Until recently, such a compact container almost always held a four-piece fly rod. Travel rods, as rods with more than two segments are known, were primarily the domain of fly anglers because tackle makers thought nonÂ¿Â¿Â¿fly anglers wouldn't pay for more-expensive-to-produce multipiece baitcasting and spinning rods. That assumption has been proved false, however. Now anglers can find many three-piece and four-piece baitcasting and spinning travel rods that are the equal of their unsegmented counterparts. Some are intended for light duty, but many have the power to play in the big leagues.
This past February in Brazil I used a 6-foot, three-piece G. Loomis Escape baitcasting rod to cast 8-inch plugs and subdue giant peacock bass -- some up to 15 pounds. Medium-heavy in action, it could also fight snook, small tarpon, and barramundi, not to mention pike and muskies. Its short length is ideal for casting in tight spots.
Or take the 7-foot, three-piece All Star AS Titanium spinning rod that my daughter used in July to catch scores of Saskatchewan's northern pike. The three largest weighed 17, 19, and 22 pounds. The rod did a great job of landing fish and casting big lures.
And in June, I caught 20-pound yellowtail jacks and a 28-pound roosterfish near Ixtapa, Mexico, using a 71Â¿Â¿2-foot, three-piece Cabela's Salt Striker spinning rod and 17-pound line. It took more than 15 minutes of maximum rod pressure to land these brutes, and the rod spared them no quarter.
Driving the new era in travel rods is an increase in the number of anglers who trek to distant waters. Says Brett Crawford, president of All Star, "There's been a growing market in peacock bass fishing, and those anglers need travel rods that can sling heavy baits. We also have interest from people going to Canada for pike and lake trout."
Robert Betts, brand manager for Shimano's fishing tackle division, says his company introduced three new spinning travel rods this year for flats fishing because of the level of interest in three-piece rods from bonefish and permit anglers. "Our reps heard from nonÂ¿Â¿Â¿Sun Belt anglers who headed south in winter to fish and didn't want the hassle of one-piece rods."
These items are not just for travelers to exotic places. Jeff Schluter, marketing manager for St. Croix, says, "We added a three-piece spinning rod for 4- to 10-pound line to our travel lineup, so people going to places like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area can have a good travel rod for walleyes and smallmouths." And Chuck Villarreal, saltwater purchasing specialist for Cabela's, notes that travel rods are a great idea as a stowaway backup in freshwater fishing boats. "If you have a heavy-duty travel rod in your boat while you're fishing for walleyes or bass, you can rig it up fast if the opportunity presents itself to catch something big, like stripers. And the stowed rod is never in the way."
Improvements in rod construction have played a part in this trend. In the past, multipiece rods would often break at the ferrules under extreme pressure. But better construction, better ferrules, and the use of deeper ferrules for heavier rods have mostly eliminated the problem. Villarreal says, "How many people really break a rod when fighting a fish? If you build a rod right, and the angler stays within the designated line strengths, he shouldn't break a good three-piece rod." He points out that there's no loss in sensitivity with all-graphite travel rods and that, for example, his company's inshore three-piece travel rods will not only outmuscle tough fish but also are sensitive enough for live-lining bait.
Although I'd like manufacturers to come out with longer models for steelhead fishing, salmon mooching, and the like, today's selection of travel rods is better than ever.