There's nothing quite like fishing when out backpacking. You can fish water that daytrippers tend to avoid. And you can easily fish during those golden hours around dawn and dusk! But choosing the best backpacking fishing pole for you is going to depend on a bunch of factors.
- What’s your target species?
- Will you be fly-fishing, spinning or bait-casting? (Or even ice-fishing?!)
- Do you want a high-end rig or a cheap setup that does the job?
- Do you want a telescopic rod or a multi-section rod?
- Will you be fishing in saltwater or freshwater?
For me? I love love love chasing trout on the fly. That’s why I have a St Croix Mojo (8’6”, 4 weight, 4 piece) with a Hardy Ultralight CADD reel. It’s a sick rig for a die-hard enthusiast and is a joy to take backpacking.
But I also think I've found something for everyone in the article. I've structured it according to budget. So feel free to click on the quick links below to get to the budget range you're looking for.
The Best Backpacking Fishing Pole (the best of the best)
The St Croix Triumph Travel Spinning Rod: loads of options, all lightweight & 4-piece...
The St Croix Travel Baitcasting Rod only weighs 1lb, can cast 1oz and, again, 4-piece...
The St Croix Mojo Trout Rod is a stunning travel fly rod...
I’m going to kick off with the best of the best. These are high-end rigs for folk who love angling and are going backpacking. Below that you’ll find recommendations for people who love backpacking, who fancy doing a bit of fishing.
I may be a bit of a snob when it comes to fishing gear, but I do love a lot of the top brands. I don’t think you can go wrong with them. Yes, they may be pricey but they’re beautifully-designed, the engineering is excellent and, let’s be honest here, how many times in your life are you going to buy a fishing rod? (Clue: I’m a lifelong trout fisherman and I have owned just two trout fishing rods. I blew 200 bucks on my last rod and expect my cost-per-use to get well below a dollar before my next purchase).
St Croix Triumph are a beautiful family of rods designed especially for freshwater fishing. There are loads to choose from but there are two travel versions that are of particular interest to us. You’ve got a set of travel spinning rods and a set of travel baitcasting rods. For anyone leery of a 4-piece rod, I challenge you to find fault with these bad boys!
St Croix Triumph - Best Backpacking Spinning Rod
St Croix Triumph Travel Spinning Rods are terrific. Each variation comes in 4 pieces with a soft carry case. The lengths vary from 5’6” to 6’6” and you’ve got a range of actions and rod powers to choose from. Broken down, the case will be no longer than 24” whatever size rod you go for. It only weighs 1lb which makes it a very attractive backpacking option. But don’t be fooled by the weight because it’s tough as old boots (but without sacrificing sensitivity).
You can definitely take a 20lb fish on it. It’s perfect for mountain lakes, streams and rivers. You can feel really confident targeting bass, trout and pike. Some folk have even successfully gotten catfish with it.
The poles work brilliantly with the Shimano Stradic 2500 spinning reel (or a Size 20 Pflueger President XT for something a bit cheaper). The only downside is the soft carry case. So you’d be advised to try and pick up a hard shell if you want to carry it in a rucksack. And also throw a bit of bow wax into the mix to make sure the sections are as secure as possible.
St Croix Triumph Travel Casting Rod - Best Backpacking Baitcasting Rod
Meanwhile, over in bait casting world, the the casting version of the Triumph is another tremendous fishing pole. The one I just linked to is 6’6”, 4 piece, weighs just 1lb, takes a line weight of 10lb-20lb, and a max lure weight of 1oz. Pairs well with the Pflueger Supreme XT Low Profile Baitcast Reel. Much like it’s spinner sibling, the carry case is only 24” long but it’s soft-shell rather than hard shell.
Finally for the fly-fishing enthusiast (and my personal favorite that I mentioned earlier) you’ve got the St Croix Mojo family. The 4-piece trout versions run from 7’ to 9’ with a range of power and actions.
I accept that most folk are probably looking to spin fish, so I won’t wax lyrical about this particular model. Suffice it to say that I wouldn’t trade it for any other rod right now.
Can I promise you’ll never have a blank day with it? Sure! Why not! This rod guarantees you will catch fish!
Best Backpacking Fishing Rod and Reel Combinations
To summarise my ramblings above, the best backpacking fishing rod and reel combos (IMHO) are as follows:
- For fly fishing go for the St Croix Mojo with a Hardy Ultralight CADD
- For spinning combine a St Croix Triumph with a Shimano Stradic 2500
- For bait casting pair the St Croix Triumph (Casting) with a Shimano CURADO DC
Some Awesome Mid-Range Backpacking Fishing Rods
If you don't want to splash hundreds of dollars on a rod, either because you don't have the cash or are worried it might get knocked around a bit too much while on the trail, then great news!
There's loads of options that perform extremely well without breaking the bank.
Again, one of the main criteria I looked for when researching this article was portability and weight.
This is a wonderful bit of kit for the money. I honestly don't know why they don't charge more for their rods.
These spinning rods also come as bait-casters. They're 7' long, 4 pieces and have a number of different power/action combinations.
They come in a really nice travel case that's hard plastic on the inside with a canvas liner on the outside and around 37" long (which is fine for slipping into a backpack). And the case will also fit your reel. For anyone who's had to find an extra case to travel with a reel before, you'll know that this is a really handy feature.
You can target a huge range of species with these rods in both freshwater and saltwater. And these rods are easily capable of handling fish up to 30lbs.
The Best Budget Backpacking Fishing Poles
Of course, not everyone is a die-hard fishing enthusiast. Nor does everyone have hundreds of dollars to 'splash' (haha!) on fishing gear.
There are loads of cheap options available on Amazon, but to be honest, many of them are not manufactured by specialist fishing brands. And while it might be possible to have some fun with them, I wouldn't want to catch a fish with them. I think the risk of not landing it would be too great.
And there are several established, very-well-respected fishing brands that make very decent budget gear! So those are the rods I'm going to focus on in this section.
For fly rods, my go-to budget brand is Shakespeare (specifically their Cedar Canyon range). They are 4-piece travel rods in various weights and lengths. They all tend to come in around the $50 mark, making them a really affordable option. Check out the 8ft version here at Bob Ward's >>