An Expert Guide to Choosing the Perfect Baitcasting Rod

Choosing the right fishing rod style can be a tough choice for advanced anglers and beginners alike. Fishing expert Joe Price dives into everything you need to know.

Photo by Stephen Momot
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Choosing the right fishing rod style can be a tough choice for advanced anglers and beginners alike! Today’s market is full of choices that can cause some confusion for would-be buyers, but rod styles can be split simply into two categories: baitcasting and spinning. These two types of rods are made to fit their respective reel types, which represent two different casting and fishing styles. After reading this article you will be well versed in the world of baitcasting, (sometimes also referred to as “conventional”). Here we go!

What Is Baitcasting?

You might be asking yourself, what is baitcasting, don’t all rods “cast bait”? Good question! As you just read, baitcasting rods are designed to fit baitcasting reels; these reels are fashioned to mount on the top side of the rod, and the rod’s guides are also aligned on the top side of the blank. Don’t feel bad if you’ve been guilty of using a baitcasting rod up-side down, it’s a common beginner mistake.

This design element causes the line to put pressure down onto the guides, and in turn onto the blank when fighting fish, rather than pulling on the guides like with a spinning reel. The concept is great for fighting large and heavy fish that you might find offshore such as marlin and tuna, but there is more nuance to baitcasting than that!

Baitcasting reels also release line in a much tighter pattern than spinning reels, meaning guides can be smaller, and ultimately casting action is smoother with less drag than their spinning reel relatives. Also, because of the orientation of the reel on top, the angler’s thumb can be used to slow the release of line while casting by applying slight pressure to the spool. These characteristics work together to provide anglers with excellent casting distance as well as accuracy, but also present a steep learning curve for beginners. Anyone who has experienced a “rat’s nest” or “bird’s nest” while casting knows this all too well!

Within the casting rod category there is a wide array of rod styles designed for all types of fishing; from ultralight freshwater set-ups, to professional bass fishing outfits, heavy-duty offshore trolling rigs, and everything in between.

How To Choose

Now that we know generally what baitcasting rods are, and how they are used, the fun starts! So, how do you choose a baitcasting rod? The following paragraphs will outline major attributes to help narrow your search to the perfect rod for your needs.

Four fish hooks on a table
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Application

The type of fishing you wish to enjoy is arguably the biggest factor in deciding on a new rod. Many rod and reel manufacturers have adopted this principle, designing and naming rods for niche applications. This route makes shopping a straightforward and trouble-free experience. This designation could be a general application such as freshwater or saltwater. Alternatively, it could be something much more specific like a rod designed for a specific bait, lure, species of fish, or technique. Specific categories include: flipping and pitching, jigging, topwater, inshore, offshore, pier fishing, bass, snook, steelhead, walleye, trout—the list goes on!

Build Materials

Build materials for baitcasters (as well as spinning rods) are dominated by two main types: graphite and fiberglass. Fiberglass, a very durable material, was the industry standard for decades, but graphite or a composite of both materials has dominated the market in recent years. Graphite is inherently stiffer and more responsive than fiberglass, creating rods with faster action and greater sensitivity. These rods cast far, work lures well, detect the slightest of strikes, and can put lots of leverage on powerful fish.

Guide materials are hugely important and can factor in a lot for the cost of a new rod. You’ll find them in titanium, ceramic, zirconium, or a proprietary material. Along with the reel seat, guide material also determines if a rod is suitable for the corrosive environment of saltwater fishing.

Lastly, and not to be overlooked, handle material in an important component to overall rod design. Rods are largely built with either natural cork or EVA foam. The main difference between the two is durability. EVA foam tends to last longer with less care; however, many anglers prefer the classic look and feel of cork.

Attributes: Length, Power, & Action

Length is a very important attribute to consider when shopping as it has a fundamental impact on both casting distance and accuracy, as well as fish-fighting ability. Long rods, generally considered anything over 7ft, are great for long distance casts, but there is some sacrifice in accuracy. Shorter rods provide pinpoint accuracy when casting, or in the case of trolling and offshore rods, the power to fight large game fish and work heavy baits.

Rod power is another vital characteristic for consideration. Power ratings on rods are instrumental in determining what size baitcasting reel to pair with your rod, and in turn, what weight line to use. Power ranges from ultra-light rods to heavy-duty rods, and most anglers find using the lightest weight rod that can withstand the strength of your target species to be the most fun!

Rod action is essentially a measure of how quickly power is transmitted to the rod blank. Fast-action and extra-fast-action rods transmit power almost instantly, bending only near the top of the rod, and are recommended for heavy lures. Medium-action rods and slow-action rods bend further down the blank, and provide some cushion for using lighter-weight gear, and are useful for casting and working lighter finesse lures and live bait.

Looks & Ergonomics

Anyone who has spent a full day fishing knows that comfort plays a big part in enjoying your time spent on the water. Ergonomics is super important for fishing technique and individual casting styles. Some anglers prefer longer handles for those days when you need to make cast after cast, while others might prefer a shorter handle for trolling, or just out of personal preference.

And hey, it should look good to you as well! Just like car color, rods come in many different finishes to appeal to any angler’s preference. Buying a rod that you love will make it that much better when it comes time to reach for it, and it might just make you a better fisherman in the long run!

Five rods resting on the ground against a white fence at sunset
Photo by Gen Dalton

Value

Now that you understand the ins and outs of baitcasting rod design and construction, you can determine not only which rods will best fit your needs, but also which of them are the best value! Not every rod is created equal, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive rod on the market to get great quality. Ultimately, the important thing is to find a rod with all the elements you need to get out there and enjoy your style of fishing.

If you need some help finding that perfect rod and reel, shoot a message to one of Curated’s Fishing experts for free advice and recommendations.

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Written By
I grew up on the flats of West Florida, where I was lucky enough to fall in love with fly fishing and the ocean early on. My thoughts were filled with Reds, Bones, Snook and Tarpon. I would spend nights reading books on patterns and tying Clousers, organizing my tackle and dreaming about the next ca...

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