A good rod may not instantly make you a better angler but a poor rod will be a limiting factor for any angler. Generally, a good rod will help and a poor rod will hurt your fishing ability.
There is a huge range of fishing rods on the market; different sizes, made of different materials, which are all designed to perform different tasks. They are used to target different species of fish or for different fishing locations and techniques. Some rods are long and flexible for casting, while others are short and rigid to withstand the pressures of heavy duty game fishing.
When you're shopping for rods, it’s best to understand the different terms, parts, and characteristics used to describe an essential tool for fishing.
- Handle: Starting from the bottom or butt-end of the rod moving up, the first thing you will encounter is the handle or grip, usually made from cork or foam. This is the business end of the shaft, where you will hold it when casting and retrieving.
- Reel Seat: This is where your reel gets attached to the rod. There are different mechanisms available to attach the reel. Some rods will have rings that go over the reel foot. Most rods have some sort of hood mechanism that screws either up or down on the foot of the reel to keep it in place.
- Hook Keeper: Also, called a Keeper Ring. This little ring is a big convenience, as it gives you a place to hook your hook so you won’t impale yourself when you are on the move.
- Guides: These are the rings you see going all the way down the rod, they "guide" the line down the length of rod to the tip. The number, spacing, and size of the guides depend on the kind of rod you are using. Generally, the more guides the better. A higher quality rod will have at least one guide for every foot of its length (i.e. 6-foot rod should have at least 6 guides).
- Tip: The rod tip is at the top of the rod blank which is the narrowest part of the rod and the most susceptible to being broken or damaged especially if it is graphite. The tip has two dimensions to it, the tube size and the ring size. The tube size is the inside of the tube where the top of the rod blank is inserted. The ring size refers to the size of the ring (guide) where the fishing line passes through. It is common for larger rods to have a larger ring size.
Each fishing rod is a balance of flexibility and strength. Stronger rods can cast heavier lures, but won’t be as sensitive to gentle strikes from a fish, or may not flex enough to work well with lightweight line. Lighter rods may be very sensitive, but not strong enough to fight bigger fish.
The rod action is defined by how easily and how far from the tip the rod will bend or flex when you have a fish on the line. A fast action rod will bend in only the top third or less of the blank, a medium or moderate action will bend in the top half or so and a slow action will bend starting in the lower third of the rod.
In summary, the action is a rating and it describes the bend in the rod under constant pressure. The faster the action the quicker the rod stops bending and transfers the power to the blank (main part) of the rod. A very fast or heavy rod will only bend the first 3-4 inches of the tip while a slow or light rod will bend nearly a third of the way down the rod blank.
- Fast action rods are great for most applications where a short to long casting distance is involved and single hooks are the rule, such as worm and jig fishing.
- Medium and medium-fast rods will usually provide a little more casting distance and still provide adequate hooksetting power.
- Slow action rods are generally better for jerk baits and crank baits which are lighter and easier to cast. The slow action is also better at keeping the fish hooked as it is more flexible.
The power of the rod is about how much pressure it takes to bend the rod. The heavier the rod the more pressure or weight it takes to bend it. Power ratings are usually described as heavy, medium heavy, medium, etc. Power is closely related to the line strength; heavier power rods will handle heavy line weights and lighter powers will be good for light lines.
Note: It is important to keep your line test within the limits printed on the rod to prevent the line from snapping.
Depending on the manufacture you will have different ratings of power., such as light, light/medium, medium, medium/heavy, and heavy. Another way that some manufacturers rate the rods is with a number system, typically 1-5 where the 1 is a light and the 5 is a heavy.
What is important to consider is your budget, how long and how often you expect to fish and for what size fish. Your rod is a tool, and a good craftsman will always do better work with a good tool.