An angler’s fishing rod is almost as important as the bait and reel. Selecting the right rod for the fish and conditions is crucial. It isn’t difficult, so don’t sweat it! Follow this easy Fishing Rod Guide to help you get up to speed with Fishing Rods.

You may need only one type of fishing rod because you do one type of fishing. If you only catch bass in a lake, you need a bass rod. If you only catch gator trout in the ocean while wade fishing, you need a rod that can handle that.

Keep in mind, you may only need 1 Rod that covers many types of fishing well, but not each type perfectly. This is what most people do to save money on rods. You probably should too. Shiny new gear is nice, but spend it on your lures, kayaks, and boats!

Fishing Rod Construction

The Handle, Reel Guides, Blank, Guides, and Tip make up the components of your fishing rod. Let’s learn about each part now.

The Blank

The blank is the main shaft of your fishing rod starting from the handle and moving up toward the tip. Guides – are usually metal and sometimes have a plastic or ceramic liner to reduce friction on the line. Guides start just after the fishing rod handle and go to the very tip of the rod. Guides are generally smaller the closer they get to the tip for all but bait casting rods.

The Handle

The thickest part, the bottom of the rod, is the handle. The handle consists of the blank wrapped in rubber, foam, plastic, or cork and is the strongest part of the rod. Generally, the covered part of the blank at the bottom is considered the handle – encompassing the Reel Seat (coming next).

This part of the rod takes the most beating, and some of them are super durable – like the UglyStik’s handles are legendary for being able to take abuse and last a long time.

Handles are longer for longer rods which are better for casting long distances.

Handles are shorter for rods were casting long distances is not required, like bass or other freshwater lake or stream fishing.

The Reel Seat

The reel sits in the seat. That makes sense, right? This is typically a plastic or metal area where the reel is attached to the rod securely with spinning collars that lock the reel down. Checking the tightness of these collars before you begin fishing is recommended! Reels are expensive!

The Ferrules

The ferrules are simply the male and female ends of a rod that splits apart in half to cut the size down and make it easier to travel with.

Selecting a compatible reel for your fishing rod is important! Make sure to read our “How to Choose a Fishing Reel?” next.

The Guides

Rod guides larger to smaller on a spincasting rod.
Rod guides. Metal with plastic donut insert. © J. Erickson.

The guides keep the line in a straight line and help to maximize casting distance. Guides are on the bottom for cast reels and on the top for baitcasting reels. Guides on baitcasting reels are all nearly the same size.

The Rod Tip

Your rod tip is important because it gives you a vibration when a fish is nibbling at your bait or lure. Ideally, you’ll have a rod tip that is very flexible and responsive when fishing for small fish under 5-pounds. The quicker you know a fish is on the other end of your line, the better chance you have of reeling it in with your rod.

If your rod is collapsible, then you will have two ferrules: one male and one female. This is the location where your rod will come together for proper use. When connecting the two pieces, make sure that the guides line up, so your line has a straight plane of travel.

Variety of Rod Materials

Fiberglass Rods

Fiberglass is ultra-strong, they make car bodies and boats out of it after all. When fishing for heavy fish over 50 lbs. you’re going to want a strong fiberglass rod that can stand the forces generated by you reeling and the fish pulling.

Fiberglass rods are heavier and thicker, but a necessity when deep-sea fishing.

Graphite Rods

Graphite 3-piece spinning rod.
Fiblink 3-piece graphite spinning rod.

Most rods you’ll find in the stores and online are graphite rods. Graphite is used because it is very flexible and yet ultra-strong. It is difficult to snap a graphite rod, and it’s almost impossible to snap a fiberglass rod.

Composite Rods

Composite fishing rods combine materials to create a rod that is both responsive, flexible, and super-strong. New materials are being used all the time in pursuit of the ultimate fishing rod. Carbon fiber rods are ultra-sensitive and exceptionally strong. Oh, and they’re not outrageously expensive anymore. The price is dropping over time. If you fish for small marine or freshwater species, check one out!

Choosing Rod Length

From the handle to the tip is the length of the rod. Most rods are between 5 to 10 feet in length. The most common size for a rod is around 7.5 feet. This is the sweet spot that suits most anglers looking for freshwater or saltwater fish from a boat, shore, or pier.

If you need to cast very far, like to reach bluefish from a pier, choose a 9-10 foot rod and you’ll gain 30-60 yards casting distance! Don’t forget to position yourself with the wind at your back whenever possible!

Slow Action Rods

Slow-action rods bend closer toward the handle and are better for fighting larger-sized fish like big reds, big snook, amberjack, cobia, grouper, mahi-mahi, and more. In general, I like to use a slower action rod for all my ocean fishing because you never know what you’re going to hook into. Better to be prepared with a stronger, slower rod than an ultralight, especially while amberjack fishing!

Fast Action Rods

Fast-action rods bend in the top section of the blank and are ideal for throwing baits a long distance. Most rods are a bit of a blend between Fast and Slow action and bend around the middle in an attempt to give the best of both worlds.

Rod Power (Rod Weight)

Rod power is a measurement of the amount of force it takes to bend the rod while fighting a fish.

Ultralight rods bend easily and are ideal for fighting small fish like trout, flounder, small blues, and other fish under 5 lbs.

Medium rods are somewhere in between and are good for fish under 20 lbs. or so.

Heavy and Ultra-heavy rods are better for catching grouper, amberjack, tuna, and other large species which will need tens of minutes or over an hour to bring to the boat or pier.

Rod Type

Spinning Rods

Open-faced spinning rod with medium action rod.
Spinning rods are what 90% of anglers use because they’re just so easy to figure out. The learning curve is about 10-minutes. Versus learning on a baitcasting rod/reel – around 2 hours.

Spinning rods go with spinning reels. More than likely if you’re just starting out, you’ll be using spinning reels. These are long-handled reels that have an open face that spools the line off sideways into the guides.

Spinning reels and rods are ideal for all kinds of fish. Some anglers use them for all their fishing – even for big fish like tuna and grouper.

The big difference between spinning and casting rods is the accuracy and skill needed to master the system. Casting rods take a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, and if casting placement is essential, you’ll come to love them.

Casting Rods

Baitcasting rods and reels for casting precision or trolling.
Baitcasting rods and reels for boat fishing. Original.

Casting rods have guides on top of the rod and it’s optimized for very accurate casting. On a boat, you probably don’t need to be all that accurate, especially if you’re trolling.

Trolling Rods

These are very strong rods used for catching sailfish, kingfish, tuna, large grouper, and other massive fish. You can use a short, thick, fiberglass trolling rod or a heavy or ultra-heavy spinning rod for these fish.

Surf Rods

Large 10 foot surfcasting rod.
A large 10-foot long surf-casting rod, not being used for the surf, but you get the idea. © Patrick Mueller.

Typically 9 feet and longer, surf rods are ideal for fishing from the shore because you can cast a long distance to reach the deeper areas on some beaches. The bigger and stiffer the rod, the more distance you’ll be able to cast your bait. Surf rods are designed to handle heavy bait and sinkers as would be required for shark fishing, and large redfish fishing.

Bottom Line

If you will be catching a variety of fish from many different platforms – beach, boat, kayak, shore, wade-fishing, piers, etc. – just get a 7.5-foot long medium-action UglyStik with spin casting reel and vary your braided line strength according to the size of fish you’re targeting.

You can catch a large mahi-mahi on that rod, and you can catch a 1 lb. trout on that rod as well.

If you’re a generalist, get a generalist’s rod and don’t think twice about it. If later you just can’t stand the fact that your rod doesn’t match the fish you’re catching, buy it later. Get a rod you can use for catching MANY types of fish at first and specialize later.


More Fishing Guides with All You Need to Know