Being an avid steelheader for 45 yrs., I often reflect on how we got to using the stuff we do today. Back in the 70’s if you had a Fenwick PLS70 fiberlass rod matched with either a Mitchel 300 or the newest Zebco Cardinal #3 or #4, you were looked upon as a serious steelheader. No floats back than, bottom bouncing with split shots or casting a Black Fury. It wasn’t until the late 70’s that Peter Pastorik and Stan Zadel (steelheader friends of mine), who travelled to Michigan to fish some of the famous steelhead rivers came back with something called a Carlisle Float and Fenwick HMG graphite rods with fighting butts equipped with their spinning reels. That was the start of float fishing and long drift-rods. For decades everyone used spinning reels with more purposely made “noodle-rods” and than long steelhead drift rods.
Today, if you use a center-pin reel & drift rod you are recognized as a serious steelheader, but don’t loose sight of the fact that this is only an evolution that is 15-20 yrs old for Great Lakes steelheaders.
For anglers who fish spinning and baitcasting outfits and want to get into steelheading, I think starting with a steelhead spinning outfit is best. They will be more comfortable casting, setting the hook and using the drag to fight the fish. If they enjoy their experience they will soon see the benefits of having the current take the line out off a center-pin (instead of opening and closing the bait continuously), at “current-speed” and they will most likely step-up to a center-pin/drift rod combination. That steelhead spinning outfit they started out with will always be in the car in case they want to cast spoons, spinners and Kwikfish! Good example is Della Irtwani above who used a Magnum Steelhead spininng outfit and landed 4-steelhead on her first outing.