How to Choose a Fishing Rod
Fishing poles are an important piece of the puzzle to catch fish. In its simplest form they are used to throw the line out with a hook at the end of it. Rods have been used ever since man has figured out it is a better way to fish than just holding a line ... technology advances and we now have more options than ever for us to pick.
Fishing rods will vary in length, taper, action (also known as flexibility) and power. The basics run down to this: You want a rod stiff enough to not break when you are fighting a fish, but flexible enough that your line doesn't break if you put to much tension on the rod. Above all, pick a rod that you feel comfortable with, one that will suit your needs for the fish you will be targeting.
Pretty self explanatory, the longer the rod length, the longer cast you can make. Rods generally range from 6' to 8.5'+ but most rods are made from 6.5'-8', most common being the 7' rod which is a good all purpose rod. If we were to fish from a pier a longer rod 8'+ will give you that extra distance that could make a difference, where as if you were fishing in tight mangroves a 8' rod could make it hard to cast. Choose your length based on your needs.
This is where many get confused. The action of the rod is simply how much of the rod bends when you put pressure on it. There are three generally accepted types of rod action
The more the rod bends the slower action. A fast action rod will bend about one fourth the distance between the tip of the rod to the butt (very bottom of the rod.) Where as a a slow action rod might bend as much as 2/3rds of the total rod length. The girth or taper of the rod will also play a role in the action and power of the rod.
The taper of the rod is the diameter of the butt (bottom) of the rod in relativity to the tip. The point where the rod shows a strong difference in thickness is where the taper begins. The taper also determines the rods action.
The old saying of, "there is no such thing as too much power" does not apply here. Rod power like the action of the rod goes by 3 steps -- Heavy, Medium and, Light. Rod power is based off how much weight a rod can lift, power is closely related to line strength. A heavy rod is good for heavy line, and light rod is good for light line (its not rocket science.) Understand that there is some leeway, however a light line can get snapped by a heavy rod and a light rod can get snapped by a heavy line.
A couple of things to keep in mind. Like anything else there are tradeoffs and no single rod will do everything.
- The action of the rod — where the bend starts — affects the casting process. Slower rods bend more, which means you can throw a lure or bait farther. But the greater bend also means you have to pull back farther to set the hook after a fish bites.
- Fast-action rods offer an advantage when setting a hook; since the bend happens farther away from the butt (in the top one-fourth), more of the rod is stiff — which means you don’t have to pull back as far as with a slower-action rod.
- Casting something very light needs a little “snap”; too much snap, however, and you’ll throw the hook one way and the bait another. The right combination of action and power should match the line weight, bait or lure, and conditions you’re fishing at any given time.
- A topwater lure might require less setting power than a live bait fished on the bottom near a bridge, or near oyster bars in three feet of water. (This is at least partly because of the sheer weight of water.)
How to Choose the Right Rod Blank
This is the framework for the entire rod, consider it the skeleton of the rod. If we think of the blank in this sense we can see it is the most important aspect when choosing a rod. It gives us the power needed for a solid hookset and it gives us the action needed to cast light lures and baits. There are 3 parts that make up the blank.
- Graphite (or fiberglass) - Graphite is the most common rod building material today. The graphite is made in extremely hot 2 stage process, one to create tensile strength and one to create the stiffness of the rod. The more heat put into the material (3000+F) the higher the modulus. The modulus is the relationship between the rods stiffness to the weight ratio of the fibers used to make the blank. This is why we have ratings such as IM-6(six million modulus per part), IM-7(seven million modulus per part) ect. NOW the important thing to keep in mind is that you should not compare rods of different manufactures using this rating system. There is no industry standard on the IM rating system to be able to use it as a benchmark between different blanks and each manufacture uses their own type of graphite. However when comparing rods of the same manufacture a blank with a IM-6 rating will be heavier than a IM-7 blank. Since the IM-7 has less material and a tighter molecular compound it will be lighter and more sensitive. There is a tradeoff though, a rod with high modulus will have a lower strain rating, making it more brittle. Some manufactures like G-loomis and St. Croix specially engineer their high modulus rods with a high strain rating (best of both worlds)
- Scrim - After the main layer of graphite is made a second layer of composite is put on perpendicular to the fibers of the graphite. This layer is called the Scrim, the purpose of the scrim is to hold the lineal graphite strains together. Most of the rods use fiberglass for this layer of the rod however some manufactures will use other composites like carbon fiber or kevlar. The idea behind using carbon fiber or kevlar is again to create the strongest and lightest rods.
- Resin - The black magic "glue" of a blank. This is how the different layers of the rod are held together. Not to much is known about the resin as each manufacture will have their own. I know that rod manufactures use different formulas of resin as it can reduce weight and make a more durable rod.
- Single piece vs. multi - A multi piece is easier to travel with but when looking at them remember that you want it to feel like a single piece. You don't want the rod to feel like it is in multiple pieces (or have them become multiple pieces) when you have a fish on the line!
Most rods built today have a single taper from the butt of the rod to the tip, but we are starting to see an increasing amount of manufactures who are building compound taper rods. If the taper is adjusted in different places of the rod they can effectively change the action and power of a rod while keeping a smaller blank.
Most of the guides today will be a metal frame with a ceramic insert. The most common coating companies will put on the ceramic in the guide is SiC or Silicone Carbide. This coating allows the line to easily slip through the guides, it is a super smooth surface that reduces friction on the line, less friction equals less heat, which can deteriorate line over time. The general idea is the more guides the better (more expensive), the line will cast better and bend more constant through the length of the rod allowing it to use all of the power available in the rod blank for longer more accurate casts as well as more power when fighting the fish. The only downside is the slight increase in weight, but honestly the difference is negligible. For example a decent 7' rod should have about 9 guides on it where as a cheaper rod might only have 6 guides over the same length. There are also double footed guides (attached to the blank at 2 points) and single footed (just attached at the bottom point of the guide) The double footed guides are generally nicer because it have more contact with the blank as well as more strength against abuse but a well built rod does not necessarily have or require double footed guides.
Some rod manufactures have started to use a new type of guide made of titanium-nickle called Recoil by REC, they resist deformation and cannot corrode. These guides are still fairly new but people that use them seem to like the amount of abuse they can take without breaking as well as the sensitivity the design gives to the fisherman. The only downsides are that they are noisy when using braid (some feel that the noise can be heard above and below the water via transmission of vibration in the line) and that casting distance is reduced slightly due to the design.
Not the one you sit in, but the one that holds your reel to your rod. Most of todays high end and mid range reel seats will be graphite with a cutout to the blank to give you better feel of the rod. Though handle construction is a must in todays age. Back in the 20th century (haha) rod manufactures made rods by gluing the blank to the rod seat, most all of todays rods have the rod seat that sits at the bottom of the blank, but is still part of the blank. Cheaper rods will use non padded metal reel seats that can rust over time (not a good thing) try to stick with graphite or other composite reel seats when choosing a rod.
The only other thing to keep in mind when choosing a rod is that each rod is still hand made, when you find a rod you like check each part for quality even though you might find 2 of the same rod one might feel better to you than another. Choose a rod that suits your specific needs and your price.
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