One of the hottest topics in walleye rods these days is the use of long rods – REALLY long rods! Long rods are not a new phenomenon in the world of fishing. As rod technology has improved, with lighter and stronger materials, building extended rods that are light weight, durable and responsive has become much easier. Another factor we believe has contributed to the popularity of long rods has been the growing use of no-stretch or low-stretch fishing lines. These lines add greatly to the “feel” of a technique, but without any stretch, something has to take up the shock of a fighting fish. That’s where the length becomes really functional, as the rod becomes the primary shock absorber of the presentation.
So what constitutes a long rod? It really depends on the presentation. Let’s look at trolling for walleyes as an example. For years the standard length trolling rods for most walleye applications has been 7 to 8 feet. Our personal favorite has been an 8 and a half foot Bass Pro Shops Walleye Angler Signature Series Trolling Rod. That’s a great length for handling most trolling presentations from flat-lining shallow cranks to trolling with lead core line on boards. But there were times, when we were contour trolling for instance, that we wished we’d have a longer rod to help spread things out a bit.
Now normally when we want to spread out our trolling patterns, we’ll use an in-line board like Off Shore Tackle’s OR-12 Side Planers. However, in many, if not most contour trolling situations, we’re running lures very tight to the bottom … picking up debris or getting snags is inevitable. If you’ve ever had to deal with these sorts of things when using boards you know it can really wreak havoc with your fishing fun. Also, when contour cranking, the object is to keep the baits close to the contour you’re running and going “boardless” makes that easier. That’s why we started experimenting with really long rods in these types of trolling scenarios. We found a few rods in the 12 to 14 foot range that we thought would work, but most of them were either too heavy or had such flimsy actions that the results were not what we’d hoped for.
Working with the fishing rod design team at Bass Pro Shops however, we were able come up with a trolling rod that fits the bill perfectly. A 12 foot medium action rod with just the right action we were looking for. The rod is stiff enough to spread a lure out away from the boat, yet has a soft enough tip section that it’s ideal for fighting in big fish. It’s also sensitive enough to make it easy to read whether the crankbait is running clean, or if it’s picked up debris off the bottom and is fouled. The rod is a 2-piece design, making storage simple, and it features a foam handle which holds up better for use in rod holders compared to cork.
One other technique we like to use that we found a longer rod advantageous for was “Dead Sticking”. This is where we will run a bottom bouncer live bait rig off a long rod in a rod holder as we slowly work structure. Since we typically will also be fishing a “hand-held” rod along side the dead stick, the longer dead stick rod helps keep the two presentations separated and cuts down on tangles. Having the baits spread apart those few feet also helps us to determine just where on the break the more active biters are holding, be it on the top of the break, the bottom of the break or somewhere in between.
We’ve had a Dead Stick rod in the Walleye Angler Signature Series for some time now, an 8 and a half footer that has been very popular. But we added the new 12 foot model now and have found that we can do a much better job of spreading out the pattern. This rod has a softer action than the 12 foot trolling rod which is necessary in dead sticking because you want the fish to be able to grab the bait with out feeling much resistance. When you get a bite, you want to let the rod load up then reach down, pull it from the rod holder and start reeling. It really is a deadly system!
Longer-than-average rods are used for many species from steelhead to muskies, but the walleye world is just beginning to realize the advantages to the long sticks. So as you contemplate the next addition to your walleye fishing bag-of-tricks, consider supplementing your rod arsenal with a couple long rods. They will absolutely help you reach out and get your Next Bite!