My answer of yesterday was rushed and incomplete.. As I fish the West Coast, I have no personal knowledge of your rivers. From what little information I have, casting distance is relatively short and usually with tips. If that is correct, is believe a RIO
Skagit 550 grain with tips is the way to go. If you want to learn with a moderate length line, I would suggest a Rio
WC 8/9/10 with tips. Also take a look the new Airflo lines. See if a local shop or a friend can loan you a line AND YES lessons are the best way to start. As you are new to this game you probably do not have a set of tips just laying around ready for use. If that is the case, and you want to use a short belly system, buy the WC 11/12/13 with tips. Use just the main belly of the line and the tips. Leave out what RIO
refers to as tip 2, which is a floating section placed between the main belly and the sink tip. If you choose to go with a full floater, keep it in the 600 to 650 grain range and a belly of 55' or less. Anything longer on a 12' 6" rod will be a pain. This may be too much information at once, and believe me, everyone will have an opinion, many of which will differ substantially from mine.
Get the guide spacing directly from Batson. The correct formula should include 3 stripper guides, they were off on their first two recommendations.
The rod will be great for Steelhead and salmon, but as Ted advised, overkill for smallies and shad. The 11' 6" Forecast from Batson would be the ticket, especially in view of the price. I have built and fished both. The 11' 6" is one of my favorite rods. It is not for kings, but smaller species including steelies in the 10 to 12 pound class are great fun on the small rod.