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Gear up right and catch some fish!
If you are about to enter the ranks of over 46 million licensed anglers in the United States, you will soon learn just how much fun fishing can be. For the lucky person at the end of the rod, landing a small pan fish or battling a big billfish can be equally satisfying. Add to that the fun of preparing and consuming your catch and you have a win/win!
Of course, along with the correct technique, you also need the right rod to improve your chances of actually catching fish. West Marne offers a wide selection of fishing rods for inland, inshore and offshore species of fish. Popular brands include Shakespeare, Daiwa, Okuma, Star, Shimano and more. In our stores and online you will find spinning rods, baitcasting rods and conventional fishing rods, each designed for a specific angling task. With so many choices, if you are new to fishing, selecting the right rod can be a perplexing task. This article will hopefully help you to choose a rod that is right for you.
What Fishing Rods Do
Fishing rods extend the angler’s reach and leverage for casting lures or bait, and absorb the shock of a fish when it strikes. Rods are essential to casting and presenting the bait or lure to attract fish. Once a fish hits, the rod is used to set the hook, play and land the fish. Typically, rods also hold the reel and guide the line on and off the spool.
Rod blank describes the rod itself. Rod blanks are commonly made of fiberglass or graphite, which is stronger, lighter, more sensitive, but pricier than fiberglass.
Guides are the loops attached to the rod to direct the line. They are made of lightweight, strong metals such as aluminum or titanium. Guides are often lined with ceramic or plated with chrome to keep line friction and abrasion to a minimum. Big game trolling rods or boat rods designed for heavy duty bottom fishing usually have one or more roller guides with bearings to ensure the line comes off the spool smoothly when the big one strikes.
Tip-top is a guide that is attached to the blank with a sleeve such that it also protects the tip.
Grips are what the angler holds in his hand. Good all-around rods have grips of synthetic EVA foam; casting rods often have cork grips.
Seats hold the reel. Casting rods usually have trigger reel seats to accommodate light and compact reels while offshore fighting rods have sturdy lock washers for a conventional reel. Heavy-duty saltwater reels clamp to the seat with bolts and screws.
Butt is the name for a rod’s inboard end, the one you hold while fishing. So-called through-butt or blank-through-handle construction extends the rod all the way through the handle for added strength and sensitivity. On offshore fighting rods, look for butts that are cut out and covered with a removable cap so they fit into the gimbal of a fighting harness.
Types of Rods
Spinning Rods are used (along with a spinning reel) for active styles of fishing where the angler casts and retrieves the bait or lure frequently. A set of graduated guides reduces the spiraling motion of the line as it passes to and from the reel. Spinning rods are available in a wide range of lengths and actions for tackling a broad range of inland and inshore species, small and large. In recent years, heavy-action spinning rods are now being used for tackling large offshore fish using a “stand-up” technique.
Conventional Rods are a bit stiffer and range from 6' to 15' in length, depending on the application. A trolling or fighting rod will be shorter and sturdier than a rod used for fishing from piers.
Specialty Rods are designed for specific techniques such as surfcasting or fishing with downriggers. Fishing with downriggers is best done with a flexible rod of approximately 8' to take up slack line quickly after a fish has struck and the line is released from the weighted cable.
Rod and Reel Combos: Instead of piecing rod, reel and tackle together individually, combos are pre-configured so all components match for specific types of fishing. Available rod/reel combos include baitcasting combos, conventional combos and spinning combos. Combos appeal to novices and parents looking for inexpensive ways to introduce their children to the sport or casual anglers who want simple, efficient, ready-to-go gear.
What to Look For
Saltwater versus Freshwater: If you plan to fish in saltwater, make sure you choose a rod that is designed and outfitted to withstand corrosion. Guides and tip tops have to be made from non-corroding materials such as stainless steel or graphite, which makes saltwater rods a tad more expensive.
Length: Obviously, the longer the rod, the farther the reach and the longer the cast. You may have noticed the super-tall poles of 15 feet or more used by surfcasters who need to clear rocks on the jetty and the surf line with their casts. On the other extreme, trolling for large tuna or other big game fish, the rods are stiff and short, simply because they are not used for casting long distances or clearing large objects. In between these two are spinning/casting rods that typically range from 5.5' to 7'.
Action describes the way a rod bends and depends on the amount of taper, or how fast the rod’s diameter changes from thick to thin. Fast tapering rods offer more action meaning they start bending farther down. We like rods that bend more near the top because they are better for bait casting and offer good sensitivity to feel the fish especially when fishing around obstacles or in shallow water.
Power describes the energy or force needed to bend a rod. Shorter, thicker rods provide more power to pull up the catch. For practical reasons, fighting and offshore trolling rods are stiff and powerful with very little bend. We recommend less power in casting rods because it helps setting the hook firmly without ripping it out of a soft-mouthed fish like salmon, bass or trout.
Fiberglass vs. graphite and composites: Fiberglass is the most economical material for fishing rods and is a good compromise between light weight, sensitivity, longevity and price. E- and S-glass are two common varieties of fiberglass, which are combined with polyester and epoxy resins to create durable, lightweight fishing rods. More sophisticated rods are made of graphite, which is lighter, stiffer and more sensitive, but also pricier than fiberglass. We like graphite casting/spinning rods because they are light and nimble and are good for longer, more active fishing.
What do you want to catch?
Our best advice is to match your rod, reel and tackle to your targeted species. This will help to ensure an enjoyable fishing experience and improve your chances of success. If possible, visit a West Marine store where you will find more advice—and where you will have the opportunity to physically handle and check the “action” of rods that may interest you. Novices or casual anglers may prefer pre-configured rod/reel combos so they spend less time assembling the gear and more time reeling in their catch.