Selecting the Right Rod
The core element in your fishing equipment is your rod. In the ‘How to Use the Guide’ section we described fishing with just bread, a hook and some line, with the next evolutionary step – a stick.
As lures, baits and techniques have evolved, so have manufacturers’ rod design. They have fine-tuned their rods to give the angler the advantage over the fish when you choose the right ‘stick’. The correct rod allows you to cast more accurately, work the baits better, detect more strikes and set the hook to land your catch.
Step one in choosing the right rod starts with knowing what kind of fish you are most often after, which will help decide which technique you’ll be using and ultimately lead to the type of rod and action you want.
The two most dominant rods are either spinning or baitcast. Spinning rods mount the reel under the handle and baitcast are seated on top. These are two different casting techniques. Your decision on fish and fishing technique will decide your reel, and now you can select your rod.
Most fishing enthusiasts start out with a 6’6” to 7’ medium rod as these rods will work with most techniques and lure types.
Building a fishing rod involves design comprises. You can build a rod that will never break – think solid steel pipe – but it would be too heavy to cast with all day, and it wouldn’t be sensitive enough to let you know when you had a bite. A great rod is strong but responsive, sensitive and durable. A good rod won’t instantly make you a great
angler, but a poor one will certainly hinder you, and could cause you enough grief and expense that it will turn you off one of Canada’s greatest pastimes.
An honest, knowledgeable local retailer can help tell you the most popular techniques for the fish in the region. But it helps to understand the language he or she is about to speak.
FISHING ROD PARTS AND TERMS
Action – describes how the rod bends when pressure is applied at the tip. A fast action rod bends in the top third and a slow action rod starts bending in the bottom third. How easily it bends depends on the type of fish for which the rod is designed. For instance, a fast action fly rod will bend much lower and more easily than a fast action offshore rod. For the most part, the nature of the flex is determined by the taper of the rod – how the diameter decreases from handle to tip.
The weight of the lures you’ll be fishing with helps choose the action. Lighter lures work with faster action rods storing kinetic energy easily. Bass rods are typically fast action. This helps in setting the hook, as the rod stops flexing quickly as it reaches the stiffer part of the blank sooner. They work best where short to medium casting distances are involved, using single hooks in worm and jig fishing.
For longer casts, medium to medium-fast rods are used in conjunction with treble hooks like topwater lures, crankbaits, or spinner baits. The slower action makes it less likely that you’ll tear the hook out of that stronger fish you’re after.
Power – describes the strength of the rod. As in, its lifting power, rated from extra-heavy to ultra-light. Describing the power of a rod depends on the type of rod you’re discussing. A heavy bass rod might be limited to a 25 lb line while a heavy offshore rod might be rated for 80 lb line. As you may have already guessed, the line weight should match the rod power. With a heavy line on a light rod you could snap the rod, and with a light line on a heavy power rod you could snap the line. Matching the rod and line will help you to work within the limits of the equipment to land your prize.
Responsiveness – is the rods ability to flex under load and then release the stored energy. A light, highly responsive rod will allow you to more accurately cast on a low trajectory when you want to land your bait lightly and perhaps need to land close to an obstruction.
Graphite – is a material used to build everything from fishing rods to waterskis. Like most materials there are significant differences in the quality of the graphite and how well it is used. It costs a lot more, and requires a great deal of expertise to build a light, responsive and durable rod. Conversely, a cheap rod can be built from graphite - but be heavy and brittle.
Graphite often comes with a rating i.e. IM6 or IM7, etc. Unfortunately, it isn’t an industry standard so the quality of IM6 graphite can vary from one manufacturer to another. You can count on it to compare rods within a rod manufacturers lineup where you can expect an IM8 will be better (more sensitive/responsive) than an IM7.
Other manufacturers use a ‘ton’ rating, i.e. 30 ton or 40 ton (40 being more sensitive/responsive). Unfortunately this is also not an industry standard so you can’t accurately equate a ‘ton’ rating with an ‘IM’ rating.
Modulus refers to the stiffness of the graphite, but because so many other factors influence the quality of the graphite, a higher modulus doesn’t mean a better quality rod. In general, the higher the number, the stronger the rod will be for its weight – but also the more brittle it becomes. In some cases a stiffer rod is detrimental, as you wouldn’t want a stiff rod for light line techniques.
Fibreglass – is known by anyone born after 1940, but like many modern materials ‘glass’ has changed and evolved over the decades and in some instances in fishing rods, has been combined with graphite to produce some stellar rods. Although heavier than graphite, glass has a solid reputation with many anglers looking for a medium to slow action rod that is very durable. For instance, you’ll find them in rods for heavier fish, and in boat rods that don’t require casting.
Guides – most are composed of an outer metal ring, and the best are lined or coated with a reduced friction inner ring. Friction causes heat, and heat breaks down line. Low friction also translates into longer casts. The best guides are also lightweight and durable. Rods with more guides will bend truer to the rods design, and typically cast better than those with fewer.
Materials include Alconite, whose base material is aluminum oxide, and it is an improvement over Hardloy (another aluminum oxide derivative). SIC stands for silicon carbide, which along with titanium carbide and Zirconium are a few of the higher end materials as they reduce friction and heat to a minimum. Some of the best guides are made of nickel-titanium alloy, which spring back into place even when bent back, require no plating, and cannot corrode.
Handles and knobs – are often made from cork, an age-old material chosen because it is lightweight and provides good grip even when it’s wet. About 50% of the world’s cork comes from Portugal, and like graphite there is no universal grading system. One mans ‘Flor’ is another mans ‘AAAA’ is another’s ‘AAA’ and another’s CG1. All you can expect is that the best cork is found on the most expensive rods. EVA foam is the other material most often found in handles and is more durable than cork.
Reel seat – holds the reel onto the rod, and if the reel comes loose, the trophy fish of your lifetime could be lost. The reel is where the torque generated in the fight is applied to the rod. The cheapest reel seats could have cardboard inside, and/or use metal that rusts. It is best to spend a few dollars more on a trusted name brand, and avoid the deal that seems too good to be true, because it is.
Now that you are armed with the lingo, peruse the pages of this guide to see what’s new in rods, the prices, and get ready for your best season ever.