Whether fishing the surf, deep rips, or inland waters, striped bass offer anglers an exciting battle on a fly rod. However, to consistently catch these powerful saltwater denizens, an angler needs the right tool for the job. In this article, we’ll draw on the vast experience of expert rod builder Herb Ladenheim to outline the ideal characteristics, configurations, and models for the ultimate striped bass fly rods. Join us as we discuss choosing the right power, action, length, and hardware components for the ultimate striped bass rod.
Striped Bass Rod Power and Action
Striped bass can get big, and are frequently fished for with big flies and weighted lines. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that you have a rod with enough muscle to cast heavy line and fight big fish. Many anglers opt for an 8-9wt, fast action rod, but Herb thinks that anglers looking for maximum fish-horsing ability shouldn’t overlook a medium action.
“Generally, because nothing is etched in stone,” says Herb, “generally the faster rod will be more powerful. Because it locks up faster. You have more blank that hasn’t been flexed yet, right? And if you’re able to flex it, you can generate better casts. You certainly have more fish fighting ability, right? Because you have power down there that has not been accessed yet. A slower rod that flexes down towards the grip; there’s no meat left for power to fight a fish. There’s also no meat left to extend your casting range. There’s just nothing left. But, in my opinion, medium action rods can have much more power because if you push a fast action rod, the tip will collapse. So you may have a 9ft rod, but you’re really casting with a 7.5 because the tip is not contributing at all to the cast. So you’re losing potential.”
Basically, a well-made medium action rod allows functional use of the entire length of the rod while casting and fighting fish, giving you more power “on tap” when you need it.
Striped Bass Fly Rod Length
When it comes to fly fishing for striped bass, choosing the right rod length is crucial for a successful and enjoyable experience. According to Herb, a 9-foot rod is the standard and most versatile choice for striped bass fly fishing. This length offers a good balance between casting distance, control, and the ability to handle larger flies and windy conditions, which are common in areas where striped bass are found.
“An eight-and-a-half rod is a pleasure to cast and light in the hand,” Herb admits, “but it’s a bit of a compromise unless you’re in a boat because you’re not really making long casts with it. A ten-and-a-half or eleven? Well, unless you’re a gorilla you can’t develop line speed with a single-handed rod that long. In my experience, a 9ft rod is about the ideal performer.”
Ideal Line Weight For Striped Bass
What about the best line weight for striped bass? Most anglers use rods in the 8 to 10 wt range. Herb personally prefers a 10 wt, and has a preference for lines with a shorter casting head.
“I fish steep beaches a lot,” he confides. “So I need a short head because I don’t want to get stuck on the seaweed behind me or on the rocks behind me. So I like a short head. I like a Rio Outbound, which is a 30 ft head. It’s a very powerful line, which is perfect for me. I can get 90 foot casts with it casting nice, tight loops.”
Recommended Striped Bass Fly Rods
While Herb is a legendary fly rod builder whose custom rods have garnered a serious reputation in the fly fishing world, he acknowledges that many mass-produced rods are well-built and quite capable of catching fish.
“The first production rods I would choose would be Sage,” he says. “Probably the Sage Igniter. You can get a straight line path down the tip. It’s not a fast rod. It’s a moderate action. But when I say “moderate” I’m talking about action, not power. It’s a very powerful rod. Excellent rod, but of course it’s a thousand dollars. If you can’t afford that, Temple Fork Outfitters is very good. A lot of good casters I know have TFO rods and love them.”
Final Thoughts On Striped Bass Fly Rods
For those seeking to elevate their striped bass fly fishing, whether through building or buying the right tool, following Ladenheim’s expertise will surely result in more fish to hand. Armed with the right rod for the given situation, any angler can gain a decisive advantage over this formidable gamefish.