How to Choose a Spinning Rod

How to Choose a Spinning Rod

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Choosing a spinning rod is a daunting task due to the massive variety of rods on the market. There are many different lengths, weights, sizes, and actions of spinning rods available, so it is important to learn about what to look for in your next spinning rod, whether it’s your first or your tenth. The specifications to watch for are: size, line and lure weight, action, power, and sensitivity. 

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Size

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Size of the rod includes the physical length of the rod as well as how many pieces it breaks down into. Spinning rods normally come in lengths as short as 18 inches with ice fishing rods and get as long as 10 feet, and they come from one piece to as many as 7 pieces for a traveling rod. Ice rods are not designed to cast, so though this article will be relevant to them as well, we will primarily discuss castable spinning rods, which normally start around 4 feet long. No length or amount of pieces is better than any other; the best spinning rod varies depending on your situation.

Normally, the size range that is available depends pretty strongly on the power of the rod you are purchasing. However, a general rule of thumb as far as length goes is the longer the rod, the more power it has, and the further you can cast.

The amount of pieces that you decide to go with depends solely on how well you can protect it. Seven piece rods are traveling rods for easily carrying on planes or stowing in your backpack, while a single piece 7 foot rod is largely for those who can leave them in their boat. Many people prefer two piece rods, as they split into sections that allow for easy transportation without sacrificing sensitivity. The more pieces, the less sensitive the rod will be, as you lose a small amount of touch with each connection. For that reason, it is best to go with as few pieces as possible – if you have a boat you feel safe leaving it in where it won’t be broken, get a one piece. If you carry the rod in your car, two piece is the way to go. Or, if you travel over planes or hike in a long distance with a backpack, get a traveling rod in 6 or seven pieces.

Line and Lure Weight

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A Travel Spinning Rod

St. Croix Triumph spinning rod

Spinning rods come with a rating for the size of lures they are designed to cast as well as the line weight they are made for. The lure weight can start as low as 1/32 of an ounce and range up to over a pound, while the line ratings can vary widely as well. The goal here is to match these as closely as possible to the style of fishing you will be doing. If you are doing only panfishing for small fish, you will be fishing with small lures and likely light line, while for bass, you may be using bigger lures and slightly heavier line.

For big fish like muskies or saltwater species, the lure and line rating will be very high. Take a look at the lures you’ll be using and what they weigh to get a good idea of what range to shoot for here, and if that is difficult to find, take a look at the line rating and go with the rod rated for the pound test line you plan on using for the fish you are fishing for. Why does this work as well? Well, rod manufacturers already have matched line weights with lures commonly casted with that line weight, so if you know one or the other, you’re generally safe to go with that.

Power

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Power is perhaps the most important thing to look at. This directly impacts the stiffness of the rod and how it’ll perform pulling in fish. Power is rated from Ultralight to Heavy, and all the most common ratings in order from lightest to heaviest are: ultralight, light, medium light, medium, medium heavy, and heavy. Ultralight rods are small and bend easily, while heavy rods are big, thick, and don’t bend easily unless there is a huge fish on the end. Basically, the power rating tells you how stiff of a rod you’re getting. Which rating should you look for? It totally depends on many factors: personal preference, species of fish, and lure size.

Let’s talk about the fish you are going after. Smaller fish like panfish can’t put up much of a run, so you don’t need a whole lot of power to bring them in. Medium sized fish like walleyes, northern pike, bass, and trout are capable of putting up a decent run, so you do need some power but not a ton. Large fish like muskie, saltwater fish, and stripers can run for hours, which is why you have a powerful rod to pull them in when they don’t want to come in. The smaller the fish, the lighter the power you can go with, while the heavier the fish, the heavier the action.

This is where personal preference also comes into play. Some people thoroughly enjoy fighting the fish for a few minutes before bringing it in – that’s the main focus of fishing for them. People like this might drop down one power rating just to fight a little longer, as they can’t power the fish in then. Others, like tournament anglers and diehards, like to bring the fish in as quickly as possible, so they might upgrade a power rating so they can always power the fish in without giving it a chance to get off. For most people, it is appropriate to choose the rating most relevant to the fish species they are going after.

Action

Action is another very important factor when choosing a spinning rod. Action impacts the point at which the rod bends. An extra fast action rod bends very close to the tip and therefore feels stiff, while an extra slow action rod bends just above the grip, making it feel floppy. This is important because your casting distance and hookup rate are directly impacted by it.

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Faster action rods can cast normal sized lures further because they are stiffer, while slower action rods just don’t have the power to cast these types of lures out. However, slower action rods can cast smaller lures much more smoothly because they act like a spring to push these lures that can’t carry themselves with their own weight, much like a fly rod. A fast action rod would be pretty worthless for casting light lures, while a slow action rod isn’t nearly as good at casting normal to large lures. Get a slower action rod for lighter lures and a fast action rod for heavier lures.

Hookup rates with fish are directly impacted because the rod obviously bends when you set the hook. Imagine setting the hook with a stiff rod on a thin-mouthed fish – it would tear their lips. On the other hand, imagine setting the hook on a flimsy rod on a bony-mouthed fish. It wouldn’t be able to drive the hook past the barb into the fishes mouth, so the fish could get off easily. Each action has it’s place with fish. Papermouthed fish like crappies, panfish, and more should always be fished with a slower action rod, while hard-mouthed fish like northern pike, walleye, bass, and more should always be fished with a faster action rod. Fish in between like catfish, trout, and carp can be fished with a medium to fast action.

Sensitivity

Sensitivity is the last thing to really look for in a spinning rod. While the best way to find out sensitivity is to test the rod out physically at the store, you can also look at the type of materials used in rod construction, the price point, how many pieces it is, and reviews left by other users.

If you have a chance to test a rod out at the store, many people like to do a basic test of holding it like you would while fishing and having someone lightly tap the other end, or have them hold it to their neck and speak. If you can feel the rod vibrating from that small vibration, it’s a keeper.

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Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2, a fiberglass and graphite combination

Materials used should be good quality graphite. You can certainly purchase a fiberglass rod, but in my experience, they haven’t had the same sensitivity as graphite, though they may be more durable and resistant to cracking under intense pressure. As the price goes up, generally the quality of the graphite rises as well, giving you a more sensitive rod.
The number of pieces affects sensitivity greatly as well. A single piece rod will always be the most sensitive because when a fish bites, the “tic” can travel down the whole rod without interference. As you get more and more pieces, there is more interference and thus less sensitivity down at the end you are holding. Go with as few pieces as you can without risking damaging the rod during transport.

Read reviews left by other users on places like Amazon, Cabelas, or this site you are on to see what other customers are saying. The beauty of reviews is they can give you a very good overall picture of exactly what type of spinning rod you are getting.

Conclusion

Choosing a spinning rod should be a lot easier once you understand what to look at. The classifications of action, power, size, line and lure weight, as well as sensitivity, can tell you exactly how to choose a spinning rod. Good luck on your selection, and don’t be afraid to purchase more than one for various uses.

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