Selecting Your Fishing Rod
Fishing is an extraordinary sport where competitiveness and patience are the ingredients for a triumphant day. Being prepared with proper equipment will help ensure you have a successful fishing experience. The rod is effectively the backbone that provides stability and power when you cast. The purpose of the rod is to support and guide the fishing line, acting as a buffer that absorbs the tension created when a fish bites.
In this guide, we will navigate you to the perfect fishing rod. Here at DICK'S Sporting Goods, our rods are made from the strongest materials allowing for unparalleled durability. For the adventurer in you, also check out our fly and ice fishing rods.
Types of Freshwater/Saltwater Rods
Fishing rods are one of the most important pieces of equipment made from a variety of materials, such as bamboo, graphite, fiberglass or composite. Materials affect the rod's action and should fit your skill level and type of fishing you want to perform. Below is a breakdown of the three types available:
Fiberglass rods: Typically geared towards beginners. These rods need little maintenance, have an average weight and solid rod strength. If you are fishing for larger fish such as muskie, walleye or pike where you need a heavy, durable rod for retrieving the fighting fish, fiberglass rods work best.
Graphite rods: Usually preferred by advanced anglers due to their superior strength and lightness. The lightweight graphite handles most fishing situations well, providing more fighting power in the rod.
Bamboo rods: Produces a smooth, fluid back cast which provides its own dampening effect at the end of the back cast, featuring the highest quality built from Tonkin cane.
Rods length typically ranges from 6 to 12 feet. Choosing the right length will depend on what type of fishing you plan to do, what fish you are aiming to catch, the location where you fish, and the water type. Another factor that will determine how to choose length is your own experience, strength and build. Here are a few tips:
- A beginner should start off with a rod that's short enough to help with control and the development of technique, but long enough to give a good casting distance (8-9 feet long).
- Small children will need a shorter rod because of their height.
- In wooded areas, or those with a lot of surrounding brush, choose a shorter rod.
- In wide open spaces, where you would be most likely to fly fish, choose a longer rod.
- To catch larger, more aggressive fish you will need a stronger, shorter rod.
The rod tapers from one end to the other and the degree of taper determining how much of the rod flexes when stressed. Slower rods are easier to cast, create lighter presentations, but create a wider loop on the forward cast that reduces casting distance and is subject to the effects of wind.
Covering the fundamentals: Rod Construction
Here at DICK'S Sporting Goods, we understand that fishing is a sport of focus and precision. Gearing you with advanced equipment is always our goal. Here are the main components of the rod:
Grip (or handle): The best type is constructed "through the handle" instead of being glued on. Grips are composed of different materials such as cork, foam or wood which provide comfort while casting and reeling in a fish.
Cork grips: Comfortable and doesn't absorb much water.
Foam grips: Lightweight, durable, comfortable and doesn't break.
Example: If you are using top-water baits, choose a short handle that doesn't interfere with your wrist action as you work the bait. If you are fishing in heavy cover and weeds with a heavy-action blank, choose a longer handle to provide the leverage needed to set the hook and fish through the heavy cover.
Pistol Grip: Shortest type of grip, contoured to the shape of your hand with a hook for your index finger to help cast more accurately.
Triggerstick: A longer triggerstick is used for two-handed, longer casts.
Reel Seat: Reel seats are the attachment point where the pole and reel connect, made of molded plastic or graphite and responsible for securing the reel and eliminating any "play" or "wobble" while casting or reeling in a fish. Common reel seats consist of a collar that is tightened by screwing around the reel.
Ferrules: The sections of the rod that screw together, the only part of the rod that requires assembly.
Saltwater Guides: Made of plastic, metal, or ceramic. Circles are positioned to the rod's shaft to control fishing line. In casting rods, line guides are positioned on top of the rod. They are smaller to reduce the play in the line and allow for easier casting and quicker retrieve. Spinning rods place the line guides on the rod's bottom. These guides get larger toward the base of the rod. The number of line guides is determined by the rod's length as well as by the quality of the rod. Below are some benefits:
- Transfer line vibrations during a nibble or bite.
- Distributes stress while fighting a fish and guiding the fishing line into the reel.
- High-quality guides will provide a low-profile, lightweight addition to the blank that won't cause damage to the fishing line during casting or reeling in.
- To reduce the amount of friction on the fishing line, some guides will have ceramic, stainless steel or chrome-plated inner rings.
Find Your Perfect Freshwater/Saltwater Rod
Every fisher is unique which means finding the right rod requires understanding your experience level, the body of water you will be fishing in, and the species of fish you're looking to catch. The reels come in three central styles: casting/conventional, spinning and surfcasting rods. Gearing up with the correct equipment will provide you the skillful edge you need to bring in the big catch of the day! Below is a breakdown of the styles available:
Casting/Conventional Rods: Designed to have the reel and guides on the top, casting rods are effective for anglers looking to cast several hundred times during a fishing trip.
- Generally match up best with baitcasting and casting rods because they sit on top of the rod designed to fit this way.
- Most casting rods can handle heavy line and fish in dense cover.
Spinning Rods: Ranges in length from 5 to 8 feet, positioning the reel and guides on the bottom of the pole to provide smooth, accurate casts. Features graphite or fiberglass with a cork or PVC foam handle:
- Longer spinning rods with elongated grip handles for two-handing casting are frequently employed for saltwater or steelhead and salmon fishing.
- Spinning rods are also widely used for trolling and still fishing with live bait.
- The handle length is balanced against the rod's length.
- Triggers are not used on spinning rods.
- Spin casting rods are rods designed to hold a spin casting reel, which are normally mounted above the handle.
Saltwater Casting/Conventional rods: The reel and line are seated on top of the rod and the trigger grip lets you hold the rod securely while releasing the thumb bar/line release.
Design: A quick taper at the rod tip for accuracy and a large backbone at the lower portion of the rod for stability.
- Saltwater bait-casting rods can be made from fiberglass or graphite.
- Fiberglass is more durable and has greater lifting power than graphite, which makes it a preference for larger fish such as tuna and yellowtail.
- Graphite rods are more bait sensitive and work well for surf fishing and open water when bait is cast over a greater distance.
Saltwater Surfcasting: A good saltwater rod is the foundation for successful saltwater fishing. Our saltwater rods use innovative materials and precision craftsmanship to handle tough elements and fish with fight. When searching for your saltwater rod, consider the length, power and action you need. Longer rods cast farther, while shorter rods provide more power for fighting fish. Most saltwater fishing rods are made of graphite or fiberglass. Graphite rods are stiffer and more sensitive, while fiberglass fishing rods are tougher and more powerful. Below are the features and benefits of surfcasting rods DICK'S offers:
Profile: Look like oversized spinning rods or bait casting rods with long grip handles for two-handed casting techniques.
Length: From 10 to 18 feet (3 - 5 m) in length; they have to be longer to be able to cast the lure or bait beyond the breaking surf where fish likely pray, and strong enough to cast heavy lures or bait needed to hold the bottom in rough water. The length of the rod depends on how far and what weight of lure you want to cast, let say a 12ft surf-casting rod will easily allow you to throw a 2- to 4-oz lure more than 200 feet.
Waters: They are used in shore fishing from the beach, rocks or other shore feature or sea fishing from the shoreline.
Long Rod: The advantage of a long surf rod is great casting distance, also helping to fight the big game fish without breaking a fishing line.
Short Rod: You have much more control on the fish and it allows you to use lighter line with a longer rod.
Species: Red Drum / Red fish, Black Drum, Tautog / Blackfish, Flounder / Fluke, Black Sea Bass, Bonefish, Atlantic Bonito and Albacore Tuna, Pompano and Spanish Mackerel, Sharks and Weakfish (Sea Trout), Snook and Tarpon.
Bottom-fishing: Bottom-fishing rods run about 10 feet and normally take 6 to 30 pound test.
Boat: Smaller - 5 1/2 to 6 feet but they handle 50-130 pound test lines.
Beginner's Fishing Chart
|Rod Weight||Rod Length||Intended Use||Action||Cast
|1-3||8-9 ft.||Ultra-light small stream fly fishing||Slow to medium||Short
|4-5||8-9 ft.||Light stream and lake fly fishing||Slow, medium, fast||Short to Medium
|6||8-9 ft.||Suitable to various fish under conditions||Medium to fast||Short to Long
|7-8||8-10 ft.||Big river, lake and estuarine fly fishing||Medium to fast||Medium to Long
|9+||9-11 ft. ||Saltwater fly fishing for salmon, small tuna and more||Fast||Medium to Long
Power and Action (flexibility and strength)
Action determines how much control you have over the fish. The faster the action, the more pressure you can put on the fish. The power is your rod weight, so deciding the type of fish you want to catch will determine the power you need for your rod. Here is a breakdown of the features of action and power:
Power: Rods may be classified as Ultra-Light, Light, Medium-Light, Medium, Medium-Heavy, Heavy, Ultra-Heavy, or other similar combinations. Ultra-light rods are suitable for catching small bait fish and also pan fish, or situations where rod responsiveness is critical. Ultra-Heavy rods are used in deep sea fishing, surf fishing, or for heavy fish by weight.
Action: Effects your casting distance and accuracy, also relating to the lure or bait you need and the strength of the reel that should be used. The smaller the fish, the lighter the action that you'll need, while the heavier the fish, the heavier the action. An action may be slow, medium, fast or a combination (e.g. medium-fast.)
- An extra fast action rod bends just at the tip.
- A fast action bends in the last quarter of the rod.
- A moderate-fast action rod bends over the last third.
- A moderate action rod bends over the last half.
- A slow action rod bends all the way into the handle.
Shop our great selection of Rods.
Line and Lure weight and length
A rod's weight and length should be matched to the weight of your line. A rod may also be described by the weight of lure or hook that the rod is designed to support. Lure weight is usually expressed in ounces or grams. See the chart below for how to match your weight to the specific species you want to catch:
|Freshwater Species||Rod Weight
|Panfish (bluegills, redears, crappies, pumpkinseeds, etc)||2-5
|Average-size trout - lakes and streams||4-6
|Smaller trout in small creeks||1-4
|Northern Pike and Muskie||8-10
|Northern Pike and Muskie||8-10
|Saltwater Species||Rod Weight
|Mahi-Mahi (dolphin, dorado)||10-14
|Sailfish and Marlin||14
Find Your Perfect Fly Rod
Fly Rods are designed to cast a fly to fish by building momentum in a fly line and controlling its direction and distance. They also have to assist in fighting the type of fish by size and strength you want to catch such as salmon, steelhead, or trout.
Fly fishing rods are long, thin, flexible and built for casting a lightweight artificial fly, made from bamboo, fiberglass or graphite. The fly rod has a single line guide with smaller looped guides to control the fly line. To effectively cast the lure, fly fishing rods don't have a handle that extends past the fly reel.
Action, weight and length, type of flies, type of fish, type of water and your skill level will help determine the rod you need. Here is a brief guide on selecting a rod based on many of these factors:
Determining Your Fly Rod
|Length ft||Line Weight||Construction||Tippets||Dry fly size||Intended Use
|7' - 8'||2 - 4 ||Fiberglass, graphite||4x - 8x ||14 - 18||Delicate fly presentation
|7' - 8'||5||Fiberglass, graphite||3x - 7x ||12 - 22||Delicate cast & for distance
|8' - 9 1/2' ||6 - 7 ||Fiberglass, graphite||0x - 7x ||8 - 20 ||For various fish under varying conditions
|8 1/2' - 9 1/2' ||6 - 7 ||Graphite||4x & larger||4 - 3/0 ||For larger game fish
|9' - 12' ||10 - 15 ||Graphite||0 x &||2 - 4/0 ||For the largest fish
|1. Choose a fly fishing rod to match the line you intend to cast
|2. Choose the right rod action
|3. Choose the right rod length
|4. Choose the right rod fittings
Shop our great selection of Fly Fishing Rods.
Modern ice rods are typically very short spinning rods, varying between 24 and 36 inches in length. Ice fishing rods are among the shortest fishing rods available because you don't need to cast the bait. These rods are made from stiff, durable materials, featuring a carved wooden handle, line guides and tip-ups. The tip-ups allow you to fish several different areas on the ice with a flag signaling when a fish takes the bait. Ice rods are used to fish through holes in the cover ice of frozen lakes and ponds.
Here are some of the common differences between the available rod types:
- The length can vary from about 16" to 32".
- Rod composition can be graphite, fiberglass or a combination.
- Handle composition can be cork, foam or plastic.
- Power is the amount of force needed to bend the rod. Normally described as Heavy, Medium and Light.
- Action is determined by where the rod bends. Slow, Moderate and Fast actions are the most common.
In order to decide which rod is best for you, you first need to decide what you'll be fishing for. Here are some general guidelines:
- For panfish use a shorter ultra-light or light rod.
- Walleye and Northern Pike will normally require a 24-28" medium or medium-heavy rod.
- For Muskie and Lake Trout you'll need the strongest ice fishing rod available.
Shop our great selection of Ice Fishing Rods.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. 1. What options are available for a hands free fishing experience? DICK'S offers hands-free Rod Holders which allow you to keep your hands free until your ready to attack and then our Rod Rack to be able to store your gear in a durable, lightweight, and corrosion proof fashion.
3. Is the number of guides on your rod important? Yes, they help transmit line signals to the rod so it is easier to feel the fish.
3. What size Fly Rod should you choose if fishing from a boat or float tube? Consider a 9 ft. rod or even a 9 on ft.
4. What type of handle works best for Ice Fishing? Cork handles are preferred by most ice anglers as it conducts vibrations from the blank and warms easily when held.
5. What action rod is best for Ice Fishing? A 28-inch long, medium-action jigging rod is a standard piece of gear for most ice anglers.
DICK'S Sporting Goods is a fishermen's best friend. Now, you are ready to take to the waters with your high-performance rod. Get ready to fish with confidence this season!
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