Best Steelhead Rods: Top 6 Picks And Buying Guide

August 13, 2021

Our editors at Finn’s Fishing Tips independently research, test, and recommend the best products to help you make purchase decisions. You can learn more about our review process here. We sometimes get a commission through purchases made via our links.

In the market for a reliable fishing rod to catch those stubborn steelhead? Then you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we’re reviewing the 6 best steelhead rods and sharing a detailed buying guide to help you choose the right rod for your fishing style and needs.

In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…

6 Best Steelhead Rods Reviews

1. X-11 Cork Steelhead Fishing Rod by Lamiglas

The X-11 Cork Steelhead Fishing Rod by Lamiglas is one of the most superior options on the market thanks to its amazing flexibility and durability. When using this rod, you’ll notice it can flex across its whole length, which means you get extra handling power. 

The X-11 Cork features IM6 Graphite to boost the sensitivity of the rod to the anglers. This rod is also quite versatile as it works well for both fly fishing and casting, so if you’re looking for an adaptable rod and reel to help you through drift fishing, the Lamiglas X-11 is definitely up for the job.

Available in multiple lengths ranging from 8 feet 6 inches to 10 feet 6 inches, you can use this fishing rod in a variety of water bodies including rivers, lakes, and even swamps if you’re trying to bypass weeds deep underwater. Not to mention, the medium strength and fast action of this rod make it ideal for catching steelhead.

What’s more, the Lamiglas X-11 is equipped with a deep pressed stainless steel line guide. It allows lines to pass through like a hot knife through butter, vouching for its clean design and smooth feel when casting or wrapping.

The X-11 is constructed mainly out of fiberglass, which is why it’s impressively lightweight and flexible. Graphite is added for reinforcement, allowing you to tackle heavy fish up to 50 pounds. Additionally, the handlebar looks modern and carries a cork grip that’s both comfy and solid.

Specs

  • Rod type – casting
  • Length – 8’6″ to 10’6″
  • Action – fast
  • Strength – medium
  • Guide – deep pressed stainless steel
  • Handle – tapered cork grip

What We Like

  • Offers extreme sensitivity and power
  • Highly flexible to promote easy dragging in the water
  • Rugged construction allows you to fight larger fish
  • Reinforced with graphite
  • Smooth line guide
  • Lightweight design

What We Don’t Like

  • The cork grip isn’t very sturdy

2. GX2 Steelhead Fishing Rod by Ugly Stik

The GX2 Steelhead Fishing Rod by Ugly Stik is a fantastic option for anglers looking to buy a spinning rod that performs well but doesn’t put a dent in their wallet.

The GX2 offers amazing value for money and it’s also a great choice for newbies out there. If you’re still testing the waters in the fishing world, this rod is ideal because it’s good quality and pretty affordable.

The Ugly Stik GX2 offers anglers a beautiful balance of durability and flexibility thanks to using a combination of fiberglass and graphite in its construction. It comes in a variety of lengths ranging from 4 feet 6 inches to 9 feet.

Buying the 9-foot 2-piece model is a smart idea because it’ll allow you to cast far while being easy to carry around.

What’s more, the GX2 Steelhead fishing rod is equipped with a terrific handle with EVA grips that are lightweight yet sturdy. Compared to handles on other rods of the same price range, the GX2 is much more superior. It’s even better than a few of the more expensive models!

Considering all the impressive features this steelhead fishing rod has to offer as well as the manufacturer’s generous 7-year warranty, it should come as no surprise that it’s super popular among thousands of anglers.

Specs

  • Rod type – spinning
  • Length – 4’6″ to 9′
  • Action – fast
  • Strength – medium
  • Guide – Ugly Tuff stainless steel (one piece)
  • Handle – EVA grip

What We Like

  • Casts very well
  • Quite affordable and offer great value for money
  • Highly durable
  • Comfy grip
  • Generous 7-year warranty

What We Don’t Like

  • Sensitivity could use some improvement

3. Okuma Celilo Graphite Steelhead Fishing Rod

For a lot of fishing enthusiasts, the name Okuma rings so many bells. This is one of the biggest brands in the industry, known for manufacturing some of the top-performing fishing gear of all time.

Here, we’re reviewing their Celilo Graphite Steelhead Fishing Rod, which is no exception to their stellar reputation. It’s actually one of their best creations, with thousands of anglers picking it as their spinning rod of choice for steelhead and salmon.

It’s not only the fact that this rod is high quality that makes it so popular, but it’s also available at a very affordable price point, which is awesome news if you’re on a budget or just starting out.

The construction of the Okuma Celilo Steelhead Fishing Rod uses mainly graphite composite to guarantee satisfactory durability and impressive sensitivity. Not to mention, the fast action and medium-heavy power prove to be a valuable asset when it comes to catching steelhead fish.

This Celilo series rod comes in multiple lengths including 8 feet 6 inches, 9 feet 6 inches, and 10 feet. As such, you can choose the length you’re most comfortable using and also cater to any deep-water fishing needs.

We specifically love the featured aluminum oxide guide because it’s more resistant to corrosion so it can handle saltwater fishing like a pro. You may also notice that the reel seats are stainless steel, which allows them to hold the reels efficiently for a long time.

This steelhead fishing rod is equipped with cork foam grips, which is a pretty common handle material for affordable rods. Still, they offer anglers decent support.

Specs

  • Rod type – spinning
  • Length – 8’6″, 9’6″, and 10′
  • Action – fast
  • Strength – medium heavy
  • Guide – aluminum oxide
  • Handle – cork foam grip

What We Like

  • Provides great sensitivity
  • Impressive action
  • Rugged build
  • Amazing value for money

What We Don’t Like

  • Some reports of the tip breaking quickly (probably didn’t use the proper line and lure)

4. KastKing Krome Hot Shot Steelhead Fishing Rod

If you’re interested in a steelhead fishing rod that features the latest technologies in construction and design, then the KastKing Krome Hot Shot Steelhead Fishing Rod may just be exactly what you’re looking for!

The frame on this unit is made out of a blend of graphite and carbon fiber. As such, it has the best of both worlds in terms of weight and sturdiness. This lightweight yet tough design offers the type of versatility that you want in your collection.

Additionally, the carbon/graphite build is reinforced with durable Kevlar fabric to boost the resistance of the rod, enabling you to take on larger fish. We were also super impressed by the level of accuracy you can achieve with the Hot Shot.

What’s more, this fishing rod is equipped with Fuji K guides, made of titanium alloy to ensure a silky smooth flow of lines when you’re wrapping and releasing.

Looks-wise, this rod is a sight for sore eyes. It’s black with a sleek finish to avoid staining and dirt build-up. The handle carries carbon fiber grips to give you a secure and comfortable hold over the rod while making it easier to clean and remove.

The KastKing Krome Hot Shot is 7 feet 6 inches long. But if you prefer your steelhead fishing rods longer, you can consider the Pro Troller version of the rod that comes in two lengths: 10 feet 6 inches and 12 feet.

Specs

  • Rod type – casting, spinning
  • Length – 7’6″
  • Action – fast
  • Strength – medium
  • Guide – Fuji K titanium alloy
  • Handle – carbon fiber

What We Like

  • Carbon fiber construction guarantees durability and a lightweight feel
  • Fuji K guides
  • Can withstand fighting larger fish
  • Attractive look
  • Easy to clean

What We Don’t Like

  • On the expensive side

5. BERRYPRO IM-8 Knight’s Steelhead Fishing Rod

Next up, we have the IM-8 Knight’s Steelhead Fishing Rod from the well-known brand BERRYPRO. Rocking a slim yet tough design, this unit is built using carbon and stainless steel materials to create a lightweight but powerful rod.

Available in multiple lengths ranging from 8 feet 6 inches to 10 feet 6 inches, Knight’s fishing rods also come in a variety of actions to support versatility, allowing you to use them for other fish besides steelheads such as walleye and salmon.

We particularly like the guides on these rods. They’re made of stainless steel and accompanied by a ceramic ring to reduce friction and ensure that your line passes through as smoothly as possible. What’s more, the alignment of the guides is highly precise so that the action travels efficiently from the line all the way to your hands when you cast long.

We were also impressed by the ergonomic design of the because it facilitates the grasp. Not to mention, the featured cork grip makes the handle more comfortable for extended use.

The BERRYPRO IM-8 Knight’s Steelhead Fishing Rods are backed up by a 1-year warranty so you can purchase with peace of mind.

Specs

  • Rod type – spinning
  • Length – 8’6″ to 10’6″
  • Action – fast
  • Strength – medium
  • Guide – stainless steel and ceramic
  • Handle – cork grip

What We Like

  • Very strong and light
  • High-quality guides
  • Upgraded cork grip feels more comfortable
  • Budget-friendly price

What We Don’t Like

  • Can be a bit too heavy for some users

6. St. Croix TRS66MF Triumph Graphite Steelhead Fishing Rod

Last but not least, we have the TRS66MF Steelhead Fishing Rod from the Triumph series by the famous St. Croix brand.

The first thing that most users notice with this rod is how lightweight it feels. This is a huge plus for anglers who plan to spend many hours on the water because it keeps arm fatigue at a minimum.

The lightweight feel of the TRS66MF Triumph Fishing Rod is coupled with amazing sensitivity to give you a great fishing experience. Constructed out of premium-grade graphite, this rod also provides reliable strength and power.

As for the length of this unit, we recommend the 6 feet 6 inches model with fast action and medium power. Although it’s a 1-piece setup, portability isn’t much of an issue because it’s not very long. At the same time, this configuration gives the most sensitivity and strength.

The price tag of the St. Croix TRS66MF Triumph Steelhead Fishing Rod is a bit on the pricey side, which is why we were a little disappointed with the handle. We expected something better than the cork foam grip; a typical addition to budget options.

Specs

  • Rod type – spinning
  • Length – 6’6″
  • Action – fast
  • Strength – medium
  • Guide – aluminum oxide 
  • Handle – cork grip

What We Like

  • Good balance of sensitivity and strength
  • Minimum arm fatigue
  • Long-lasting

What We Don’t Like

  • A bit pricey

How to Choose the Best Steelhead Rods

When shopping for the best steelhead rods, there are a few aspects you need to first consider before you spend your money to make sure you end up with a product that matches your fishing style and requirements. Here are the most important ones:

Type

There are several types of fishing rods out there, but the most common ones -and the ones we reviewed today- are casting and spinning rods.

The main purpose of both types is, of course, catching fish. However, they vary in technique, style, and mechanism.

To put it simply, spinning and casting rods differ in the positioning of the guides and the location of the reel.

  • In casting rods, you’ll find the guides on the top of the rod while the reel sits near the handle. These are best used for steelhead spinners.
  • In spinning rods, you’ll find the guides and the reel on the bottom of the rod.

Action

If you’re just starting out in the fishing world, chances are you’re not familiar with the concept of rod action. This is an important factor to consider when choosing a steelhead fishing rod since there’s an appropriate action for different fish species, so you need to know more about it.

Rod action refers to the degree of ease at which the rod bends when pressure is applied to its tip. Generally, you can figure out the action of a rod by observing the distance between the ‘bend’ point of the rod and the tip.

The longer this distance, the slower the action. Consequently, it takes such rods a longer time to return to their neutral position.

On the other hand, the shorter the distance, the faster the action and the quicker the rod can go back to its neutral position.

When shopping for a steelhead fishing rod, you’ll notice that each candidate comes with a specific action rating. The most common ones are fast, medium, and slow 

Other action ratings fall at different levels between each two of the ones mentioned above. For example, there are rods with actions such as medium-slow, extra-slow, medium-fast, extra-fast, and so on.

Power

Now that you have a better idea of the rod action, let’s explain the rod power. Basically, the power or weight rating of a rod blank refers to how strong it is.

Strength or power in a fishing rod is its lifting capacity and the extent of bending at the point nearest to the handle.

The heavier the power rating, the more strength the rod has to offer and the less bending it allows for. On the other hand, the lighter the rod’s power rating, the less strength it offers and the more it can afford.

When shopping for a steelhead fishing rod, you’ll notice that each candidate comes with a specific power rating. The most common ones are heavy, medium, and light.

Other power ratings fall at different levels between each two of the ones mentioned above. For example, there are rods with powers such as medium-light, extra-heavy, ultra-heavy, ultra-light, and so on.

As a rule of thumb, the larger/heavier the fish you’re hoping to catch, the heavier the power rating your chosen rod should have. This way, your rod will be able to endure larger fish that usually put up a tougher fight.

Sensitivity

Finally, you need to check the sensitivity of the rod. This refers to how well a rod can store energy across its entire length and how quickly it can release the stored energy while casting.

The higher sensitivity, the farther you can cast with less effort.

Wrap Up

Choosing the best steelhead rods can be a challenging task, especially with so many features to think about such as type, action rating, power rating, and sensitivity. This is why we made sure that our list includes only the top-performing fishing rods on the market to guarantee you end up with a reliable product no matter what.

That being said, we recommend the X-11 Cork Steelhead Fishing Rod by Lamiglas as today’s winner thanks to its high sensitivity, power, and flexibility, as well as its impressive durability, lightweight design, and butter-smooth guides.

However, if you’re on a budget and looking for something more affordable with lots of value for money, then the GX2 Steelhead Fishing Rod by Ugly Stik should be right up your alley. Check out our steelhead fly fishing guide for more info!

Happy Hunting!

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