Catching tuna is no joke. Tuna are strong, fast, put up one hell of a fight, and have the strength to snap inferior or mismatched rods into pieces. You’ll need a rod that’s flexible, durable, and strong enough to muscle a pissed off Yellowfin up from the depths.
That’s why spending the extra dough on a high-quality rod is well worth it. A good tuna rod should easily last 10+ years of regular use, plus most high-end rods come with lifetime warranties should anything go wrong.
Picking out the right tuna rod can be a challenging task. I’ll break down some of the best rods for each fishing technique, plus how to pick the best rod for your needs, budget, and preferences.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Tuna Rods
- Best Spinning Rod for Tuna: Shimano Trevala Spinning
- Best Tuna Casting Rod: Shimano Terez Saltwater Casting Rod
- Best Tuna Popping Rod: Jigging World Ghost Hunter Popping Rod
- Best Trolling/Heavy-Duty Rod: Blue Marlin Tournament Edition Trolling Rod
- Best Rod and Reel Combo: PENN Spinfisher V & VI Spinning Reel & Rod Combo
Top 5 Tuna Fishing Rods
How to pick the best tuna rod for you?
With so many options out there, picking the best tuna rod for your needs can seem like a herculean task. Not to worry – I’ll break down what you need to know before pulling the trigger on a new rod.
Your fishing technique will largely dictate the type of rod you’ll need.
Jigging rods are designed for dropping jigs deep into the water column. They should be relatively short and light – in the 5’8” to 6’6” range. You want to match the weight of your jig to the jigging rod’s intended jig weight. This will ensure the jig action works as intended – enticing the Tuna to bite with ferocity.
Both conventional and spinning setups work well for jigging, with spinning reels offering more finesse and sensitivity, while conventional reels offer the muscle and drag needed to fight bigger fish.
Popping rods are specially designed for throwing poppers and swimbaits on the surface. These rods are typically longer – in the 7.5 to 8 foot range. The added length allows for the longer casts needed to drop a lure into a school of feeding tuna without getting too close.
These rods often feature lighter and parabolic blanks, which act to transfer more to torque to wear out the fish rather than the angler.
Popping rods are typically paired with spinning gear, but conventional tackle can also work.
Trolling rods vary widely depending on the Tuna species your targeting. They’re typically on the shorter side – measuring between 5’6” and 6’6”. They’re also generally on the heavier side, giving them the strength and backbone needed to pull spreader bars and dredges.
These rods feature either roller guides or open guides depending on their weight class. Roller guides prevent excessive friction on your line when it’s under drag, which helps maintain line integrity and can help when fighting larger fish.
Rod materials have come along way over the last few years. Whereas not long ago the only rods capable of catching big tuna were big bulky broomstick looking things, newer rods utilize high-end composites to create slim, feather-light, and durable poles.
Fiberglass is the most widely used material when it comes to tuna rods. It’s strong, durable, and flexible – and able to withstand the wear and tear that inevitably comes with heavy-duty offshore fishing.
The major downside of fiberglass is its weight. Fiberglass weighs significantly more than newer rod materials, making it more difficult to detect strikes – plus the added weight can tire you out in a prolonged fight.
Graphite is lightweight, highly sensitive, and results in slim, smaller-diameter rods. These rods are ideal for detecting subtle strikes and really feeling the action and fish’s behavior.
The downside to graphite is its fragility. Compared to fiberglass, its fairly brittle, and can actually form nicks from rough use or from damage during transport. These nicks create weak spots in the rod, which will eventually fail under stress.
Increasingly popular among all types of saltwater anglers, composites combine the strength of fiberglass with the sensitivity and lightness of graphite.
Layered construction allows for highly advanced composites – like Shimano’s TC4 found in the Terez and Trevala series rods above. This composite results in a surprisingly slim diameter, while maintaining a high degree of toughness and durability.
Composites don’t have many downsides, other than price. Higher-end composites will cost significantly more than traditional fiberglass rods.
This one comes down to personal preference and fishing style. Tuna rods are available with either bent-butt or straight-butt handles.
Bent butt handles are used when fishing with heavy drag settings on heavy tackle. They’re also generally used when fishing from a chair, to help to keep the rod tip down.
Straight butt handles are versatile and can be used for a wider variety of applications. Most people are familiar with using a straight butt rod, and they’re also easier to transport than bent butt rods.
In general, I’d recommend going with a straight butt, unless you’re planning on fishing from a fighting chair.
When you’re talking Tuna gear, you’ll generally get what you pay for.
Shelling out the extra dough for a well-made composite rod will save you a lot of headaches down the line. If you’re not looking to splurge, you can still get a decent tuna stick in the $150 to $200 range, but don’t expect it to perform quite as well as more expensive options.
Featured image source.
I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.