Fishing Rods Explained
By: Nick – Updated: December 29, 2023
Choosing a fishing rod is often the hardest part when getting into fishing. The different types all come in various action, power, and lengths, It’s easy to get the wrong rod. Having the right rod is a major factor in your success and overall enjoyment of fishing. Below, I will simplify everything and walk you through exactly what you need.
Types of Rods & When to Use Them
A spinning rod is a great choice for someone new to fishing. They are easy to learn how to use and they are durable enough to last for years. Spinning rods are also very versatile and can be used with a wide range of lures.
Spinning rods are ideal when using lighter lures. This makes them great for targeting smaller fish like panfish, trout, or crappie. They are also great for targeting bass with finesse-style baits.
Spinning rods can handle medium and larger baits but they aren’t perfect for them. This allows you to try out some larger lures and see if you enjoy that style of fishing before investing in a baitcaster.
A baitcaster is great for bass anglers and those looking to expand their rod arsenal. Baitcasters typically take a bit more time to learn but they greatly expand your options for using larger lures.
Baitcasters are designed to be fished with heavier lines and larger lures. This makes it the rod of choice for about 80% of bass fishing techniques.
Spincast rods are the easiest type of rod to use. Because of this, most rods for small kids are spincast.
Unfortunately, spincasters aren’t nearly as durable as spinning or baitcasters. Spincasters typically don’t last very long so they aren’t ideal for anyone who fishes often.
Spincasters could be a good option if you are only planning on fishing one or two times and are looking for the easiest option. They are also a good choice introducing small children to fishing.
Which Type of Rod is Best for You?
If you plan to fish more than a few times you should choose either a spinning rod or a baitcaster. To help you choose which is better for your needs read our baitcaster vs spinning guide. If you already have a fishing rod or two and are looking to expand your arsenal then check out our article on the first 5 rods bass anglers need.
Action Vs Power
The action or taper tells you where the rod will bend when pressure is applied. There are 3 base rod actions: fast, medium (moderate), and slow. There are also some in-between ratings like extra fast or medium-fast.
- Slow Action – A slow action rod will start bending closer to the handle, 50% or more of its length.
- Medium Action – A medium action rod will start bending near the middle or about 30-40% of its length.
- Fast Action – A fast action rod will only bend near the top 15-30% of its length.
Action is described in speed based on the time it takes the rod to return to its starting position. When only the tip bends, it can get back into starting position faster than when the whole rod bends. That is why action is described as “fast” or “slow”. Action will affect your casting and sensitivity.
The power rating measures the amount of weight required to bend the rod. Power comes in ultra-light, light, medium, medium, heavy, extra heavy. Ultra-light rods require the least amount of weight to bend. Extra-heavy requires the most weight to bend. Power will affect the fish fighting ability and make sure the rod will be able to handle the line and lures you want to use.
An important thing to know about Action and Power is there isn’t an industry standard. Each manufacturer’s ratings will be slightly different from each other.
When to Use Each Action Rod
Fast action – Single hook baits, high sensitivity and strong backbone
Since fast action rods only bend near the tip there is less bend to absorb vibrations. This makes them the most sensitive and allows you to better feel what is happening at the end of your line.
Having a bend only near the tip also allows you to apply more force to your hookset. This is beneficial when fishing near heavy cover that you will have to fight the fish through. It also makes it easier to generate enough force to drive thicker jig hooks into the fish’s mouth.
Medium action – Treble hook lures
These rods allow more bend throughout the rod which helps absorb direction changes and sudden bursts while keeping constant pressure on the hook. Treble hooks have a shorter shank so they are easier for fish to spit out if pressure is relieved.
Treble hooks are also typically thinner and don’t require as much force to set the hook so the added flex in the rod doesn’t hurt. They give you a good balance of longer casting while still having enough power to properly set the hook.
Slow Action – Smaller Fish
Slow action fishing rods are typically used when targeting smaller fish. The extra flex can make the fight from smaller species more fun. Additionally, the added shock absorption helps prevent ripping the hook out of the fish’s mouth.
Choosing the Best Power for Your Rod
- Ultra Light: Ultra light powered rods are ideal for ultra-light line and light lures in the 1/32 to 3/8 oz range. These are great rods are great for targeting panfish, crappie, or small creek fish.
- Light: These rods are a slight bump up in power and are ideal with lures in the 1/16 to 5/16 oz range. These rods are great for panfish, walleye, crappie, and trout.
- Medium Light: Medium light powered rods are perfect for lures in the 1/16 to 5/16 oz range. These rods are great for panfish, walleye, crappie, trout, and finesse style bass lures.
- Medium: Medium power rods can accommodate a variety of lures 3/16 to 5/8 oz range. These rods are the most versatile when targeting multiple species.
- Medium Heavy: Medium-heavy powered rods can handle lures in the 1/4 to 3/4 oz range. These rods are the most common choice for bass anglers.
- Heavy: Heavy rods are able to handle lures in the 1/4 to 1 oz range. These rods are ideal for flipping and pitching into cover and when frog fishing.
- Extra Heavy: The stiffest rod capable of fighting large fish through thick cover. These rods have enough backbone to drive even the thickest jig hooks into a fish’s mouth to ensure a good hookesetp. These rods can be fished with lures in the 1/2 to 2 oz range.
Choosing the Best Rod Length
Bass fishing rods range from 5ft to 8ft in length with most being in the 7ft range. When choosing a rod length there are four things you should consider:
- Casting Accuracy – Shorter rods give you more control and are easier to make short accurate casts.
- Casting Distance – Longer rods allow you to cast further while sacrificing some accuracy.
- Leverage & Control – Longer rods can provide more leverage which helps with hook sets and fighting fish in.
- Comfort – Your height should play a role in length you choose. If you are on the shorter side it can be much more comfortable to size down in length. Also consider how you will be fishing. Kayak anglers who sit close to water level will have a much easier time with shorter rods.
Lure and Line Limits
Each rod will have a lure and line weight rating. Most manufactures print this rating right above the handle of the rod. These ratings are for the recommended weight the rod can handle for best performance.
The lure weight rating is for the ideal casting performance. Too light of a lure and you won’t be able to properly load the rod which will hurt your casting distance. Too heavy and you run the risk of loading the rod too much which can result in whip lashing your lures and breaking them off.
The fishing line rating is based on the lb test of monofilament line. This means you can use a heavier lb test line if you spool on a smaller diameter line like braid or fluorocarbon. For example, if your rod has an 8 lb weight rating then you could use up to 30 lb braid or 10 lb fluoro. You can do this because 8lb mono has a diameter of .28mm while 30lb braid is .29mm and 10lb fluoro is .279mm.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do fishing rod cost?
Fishing rods can vary greatly on cost depending on what you are looking for. Quality budget rods can be found in the $50 range. Rods with the best bang for the buck start around $100. High-end rods can get much more expensive in the $400 range.