If you’re unfortunate enough to get stuck in a real SHTF survival scenario, a survival fishing rod is one of the handiest pieces of gear you can possibly have with you. Just one of these compact rods is enough to put necessary food on the table, and can potentially feed the entire family for a while.
Due to their lightweight and compact size, a survival rod and reel is easy to stash inside a bug out bag or glove box. Pound for pound you’ll have a hard time beating the effectiveness of a fishing rod and reel for harvesting necessary calories.
Small game snares don’t always work, and even when they do it can take a while to actually snare something. Provided you’re close to a decent-sized body of water, a fishing rod should provide you with something to eat without too much effort.
I’ll break down what you need to know when picking out a survival fishing rod, review some of the best options available, and explain how to fashion one for yourself if need be.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Survival Fishing Rods
- Best Overall: Emmrod PackRod Spin 6 Coil
- Runner Up: Bassdash Alien Travel Spinning Fishing Rod
- Rod & Reel Combo: PLUSINNO Fishing Rod and Reel Combo
- Budget Pick: Ka-Bar Backpacker Kaster
- Also Consider: Okuma VS-605-20 Voyager Spinning Travel Kit
Why a survival fishing rod or pole
When you’re considering what gear to pack in a bug out bag or emergency survival kit, you’ve got to weigh the potential benefits against the weight and bulk of the gear. Things like water filters, freeze-dried meals, ammunition, and fire-starting tools are worth their weight in gold, but a telescopic survival fishing rod can provide just as much utility.
If you were lost in the woods, or your vehicle broke down in a remote location, being able to procure necessary calories and protein from fish would go a long way to keeping you alive. A basic survival fishing kit can work well and takes up a minimal amount of space, but for my money, a compact rod and reel is the way to go if you have enough room.
These rods are also great for backpacking, minimalist camping, long-distance travel, or just throwing in your vehicle in case you spot the opportunity to fish!
Best Overall: Emmrod PackRod Spin 6 Coil
Emmrod might be the best-kept secret in the “backpack fishing rod” category. These portable rods are the ideal solution when you’re looking for a rod with the same performance as a full-sized rod that easily fits in a small backpack or emergency kit.
The coiled rod end might look a bit odd, but it allows the stainless steel blank to bend while you cast – propelling your bait or lure much like a full-length rod does. The compact pole will cast as far as 6-foot graphite fishing rods.
At 13” when broken down, the PackRod is not only incredibly compact, it’s also highly durable. The one-piece aluminum chassis provides unparalleled structural integrity, while the TPE hybrid anti-slip handle gives you excellent grip and impact durability. A lanyard ring is built into the rod base, allowing you to tether it to your wrist, a backpack, or kayak/canoe.
This reel seat is suited for use with nearly any spinning reel – however, baitcaster models are also available. Interestingly, the number of coils in the blank determines how much weight it can handle (more coils = lighter fish). This model features 6 coils, so it’ll work for fish up to around 15 pounds.
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- Weight: 8 oz.
- Collapsed Length: 13”
- Highly portable and tough as nails
- Allows you to cast nearly as far as full-sized rods
- Perfect for bug out bags, backpacking, or stashing inside a car or truck
Runner Up: Bassdash Alien Travel Spinning Fishing Rod
If you’re looking for a lightweight, compact rod that can fit just about anywhere, then this well-made telescopic rod will fit the bill nicely. Made from multi-layer premium carbon fiber, the rod is both compact and lightweight. It features a combination of floating and fixed guides, with the second guide from the tip being “floating” – which improves casting and overall performance.
Snug-fitting ferrules provide a good degree of power and ensure the rod performs like a 1 piece rod. Five different length options are available (6-foot, 7-foot, 8-foot, 10-foot, and 12-foot), so you can easily find the ideal length for your needs. The actions vary from fast to moderate fast, making these rods good for bass, trout, perch, and carp and for the longer models salmon and bluefish.
The rods weigh between 4 and 12.6 ounces, depending on the length. The collapsed length is between 14” and 22”, making them ideal for survival scenarios, as they’ll take up a minimal amount of weight in your kit.
Although no reel comes included, the reel seats can accommodate most spinning reels. Bassdash also makes a lightweight Alien reel that matches perfectly with these rods.
- Weight: 4 – 12.6 ounces
- Collapsed Length: 14 to 22 inches
- Highly portable and easy to store
- Compatible with most spinning reels
- Protective 6mm thick foam carry bag included
Rod and Reel Combo: PLUSINNO Fishing Rod and Reel Combo
If you’re looking for a portable rod and reel combo that you can easily throw in a bug out bag or survival kit, then you’ll have a hard time topping this gorgeous looking combo. It’s surprisingly well-made, featuring a stainless-steel hooded reel seat and sensitive graphite blank construction.
The overall closed length varies between 16”- 18” depending on the exact model. The stainless steel and EVA foam grip provide a rock-solid feel in hand and give the impression of a far more expensive piece of gear.
While it’s intended to be used with spinning reels, you can also configure it with a baitcasting reel. The kit is available as a simple rod, reel, and case or as a kit with lures, fishing line, and a variety of tackle.
The short-bodied aluminum reel features a large spool and large line capacity – giving you the versatility to fish in different depths.
- Weight: 5 – 8.4 ounces
- Collapsed Length: 16 to 18 inches
- Suitable for freshwater and saltwater fishing
- Available as a full kit or just rod, reel and case
- Lightweight, durable construction is ideal for survival kits
Budget Pick: Ka-Bar Backpacker Kaster
Feather-light, compact, and tough-as-nails, this all-in-one fishing system is all you need to start catching fish in the field. While it’s not really a “fishing rod” per se, it works perfectly for handlining fish in a survival situation. The design is fairly straightforward, with three separate components – a hollowed-out KA-BAR handle, a head where the fishing line attaches, and a plastic clamp to secure your line in place when you’re not using the caster.
Using the caster is fairly easy. You simply unwind about 12” of line, put your thumb on the end of the spool, cast the Ka-Bar forward as you remove your thumb from the spool, and then retrieve the line by winding the line around the spool. Reeling in the line takes a little practice to prevent tangles, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be able to catch fish with ease.
The hollow handle allows you to stash a variety of hooks, jigs, lures, split shot, and extra line. It’s actually modeled after Ka-Bar’s USMC fighting/utility knife, which is one of the most popular fixed blade knives in the world. You can also wrap the handle in paracord and turn it into a mini survival kit.
To top it off, the price is particularly reasonable, and it’s made in the good old US of A.
- Weight: 4 ounces
- Length: 6 ¼ inches
- Made from durable and lightweight Ultramid
- Hollow handle can hold extra line and lures
- Line capacity 90 – 100 yards of 8 to 10 lb test
Also Consider: Okuma VS-605-20 Voyager Spinning Travel Kit
While it’s a little larger than more compact survival rods, this travel kit includes everything necessary to fish on the go. It includes a 6-foot long 5-piece light action travel rod, a size 20 Okuma Voyager reel, a custom travel case, and a light tackle box. The set is ideally suited to catching trout, panfish, catfish, and walleye – making it perfect for fishing in a survival scenario.
The soft-sided case measures 17” x 9” x 3”, making it great for keeping under a vehicle seat, inside a trunk, or in a backpack. It’s fairly inexpensive, and easily provides double the value of its modest price tag.
It’s a great mobile fishing rod for lakes, creeks, or anywhere that might have bass or catfish in it. If you’re looking for a rod and reel that’s cheap, under 7’ feet long, and will fit nearly anywhere, then this is the rod for you.
- Case Measurements: 17” x 9” x 3”
- 6-foot long light action rod
- Size 20 Okuma spinning reel
- 5-piece composite blank
- Durable ceramic guide inserts
How to pick the right survival fishing rod
With so many different options, choosing the right survival fishing rod for your needs can be a tricky task. Let’s take a look at some of the features to be aware of when picking out a fishing rod for survival purposes.
Telescopic rods are a bit of a controversial topic among anglers. While there are certainly plenty of low-quality telescopic rods out there, you can also find several well-made versions that can withstand the wear and tear of regular usage.
It used to be the case that you’d buy a telescopic rod, and be lucky to get a season’s worth of use out of it. Now you can find models that will last for years without needing to be replaced.
Due to the extendable blank sections, you’re always going to have weak points that solid rods don’t have. For this reason, if you’re looking for an absolutely bulletproof rod that’s guaranteed not to break down, take a look at a compact solid-bodied rod like the Emmrod.
Size & Weight
If you’re planning a bug out bag or emergency survival fishing kit, weight and size are serious considerations. Every extra ounce in your pack is more weight you’d need to carry on your back.
If you’re packing a larger multi-day pack, then you can get away with a bit more bulk than an ultra-light pack. If you want a rod to stash in your trunk or under a car seat, then you can get away with a bit more size and weight.
If you want to go as light as possible, then a minimalist survival fishing kit or the Ka-Bar backpack caster is the way to go.
How to make your own survival fishing rod
If you found yourself stranded in the wild, or if your vehicle broke down in a remote location, then knowing how to fashion your own rod would be invaluable. All you need to complete the job is a decent pocketknife, a length of mono line, and a fish hook.
To fashion a rod in the wild, follow these steps:
- Find a sturdy living branch between 6 and 7 feet long. Bamboo poles work very well if you can find some.
- Trim the leaves, shoots and small branches away from the main branch until your left with a smooth tapered pole.
- Tie the monofilament line about midway down the pole and then wrap it 3 to 4 times along the length of the pole. This ensures you won’t lose your line if the tip breaks off.
- Tie the end of the line to the pole with an overhand knot and test it to make sure it’s ready for use.
- Attach your hook to the end of the line (about 15 feet or so from the tip).
- Go catch some fish!