Fishing Rods are permitted as carryon and checked baggage. Check with your air carrier to confirm that it fits within their size limitations for carryon items. It's the carrier's decision as to whether or not it can be transported as carryon baggage. Some tackle equipment can be considered sharp and dangerous such a jigs and poppers.
Expensive reels or fragile tackle such as fly's should be packed in your carryon baggage.
Put a TSA lock on your checked bag, Always print out the TSA page and carry it with you at check in with the fishing/hunting equipment regulations, in case they mess with you. Carry your expensive reels as carry on. Some TSA's give a hard time about line being on them. No hooks on carry on. It's best to print out the policy on the airline and bring it with you. Any other items such as rods, lures, lines are checked (and insured) with hopes that they will be at your destinations. Just be sure to secure ample bubble wraps (with tapes) around your rods to ensure rod breakage. … Insure it and hope for the best.
Here are some policies of some major airlines.
Fishing equipment will be accepted in the normal free baggage allowance in lieu of a piece of baggage. One item of fishing equipment consists of:
One landing net
One pair of waders (properly encased)
One tackle box
1 pair of boots
1 tackle box
1 landing net
Free in place of one checked bag.
50 pounds/62 linear inches
Continental accepts one item of fishing equipment per customer in lieu of one piece of free baggage. An item of fishing equipment consists of the following:
1 landing net
1 pair of fishing boots
1 tackle box.
All items must be properly encased in a suitable container not to exceed a total of 115 linear inches (L + W + H)..
Fishing equipment over 80 inches in length will not be accepted as checked baggage on any itinerary involving a Continental Express* or Continental Connection flight.
Fishing equipment carried in addition to the free baggage allowance will be assessed at the current excess baggage charge for a single piece, whether or not it is presented as a single piece.
The following items may be checked free as a third bag: Two rods, two reels, and one tackle box encased in a proper hard case or Alaska Airlines box. Fishing equipment is authorized to exceed 62 inches. However, if the item is excess or overweight it is subject to applicable fee.
Note: Fishing rods must be inside a single case. Cases may not be taped together.
FishingRods and reels contained in a case and one bag with fishing tackle, landing net, and fishing boots.Two pieces - Fishing rod case and fishing equipment bag are free in place of one 62 inch bag
Fishing rod case 50 lbs. 115 inches
Equipment bag 50 lbs. 62 inches
For purposes of excess baggage, two pieces count as 1 item
American's policy is the most explicit, specifying the exact size and weight of the allowed pieces. Continental's is the most poorly written, seeming to require that the rods and tackle bag go into a single container, but that is not true. United's and USAir's do not explicitly state that you can exceed the 62 inch rule with the rod tube.
Yes, you may get stopped at the check-in counter, but that is because the counter agent is not aware of the rule. As with the TSA rules, you should have the rules printed out with the date and web address in the footer. This will allow then to look up the policy. If you are forced to pay an excess baggage charge, make them write down specifically what they are charging you for. When you complete your flight, you can contact customer service, explain the situation and get your money back.