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Man fishing calm water at sunset with a rod in his hand

Choosing the Right Rod

By Discount Tackle Staff

Whether you are an expert or a newbie angler, selecting the right rod can be tricky as you must consider various factors to choose the best one.

You should consider features like the rod’s length, blank material, number and type of line guides, handle style, weight, action, and power to find the best fit for you fishing style and target species.

Determining all these can be a head-spinning task to complete the purchase - how do you know which combination of features and attributes will work best for you?

To help you make an informed and educated buying decision, we've put together this guide to give you a break down of rod types and features and what they are best suited for.

Types of Fishing Rods

Anglers, both new and seasoned, should know the three main types of fishing rods: spinning, baitcasting, and conventional.

Spinning Rods

Spinning rods are used with spinning reels and have their line guides and reel seat on the underside of the rod. Spinning rods are typically the best type of rod for new teenage and adult anglers to start with (we recommend spincasting rods and reels for the younger kids). Spinning reels aren't as easy to use as button-cast spincasting reels, but they are easy enough to get the hang of with only a bit of practice.

Spinning rods are used for casting, trolling, and jigging in both freshwater and saltwater fishing and can range from super light and nimble ultralight freshwater rods for trout and panfish all the way up to big offshore outfits used to catch monster tuna and other pelagic predators. 

Generally speaking, spinning rods are more often used for lighter bait and tackle like light soft plastic rigs, finesse bass jigs, ultralight hardbaits, small hair jigs, or light wire spinnerbaits.

Baitcasting (or Casting) Rods

Casting rods are generally geared toward more advanced anglers, as the baitcasting reels they are paired with are a bit trickier to operate than spinning reels. They have their reel seat and line guides on the top side of the rod (as opposed to the underside for spinning rods) and typically have trigger grip style handles.

Casting rods are generally better for more power fishing and reaction bait approaches (e.g., jigs, crankbaits, swimbaits, topwaters), but can be used for more finesse oriented presentations like soft baits and ultralight hard lures. A small, but growing specialized segment of the market called Bait Finesse System (BFS) includes casting rods and reels specifically designed for these ultralight presentations.

Conventional Rods

Conventional rods and reels have been around for a longtime. Today, they are almost exclusively used for saltwater fishing, but some Great Lakes and other big water freshwater and estuary anglers use conventional tackle as well. Conventional rods are generally very powerful and used on big game species like billfish, tuna, mahi-mahi, halibut, sharks, grouper, salmon, and others. 

They are most often used for trolling and jigging, but can be used to cast both artificial and live baits as well. Like casting rods, they have their line guides on the topside of the rod. Some conventional rods will have trigger grips, but not all, and many also require a seperate reel clamp to attach the rod to the reels (instead of just a reel seat built into the rod). 

Fishing Rod Terms & Parts

Fishing rods have different parts and variable attributes, and each serves unique purposes while fishing. If you want to be effective angler that understand their tackle and how to use it properly, you must know these fishing rod terms and components.

Rod Length

Fishing rods come in a wide variety of different lengths for different types of fishing and fishing environments. Length can range between petite 2 1/2 to 3 foot long ice fishing rods all the way up massive 12 to 14 foot rods used for more specialized applications like surf fishing and light line trolling. That said, most open water freshwater and saltwater anglers use rods between 6 and 8 feet in length. 

Shorter rods offer a few different advantages and are often desired in one of three situations. For casting baits and lures shorter rods allow more accuracy - this is why many bass rods designed for presentations that benefit from precise casts like pitching, flipping, and dock skipping are 7 feet long or less. Short rods are also ideal for vertical fishing applications, like ice fishing and saltwater jigging, as well as situations where absolute raw power is needed, like big game saltwater fishing.

On the other hand, longer rods may be less accurate, but they allow for significantly greater overall casting distance compared to shorter rods. This casting distance advantage is particularly important for surf, jetty, and pier fishing anglers who benefit from being able to launch their baits and lures deep into the surf.

In bass fishing, long rods are ideal for swimbaits and crankbaits fished mid-water column or deeper as they allow for more precise control of your bait as you retrieve. These presentations also benefit from long casting because it means your bait is spending more time in the strike zone during retrieve.

Rod Action

You should remember, the action comes from the point where the rod bends. A fast or extra fast action rod bends in very close proximity to the tip. A slow or moderate action rod bends far away from the tip, closer to the butt area. For this reason, slow or moderate rods are often referred to as parabolic because they make a parabola when fully bent. Regular action rods split the difference between the two - loading up around the upper middle section of the rod - about halfway between the end of the hande and the tip.

Fast action rods are good for when you want a quick hookset and to immediately load up the rod and tap in the power of its lower spine. This makes them good for both single hook baits and fish that have tougher mouths and can survive quick hook sets without ripping the hook out of the fish's mouth.

In comparison, moderate or slow action rods are better for fishing baits with both treble hooks and/or targeting fish with softer mouths - like salmon and steelhead. By creating a more parabolic action, slow and moderates put even handed pressure on the fish so treble hooks dig in and you don't risk ripping your hook from your catch.

Rod Power

The rod power depends on the type of water you may be fishing in. A strong rod is required to combat the heavy cover to get the fish out. In comparison, clear and open waters may require you to use light line presentations to "finesse" the catch, which means a light-power rod is sufficient.

Generally, the power is all about how much pressure it takes to bend the fishing rod. A rod with high power will take lots of force to bend and break while a light power rod will take very little. The right combination of action and power tailored to both your bait choice and target species is essential to fishing success. 

For example, if you were to fish heavy braided line and thick gauge hooks on a light action rod, you'd be liable to break your rod because the pressure exerted by your terminal tackle is simply to much for it to bear. Conversely, if you fish light line or fine wire hooks with a heavy power rod, you risk bending out the hook or breaking your line because the terminal tackle can't keep up with the strength of the rod.

Rod Responsiveness

This segment will determine the rod’s capacity for its flexing under load and consequentially releasing the energy in the cast. This response of rod may also come from a combination of different materials used in making the rods. The lighter the rod tip, the more responsive it may be.

The higher the weight, the more effectively its energy-releasing phase will come into play. As a result, you have the leisure to flick across an accurate cast at low trajectories.


A fishing rod carrying more guides will definitely cast better. More guides will keep bending the rods frequently throughout its length part and subsequently using all their power for long-casts.

Guides mostly feature a metallic frame and a ceramic-ring on which the lines glide. A silicon carbide ring is counted as best nowadays for its super-smooth top for the least friction on the lines during casting and the retrieving phase. Less friction, less heat, and remember the heat kills fishing lines.

Handle Materials

You should go for a lightweight rod-hand with a supple grip even in wet condition. This will relay the delicate vibrations, and a cork handle fits in perfectly for getting a fresh, clean, and quality grip on the rod. The best cork comes with the most expensive rods; however, you can get it separately as well.

Reel Seats

The reel seat holds the reels on the rod, offering a little or no variation. Nonetheless, within the little variation, most anglers will opt for graphite seats with a cut-out to feel the blank.

Some rods come with reel seats without a plastic cushion inside their metal hoods. These reel seats will catch rust and can stain the reel. So be careful about this part.

Which Rod Material Should I Choose?

Typically, most fishing rods are made out of fiberglass or graphite. Some other rods, called composite rods, are a mix of both graphite and fiberglass.

Fiberglass Rods

Fiberglass is the most reliable rod in the fishing world for years. These rods can withstand weather conditions. These are easy to make and cost-effective.

At the same time, fiberglass rods are flexible, making them a good choice for lighter but hard-to-detect bites. These rods are slightly heavier and are less of a go-to option in a situation where you face strong resistance from the catch.

Graphite Rods

Graphite rods surfaced in the angling world during the late 1970s and are very good alternatives to fiberglass rods.

Its popularity among fishermen is due to its modulus – the stiffness quality. The higher the modulus, the stiffer the rod is. It gives the manufacturer the option to use minimum material without compromising its stiffness and sturdiness. For you, it’s a lighter rod.

These rods are more sensitive to bites. Their light-weight segment will give more joy for casting and overall handling of this rod. Graphite rods can get brittle, and high prices make it not an easy access rod for everyone.

Composite Rods

Composite rod is a mix of both graphite and fiberglass, which gives you the flexibility for more weight, but you may have to sacrifice its sensitivity as well. In other words, you can handle a 100-test pound line on a 20-30 pound rod frame.

Nevertheless, these are a great choice for being versatile and are best when fishing in different waters. These are the most expensive rods you can look around.

Freshwater vs. Saltwater Rods

Mostly, all freshwater and saltwater rods are made the same way.

That said, the striking difference is that saltwater rods have reel seats and guides that come from corrosion-resistant materials like titanium, stainless steel, and/ or carbon, etc.

Furthermore, corrosion is not a major issue when it comes to freshwater rods, as these rods come from materials like aluminum oxide, etc. But these rods will last less in saltwater.

To increase the longevity of both types of rods, always rinse and keep them dry. Choose one according to your preferences, like the type of water you are fishing in and your “catch.”

To Sum It Up

The choice for spending on a rod depends on how often you go out fishing and how determined you are? The more you spend on a rod, the more sensitive and responsive it can be, bringing accuracy to your skills. Nonetheless, buying an expensive rod will not make you a good angler overnight, whereas a rod for much less value may limit your progress.

So, be sure that you are getting the right type of rod with the right material for waters you will be going in for the next angling jig. Always check the description and features of the rods either on a website or their packaging box.
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