Determining the Best Fishing Rods for Your Situation

If you walk into a fishing shop and ask, “Which is the best fishing rod?” the owner will look at you ask,

“For what?”

And rightfully so. There are nuances to each type of fishing that can’t be answered without more context.

In this article, we’ll show you all the various components and give you guidance into which rod would likely be best for your situation.

If you already know which type of fishing you’re looking to do, jump to one of these targeted guides…

Specific In-Depth Fishing Rod Guides:

If you have no idea where to start, let’s first start by understanding what a fishing rod is.

What is a Fishing Rod?

The definition of a fishing rod is an instrument with a handle, shaft, and reel seat. Which connects the fishing line and the reel to the lure or bait for the purpose of making a controlled presentation to be able to trick a fish into biting.

Some people refer to a fishing rod as a fishing pole which is wrong. A fishing pole is a tool without a reel or any other components of a rod and just has a line attached to the pole.

Man with the best fishing rod in the woods

Fishing effectively is partly determined by the use of the correct tackle for the current situation.

The fishing rod is part of this.

A fly angler obviously cannot do justice to fly fishing without the right type of fishing rod. At the same time, neither can the same type of spinning rod be used correctly if he is trout fishing in a stream with a spinning rod for down-riggers.

Most anglers do stretch the compatibility of some fishing tackle, and some rods can be used for multiple species and types of fishing,

But it is generally important to have the right tool for the job, it will make the job at hand one thousand times easier.

Types of Fishing Rods

Pretty much all fishing rods have a handle, shaft, and reel seat. The materials used for these features may vary accordingly.

Most fishing rods are made in one or two-piece construction, but there are exceptions. Some travel rods break down into many smaller sections based on traveling and packing requirements. Alternatively, some rods are telescopic that allow them to be condensed and extended without being separated.

Baitcasting Rods

Used with baitcasting reels, which sit on top of the rod and face the angler. This type of rod and reel provide very high accuracy with time and experience. Most baitcasting rods are built heavier than spinning rods.

Spincasting Rods

These rods are very similar to baitcasting rods but they are built a little bit lighter for smaller fish and smaller baits. Some of them are one or two-piece but can vary with the telescopic models for travel.

Spinning Rods

Used with open-faced spinning reels that are mounted underneath the rod, this type of tackle is very popular for a wide variety of fishing situations. And it is relatively uncomplicated.

Fly Rods

Unlike other rod types, fly rods are meant to cast very light lures with a very heavy line. These fishing rods vary from 5-14 feet but the average in America ranges from 7.5-10 feet.

Surf Rods

These rods are used for casting great distances from the beach into the surf, they come in both spinning and conventional models.

Surf rods vary from 7-14 feet though most are 10-12 feet with long handles.

Boat And Bay Rods

This category is a general catchall for the reason the rods that do are simply for saltwater.

These rods are the workhorses and are equipped with two-handed handles.

The longer types are used for pier fishing and the shorter rods are used in boats.

Big Game Rods

These rods are meant to subdue the largest creatures in the seat, they have the sturdiest construction.

These rods are rated according to the class of line and reel size they are suited for.

Other Rod Types

Travel or pack rods are found in baitcasting, fly, or spinning variants all three are generally 3-4 piece models.

Ice fishing rods are usually very short and are typically only used for holding and moving the line.

Fishing Rod Functions

Rods are often classified by their intended application. Fishing with a rod entails at least four different functions:

  • Casting
  • Detecting a bite
  • Setting the hook
  • Fighting/landing the fish

Casting a Fishing Rod

The process of casting consists of a combination of body movements and action intended to cast the terminal tackle.

A longer rod generally casts farther than a shorter one, given the fisherman’s physical stature.

Stiffness to weight ratio is an engineering term used to show the ability of a material to be effectively used in structures. For example, a plane made of solid steel will be structurally sound but will not lift off. This is the same as a fishing rod made of steel. It is very sturdy but will not flex enough to cast.

Man in Turkey with the best fishing rod

Because some materials have a better stiffness to weight ratio they can be made into long rods. These would be used to cast the same weight lure that a shorter stiffer rod would not be able to.

A fly angler spends a great deal of time casting and is often deciding on specific spots to cast for delicate presentations.

Therefore it is very important for the fly rod to emphasize the properties for casting.

Detecting a Strike

When it comes to rod design, detecting a strike is limited to small vibrations sent from the lure up the line into the rod blank.

An angler imparts energy to a lure when casting, and gets energy back in the form of vibration during a strike.

The rod, in this case, is not a separate entity but part of a complete system with all of the other components.

Setting the Hook

This is a rod function that may require a property against those of other rod functions.

Ideal rod construction for hook setting needs great stiffness. This is so there is a minimal delay between the strike and the fisherman’s reaction to it.

The bass anglers’ worm fishing rod is an excellent example of a rod designed for setting a hook quickly.

The worming rods are very stiff but soft enough in the tip to feel a strike.

Fortunately, the function of setting the hook can be wrapped up in rod design, given special angling techniques

Fighting and Landing the Fish

The process of bringing the fish to the angler is also essentially one of transferring energy.

In this case, that transfer is from the fish’s mouth to the drag system of the reel. The reels construction is a very important factor because it smooths the thrusts of the fish’s tail and fins.

Rod Dampening

In fighting fish there are also secondary losses of energy in the friction of the line cutting through the water.

This effect is called dampening, dampening is the process of converting the vibrational energy to heat.

Though desirable in some situations dampening is undesirable in others.

If a shock absorber were placed on the pole performance would suffer greatly.

Likewise, a correctly designed casting rod should not be dampened too much.

To some extent all fishing rods damp, but it is a matter of the degree at which they do. It is either help or not depending on the situation.

Too much dampening can cause the rod to not cast very far. This is due to the fact that the casting energy is transferred into heat instead of energy at the tip of the rod.

Rod Taper

The ideal taper for a rod designed for fighting fish is generally fairly abrupt. The rods that are abruptly tapered are usually called fast tapers, magnum actions, or power rods.

A good example of a rod with a taper of this type is the west coast tuna or albacore rod. It is characterized as being very tippy.

Which means the rod is much more flexible at the tip than at the butt. When a fish is on the line the rod may resemble a backward L shape.

For the larger fish, the bend of a tippy rod occurs downward toward the grip. The rod can adjust to such a change because of the thicker-walled section near the butt.

When a tippy rod is cast only certain areas of the rod store the energy, because of this, this type of rod is very poor at casting.

Rod Compromises

The ideal rod construction obviously entails many compromises. Some of the qualities we seek in rods have some similar requirements but others have opposing ones. There is always a certain amount of giving and take in designing a truly fishable rod.

Fly rods tend to favor more towards casting but at the inherent risk of bottoming out or exceeding the elasticity of the rod with a truly strong fish.

Fishing Rod Power and Action

The performance and function of rods are commonly described in terms of action and power.

In a practical sense, the definition of power is by the amount of pressure it takes to flex the rod. The less pressure it takes to flex the rod the lighter the power rod, and so on.

The related concept of action is where a rod flexes along with its blank, which determines long the type of taper.

A fast tapered rod flexes mostly at or near the tip. A moderately tapered rod flexes in the middle of the rod, and a slowly tapered rod flexes all the way through the butt of the rod.

The specific designation of the rod types includes slow, moderate, moderately fast, fast, and extra fast.

Fishing Rod Construction and Materials 

Fishing rods are widely mass-produced by major manufacturers, but they can only go as far as the blanks are fabricated by large scale methods.

Unlike with reels, the building of rods can also be a cottage industry and many small customized rod builders can be found across the world.

In this case most of them buy their blanks from many large manufacturers, and they custom-tailor the final product.

Best fishing rod over a lake

Pre-Impreg Rods

A typical rod is manufactured by first cutting what fishing rod manufacturers call pre-impreg. In which they impregnate the blanks with a cloth of strong fibers and resins.

The “prepreg” is cut into the correct shape to provide the proper thickness of the rod wall along with the entire blank.

After it is cut into a shape the prepreg is wound around a mandrel which is a form that contours the shape and the taper of the finished rod blank.

Rod Composites

To some degree all components for building rods are composites. Each rod consists of a strength or stress element, which is typically a fiber, and a bonding element which is most of the time a resin.

The fibers of the blank are the element that flexes in the rod and the resin is the element that keeps and retains the energy and the memory of the rod. This is so it retains energy and comes back to its original shape after casting.

This property is the reason why single material rods are very much so impractical.

The development of a defect would act as a small crack in a windshield and grow exponentially over a short period of time.

Bamboo Fishing Rods

Bamboo or Tonkin cane is a natural composite, the stress element consists of tiny fibers that move nutrients through the plant.

The general limitations of bamboo are variations in the quality and the presence of the hollow portions within the stalk of the plant.

Bamboo is largely a material for the custom rod builder. They are known to be used in cane pole fishing, as well.

Fiberglass Fishing Rods

Uniformly fiberglass filaments are the key to the construction of fiberglass fishing rods.

Uniformity aided in developing mass production techniques with reduced labor costs.

Which thereby made it possible to offer excellent fishing rods at a very much so lower cost.

One example of fine-tuning was the introduction of variations in the chemical composition of the glass melt. Which gives a high resistance to water damage and its high tensile strength,

Graphite Fishing Rods

Graphite which is called carbon fiber in some areas of the world has become a generic term.

Graphite was initially developed for the aerospace industry, it was used to maximize the strength to weight ratio

Another property of a graphite composition is both positive and negative.

The combination of the configuration and bonding properties enhances the alignment of the single direction of graphite fibers in the rod construction.

Which allows the rods to be designed to run unbroken from the tip of the rod to the butt. This allows for smoother energy transfer. Which makes this type of rod excellent for casting purposes. However, there are only so many different types of rod tapers that can be created with single directional fibers.

When graphite and fiberglass are combined, the created rod becomes very smooth casting. With the versatility of the different tapers that can be created.

Boron Fishing Rods

Boron is a fiber of great tensile strength, but the filament is very heavy and contributes exponentially to the total weight of the fiber.

Boron fibers have a significant advantage over graphite in strength to weight ratio. But when they are by themselves they are not practical for use in road construction due to the weight of the material.

Because of this, boron is usually employed with graphite to form a composite rod. And thus are subject to the same design requirements of the single directional fiber alignment and the uniform distribution around the shaft. This is for the top performance of the rod.

Fishing Rod Features and Components

A fishing rod is used in conjunction with some type of reel and line. Because of this, the rods have features and components required for various functions.


The longest practical one-piece rod is about 5-6 feet in length. The reason for this limitation is that one piece rods longer than that will not fit in a vehicle for transportation.

Because of this, most rods of moderate or more length are produced in several sections.

This means a rod could be 14-15 feet but still be able to be torn down to 3-4 feet for transport and still be a viable means for fishing.

The merit of the integral ferrules is very obvious, no discontinuity or significant alteration of the rod action.

The integral ferrule is fabricated in interior and exterior forms.

The interior form is the lightest and more simple to produce. Which in other terms is made by sliding the ascending pieces into a larger section of the shaft.

Hoop Strength

Hoop strength at the ferrule is usually increased with a string wrap. The outside ferrule, in turn, is much stronger due to the thinner tip section is built up at the joint to fit outside the lower section.

This makes the tip strength as strong as the rest of the rod and keeps protects the strength of the rod all the way to the butt.

In general, however, the ferrule is an essential part of the most practical rod design. And the amount of ease this component provides for transport and storage outweighs any effect in rod action.

Rod Guides

Rod guide styles can either be spinning or conventional, although there is a little bit of universality.

The basic distinction between the two is larger ring bottom-mounted guides for spinning and fly rods. As well as small ring top mounted guides for conventional rods,

Guide style goes in with the frame material, which includes but is not limited to welded steel, graphite polymer, brazed wire, and many others.

Because casting is what spinning tackle does best the correct guides for spinning rods should favor the casting function.

Double foot construction is favored for conventional rod designs, more so in rods designed for subduing the larger fish in the sea.

The number of stresses requires the rigid configuration of a double-footed frame. The double attachment points of the frame to the rod act similar to a triangle. Which is an extremely sturdy building block in most architectures.

Rod Guides Most Important Function

The most important function of the guides is to keep the line from contacting the rod blank during casting. Which would stop the line from casting as far due to increased friction.

The height and spacing of the guides are very important as well. If they are not spaced correctly when the rod is loaded up during a cast or when it is fighting a fish the line would contact the rod shaft and heat up. This would cut the line over time.

The amount of spacing is also important due to when the rod is fighting a fish, the guides cut the rod into sections of an arc instead of one smooth flex. Which would be catastrophic.

Fishing Rod Guide Rings

In order to efficiently confine the line with minimum disturbance, the preferred guide ring should have low weight, low friction, and high durability.

In the specific case of fly fishing where the casting properties for a very delicate presentation are of the utmost importance.

The lightest of the guide rings are simple helixes of wire. Versus the guide rings on big game rods are stainless steel rolling cylinders with ball bearings on them to aid in movement.

Common guide ring materials include aluminum oxide, or its gem form ruby, or sapphire. Tungsten carbide, silicon, carbide, titanium carbide, and zirconium nitrate. Some of these materials formed into a ceramic ring, others are shaped into rings and buffed smooth.

Fishing Rod Guide Wrapping

The guide is normally wrapped onto the rod with thread, which adds strength and a chance to decorate the rod.

The thread varies in thickness from the size of a human hair to the size of the 4 lb monofilament line.

For double foot guides, most of them are double wrapped. This means that there is a cushion layer under the guide and a layer affixing the guide to the rod blank.

Then a transparent coat of epoxy resin is the final step to protecting the wrapping thread. And more importantly to firmly affix the guide to the blank.

Line Through Blank Rods

Because of the use of guides and the wrapping, affect the action of the rod blank. The concept of the threading line through the rod blank arose in the early human hunter-gatherer. The process of hollowing out a bamboo rod and running the line through it is very faulty at the least.

Casting is difficult due to an increase in friction. As well as the reeling in of the lure, bait, and live fish are affected as well essentially rendering a line through rod un-fishable.

The line through blank rods where being tried by many companies up until the 1990s in which they were taken off of the main manufacturers running list.

Fishing Rod Grips and Handles

Rod grips and handles serve several functions, which include comfort and control for the angler and a seat for mounting the reel successfully.

The traditional material is cork due to its thermally insulating properties. Cork is very lightweight, and sensitive to vibrations.

Man-made materials include foamed polymers like the material Hypalon. It is typically found in black but sometimes can be other colors as well as laminated.

The choice in material is determined by the application. Cork for example, is for more finesse type fishing due to the increased sensitivity. As well as foamed polymers for rugged type applications for durability against ripping under extreme stress.

Rod Reel Seats

The reel of the big game angler needs to be a physically sturdy reel seat of formed stainless steel or machined high tensile strength aluminum. It most often is supplemented by a separate accessory clamp secured around the reel seat with stainless steel bolts.

The reel seat of an ultralight spinning rod can be as simple as a few thin aluminum rings. Not only offering a lightweight but the convenience of positioning the reel anywhere along the handle for best balance.

A more common reel seat is a threaded closure which is regarded as a more secure but it suffers the drawback of a fixed location.

In applications requiring sensitivity the reel seat is more often than not cut away. This is to allow direct contact of the rod blank and reel seat to aid in feeling every nibble a fish makes.

Insider Advice

As you can see there are countless considerations that go into choosing the best fishing rods. There is no one size fits all and you’ll need to make compromises if you’re looking for an all-around rod vs a specific niche one.

With that said, what do you consider the best fishing rod and why?

Let us know in the comments below!

The Anglers Behind This Article:

Johnny Harvill

Johanes Godoy

Sushmita Lo

Did this article help you? Yes No
× How can we improve it?
× Thanks for your feedback!

We're always looking to improve our articles to help you become an even better fisherman.

While you're here, why not follow us on Facebook and YouTube? Facebook YouTube
Articles » Gear Reviews » Determining the Best Fishing Rods for Your Situation