Centerpin Choices

Steelhead University

Our Centerpin Choices

When it comes to the ultimate battle between man and steelhead, one has to have experienced the pain of learning how to fish a centerpin rod and reel to truly understand what a phenominal feeling comes over you when you land that first steelhead with one of these precision outfits.

Having landed a fair number of steelhead, there’s always a thrill, that’s what keeps us going in subfreezing weather, terential downpours, and driving all night to get to a river at first light and fish until the last. But when it comes to a centerpin rod/reel, it’s a whole new beast to attack. Forget any other method of casting, retrieving, holding the rod, etc. This is an art form not learned in a few minutes, but years, and beleive me I’m still learning.

You will be hard pressed to find anyone that will disagree that a centerpin gives you the most natural presentation. In my articles and seminars I always stress the importance of a natural presentation. The problem isn’t getting that natural presentation, it’s getting your presentation out into the river without line stringing everywhere and wrapped around the rod and reel to make your feel like the first time you ever flung a baitcaster and birdnested so bad you pouted until your Dad cut all the line off and put some fresh mono on. To say you can birdnest a centerpin is an understatement. These reels are sooooo smooth that they spin effortlessly, but if you’re looking for the high tech anti-backlash systems that are on the best baitcasters, forget about it! These reels will just keep spinning until you manually stop them.

And the high speed retrieve of the baitcasters and spinning reels… nadda. These are 1 : 1 ratio.

Drag system… doesn’t exist.

Nine foot rod… yeah right. Try 11 to 15 foot rods.

These aren’t for those looking for the easy way out. The centerpin is getting you back to the roots of steelheading. All the pain and humilation of learning this system will be worth the effort and the cost.

So what makes these rods and reels so entriguing? It’s just you and the fish baby! That thrill you got when you caught your very first steelhead will come to life again, even if it’s 30 years later.

So, with that being said, we tested several rods and reels and have made our choices for what we found to be the best of the best. We considered, functionality, versitility, performance, design, appearance, maintenance, features and cost when making our choices. Although there are many fine rods and reels out there, of the ones we tested here were our results:

Centerpin Rod: G. Loomis STR1563GLX

For our money this was the sweetest centerpin we could find. Super light, super sensitive and puts a whoopin on the fish.

Made of the patented GLX material, this two piece rod is extremely light and well balanced. While most rods of this size are three piece, I commend G. Loomis for making this a two piece rod. Although awkward in the truck or in the boat, on the river from tip to butt it feels like a complete extention of ones arm. The titanium Recoil guides are another bonus feature that sets this rod apart from the competition.

We loved the balance of the rod and the simple adjustable reel seets that allow each individual to mount the reel to the exact location that is balanced to perfection.

Setting the hook from a distance is no problem. Plenty of power in such a light rod. We even tested this model on Chums and had no problem with powering them over when needed.

The rod did it’s job as described when battling steelhead and brought them in without over stressing the fish so the could be revived and swim another day.

  1. Loomis puts the claim these are the lightest, fastest rods of this length anywhere. We agree!

Please visit G. Loomis to see their complete lineup.


Centerpin Reel: Islander Steelheader and Raven SST II

We had an extremely tough time decidign between the Islander Steelheader and the Raven SST II, so we called it a draw. Both are at the top of their class and you’ll be happy with either. We feel the Islander is more suitable for BC and bigger water, while the SST II is more suited for the small streams and Mid West style fishing.


Islander Steelheader:

Living on the West Coast, when I think of centerpin fishing, immediatly a vision appears in my head of the famous gold reel known as the Islander. For so long I didn’t even think there were other centerpins, the Islander Steelheader was in my mind THE centerpin reel, period.

But this was for good reason. Islander had been producing the Steelheader for years now and quite simply is precision engineering at it’s best.

Startup on the Islander is flawless. These reels will spin to your hearts desire. Pefectly balanced and ultra quiet, you cannot find a centerpin that matches is superior workmanship and design.

The Steelheader has a good ratchet system which engages the spool when not in use and comes with a neoprene pouch to protect it.

A generous spool with plenty of spacing between the reel seat and the side of the spool to allow for easy side casting.

Very sturdy and for that reason we recommend use with more weight on the larger systems.

A beautiful reel, one should be proud to own and fish such a piece of art.

Please visit the Islander Website.


Raven SST II:

In the Mid West they’re used to smaller streams and smaller presentations. This is where the Raven SST II thrives. The SST II has an ajustable tension knob which allows you to control the startup speed. When loose, the startup is extremely fast and allows for those light presentation such as the 1/64th oz jigs, almost as if fly fishing. It does allow you to tighten the tention as well for larger presentations like on the West Coast and BC.

The SST II also has a convenient ratchet system to engage the reel for travel, and like the Islander comes with a neoprene pouch for protection.

Raven designed the SST II to have even more room between the reel seat and the side of the spool so side casting is even more effortless with this reel.

Although it appears heavier, the SST II is actually very light and well balanced.

Our choice for smaller streams and the Mid West.

You can visit the Raven Website here.



For our choice of centerpin rod, the G. Loomis was hands down the best rod we tested.

While my fishing partner does prefer the SST II over the Islander because of the adjustability, I prefer the Islander because of the consistant startup speed. Both are superior centerpin reels which will give you years and years of fishing pleasure.