Fishing Rods 101
It is a rod rather than a pole. A fishing pole is a stick or piece of wood that has a line tied on the end. A fishing rod has a seat for the reel to attach with eyelets or guides to direct the line from the reel to the end of the rod. Now that we have the important distinction out of the way let’s get started!
Spline of a Rod
Every fishing rod has a "spline". The spline is created when the fiberglass or graphite cloth is wrapped. The overlap causes the spline. Because of the spline or overlap in the wrap, a fishing rod is strongest in one direction, weak in the other.
The way to think about this is that a spinning rod is strongest in the direction with the guides down while a baitcast or spincast rod is strongest with the guides up. You want the strongest direction of the rod working when you have a fish on. This is why you match reels that sit on top of the rod with rods that are strongest with the guides up.
Fishing Rod Types
There are four types of rods:
- The fly rod [image] is designed for using the weight of the line to cast the bait, typically a fly. The reel seat sits below the rod (the direction the rod is the strongest).However you can put a spinning reel on fly rod to take advantage of the length and action. This would be great for fishing worms on a stream or other light tackle.
- The Baitcast or spincast rod is designed for a reel to sit on top of the rod (a baitcast reel). The guides are on the top of the rod to match the reel position.You could also put a spincast reel on this rod as they also sit on top of the rod. The main characteristic is that the guides and reel seat are on the top of the rod. Generally these rods are more heavy-duty and are best known for bass fishing.
- The Spinning rod - The spinning rod has the guides and reel seat on the bottom of the rod. As the line comes off a fixed spool with a “spinning” mechanism called a bail the first few line guides are larger to accommodate the circumference of the bail. These larger first few guides are designed to reduce potential fishing line friction on the cast and retrieval.
- Tenkara rods - This is a specialty rod popular in Japan and really getting popular around the world now especially in the US. Tenkara is a fixed-line fishing method. No reel, just a line tied to the end of the rod (or should this be pole!). These rods are long, ranging from 11 to 13 feet in length.
A fishing rod can be made out of bamboo, wood, carbon fiber composite or fiberglass composite. The majority of rods these days are made out of carbon fiber. There is nothing wrong with fiberglass rods they are just considered “old fashioned”.
All Rods are classified or categorized based on Action, Power, and Line Weight. Regardless of rod type, these three characteristics are common across all fishing rods. Action, Power or Line Weight are not good or bad; purely differentiators. They only help in determining which rod is best for you based on how and what you are fishing for.
According to Wikipedia - Fishing Rods. The action of a rod relates to the “speed with which the rod returns to its neutral position.” Action is typically defined as slow, medium, fast (or any combination i.e. Medium-fast). Action is sometimes mistakenly presented as the bending curve of the rod.
You can think of it in these terms - a fast rod will not bend far from its neutral position, where a slow rod will flex more and therefore take longer to return to its neutral position.
Action is subjective and can be significantly different between types of rods and manufacturers.
Power describes the rod’s resistance to flexing. Power is typically classified as Ultri-Light, Light, Medium-Light, Medium, Medium-Heavy, Heavy, Ultri-Heavy, or other similar combinations. You may also see power described as the power value or rod weight.
The power rating relates, and is matched; to the type of fishing you plan on doing. Ultrix-Light rods would be suited for panfish with Ultra-Heavy for the biggest of fish. Catching something completely outside the rated size of a rod can result in broken rods.
Rods are also classified by the ideal fishing line weight to be used. As we discussed in the Fishing Line 101 [LINK TO POST], line is rated by pound test. A 6wt rod is designed for a 6-pound test fishing line. Although you don’t have to match the recommended line with the rod exactly, you will get the best performance with a close match.
What to Consider when Selecting a Fishing Rod
What type of fishing reels do you already own?
If you have baitcast reels then that rod could be the natural choice. As mentioned above, there are rods that allow for multiple reels to fit. A baitcast, and spincast reel will both fit on the same rod. Fly and spinning reels are interchangeable with fly and spinning rods.
How much do you plan on fishing?
Do you fishing occasionally on the weekend or a random trip or are you a heavy-duty fisherman or woman? As reliability generally increases with price the frequency with which you fish may allow you to use a less rugged outfit (read less expense).
As with most things, you generally get what you pay for and higher quality and reliability come at a price. I have rods and reels that are in excellent working condition that have been handed down to me from my Grandfather so you can be making an investment if you take care of you gear.
What kind of fish are you after?
If you’re fishing for bluegill you would probably want a much different rod than if you were going after salmon or large fresh water species. An Ultra-Light rod would work for bluegill and other small fish and be a much better choice. A good medium action, medium power 6WT rod would work well for most fishing. Obviously if your fishing is on ether extreme edge then match your gear accordingly.
How portable do you need the rod to be?
If you just fish locally a one-piece rod may work just fine even if you need to travel by truck or auto. Once you introduce air travel then a multi-piece rod would be a much better choice. The ability to break the rod down into a small travel case would be a key characteristic to consider.
How does the rod feel, or look?
The rod is in your hands all the time so the pure feel is important. Grab the rod and see how it feels (give it a jiggle…like everyone does). If it doesn’t feel good than that rod isn’t for you.
You may say you are all about performance, but don’t fool anyone looks are important. How the rod looks is a factor considering you will be looking at the rod almost all the time you are on the water.
Rod Sock – If you have a one piece rod then I think a rod sock is the best investment under $10. A rod sock is exactly what it sounds like, a flexible sock that fits over the end of the rod and comes down to right above the reel. The socks are matched to the rod (guide sizes and length).
Guides – If you are experiencing a lot of line breaks, inspect your guides. You may have a burr or nick on one of the guides. Depending on how severe it is a little extra fine sandpaper may fix it or you may have to replace the guide.
Rod Storage – Rod can be easily damaged so I recommend a storage rack, either horizontal or vertical. Not only do they keep your gear organized but also your rods are further protected against accidental damage off the water.
Fishing is a great pastime and hopefully this post has helped demystify a subject that can be over complicated. Using this information should help you understand and select the right fishing rod for you.
As always feel free to share additional tips or information below in the comments.