Telescopic rods offer maximum portability. They’re an awesome choice if you want to keep your fishing gear in the trunk of your car, pack a rod on a hike to a stream, or bring your rod on your next flight. While probably not the equal of a conventional rod, they’re much easier to store and transport.
Although they’re not yet popular in the US, you’ll find them everywhere in Europe, Asia, and Oceania. And while the rank-and-file collapsible telescoping rod available to anglers in North America leaves more than a little something to be desired, there are a few solid choices you can get your hands on in the US.
At their best, these are lots of fun in a portable package!
Are they right for you? We’d like to help you decide. Below, you’ll find a basic guide to telescoping rods.
Here’s a quick glance at the best telescopic fishing rods available today:
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Telescoping Rods: A Basic Guide
- 2 What We Consider When Selecting The Best Telescoping Rod
- 3 Best Telescoping Rod Reviews
- 4 Final Thoughts
Best Telescoping Rods: A Basic Guide
Telescoping rods are made from multiple blanks of diminishing diameters. Nesting like Matryoshka dolls, they collapse into the handle, making them ideal for travel, hiking, or any time you don’t have a lot of space.
In the US, telescoping has generally been a synonym for “toy,” but that’s a stereotype that’s quickly dying.
Consider tenkara, for instance. We’ve discussed these rods at length, and if you’d like a full run-down, please check out that article.
These telescoping fly rods are super high-quality, and they’re ideal for fishing small mountain streams. Without either a reel or guides, they present anglers with a more direct, simple style of fishing.
Tenkara rods are high-end. If you’re looking for a premium rod for travel, and you’d like to try casting a fly with light line, I’d recommend you give one a try!
But tenkara rods aren’t the only telescoping option, and if you’re careful, cautious about quality, and know what to look for, there are other alternatives that can be a real treat.
Telescoping Spinning Reels
Long popular abroad, telescoping spinning rods are a common choice for anglers in Europe, where they’re often used on large fish like carp and pike. In Oceania, you’ll find them on saltwater, where they routinely match impressive fish. That should tell you something about what a high-end rod of this kind can do. When you combine that with unrivaled portability, you get awesome tackle that’s ready to go in an instant!
On this style of rod, you’ll find the expected “stacking” segments that collapse into the handle, but unlike tenkara, you’ll also find guides and a reel seat. Most such rods offer one guide per section, but that’s not always the case.
Indeed, many better telescoping rods feature “floating” guides. These aren’t directly connected to the segments, but rather float around them, locking into place as the rod expands. When done correctly, this system can provide far more guides than segments.
Unfortunately, most inexpensive telescoping rods aren’t serious fishing tools, and unlike the unmatched quality of tenkara rods, most telescoping spinning reels are made from modest materials with an average fit and finish. That lends them a few issues, as do some basic problems of design.
All telescoping rods use friction to stay extended, relying on a tight fit where the segments meet. The trick, of course, is that they must still be moveable enough to collapse, and therein lies one problem with this design.
Sand, dirt, and tiny debris–to say nothing of normal wear and tear–will challenge this precision, and only the best rods can stand up to frequent use. When they do fail, you get sections that either stick or collapse when they shouldn’t.
Unlike tenkara rods, telescoping spinning rods are fitted with guides. They, too, need to stack neatly for the rod to collapse. Most of the time, that means one guide per section, which limits their number.
But it’s important to remember that guides protect your line while it’s under load, and the more of them on a rod, the less work each one needs to do. All other things being equal, more guides provide more protection. And depending on the rod, that can put a telescoping model at a disadvantage.
It doesn’t take much friction to destroy even the strongest lines. Take a look at this video, for instance:
But as we mentioned, a floating guide system can provide more points of line contact, better protecting your line in a fight. Only more expensive rods feature this option, however, and you’ll need to be prepared to pay for it!
As in most things, greater complexity implies greater fragility. Telescoping rods rely on multiple segments and a friction fit, and unfortunately, they usually employ inexpensive materials in their blanks.
Practically, this means that all but the most expensive models can’t stand up to the fight or load that a similar conventional rod can. Even multi-piece surf casting rods can take a beating because they use top-notch materials, awesome blanks, and superb ferrules to join the sections.
Here’s a video of an inexpensive, thick telescoping rod breaking under about nine pounds of load:
By contrast, the same gentleman pulls a car with his similarly inexpensive Ugly Stik:
These are hardly scientific, but they make a point. Expect performance to keep pace with price; a $20 rod isn’t going to stand up to decent sized redfish or walleye, and anything over a few pounds is going to put it to the test.
By contrast, an expensive rod like the Daiwa B.B.B. can take a beating!
Action and Power
Without the high-tech blanks used by their competition, you need to set your sights pretty low here unless you take a massive step up in price. Almost any conventional rod will be a better performer than the inexpensive rods you’ll find most often.
But in the right rods, you can expect an actual fishing tool rather than a novelty item.
We’ve collected products to review that we’d actually use on the water.
For the US market, telescoping rods are still something of a novelty, and the price they can demand is pretty low. As a result, most of the rods you’ll find on Amazon are underwhelming, to say the least, though they are affordable.
Low quality isn’t a given, but it’s very hard to find a rod that offers even average performance. You need to do your homework, pay close attention to detail, and know what you’re looking for.
That said, the rods we’ve reviewed are serious fishing tools that won’t let you down or leave you at a tremendous disadvantage relative to a conventional alternative.
What We Consider When Selecting The Best Telescoping Rod
We’ve outlined the basics of these rods, at least in terms of what’s available to our North American readers. Now, let’s discuss what we look for in a good telescoping spinning rod.
A rod’s action describes where along its length it will begin to bend under load. Fast action rods are stiff for most of their length, bending near the tip. By contrast, slow action rods begin to give closer to the handle and reel seat, curving over a much greater percentage of their length.
describing power and action
Power describes how much force is required to bend a rod. Together with its action, a rod’s power tells you a lot about how it will perform.
A heavy power rod will resist quite a bit of load. These are used for the biggest, strongest fish, including tarpon, tuna, shark, large pike, and lake trout. A medium power rod is ideal for bruisers like big redfish, most pike, big walleye, and fish in the neighborhood of 10-15 pounds. Light and ultralight rods are designed for fish such as specks, trout, crappie, and bluegill.
Power describes a rod’s strength. Action tells you where it wants to bend.
Generally speaking, the longer a rod is, the further you can cast with it, but the less precise those casts will be. Shorter rods are deadly accurate, but casting distance will suffer.
Line and Lure Weight
Line and lure weight are matched to a rod’s power. Heavier rods take heavier line, obviously.
One of the most important components of any rod is its guides. They need to be silky smooth, protecting your line from a hard fight, and they need to be durable and strong. Fishing gear takes a beating, and if the guides break or deform with every impact, they simply won’t last.
Stainless steel is a good place to start, but without polished inserts like ceramic, or silicon carbide (SiC), abrasion can still be a problem.
Tight Lock-Up and Easy Take-Down
A quality telescoping rod will extend easily and lock in place firmly. But when it’s time to collapse, it will do so without complaint.
Note: Never “sling” your rod open! This can easily lock the final few segments in place.
Much about which handle to choose is a personal decision, and what’s comfortable to me may be misery for you. Generally, there are two primary handle materials: cork and EVA foam.
- Cork is warmer and more attractive, but less forgiving of rough treatment.
- EVA foam is softer and cooler to the touch, and it’s pretty tough stuff.
Best Telescoping Rod Reviews
Length: 6’10” extended; 16.5” collapsed
Material: carbon fiber
Power/action: medium light/moderate fast
Lure size: 1/16 oz. to 1/2 oz.
Line weight: 4 to 10#
Handle: split cork/spinning
Guide material: stainless with SiC inserts
Daiwa is a respected name in fishing, and from rods to reels, they supply anglers with products made from high-end materials. Located in Japan, their offerings vary by region, and unfortunately, they don’t really sell telescoping rods in the US.
The good news is that Amazon carries a few of their Japanese range, including the excellent B.B.B. or “Triple B.” This telescoping rod is the real deal, and it’s favored by anglers the world over when they’re looking for a travel rod.
The Triple B we recommend is the 6106TMLFS. Measuring 6’10” when extended, its eight segments are constructed from premium carbon fiber blanks. Sensitive, strong, and durable, this is the travel rod that stands-up best to a conventional challenger. While perhaps not as sensitive as a one or two-piece rod like a St. Croix, I would gladly fish the Triple B.
Seven guides constructed from stainless with SiC inserts pamper your line. The first guide is not as large as it would be on a standard rod–a nod to travel–but it still casts well. The cork handle has a premium feel to it, and it’s plenty large for a serious fight.
As a general purpose, all-arounder, this Triple B is well-prepared with a medium light action and a relatively sensitive tip. From panfish to reds, trout to small blues, this rod is up to the challenge!
It’s expensive, however, and inch for inch, dollar for dollar, a premium St. Croix is a much better rod for the money. Keep that in mind, embrace the advantages of its collapsibility, and you’ll be well-pleased with your purchase.
- Great blanks
- Pretty sensitive
- Pretty strong
- Excellent handle
- Very nice guides
Length: 6’6” extended
Material: IM6 graphite
Lure size: 1/8 oz. to 1/2 oz.
Line weight: 6 to 12#
Handle: split EVA foam/spinning
Guide material: N/A
Like Daiwa, Quantum is a well-known name in the fishing industry, and their parent company also owns Zebco. That should tell you something right there–they don’t make junk! That’s an important point to note in a field where competing products are pretty much just that.
Quantum is better known for its reels than it’s rods, but the Telecast is pretty much the only easily available telescoping rod we’d spend our money on.
The Telecast we recommend is 6’6” when extended, featuring five sections of IM6 graphite. Plenty of good rods are built from identical blank material, and you won’t be disappointed by the sensitivity or strength of the Telecast. We’re not sure what the guide material is, but it’s ok, and while not our first choice for fighting a red or big bass, for the price, it’ll get the job done on a quick trip to a lake or pond. Casting is acceptable, hampered by the size of the first guide and the overall blank quality.
Is it a rival for top-end conventional rods? Of course not! But it is a supremely affordable travel rod that won’t let you down. Expect a real rod, not cheap junk, but also don’t expect miracles at this price point.
This rod offers a medium action with a fast tip, and it’s ideal as an all-arounder. Designed for medium weight lines and lures, you can fish with confidence on your next picnic or trip.
- Good blanks
- Pretty sensitive
- Pretty strong
- Decent guides
- Very affordable
- Its performance is matched to its price point
If you plan on doing a lot of hiking to mountain streams, or travel frequently and want to spend some time on the water when you do, a collapsible rod may be just the thing you need.
Overall, if you’re a serious angler, we’d recommend you look at tenkara rods and consider switching to flies. For the money, they’re simply far superior to telescoping spinning rods if you’re after species like bluegill, crappie, and trout.
But if you want to run your favorite spinning reel, and are looking for longer casts and familiar techniques, a collapsible spinning rod is probably worth a try.
In that case, the Triple B is the rod to beat, but it comes with a hefty price tag. No collapsible rod that we’re aware of is better. However, if you just want an affordable rod for your next picnic or trip to the beach, the Telecast is worth a look.
Whichever way you decide to go, let us know how it worked out for you, and please leave a comment below.