Fishing has gone high tech. Chances are the equipment that was good enough for your father or grandfather is still well and good, but compared to today’s equipment, it is as ancient as a fossil.
The fundamental aspects of fishing rods have not changed. The rod still consists of a handle, guides and rod itself. The changes have come in the makeup of the components and the elements of the rod. This article will look at the components and elements before looking at some of the best fishing rods based on the type of reel.
Fiberglass rods are still very popular for deep sea fishing because of the flexibility and strength. Muscling large, pelagic fish needs equipment with strong backbones plus the ability to give when the fish breaks into a long run. Fiberglass meets this particular need.
Fiberglass rods are also good for bottom fishing in salt water for certain species.
- Heavy, will fatigue angler
- Can splinter and is very dangerous if this does happen
- Not as sensitive as graphite
Graphite is somewhat of a misnomer. Graphite is actually a carbon fiber matrix, and the creation is a complicated process of shaping, heating and cooling. The Fenwick rod company created the first carbon rod in 1973, and the technology has continued to grow and evolve. Today’s quality rods are built with graphite.
- More sensitive for light bites
- A more universal appeal for all angling types
- Lighter than fiberglass
- Brittle; may break fighting large fish
- More expensive than fiberglass
- Misses some flexibility that fiberglass offers
Graphite, or more correctly, carbon fiber, and fiberglass make up the majority of rods available on the market. The best fishing rods of the particular make up vary because of many other factors such as quality of the reel seat, guides and even the graphite itself.
Graphite is measured in a very specific way called the “Modulus of Elasticity.” The modulus determines two important elements: sensitivity and weight. The best quality graphite is called IM6, and this particular graphite is the standard for modulus today. This is a trade-off; the more sensitive and light, the more the rod loses durability.
What the angler has to remember is the best fishing rods are determined by the level of use and abuse of the fishing type and not the name of the company. In other words, if you are going to be throwing a few rods in the back of a truck or car and heading to the bank for the afternoon, it is likely the top end, high quality graphite rods are not what you need. Conversely, if you are going to be fishing tournaments, storing rods in cases and rod holders or neatly in the boat, then certainly consider better quality equipment for your needs.
All fishing rods have action, and the action is determined by the flex point of the rod. This flex determines important aspects of casting, hooking and landing the fish. Fast actions have the flex in the upper portion of the rod, and this means a whip-like feel. Fast actions are perfect for casting small lures and quick hook sets.
Medium action will flex in the middle of the rod, and this is generally the best choice for almost all fishing situations from the cold waters of Canada to the flats of the Gulf of Mexico. The action will cast light to heavy lures and fight virtually any fish.
Slow action means the rod has almost no flex. The flex will run from the tip to the butt of the rod. Slow actions are appropriate for trolling and deep water fishing. These rods are generally not used in casting situations for this very reason.
Power is not the same as action. Power refers to the stiffness of the rod itself. On the rod you will likely see terms like Ultra-light, light, medium, medium heavy and heavy. Power is combined to action to create the feel of the rod. Matching these two factors is critical for deciding the best type of rod for a particular fishing situation.
For the average, weekend angler who is interested in taking the kids out and having a good time, medium action, medium power rods are generally the best choice. This is also the most likely type of rod found in big box, chain department stores. The rest of the rod combinations will be found in sporting good stores and, naturally, the Internet and Amazon.com.
Now that you are primed on the specifics of rods, there is one more piece of advice to share before getting to the rest of the article.
A cheap rod is a cheap rod for a reason.
Consider this disclaimer the same as the old adage, “Garbage in; garbage out.” This article is about the best fishing rods, and the best often comes with a considerable price tag. All reasonable effort is made to minimize that particular shock.
We have previously looked at the three fishing reel types and best fishing reels available. Of the three, the spincast reel and baitcasting reel will use the same rod type, while the spinning reel will use a completely different type. The components will be of the same quality, however.
Prices for rods can vary wildly from less than $20.00 to several hundred. For all intensive purposes, we shall be looking at rods prices in the moderate range of around $50.00 to $150.00. Remember what was said about rod cost and quality.
SPINCAST AND BAITCASTING RODS
Spincasting and baitcasting rods are the same because the reel sits on the top of the rod. The rod guides also sit on top of the rod, and the fishing line passes through the guides. Rod lengths vary from 5’6” up to 7’6” depending on the specific rod function.
There are two handles that are found on spincast and baitcasting rods. The first type is called the “pistol” grip and is held with one hand only. The second is a straight handle that can vary in length from four inches up to a foot long. Each handle will have a trigger to rest the index finger. This trigger helps the angler hold onto the rod and provide additional power to fight the fish after hooking.
After the handle is the reel seat, and then the fore length for the entire make up of the handle. Handles are made from a variety of products. Cork is the most popular and expensive choice, and synthetic material handles are found on cheaper rods.
One of the newest handles is a split-grip. This consists of a longer handle with a small piece of rod between the butt and handle. Some see this change as an advantage for leverage and feel, but remember: most fishing equipment is designed to catch anglers first, fish second.
Rod length is best equated to the physics behind the lever. The angler’s body is the fulcrum, and the rod is the lever. A shorter rod will apply more leverage to fight a fish, but the length will make the hook set more difficult. A longer rod will set hooks much easier, but landing a fish is much more difficult because of the rod length.
RODS UNDER SIX FEET
Most rods under six feet fall into the 5’6” range, and these rods are perfect for small bodies of freshwater like ponds and some rivers, streams and the like. These rods are best paired with spincast reels and are perfect to teach youth fishing.
Diawa makes some of the best fishing equipment on the market, and this rod is one of the best for the value.
- Medium action
- Perfect for warm freshwater applications
- Two piece rod limits feel
- Short size makes hook set difficult at a distance
SIX FOOT RODS
The six foot rod is ideal for most applications in warm freshwater from small ponds to large rivers. The Shakespeare company makes some good products, and the value of the Ugly Stik line is one of the best for the money. Ads show actors bending these rods around into a circle, and the rod snaps back with ease.
- Excellent value for the money
- One piece construction for added sensitivity
- Limited action and power except on expensive models
- Synthetic material handle
SIX FEET SIX
After six feet, rods begin to be more specialized in function because of the size. The 6’6” rods, however, are also a standard for many anglers. Abu Garcia has the Veritas line and is a value for the money. This rod is perfect for heavy cold freshwater and light saltwater angling.
- Modern, sleek look
- Titanium alloy guides for smooth casting and line retrieval
- Long length makes storage difficult
- Limited to medium heavy or heavy action and power
SEVEN FEET AND UP
Most casting rods seven feet and up are specialized for large cold water species like musky, salmon and the like, tight cover in warm freshwater where muscling fish out is necessary and a good bit of saltwater fishing such as shore casting.
There are rods over seven feet long designed for the Steelhead, and specific species of salmon common in large, cold rivers. Most of these rods are eight feet and longer.
Rods longer than ten feet are primarily used for saltwater shore and dock casting. These long rods are necessary to get baits out beyond breaking waves or into relatively deeper waters. Those who fish from a dock need the longer rod to set hooks since the angler is frequently several yards above the water.
Because of the length, many seven foot and longer rods are commonly two piece or telescopic, where part of the rod slides into the butt. This cuts the rod length by up to two feet or more for storage and transportation.
Abu Garcia has the same Veritas series in seven foot, but the color may put some off. Anglers are creatures of habit and like their darker colors on rods. To that end, the Vendetta is the answer.
- Variable lengths to seven feet and up
- Features the latest in rod technology and design
- Single piece construction makes rod hard to store and transport
- Modern look may not appeal to traditional anglers
The spinning rod is different from the baitcasting and spincast rod in two ways. First, since the reel lies under the rod, there is no trigger or pistol grip. All handles are straight, with the butt extending several inches past the reel seat.
The guides are also wider and lie under the rod as well. The wider eyes on the guides are necessary because of the way line peels off of the reel during a cast. The line loops off because of the way the spool lies on the reel, so larger eyes are necessary to keep from line being caught in the guide.
The spinning rod is possible the most prolific in terms of length, action and power. Spinning rods range from ultra-light 4’6” for light panfish and trout to 15′ surf casting rods for shoreline saltwater fishing.
Because there is such a huge range of options for the three characteristics, it is best to think about a single brand more so than by length. The lengths and functions, with the exception of the very short ultra-light and long surf casters, are essentially identical to the spincast and baitcasting rods.
To that end, here is the essential information for the best spinning rods.
To get the best quality for the money, look for rods with cork handles, one or two piece design and priced between $50.00 and $100.00. You can easily spend more or less on spinning rods, but the best fishing rods for the average angler will fall between these two prices.
Spinning rods are often sold in combinations with a reel already attached, which is good for the angler looking for a specific set up. For example, an angler going on vacation to the beach and wishes to try surf casting will not need to invest in the most expensive gear available, but a surf casting combination would be idea for their purpose.
Those who are looking for something more specific, should look at the following brands for the best fishing rods: Shimano, Diawa, Okuma and Shakespeare. Each of these brands has rods that will fall into any and all of the aforementioned categories, and the quality of each rod is excellent for the value.