How to Choose a Fishing Rod Material
Fishing rods are commonly constructed with fiberglass or graphite; each has its unique properties and uses. A rods material can affect the price and is, therefore, a big point to consider when buying a new rod.
However, the most significant impacting factor on material choice will be the type of fishing you are planning to do with it.
Introduced to the industry during the 1970s by Fenwick, graphite has become the most common material in the construction of Bass rods. A massive spike in popularity is down to the material property of graphite, displaying both high tensile strength and stiffness; sometimes known as the modulus.
But don’t be fooled by brands offering graphite rods as ‘high modulus’ this simply means that the rod is very stiff, but without the strength to back it up the rod becomes brittle and easily shatters under pressure.
The steps needed to create both high strength and stiffness/modulus in a graphite rod require extreme heat and can be expensive to manufacture. For this reason, high-end graphite rods can be a real budget stretcher.
As above, the modulus is how we measure the stiffness of the graphite and has nothing to do with the material used or the number of fibers in the material. Buying a rod thinking that high modulus is what you need, isn’t necessarily the best way of thinking.
A high modulus or very stiff, rod is not ideal for cranking or light line fishing. Because of this, the modulus is just a small part of the puzzle to contemplate when buying a new rod.
In use since the 1950s, fiberglass has been a staple of rod production ever since. Plenty of fishermen will choose a fiberglass rod when launching crankbaits, or situations when medium to slow action is needed.
If you fish a variety of different situations regularly, I would advise a composite rod. Composite rods are made from both graphite and fiberglass materials and potentially others.
When constructed like this, it is possible to get a rod that is the best of both; this can be quite the money saver for anglers on a budget.
If you have a penchant for fly fishing, and budget isn’t an issue bamboo constructed fly fishing rods may be for you. Known as ‘split cane’ across the UK these rods were most popular during the late 1800s until the introduction of fiberglass rods in the 1950s.
While not as popular as they once were, many anglers still opt to use bamboo rods regularly. Debate still rages in the fishing community about whether they are genuinely superior to modern fiberglass and graphite alternatives or not.
Rod Length is measured from the rod tip to the butt of the handle and has a significant impact on casting ability. Smaller rods will cast shorter distances, the same is true for longer rods casting more considerable distances.
Both have advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation; shorter rods will have less flex, which is one in the pro column when fighting stronger species of fish. Longer rods, however, provide a much greater cast distance, which is perfect for deeper open water fishing.
Rod length can vary from six to twelve feet when choosing rod length; the primary focus will be on the type of fishing you intend to use the rod for. Rods of roughly seven feet long are great for new anglers, having a balanced level of accuracy and casting distance.
You may have heard someone describe a rod as having a lot of backbone in your local bait and tackle shop. They will be describing the rods lifting power, or strength.
Power is typically classified within three different weights:
If you mainly go after small-bodied species of fish, a moderate/slow action 7-footer should get you there. A setup like this is perfect for Trout, smaller Bass, or any other panfish.
If you intend to fish any heavier, I would suggest moving to a medium-light rod.
If its longer distances you are after when fishing off-shore for instance; a ten-foot rod with a moderate action will provide you with everything you need. A great Catfish setup, this will be able to handle a multitude of baits and lures.
If Salmon is your catch of choice, a setup like this will be more than up to the task. With the extra rod length providing excellent casting distance.
If you’re an angler who likes to challenge themselves against bigger, predatory species of fish, a fast action rod of around eight foot in length pulls like a freight train.
Great for those dealing with larger lures on a regular basis, you will find it perfect for breaking water with Muskies, or any number of saltwater species.
When pressure is applied to the tip of the rod, either manually or through a fresh bite, the rod will bend. How much the rod bends is known as its action.
Fast action rods will bend towards the tip only, and moderate action rods will start to see deflection from around the halfway point of the rod; while a slow action will see a rod bending from 1/3 onwards.
Categorization can be subjective to the type of rod you are using. A fast action fly rod has much more flex than a fast action bass rod, for instance, Bass rods have an action that is fast to very fast because of the sensitivity and quick power transfer required for hook setting.
Fast action is excellent for any fishing application where long or short casting distance is needed using a single hook.
Moderate action gives slightly more casting distance to the angler, but still retains considerable hook setting power. Moderate action rods will see a lot of use with crankbaits or reactionary baits such as spinnerbaits.
Handles are typically made of cork or EVA foam; both provide a comfortable grip and will come down to personal preference.
The most significant impact a handle can have on performance is down to its length, with longer handles being suited to longer casts.
Shorter handles have their advantages too, helping fishermen cast more accurately at a shorter distance. Shorter handles are also a requirement for anglers wanting to cast one-handed.
Other handle types are available with split grip handles finding a lot of use among fishermen on the Bass scene, and pistol grip handles being used by fishermen wanting to keep their rod weight low; providing short casts for a light bait.
How much weight a rod can handle depends on the weight of the rod and is an indicator of how strong it is.
Weight is measured either with a ‘’pound test’’ which is the weight of line the rod has been designed to use.
Or it is measured by the weight of lure it is capable of casting.
The reel seat is where the reel will be affixed to the rod; this is done by sliding the anchor point or foot of the reel into collars found on the rod and then tightening them to ensure there is no play.
Most anglers opt for a graphite seat, as these generally feature a cut-out allowing for the blank to be felt. Inferior rods may have a reel seat lacking the softer cushioning material found within the collars.
Be wary of these types of seats as they are known to often rust and become stuck. Another significant consideration is the type of reel you will be using:
Spinning reels are a fantastic starting point for those beginning their fishing journey thanks to their simplicity of use. Generally mounted underneath the rod, you will find the handle located for left-hand use.
- Perfect for small baits and lures
- Anti-reverse mechanism; this feature is found on most spinning reels and will keep anglers from spooling out once they have a bite.
- Skirted spools can be used in saltwater fishing, increasing line capacity and protecting the inner workings of the reel from damage caused by environmental factors.
Spincast reels have the line feed from the top of the spool during casting, these types of reel are mounted parallel to the rod. Casting reels feature a button located where your thumb will grip the handle. This is used when launching, so the angler has ultimate control.
Guides are the eyelets can be found along the length of the blank (shaft of the rod). Fishing line is threaded through the guides providing control for the angler.
Most modern guides will be made of a metal frame with a circular ceramic center. They can vary wildly in price with top guides priced at upwards of $30 for a single unit and cheaper guides being no more than a couple of dollars.
Many fishermen consider the best guide material to be silicon carbide, as its properties offer a silky-smooth surface; an advantage during cast and retrieve. In turn, friction is also reduced, meaning less heat transfer into the line.
More guides typically equal better casting, when compared to a rod with fewer guides. More guides also ensure the rod bends evenly throughout its length, supplying an adequate level of power transfer when casting.
Some rods are collapsible. If that is the case, you will notice two ferrules on the blank, one female and one male.
This is where you will connect your rod together for use. It is essential to ensure the guides are correctly aligned when doing this.
Types of rods
Several varieties of rod are available for today’s angler, for most applications you will be looking at either casting rods or spinning rods. It is worth noting that reel seat will differ between them, although there is some interplay between reels and seats it is not recommended.
Available in any conceivable length, taper and price or combination of; spinning rods are well suited to many fishing applications. Average length between six and seven feet for most fishermen, although rods with an ultralight power rating will be much shorter.
There is a seemingly never-ending supply of spinning rods on the market, from cheaply made Chinese manufactured knock offs to rods designed with the elite tournament focused angler in mind.
As a good starting point, you should find a spinning rod that keeps straight when held horizontally, with no bends or fluctuations. It should be of a comfortable weight and feel slightly heavy towards the tip, to offset the weight of a reel.
Guides should have even spacing, with the largest guide being closest to the handle. Guides should taper down in size as they reach the tipoff the rod; guides made from titanium are best.
Spin casting rods
Featuring smaller guides and lighter weight for use with light lines, spinning rods are typically shorter than other rods. Guides and handle will be positioned so the reel can be placed atop the rod.
Spin casting rods are generally marketed to children and novice anglers, with many experienced fishermen considering them to be a very low-quality rod. At Fishing Pioneer, we suggest staying away from these types of rods, and it is our belief they are suitable only for children who have expressed an interest in fishing.
Baitcasting rods as the name implies are designed with the use of baitcasting reels in mind. Typically, being stronger, longer, and heavier than other rods.
Casting reels are designed to use the heaviest lines, and the rods reflect this, available in most popular lengths and tapers, baitcasting rods are great for many fishing types.
When looking for a baitcasting rod, you will first want to make sure it is free from imperfections, and the finish is smooth. Plenty of guides is a plus, but the tip weight shouldn’t be as offset as a spinning rod.
You should always attach a reel to any rod you are thinking of buying to check the balance and weight relief. It is also an excellent opportunity to see how comfortable you find the handle when holding the rod as if in use.
Fly rods come in a variety of materials, graphite and fiberglass can be found here, but also bamboo. Bamboo rods are typically found in the higher price bracket and are reserved for only the most serious of fly fisher.
Fly rods are generally longer than others and have much more flex since they cast the line and not the lure. The line used in fly fishing is also exceptionally thick so the guides can be made from basic wire loops.
Fiberglass fly rods will usually be aimed at beginners, with graphite being the standard and bamboo being the front runner in the upper-tier. However, there are several things they all need to have in common to be effective.
Smooth surface is a must to prevent line drag, and low weight to keep the user comfortable during extended periods of use. Weight and balance are also crucial factors to consider.
Guides are not as important on fly rods as others, as the rod itself is used to fight the fish there is not much movement of the line through the guides. However, alignment must remain straight, with guides placed close enough together to avoid sharp angles of the line.
For most fishing applications, these rod types will be more than sufficient. But it is worth noting that there are a number of rods available for specialty fishing situations;
Designed for those who enjoy wading, surf rods are specifically designed for this purpose. Most will use long spinning rods, many who partake in surf fishing exclusively will invest in one of these specialist rods.
Generally, surf rods are well over ten feet long surf rods are strong over their entire length, well suited for a heavier tackle setup.
When ice fishing the angler will carve a hole in the ice and drop their line straight into the water below. Since there is no need to cast a powerful, a short rod is perfect.
Telescoping rods will be found in both spin and cast varieties. Many anglers will typically reserve them as a backup rod. But plenty of fishermen who are partial to camping and hiking will keep a telescoping rod to hand.
Great if you have space or weight concerns, telescopic rods are typically no more than 18’’ when fully collapsed.
Good balance of sensitivity is paramount for a rod to be effective; it refers to the ability of a rod to transfer the vibration from the hook, down the rod, and into your hands. It is one of the only ways we have to recognize what is happening to our line.
Rods with faster action are considered more sensitive than a rod with slower action. Graphite rods generally provide the best levels of sensitivity when compared to fiberglass rods, one of the reasons they are so popular today.
Types of pole
Fishing poles are the most basic of fishing apparatus, made from fiberglass, graphite or bamboo. Poles are available with different actions over many lengths, great for many fishing applications.
Many are also telescopic, and cane poles can generally be deconstructed into several pieces. Light poles will suit those of us mainly after panfish, while heavier poles can handle Bass with the heaviest being able to withstand saltwater fishing.
Poles can be broken down into three main types:
Margin poles are the shortest pole style, typically being between 4m and 10m. Very strong, they are perfect for carp.
Light, durable, and remarkably resilient margin poles make a perfect starting point for beginners and younger anglers, generally priced between $50 – $200 for a decent pole.
Coming in at lengths between 10m and 17m carp poles are designed for large, powerful species of fish. The extra strength of the pole also means excess weight, as they are reinforced by their thickness to ensure they don’t break.
Probably the most well-balanced pole available, they are designed with volume in mind. Used by many for canal fishing, match poles require a degree of tact to be most effective.
Lengths of 14.5m – 16m are the most common, these high-grade poles command a much higher price point thanks to the top-quality graphite used to construct them.
Rods can vary quite wildly in price, and a higher price tag doesn’t necessarily always mean higher quality. It is worth keeping in mind, especially for beginners, that simple, low-cost poles can serve a variety of purposes.
Although, if you are a well versed, experienced angler, you may want to consider a custom rod. Of course, this kind of luxury product carries a luxury price tag and should only be considered when you feel your skills have peaked, and you require that extra push to take your fishing skills to the next level.
Many quality brands are delivering consistently high levels of product in the fishing marketplace; below, you will find a list of my personal favorites:
- Daiwa – Daiwa manufacture some of the best saltwater rods money can buy, definitely aimed at off-shore fishermen.
- Fenwicks – Produce fantastic rods for freshwater fishing, but are very competitive with their ice rod, and fly rod offerings too.
- Shimano – Shimano offers one of the most comprehensive collections of rods. A trendy brand among fishermen, with many claiming them to be best in class.
- Okuma – Providing rods for all levels of experience, Okuma is at the forefront of technological advances in the fishing industry.
- Penn – Even the entry-level models from Penn can command a hefty price tag, but this is one occasion where you definitely get what you pay for. Penn is one of the most premium brands offering highly specialized rods.
- Pflueger – Perfect for the novice angler, Pflueger provide exceptional quality at low prices.
Hopefully, this article has explained how to choose a fishing rod effectively, and you feel more equipped for your next trip to your local fishing store. Armed with this knowledge, I am confident you will be able to choose the perfect fishing rod for your needs.
If you found this article helpful or have anything else to add, please comment below and let us know what you think. If you have any suggestions for topics, you might be struggling with, please contact us as we are always looking to provide the most relevant information for today’s angler.
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