The foundation of all fishing rods is the rod blank – the long, slender pole that guides, handles, etc are placed on creating a fishing rod. There are thousands of rod blanks to choose from. It can be an overwhelming world of material composition, actions, power, length, and weight. Add to that handle lengths, styles, guides, etc and it gets even more complex. You want a fishing rod to meets your expectations, but how do you know what to expect?.
There are several things you can determine that will help in your discussions about any fishing rod, store bought or custom built:
How will you be using the rod (Technique, lure weight, line weight, etc.)?
What is important to you (casting accuracy, hook setting power, overall weight, casting dis-tance, sensitivity, looks)?
These are codependent and you have to balance your desires. That is, one preference will impact another. When throwing a jig on open points, you may prefer a strong hook set ability with a long cast. If youre finesse fishing, you can usually forego some of the hook set power for presentation ability. Different techniques require different performance characteristics for the fishing rod.
Here are some rod blank attributes to consider when prioritizing your rod performance desires. These are some common traits all rods have regardless of manufacturer.
Power: This is generally regarded as the blanks stiffness or resistance to bending. Heavy baits and line usually require heavier action. A Slop/Frog rod is usually going to have a heavier action than a Shakey Head rod. (Note: Power ratings are not standardized among manufac-turerssome use numbers, some use MedHvy, etcbut even those terms dont mean a rod has the same power!)
Action: Best defined as the location where the initial amount of flex in the rod blank occurs. Faster actions are in the top third of a blank while a slow action may flex the entire length of the blank. Action can have a dramatic impact on casting distance.
Blank composition: Glass (EGlass/SGlass) rods tend to have slower recovery rates (returning to straight) than graphite rods. Graphite blend or glass rods have long been favorites for crank-baits. This slower rod response helps stop treble hooks from being ripped out and also assists with deflection off stumps, rocks, etc on the retrieve. Graphite rods tend to be faster respond-ing. Many new graphite rods have been designed to mimic the actions (see action above) of glass rods, but still respond quicker.
Modulus Rating: In general terms, the higher the modulus of the graphite, the lighter the blank can be for a certain stiffness. Higher modulus is not always better for some techniques nor are modulus ratings always equal. Manufacturers many times use the highest modulus rating for advertising regardless of how much of a rod is made of that grade modulus. There could be just a small amount of that high modulus material in a given rod. Buyer beware. Tip: Use higher modulus rods for feel techniques. Use lower modulus rods for moving baits and rods used for extreme techniques like a punch/slop rod. Feel isnt as important as durability for the latter.
Length: Shorter blanks are lighter than longer blanks, tend to be better at pinpoint casting accu-racy, and give the ability to move fish easier. Longer blanks offer greater hook setting power because they allow a larger swing arc. This larger swing arc can also create longer casts. Longer rods can also help with certain presentations such as flippin and pitchin.
Weight: Rod weight can impact sensitivity. Given two identical blanks, the one built with less total weight added will be more sensitive. Comfort of use is a major consideration associated with rod weight.
Line Rating: The line rating is usually a suggested range for that rod. Typically a rod is designed for that # test line to break before the rod should (excluding circumstances such as high sticking or high reaching with a rod). Exceeding the maximum line rating can void rod warranties. Exam-ple: Using 50# braid on a rod rated for 817# line.
Lure Rating: This is the lure rating the rod was designed for optimum performance. Often you are better to go in the top end of the weight range. Example: If you throw a 1/2 ounce jig, use a rod rated for a maximum of 3/4 ounce. Dont forget to include your trailer! A half ounce jig with a Paca Chunk actually weighs close to .7 ounces! If you threw the same trailer on a 3/4 ounce jig, you probably want to consider a rod with a maximum weight of 1 ouncenot the same 3/4 ounce rod.
Guides: Most guides on the market today handle all types of line (mono, flouro, braid, etc) fine. As you step up in guide grades (Ex. Fuji Alconite to Fuji SiC), you get a harder ring material and a higher polish. In some cases you also get a lighter guide. Use a rod with the smallest guides needed to accomplish the job.
Grips: Split grips were created to lessen weight to increase sensitivity. Personal preference of-ten dictates handle styles. Handle length is another preference. Longer handles help balance and can assist in presentation techniques. Example: Swimbait rods usually have longer handles to enable pinning the rod under the anglers arm to reduce fatigue.
Nothing beats feeling a rod in your hands. Go to a store with a large selection. Pull five (or so) off that rack that meet your needs. Compare them side by side. That will give you a true indication of what you are comparing. Too many times people pick one up, feel it, put it back, walk down five feet and try the next. Hold them right beside each other to compare. Go to the reel counter and put the reel you are going to use on them. How do they feel now? How do they compare to the favorite rods you use every time you go out to fish?
Another outstanding option, especially if you are considering a rod over the $200 mark, is to consult a custom rod builder. A competent custom rod builder can help guide you through all these points, offer several options, and make the process of buying and selecting your next rod very enjoyable and exciting. Custom builders can also many options not available on store built rods (hookkeeper choices, colors, reel seats, handle shapes, etc).
You want a fishing rod to meets your expectations. With a little more knowledge you should be able to make a better selection and more informed purchase!
By Alex Dziengielewski of ALX Rods