How to Choose a Spinning Rod

Fishing expert Tanner Druffel runs through everything you need to know to find the right spinning rod for you and your needs.

Photo by Clay LeConey

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So you’re upgrading your old rod? Maybe you’re just getting into fishing? Either way you need to find the next perfect rod for YOU! In this guide we’ll go over everything an angler needs to know to find the next spinning rod, whether just getting started or fishing for a living.

Anatomy of a Rod

This section will contain important terms that you should know before reading this article.

Figure showing the anatomy of a rod, including the tip top, guides, blank, reel, reel seat, and grip/handle

Figure by Tanner Druffel

  • Grip/Handle: The grip is where the hands are placed on the rod. These are normally made of EVA foam, plastic, or cork handle. An EVA handle will be cheaper and hold its shape better, whereas a cork grip is the more classic type of rod style.
  • Reel Seat: The reel attaches to the rod on this piece.
  • Guides: Your line is inserted through the guides. These help deliver the line to the intended target. The guides play a role in the sensitivity of the rod. Guides are normally made from stainless steel or titanium.
  • Blank: This is the backbone of the rod that has all the other components of the rod attached to it. These are typically fiberglass or graphite/carbon fiber.
  • Hook Keeper: This part holds your hook when not in use.
  • Tip Top: The last guide your line goes through at the top of the rod.

Casting Rods vs. Spinning Rods

There are a few different rods in this world and you might be asking yourself, why would I need one over the other? The two main conventional fishing rods you’ll find on the market today are casting rods and spinning rods. So, what’s the difference? Everyone has their opinion about when and where they like to use a spinning versus a casting rod, but there are instances where it helps to use one over the other.

Typically you will be using a spinning rod with a spinning reel to cast longer distances and toss lightweight lures, but it can also be used to toss heavy lures and baits under the right circumstances. Spinning rods are good for anyone from beginner to pro.

Casting rods are paired up with casting reels and are typically harder to use, which is why most beginners steer clear of them. A casting setup works pretty well for accuracy, control, and heavier lures. You can tell these two rods apart because a casting rod will normally have a trigger near the reel seat with the guides facing up, whereas a spinning rod has no trigger and the guides face toward the ground when reeling in a lure. For a deeper explanation of more fishing gear, be sure to check out our other expert articles!

Closeup on a reel and rod being used for saltwater fishing

Photo by Mathieu Le Roux

What is Rod Action?

The action of the rod refers to where the bend will occur in the rod and how fast it will return to its original shape after being bent. You have four main actions that you will tend to see in rods:

  1. Slow action: bends closer to the rod handle and returns back to its original shape slower than any other action. A slow action rod bends more evenly throughout the whole rod as if it is shaped like the mouth on a smiley face. These rods are more forgiving and will excel when tossing lighter baits and lures such as spinners. The downside to these rods is that the hook takes longer to set.
  2. Moderate action: Some people also call this medium action, and if it leans toward fast action it has a medium-fast action. A medium action rod is great for getting some distance on your cast while still being able to set the hook well. These are great “do it all” rods. Some applications that you can use these for are crank baits, spinners, and topwater.
  3. Fast Action: A fast action rod is less forgiving, bending in the top third of the rod. I find these rods extremely useful when using jigs. Their stiffness gives a quick reaction in the tip of the rod.
  4. Extra fast action: An extra fast action rod will bend near the tip top of the rod. A lot of competitive bass anglers use these rods for the faster hook sets and sensitivity. These rods are good for jigging, worms, and other baits that you will need to cast right near you or way out on the water.

A good rule of thumb is to use fast action for heavy baits, light action for lighter lures, and medium for everything in between. When considering the material of the rod, it is good to know that fiberglass rods have a slower action, making them easier on the wallet and more durable. Carbon fiber/graphite rods have a fast action. The material makes these rods stiffer and more expensive.

Graphic showing extra-fast, fast, medium, and slow rod action

Figure by Joe Price

What is Rod Power?

Action and power of the rod are often confused. The power of the rod is the force that it takes to bend the rod, or in other words, the strength of the rod. Rod power will vary from ultra light to ultra heavy. Ultra-light rods are great for targeting smaller bait fish such as bluegill. These are the rods that people like to use for finesse fishing. Ultra-heavy rods are meant for much bigger fish like groupers. Most offshore fishing will require some sort of heavy-power rod, whereas smaller ponds will have smaller fish, and thus an ultra-light to medium-power rod should do just fine!

Rod Length

The length of the rod plays an important role in what type of fishing you will be doing. The breakdown of the rod goes hand in hand with the length. You should ask yourself where you will be fishing? What does your fishing situation look like? Will you spend most of your time in a boat or wading? With rods having such a wide variety of lengths, it can sometimes be overwhelming. The following should answer your basic questions on what length of rod you will need:

Freshwater

  • Beginner: 7ft
  • Travel/ Hiking: Telescoping
  • Lake/ Pond: 6ft to 7ft
  • Small River: 5ft to 6ft
  • Medium River: 7ft to 8ft
  • Big River: 8ft to 10ft

Saltwater

  • Offshore: 7ft to 8ft
  • In shore: 6.5ft to 8ft
  • Surf: 9ft to 14ft
  • Deep Sea: 7ft

To break it down, if you are trying to launch your casts, you will want a longer rod for leverage. Longer rods are also beneficial for surf fishing and big rivers. You will want a shorter rod for species such as bass and trout, where you are fighting the fish constantly. Another advantage to the shorter rod is the control. So, if you are just starting out, a shorter rod will be the way to go! Don’t forget to think about where you will be using this rod and if you will travel with it a lot. If you are a big fan of hiking into alpine lakes, you may want a telescoping rod. Maybe your rod never leaves your boat, in this case a single-piece rod would work great!

How to Match your Rod to a Reel

So now you have everything you need to know to get a rod, but how do you size your reel to your rod? One way to do this is to match the line test rating on your rod to a reel. For example, if the rod says 2-10lb, you will want to match it to a reel in the same category. Another way to do this is to match the power of your rod to the rating of the reel:

  • 1000 to 3500 (10 to 35): ultra-light to light-power rod
  • 4000 to 5500 (40 to 55): medium-power rod
  • 6000 to 9500 (60 to 95): medium-heavy to heavy-power rod
  • 10000 and up: ultra-heavy power rod
A group of people fishing from the beach

Photo by Mathieu Le Roux

Value

Although there are plenty of questions to ask before buying your next spinning rod, the final question always comes down to how much should I spend on a rod? I am not the one to answer that, but if you are just getting into the sport of fishing, there is absolutely no problem going to your local fishing store and spending $25 on a basic combo to get started. If you plan to use it for a while, know that you normally get what you pay for with a rod. Spending a little extra money on quality to get one of the best rods may just be worth it if you want a setup that you can always count on when landing your next PB (personal best). Always ask what the warranty on a rod is, and if the manufacturer has been in the game for a while.

Either way, just get out there to fish and have fun! And if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to me or one of my fellow Fishing experts here at Curated.

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Written By
Tanner Druffel
Fly Fishing Expert
Hi, my name is Tanner, and I'm from Walla Walla, WA! I love to fly fish, and growing up in Southeastern Washington, I starting fising for bass and small trout. If I'm not on the river you'll find me tying flies in my garage. When I graduated high school, I had to make the hard decision of which coll...
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