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 “Fishing Rod 101: Selecting a Rod”

By Mike Stephens


Buying a new spinning rod or choosing one stashed away from somewhere in your house isn’t always easy.  A basic understanding of fishing rods can make your next trip more enjoyable as well as optimize your angling abilities.  Throughout this article we are going to focus you on the primary functions of a fishing rod, how fishing rod manufacturers classify & label rods, and how rod design affects your fishing.

Before we get started let’s review the four primary functions or goals of a fishing rod which are casting the lure, lure presentation & sensitivity, hook set, and fish control.   All of these functions need consideration before making an educated decision as well as keeping in mind the type of water you fish, the lures you use, and the fish species you seek.

Selecting a fishing rod is easy if you can think of your rod as nothing more than a simple mechanical device that acts as a lever and a spring.  Rod manufacturers also make this easy by labeling their rods with common classifications that describe the rods’ flexibility, strength, and performance guidelines.  All of these classifications can be found on almost any fishing rod between the handle and the first line guide or eye.  The most important part is making rod selection easy for you.  Here is a quick and easy list of primary fishing rod manufacturer classifications and how they relate to your basic fishing performance.

Rod Length is listed in feet & inches.  5’-5” to 7’-6” rods are common rod lengths for freshwater river, stream, and lake fishing in our area.  When compared to other rods with the same rod weight & action, longer rods will offer longer casts, harder hook sets, and better fish control.  But keep in mind that while longer rods cast further, shorter rods are generally considered more accurate for casting around docks, rocks, or other structure.  Longer rods are also more cumbersome to carry & transport as well as make lure presentation more difficult in small streams or on boats than shorter rods. 

Rod weight (wt) refers to the rod power or strength and commonly describes the “backbone” of the rod.  Rod weights are labeled by ‘wt’.  From least to greatest strength they are Ultra Light (UL), Light (L), Medium-Light (ML), Medium (M), Medium-Heavy (MH), and Heavy (H). 

Rod weight most directly effects hook set and fish control.  Basically the bigger the fish is, the heavier the rod needs to be.  But rod weights are also related to two secondary rod classifications which are the line weight range and lure weight range.  Line weight range most affects hook set.  Heavier weight rods will break lighter line tests too easily and heavier lines can snap lighter weight rods.  Lure weight range affects the cast ability and possibly the presentation of the rod.  It’s important to keep the lure weight (listed in ounces) within the means of the rod label.  Lighter lures will not load the rod enough to properly cast the lure while heavier lures will overload and possibly break the rod.  Heavier lures will also make lure presentation difficult.

Rod action describes how far a rod will bend before it is loaded.  Rod actions are measured from the tip down and are most commonly labeled Fast (F), Medium Fast (MF), Medium (M), and Slow (S).  The less a rod bends, the faster it is considered to be.  Fast action rods are more sensitive and provide quicker hook setting power.  Slower action rods provide longer casts in exchange for less sensitivity and slower hook setting power.

Rod Pieces (pc):  Rods are commonly described as 1, 2, or 3-piece rods.  1-piece (1 pc) fishing rods are rod blanks that have no breaks or connections on them.  They are considered the most sensitive rods, especially when the rod blank extends through the handle.  Multi-piece rods break down into several sections and are not considered to be as sensitive as 1-piece rods, but can be better suited for travel or storage.

There is a certain level of “give & take” when selecting a fishing rod.  The only other advice that I can give is to remember that we’re here to have fun, so pick a rod that you can have fun with … TIGHT LINES & CALM WINDS MY FRIEND.


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