Musky Rod Choice 101: Finding the Best Fit

Musky Rod Choice 101: Finding the Best Fit

Jodie Paul February 19, 2024

When musky season rolls around, you might be asking yourself, “What is the best rod for me?”  As the sport of musky fishing changes and grows, so does the exhausting list of rods, reels, lures, electronics, etc.  When thinking of making your musky gear work for you, I am reminded of a quote from Billionaire, Richard Branson, “Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision, and change.”  This quote reflects highly on the modernization of musky fishing, especially RODS.

To stay ahead of the curve, you may feel pressured to rush into the arms of a rod manufacturer throwing out new models with bells and whistles every day, but when money gets tighter each season, it might be best to understand and max out the essentials.  Choosing a rod for you that will remain in production and classic, is always the best place to start.  I’m reminded of a litany of dads receiving a bad rap for wearing the same New Balance 624 sneaker.  Regardless of the dated look, they feel and work exceptionally well.

For rods, let’s highlight the basic ergonomics and design features that will guarantee your successful choice of rod.  For younger anglers, their lower backs and shoulders might have more time left to take a beating, but for those who’ve spent their best years on the water already, an ergonomic design is imperative.  That being said, length is a key consideration in choosing the right rod.  When thinking of the importance of your rod length, it’s important to note 3 things: how tall are you, how high is your deck above the water, and what depth is best for a figure 8.

If you are a shorter angler, don’t be fooled into thinking that a 10-foot rod is the greatest thing since sliced bread, it’s likely not going to work best for you.  It will be awkwardly long and overextended if you have a high deck and a shallow fish, raising your elbows to your ears to get a figure 8 right.  A good indication is when your boat is trailered, stand up straight with your rod and without bending and attempt a figure 8, noting where your rod tip is compared to the water line.  You might be surprised.  Shorter anglers fare better with shorter rods, while tall anglers fare better with longer rods.  Don’t be persuaded to choose the longest rod because it’s cool at the moment. 

Another important point for rod length is casting distance.  It may be important for you to carry multiple rod lengths for advantageous casting.  To put it simply, shorter rods cast shorter distances.  So, if you are a tight-to-cover shallow fisherman, you will do well to use your shorter rods for shorter casts into the shallows.  If you are a bank fisherman trying to reach some depths away from shore, a longer rod to launch your lure might benefit you the most.

Outside of length, take an honest look at the composition and design of your rod handle.  Depending on your particular hand placement and preferred techniques, the handle of a rod can be an advantage or hindrance.  Most manufacturers provide both split grip and full grip handles.  Split grips are great for those who are looking to lose some back-end weight for lightly flitting small, precise gliders, while they cup their reel.  Full grip handles are preferred for working heavier, deep baits that need to be extensively jigged and pulled.  Full grips in this scenario provide more mobility with your hands as you meet various underwater structures and overall better control for heavier-headed lures.


If both of these presentations are common on your boat, you might feel free to keep dedicated rods for each endeavor, split grips for lighter work, and full grips for heavy-duty attempts.  No matter the design you choose, you may find yourself running up against another wall when deciding on cork vs rubber.  Both have their good and bad qualities, but to simplify them we’ll highlight their usefulness. 

Cork handles are perforated and absorbent, great for those of us with sweaty hands, but they do retain odor worse than rubber.  Cork also eventually molds by way of wear, to the hands of the user, it’s not unlike a comfortable insole after breaking in.  Conversely, rubber sheds water and stays relatively less smelly, however some feel it has less grip when wet.  Rubber tends to hold its shape better and comes pre-molded, with less break-in wear.  It is easier to thoroughly clean too at the end of the day.  Most choices come down to feel.  It usually makes sense to choose a rod that feels good in your hands – think Jedi Master and choose what suits your hands.

Lastly, it’s important to note telescoping rods vs one-piece.  When the first telescoping rods came out years ago, you could hear a pin drop.  Musky anglers were definitely running in the opposite direction.  Now, it seems that time has brought everyone to their senses, and we are really seeing the beauty in the telescoping rod.  Not only, do they store in most rod lockers built for bass-sized rods, but they are also just as sturdy as a rod that’s one piece.  Some might still swear them off, but honestly, the only rod I’ve ever witnessed snap was a one-piece rod, so the proof is in the pudding you could say. 

Regardless of whether you prefer one piece or the convenience of telescoping storage, both are here to stay and both are equally usable.  It’s a matter of personal preference and will not likely affect your fishing game at all, only your storage.  And let’s get real, most of the rods stay on the deck anyway unless you’ve got too many.  So just get the length and design right for you and make this decision last.

Weight and lure class is a much more obvious topic in rod choice.  I don’t think anyone needs this explained to them as it’s written on the side of every rod and is loosely based on what the rod will do.  Choose one closest to the type of lure you like to fish or find one in the middle to suit every job.  The choice is yours and will work if you have all of the basics ironed out.  Rod choice factors are easily worked out when the options change the outcome of your fishing.  As previously mentioned, try not to fall in love with a bell or whistle, but with the composition as a whole so it doesn’t go out of style or the company folds.  Learn what kind of rod you like stylistically so it can be applied to all future makes and models.


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