The old adage, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight,” applies to rod selection. To up your odds at landing your target fish, understand what type of rod it is you’re looking for. From those short 24-inch ice fishing rods used to pull hand-sized panfish from the ice to broomstick stand up rods that handle 1,000-pound blue marlin in the deep Atlantic, there’s a rod for every quiver.
SPINNING, CONVENTIONAL OR TROLLING - Whether fishing the sweetwater or saltwater, the first obvious consideration when choosing a rod is to pick between spinning and conventional/baitcasting types for casting baits and lures. Spinning rods are designed to work better for surface with poppers or to snap jigs. They also are easier to cast. Conventional rods offer strength and backbone when bottom fishing or casting around dock pilings and structure piles to muscle fish out of potentially line-breaking turf. Conventional rods give the angler more power while spinning models offer best versatility. Most rods are fitted with circular ceramic or metal guides; some trolling rods have rollers for guides on them for relief of tension when fighting big fish.
POWER AND ACTION RATING - Action on a rod is basically the amount of flex throughout the blank. Ratings run from a sliding scale of slow, moderate, fast, and extra fast. What you sacrifice for power and muscleability with a slower action, you gain in ability to detect strikes and finesse casting. Slow action allows for much more of a bend in the entire rod where the torque is spread all the way down to the lower third of the rod to reel seat, while an extra fast action rod will only truly flex near the top third to the tip with the rod being stiffer and less flexible as it heads down to the reel seat. Big game fishing for marlin have fast to extra fast action to utilize power and torque of the lower two thirds of the rod when reeling in heavier, powerful fish, while finesse fishing for crappie will be slow to moderate action style to feel the sensitive strikes and less aggressive battles. Matched with the action comes the power rating, which can span from light to medium to heavy. A perfected blend of action and power will be detailed to which species and technique you want to fish. For instance, if I’m casting topwater poppers to 20-pound redfish, I want to use a moderate/fast action, medium/heavy spinning rod, if pitching spinnerbaits to largemouth bass in the lily pads, I’d go with a moderate/fast action, medium power conventional rod.
SENSITIVITY AND LENGTH – Rods can be comprised of fiberglass or graphite. Fiberglass rods have more play in them to better handle bigger fish though are less sensitive and may need a more stringent hookset. Graphite rods can detect ultra-sensitive bites, have direct hooksetting power, but are stiffer and less forgiving on hard runs from fish that may lead to pulled hooks. One-piece rods naturally have a more connected flow throughout the rod blank, while two-piece rods—advantageous for transportation and storage—sacrifice a little bit of sensitivity, power and connectivity. Regarding length, longer rods will launch a bait or lure out further than shorter rods. Choose the appropriate length according to your environment and application.
Though rod selection can be a real mix and match of preferences, you’ll know real quick when you’ve chosen the right rod, usually dictated either by high fives or swear words after winning or losing the battle.
- NICK HONACHEFSKY