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Conventional Rods - Educational Portal Series

Tackle portals are educational for fishing rods, reels and other tackle.

Conventional Fishing Rods


The conventional rod is similar to the baitcast rod, as both reels face up on the rod blank. The conventional-style reel mounts on the top of the rod, facing the angler. Rods designed to work with conventional reels generally have smaller guides. The line is revolving off a conventional reel straight and evenly. Most of the time, the eyes on a conventional rod are mounted on the spine of the rod and on the opposite side of the rod for a spinning rod. This is designed so that the rod is the strongest when fighting a fish.

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What Situations Call for this Type of Tackle?

Robust conventional rods are the top choice for pursuing large, strong species when bottom fishing, trolling or deep dropping. They are paired with a high line-capacity conventional reel. This style of rod offers the perfect balance of lifting power and resiliency for battling tough saltwater game fish.

Most Popular Types of Conventional Rods

Conventional Boat rods -- This rod is used with lures and baits. These rods vary in length from around six to eight feet and are normally constructed from a mixture of carbon and fiberglass, with a medium to fast action. They are usually rated by line class which gives a general guide to the recommended tensile strength of line with a properly set drag. The heavier class of rods may be fitted with roller guides for using wire or heavier braided lines.

Trolling rods -- A beefed-up version of a baitcaster with a revolving spool reel that sits on top of the rod. Saltwater trolling rods are shorter and stouter with a notched butt or gimbal that locks into the cross-bar inside a fighting belt or chair. This metal component or gimbal helps secure the rod to a rod-holder, or to the matching holder in a fighting chair.

Saltwater trolling rods either use high-strength round eyes or roller guides to support the line. Saltwater trolling rods and reels are categorized by the line that they are intended to support. Saltwater trolling rods used for stand-up fishing will usually be shorter with a longer butt, while rods made to be used in a fighting chair will be longer with a shorter butt. Lighter action trolling combos also make good heavy-duty bottom fishing and bait fishing rods.

Jigging rods -- Vertical jigging uses high-speed rods and reels to retrieve a streamlined metal lure. On the other hand, rubber jigs are designed to bounce slowly and hover off the bottom. These techniques require specialized tackle to either work a lure very quickly or very slowly. For vertical jigging, use a medium-fast spinning or casting rod with a highly flexible tip that will quickly retrieve the jig.


Vertical jigs require high-speed reels with a retrieve ratio of 6:1 or faster that can hold hundreds of yards of braided line. Rubber jigs, on the other hand, are designed to move slowly and hover over their target. These jigs require an 8-foot, light-action rod that allows the fish to nibble its way to the hook without feeling any resistance. A reel with a slow retrieve ratio (below 5:1) will apply steady pressure to set the hook. Braided line and a highly sensitive rod will allow the angler to feel the slightest tap of a fish.

Deep Drop / Heavy Trolling / Bent Butt Rods -- Are for ultra-heavy and hard fighting fish. They are made to either be held in the angler's hands or stationed remotely and used in conjunction with an electric reel. When fishing deep water sometimes over a 1,000 feet deep, or trolling for marlin, a Deep Drop Bent Butt rod is needed. The rod has a bent butt section and is lined with ball-bearing roller guides and rated to line classes from 200 lbs. to unlimited. Many times Deep Drop Bent Butt rods are used for fishing the bottom with electric conventional reels.


Surf Fishing rods -- Surf fishing is the sport of catching fish while standing on the shoreline or wading in the surf. This refers to all types of shore fishing. Basic surf fishing can be done with a fishing rod between 7 feet and 18 feet long, with an extended butt section, equipped with a suitably-sized spinning or conventional casting reel. The conventional rod has smaller guides while the spinning rod has larger guides. With a typical length of 11-13 feet the average rod will be constructed from a mix of glass and carbon fiber and have a medium to fast action. The preferred length will vary from angler to angler and depends upon the casting style and individual build of the caster. A fast action rod with a very stiff butt section will give better casting distance in the hands of a competent caster. The guides are spaced differently depending upon whether a spinning reel or conventional reel is to be used. The conventional version (called a multiplier reel outside the United States) requires more rings on the tip section as the reel is fished on top of the rod and the line will gravitate towards the blank when under load. The spinning reel rod needs fewer rings as the reel is fished under the rod and the line is pulled away from the blank. The first eye- ring on a spinning rod should be higher up the rod and is generally larger than on the conventional rod to allow the line to flow smoothly off the reel, and ensure that a small diameter ring does not choke it.

Kite Fishing rods -- Are short and heavy, with one ring guide at the tip, about 3' in length, and do just one job: holding the kite line. The other rods will hold the baits. A high speed conventional reel or a level-wind kite reel keeps the line from bunching up, as it comes in fast.

Rod Material Choices

Fiberglass -- Are a popular choice because of durability and affordability. They are less sensitive than graphite counterparts. Fiberglass is a great choice when pursuing large fish that do not require casting or extreme sensitivity. They are great for bottom fishing.

Graphite -- Is a popular modern blank material, enjoyed for its light weight, casting attributes and sensitivity. Graphite is the ultimate material for flexibility and fighting power. This graphite is a carbon fiber blend -- the quality of the finished product depends on the bonding agent and the amount of graphite used in the blend. The term "modulus rating" refers to the graphite's tensile strength, which is calculated by measuring how much it is elongated when a few million pounds of pressure per square inch are applied. Graphite with a higher modulus rating indicates that it will be less elastic and therefore, more rigid.

Composite / Blend -- Is a combination of materials like fiberglass and graphite and many others like Kevlar. This allows rods to have the best of all worlds -- durability, sensitivity and lightness.


How to Rig this Kind of Tackle

It is critical that the rod, reel, line, lure and /or weight be properly matched in order to function well. Always stick to the manufacturer's recommendation for line diameter and lure weight.

These steps explain how the Conventional rod-and-reel works:

1. Ensure your spool release lever is engaged in the forward, or retrieve position.

2. Hold the rod in your right hand with your thumb pressing down on the line on the spool. You never want to take your thumb off the spool while the reel is in the free spool position because it will backlash.

3. With your left hand, reach over and place the spool release lever in the rear (free spool) position while continuing to hold pressure on the line on the spool with your right thumb.

4. Slowly release pressure on line with your thumb and the line will start to unwind on the spool, releasing your bait to go to the bottom. Continue to hold pressure on the line spool with your thumb until the weight reaches the bottom

5. You will feel the weight hit the bottom and the tension will slack off the line. When this happens, stop the line with your thumb.

6. Reach over with your left hand and move the spool release lever to the forward "retrieve" position. Your reel gears are now engaged and you may now take your thumb off the line.

 When line is retrieved, the left hand holds the foregrip of the rod ahead of the reel, and the right hand turns the handle. For bigger rods it is handy to use a rod belt into which the butt can be securely placed.


If the reel does not have a line winder (called a levelwind), the line must be guided back and forth on the reel so it lies evenly. This is a skill that takes a little time to learn, but is essential. If the line is allowed to pile up in one place, eventually it will jam. Also, the pile can slip, causing the loops to overlap and tangle.

Tips for Using this Kind of Tackle

Conventional rods span a broad array of uses, and there are numerous methods to use them successfully.

Bottom Fishing with Conventional Rods – The shorter conventional rods that are 6 to 7 feet are very common to use on recreational fisherman's boats. On head boats or party boats, 8-foot conventional rods are common, since the water is a distance down from the angler. The 8-foot rods can pick up line faster and give the party boat fisherman more leverage. When bottom fishing -- no matter what boat, bridge pier etc. that you are bottom fishing from -- your rod should be positioned where it is pointed directly down towards the water waiting for a bite. Once a bite is detected you should immediately start reeling up line or slack while lifting your rod towards the 10 O'Clock position.


Butterfly Jigging -- Uses tackle designed to attract and detect bites from even the most fickle of fish. It's an action-reaction system that allows the angler to experience the feel of the bite. It is described as similar to the feeling of electricity flowing through the rod with every movement of the fish exaggerated, due to the sensitivity of the tackle. The Butterfly technique requires a precise motion.

After the jig is dropped to the desired depth, the rod is pointing down. With an upward motion the rod tip will be lifted up sharply, and then lowered on the down stroke while picking up the slack with the reel. The reel retrieve is a tight circular motion that is close to the body with the rod butt held loosely under your left armpit. The distance in which the rod tip moves from top to bottom is approximately 10 to 20 inches depending on the desired lure action and retrieval speed. This technique will work on a fast or slow retrieve depending on how the fish are reacting.


We hope you enjoyed and learned from this Educational Tackle Portal on Conventional Rods. The Online Fisherman will be publishing more Educational Tackle Portals on various types of fishing rods including: baitcasting, spinning, fly-rods and even cane poles. Also visit our Educational Species Portals listed under Saltwater Fishing in the gray menu bar on the homepage.

Try our Portal on Mangrove Snapper. It is packed with 10 sections on the main topics of how and where to catch this delicious fish.

The Online Fisherman Staff

The Online Fisherman

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