Re: Sesitivity Test
I can tell you one test NOT to use. It's the old "grab the tip and pull it down to the butt" trick. I've seen two people break rods (one brand new) doing this. Both times they had these shocked looks on their faces and yelped that the rods were defective.
Someone then explained that when line wasn't strung through the guides, all the force was being exerted in the last 6" of the tip where they were grabbing it. At this point the NASA scientists calmed down and started feeling deep, deep remorse at having broken their rods.
If I knew what reel I was going to use (and already owned it), I'd bring the reel to the store and at a minimum seat the reel to feel how the combination balanced. Ideally, I'd also bring a practice plug and string it up (with the sales person's permission). Given that steelheaders aren't hugely accurate casters, this could cause some problems in Walmart ("Oops! Landed in that lady's shopping cart over there in the Automotive Dept!"), but at a sporting goods store why not walk out into the parking lot and give a couple of rods a few casts?
I haven't tried this mind you, but someone with an honest face like RT might be able to pull it off.
If you accept a handed off steelhead, in your next life you'll come back as a Bulletin Board moderator.