Choosing The Right Rod
How do you know which bass fishing rod to use for what?
By Mark Lassagne
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The right fishing rod will make you a better angler. Many anglers are unaware that the fishing rod is one of the most important tools for catching and landing bass. How many times have you gone out and only landed half of the fish that bite? What about when you thought it was a bite but weren't quite sure? How many bites do you miss on each outing? Are you able to make accurate casts with your rod? These are only a few things that having the right rod will help you with.
I am often asked, "How do you know which rod to use for what?" It's much like playing golf. Each shot requires a different club. In bass angling, each type of lure requires a different type of rod. This is a good one to tell your spouse. Picking the right rod can be confusing to say the least: fiberglass or graphite, fast or slow, heavy or light. Hopefully, we can shed some light on the subject and help you with your next rod purchase.
The basic rod is made from either fiberglass or graphite. This material is woven into what looks like sheets of cloth. The finer the weave, the faster the action. The weave is measured in modulus. Fiberglass rods have a modulus of 6 to 13 million and graphite rods are from 33- to 60-million modulus (ie: IM6 has 33,000,000 and IM7 has 42,000,000).
A high modulus rod would be stiffer, faster, lighter and more sensitive, but will also be more brittle, much like the difference between Plexiglas and glass. All rod blanks are not created equal. A quality blank will be lightweight and engineered for a specific action. Rod designers spend many hours to achieve the right action.
The rod components are equally as important as the rod blank itself. The rod handle can be made of many different types of materials such as wood, cork or foam. The handle should fit your hand comfortably and still be firm enough to carry sensitivity. The reel seat should be made of a sturdy composite material and fit all major brands of reels firmly. A reel seat with a cut out that allows the rod blank to be felt by the hand will provide the angler greater sensitivity.
The guides are one of the most important elements of the rod - and can be the costliest. A low-quality guide will ruin even the best blank. A high-quality, low-profile, lightweight guide, will increase sensitivity and casting distance. When looking at a guide, make sure the ceramic ring is rounded where the line travels through. Also, the ceramic should be bonded to the stainless steel guide frame. A rod with Fuji guides, using Fuji's new guide concept, would be a good choice. A complete description of the new guide concept can be found at www.fujitackle.com.
After a brief look at the rod materials and components, there is another important factor to consider that is not visible by looking. You need to know if the rod builder uses a spline to line up the guides. The spline is like a seam in the rod blank which makes one side of the rod stiffer then the other. If the manufacturer did not use a spline to line up the guides, each rod would have a different action even though they were the same part numbers.
Assuming the manufacturer used the spline to line up the guides you have to then look at the guides themselves. Guides are designed to handle specific line sizes. Guides should be compatible to the line size rating for the rod. Each length rod should have a specific number of guides. For example, a 7-foot rod should have nine guides, including the top. Guides come in two styles, single foot and double foot. The feet are what attaches to the rod. Double foot guides are stronger but they are slightly heavier and you loose a small amount of flex in the rod. Single foot guides are lighter but are not as strong as the double footguides. Even though single foot guides are not as strong, they will work fine for most bass fishing rods.
Many new fishing rods have a combination of both guide types, using double foot guides near the handle and single foot guides near the tip where the rod flexes the most.
Sensitivity is one of the most important factors when choosing a rod. With a sensitive rod you will, with time, be able to decipher what is happening with your bait. How many times has something happened to your bait and you couldn't tell if it was a bite or not? Graphite fishing rods are generally more sensitive than fiberglass rods but there have been advancements in technology that have made some fiberglass rods as sensitive as many graphite rods.
Buzzbaits and spinnerbaits:
With buzzbaits and spinnerbaits, you will be casting continuously, so a lightweight rod is important. Sensitivity is also essential because many times the fish will bump the blades prior to striking. A 6-foot rod will give a little more casting accuracy, but a 7-foot rod will give you more hooksetting power, leverage and casting distance. A fiberglass rod will give the fish time to inhale the bait before you set the hook. These baits use a single hook, allowing you to put more pressure on the fish during the fight so a medium-action rod would allow enough power to land the fish. The tip needs be flexible enough to cast the lure accurately.
Best rod: Lightweight, sensitive, 6 1/2-foot- to 7-foot rod with a medium action and a medium/soft tip.
Crankbaits and topwater lures:
As spinnerbaits, crankbaits and topwater lures require continuous casting, so weight is an important factor. Sensitivity is also important, not so much for topwater but for cranking. After you get accustomed to the bait you're using, a sensitive rod will help you determine what type of structure the bait is contacting. If the fish are on a hard clay bottom and you know your bait is digging into the mud then you know you are in the wrong location.
A 7-foot rod is good for distance and for casting larger baits. A 6- to 6 1/2-foot rod is more accurate, so you have to adjust the rod length to the type of fishing you do. Crankbait and topwater rods should be made of fiberglass, which allows the fish time to inhale the bait before you set the hook. The treble hooks on crankbaits and topwater lures can dislodge if you apply too much pressure. The added flex of a fiberglass rod will keep the hooks from coming unbuttoned.
A medium action rod is usually fine so long as the rod has enough backbone to get a good hookset and flexible enough to cast the lure you are using. A 1/8-ounce lure needs a light tip while a 314-ounce lure requires a medium tip.
Best rod: A lightweight, sensitive, 6- to 7-foot fiberglass rod with a medium action tip or a light action tip, depending on the weight of the lure.
Worms and jigs:
As worm fishing varies from east to west, this example will be for fishing small worms 4 to 6 inches, and smaller finesse jigs in water from 5 to 60 feet deep.
When fishing deep water, the two most important factors are sensitivity and weight. Sensitivity is crucial to feel the more subtle bites and weight is important because you will be holding the rod up in the 9 to 10 o'clock positions for long periods of time.
Use a 6 1/2- to 7 1/2-foot rod, depending on your preference and type of structure you are fishing. I prefer a 6 1/2-footer when fishing 20 to 60 feet deep, and a 7 1/2-footer when fishing 5 to 20 feet deep. Graphite rods are lighter, more sensitive and faster than most fiberglass rods. You want a fast rod with a medium backbone to get a good, fast, hookset. It is important to have a soft enough tip to maintain tension on the fish at all times. Many times, when you hook a fish, only the point of the hook will be embedded and unless you apply enough tension, you can get slack in the line and easily loose the fish when it gets close to the boat.
Best rod: A lightweight, highly sensitive rod, 6 1/2 feet to 7 1/2 feet, made of graphite with a medium action and a medium light tip.
Flipping and pitching:
Flipping requires you to hold the rod near the nine o'clock position and making a pendulum motion. Weight is vital when holding the rod up for extended periods of time. Flipping rods are designed for removing fish from heavy cover in shallow water.
The recommended size would be from 7- to 8-feet long (many tournament circuits do not allow bass fishing rods longer than 8-feet). A good choice would be a 7 1/2-foot rod because it is a little easier to pitch the baits. Pitching and flipping go together. Look at the tip, make sure it has some flexibility. This flexibility will make it easier for the angler to make quiet entries into the water and makes pitching much simpler when necessary.
Your flipping stick should be made of lightweight graphite and have a stiff backbone to pull those fish out of heavy cover. While sensitivity is important, usually you will see the strike long before you feet it.
Best fishing rod: A lightweight 7 112-foot graphite rod with a stiff backbone and a medium fast tip.
Choosing the correct rod will enhance your fishing and make each trip more successful. Increase your hooksets and you'll catch more fish. Using these tips will also save you money in the long run by keeping you from purchasing rods that have little purpose in your arsenal. The right rod CAN make a difference. Give it a try!
Reprinted with permission from Bass West MagazineBass Fishing Basics For Beginners