The Best Travel Rods of 2020

man fishing by river

It’s one thing to grab a rod and tackle box from your garage and drive out to your favourite lake, stream, or pier. However, it’s something entirely different to pack a full-sized fishing pole for a camping trip, hike or flight. In these cases, even a two-piece rod can prove far too cumbersome to bring along. 

Of course, the world of fishing doesn’t end with what’s near your home. So, what’s the solution? 

For many, it’s a high-quality travel rod. These need to be compact and portable for you to take on the road, but there is a lot more that goes into making the best travel rods.

In this article we’ll review some of our favorite travel rods and go over some of the most important features you need to know about to make sure you pick the right one for you.

Our Top Picks

Detailed List of The Best Travel Rods

Ugly Stik GX2 Travel

Good performance, a durable build, great portability and affordability make the Ugly Stik GX2 Travel one of the best travel rods available. It’s a spinning rod, making it easy to use and versatile for a range of fishing styles. Great for all experience levels from beginner to the more experienced.

It’s also super portable. Depending on the length you choose, your GX2 will come in three or four pieces. These sections fit together solidly while also breaking down easily for travel. 

What makes the Ugly Stik GX2 one of the best travel rods is its built to last components. The GX2 is made from durable composite material so it won’t break in your backpack or suitcase during transit. The guides are also single piece stainless steel meanings you won’t have to worry about any ceramic inserts breaking or popping out. This is a big plus for travel rods, where the last thing you want is the rod to get damaged before even arriving at your destination.

You can find the GX2 in lengths ranging from 5’ to 6’6”, which will all pack up quite nicely. Each boasts a relatively fast action for top-down fishing, but you can choose between light and medium power depending on the type of fish you’re targeting or your fishing style. You’ll also enjoy the lightweight EVA grips and the clear tip design which makes the rod extra sensitive and responsive. 

The GX2 also comes in standard rod designs. So if you want the travel model, make sure to select an option that collapses into 3 or 4 pieces.

The Ugly Stik GX2 Travel is perfect for the angler who prefers multi-piece rods and wants something durable enough to handle lake, pond, and river.

Pros

  • Composite construction for both durability and sensitivity
  • Built to last single piece stainless steel guides
  • Lightweight and durable EVA foam grip
  • Breaks down small
  • Great for beginners

Cons

  • Only available in spinning models

KastKing Blackhawk II

One of the best travel fishing rods in the telescopic category is the KastKing Blackhawk II. It’s a true performer in the travel rod category for its price range. It’s also super portable for travel, with all models collapsing between 22” and 27” for quick and easy storage.

The Blackhawk II is 100% carbon fiber, which keeps it nice and light while also allowing for maximum sensitivity. It features both fixed and floating guides, which enables you to fit more guides on the rod as needed for superior line control. This is particularly important if you want a casting rod where these mobile guides will often be the key to getting a great cast. The stainless steel guides also make the Blackhawk II that bit more durable to prevent any guide damage during travel or on the water.

Available in both spinning and casting models, this rod also comes in a staggering array of specs. So whether no matter what your experience or fishing style, there will be a suitable rod for you.  Lengths range between 6’6” and 8’ and powers from medium-light to heavy. The actions are all fairly quick, ranging from moderate fast to fast. There are also special models explicitly designed for inshore fishing. 

If you’re looking for an ultra-portable, ultra-convenient travel rod and you don’t want to compromise performance to get it, the KastKing Blackhawk II is for you.

Pros

  • Good range of lengths from 6’6” to 8’
  • Great range of powers from medium-light to heavy
  • Carbon fiber helps keep the rod light and sensitive
  • Adjustable floating guides to improve casting
  • Durable stainless steel guides
  • Both spinning and casting models available
  • Collapses down between 22” and 27”

Cons

  • Graphite rods tend to be a little more fragile than composite

Okuma Nomad

If high performance and versatility is what you’re after, the Okuma Nomad takes the spotlight. This premium rod is constructed from high-quality graphite to make for a light and super sensitive set up. A real highlight is that the Nomad comes with exchangeable tips allowing you to adjust your power on the water. This essentially gives you two rods for the price (and space) of one!

The guides are all 316 stainless steel with zirconium inserts to decrease friction between the rod and the line. This gives you extra distance on the cast, a smooth retrieve and improves your line longevity by minimising heat generation.

Lengths run between 6’6″ and 7″ with a variety of powers from light to medium-heavy. Of course, the exchangeable tip helps you modify this as needed. 

The Nomad breaks down into three sections. This makes it a bit less portable than other travel rods, but also ensures it performs like a champ in all conditions. Indeed, where you might be hesitant to go after larger fish with another travel rod, you’ll be confident reeling in “the big one” with the Nomad. 

Ultimately, the Okuma Nomad is the perfect choice for the more serious angler who wants a travel rod that doesn’t compromise quality. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, you’ll love the versatility you can get out of this top-of-the-line model. 

Pros

  • Graphite rod maximizes sensitivity
  • Stainless steel / zirconium guides for increased castability
  • Exchangeable tip makes the rod extra versatile
  • Both casting and spinning options
  • A better option for larger game

Cons

  • Not as compact as other travel rods
  • More expensive option

Plusinno Telescopic Rod and Reel Combo

With this product, Plusinno has put together virtually everything you need for a day out on the water in one, easy-to-carry kit. Not only do you get a super-portable telescopic rod, but a spinning reel, line, hooks, lures, and a convenient carrying case. 

The Plusinno collapses to anywhere between 6″ and 9″ depending on the model, while also expanding in seconds. This makes it super portable if you’re really tight on space. The built-in reel and included tackle are perfect for anglers who want a ready-to-go set up. 

One downside with this model is that it only features a small number of guides. And while they are stainless steel and include ceramic inserts to assist with casting, their fixed position might limit both accuracy and sensitivity. It’s also worth noting that anglers who would like a casting rod will have to look elsewhere. 

The Plusinno Telescopic Rod and Reel Combo is available in lengths ranging from 5’9″ to 8’8″, which is quite surprising considering its portability. Powers range between light and medium, which allows you to take on plenty of smaller species like pan fish and even bass. 

If you’re an angler looking for a portable all-in-one packed to make fishing on the go nice and simple, the Plusinno Telescopic Rod and Reel Combo is as simple as it easy as it gets.

Pros

  • Good range of lengths from 5’9” to 8’8”
  • Collapses to between 6” and 9” making it super portable
  • Includes tackle, bait, line, a reel, and a carrying case
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • Only available in spinning options
  • Only features a few fixed-position guides

Goture Xceed

You don’t need to break the bank to get your hands on a high-quality travel fishing rod. With the Goture Xceed, a versatile multi-piece model, you can enjoy tons of casting and spinning options while barely putting a dent in your budget. 

The Xceed breaks down into four sections, all of which measure under two feet. For easy packing, the rod comes with a nice storage and carrying case. Ultimately, the Xceed is designed to be lightweight and easy to use, with the 30Tcarbon fiber construction striking a good balance of power, sensitivity, and strength. 

The Xceed also features corrosion-resistant guides with ceramic inserts. These will help maximize casting distance by reducing overall friction on the line. For a truly customizable experience, you can find the rod in lengths ranging between 6’6″ and 10′, and medium to medium-heavy power designs to take on most species of fish.  

Any angler looking for a solid-performing multi-piece rod at an affordable price will find a lot to love about the Goture Xceed. No matter your style of fishing, you’ll find a model to suit your needs. 

Pros

  • Ranges from 6’6” to 10’
  • Collapses into four pieces under 2’ in length
  • Includes a carrying case
  • Extremely affordable
  • Tons of spinning and casting options
  • Extremely affordable

Cons

  • Graphite rods tend to be less durable than composite

When to Use a Travel Rod

Travel rods are made with a focus on portability. They can be pulled apart into multiple pieces or fold in like a telescope to minimise the amount of space they take up. This makes them great for things like backpacking, road trips, vacations or hikes where a standard rod will be too large and cumbersome to bring. You can even leave the rod in your car for a sneaky cast during your work lunch break.

Now, it’s fair to assume that a multi-piece or telescopic travel rod might come with some loss of sensitivity and strength. This is true, but it’s becoming less of a problem thanks to improved technology. So while you might not be hooking swordfish out of your suitcase, most travel rods are perfectly suited to smaller species like bass, walleye, and trout.

How to Compare Travel Rods

Multi-Piece vs. Telescopic

The point of a travel rod is to take up as little space as possible while still affording you an enjoyable fishing experience. With travel rods, you have two basic choices: multi-piece and telescopic. 

Multi-Piece Rods – These rods will typically disassemble into three or four pieces to save space. The main advantage of these rods is that they are usually going to give a similar level of performance compared to a standard rod. Generally you will get better action (or bend) throughout your rod and a greater number of guides. They will also be a little more durable compared to telescopic rods as there are less moving parts and fewer opportunities for failure.

Telescopic Rods – These rods collapse into themselves like a telescope in order to save space. The biggest benefit of telescopic rods is their convenience. They usually take up less space compared to a multi-piece rod which means great portability. You also don’t need to rig and de-rig a rod every time you use it. This means it’s always ready to go and lets you get out casting ASAP.

If performance and durability is your priority, a multi-piece rod might be your best option. If portability and convenience is important, a telescopic rod is ideal.

Rod Material

The rod material will have a big impact on its performance and durability. There are three main types: fibreglass, graphite and composite.

Fibreglass – This is the most durable rod material available which can be a benefit for travel rods that are squashed into a backpack or suitcase. However, they make for a heavier build making them a little less portable.

Graphite – These rods are generally going to perform better compared to a fibreglass rod. They are much more sensitive but usually cost a little more. Graphite is a lighter material too which makes it great if you’re carrying your gear in your backpack to the water.

Composite – These rods combine both graphite and fibreglass in their construction. This way you get the best of both worlds. Most importantly for travel rods, the fibreglass makes the rod durable while the graphite helps keep the weight down.

While there are three main options, most quality travels rods will be either graphite or composite. If you want a lightweight and sensitive rod, graphite will be most suitable. If you are worried about durability and having your rod survive the sometimes rough journey, go with a composite. 

Guides

The type and number of guides on the rod is another important consideration. Two of the most common types of guides are ceramic and stainless steel.

Ceramic – These guides usually feature a guide containing a ceramic insert. This insert helps reduce the friction between the line and the guide which improves the performance of the rod. The line will glide through the guides with less resistance, giving you increased casting distance and a smooth retrieval. It also prevents heat generation which can damage your line. This improves your lines longevity and prevents that big one from getting away due to line failure.

Stainless Steel – A simpler design is the stainless steel guide which doesn’t use a ceramic insert. While they won’t cast as smooth, they are usually much more durable. You don’t have to worry about any ceramic inserts cracking or popping out during transport or while fishing. A big plus for any travel rod that might receive a few knocks on the way to the water.

Lastly, you’ll want to consider the number of guides on your rod. This is particularly important for casting rods, where you need to keep the line on top of the blank when it flexes. Telescopic rods will normally offer one guide per collapsible section, which might be limiting to some anglers. Others will feature “floating guides” which allow you to increase the number of guides on a telescopic rod.

Choosing the Right Travel Rod Specs

Spinning or Casting

You can find plenty of reliable travel rods in both spinning and casting models. So, it’s more up to your style of fishing and what you feel comfortable with when it comes down to it. Just make sure you have the right reel to match. 

Generally, spinning reels are easier to use, offer more versatility, and are better for lighter lures and lines. This makes them a great choice if you are a beginner or new to fishing.

Casting reels, on the other hand, are better suited to more experienced anglers or those using heavier lures and lines. They are also ideal if you plan to fish in areas with heavy cover. If you haven’t used a casting outfit before, I’d recommend sticking to a spinning travel rod for now.

Rod Length

Travel rods can come in a variety of lengths, depending on their intended use. Where shorter models will provide you with casting accuracy, longer rods will help you maximize the distance of each cast. Of course, for many anglers, the performance of a travel rod will take a back seat to how much space it takes up. 

When considering what best fits your needs, think about how you’ll be transporting the rod and ensure it will collapse into an appropriate size. Indeed, what might be suitable for a camping trip might simply not work for a plane ride.

Power & Action

You will also have to select the power and action of your rod. These specs both have to do with how the rod bends and will depend on your style of fishing.

Power – This refers to how easily the rod bends. Light powered rods require less weight to bend, while heavy powered require more force. The main consideration when selecting this is your target fish species, size of your lure and weight of your line. 

With light action, you might be limited to smaller fish and lure combos. With heavier powers, you can go after bigger fish with more confidence. 

If you are a beginner and want a versatile option, go for a medium or medium-heavy powered rod. It’s a good middle ground that will be suitable for a range of common fish species like bass and panfish.

Action – This refers to where the rod bends. Faster action rods bend more towards the tip, while slower action bend more in the middle of the rod. Faster action rods are more sensitive and give harder and faster hooksets. They also help with working certain lures like topwaters to get a nice popping action. 

Slow action rods give softer hooksets and can act as shock absorbers. This is perfect to absorb the force of a surging fish to help keep them pinned. They are perfect if you like using lures with treble hooks which tend to set shallower than singles.

If you aren’t sure which action to choose, go for a moderate or moderate-fast rod for a versatile and beginner friendly option.

Takeaway 

Travel rods are all about portability. The more rod you can pack into the smallest package, the happier most anglers will be. That said, travel rods don’t need to be designed as an “afterthought.” Indeed, there are plenty of options out there with many of the same features you might expect from any other rod you own. 

For the best travel rod experience, we recommend the Ugly Stik GX2 Travel. Providing you’re not overly concerned about space, this is perhaps the most versatile travel model out there. Where this rod truly stands out from the competition is in its durability. If you want to hit the water with confidence, this travel rod is the one for you.