackle and a day’s fishing with then-fishing-celebrity, Graham Marsden. Believe us when we say that, to a 13-year-old, £350-worth of tackle is a king’s ransom! A very pleasant surprise indeed.
Image credit: Fin Addiction Charters