Beginner’s Guide: How to Choose the Right Fishing Rod

The right fishing rod is a great fishing asset. There is a large percentage of fishermen that think more about their fishing gear than about fishing itself. If you are the one of those, you will not experience enlightenment through this article. But if you are about to pick your first fishing baitcaster rod or just need support to find the right one, there are some things you could find useful.

First tip is to start with classic 2 section, graphite spinning rod. Distribution, variety, versatility of these rods are unbeatable, so be sure to know them before checking the other kinds of cool rods that are usable in some more specific situations.

Okuma Scott Martin Tournament Concept Rods

Rod Power and Rod Action

​You should learn what rod specs mean. Fishing rod power is measured by casting weight (cw). Casting weight is the weight range of lures your rod was designed to cast. The majority of rods also have marks in their names, so you can learn about power before checking the specs and  you can choose between ultra light, light, medium light, heavy and extra heavy.

Borders between these categories are not clearly set, so some manufacturers can label 20g c.w. as ultra light rod while others will insist that maximum c.w. for ultra light should be up to 5g. Casting weight is often mistaken for a rods action. And this is a tricky topic, because rod action itself, years ago was used to describe the curve that rod makes when it’s bent. Under the load of fish or lure retrieve, different sections of rod are working. 

So we have rods that have “tip action”, moderate, parabolic and everything between. Modern interpretation of rod action refers to speed with which the rod returns to its neutral position. These characters work together and they are both important when you are choosing the rod for you, so be sure that, after you check the right c.w. for casting and dragging your lures, curve bending will affect your casting length, lure control and fish handling when it is hooked, and rod speed is closely bonded with rod sensitivity. Bigger the casting weight + faster the rod response and curve closer to the tip – the rod will be stiffer.

When you are checking these parameters in the shop, be sure to try them by shaking the rod, but also bend the rod with the fishing line that is going though the guides, because distribution of guides along the rod blank also defines the rod action. It is also a cool opportunity to check the rod balance with the reel and the overall feeling in your hands.

Rod Length and Weight

​Usual rod length for freshwater spinning situations varies between 6’ and 11’. Shorter rods in general are lighter, have a better balance, they make some techniques like twitching, jerking etc. easier to do, they are more practical to use in boats, under the trees, in small waters like brooks and ponds, while longer rods cast a bit further, allow you to get some angles in lure presentation that can get you more fish in some situations, so they are a good solution for fishing from shores, on big rivers and lakes.

The shorter rods are best for a baitcaster rod. Things you have to pay attention on is the proportion of handle and working section of the rod. The longer the handle, better balance you have, but less working section. Balance of the rod affects your comfort zone while fishing. Please notice that you have to adjust the weight of rod and reel to get the perfect balance.

Well balanced yet heavier set can be more comfortable than lighter but unbalanced set. Note that heavier rods, that have “more meat” in blanks, usually are more reliable, while light rods with thin walls of blank, while giving extra pleasure during fishing, asks for some extra care in handling.

Short Overlook on Materials

​Graphite/carbon baitcaster rods are made of carbon fiber composite, and their characteristics depend on the shape of the rod, type of fiber winding, percentage of resin in composite and additional materials. Glass fibers, kevlar and boron are often used to improve carbon strength. Don’t get confused about material specification, all the manufacturers are naming them different and it becomes common that one company’s IM 6 can be the same as another one’s IM12.

 So if you are willing to explore the fantastic world of carbon composites, start comparing models under one brand to get a clear picture. But I think that this is not that much important of a topic when you are choosing your first rod!

Target Fish

​Don’t get too easy hooked at the beginning on species name written on the fishing rod you are checking out. Some special rods can be well adapted to the special specimen of fish, but what comes at the first place is that you have to think how you will search for a certain specimen. Let say that the same kind of fish can be successfully landed using wide variety of techniques. So adapt your set to your fishing situation, not to fish you see in magazine.

Favorite Lures

​If you already know which lures you put most of the expectations in, you should think how will your fishing rod work with them. Light power and fast action rods are perfect for finesse fishing and all the situations where lure vibration is not too strong and you need some extra sensitivity. For fishing with big pilkers and cranks, you need some extra strength and moderate action so you can cast such a large weight on long distance and amortize heavy rumble of lure.

Fishing Spot

​It important to know the spots you will be fishing, before you pick your rod. Deeper or faster the river, the stronger rod you will need for the same lure. It’s the same about water vegetation or structures on the bottom. If you are fishing jigs on rocky spot, it’s also good to have fast rod so you can react properly to avoid sticking the jigheads to the bottom. If you are fishing under the trees, you will need a short rod to cast precisely. On the other side, long rod can give you some casts above the cane and let you explore some more places!

Fishing Tactic

​You are close! You got the target, the lure and the place, but you might think – how will I fish. It is up to you. But be aware that if you will fish for all the day, light weight, well balanced set will be grateful for your health. On the other side, for hardcore fishing in wild places, or for casual “by the way” fishing opportunities, where you can’t look after your rod not to get stained, maybe it is good investment to get the heavier, more reliable rod.

 If you are panfish fan, you might consider getting two rods right away, one tubular for spinning and one with solid tip for dropshotting so you can have your rigs ready to cast in every moment.

Choosing the Brand

​When you are buying something new, usually you are getting as much quality as you invest. My experience is that for the same value, smaller brands are ready to give more. If you are fishing rookie on budget, try some of the top model from the small companies. If you are willing to invest more, check the most popular, best selling models in magazines and forums. There is a lot of experience to read in reviews and you can learn a lot before you feel the rod in your hands. When you are comparing rods between two brands, you should have on your mind that all the specifications like casting weight, action, material description, varies between the brands.  So when you are comparing specs between two rods, it can be relevant if they are made by the same company.

How NOT to Get Lost Selecting a Fishing Rod

​Learn what you really want. A universal rod is the rod that is equally bad for every special situation. As close you get to the tasks of your fishing situation, it will be easier to define which fishing rod you need. Don’t get too upset about your choice, because every angler always needs at least one more fishing rod.

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