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Brandon Khoo

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The first iteration of this guide was written some eight or nine years ago when GT popping was a growing but still niche sport. It has since expanded to an almost mainstream level and the number of participants has grown enormously.

I have decided to rewrite and update this guide. In a lot of ways, the information in this guide is timeless in that the considerations for buying a rod have not changed. That said, the rods have evolved enormously in the past decade. We have seen a very clear move away from broomsticks - that is, extremely stiff rods designed specifically for big poppers to more flexible rods with more forgiving profiles. I am disappointed that there has been such a clear move by manufacturers in this direction as to me, a monster popper exploding through the water epitomises the purity of this sport. Still, even I have to admit that the days of I Cups are behind me.

So, to the updated guide.......

In the early days of the sport, a GT rod was a pretty blunt instrument, it was stiff and strong and about seven to eight feet long. Today, the range and variety of rods is enormous. This has caused quite a great deal of confusion especially for new participants in the sport.

A very common question that occupies the mind of new participants is what is the best rod? Well, the simple reality is there is no best rod. Rather, I suggest that you think about what is the right rod for you. This is one form of fishing where getting the right rod is really critical.

So what constitutes the right rod? I would suggest that you need to ensure you get a rod that you can manage well both in terms of casting and fighting a fish and that you can fish with for long periods of time. Like with any sport, getting equipment that fits you properly will permit you to use it to the best of your ability. Getting equipment that does not suit you may well see you unable to utilise the equipment effectively. Getting it wrong in this sport can get you hurt!

I think it is important that I point out up front that GT rods are all about compromise. A longer rod casts better but a shorter rod is easier to fight a fish with. A very stiff rod works poppers well but hurts when you are fighting a fish. A soft tipped rod is good for stickbaits but not as good for poppers and so on.

I'd suggest you consider the following when considering the acquisition of a rod:


Are you looking for a specialised or general purpose GT rod?
What weight of lure do you want to use?
How good a caster are you and how far will you need to cast where you are fishing?
How heavy a rod do you need and what can you actually physically handle in terms of a GT rod?
The idiosyncrasies of different manufacturers
The most important factor - your budget


Do I want a Specialised or General Purpose GT Rod?

Not all GT rods are the same nor are they made for the same purpose. At opposite ends of the spectrum would be a light stickbait rod and a stiff heavy rod for huge cup-mouthed chuggers.

Stickbait rods are designed with a flexible tip to impart action to a surface stickbait. To me,, there are still only two manufacturers that make specialised stickbait rods being Carpenter who was the pioneering company for stickbait rods and Ripple Fisher. Stickbaits come in both surface and sinking versions and it is really only on surface stickbaits that the specialised stickbait rods becomes useful.

A stickbait rod needs to have a relatively soft tip to impart action on the stickbait. This characteristic which is so important for stickbaits has the opposite effect on poppers.

They are not generally suitable for poppers although the PE8 models upwards will tend to work a popper up to about 140g adequately. Going beyond this will see you start to over-saturate the rod and you will have difficulty utilising the popper effectively. You may be told that other rods are suitable for stickbaits and to varying degrees, this may be true but my view is that the only specialised stickbait rods on the market are made by Carpenter and Ripple Fisher. That said, I have seen offerings from companies such as Zenaq, FCL and Daiwa that would be suitable for surface stickbaits.

Specialised heavy chugging rods are at the other end of the spectrum. These generally have a really firm tip which is necessary to work big cup-mouthed poppers. If the tip flexes too much, then the rod becomes inefficient as a heavy chugging tool. While a decade ago, all manufacturers produced this type of rods, today, they are few and far between and of the top manufacturers, only Ripple Fisher produce this in the Final Spirit range, compromising of their 79H and 78XH. The Fisherman R10L and BG Jack might still be available by special order.

Please note that working big poppers is not simply a case of buying one of these rods. These rods can be extremely demanding to use for long periods of time when you couple them with 250g worth of poppers and terminals and we have not even gotten to what they are like to hold on to ten minutes into a fight with a big fish. There is a reason why they are no longer being produced by most manufacturers!

The rest of the GT rods I will describe as general purpose GT rods. This actually comprises the large majority of rods today. If I am being candid, the industry has moved in a direction of generally producing more forgiving rods to use. These rods do the job on a range of lures but are really built with compromise in favour of angler comfort. The reality is that a general purpose rod will never work a stickbait as well as a specialised stickbait rod (assuming the angler has the skill) or a popper as easily as a broomstick.


Weight and Size of Lures to be used

The weight and size of lures you want to use are a critical factor in deciding on the rod you need. Manufacturers all tend to provide guidance in terms of the casting weights of their rods. I strongly suggest you look around the mid-weight of what they claim. For example, if a rod is supposed to be for 150-250g poppers, then think about 200g as being ballpark in staying within the limits of the rod. There are rods out there that are claimed to cast 250g which are groaning under 200g of weight (not to mention the angler!). Stay within the limits of your rod.

Many people want a very wide variance in terms of casting weights which is understandable. I can only say that if this is the case, a rod with a more progressive action will be more forgiving in this regard. The majority of the multi-purpose rods have more progressive actions.

The key is to find a rod that suits the weights you want to cast.

I have often been asked for advice like a rod that will pop 120-200g poppers. Upon discussion, the upper range is a once in a blue moon proposition. In that event, my advice is to focus on the most common weight you will be using it for and focus on finding the rod that will do that.


How Good a Caster are you and how far do you need to cast?

This is a rather important question and where this becomes a factor is deciding on the length and action of the rod you buy. In general, a longer rod with a more progressive action will be easier to cast. This is excepting the small percentage of people who have a very fast casting action where they can load the faster action rods. Also, a lighter outfit will be easier to cast than a heavier outfit.

Getting good distance is all about matching your outfit properly in terms of the rod, line, lure weight and being able to load the rod effectively. Leaning how to cast properly is critical in achieving good distance and is a critical aspect of GT fishing. Generally, the best casters will catch the most fish.

That said, at the end of the day, the length of the rod is king when it comes to casting distance. GT rods are all about a compromise. Longer rods are great to cast with whereas shorter rods are great to fight a fish with. Anyone who has tried to raise a big fish from under the boat with a long rod will know just how difficult that can be.

In general, I recommend you look for a rod that is 7.5 feet to 8.5 feet long. I emphasise this is a personal view. A shorter rod will not give you enough distance unless you are a superb caster and a longer rod is going to be difficult to handle when you are hooked up. I would suggest that if you are a really good caster, look for a rod around 7.5 to 8 feet and if you are not as good a caster, think about the longer end of the range.

There are a number of rods that are in the 8.5 feet range or more these days, These have been made for locations where being able to get good distance consistently is critical. I have fished a number of these rods and they are manageable, albeit still a bit clumsy to fight a fish with. It's all part of the compromise you have to balance.

There are locations where you do require as much distance as you can get and in this event, you will have no choice but to go to the longer weapons such as the Carpenter Long Reef or Endless Passion which are available up to nine feet in length.

The necessary casting distance is a critical factor. There is little more frustrating than finding yourself in the position where the ideal spot seems to be always just out of your reach or where your fishing companions are reaching a spot continuously before you can.

Getting long distance is not simply just about the rod. You can also match your gear and line accordingly. Obviously, PE6 line with a small friction knot on a 130lb mono leader is going to cast a lot better than 150lb Jerry Brown hollow braid attached to a heavy assist cord leader. On the other hand, in a heavy reef strewn location, you will not extract a single fish with PE6. It is all a compromise.

All of that said, I cannot emphasise enough just how important casting distance and accuracy is in GT fishing.


How Heavy a Rod do you need and what can you actually handle?

The weight (as in line class the rod is designed to fish, not mass), needs to be determined by the terrain you are fishing and what you are actually physically capable of handling.

As a general rule, I believe the large majority GT anglers tend to over-reach in terms of their ability to handle the gear they are capable of fishing. I suspect this comes from too much reading of forums and Facebook!

I do not think a lot of people realise the extent to which a really heavy outfit compromises their casting ability or how hard it is to hold onto a rod running heavy drag after a short period of time, not to mention the immediate shock of a strike that could pull the rod out of your hands.  I suggest that for a heavy outfit, you focus on an outfit that you know you can hold onto for at least fifteen minutes under your preferred drag setting. If you can't do this, the outfit is too heavy for you. Be honest with yourself as a large part of your fishing comfort (i.e. enjoyment) will be determined by this.

If you are relatively new to the sport, don't allow the delusional group of inexperienced PE12 afficionados to convince you to get this as your primary outfit. I'm not saying there aren't guys who can fish PE12 to the limit but the percentage of guys with the fitness and strength to do this would be miniscule.

It is pointless to buy a rod that is beyond your capacity to fish as your primary fishing tool. A rod that is beyond your capacity will simply break you when you are fighting a big fish and I would suggest that you are much better off taking your chances with an outfit you can fish to the limit than a really heavy outfit that you cannot fish to its capacity.

My general recommendation is to go for the lightest outfit you can get away with. I have on numerous occasions seen people fishing outfits which they just cannot handle and which just breaks them when they are hooked onto a decent fish. Just remember that a heavy outfit will not land you a big fish. You need to be physically capable of handling the outfit effectively to be able to land a big fish. You can of course always set the drag rating on a heavy outfit to a level you can handle but the question I have is why? A heavy outfit compromises your casting distance quite noticeably.

Big heavy outfits have their place but for me, they are a necessity in some locations rather than what I like to fish with. I suggest you opt for the lightest outfit you can get away with as it is simply more comfortable to fish long periods with. You will cast further, last longer and the fishing is much more enjoyable.


Idiosyncracies of different Manufacturers

This is actually a more important factor than many people realise in getting themselves a rod that is right for them. Manufacturers are all different and have their own build philosophies.

One major area is with regard to drag ratings. The general industry standard is to state maximum drag ratings at a 45 degrees angle of the rod but there is no consistency whatsoever in the industry in this regard. Some companies are very conservative in this regard while others are just plain ridiculous, like claiming crazy levels like 26kg on a PE8 rod. That is just plain stupid and reflect on the knowledge of the manufacturer.

A common idiosyncrasy is with regard to butt lengths. Nearly every manufacturer differs here to some degree.

Another is that some manufacturers like to place the reel seat in an up-winding position whereas others like it in a down-winding position.

I would also suggest that if you are buying a Fisherman rod for the first time that you get the relevant information about where the reel seat is because if  you are used to the reel seat placement on a Carpenter of Smith, you might get a bit of a shock from a Fisherman.

I really encourage anyone looking for a rod to do their research and make an informed decision. It pays to do your research and understand what suits you.


GT Rod Manufacturers

GT rods range in price from relatively reasonable to "wow" and I will make the comment that beyond a certain point, spending more does not necessarily mean you get a better rod. When I wrote the first iteration of this guide, I could almost cover all the brands on the market. Today, it is just too hard with the number of producers.

Just because a rod is from a reputable brand, do not necessarily think it will be good. A lot of manufacturers lack the expertise and the testing personnel to produce good GT rods.

At the budget end of the market, you get a heap of rods from unmentionables to offerings from reputable brands like Shimano.

Shimano have a number of offerings these days such as the Ocea Offshore or T-Curve rods. There are other rods available at a budget from various other producers but I have no experience with these so I won't mention them. I have managed in the past to seriously upset the promoters of some of these brands so will leave them alone. All I will say is that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. We see the budget offerings generally in the $400+ level. I have little doubt that these rods will do the job although they will generally tend to be heavier, less well balanced and will not have hardware of the same quality as you see in the more premium offerings.

Moving into the middle to middle upper part of the market in that $600-$900 price bracket, you run into a big market. Even Wilson have gotten into the act these days with a range of popper rods made with Kilwell Blanks from New Zealand. I see new entrants like Swage that I know nothing about.

Daiwa have the Daiwa Saltiga range which seems to keep changing. Daiwa have superb graphite technology and with the right testing staff, could produce market leading rods. Unfortunately, they never seem to have gotten it quite right with the range and as a result, they have never gotten as much traction in the sport with their rods as they could have.

Zenaq, Hots and Yamaga Blanks are well-established Japanese manufacturers who make excellent rods that are reasonably priced. All three of the manufacturers have  long pedigrees in the sport.

Race Point are produced by Saltywater Tackle and have built up quite a following in recent years.

The premium end of the market sees manufacturers like Smith, Carpenter, Ripple Fisher, Sevenseas, Patriot Design, Fisherman, Hammerhead etc. These are all excellent rods that are well constructed and they should be at their prices! There are also some new players around like Maven. I know nothing about their rods but the workmanship looks at a level you find on custom rods. I have no idea, however, on how good the rods actually are.

At this level, I do not think it is really appropriate to say that one rod is better than another as they are all quality rods and your decision will be heavily influenced by personal choice. You will not go too far wrong with any of these names provided you find a rods that suits you. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to find a rod that suits you.

Just remember that it is the tradesman and not the tool. The tool of course helps but a capable angler will land the same fish irrespective of whether he is using a T-Curve or a custom Carpenter.


Dos and Do Nots with GT Rods

These issues are not directly related to your buying decision but I thought they might be helpful seeing the purchase of a GT rod is an expensive investment.

GT rods are some of the sophisticated rods made utilising cutting edge graphite technology. They are made to be incredibly strong for their weight and to be able to take a high level of abuse during a fight but there is a limit.

High-sticking

I am sure most of you would be familiar with the concept of high-sticking. Can I say though, this is a poorly understood concept with GT fishing. There is nothing wrong with high-sticking (within limits of course) when a fish is 80m from a boat but high-sticking when a fish is near or under a boat is potential death for you rod. I have seen some of the best anglers in the sport high-sticking like anyone else when the fish is a long way from the boat but once the fish is under the boat, they are extremely cautious. The large majority of GT rods broken happen when the fish is under the boat and the angler continues to get the rod into a high sticking angle.

It is really important to have an awareness of where the fish is and to be able to react to it. If not, the rod is what takes the brunt of your mistake, often with fatal consequences.

Ensure that the rod is properly inserted

This is a common reason for rod breakages. Most GT rods have a bad habit of slipping out during use. That is, the rod section comes out of the butt section by a few millimetres during use. If this happens and you load up hard on a fish, there may be disastrous consequences. A lot of anglers have argued strenuously that their rods were properly inserted when it broke but the reality is otherwise. You should check this from time to time during use and also, a bit of rod wax helps to hold the rod in place (see below).

Rod Wax

Do invest in some rod wax and ensure you keep the joint waxed at all times. This is a very cheap and very effective way of preventing slippage at the joint. That said, do not over-wax the joint as it can stick like glue!

I suggest that at the end of each day of fishing, you separate the rod just to ensure the joint is not sticking. Many people have found that at the end of a trip, they cannot separate the two sections of the rod. I find that separating it at the end of each day mitigates this to a large degree.

Rod Wraps

Do invest in some rod wraps. Most of the Japanese manufacturers produce these under their own names. These are basically just a rubber strap which have Velcro on the ends so they are used to wrap rods together but they also are incredibly useful in getting a grip on a rod so you can separate the two sections. I also use rod wraps to prevent rod chatter when the rods are bouncing around in a boat. Having rods continuously knocking against each other when the boat is bouncing around is a very bad idea. I use rod wraps to secure the rods (and the poppers) so they don't knock against each other.

I cannot separate my Rod!

If you have this problem, do not panic. Whatever you do, do not try to force the rod apart using clamps. I have heard a couple of horror stories where uninformed tackle stores have done the most stupid things. If this happens to you, wrap the joint area with a bag of ice and let it sit for a while. You will find that the rod should separate quite easily after this if you use rod wraps. This method has always worked for me. If the rod still will not separate, I expect some spray on lubricant will work but I cannot recommend any as I have not had to resort to this.


SUMMARY

So there we are! I hope that the information above will prove to be useful in assisting you in relevant considerations in buying your first or next GT rod.

I get asked very often what I use myself. It is ] appropriate for me to disclose at this point that I have an involvement with Carpenter so what brand I use is obvious. I would point out though that I have used Carpenters well before I established a relationship with the company for the simple reason that the name has been synonymous with GT fishing.

I obviously have a ridiculous number of rods but a few rods make pretty much every trip. My first rod packed is a Blue Lagoon 80/43. The reason for this is I like fishing big stickbaits. The second rod packed is one of the three rods in the Monster Hunter range depending on how strong a rod I feel I need. After this, the Coral Viper CV79/40 gets to come along on nearly every trip due to its versatility.

If I can leave you with one thought, take your time on your buying decision and find a rod(s) that suits you. Do your research properly. That is about as far as my recommendation can go. Be careful where you get advice from particularly from a tackle shop that stocks one brand or has an interest in pushing one brand. Many staff in tackle stores feel a need to be an expert irrespective of their true level of knowledge. I will never be able to go past one clown in one of the largest tackle stores in Sydney who waxed on about his expertise and who he knew and fished wth until he named me as one of his regular fishing companions!

Also, be selective with advice from people who may mean well but do not have the knowledge or the experience to give you the right advice. Finally, don't take what you read in fishing magazines as gospel. There are journalists writing about GTs and GT equipment these days who have a very poor knowledge of the topic and who simply sprout nonsense. The moment a journalist writes about 20kgs of drag, there is a 99% chance they know nothing about GT fishing.

You will never go too far wrong doing plenty of research and taking your time.
Last Edit: February 05, 2017, 02:02:15 PM by Brandon Khoo
If it swims; I want to catch it!

Mick Rowley

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Re: Guide to buying a GT rod
May 07, 2010, 10:25:09 AM
Brandon,
very good read, an excellent tip on rod separation after a big trip. One question, do you have any similar information about popper blanks, i custom build my own rods and have only come across the Japanese made seed blanks here in Australia which i rate highly, but would like some more variety, any info would be much appreciated.
Thanks, Mick.

Greg Burt

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Re: Guide to buying a GT rod
November 14, 2010, 10:44:35 PM
Thanks for the updating Brandon, a refreshing read
   :)
Greg 'FFF' Burt

Craig Maree

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Re: Guide to buying a GT rod
November 15, 2010, 03:47:36 AM
Hi Brandon - thanks for the info really informative -  I have been learning loads from the site.

I have a Shimano Kaibatsu and am thinking of taking the next step and getting a premium rod. 

There are not many of the top brands available in South Africa so choice is limited unless I buy overseas and have it shipped in.

Where would you rate Jigging Masters GT Monster (7.6ft or 8.6ft)

I see in the USA OTI (Tuna Sniper and the shorter model) has quite a following being used to target YFT and BFT - how do these rods rate for GT's.

Thanks
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Brandon Khoo

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Re: Guide to buying a GT rod
November 15, 2010, 06:49:54 AM
I have had a look at the Jigging Master GT rod but I haven't used it. It feel like a decent enough rod but it feels very much like a PE6-8 rod. I don't think it is a PE10 rod. Also, I wouldn't be looking at poppers much beyond about 140-150g as the blanks is too soft for large poppers.

I know nothing about OTI rods but generally, tuna rods are made for tuna - they're not really ideal for GTs.
If it swims; I want to catch it!

Inigo Vivanco Amato

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Re: Guide to buying a GT rod
March 19, 2011, 12:30:11 AM

Brandon Khoo

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Re: Guide to buying a GT rod
March 20, 2011, 06:31:49 AM
If it swims; I want to catch it!

Inigo Vivanco Amato

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Re: Guide to buying a GT rod
March 20, 2011, 08:25:18 AM

Brandon Khoo

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Re: Guide to buying a GT rod
March 20, 2011, 08:42:18 AM
If it swims; I want to catch it!

Inigo Vivanco Amato

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Re: Guide to buying a GT rod
March 20, 2011, 08:11:56 PM
Thanks Brandon.

Inigo Vivanco Amato

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Re: Guide to buying a GT rod
March 20, 2011, 08:42:19 PM

Craig Maree

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Re: Guide to buying a GT rod
May 02, 2011, 09:33:17 PM
Brandon thanks for all the help.  I took the plunge and upgraded to premium rods. 

I received my Smith rods (WRC Rocket, WRC 80P, AMJ 52EX) about and a month ago and used them in Mozambique. 

Awesome rods could not be happier. 
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Mark Harris

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Re: Guide to buying a GT rod
May 02, 2011, 09:37:07 PM
Craig, would be really good if you could post a short review of the Rocket here: http://www.gtpopping.com/forum/index.php?board=3.0. I have been trying to get some actual user views on this rod for a while now.

Ryan Theyer

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Re: Guide to buying a GT rod
June 23, 2011, 11:10:00 PM
Thanks for the info. I'm going to buy a new rod shorly but I am still unsure which way to go.

mitchell huner

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Re: Guide to buying a GT rod
July 20, 2011, 03:48:17 PM
Hey,
I heading up north to sail a boat back down, and was going to do some gt fishing, also i am heading to samoa at the end of the year. I had a read and i saw you mentioned the T-curve gt special, and was just wondering would the T-curve revolution 10-15kg be enough to handle gt's. Also i saw that there was no mention of any reels, so i was just wonder in the shimano saragosa 1800 would also be up to the challenge.
Thanks Mitch.