I have often advised people who don’t know anything about fishing but want to give someone a fishing-themed gift, either to find out what specific fishing equipment the recipient wants or needs, or to get them a gift certificate or buy them a book, a calendar, piece of art, or something else that is less activity-specific. But they and others often fall for dubious bulk fishing products – the bait that has been “banned” somewhere because it’s so effective, the “revolutionary” bait that catches every species known to man, the pocket rod and reel combination does it all etc.
When I was recently asked about a collapsible or so-called pocket fishing rod, I winced a little. I am a serious angler and this is not what it takes for serious fishing endeavors. I don’t know anyone who has or uses such an item.
However, I recognize that everyone wants to be thrifty, have limited storage space, want portability, and also seek value. And I know where the term “pocket” in the pocket fishing rod comes from – a product that Ron Popeil, the inventor of infomercials and famous mass marketer, reportedly sold more than a million for what could now be called pocket money 1970s.
One-piece versus multi-piece fishing rods
Fishing rods (some people call them sticks) come in different lengths for different purposes. Many are one piece. Many are segmented or multi-part, with two sections, a piston and a tip, being the most common. In the past, the ferrules that connected the rod sections were stiff additions that dampened the action of a rod. Modern manufacturing methods, however, have largely eliminated this problem, and the advantage of easier storage and portability makes a segmented rod very functional and satisfactory to use.
Travel versus collapsible fishing rods
Large rod manufacturers have developed so-called “travel” fishing rods, which are three, four or five-part graphite rods (spinning, bait casting and flies) that can be inserted into a relatively short protective tube. Although more expensive than one-piece rods, they are high quality products that are used by avid anglers for a range of freshwater and saltwater species.
At the other extreme, there are collapsible / mini / pocket fishing rods, most of which serious anglers will consider a toy or joke. Of course, these are not marketed to serious anglers. Most of them can’t take much. They’re usually short and are sometimes sold as a combo or package with a small spinning reel or snap-button spincasting reel, and possibly with a couple of small baits. At best, the mini products or pocket products are suitable for casting short distances, for catching small fish and for use only in fresh water. However, some telescopic poles made from graphite or a graphite-fiberglass composite are more functional and capable of better fishing results.
The ability to take a collapsible fishing outfit out of your glove box, bag, or backpack and fish anywhere is conceptually appealing, and certainly those available from mass market vendors have an inexpensive appeal. I would suggest that you see who the maker of such a product is and ignore the selfish promotional reviews that are attached to a listing for such a product.
If you know someone who has one, give it a try. If this is your first time buying this outfit for someone, especially a young person, compare a small combo rod and reel (not mini fishing rod and reel) from a reputable manufacturer instead.
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Ken Schultz was a longtime contributor to Field & Stream magazine and is the former fishing editor of ESPNoutdoors.com. He has written and photographed nineteen books on sport fishing subjects as well as an annual fishing tips calendar. His writing has appeared on various websites for nearly two decades. His author website is kenschultz.com.