Fishing Rod Buying Guide
There are a lot of choices available when you decide to purchase a new rod. Here are some tips to get you started
Freshwater or Saltwater?
This is the first question to answer. Most rods are made for one or the other. Saltwater rods tend to be built a little stronger because you will typically be angling for larger fish and be throwing larger baits.
Fishing Rod Type
There are a number of rod types available. Choose one that best fits your goals and requirements:
- Spinning rods – Better for lighter-line applications and easier to use for beginners.
- Casting rods – Typical choice for baitcast and spincast reels.
- Fly rods – A distinct fising rod type for fly fishing.
- Specialty rods – Rods designed for specific techniques like trolling, surf fishing, or other specialties.
Fishing Rod Construction
Fishing rods come in a range of styles, from basic to high-end models costing hundreds of dollars. Here are some considerations:
- Rod material – Graphite is extremely sensitive, but has a stiffer feel and can be costly. Fiberglass is cheaper, more flexible and forgiving, but lacks the “feel” for precision work. Some anglers prefer a composite graphite/glass rod that combines the qualities of both materials.
- Line Guides – Single-foot guides are lighter and more sensitive. Double-foot guides are stronger, and mostly used for larger fish, such as catfish, muskie, and saltwater predators.
- Reel seat – Some are “open” designs, allowing your hand to contact the rod blank for better feel—a feature to look for when sensitivity is a major factor.
- Handle – Some rods have split-grip handles, which make the rod lighter and easier to hold all day. Usually, handles are made of cork or EVA foam.
We carry a wide selection of rods from major brands like Shimano, Daiwa, St. Croix, Dobyns, Phenix, Berkley, G. Loomis, Penn, and many more.
Fishing Rod FAQ
Here are some of the most common questions we get on fishing rods.
- What is the difference between a fishing pole and a fishing rod?
- Should I buy an expensive rod?
- Does rod length matter?
- Is it possible to use a freshwater rod for saltwater?
What is the difference between a fishing pole and a fishing rod?
In general, the terms are used interchangeably. If you have something with guides, a reel seat and a reel. You could call it a fishing rod or fishing pole and folks would know what you mean. However, on those rare occasions that you fish with some line tied to the end of a stick, you would call this a fishing pole and not a fishing rod.
Should I buy an expensive rod?
Like most things, a more expensive rod will usually be better quality and higher performance. More expensive rods are usually built using a superior rod blank, making them more sensitive and lightweight. Increased sensitivity makes it's easier to know when you get even the most subtle fish strikes. Some bites can be very hard to detect with a less sensitive rod, and you may not even know that you're getting hit. When lure fishing, sensitivity also allows you to feel structure better so that you can create a more effective presentation.
In addition to the rod blank, the cost of the rod will be related to the quality of other components such as the guides and the reel seat. Cheaper guides may be heavier, easier to break, or less smooth compared to their more expensive counterparts. If the guide material is rough, even on a microscopic level, you may wind up with decreased fishing line strength, which can lead to breaking off a big fish.
You also need to consider what you might catch. Some specific types of fishing, like certain saltwater fishing applications, may require a rod that is only offered at a high price. In other words, the average price of fishing rods may vary with the style of fishing that the rods are designed for. If larger fish are on the menu, you will need something that's up for the challenge, so in some cases, with certain fishing tackle requirements, you simply must pay a bit more.
For the average angler targeting bass and most other species, something in the $100-$200 range is recommended. More frequent and experienced anglers may want to choose more expensive $200 and up options featuring the finest technology available. At the same time, there are many hardcore bass anglers on a budget who don’t spend more than $200 per rod, and still have very impressive catches.
Keep in mind, for the most part, how much a rod costs do not correspond to its size or power. Both high and low-end rods come in all shapes and sizes, and you should follow the same process of looking at the specifications regardless of how much you plan to spend. The largest rods within a certain rod series may be slightly more expensive than the smaller models, simply because each one requires more materials to make.
Low end rods nowadays may be comparable to high end rods ten years ago. Since fishing rod technology advances every year. Some features that were limited to very high-end rods in the past, are now available on cheap rods today.
If it is your first rod, or you are new to fishing, then you may not need a top-of-the-line rod. As you gain experience and are less likely to break a rod by mistake, you may want to upgrade. Regardless of your fishing experience, if you can afford a high-end rod, you won’t be disappointed. High priced rods these days are light as feather, extremely balanced, sensitive, and truly incredible pieces of equipment.
At the end of the day, buying the most expensive rod does not guarantee you will catch more fish than anyone else. But rather, the highest quality rods are the most expensive, and are a necessary tool that provides a very specific function for anglers fishing at the highest level, who will take any advantage they can get when it comes to their tackle arsenal.
Does rod length matter?
Short answer: yes. Rod length affects four aspects of fishing, and the angler should consider the trade-offs between these. Rod length impacts accuracy, distance, leverage, and comfort.
A shorter rod will typically allow for more accurate casting, so if your style of fishing requires you to hit a small target, shorter is better. On the other hand, if long distance casting is needed, a longer rod will allow for longer, yet less accurate casts.
Leverage comes into play when you need to set the hook. A longer rod will offer more leverage than shorter rods and provide more hooking force than a shorter rod with the same action.
Comfort of the rod is another consideration and somewhat depends on the angler's physical size. A longer fishing rod may be more of a challenge for smaller, less physical individuals where taller, stronger anglers may have no issue with longer rods.
By far the biggest reason rod length matters comes down to technique. Each length is designed to optimally execute a particular fishing technique. For example, long rods are needed for surf fishing, because you must cast your rig great distances into the effective fishing zone. An example of a technique calling for a short rod is jerkbait fishing. To fish a jerkbait effectively, you need to be able to twitch your rod downward towards the water repeatedly throughout your retrieve. If the rod is too long when fishing with a jerkbait, you won’t be able to impart the right action, and it will also be very tiresome.
Is it possible to use a freshwater rod for saltwater?
Depends on the material of the rod’s components:
Saltwater rods feature corrosion resistant components including guides and reel seat hardware where freshwater rods typically do not. By exposing your freshwater rod to saltwater, it will increase the likelihood of rust and can shorten the life of the rod. If you decide to use your freshwater rod in saltwater, be sure to wash and dry it thoroughly with freshwater after every use.
Depends on the species you are trying to catch:
It's not uncommon to catch fish weighing hundreds of pounds or more in saltwater, so your average freshwater rod may not be up to that. The money you save by not buying a saltwater rod will evaporate quickly if the rod snaps, assuming it did not come with a warranty.
So the answer is yes, in some cases. Certain saltwater inshore species like rockfish and bay bass are targeted using many of the same techniques and gauge of tackle as freshwater bass fishing. So, in cases like that, freshwater rods will work great when used in the salt, just be sure to rinse them off afterwards.