Angler-Approved: Your Complete Guide to Fishing Rods

Learn about the components and materials for your fishing rod, and find one that’s right for your next trip.

Competitiveness and patience are the keys to a successful fishing outing. But a good rod goes a long way, too. Learn about the components and materials for your fishing rod, and find one that’s right for your next trip.

Two Fishing Rods


  • Grip or Handle:The best type is constructed “through the handle” rather than a glued-on grip. Grips are composed of different materials such as cork, foam or wood, which provide comfort while casting and reeling in a fish.
  • Cork Grips:Comfortable and do not absorb much water.
  • Foam Grips:Lightweight, durable, comfortable and do not break.
  • Pistol Grip:Shortest type of grip, contoured to the shape of your hand with a hook for your index finger to help cast more accurately.
  • Trigger stick:A longer trigger stick is for two-handed, longer casts.
  • Reel Seat:Reel seats are the attachment point where the pole and reel connect, made of molded plastic or graphite and responsible for securing the reel and eliminating any “play” or “wobble” while casting or reeling in a fish. Common reel seats consist of a collar that is tightened by screwing around the reel.
  • Ferrules:This is the portion of the rod that screws together, the only part of the rod that requires assembly.
  • Saltwater Guides: Made of plastic, metal or ceramic. Circles are positioned to the rod’s shaft to control fishing line. In casting rods, line guides are on top of the rod. They are smaller to reduce the play in the line and allow for easier casting and quicker retrieve. Spinning rods place the line guides on the rod’s bottom. These guides get larger toward the base of the rod. The number of line guides is determined by the rod’s length as well as by the quality of the rod.
  • Depending on the amount of friction on the fishing line, some guides will have ceramic, stainless steel or reduce chrome-plated inner rings.


Fishing rods can be crafted from a variety of materials, such as bamboo, graphite, fiberglass or composite. These affect the rod’s action and should be appropriate for your skill level and fishing mode.  Three basic types are available.

  • Fiberglass Rods:Typically geared towards beginners. These rods require little maintenance and are of an average weight and solid rod strength. If you are fishing for larger fish such as muskie, walleye or pike where you need a heavy, durable rod for retrieving the fighting fish, fiberglass rods work best.
  • Graphite Rods:Usually preferred by advanced anglers due to their superior strength and lightness. The lightweight graphite handles most fishing situations well, providing more fighting power in the rod.
  • Bamboo Rods:Produces a smooth, fluid backcast, which provides its own dampening effect at the end of the back cast, featuring the highest quality built from Tonkin cane.



The length of a fishing rod typically ranges from 6 to 12 feet. The length of your rod largely depends on the type of fishing you plan to do, the species you’re after and your fishing environment. Also consider your own angling experience and strength level.

  • A beginner should start with a rod short enough to help with control and the development of technique, but long enough to provide a good casting distance (8 to 9 feet long).
  • Small children need a shorter rod because of their height.
  • In wooded areas or those with surrounding brush, choose a shorter rod.
  • In wide, open spaces, where you would be most likely to fly fish, choose a longer rod.
  • To catch larger, more aggressive fish you will need a stronger, shorter rod.


The rod tapers from one end to the other. The degree of taper determines how much the rod will flex when stress is applied to it. Slower rods are easier to cast. A wider loop on the forward cast reduces casting distance.

Freshwater Casting Rod


Rods come in three basic styles: casting/conventional, spinning and surfcasting rods.

  • Casting/Conventional Rods:Designed to have the reel and guides on the top, casting rods are effective for anglers looking to cast several hundred times during a fishing trip.
  • Generally match up best with baitcasting and casting rods because they sit on top of the rod designed to fit this way.
  • Most casting rods can handle heavy line and fish in dense cover.

Spinning Rods: Ranges in length from 5 to 8 feet, positioning the reel and guides on the bottom of the pole to provide smooth, accurate casts. Features graphite or fiberglass with a cork or PVC foam handle:

  • Longer spinning rods with elongated grip handles for two-handed casting are for saltwater or steelhead and salmon fishing.
  • Spinning rods are also widely used for trolling and still fishing with live bait.
  • The handle length is balanced against the rod’s length.
  • Triggers are not used on spinning rods.
  • Spin casting rods are rods designed to hold a spincasting reel, which are normally mounted above the handle.

Saltwater Casting & Conventional Rods: The reel and line are seated on top of the rod and the trigger grip lets you hold the rod securely while releasing the thumb bar/line release.

  • A quick taper at the rod tip for accuracy and a large backbone at the lower portion of the rod for stability.
  • Saltwater bait-casting rods can be made from fiberglass or graphite.
  • Fiberglass is more durable and has greater lifting power than graphite, which makes it a preference for larger fish, such as tuna and yellowtail.
  • Graphite rods are more bait sensitive and work well for surf fishing and open water when bait is cast over a greater distance.

Saltwater Surfcasting:  When searching for your saltwater rod, consider the length, power and action you need. Longer rods cast farther, while shorter rods provide more power for fighting fish. Most saltwater fishing rods are made of graphite or fiberglass. Graphite rods are stiffer and more sensitive, while fiberglass fishing rods are tougher and more powerful.

  • Profile:Look like oversized spinning rods or bait casting rods with long grip handles for two-handed casting techniques.
  • Length:From 10 to 18 feet in length. They have to be longer to be able to cast the lure or bait beyond the breaking surf where fish likely pray, and strong enough to cast heavy lures or bait needed to hold the bottom in rough water. The length of the rod depends on how far and what weight of lure you want to cast, let say a 12 feet surfcasting rod will easily allow you to throw a 2 to 4 ounce lure more than 200 feet.
  • Long Rod:The advantage of a long surf rod is great casting distance, which helps to fight the big game fish without breaking a fishing line.
  • Short Rod:You have much more control on the fish and it allows you to use lighter line with a longer rod.
  • Species:Red Drum, Black Drum, Tautog ,Blackfish, Flounder, Fluke, Black Sea Bass, Bonefish, Atlantic Bonito and Albacore Tuna, Pompano and Spanish Mackerel, Sharks and Weakfish (Sea Trout), Snook and Tarpon.
  • Bottom-fishing:Bottom-fishing rods run about 10 feet and normally take 6 to 30-pound test.

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Action determines how much control you have over the fish. The faster the action, the more pressure you can put on the fish. The power is your rod weight, so deciding the type of fish you want to catch will determine the power you need for your rod.

Power: Rods may be classified as ultra-light, light, medium-light, medium, medium-heavy, heavy, ultra-heavy, or other similar combinations. Ultra-light rods are suitable for catching small bait fish and also pan fish, or situations where rod responsiveness is critical. Ultra-Heavy rods are used in deep sea fishing, surf fishing, or for heavy fish by weight.

Action: Affects your casting distance and accuracy, also relating to the lure or bait you need and the strength of the reel that should be used. The smaller the fish, the lighter the action needed, while the heavier the fish, the heavier the action. An action may be slow, medium, fast or a combination (e.g. medium-fast.)

  • An extra fast action rod bends just at the tip.
  • A fast action bends in the last quarter of the rod.
  • A moderate-fast action rod bends over the last third.
  • A moderate action rod bends over the last half.
  • A slow action rod bends all the way into the handle.


A rod’s weight and length should be matched to the weight of your line. A rod may also be described by the weight of lure or hook that the rod is designed to support. Lure weight is usually expressed in ounces or grams. See the chart below for how to match your weight to the specific species you want to catch:

fishing rods complete guide 1