Striped Bass Fly Rods

Striped Bass Fly Rods, actually all fly rods, are pretty simple. They are rated by the weight of the flyline they are designed to cast, and range from 1 weight to 14 weight. The bigger the weight the heavier the line and the stiffer the rod.

1 weight to 5 weight fly rods are simply too small for most saltwater flyfishing, and certainly for striped bass flyfishing (although I’ve had fun catching schoolies in sheltered water with a 5 weight rod, - stunt fishing as much as anything).

6 weight fly rods, popular for fishing for trout in the Western US, are really pretty much too light also, although I’ve caught a couple hundred bonefish on my 6 weight.

7 weight fly rods are really where we start to enter practical saltwater fly rods, and 7 weight to perhaps 11 weight rods are commonly used for stripers.

What determines what weight fly rod is appropriate? There are five main factors:

  1. The size and strength of your quarry. Since Striped Bass are strong and get pretty big, a heavier weight rod is needed.

  2. The size of the fly you are using. You can cast a much bigger fly with a 10 weight rod than a 1 weight rod for example, and a fly that might be annoying and difficult to cast with a 7 weight fly rod might be easy with a 10 weight. Striped bass tend to eat various size prey, and sometimes a big fly is what we need, hence a heavier weight fly rod.

  3. Wind! Wind is nearly omnipresent when saltwater fly fishing and a heavier weight rods simply cuts through the wind easier.

  4. Delicacy. Sometimes you simply need to make delicate presentations to stripers, for example if you’re fishing to sighted fish on the flats, perhaps on Monomoy. A lighter weight rod is more delicate as the line weighs less and has less impact landing on the water. This usually is not a big issue for striped bass, but it can be absolutely critical sometimes.

  5. Human endurance! Hey, casting a heavy rod, say an eleven-weight, for any length of time is not only tiring but can flare up bursitis and other physical ailments!

I’ve used between a 5 weight and an 11 weight fly rod for striped bass, but I recommend for most people a 9 weight or 10 weight fly rod.

A 9 weight fly rod is what I usually fish for striped bass. It’s much lighter than a 10 weight, but can still throw big flies in the wind fairly well, and handle a good fish. I’ve landed 47 pound king salmon on a 9 weight, and with some luck could land a similar sized striper. Of course a big bass in a big current can simply be unlandable no matter what you may be using!

A 10 weight fly rod is also a great choice too, and I primarily fished a 10 weight for years. It is significantly heavier which means there is more wear and tear on your body, especially if you’re casting all night, but it handles big flies, wind, and big fish much better.

I’ve landed several 100 pound tarpon on my 10 weight, and also been totally demoralized by a striped bass I estimate at 30 pounds (she got away).

For your first saltwater fly rod where stripers are a primary quarry I recommend a nine-weight. It’s a pretty good all around rod for stripers, bluefish, bonito, false albacore and anything else that might show up.

Fly rods were originally made of bamboo (some still are but not for saltwater use - it'll eat them up), then fiberglass, and now graphite or some graphite mix. Even cheap under $100 rods tend to be made of graphite these days, which is lighter and more responsive. There is nothing wrong with fiberglass; I occasionally fish an old fiberglass rod I love!

Most fly rods for saltwater are 9 feet long, which is about right. You may run across the odd rod which is slightly longer or shorter, and you may have a slight preference for a slightly different rod, but I wouldn't worry about it. There are also "two handed" or "spey" fly rods, which are pretty uncommon and I don't have any experience with them nor do most striped bass fisherman.

So, should you get a 2 piece fly rod or a 3 or 4 piece fly rod? With today’s modern fly rods, there is NO compromise in performance in going to a multipiece rod, and since I fly and don’t trust airlines I usually buy 4 piece rods and have always been able to carry them on board. If you ever plan on traveling to fish by airplane, I highly recommend multipiece rods!

What about brands? The best advice is to try a few fly rods and see what you like. Different manufacturers and models can have quite a different feel. There are many great choices.

For the record, I love my Sage and Loomis fly rods and have several of each!

Saint Croix also makes some very decent rods, especially their Saint Croix Imperial entry level fly rods which are great. Never fished a Saint Croix I didn't like! The Sage Vantage, Sage Flight, and Loomis Xperience are well regarded rods with reasonable prices.

My friend Spiny Norman found a $50 no-name flyrod at Walmart he rather likes! It's not too bad, although I've never seen another one like it anywhere.

Orvis I’m mixed on: I believe everything is outsourced and have tried Orvis rods I loved and other Orvis rods more appropriate for use as pool cues or for cleaning chimneys!

Already got a rod which may or may not be appropriate? Get out and fish with it! I fly fished for Striped Bass my first year with the worst 7 weight you could imagine, caught stripers and more, and had a blast!

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