Angler-Approved: Your Complete Guide to Fishing Rods

Learn how to select the proper length, action, power and material for your fishing rod to get you one cast closer to your next trophy fish.

Successful fishing isn’t always simple. You need the right conditions with the perfect balance of patience, skill and knowledge. A little luck never hurts, either. You can’t will a fish to bite, though. You have to have the proper gear and tackle to take home the big one.

One of the most vital (and obvious) pieces to any angler’s equipment list is their fishing rod. These poles help fishermen to get their baits and lures into the water with precision, power and distance as they search for fortune at the end of their line. Not every rod is built the same, however, and certain rods can be better for certain anglers. With these tips and tricks, you can be well on your way to choosing the right fishing rod for your day on the water.

FISHING ROD COMPONENTS

Before you determine which length and style you want, you should know the different components of your fishing rod. These pieces are mostly universal, with only slight changes depending on the fishing rod style.

HANDLE

Starting from the bottom of your fishing rod, the handle is, naturally, where you will hold the pole. Handles are usually made from cork or EVA foam for a comfortable, durable grip, and can vary in length. Typically, longer handles are better for longer casting because you can get both hands involved for more load. Shorter handles can help anglers looking to make shorter casts, cast with one hand or even master the technique of roll casting. Fishermen can also look for split grip, popular with bass fishermen, or pistol grip handles, which can help with keeping the overall rod weight down for shorter casts with lighter baits.

REEL SEAT

Moving farther up the rod you will find the reel seat. This is the area where you can rig your reel by sliding the reel foot into the collars, tightening them down to eliminate any play or wobble from the setup. Be sure to research how to choose a fishing reel so that your angling setup can be solid from top to bottom.

THE BLANK & GUIDES

The main shaft portion of your fishing rod is called the blank. Along the blank are guides, which are the circular pieces that your fishing line is threaded through for more control. The guides are made from either plastic, metal or ceramic materials and are attached at the rod’s windings. A fishing rod’s guides are on top (facing toward the sky) on casting-style rods. Guides are on the bottom (facing toward the ground) on spinning-style rods. The final guide in the sequence on your rod is the tip, which is the thinnest and most flexible portion of the rod.

FERRULES

If your rod is collapsible, then you will have two ferrules: one male and one female. This is the location where your rod will come together for proper use. When connecting the two pieces, make sure that the guides line up, so your line has a straight plane of travel.

HOW TO CHOOSE ROD LENGTH

Now that you know all the basic parts and pieces of your fishing rod, you can begin to determine which pole best fits for your fishing style. Rod length is measured from the end of your handle to the end of your rod’s tip and can heavily influence your casting abilities. In general, smaller fishing rods cast shorter distances, while longer fishing rods cast longer distances. Each type has a purpose, however. In situations where close combat is needed, anglers can benefit from using a shorter fishing rod. Shorter lengths can also help when fighting fish because they often have less bend than other longer options. Longer fishing rods excel in their ability to cast long distances, making them great for covering more water and fishing deep.

The length of a fishing rod typically ranges from 6-12 feet, so to choose a measurement for your needs, consider the type of fishing you plan to do, the species you are after and your fishing environment. A good length for beginner anglers is usually around 7 feet. This size can allow amateurs to have a balanced amount of casting distance and accuracy as they fine tune their skills through experience.

TYPES OF ROD MATERIALS

Fishing rods can be crafted from graphite or fiberglass. Typically, graphite rods are preferred by more advanced anglers for their rigidity and fighting power. Their sensitivity can make picking up on bites much easier. Be mindful, however, that graphite can be more brittle than other options.

Fiberglass is a sturdier material option for fishermen, but the added strength brings added weight. Beginner fishermen can benefit from fiberglass rods because of their durability and limited maintenance. Fiberglass is also a popular option among anglers going after larger, more aggressive species like muskellunge and pike.

Additionally, there are composite options that combine fiberglass and graphite. If you are an angler who uses one rod for multiple conditions, this combination can complement your style.

Consider your skill level and preferred fishing methods to best determine which material can be an asset to your fishing capabilities.

POWER, ACTION AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO

Power and action have as much to do with fishing rods as they do with the next summer blockbuster. While power and action are similar, having the right combination of the two is essential to making sure your bait and lure presentations work right in the water.

Power is the amount of force necessary to bend the fishing rod. It’s classified from ultra-light to ultra-heavy, with ultra-light rods being more suited for smaller species like trout or pan fish and ultra-heavy being used in deep sea fishing excursions. Power is also sometimes referred to as the rod weight.

While power is how much a fishing rod will bend, action is defined as where along the blank the bend occurs. “Slow” action rods will bend closer to the handle of the structure, meaning there is more flexibility and whip in this pole, whereas “fast” action rods are more rigid, flexing only at the top third of the blank. Fast action rods are great for throwing heavier baits or around heavy cover where anglers need to jerk their catches out of vegetation. Slow action rods are ideal for lighter lures and slower baits. There are other action classes in-between, such as medium action rods that combine the best of both worlds for an all-around versatile option.

CHOOSING A TYPE OF FISHING ROD

Now that you know what length you want your rod to be and how much power and action you need in your pole, the last decision you have to make as an angler is what style of rod you would like to use. Fishing rods come in two general styles, with variations according to intended species and environment.

CASTING RODS

Casting rods are designed with the guides on top of the blank and allow fishermen to better place their casts with more accuracy and precision. They can come in either baitcasting or spincasting models to match either type of reel. One of the major differences between baitcasting rods and spincasting rods is the guide size closest to the reel seat. Because the fishing line peels off from baitcasting reels in a different manner, the guide size will be smaller to better accommodate the path. There are also trolling rods, which are a much heavier casting-style option used in deep sea fishing for extremely large species such as tuna and marlin. These are generally best to use only when you’re targeting these larger game fish.

SPINNING RODS 

Spinning rods are usually smaller and lighter than their casting counterparts and are meant to house spinning reels. While the guides of a casting rod are set on top of the blank, spinning rods have the guides on the bottom. This makes for a comfortable, easy-to-use option for fishermen, especially for beginners and those looking for an ultra-light rod. There are also saltwater options called surf rods, which are heavier, longer models designed to hold heavy sinkers and larger baits. Surf rods are built for long casts so that saltwater fishermen can get their bait out past the surf from the beach, pier or rocks.

Having the right fishing rod for your next angling adventure can help you get the most out of your cast. Follow these Pro Tips to make sure your rod has the right length, material and style to help you reel in a prize-worthy catch.

Want to expand your fishing profile with a newfound technique? Give fly fishing a try and find out how to choose a fly fishing rod.