Musky fishing is one of the most challenging and most fun varieties of angling there is. You can’t haul in one of these monsters with any old rod.
Musky are powerful enough to snap fishing rods that aren’t built to handle them. If you’re looking for the best musky rod, this guide is for you.
Why Does Musky Fishing Require a Specialty Rod?
The Muskellunge, or musky, lives primarily in the northeastern United States and Canada, although you can also find them in the Mississippi River Basin and artificially stocked in both Georgia and South Carolina. More elusive than similar species like northern pike, muskies tend to stick to clear lakes with lots of vegetation where they may eat shad, carp, or even smaller muskies.
Since adult muskies grow to be a good size and have no natural predators besides humans, they tend to be exploratory when they’re on the hunt and give musky rods a whooping. The best musky rod should be powerful to hold them off and launch large lures but also flexible enough to do a figure 8 and cast to the vegetation where muskies like to hide in wait for food.
What Makes a Good Musky Rod?
Fishing Environment & Water Clarity
Muskies live in freshwater environments, and they prefer very clear water with plenty of vegetation. The most effective musky rod will be able to cast large lures and rip them through weeds and other underwater plants to draw muskies out. Muskies might coexist with northern pike, but they spawn later in the year than pike do. That means you’re less likely to get a bite from a musky from mid- to late spring.
Rod Type & Material
Most musky rods are made of graphite or carbon fiber these days. These materials provide the perfect balance of durability and lightweight flexibility required of a musky rod. Adult muskies test every part of a musky rod, from the blank itself to the line guides and the reel seat.
The most common musky rods are built to hold baitcasting reels, although many anglers have had success fishing for musky with spinning reels. Trolling is also an option, but it will take lots of very strong line, so musky trolling rods are typically heavy-powered and have a high line rating.
The right length of a musky rod will vary with the particular bait and tactics you’re using to fish. If you’re going to be trolling, you should probably use a shorter musky rod. If you have a baitcasting reel on your musky rod, you should take a longer rod that will help you cast your lure farther.
So, what is the best musky rod length for all-purpose musky fishing? Stick between 7.5 feet and 9 feet unless you’re going to be throwing huge lures and going after huge muskies exclusively.
Musky rods should have a fast action because muskies have much thicker jaws than most fish. A fast-action tip will help you get a clean hook set on a musky. This is a rare area of consensus among musky anglers, although there are still some people who have found a use for moderate-fast action rods. Beginners especially might like a bit more flex in their rod, but eventually they should graduate to fast action musky rods for that clean hook set.
The best rod weight for musky fishing is probably somewhere just over a pound. It should be lightweight enough to transport but heavy enough to help you give some resistance in case the musky is very active.
The best musky rod will have either a heavy or an extra-heavy power rating. That’s simply because musky are sometimes huge, and they can be challenging to manage. If you want to turn one back toward the boat, your musky rod will need a lot of power.
Musky rod handles are generally made of either cork or foam. In addition to providing comfort during long days on the water, the handle of a musky rod should provide ample room for you to place your hands to get good leverage during a fight with a musky.
That means you should be looking for a long handle, and if it’s split so you can really wrench your target above the surface, then that’s even better. Just keep in mind that both sections of a split handle should be long enough to give you plenty of different hand placement options.
Line & Lure Weight
When you go musky fishing, you have to match the hatch, as they say, by choosing lures that look like the most recent hatch. Ask around at the local bait shop if you can’t figure out what the hatch is. You should also match your catch when you’re selecting your line.
If you’re chasing small to medium-sized musky, there's no reason to have above 30-pound test. However, if you want a chance at the larger targets, you might want to get an even thicker line. Make sure to get more line if you’re going to try trolling.
Price & Warranty
There are inexpensive musky rods, and there are some that might cost as much as $700. You can always find some kind of musky rod to fit your budget, but just like with other types of fishing rods, you'll find that the costlier rods have more features, better blank construction, and longer warranties most of the time.
That being said, sometimes the cheap ones get the job done and buying a whole new cheap one after a while might be less expensive than the postage you would have paid to send in your rod to get fixed under warranty.
5 Best Musky Rods Reviewed
1. St. Croix Premier Musky
Our Top Pick
30 - 65 Lbs.
It’s no surprise a St. Croix musky rod is at the top of our list. They’ve built the best all-around musky rod with this model, which has the length for casting, trolling, or fishing a jig and the fast-tip action needed to properly set the hook in the hard jaw of a musky.
The blank is built of very tough graphite, and they’ve already put two coats of Flex-Coat, a rod finish that keeps out moisture and will extend the life of this rod. You can even take this rod in saltwater if you remember to rinse it off after each use.
The line guides on this casting rod can handle all the pressure bigger muskies will put on the line. For that matter, this rod can also support up to 65-pound test, which means you can go after absolute monsters. In fact, most of the time you probably won’t even need above 30-pound test, but it’s good to have the option on this rod.
Like other St. Croix Musky Rods, the Premier Musky is backed with their five-year warranty, which means they’ll repair it no matter how it was broken. You can also pay the postage to send the rod in if it’s out of warranty, so you can always rely on the company to take care of you.
This rod has the perfect balance of sensitivity and power. It does feel heavier than medium-heavy, so smaller fish aren’t going to be as much fun. But if you’re chasing sizable musky, this is the rod for you.
2. Redington Predator 1191-4
Best Musky Fly Rod
The balance on this musky fly rod is perfect for comfortable fishing all day long, and it has some of the best castability on the market. Not only can you cast your flies a mile with this rod thanks to its length, but it also loads well and feels almost uniquely built to handle the fly casting double haul, a necessary skill if you want to cast the big flies muskies love to attack.
The Redington Predator is built for freshwater and saltwater alike. The blank is very lightweight for such a castable rod, but it’s also incredibly durable. There’s a reinforced butt section and a split cork handle to help haul those really huge muskies out of the water.
The fast action is great for a clean hook set in the harder jaws of muskies, but just like you have to have the skill to double haul to make full use, you have to have a good grasp on fly fishing technique to take full advantage of the rod’s fast action.
Not only are the line guides strong enough to hold off fighting musky, but they also have really nice ceramic inserts that give this rod frankly excellent line control. That’s very important in a musky fly rod. The rod length is the perfect middle ground for both long roll casts with a double haul and short casts to the vegetation and cover where musky like to hide, plus it’s backed with a lifetime warranty.
3. Okuma EVX Musky Rod
Best Rated Musky Rod
50 - 100 Lbs.
Trolling & casting
The EVX is the armored tank of Okuma musky rods. It can take a beating, and with its heavy power and fast action, it’s perfect for battles with the biggest musky targets. Okuma has also included it’s proprietary Ultimate Flex Reinforcement (UFR) technology in the tip of this musky rod, which they say gives it 300 times more strength than competing models. Who knows how accurate that is, but we can say that the rod tip definitely does flex in a way that most other musky fishing rods simply can’t.
Not only can you cast the EVX musky rod, but thanks to its heaviness and power, you can also use it for trolling. It's hard to find musky trolling rods that also have the sensitivity and action to make figure 8's that are so critical for musky anglers. It will depend on what kind of fishing reel you attach, of course, but this musky rod is rated to hold some very strong test, which means you should be able to spool up plenty if you want to try your hand at trolling.
It’s not the lightest rod in existence, but considering its ample power, it doesn't weigh too much. There are tons of guides running the length of this rod, which give it superior line handling. Even the biggest musky won’t damage the tough line guides on the EVX musky rod. Best of all, it’s probably the least expensive way to get a musky rod of this power.
4. Shimano Sojourn
Best Budget Musky Rod
10 - 20 Lbs.
Shimano is rarely the best choice for people who don't have much money to spend, but that's very much the case with the Sojourn musky rod. It’s the perfect length for casting, including flipping and pitching.
While it doesn’t have the longer length of the more specialized musky rods out there, that makes it more versatile when it comes to musky fishing. The blank is relatively lightweight and durable enough to handle sudden attacks from muskies or just being dropped on the deck from time to time.
Although this rod wasn’t built for saltwater, it still works just fine and won’t take any corrosion damage as long as you remember to rinse it off after each use. Like other Shimano musky rods, they’ve built the Sojourn with way more cork in the handle than most other brands do.
The cork handle is full-style, rather than being split. There’s also a trigger for additional grip when you have a fish on. That handle also allows for a better grip if you’re trying to cast larger musky lures.
The reel seat on this musky rod is just as strong as it is on the rest of the Shimano musky rods, which is to say that it will hold a baitcaster very snugly. It’s only protected by a limited one year warranty, but that’s at least long enough to know if you’re going to like the rod or not.
5. Kunnan IM7
Best Extra Heavy Musky Rod
12 - 25 Lbs.
IM7 carbon fiber
If you haven’t heard of Kunnan Performance Rods before, there's no need to worry. This musky rod has a ton of backbone, and the carbon fiber in the blank makes it lightweight enough to be much more portable than other musky rods with the same power. Look out when you first start breaking this rod in because it makes a bit of a cracking noise for the first little while, but it goes away before long.
You might be surprised to find out that this rod has such low ratings for both line and lure weight, but it’s actually advantageous to have extra-heavy power in a rod that can handle lures and line weights common for medium-heavy or heavy musky rods. The hybrid match between moderate lures and lines and the powerful backbone of an extra-heavy rod let you hit way above this rod’s weight class.
The IM7 also ties with the St. Croix musky rod that is our top pick for the shortest musky rod in this review. It can still cast pretty far, but it’s also great for precision casts to try and drag muskies out from wherever in the water they're hiding. Holding this musky rod is comfortable enough, and the reel seat holds on to the reel tightly. This is certainly one of the best all-around musky rods for the stunningly low price you pay.
How to Set Up a Musky Fishing Rod
Using a baitcaster will reduce hand fatigue and enable you to use braid, which is an advantage with tough musky. You can use 30 - 50 lb braid, although monster hunters use up to 80-pound test for muskies. It’s also wise to attach a leader, as much as 20 feet, if you're able.
When you put a line on your musky rod, use lighter line for backing. Try about 20 pounds. Wrap that on first and then reverse the reel, so your main line is on, then attach the leader. The best baits for musky fishing are cranks and bucktails.
Musky Fishing Tips for Beginners
There are tons of musky fishing tips for beginners.
First of all, you will be casting way more than you would for bass or other species, so make sure your setup is lightweight. When you cast with a musky rod, you can cast like normal, but you should also vary the speed of your retrieve and make a figure 8 with your rod tip in the water to really entice the muskies.
Look for musky in weeds and weed beds. Always bring tools to remove the hook because muskies’ teeth are very sharp.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Why is musky referred to as ‘the fish of ten thousand casts’?
People call muskies the fish of ten thousand casts because it takes tons of patience to get one on the line. They take interest in different movements and lures at different times of the year, but they will follow bait for a long time before they strike. You might get lucky and get one on your first cast, but it’s more likely you’ll be casting again and again for a while before you get a musky.
What are the best musky fishing rod brands?
St. Croix musky rods have always been a favorite since they came out, but some anglers prefer a mojo musky rod. Okuma musky rods are also very high-quality but can be a bit expensive, while Shimano musky rods can be top-of-the-line or budget musky rods. There are a multitude of other smaller companies as well, but these are the main four.
What water temperature do musky spawn?
Musky like to spawn in water that’s somewhere between 50 and 60°F. They feed voraciously in preparation for the spawn and to prepare for the more lethargic winter months, so fishing for musky is probably in the autumn between September and October. There is also the possibility of catching musky in early spring and rarely in winter, but autumn is the best time.
Where is the best musky fishing?
Musky anglers are continually debating where musky fishing is most fun, but for our money, it’s in the lakes of Northern Wisconsin. Green Bay has some legendary musky fishing opportunities, and Big St. Germain is also tons of fun. You can also find musky across the northeast, in the Mississippi river basin, and stocked in rivers in places in the southeast.
How long can a muskie live?
The oldest musky ever found in Canada was about 30 years old, but it can be difficult to discern what age musky are after they pass age 10. Females are bigger than males, and they can grow to be as long as 50 inches, although most don’t approach that length.
What’s the difference between 12 wt, 11 wt, and 10wt musky rod?
The line rating for a musky fly rod is formatted as either 12wt, 11wt, 10wt, or some lower number. These figures match certain fly fishing lines, and just as you might take a higher-pound test for larger targets, you would also want to take a higher weight musky fly rod if you want to catch larger musky. The line also propels the lure in fly fishing, so heavier weights are sometimes used to cast further.
Where is the best place to find quality musky fishing rods?
There are so many different manufacturers of musky fishing rods that it can be hard to find the best models and compare prices, performance, and warranty information. Many top musky rod manufacturers use Amazon to sell their rods or have authorized dealers who have shops on Amazon. That’s the best way to find a musky rod and compare different deals.
The best musky rod should be lightweight to prevent fatigue, powerful enough to bring musky on the boat, and have a fast action for a clean hook set. The St. Croix Premier Musky rod has all of these features and one of the best warranties on the market, making it the best musky rod available.