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Covering the Fishing Rod Basics: Selecting Your Rod System For Bass Fishing

Fishing is a sport which can be done with the most basic and rudimentary equipment. A simple cane pole, 5-yards of line, a bobber, a small hook, and live worm will get the job done in many situations; unfortunately, this low cost option is not realistic as we begin to advance and specialize in our pursuit. The advanced bass anglers in particular and anyone competing in the sport, know how specialized our sport has become over the past 20 years. You can find a variety of technique specific fishing rods and even a full variety of fishing lines for specialized presentations.

There are rods, reels and lines made to work exclusively for Spinnerbaits, Crankbaits, Jerkbaits, Chatterbaits, Frogs, Senkos, Punch Rigs, Carolina Rigs, Drop Shots, Shaky Heads and more. There is so much specialization, even anglers at the highest level of competition are outfitting themselves with 12 to 16 technique dedicated rods. Some of the B.A.S.S. Elite, FLW Pros and Major League Fishing Pros may even keep 20 or more fishing rods in the rod locker, to cover the gamut of possibilities.

But being realistic, I know not everyone wants to own this much equipment and some of the biggest questions for the beginner, intermediate or minimalist anglers are;

Why do we need so many different fishing rods?

What makes one fishing rod different than another?

How many fishing rods does a bass angler actually need to cover the bases?

In this article , I want to shed light on these questions and hopefully simplify the task of selecting a proper bass fishing arsenal. Before we get into my recommendations, we must first examine the characteristics of a fishing rod to learn what makes each fishing rod unique.

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Fishing Rods: Material, Power, and Action

To identify what makes one fishing rod different from another, we must look at three major characteristics: material, power, and action. These are the primary characteristics which contribute to the way a rod performs and also determine what type of lures and situations they are suitable for. There are other visible and not so visible components (including: reel seat, grip, guides, wrapping, color, finish and craftsmanship), but in general the way a rod blank performs has to do with the materials used, the weight rating or power of the rod, and the action of the rod blank.

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So what are the various materials, powers and actions?

Fishing Rod Material

Fishing rods can be made from bamboo, steel, graphite, fiberglass and composite material; but the overwhelming majority of modern manufacturers are designing rods from graphite, fiberglass or a combination of both graphite and fiberglass (called composite).

Each of these materials have their own advantages and disadvantages:

  • Graphite

Graphite is the most common material used when making bass fishing rods and for many very good reasons. Graphite is light, sensitive, responsive and the most effective choice of material when fishing Jigs, Texas rigged plastics, Dropshots, Carolina rigs, Frogs and Spinnerbaits. Some anglers may even opt for graphite when fishing Topwater, Chatterbaits and Rattletraps depending on the fishing situation.

  • Fiberglass

Fiberglass is the second most common material used when making a fishing rod blank. Fiberglass is much heavier and slower than graphite, but also more durable. Rods made from fiberglass are an excellent choice when fishing with live bait, Crankbaits, Topwater and any time an angler wants a slower/softer response from the fishing rod. The drawbacks with some fiberglass; aside from being heavier, is the reduction of sensitivity and fish steering power.

  • Composite

Composite rods are made with a combination of both graphite and fiberglass, which makes them sort of the best of both worlds. The blending of these two popular rod materials, allows the rod blank to respond slower but still maintain some of the rigidity and sensitivity found in graphite. The composite material is also lighter, faster and more responsive than 100% Fiberglass ; and is a great option for Crankbaits, Chatterbaits, Rattletraps, Topwater or anytime you want slightly more sensitivity and control than Fiberglass.

Fishing Rod Power

The next major rod characteristic is rod power; and this is simply the rods ability to handle lure weight, line, and various cover situations. The options here can often be confusing, as not every stick is measured with the same power rating system. Some manufacturers rate their fishing rods with a power number and others classify the rod power as Ultra Light, Light, Medium-Light, Medium, Medium-Heavy, Heavy or Extra Heavy. I’ve found power ratings can vary greatly from one rod manufacturer to another, but the typical ratings are: Medium-Light (4 power), Medium (5 power), Medium-Heavy (6 power) and Heavy (7 power).

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There are some extreme situations where other rod powers may be used, but 99% of the time these are the rod powers a bass angler should consider:

  • Medium-Light (ML = 4 Power)

A Medium Light power is the type of rod a bass angler might use for very small jigs, dropshots, split shots, and other light tackle presentations. I personally avoid Medium-Light because of my primary fishing style, but anyone who fishes lightweight finesse lures often, may want to consider a Medium-Light. In general a Medium-Light is classified as a 4 Power and works best with 4 to 8-pound test and 1/16-ounce to 3/16-ounce lures.

  • Medium (M = 5 Power)

The Medium power rod is popular amongst bass anglers and best with medium weight lures and also when cover and vegetation is minimal. I own a few rods in this power and find them very effective with light weight Topwater, Texas rigs, Shaky Heads, Tubes, Grubs, Jerkbaits and some Crankbaits. The Medium power stick is most commonly classified as a 5 Power and works best with 6 to 12-pound test and ⅛-ounce to ⅜-ounce lures.

  • Medium Heavy (MH = 6 Power)

The Medium-Heavy power rod is the most popular rod power for Bass anglers and will work for an incredible range of lures; it’s the staple rod power for most SpinnerBaits, Crankbaits, Toads, Spooks, Chatterbaits, Casting Jigs, Spoons, BuzzBaits, Carolina Rigs and more. The Medium-Heavy power rod is almost always classified as a 6 Power and will work best with 10 to 17-pound. test and ¼-ounce to ¾-ounce lures.

  • Heavy (H = 7 Power)

The Heavy power is the big boy stick and not commonly used in every area of the country; unless extreme situations call for extreme sized lures and great amounts of leveraging power. The Heavy power rod is the kind of rod we typically want for Flipping Jigs, Punch rigs, Deep Diving Crankbaits, Hollow Frogs and on some occasions very large Topwater baits. A Heavy power rod is often referred to as a 7 power rod; and works best with 14 to 25-pound test and ⅜-ounce to 1 ½-ounce lures.

Fishing Rod Action

Another very important characteristic to consider when selecting a fishing rod is rod action. Some fishing rods are made to react and return to rest very quickly and other rods are made to react and return to rest very slowly; and this is what we call rod action. A few things to keep in mind are; SLOWER rods will typically cast better but have lower sensitivity and less fish steering power; while FASTER rods will typically cast more poorly but have greater sensitivity and more fish steering power.

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There are rod actions which fall between fast and slow and some rod actions which fall beyond these actions; below I will outline these and what each rod action is generally used for:

  • Extra Fast

The Extra Fast will flex only about 10 to 20% down the rod blank, allowing an angler to quickly utilize the blanks power and backbone. These rods are excellent for single hook baits and anytime an angler wants the greatest level of sensitivity, control and the most leveraging power during the hookset; but conversely they are poorer performing rods during the cast and can sometimes pull lures away from the fish too quickly during the hookset.

  • Fast

The Fast action will flex about 20% to 30% down the blank before getting into the rods backbone; providing a good balance of sensitivity and castability for the majority of fishing techniques. These rods are often used for Texas Rigged Plastics, Jigs, Carolina Rigs, Frogs, SwimBaits, Buzzbaits, Spinnerbaits, Rattletraps in grass, Jerkbaits, Drop Shots, Shaky Heads and more. When in doubt about rod action, just remember fast action rods will be suitable for half of the presentations and lures required when bass fishing; and are the most common action found in any bass anglers arsenal.

  • Moderate Fast

A Moderate Fast action will flex about 30 to 40% down the rod blank and should be strongly considered when fishing Spinnerbaits, ChatterBaits, JerkBaits, Spooks, SwimBaits and Squarebills. The Moderate Fast action will provide a fraction of a second slower reaction time than a standard Fast action and be more forgiving throughout the cast and hook set. I believe Moderate Fast action rods are the best choice for power fishing moving baits or for any situation when sensitivity, castability and additional rod forgiveness would all be equally important.

  • Moderate and Slow

Moderate action and Slow action fishing rods are on the slowest end of the spectrum, and will flex from the halfway point of the blank and sometimes down towards the handle. These slower reacting rods are designed almost exclusively for Crankbaits and other treble hook style lures. They are generally manufactured with all Fiberglass construction or sometimes a mixture of materials called Composites. These more flexible design materials offer greater durability and additional flex throughout the rod blank; which improves casting and hooking percentage, but can conversely lower sensitivity.

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My Fishing Rod Recommendations

The process of narrowing down my top 5 recommendations has been somewhat tedious, mostly because we all fish for bass in different parts of the country. The type of power and action required in the South may rarely be needed for fishing for bass in the North. So, in making my recommendations I decided to look at every possible bass fishing situation an angler could face anywhere in the United States and then I placed a strong emphasis on rods which can serve multiple purposes.

With this approach, naturally, some of the more specialized rods have been excluded.

I believe the following fishing rods have the best multi purpose capabilities; and will allow you to cast the majority of bass fishing lures while accommodating the broadest range of presentations. So, here are the five bass fishing rods every angler should have in their arsenal.

  • 6’6” to 6’10” – Medium power Fast action (Graphite Spinning Rod)

A medium power fast action multi purpose spinning rod is an absolute must own; it’s capable of throwing Tubes, Worms, Senkos, Mojo rigs, Drop shots, Shaky Heads, Poppers, Jerkbaits and Light Crankbaits. The medium power fast action will cover almost every sparse cover and deep water finesse situation imaginable. This is the rod many bass anglers start with when first getting into the sport; it’s easy to cast and covers a variety of medium weight bass presentations up to a ½-ounce.

  • 6’6” to 7’1” – Medium-Heavy power Moderate-Fast action (Graphite Baitcasting Rod)        

A medium-heavy power moderate-fast action baitcasting rod may be a surprising choice for some of the experienced anglers reading this article, but I’ve found the moderate-fast action can do everything a standard fast action can do with only a small sacrifice in lure control and fish steering power. This type of fishing rod is great for casting moving lures up to ¾-ounce; including Spinnerbaits, Chatterbaits, Squarebills, Rattletraps and some styles of Topwater. The moderate-fast action is an advantageous choice for presenting moving baits, but when spooling up with 40 or 50-pound braided line, the moderate fast action can become suitable for casting plastics and jigs. Because of the additional rod flex, energy distribution, and forgiveness, this is one of the most versatile bass rods you can own.

  • 7’ to 7’3” – Heavy power Fast action (Graphite Baitcasting Rod)

A Heavy power fast action baitcasting rod may not always be a necessity. There are many areas of the country when this much fishing rod will not be required; however, a Heavy power rod would be an important tool for those anglers who consistently find themselves fishing through the heart of lily pads and matted surface vegetation in the Summer. This is the rod an angler could use for casting  hollow body frogs, flipping jigs and punch rigs up to 1 ½-ounces. It’s probably the least versatile rod of the bunch, but when bass settle into the gnarliest combat conditions, it becomes a crucial piece of the arsenal.

  • 7’6” to 7’11” –  Medium-Heavy power Fast action (Graphite Baitcasting Rod)

For an angler who wants to properly present Flipping jigs, Carolina rigs and Medium Sized Swimbaits; there is no better solution than a 7’6” to 7’11” medium-heavy power fast action graphite baitcasting rod. This is the rod used most often when rigging lures up to 1-ounce. This rod will have a longer handle and plenty of backbone for horsing fish from cover, but can also serve as an open water Swimbait or Carolina Rig rod. I personally prefer the 7’6” as my Multi-Purpose Flipping combo.

  • 7’ to 7’6” Medium-Heavy Power Moderate Action (Composite Baitcasting Rod) 

Last but not least, is the medium-heavy power moderate action rod, also referred to as the crankbait/reaction rod. When casting diving Crankbaits, Lipless Crankbaits or anything else with a treble hook; this becomes a must have fishing rod. The moderate action offers an improved hooking percentage with treble hook reaction lures and the medium-heavy power will provide the weight rating an angler needs to cast medium to large Crankbaits. The longer 7’6” Crankbait rods will handle deep diving crankbaits better because they generate longer casts; but the 7’ Medium-Heavy Moderate is a better all around performer for a mix of shallow, medium and deep presentations.

Covering the Fishing Rod Bases: Summary

So again, not all fishing rods are created equal, they are made from a variety of materials and designed in different powers and actions. Just as every golfer uses a variety of clubs for different golf course situations; every angler will want a few different rods to cover the widest range of fishing situations.

Loaded with this knowledge, you can now get serious about bass fishing; and these 5 rod recommendations will allow you to confidently cover the bases. I truly hope this article helps make you more informed and successful, as you begin to build your angling arsenal. Also don’t forget to add each rod combo and lure into your personal ANGLR Gear database; it’s a great way to inventory your gear and see what gear has produced best. So try it out today and take one more step towards becoming a better angler!