From shore - for every fish, there are hundreds of casts and for every cow there are dozens of schoolies. Therefore the numbers would indicate that the order of precedence would be:
a) best casting
b) best fighting
c) all the rest - durability, warranty, looks, etc
That being said, the number of 30-40" class fish has gone way up this year and I fish hard currents more than ever so I am eyeballing a bigger stick for the rips myself.
Still, my criteria is the same: best casting first, BUT with the additional stoutness for big fish in the rips.
note: I hate stiff blanks. I've owned my share, they don't let the rod cast the line - they make you do all the work. Personal pref, some really like broomstick rods.
Not to sound like a broken record but the two-handed solution seems so obvious...
If you get a chance check out the new for 2001 Sage VPS 4-pc travel 10wt. I haven't cast one yet but it's high on my list.
IMHO - the stiffness of the rod plays the biggest role in the 'end game' the last portion of the fight. When the fish is out there you can use the butt of the rod to bring them in, it's the last part of the fight in tight where the stiffness through the blank plays a part. I am not sure if that's worth the poor casting qualities for me, in fact I know it's not. The alternative is a blank that distributes load throughout with some stoutness to it, but not stiffly. It's a good compromise between the optimized casting designs and the broomsticks. I am still looking...