It had been a couple of years since my wife let me go on a shopping trip to my favorite store. For the die-hard fisherman, there are few places more inviting than a sporting goods store. That same guy who grumbles for ten minutes while his wife shops for a handbag can spend a lot of happy hours looking over a good selection of outdoor toys.
My shopping heaven is a little factory on the outskirts of Woodland, Washington, where they make the greatest fishing rods in the world. Loomis rods have been around since founder, Gary Loomis, thought he had a better idea several decades ago. The plant has grown, and was bought out by Shimano a few years ago, but the local staff still runs the business of designing and producing rods, and the quality is amazing.
This year I was looking for a rod that would work well when I wanted to troll unweighted lures in tidewater. This rod must have a tip that is sensitive enough to let you see the lure working, but have enough backbone to haul a 40-pound Chinook salmon out of a brush pile.
I gave Dave Binkerhoff, a young Loomis employee with an excellent knowledge of salmon fishing, a call and we set up an appointment. My buddy Jim McClain went with me to help collect info and take a few pictures.
We met in the lobby and then gathered in a conference room where Dave left us briefly to gather some rods for us to examine. After some four trips, the whole table was loaded with different models.
The salmon rods went through a major redesign this year. These babies are specific to several different types of fishing. Some are made to mooch a herring bait, others to fish a plug, some are for casting spinners, while others handle backbouncing, hovering, fishing with floats, or working hot shots. Made with top-of-the-line graphite, each has a length, spine and guides made just for a specific kind of fishing.
The last couple of years I have had a ball with my float rod, designed for fishing with a bobber and bait or jig. These are long rods that can easily whip a bobber outfit some 80 feet, and absorb the impact of a big Chinook exploding downstream. I asked Dave to show me the biggest of these rods, thinking that maybe I really needed another.
Mine is about 11 feet long and works great for the waters I fish.
Dave smiled and put together a rod that darned near took up all the space in the conference room. At 13 and a half feet, this thing was really long. It was a Loomis, so it was light, but it was reeeeeeaaally long! While I loved the rod, I couldn’t imagine trying to cast it from tree-lined banks or undoing a tangle on the top eye. With the rod I have, it can be a bit of a chore to get under branches, keep from casting over the river, or slapping the guy downstream when I set the hook! I couldn’t imagine another two and a half feet of rod!
“This rod was designed for fishermen chasing steelhead in large rivers feeding into the Great Lakes,” Dave explained. “They wade to the middle of good sized rivers and need the ability to make a long cast. The length lets them fish very light leaders in clear waters; they don’t spook the fish, and the rod can absorb the power of a fighting steelie without snapping the ultra-light leaders.”
Great Lakes? I have trouble thinking of anyplace other than the Northwest and Alaska for salmon and steelies, but in reality, the Great Lakes may be the best fishery in the Lower 48. Not only do they have stock taken from our hatcheries, but they have no commercial pressure, fewer predators, and a lot of baitfish. They also have a lot of anglers who enjoy this fishery, a fact that the folks at Loomis take into account. Several of their rods are designed specifically with Great Lakes anglers in mind.
All around the Loomis office are dozens of mounted fish. While they have our usual Northwest varieties, there are specimens of fish from around the world. It must be a tough job doing their field-testing! And they are never complacent.
“We are getting ready to do a new steelhead series,” Dave announced. “Our staff is working on it now; the rods should complement this new line of salmon products well.” Oh man, time to start saving up for next Christmas!
Making a decision was tough; most styles of rods had several variations to choose from. If you can actually get to the factory, you will find a number of experts on hand to help you select the proper rod. Their catalogues are excellent, but there is nothing that can compare with the hands-on feel. After a few minutes of looking, I found the perfect rod for my tidewater trolling, and then I picked up a nice warm jacket for chilly days on the stream, and bought a few hats to give to friends. This was my kind of shopping trip!
RVing around the country demands a couple of different rods if you want to be able to cover most fisheries. Fortunately, Loomis makes several travel rods that take up very little room and can be easily stored. They come in three or four sections with an easy to store case.
If you are looking for an unforgettable Christmas, birthday or retirement present for that special fisherman, you might think about getting them something from Loomis. To make it really special, you might make an appointment and go and select a rod in person, or check the selections at sporting goods stores around the country. I’ve already put my Christmas present to use on the stream, but will polish it up and wrap it so that my wife can put it under the tree for me. Believe me, it will be just what I wanted!
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Bob Ellsberg’s column, Fishin’, appears monthly in RV Life and rvlife.com.Research Campgrounds, Plan RV Safe Routes & Turn your phone into an RV GPS.
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