Good vs. Better vs. Best Fishing Rods

Customers don’t have unlimited budgets for fishing rods, so it’s important to understand the relationship between product price and performance.

Good vs. Better vs. Best Fishing Rods

Photos courtesy of St. Croix Rods

Because I worked fishing retail for 7 years, I had the chance to sell everything from 99 cent bobbers to $999 fish finders. While customers don’t usually price shop when it comes to terminal tackle such as split-shot and panfish hooks, they certainly do on many of their fishing purchases.

These price comparisons can be store vs. store, and now more commonly, store vs. online, but before this step takes place, anglers are interested in deciding which specific gear item best fits their need. Let’s take a graphite fishing rod, for example.

Let’s say Joe has watched an angler on YouTube catching deep weedline bass with a Ned Rig. The angler used a 7-foot, fast-action, medium-power, graphite spinning rod. Of course, because the angler gets his gear for free from sponsor X, his rod is the best money can buy, carrying a price tag of $450.

Joe wants to try this finesse technique on his home waters, but he doesn’t own a similar spinning rod to the one promoted online. He walks into your store to kick a few tires.

Let’s assume you stock several finesse 7-foot spinning rods that would serve Joe well. In fact, you sell the identical $450 rod featured in the video, as well as others fitting the needed criteria of length, action and power.

In my opinion, a salesperson who is working with the best interest of the customer in mind should first find out what style of fishing he intends to do, then provide him with options. By that, I mean walk to the rod racks and grab four or five models (different price points) that would work well. In addition, pull one spinning rod that wouldn’t quite get the job done.

Step two is talking about rod performance vs. price. Begin with the rod that isn’t a good fit for Ned Rigs; it’s probably a graphite/glass composite rod (or all glass) and priced at $60 or less. As you talk about rod features with Joe, press the tip section into the carpeted floor so he can see the action, which will be likely be medium, or even medium/slow. Then hand the rod to Joe so he can hold it at 10 o’clock as if working a Ned Rig on a weedline. Grab the tip and load the rod. Point out to Joe how the rod flexes into the middle of the rod blank. Explain that not only will he not feel subtle strikes with this inexpensive rod, but his hooking percentage would be low because it’s too slow.

Set that rod aside and then move up in price and quality to spinning rod No. 2. Again, demonstrate rod flex to Joe, then put the rod in his hands. Let Joe feel that this second rod performs better than the first for the desired application.

Keep switching rods, going up in price each time, until you finish with the $450 spare-no-expense model Joe saw online. Be honest with him in your assessment of each option. In my opinion, to get a “fishable” finesse rod to handle the task I’ve outlined here, Joe needs to spend at least $90.

The most important fishing rods question to ask a customer is which type of lure (or lures) do you wish to cast and retrieve, and how much cover will be present. A fishing rod is a tool for effectively casting and retrieving a particular lure, as well as detecting strikes. All fishing rod purchase decisions begin with lure choice and presentation details.
The most important fishing rods question to ask a customer is which type of lure (or lures) do you wish to cast and retrieve, and how much cover will be present. A fishing rod is a tool for effectively casting and retrieving a particular lure, as well as detecting strikes. All fishing rod purchase decisions begin with lure choice and presentation details.

Defining What’s ‘Fishable’

What do I mean by fishable? My definition is simple: The rod won’t be the reason your buddy out-fishes you in a side-by-side test. In other words, if your buddy is Ned Rigging with the $450 model, and you have a $100 model, he won’t out-fish you because of the more expensive stick.

In the example I’ve discussed here, the least-expensive 7-foot spinning rod shown by the salesman is fishable for trolling crankbaits for walleyes, or soaking dead bait from the bank for catfish. It’s not fishable for deep weedline Ned Rigging. 

A good salesmen will allow a customer like Joe to test rods again and again — keep switching models between a half dozen; keep flexing and comparing — until he finally decides to make a purchase or wait for another day.

If Joe chooses a 7-foot finesse rod, then you can move onto spinning reels if he needs one. And again, the process repeats itself. Show him a handful of options, beginning with one that doesn’t quite measure up to the task at hand, and finishing with a Cadillac. Discuss sizes and features, but always circle back to what is fishable.

By focusing on value (i.e. what’s fishable), customers will trust your advice. By NOT trying to sell them the most expensive rod or reel in your store, you’ll close more sales. And believe it or not, you’ll still move a decent number of your highest priced products.



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