“THE TACKLE BOX”
Last month I discussed filling your tackle box and hopefully I provided you with the basic knowledge in doing so. This month I will take the next step in the progression towards catching fish by discussing how to choose the right rod. This is a very important aspect of fishing no matter where you are planning to go; fresh or salt water, offshore or inshore. It may not be a big deal for those who fish in freshwater, but those of us who call salt water home understand the high demand’s placed on your gear, so choosing the right rod and reel is extremely important. We might understand this point a little more than our visitors from the north, but they too experience the corrosive nature of salt exposure on their automobiles and other outdoor equipment. The salt particles manage to find their way onto the guides of our rods so I will talk about general care and maintenance as well. Due to the complexity of rods, this month I will discuss spinning rods only with regards to components, materials, and selection. Over the following months I will talk about casting, conventional, surf, stand-up, boat, and fly rods.
Selecting the right rod is like choosing a new car with all the different makes and models, all the new bells and whistles. There are numerous rod manufactures, too many to mention, but a few of the most familiar ones are G-Loomis, Sage, St Croix, Shimano, and Redbone. Each year rod companies come out with new and improved products, each with their own version of basically the same thing. Rods vary in price almost by as many companies as there are producing them. They can range from $40 all the way to $300 and above. With this in mind, I will try and point out the most important features to look for and make the selection process as easy as possible. I will focus on what I think are the important factors in selecting the right rod for many applications and situations.
Let’s break down spinning rods into their four basic components; butt section, reel seat, guides and rod blanks. I will discuss briefly look each of these components.
The butt section of the rod is usually made of foam or cork and is the back end or the part that is placed into a fighting belt. The reel seat is where the reel is attached. They usually have a screw type locking design and are made of corrosion resistant material. The guides are the part of the rod that the line moves through. They are made of various materials based on hardness, and some of the new model rods can handle almost anything you can throw at them. Those made of high tech materials like aluminum oxide are extremely smooth and eliminate line fray. There are even some collapsible guides that flex when pressure is applied so anglers don’t have to worry about breaking them. The guides should be checked frequently for signs of wear or damage. They come in two basic types spinning and casting. Spinning rods have larger guides to allow the line coming off the reels to move smoothly through, and conventional or casting rods have smaller guides because of the lower profile configuration of casting reels. The line coming off casting reels is much lower toward the rod compared to spinning reels which sit considerably higher off the reel seat of the rod. The rod blank is probably the most important feature of the rod. They come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and strengths. The strength is probably the most important feature of all.
Over the years the composition of rod blank materials has changed. Back in the day rods were made with either fiberglass or bamboo, but technology has provided anglers with a new choice. Today, for the most part, rods are made with either graphite or fiberglass or a combination of the two. Graphite rods are lighter, and provide the angler with more power, but will break easy. Graphite provides more feel for the lure, nibbles, and strikes. There are many classifications of graphite depending of the amount used in the blank. Fiberglass rods are stronger but not as sensitive. There are also new materials coming out every year that not only make rods stronger but also lighter. One of these materials is glass. Glass rods and glass- composite combinations have become a favorite among saltwater anglers, due to their forgiving qualities and greater strength.
There is really no way to correctly categorize rod action, but most rod manufactures mark their rods with a range of line sizes and lure weights. Rods are usually categorized by flex, or the amount of force they can handle before breaking. The classifications are light, medium light, medium, medium heavy, heavy, and extra heavy. There are also some new rods out that are even stronger.
Something that needs to be mentioned here is the idea of the taper of the rod. You often will hear word like “regular taper” or “fast taper” when talking about spinning rods. A regular taper is one where the diameter of the rod blank is more gradual from the butt to the tip. This is also called a slow action rod. A fast taper is one in which the diameter of the butt section is quite large and the blank tapers downward as it moves to the tip. This provides a faster action on the tip which allows a quicker snap of the rod for further casting with lighter lures or natural bait.
In addition to the flex rating, rods are also rated based on what lb line they can handle. For example, a medium rod might be rated for 6-12 lb line. This can be confusing because a rod that is rated for say 6-12 lbs can handle larger line strength without breaking. It should be mentioned here that these are general classifications and there is considerable overlapping when it comes to usefulness. This is where the reel comes into play. By using the reel and its drag to play the fish a rod can handle larger line. You would be surprised how much 12 lbs of pressure actually is. The new rods that I spoke of earlier are actually rated for up to 200 lb braid line. Talk about pressure.
When looking at length, rods vary from small ice fishing rods to extremely long surf casting rods. They can be as short as a foot and a half or as long as twenty feet. The length of the rod serves mainly one purpose, that being casting distance. The longer the rod the longer the casting ability. The angler can generate more forward casting speed with a longer rod, therefore resulting in longer casts. That is why you see those people surf fishing with long rods, so they can get their baits out past the surf zone. Some of them have been known to cast over 200 feet. The length of the rod is matched with the power or flex rating to give the angler the maximum fighting ability.
Well hopefully you are still with me and I have not confused you completely. Let’s move on to the important part. When choosing the right rod, one must first determine the application and then begin the selection process. The reason for this is simple; you wouldn’t choose a sports car for hauling mulch, so why choose an 8 foot heavy action rod for trout fishing. When fishing inshore I like to use 6 1/2 -7 foot medium heavy rods for most of my applications. These can handle almost any type of fishing I might encounter. Trout on the flats or snook under the mangroves this rod would be fine. If you are fishing primarily for trout on the grass flats a 6.6-7 ft medium action rod would be perfect. There are times when I prefer a longer rod, i.e. tarpon fishing. I use an 8 ft heavy action rod with a fast action tip for casting live bait to rolling tarpon. There are also times when I am tarpon fishing that I use a smaller rod, 6.6 because they are easier to handle for women or children. Sometimes a shorter rod works better than a longer one; over time you just have a feel for what is right.
Finally, there is always discussion concerning a two-piece rod vs. a one-piece. First and foremost a multi-piece rod is not weaker for most fishing applications, than a one-piece. The main difference is ease of break-down for travel or storage purposes. Over the years, the metal ferrules (where the rod sections come apart) have been replaced with glass-over-glass or graphite-over-graphite to prevent corrosion. In theory, a two piece rod will not come apart at the ferrule. There are some saltwater anglers who believe it could happen after a prolonged fight with a large fish, especially if too much pressure is being applied during the fight. In this situation, a one-piece rod would be stronger, and the angler is more apt to put up with the fact that the rod can’t be broken down for ease of storage or transport.
I can only hope that I have provided you with a general knowledge of spinning rods, and how to select the proper rod for your needs. It is impossible to provide all the information when it comes to spinning rods, but I tried. Over the next few months I will talk about the other rods and how to select what is right for you. If you would like any other information regarding spinning rods or would like to see what I have you can contact me at 239-229-4705. If you would like to fish with the rods that I use give me a call and let’s go fishing. This is Captain Jon Fetter and until next time, “May Everyone Enjoy the Fishing As Much As I Do. Screaming Drags!!!!”