Are you using the right fishing rod?

June 13, 2013 

Back when I was coming up, fishing was the one thing that I could do all year no matter the season, and living with water right out our back door afforded me the opportunity to do just that.

I also spent as much time perusing the pages of every sporting goods catalog and outdoors magazine for the latest and greatest equipment as I did actually walking the banks in search of the perfect spot to make a cast.

The first rod and reel that I was ever able to call “all mine” was an old Zebco closed-face spin-casting reel on about a 6-foot fiberglass rod that my father purchased for me when we moved into our newly built home on a decent-sized pond just outside Clover.

Although that rig served me well for quite a while, I no sooner had it in my hands than the pages of those aforementioned publications started calling my name, enticing me and my young mind into believing that just by having this other model they displayed, my days on the water would be filled with much greater success.

All these years later, not much has changed.

You see, those of us who love the outdoors are always looking for ways of buying our way into success, and it’s doubtful that there’s any group of people in any hobby that is more attuned to what’s out there on the market than we are.

The crazy part of that is, most people have no real idea what it is we should be looking for or just why it may or may not be just what we need for our chosen application.

This is probably most true when it comes to selecting the perfect rod for bass fishing.

All those years ago, there were only three things that we took into consideration when it came time to choose a rod and reel. Did we want to use a spin-caster, an open-faced spinning rod or the old bait caster?

We never gave any thought to rod actions or lengths, the gear ratios of the reels or anything else, and because of this quite a few generations grew up without ever gaining the knowledge of why we have all of these choices today or exactly how these decisions come into play.

With this in mind, I thought it might make sense to break it all down and present it here for those who grew up as I did, when fishing seemed a whole lot simpler.

As graphite was ushered into the world of fishing rods in the 1980s and quickly replaced fiberglass as the material of choice for rod builders, fishermen quickly realized a few special things about these newfangled sticks. The rods themselves were lighter and stiffer, which allowed anglers to actually feel whatever was happening with their lure way out there underwater.

This was so true that the difference in feel between a weed or other obstruction and the actual bump of a fish was easily distinguishable. In comparison, the old heavy and somewhat limp glass rods felt almost dead in the hand.

As this new technology progressed, some new decisions then had to be made by the buyer because new terminology began complicating the purchasing process. Anglers began scratching their heads as they tried to figure out what a rod’s “action” is and why they should really care.

Rod action is nothing more than a way to describe the stiffness or amount of flexibility in a rod. Let’s consider all of the options and why someone would actually need to pick one type over another to up their odds of success:

Extra Fast

Those marked with this moniker are very stiff and only bend way out toward the tip, a perfect choice when fishing heavy cover such as dense vegetation or around docks and pilings.

This stiffer rod will allow you to quickly put more pressure on a hooked fish and horse it away from these things, which can quickly cause a fella to break out into an awful cussin’ fit when the big old bass he’s hooked has worked himself around something and broken off.

Fast Action

These models flex mainly in the last quarter of the rod. They still provide good power when needed but really excel when it comes to tossing specific types of lures such as spinnerbaits, topwater plugs, jerkbaits and plastics.

Medium Action

Although not as common as they once were, medium-action rods still have a place in the world of bass fishing. These models bend deeper into the belly of the rod, down toward the middle, and work best for those choosing to use lighter lines, since they have more give in them and lessen the chance of popping your line due to angler error.

Medium actions also cast easily, but don’t expect to get the distance out of them that the others offer.

Once you’ve decided upon which action suits you best, you’ll need to consider length. We never worried much about it in the old days, but now that’s definitely a different story.

Looking to throw topwaters? A 6-and-a-half-footer is a perfect choice in either a casting or spinning style.

Seven-foot models are the way to go for everything from crankbaits to spinnerbaits and buzzbaits.

In the last 25 years or so, “flipping” and “pitching,” as opposed to a traditional cast, have become quite popular, and if you plan on doing either you’ll best be served by a rod that reaches all the way out to 7-and-a-half feet.

See? It’s really not as confusing as it seems at first. It’s just that nobody ever takes the time to explain it. That could be because that guy working in the store has been just as confused about it as everyone else.

Next week, we’ll take a gander at reels and see just what they’re all about.

Tight lines!

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his web site at or follow on Twitter: @BharveyOutdoors.

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