Choosing a travel rod for anglers who like to pack light and carry a fishing rod in their luggage on every where they travel requires a little planning and view of the options and fish you think you might encounter on your travels. We reviewed a wide gamut of rods and came up with a lot of options to consider as well as some great recommendations for which fishing rods we would suggest for a lot of different types of fishing and travel.
Things like size of the rod when disassembled, number of pieces, rod case, roll or bag, type of rod, how you will transport it, whether a telescoping rod makes sense and more need to be considered before choosing the best travel rod for your fishing plans. Jigging rod
Travel rods can come from 2 pieces up to 5 pieces not to mention the telescoping travel rod options out there. You might want to fit the rod in a suitcase, if so more pieces will break down into a smaller foot print. Or you might carry it with you which might give you more options for rods. You might want a hard case to protect the rod if you’re worried about TSA or some other party damaging your rods in transit. Or a rod wrap may suffice if it’s tucked inside of another hard case suitcase.
Then there are the types of rod to consider including spinning travel rods, casting travel rods, telescoping travel rods as well as travel fly rods or specialty rods like travel swimbait rods or travel trout or panfish rods. Or any combination of the aforementioned.
If you plan to fish with light lures and light line, then a spinning travel rod might be the best option. If you plan to look for big bluegills or crappies specifically on your travels, then a long telescoping rod might make more sense or a small spinning rod like a trout rod might give you a lot of options for trout and panfish.
If you’re going for larger quarry, you will want a beefier rod that has a reel that can hold heavier line. Usually a baitcasting travel rod makes sense for bass, or big fish like walleye, pike, musky, stripers, etc.
Specialty rods like travel swimbait rods or extra long jigging rods might be just the ticket for probing unknown waters for specific types of fishing like jigging brush for crappie or casting oversized swimbaits for trophy bass and stripers.
Of course if you’re in to fly fishing, then a travel fly rod is hard to beat. There are some super high end and middle of the road options that are great rods that make a 9-foot fly rod fit into an over night travel bag with the travel fly rod option.
For some, a telescoping rod is an easy spur of the moment travel rod option to probe some nearby waters to see if they have fish available. I have buddies that keep telescoping rods in their trucks at all times and will break it out on their travels or while taking a lunch or after work on a work trip. It’s a quick and simple option.
Most of time telescoping rods are a bit lower quality. Or at least that was the case back when the only option was a low end push button spin cast combo for small panfish. There are, however, some newer options bringing this back as a real viable option for bass and panfish.
You can buy travel rods that are a rod and reel combo. This is often the case with telescoping options. But there are some better quality options in the multi-piece travel rods with a decent spinning reel. Most of the time. I want the best rod I can get and a good reel in my bag so I’m not fighting my equipment in the limited amount of time I get to fish on my travels. Especially those spur-of-the-moment unplanned fishing trips while traveling.
But when you get to a location and wished you had a rod and reel, a decent priced telescoping rod/reel combo can get you in the fish on an unexpected hot spot quickly and easily.
Anymore your travel rod is going to come in a hard case, a roll or a bag. Regardless you need to take care to protect the pieces of the rod or the rod while it is compartmentalized so it’s not damaged in your travels.
A hard case might be a cloth case with a hard shell inside of it that zips closed on the end and the multiple pieces slide into little sleeves inside of it. Or it might be a hard outer shell with a soft interior that keeps your guides and blank parts protected. These are nice when you plan to carry your travel rods separate from your luggage. Or keep them in a vehicle on your travels.
A travel rod roll is just a cloth sleeve with individual pockets for each piece of the blank and then you roll it up with flap that closes on one end and tie it off with the attached ties. These can be nice for putting a rod or two into your other travel bags or a small compartment in your vehicle.
A travel bag can be just a cloth bag or a padded foam bag that houses and protects the rod simultaneously. I’m a fan of these as they keep your pieces from falling out as sometimes happens with rolls. And they keep the blank pieces with a bit of added protection. The padded bags are ideal in my opinion.
In the freshwater space, the best travel rod makers are often synonymous with the best rod makers. Makers like Daiwa, Shimano, St. Croix, Megabass, Ark Rods, Fenwick, and others have really solid travel rod options. Others that many don’t know offer travel rods have good options like Favorite, Bass Pro, and BnM Poles.
Here are the travel rod brands we reviewed and liked:
Having said all that, let’s take a closer look at some of our personal favorites in various travel rod categories.
We chose the Daiwa Travel Combo as the best combo because it comes with a good reel, telescoping rod that is better than most and it’s own sling carry bag that is big enough to put several travel rods and reels in. This combo compacts down to 26 inches making it a perfect option for any trip whether it be in a car or a plane.
The rod is a 7-foot, 2-inch Medium power fast action rod. It’s a solid rod and stayed extended as we fished with it. The reel is a 2-bearing Daiwa Crossfire LT 2500. Even though it’s only 2 bearings, it performed very smoothly and effortlessly with a very smooth drag. It’s a solid spinning combo and it’s offered in EVA or Cork grips.
The combo costs $149 but if you just want a good combo without messing around with pairing rods and reels, this is a quick easy choice.
The fact that Shimano took one of their best rod lines and converted it into a high-end bass travel rod got me excited. And when I got the new rod in my hand, I was very impressed. I am a big fan of the original Zodias line and was so excited to see this level of quality in a 5-piece travel rod.
This travel rod condenses down to 19 inches when packed, meaning you can literally take it anywhere. And when full assembled you have a very high quality rod full of all the features of the high end one-piece blanks. The 5-piece construction gives the rod more uniform bend than a 2-piece model would.
It has so much power and a steady consistent load when casting. You will forget it’s a travel rod by your second cast. It’s a high end rod that just happens to be in 5 pieces. It has a CI4+ reel seat for lightweight strength and a full carbon monocoque grip which eliminates the use of EVA giving a light rod more sensitivity.
Hi-Power X construction which makes the blanks outermost layer wrapped with carbon tape form that X appearance on the blank that gives more precise actions to the rods with more strength.
You can really lean into fish with this rod without worry. It’s one of the nicest travel rods we’ve tested.
This is another high-end rod that has been brought down to a travel rod form factor. This rod comes with a very nice hard case and it breaks down to 30 inches (32 in its case). It features a V-flex ferrule joint system. These ferrules don’t require you to jam the rod pieces all the way together and then struggle to separate them. You simply push them until they snug together and you are all set. You can break down and put the rod together in seconds and be fishing as fast as you can thread your line.
The rod has a high-modulus blank, Fuji Aluminum Oxide guides, unsanded micro-pitch blank, split Eva grip and machined nut hood. It’s a high quality rod that pairs nicely with your favorite bait caster. It comes in 7-foot medium, 7-foot medium heavy and 7-foot, 6-inch medium heavy.
St. Croix Avid Trek rod
This is a finely crafted American rod with incredible blanks offering uniform performance, strength and ultra-perceptive sensitivity. The premium cork full grip, and quality blanks featuring St. Croix’s IPC mandrels, SCII high modulus carbon, slim profile ART ferrules, Sea Guide Hero hi-grade guides with zirconia rings and stainless gun smoke frames, sea guide hook keeper, and a 15-year-transferable warranty.
This rod can literally do it all. Going to Louisiana to fish the marshes for bass and redfish, this is your rod. Strong, light, smooth, sensitive and easy to pack. The 3-piece rod is 6-foot, 6-inch MH rod with a lot of power but great castability. This rod is a joy to fish with and you can expect it to last a long time with that kind of warranty.
Bass Pro Aventur1 Telescoping Rod
I was pleasantly surprised by the Aventur1 telescoping rod. It features 6 sections but 8 guides for uniform castability and a nice line path while fighting fish. The unique guide system has floating guides as well as guides permanently affixed to the rod sections. So you won’t fight with line on the blank on this travel rod.
The 7-foot medium power rod fished really well and I was pretty taken aback at how nice this rod fished for $59. A rod that will likely always be in my travel plans. With an RT2 graphite blank, Fuji aluminum oxide guides, Fuji reel seat, with EVA split grips and X-Wrap rubber cork butt cap, this is a pretty functional telescoping rod for travel fishing.
Buy at Sportsman’s Outfitters
The folks at F5 Custom Rods make some of the nicest big swimbait rods available today. These are custom made rods from blanks to handles to accents. They are often very selective in how they build rods and you usually have to get lucky enough to catch a rod on a drop. However, the F5 Departure Travel Rods are often in stock and I picked up a H and XH rod a year or so back.
These are two of my favorite big swimbait rods that I use for crankdowns like the Bull Shad 4×4 and the Toxic Whippersnappers, for glides like the 86 Baits Doomrider, KGB Swimbaits Chad Shad or the Deps Slide Swimmer 250 and of course for my jointed swims like the Bull Shad 8 inch.
The rods are both 3-piece rods and are custom made with a full extra long camo EVA handle. The ones the often sell are split grips. The rod blanks are solid. Even with three pieces I had no issues heaving big baits like the Slide Swimmer which weighs 6 1/2 ounces.
They are going to run you about $289 a piece for these rods. But I am so happy to have them because I can take a pack of my favorite big baits and a very high-end swimbait rod literally everywhere I go to chase trophies all over the country and out of the country for that matter.
Buy at Sportsman’s Outfitters
Favorite Fishing Army Geo Rod
This is an impressive rod not only for the price but for how well this 4-piece rod fishes and fights fish. We caught some really quality bass on this rod this spring and it is a legit fun spinning rod to fish. I love that I threw it in my suitcase, loaded up and went to Arkansas and broke it out and caught a bunch of nice bass that were moving shallow to spawn.
Even my brother-in-law enjoyed fishing with this travel rod. And at $39, it’s a hard rod to pass up. The 4 pieces in their hard travel tube are 26 inches. The pieces are barely 23 inches. The rod is a 7-foot, 2-inch medium-heavy spinning rod. I used it to skip Senkos around shallow cover a lot this spring. And it sets a nice hook and has a ton of backbone to land big bass. Our biggest on it was 6 pounds, 4 ounces this spring.
At $44 at Walmart, you can’t go wrong with this nearly indestructible travel rod. They Ugly Stik has been the staple of affordable travel rods. They can take abuse and continue to catch and land fish.
St. Croix Trout Series Pack Rod
For the adventurer who needs a light and packable trout rod to get to remote locations, this is the Cadillac of adventure rods. This rod says trout, but it’s a dynamite bluegill, crappie and even smallmouth rod for remote streams and creeks. It’s a beautifully built rod at only 2.9 ounces and 3 pieces, it compacts down to be no added weight in your backpack.
I paired it with a small 1000 spinning reel and 4-pound line and really enjoyed fishing this rod a lot. It will be come one of my staple creek travel rods now. It throws little baits effortlessly and had a nice backbone for such a light rod. A real joy to fish with.
BnM Poles Little Mighty Telescoping Rod
I have to admit, I’m a little blow away by this rod. I grew up crappie and bluegill fishing with my father in Florida and Arkansas with telescoping fiberglass rods from B’n’M Poles. So I have a lot of nostalgia when it comes to these types of rod. But the new Little Mighty Rod is something special.
While it’s not technically a travel rod, it’s a telescoping rod that reaches out to 20 feet and breaks down to barely 22 inches. It looks like a bright orange track baton but it extends to a masterful reach out and touch a crappie or bluegill telescoping rod quickly.
One word of caution, be sure you extend the rod small sections first. So grab the string tab on the tip and pull it out that way. Don’t slide the sections out by dumping the open end out or you will have issues with sections getting out of order and blocking each other. Same for breaking it down. Big sections first and be sure to leave the string out when you put the cap on.
Other than that, I enjoyed testing this rod a lot. I honestly didn’t think much of it when I got it. But after using it I can think of all sorts of places I want to take and fish with this rod. Once you get the hang of maneuvering 20 feet of rod with a fish on the end it’s a pretty fun stick to fish with.
This was my original travel rod and I’ve put a lot of miles on it. It’s caught fish in Nebraska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. This is a two piece travel rod that comes with a nice padded bag.
The rod joins together nicely and fishes so well. The very narrow blanks are durable and sensitive. I’ve caught fish just about every way you can on these rods. I have the 6-foot, 8-inch MH and the 7-foot, 6-inch MH rods and have flipped, frogged, spinnerbait fished, jigged, cranked, popped a topwater popper and burned a buzz bait with these rods. A great option that gives no sacrifice in performance in a 2-piece travel rod.
A very nicely made travel pack rod, the Argos Travel Rod is a 4-piece rod built on a 24T Toray Carbon blank. Comes with a 25 inch travel case. It fishes like your nicest bass rod but you can tuck it under a jacket and take it with you anywhere. The rod loads nicely on the cast and has enough back bone with it’s 7-foot MH frame to fight any size bass you might tangle with. A very nice travel rod option.
This is an affordable option at $25 but it’s not made to handle big fish in my opinion. It’s a great rod for catching panfish around a campsite, or of the dock on vacation. But it’s not made for fishing for larger fish. The rod bends easily at the tip under load and the line cuts across the rod to the next guide. So just be cautious with bigger fish on this setup. But for $25, you can catch the heck out of a bunch of panfish with this setup.
I haven’t had a chance to review the latest offerings from Hardy yet, but one of my all time favorite travel rods is my Hardy Zephrus FWS Travel Fly Rod. It’s a 9-foot, 5-weight rod. It is the perfect pack rod for hiking into remote streams and chasing fish on the fly. This is the Ferrari of travel rods in my opinion. Everything is first class from the aluminum case, styled bag, ferrule covers, and beautiful craftsmanship on the Sintrix 440 blank.
This 7-foot, 4-piece rod is another great do-it all travel rod. It’s a great rod for a lot of different species and lures in that 1/4 ounce to 3/4 ounce size. It breaks down to 25 inches so it will fit in almost all your bags and it comes in a nice hard case with a shoulder strap if you want to carry it on your back while you hike. It’s very well made and fished nicely with a variety of reels.
This work-horse travel rod serves a ton of different purposes. It’s 6-foot, 6-inch size makes it a great size for tight quarters. I loved fishing some small streams near the house with this rod. A fun little rod for wading creeks or winging around on bigger waters on your travels. It’s small form factor of 24 inches makes it a great pack rod to keep in your vehicle or throw in your bag on long trips. It’s a very nice blank divided into 4 pieces. It’s strong, sensitive and light. A great travel version of their very popular Triumph line.
We review a ton of products and while they don’t always make the best of categories there are a lot of good rods to choose from that can get the job done. We try to give you as many options as possible while identifying some that we think stand out in the array of options. The goal with our guides is to help you be as informed and aggregate as much helpful information and personal experience into helping you with your fishing gear decisions.
Here is a quick rundown of a lot of travel rod / telescoping rod options:
Ark Rods Genesis Travel Rods
B’n’M Poles Little Mighty
F5 Departure Travel Swimbait Rods
Favorite Fishing Army Geo Rod
Hardy Zephrus FWS Travel Fly Rod
St. Croix Avid Trek Rod
St. Croix Triumph Travel Rod
St. Croix Trout Series Pack Rod
Fish Reels Ugly Stick GX2 Travel Combo