A day catching fish is an amazing way to pass the time and having the right fishing rod makes all the difference. With all the different options on the market today, it can be difficult for a beginner to know where to begin. If you have any questions regarding the types of fishing rods, read on.
While there are other options, this article will focus on the main freshwater fishing rod types and what to look for in each.
Baitcasting Fishing Rods
Baitcasting or simply, casting, rods are perhaps the most popular given their age. Casting reels were invented long before spinning reels. Additionally, casting reels work for the popular push button reels (closed face).
The most distinctive part of a casting rod is the handle. It often has a “trigger” style grip and often has contours to fit the hand. The position of the reel is seated on top of the rod.
In general, casting rods are going to be sold in a heavier style, often not found in ultralight weight.
Another notable characteristic of baitcasting rods is the size of the eyes. They are small on this type of fishing rod.
Spinning Fishing Rods
Spinning rods are the most versatile and user-friendly style of fishing rod on the market today. One of the main reasons is the very diverse range of options in terms of strength and action. Whereas casting rods tend to be “heavier”, you can get spinning rods in an ultralight option.
Spinning rods tend to have longer handles than other rod styles. Often they are made of cork. This is due to the reel being hung underneath of the rod. By having a longer handle, the entire rod becomes more balanced.
The eyes on spinning reels are quite unique given the position of the reel and how a spinning reel operates. Due to the line flying off in coils, the eyes of a spinning rod are much larger than any other rod style. If you attempt to use a casting rod with a spinning reel, your casting distance will be severely diminished.
If you aren’t sure which of these rod types you need, check out spinning vs baitcast rods.
Fly Fishing Rods
Fly rods are quite a bit different than the previously mentioned rod styles. They are quite long and tend to be multi-piece rods. This is due to the casting technique used with a fly rod. There are also a lot of options for material and, of course, price.
One unique aspect of a fly rod is the handle length. The butt of the rod ends at the reel. The reel sits underneath the rod, similar to a spinning rod.
Given the very unique casting style used when fly fishing, the eyes are small.
Telescopic Fishing Rods
Telescopic fishing rods have really increased in popularity in recent years. They are perhaps the most versatile and portable fishing rod. The telescopic nature of these rods can make them very short, often under 3 feet for traveling and come in lengths over 12 feet.
Telescopic rods also come in a variety of sizes but all tend to be heavier in the butt and lighter near the tip. This is due to how the rod works in and out.
Generally speaking, this type of fishing rod is designed for spinning reels. You will need a larger size reel as well since the butt of the rod is larger…a tiny reel will feel really weird.
The eyes of telescopic fishing rods are larger like other spinning rods. That being said, don’t expect to cast a mile because you have a 12-foot rod. The things tend to cast pretty awkwardly. Where they tend to thrive for freshwater fishing is when dock fishing or “dipping”.
Trolling rods are another very unique type of fishing pole. They come in both spinning and casting variety and vary in price from decent to ridiculously expensive. Most importantly, these things are tough.
When catching fish while trolling, there is a lot of pressure on the rod. For this reason, trolling rods have a lot of bend throughout the rod. If they were too stiff, the pole would break under the pressure of the moving boat and a large fish.
The handle on a trolling rod is longer to accommodate sitting in a boat holder whether it is a spinning or casting rod.
The eyes of these rods will be of various sizes depending on the style. Additionally, they are tough enough to take the constant pressure and abuse.
How to Choose a Fishing Rod
There are a bunch of considerations when deciding on which type of fishing rod is best for you. They include the material, the fishing scenario you are in, length, power and more. Read on to understand just what you should be looking for and when.
Back in the day when fishing poles were first created, bamboo was the weapon of choice. While it certainly worked, fishing pressure wasn’t nearly what it is today. You would need to be a pretty good fisherman or have a serious honey hole to do much damage today with a bamboo stick. That being said, a lot of fly angling purists still love bamboo rods.
Let’s discuss the most popular materials that comprise the modern fishing rod.
Fiberglass fishing rods are probably the best option for beginner fishermen. Not only are they cost-effective, but they are also the most forgiving. In terms of abuse, they can take the biggest beating. And yeah, we all remember how much abuse our first rod took (poor thing).
Another aspect of fiberglass rods that is great for rookies is the action…they tend to be slower. This means that quick on the draw rookies will pull the bait away slower and miss fewer fish.
Where this rod fails the most is when sensitivity is crucial. You just don’t get the good feel through the rod blank. Also, when fishing for larger prey, fiberglass rods feel like they lack the backbone necessary to win the fight.
Graphite rods (or carbon fiber) are a lot more powerful than fiberglass and also a lot more sensitive. Additionally, you will notice a higher price tag in general. Couple that with the fact that they are a bit more fragile and you find these rods are for experienced anglers.
The sensitivity of graphite fishing poles makes them the only choice in a lot of situations. Anytime you are jigging and need to feel the bottom, or are fishing with a tight line to feel a bite, graphite should be your go-to.
Another great trait of graphite is the backbone of this material. When you set the hook, even on a slower action model, you simply feel the power. It doesn’t bend like a stick or many fiberglass models. Honestly, it’s hard to find a situation where I wouldn’t want a graphite rod for my fishing applications (freshwater).
As stated before, some fly rods are still constructed with bamboo. They will, of course, range in price depending on the maker and quality. There is another situation where bamboo is still a popular option though.
The cane pole is a preferred option for dock fisherman. Cane poles are long rods, often 12 or more feet that are positioned on the dock with a length of line out. This allows you to lift the fish back in without a reel. I can remember having so much fun catching fish this way over the years.
While bamboo cane poles aren’t likely to go anywhere, some fisherman are replacing them and opting for a telescopic rod instead. This is likely due to being able to use a reel which extremely increases your chances of landing a large fish.
Another important aspect when choosing the proper fishing rod is what type of fishing circumstances you will encounter. Things to consider would include the fish being targeted, cover in the fishing location, and how you will present the bait.
Fish Being Targeted
I really think this goes without saying, but the size of your target species should play a role in rod selection. For instance, you wouldn’t want to use an ultralight when you are trolling. It just won’t work.
When I say cover, I am referring to the surroundings of the fish where you will be fishing. Will you be pulling the fish through weeds or out of stumps? Will you be bouncing jigs between rocks? All of these things will determine if you need to “beef up” your rod strength and size.
Of course, if you are fishing in the wide-open lake without coming near the bottom or weeds, this won’t be a factor.
Line and Bait Weight
When you are selecting your rod, you also must consider how you are fishing. If you are casting a very light setup such as a pencil bobber and a bare hook with a worm (my favorite), you are going to need light line and a pole with good casting distance.
Conversely, if you are tossing giant musky baits all day, your rod will need to be robust and so will the line.
Choosing the appropriate length for your fishing rod is crucial. If you are attempting to make long casts with a 5 ½ foot rod, you will be in for a long day and sore arms. Or say you are sitting in a small 14-foot boat jigging, you won’t want a 12-foot pole. Getting that fish on board would be a real challenge, especially if it has any size.
Given those obvious examples, I tend to buy the majority of my “multi-purpose” rods in the 6-7 foot range. This length lets me cast long distances and still is manageable under conditions where space is at a premium.
Another consideration is your vehicle. The rod isn’t helpful if you can’t get it to your favorite fishing spot. If you have a smaller car and want a longer rod, make sure you opt for a 2 piece option.
Power and Action
This terminology really gets new fisherman confused and quite frankly it’s easy to see why. I get it now, but as a young boy, I can remember many arguments about these two terms.
Power (Strength, Weight) refers to the “beefiness” of the rod. For instance, a small spinning rod for tiny trout streams would be an ultralight, whereas a large catfishing rod would be heavy or ultra-heavy.
There are several size classifications and “in-betweens”, but let’s mention a few of the popular distinctions.
- Light – Ultralight – these sized rods would be used in some trout fishing and panfishing scenarios. A smaller reel, lighter line, and smaller baits are necessary. Bringing in a large fish would only be done by experienced anglers (or lucky!).
- Medium-Light – Medium – Medium-Heavy – rods in this size are going to be more typical. They can get basically any job done, from fishing light gear to hauling in big game. These are all-purpose, get the job done rods I personally use most.
- Heavy – Ultra-Heavy – going big game hunting? Yeah, these are what you will want for the job. While you can catch a big fish with a smaller rod, it just makes sense to use the right tool for the job. These rods are built to catch monsters.
Action is the other term that often gets confused. Essentially, it’s pretty easy if you think about it the right way. Action is essentially the point along the rod blank where the most bend will occur. The “faster” the action of the rod, the more backbone. Slow rods, on the other hand, tend to be whippy and bend like willow branches. Just as with power, there can be in-between actions. Let’s have a closer look.
- Slow – slow rods are used when you need a lot of forgiveness and “play” in the rod. As mentioned earlier, the rod has more flex. Essentially, the entire rod is bending when put under pressure. The brand Ugly Stick made a career out of slower rods.
- Medium – medium action rods are going to be stiff from the butt to about the halfway point of the rod blank. They will offer a bit more backbone, but also have some forgiveness. Many anglers like a rod in the medium range of action.
- Fast – fast action fishing rods have the most backbone. Only the top portion of the rod does most of the bending. This results in the strongest hook setting power since the rod is mostly stiff.
Types of Fishing Rods – Putting It All Together
Let’s take what we have learned and apply it with a couple of examples.
Where I live, I tend to do a lot of shore fishing for bluegill and jigging for walleyes. Two very unique fishing styles to say the least. Would you believe me if I told you that I love using the exact same rod/reel/line combo for both occasions? I know, some of you are calling me crazy right now, but don’t leave just yet. Give me a chance to make you a believer.
When you are drifting down a river jigging walleye, you need to be able to feel the bottom. You also need to feel a walleye that might not smash that jig, often they “hang”. These fish often feel like a weed or snag with a medium action rod. To get the proper sensitivity, you need something that is medium-fast to fast. For power, a medium-range is perfect. I like to pair this rod with a size 2 (200, 2000) spinning reel spooled up with some 8lb extra limp monofilament fishing line.
The walleye guys are laughing and that’s ok. They think I will lose too many fish and some might break my line. Experience fighting fish trumps gear excuses though, never forget that.
Ok, so I said I use this exact setup fishing bluegills from shore. Here’s why:
Lots of folks line the shores of public hotspots when the panfish move in. The shores are starting to weed up and that means cover.
I see countless people using a light, ultralight, or medium-light rod for this type of fishing. To me it is silly.
So why do I use a long, medium power, faster action rod?
It’s simple really. I can reel my fish in twice as fast. When they hook a big bluegill, it dives into the weeds 20 yards from shore. Their bendy pole struggles to get the mess of weeds in, and often the fish is gone.
I, on the other hand, power hookset that bluegill with the backbone of a fast action rod and reel so quick the action of the rod skips the fish out of the water oftentimes. Either way, I keep them above the weed canopy. This 1 thing alone catches me more fish, or at least faster. If you need another reason, this setup will also outcast any slower action model.
Hopefully, this helps you decide just what rod to select for the many different fishing situations you will encounter along your journey. Now get out there a catch a big slob!