With spring being just around the corner (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), chances are you are starting to plan – or have already planned – some of your fishing trips for the year.
If you stumbled upon this page, then you are likely thinking of going further than your local lake, you are thinking of flying to a fishing destination you haven’t been to before.
While it’s easy to get your fishing equipment to your destination if you are traveling by car or bus, it gets a bit more confusing when traveling by plane. Especially so nowadays, in an age where it’s sometimes hard to even figure out what the baggage allowance is for a standard piece of luggage.
As such, I decided to take a look at the issue and report back to you. Keep on reading to learn more about what the best fishing rod bags for air travel are (sneak preview – my favorite’s the Jekosen Ecooda Hard Shell Fishing Rod Case), how to pack your fishing rods and other equipment before heading to the airport, and what the airline rules are when flying with fishing equipment.
4 Best Fishing Rod Cases for (Not Only) Air Travel
First, let’s take a look at some of the fishing rod cases that are suitable for air travel. While they are in no particular order, keep in mind that while the first three are hard cases and thus strong enough to be checked in, the last one is soft – and so, I would only use it as a carry-on case.
Plano Airliner Telescoping Rod Case
The Plano Airliner Telescoping Rod Case is one of the most popular options when it comes to protecting fishing rods during air travel.
It features a three-tier design which allows the case to be just 47 inches long when not in use. When in use, it extends to 88 inches, and with its diameter of 4.5 inches, it will hold up to eight 7-foot rods. That said, if you use it to store rods with large eyelets – as reported by one user – you will only be able to store three or four rods in the case.
Even though the case is not padded on the inside which is a bit unfortunate, the hard shell still offers a lot of protection for your rods when in the hands of an airline.
Overall, this case offers a solid and very affordable solution for flying with your fishing equipment. Just keep in mind that it does not have a built in lock, and so you will want to get a pair of TSA-approved locks with it.
It’s also worth mentioning that in case you don’t think all the rods you plan to travel with will fit into the standard Plano case, there is also a larger version of it – the Plano Jumbo Airliner Telescoping Rod Case – which is made in the US and comes with wheels.
Jekosen Ecooda Hard Shell Fishing Rod Case
If you like the idea of storing your rods in a hard case when checking them in with your airline (you absolutely should), but don’t like the fact that the Plano case is not padded on the inside and that rods in it are quite difficult to access, then you should check the Jekosen Ecooda Hard Shell Fishing Rod Case.
While the Plano is one of the, if not the, best selling cases, personally, I think the Jekosen case is a better and more practical product.
Starting with its dimensions, the Jekosen case has a cross-section of 7.8 inches by 4.3 inches, and is 7.2 feet long when fully extended. It can be collapsed down to about 6 feet for shorter rods, and even down to 5 feet or so for storage.
When fully extended, it can hold anywhere between two and six rods – depending on the size and type – all of which are easily accessible thanks to the case’s “suitcase-like” split-opening design.
In addition to the hard shell that can withstand 1,000 pounds, the case is lined with foam on the inside keeping your rods even safer and preventing them from moving around and bumping into each other. One thing you want to keep in mind, though, is that the foam is not attached to the case, and so you might want to attach it with a double-sided tape before you start using the case.
Finally, just as with the Plano case, you will want to get a paid of locks to go with the case.
Flambeau Outdoor Bazuka Pro Rod Tube
The Flambeau Outdoor Bazuka Pro Rod Tube is – in many aspects – similar to the Plano case.
It’s got a diameter of 6 inches, and a telescoping design that allows the case to be anywhere between 73 inches and 102 inches long. Unfortunately, there is no locking mechanism for the telescoping function, and so, you can change the length of the case even when you have it locked at the top.
Speaking of the top, rather than having to fully open the top portion of the tube, the Bazuka Pro is equipped with hinge doors that make getting rods – even those with oversized eyelets – in and out of it easy. The door can be locked with a standard lock.
One last thing that’s worth mentioning about the Flambeau Outdoor Bazuka Pro Rod Tube is that while it’s walls are not padded, both of its ends are padded with foam for some extra protection.
Overall, if you like the simple tube design and are not keen on getting the most popular Plano, then this is a great option.
Flying Fisherman Passport Travel Rod Case
While the above cases are perfect for when you want to check your rods in, if your airline allows it and you plan to carry your rods on the aircraft, you might want to take a look at the Flying Fisherman Passport Travel Rod Case.
Unlike the other cases in this list, this one does not feature a hard shell. Instead, it is made out of cordura and padded with removable foam inserts. It’s easy to carry around as it’s equipped with not only a handle, but also with a shoulder strap.
The bag is roughly 30 inches x 6 inches by 4 inches, and it can store up to twelve rods. It’s not equipped with a lock, but you can use a padlock to lock the two zippers of the case together and secure it.
That said, I don’t recommend checking the case in as it is not as sturdy as some of the other options and so your rods might get damaged.
Other than that, though, if you are looking for a carry-on fishing rod case, then the Flying Fisherman Passport is a good option.
How to Pack Fishing Equipment for Air Travel
Before continuing, let’s take a quick look about what TSA says about traveling with fishing equipment. According to its website, it permits fishing rods in both carry-ons and checked luggage.
As for other fishing equipment, it permits it onboard as long as it is not dangerous – in other words, while you will be able to carry on reels and similar, you will not be able to carry (large) hooks on.
Now as for actually packing your equipment, it’s pretty simple – remove all reels from your rods, and place the rods into the tube that you either made or bought previously (such as the Plano one). Before doing so, though, you might want to wrap the rods into cloth, bubble wrap, or similar to protect them against any potential damage that could be caused by the rods bouncing around in the tube.
Make sure to package all of the expensive but non-dangerous items such as reels in a way that they don’t get damaged and pack them in your carry-on.
Put all of the other cheaper and dangerous items such as hooks in your checked suitcase.
For more details on how to pack for flying for a fishing trip, check the video below.
Flying with Fishing Rods and Other Equipment: Policies of Major Airlines
Below, I’ll write about fishing equipment baggage policies of a couple of major airlines. If you can’t find your airline in the list, either check on the airline’s website, or take a look at this website which lists the policies of many airlines.
Also make sure to check with your airline before you travel even if you find your airline below, as sometimes airlines change their policies.
American Airlines permits travel with the following fishing equipment: rods and reels in a case, 1 bag with fishing tackle, a landing net, and fishing boots. Any two items count as a single checked in bag for the purposes of excess luggage.
So, for example, a combination of a fishing rod case and a fishing equipment bag would count as one piece of checked luggage. Because of that, if your fare only allows one bag, you will have to pay extra if you want to travel with both your fishing equipment and a standard suitcase.
As for the fishing rod case, it can be up to 126 inches. And, the fishing equipment bag can have dimensions of up to 62 inches, and can weigh up to 50 pounds.
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines allows travel with properly packed fishing rods in both checked and carry-on bags.
For checked luggage, fishing rods up to 115 inches long are permitted.
However, in case you travel with rods that are over 62 inches, you will have to pay an oversized baggage fee which – at anywhere between 150 USD and 300 USD depending on the route – is certainly not cheap.
As for carry ons, you will be able to travel with your rods as long as they are up to 22 inches long.
Keep in mind that your fishing rod case will be consider a single piece of checked luggage, and so – depending on your fare – you might have to pay extra if you want to take a regular suitcase with you as well.
United Airlines counts the following – as long as they are all housed in luggage pieces not exceeding 115 inches for the sum of its three dimensions and 50 pounds – as a single set of fishing equipment: two rods, one reel, one landing net, one pair of fishing boots, and one tackle box.
If your itinerary involves flights on United’s commuter flights flown as United Express, then the maximum length of the fishing equipment is 80 inches.
Similarly to the airlines above, the fishing equipment will use up your luggage allowance (if it’s one bag), and so you might have to pay extra for your regular suitcase depending on the luggage allowance you have.
Finally, while that should go without saying – and applies to all airlines – United clearly states on its website that it’s not liable for any damage that might be caused to your fishing equipment while in transit.
Lufthansa counts any two of the following three – one tackle box/haversack/angler’s basket, one bag/box, one rod – as a single piece of fishing equipment.
Unlike the American airlines, it does not count it as a regular checked in bag, instead requiring a payment of a special sporting equipment fee which ranges anywhere from 80 USD to almost 300 USD depending on the route you are flying on.
While, if you will be staying at a fishing lodge, you may want to ask them if they have rental rods, even if they do not – or you are keen on using your rods – it is not that difficult to travel with them.
As far as airline policies go, no matter which airline you fly with, chances are you will have to pay an extra fee if you want to take both your fishing equipment and a regular suitcase.
That said, if you are still undecided about the airline you want to fly with (and are flying within, to, or from the United States), it seems like American Airlines has the most favorable terms for traveling with fishing equipment out of the three major US airlines while Delta Air Lines is on the other end of the spectrum.