Selecting a new fishing rod can be a bittersweet task. The excitement of picking out a new fishing sidekick for years to come should is a happy occasion. Unfortunately, it can end up being a pretty big headache when you don't exactly know what you are looking for.
As you shop for a new fishing rod, understanding some key terms will simplify the buying process. Three terms that you should know as it pertains to rods are action, length and power. Whether you are in the market for a spinning or casting rod, understanding these terms will help you to pick out your new favorite fishing rod!
Action: Where a fishing rod bends
If there is one fishing rod term that has caused the most confusion for new rod buyers, it's action. In a nutshell, action explains how a rod bends during use. Action is labeled on a scale from extra fast to slow. A rod with an extra fast action will bend very close to the tip and a rod with a moderate to slow action rod will bend near the mid-section of the blank.
To simplify, rods with extra-fast action are preferable for finesse fishing as they are very sensitive and allow you to set the hook quickly with smaller hooks. Rods with a fast action are very versatile and give you a good balance between sensitivity and casting strength. Moderate action rods are a bit of a departure from extra fast and fast as they are less sensitive, but stronger, which is good for bigger baits like spinnerbaits and crankbaits. Slow action rods, while rare, are used mainly for larger baits like swimbaits, and provide strength to cast these types of baits without breaking.
Length: How long a fishing rod is (and how far it casts!)
Depending on the type of fishing you do and where you fish, length is a very important and underappreciated factor. For most applications, a rod anywhere from 6”6’ to 7”6’ is ideal, though there are some nuances that can make a shorter or longer rod more usable. If you fish in tight quarters like dock areas, rivers and small streams, a shorter rod will help improve casting accuracy. Likewise, if you fish more often in open-water situations where long casts are needed, a longer rod is more sensible.
While the 6”6’ to 7”6’ is a popular range for fishing rods, you may need to go below or above that range. For those that like to use ultralight set-ups for trout and panfish, rods in the 5-to-6-foot range shouldn’t be out of the question, as they will help you to detect bites and land more fish. Conversely, surf anglers, fly anglers and big-game anglers (musky, steelhead, etc.) regularly use rods that are in the 8-to-10-foot range for improved castability and muscle. When it comes to choosing rods based on length, let what you fish for and how you fish for it guide your decision.
Power: Measures a fishing rod's muscle!
Power is a crucial element to picking out the perfect rod. If the power of the rod you choose does not align with the size and fight of the fish species that you target, you will face issues. When it comes to power, all fishing rods are graded on a scale from ultra-light to extra heavy, with the former constituting the lightest possible rods, and the latter constituting the heaviest. The lighter the tackle you use and the fish you target, the lighter power you will want to use, and vice versa.
With the vast array of rods available on the market today, it doesn’t hurt to have a variety of rods with different powers. If one rod is all you are looking for, a medium power rod is proficient for most presentations, though you will want to consider powers like medium-light to light for finesse applications and heavy for specialized presentations like frogs and swimbaits. If you use powers that are inappropriate for the situation, you can risk breaking the rod or limiting the action and effectiveness of the bait or lure that you are fishing.
Updated July 20th, 2022 at 11:19 AM CT