Saltwater Rod Selection with Kyle Schaefer

by Kyle Schaefer |

Spring brings out the best in us.  The magical combination of increasing sunlight, birds returning to our previously quiet woods, and warming waters is more than enough to put an extra pep in the step.  With these signs comes the awakening of an array of fishing opportunities all over the country and the coast.  It’s time to gear up, choose your weapon, and sling some line.  

Thomas & Thomas rods, by nature, have a big sweet spot, which is exactly why every time I put a T&T in someone's hand, they fall in love and eventually purchase one.  These rods perform for me, my guiding clients in Maine, and everyone who comes through my lodge in the Bahamas.  Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned veteran, T&T is accessible to all skill levels.  The nuance and detail of dialing in your rods lies in fly line selection, leader style, and what you tie to the end of it… the fun part. 

Saltwater fishing is my focus, and I’m excited to share how I approach T&T rod selection and why. 


Sextant - I put the Sextant to work when precision and feel are my top priority.  The Sextant is my top choice when I’m sight fishing or casting floating lines and intermediate lines.  This rod is accurate, smooth, and stable, a deadly combination for demanding situations on the water.  The 9wt Sextant is my go-to permit rod on calm days where stealth and accuracy are key.  The 9wt is also one of my favorite striper rods as it’s incredibly versatile but can handle the most technical situations.  For bonefishing, the Sextant is also a favorite.  Big bones demand that you do everything right.  Sneaking a fly in front of a tailing fish in ankle-deep water brings a gentle accuracy that the 7 or 8wt Sextant has plenty of.  In short, the T&T Sextant lineup (6wt - 12wt) has the ability to solve the most complex problem that the salt can throw at you.  

Zone - The Zone has a special place on my boat as well. If I were blindfolded and were handed the Zone I would have a hard time telling the difference between this stick and any other $1,000 rod on the market.  The Zone is an incredible value and operates at the highest level but at half the price.  I don’t think about utility as much with the Zone… I just line it up and put it to use.  I love having this rod on my boat because it’s proof that a more accessible entry point, price wise, does exist at this performance level.  I’ve fished Maine, the Bahamas, Argentina, and beyond with the Zone and I find this rig handles a sinking line just as well as it does a floating line.  The Zone is my workhorse, and I appreciate that!  

Exocett SS - I reach for the Exocett SS when it’s time to go deeper in the water column.  This innovative design casts sinking lines, heavy floating lines, and big flies better than anything on the market.  When the stripers aren’t showing on top, and we’re off the flats, out comes the SS.  The SS is also one of those rods that is a blast to try different lines on.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many different lines this rod throws well.  Open your mind, line it up, line it down, play around, and find the combo that speaks to you. 

For someone like myself who needs a quiver of rods that can operate in vastly different fisheries throughout the year, I’ve found a particular purpose for each saltwater rod in the T&T lineup.  I do want to stress that these rods are versatile and can serve a lot of different purposes but finding the right rod that speaks to you and your fishing style will serve you well. 

Lines are a whole other story, a very important part of the story, and the T&T crew, your local shop, or myself are always here to help. Drop me a DM on Instagram, @captkyleschaefer. I’m happy to answer your questions.

Enjoy your time on the water, slow down, and remember that the moments in between fish are the ones that really matter. 

Photo credits: Alec Griswold, Dylan Schmitz, and Kyle Schaefer

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