Best Kokanee Rods – [Buyer’s Guide]
The best kokanee rods are able to stand up to season after season of hard trolling combined with a soft enough action so as to not tear a kokanee's fragile mouth.
If you have ever done much trolling for salmon or large lake trout then you can be sure that the gear is suited to these large predatory fish.
Kokanee on the other hand need a somewhat softer touch when it comes to rod choices
Kokanee have pretty soft mouths...
This presents a slight problem if you intend on using the kind of traditional trolling gear that is seen in the great lakes or for offshore salmon trolling.
Heavier gear does not provide enough shock absorption right when the kokanee strike.
Modern kokanee anglers have cast aside the larger more powerful trolling rods in favor of light to ultralight ones.
Light weight trout rods don't really cut it when used as trolling rods, the solution?
Specialized ultralight trolling rod.
These rods are specifically designed with kokanee trolling in mind.
The brands to look out for are Okuma, Lamiglas, Tica and G-Loomis.
Best Kokanee Rods
- Okuma SST Kokanee Graphite
- Tica Kokanee Glass Series
- G. Loomis E6X Kokanee Trolling
- Lamiglas Kokanee Jared Johnson
- Okuma Celilio Casting Rods
The Okuma SST Kokanee is probably the best kokanee rod for the money.
If you are just getting started out at kokanee fishing and do not want to go for a higher end rod like a G-Loomis or St Croix then the Okuma is a solid choice.
They are not just for beginners though many fisherman buy them as a first rod and then end up buying more to fit out their boats with.
Pair one of these with an Okuma Magda Pro level wind reel, some 8 lb monofilament fishing line and you have yourself a great value kokanee combo for very little money down.
Okuma have really carved out a niche for themselves in recent years when it comes to freshwater trolling gear and for many anglers they are the go to brand of choice.
They are available in both a casting/trolling version and a spinning version also.
So if you are looking to do some bank fishing in smaller tributaries for kokanee an SST paired with a small 2500 sized spinning reel is a good option.
The range comes in different length from 6 foot up to 8 foot. A longer rod is favored for kokanee as it acts as an additional shock absorber.
The sweet spot is either a 7' foot or 7'6" rod with a light power rating.
The rod blanks are made from graphite and are perfect for long lining. However, graphite does not hold up as well as a glass fiber rod particularly if you are always using them with downriggers.
If you want a really good downrigger rod then the Tica and Lamiglas rods below are a more robust choice.
- IM-8 graphite construction
- Available in casting or spinning
- Stainless steel guide frames
- Zirconium inserts
The Tica Kokanee Glas series is a classic fiberglass trolling rod that has the right kind of slow action you need for kokanee trolling.
It is available in 7'6" or 8 feet rod lengths and in light or ultralight power ratings.
These rods have a whopping 12 line guides spaced evenly along the blank. More line guides means a better distribution of force through the rod blank which helps it's slow action absorb even more of the strike impact.
You'll want to go for the 8 foot model for trolling as it really has the better, softer action for use with a downrigger.
These are a step up in quality from the Okuma but they also give a very different feel.
There was a time when if you were going to be using a downrigger exclusively then always opting for the glass fiber rod was the only option. Modern graphite rods have almost bridged the gap in terms of durability but not quite in terms of feel.
A fiberglass rod cannot compete when it comes to casting and this rod is no exception, strictly for trolling!
- Classic fiberglass rod blank
- Slow action
- Titanium oxide ring guides
- Split cork handle
The E6X series of rods from G.Loomis are a high end rod series at a mid-range price point.
If you've ever used one of G Loomis's steelhead/salmon rods you'll understand just how perfectly light and balanced the rod blanks are combined with superior rod action and great casting performance.
The Kokanee trolling rods are no different. Most rods that G Loomis build can run to twice the price of the E6X series and to be honest the majority of anglers would struggle to tell the difference.
If you happen to troll with a downrigger in waters that contain lots of smaller kokanee or trout then the E6X has all of the tip sensitivity required to detect even the lightest of bites.
You are getting near fiber glass softness with the added sensitivity of graphite. These are also fairly decent casting rods but it is on a troll that they truly shine.
Built with the highest quality reel seat, line guides and inserts and a preium cork handle.
- E6X graphite rod blanks
- One piece rod
- Fuji graphite trigger reel seat
- Moderate to moderate-fast action
The Lamiglas Kokanee Jared Johnson series strikes a great balance between casting and trolling rods giving that little extra bit of versatility.
Although they are made from fiberglass they still cast quite well. Not as good as a high end graphite rod but still pretty good.
It is on a downrigger however where they really start to shine. These are an 8 foot 2 piece design. They will run best with 4 to 8 pound monofilament on a small sized baitcaster or conventional trolling reel.
- Sea Guide guides with ceramic inserts
- Split cork grip
- Ultralight glass fiber rod blank
- 1 year warranty
Don't let the name put you off although they are branded as a casting rod they fit the bill for kokanee fishing just right.
The rating is a light as opposed to ultralight but they are more than soft enough for kokanee trolling.
The Celilio is strong enough to handle continuous use on a downrigger or long line troll with lead core lines and yet has the softness and sensitivity required for soft mouth kokanee.
They are actually very similar in the specifications to to the Okuma SST rod listed above.
- Composite graphite rod blanks
- Fuji guides with aluminum oxide inserts
- 1 year warranty
As discussed above kokanee rods have a light to ultralight power with a fast action, they are usually between 7 and 8 foot in length.
Let's take a little look at some of those specifications as if you are new to buying rods then you may not understand some of the terminology.
All rods will come with some form of power rating, below you'll see the most commonly listed fishing rod power ratings, from the lightest to the most powerful:
- Medium Heavy
As their name suggest the "power" rating will tell you how powerful the rod blank is. The heavier rods will have more power whereas an ultralight rod will be the least powerful.
For the soft mouthed kokanee we really need to be using ultralight or light powered rods. These rods are designed to take lighter lines.
Although trolling rods would generally not have an ultralight power rating, for kokanee they are they exception to the rule.
Rod action and power are often confused with one and other. Whereas rod power is how much power you can expect to exert back against the fish, rod action is a measure of how much of the rod bends and where that bend begins.
For example a fast action rod will bend most at the upper end of the rod towards the tip. A slow action rod will start to bend much lower down through the rod blank towards the reel seat.
A fast action rod is good for casting light lures and setting the hook really quickly. It is also good for jigging as it gives you a lot of sensitivity in the rod tip which gives you a much better picture of what is going on with your jig.
A slower action rod however, will set the hook much slower as a lot of the force that you put into the rod when you strike will be absorbed by the full length of the rod blank.
For kokanee a slow action rod is better as it means a lighter hook set which is easier on the their mouth.
The majority of rods are constructed from either graphite or fiberglass. You will see some more modern rods begin to incorporate carbon fiber blends into the blanks but they are usually on very expensive specialist rods.
Some rods will in fact contain a blend of both graphite and fiberglass. A lot of anglers prefer the feel of a fiberglass rod for certain fishing techniques.
However fiberglass is heavier and one way to combine the feel of fiberglass with the lighter weight of graphite is to blend them.
Traditionally trolling rods would always be fiberglass espeially if you are using a downrigger.
These days however graphite construction has become a lot stronger so you just as likely to see either used as kokanee trolling rods.
There are two types of line guides those with inserts and those without. A high quality insert will create a lot less friction on your line than a cheaper one.
Most trolling rods will come with inserts for their line guides. It's usually very high end flyfishing rods that have line guides built without an insert and they tend to use very expensive and lightweight metals to help keep the weight lower.
The reel seat is an often over looked piece on a rod. All of the big brands will use high quality reel seats. Fuji are probably the best known manufacturer or reel seats.
As long as you are pairing the reel with your rod you really should not have much of an issue with the seat.
The choice between foam or cork handles will largely come down to personal preference.
However a cheap cork one will end up splitting and breaking off so always make sure it is made from high quality cork.
To recap the best fishing rods for kokanee will have the following specifications: