At face value, the task of choosing your fishing rod and reel seems like a simple enough task. And years ago, that may have been true. But new technologies and options are introduced every year that cater to different techniques and specific lures that have helped professional anglers get an advantage over their competition. Some manufacturers have hundreds of variations of rods they produce. The resulting variety of options may seem overwhelming for the average person. But it also benefits casual anglers to find rods and reels that work for their preferred techniques and lures.
There are many things to consider when choosing your fishing rod, beyond the material from which it is made. But there are a few primary elements to consider when choosing your fishing rod. The variables of a fishing rod are broken down into three specifications: power, action, and length.
Fishing Rod Power
Fishing rods are assigned power or weight ratings, which, in simple terms, indicate how strong the rod is built to cast heavy lures and reel in heavy fish. “Light” power ratings indicate the rod will flex under less force and should be used for light bait and angling for lighter fish; typically, the fish you will find in ponds, lakes, and rivers. “Heavy” power ratings indicate the rod requires more force applied before it begins to flex. These rods are better if you are casting for bigger fish.
When deciding on the power you need in your fishing rod, the below table is a nice reference tool:
Some manufacturers also product XXH and XXXH power rods as well, to catch monster trophy fish. But typical recreational anglers do not need that level of power.
Fishing Rod Action
Fishing rod action is a measure of where the rod will bend when force is applied. The faster the action rating, the closer to the tip of the rod it will start to bend, and the faster you will see something nibbling on your lure. The three general action ratings are: fast, moderate, slow. However, there are some other in-between ratings as well if you want to get granular with your selection.
Fast action is a popular option because it has higher sensitivity to bites. This is especially nice for beginners who are just learning techniques and indicators of when a fish is on. The fast action is also nice for more accurate casting because of the rod’s stiffness, and for quick hook sets.
Moderate action rods give into the middle section of the rod. Moderate action rods offer better casting distance than fast action rods and work well with moving baits or reaction baits. The moderate action is more forgiving and does a better job of absorbing the shock when a fish grabs on to a moving bait.
Slow action rods are not as common and are used primarily when angling for larger fish or for casting very light line and lures. Slow action rods can bend as far down as close to the handle of the rod. The give allows for further casting and help avoid pulling the lure away from the fish when they bite.
Fishing Rod Length
There are several things to consider for your fishing rod length: distance you want to cast, how accurate your casting needs to be, how much leverage you will need to reel in the fish, and how comfortable you feel using the rod. Fishing rods can come in sizes anywhere from 4ft to 15ft in length, but most casual anglers will likely want to find something around 6-7 feet long.
Longer rods lend themselves well to further casting and have more leverage than their shorter counterparts. This is great for fishing open waters and larger fish. Shorter rods are ideal for short casts and are much more accurate than longer rods if fishing in tight areas and trying to place your cast in a specific spot, such as near a fallen tree in a shaded area.
Choosing a Fishing Reel
After you choose your fishing rod, choosing your reel can be a (relatively) simple process. There are four overall types of reels from which to choose: spincast, baitcast, spinning, and fly.
Spincast reels are the simplest reel option, and cheapest, which makes them great for beginners and children. Spincast reels have a button that allows you to toggle between a locked and unlocked position. To cast, push the button down during the forward cast motion and it will unlock the line, allowing it to slacken and cast into the water. Once the line is in the water, you simply let go of the button and it stays in place.
The downside of spincast reels is that the entire mechanism is encased in a cover. So, if the line inside gets tangled, you will be unaware, and it can lead to a mess. It also traps water and debris within the encasing, which can ruin the mechanism and shorten its lifespan.
A baitcast reel sits on top of the rod handle and allows the line to run parallel to the rod. These reels are more difficult to use and are generally reserved for more experienced anglers after some practice. Baitcast reels are more versatile with the variety of baits, lures, and lines that can be used, which is why more experienced and serious anglers may prefer this reel.
When casting with a baitcast reel, the spool moves with the casting of the line and can be difficult to control. If not done properly, the spool will move faster than the casting line and can easily end up in a tangled mess.
Spinning reels are the most popular reel among anglers of varying experience levels because they are relatively easy to use and work well for a variety of techniques, baits, and lures. Opposite of the baitcast reel, the spinning reel sits on the bottom of the rod handle. To cast, you unlock the mechanism and hold the line with your finger. During the forward motion of your cast, release the line off your finger. To stop the line from unspooling when it is in the water, turn the crank to lock the line in place or start reeling it back in.
Spinning reels are typically built for lighter lines. So, if fishing with a heavier line, you may need to opt for a baitcast reel.
What’s the best fishing rod and reel combo for a beginner?
For a beginner or casual angler looking for a single rod and reel combo, the best option is to stay in the middle. Opt for a Medium Power, Fast Action rod or a Medium Action rod. For a child, choose a spincast reel for ease of use. Other beginners and casual anglers should be comfortable figuring out a spinning reel. This rod and reel combo will lend itself well to the widest experience levels and fish.