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HOW TO SELECT A FISHING ROD THAT SUITS YOUR SPECIFIC ANGLING NEEDSFishing rods have certainly come a long way since the days of the old cane pole. Today, there are thousands of state-of-the-art rod models for anglers to choose from. Freshwater, saltwater, spinning, conventional, graphite, fiberglass, composite, solid, tubular - the list of modern-day rod descriptions goes on and on. With so many types and styles now available, the task of selecting a rod can be a bit perplexing for today's angler. The following tips should help you choose a rod that's ideal for your specific fishing needs:
First Things First
Step one in the rod selection process is to analyze the general fishing situation and your angling requirements. Think about the kind of fishing you will be doing, the size range of the fish you'll be targeting, the pound-test line you'll be using. Consider the technique that will be employed. Will you be casting lures, fly-lining baits, dropping down to the bottom or trolling? Will this rod be used for saltwater fishing, freshwater applications, or will it need to serve double duty? It's also important to determine your budget, right off the bat. If you have $80 to work with, you'll have a completely different set of options than if you have $180 to spend. Coming up with clear answers to questions like these will help define your search and simplify matters significantly.
Type, Length, and Weight
Early in the game, you'll need to decide upon a preferred rod type, length and weight. While personal preference factors will definitely come into play, be sure to choose a rod that will provide ease of use and optimum effectiveness, taking into consideration your skill level and the fishing situation. Assuming you have already purchased a reel, you'll want to match your reel with a rod designed specifically for that type of product (ie. spinning rod with a spinning reel, conventional rod with a conventional reel, baitcasting rod with a baitcaster). A "no- brainer" so far, right? However, in order to form a properly matched and balanced outfit, you also need to ensure that the rod you select is the appropriate size and class for your reel. For example, if you have a reel designed for use with 8 to 10-pound test, it's best to match that reel with an 8- to 10 pound class rod. Most tackle manufacturers provide useful information in this regard within the rod and reel "spec charts" of their respective product catalogs and Web sites.
Rod length is another important consideration, especially when it comes to casting and fish-fighting power. A longer rod will typically allow for greater casting distance, due to simple physics. That's why rods specialized for surf casting are longer than standard spinning or conventional models. The length of the rod also comes into play when you fight a fish. If you're fighting a tuna stand-up style for instance, a shorter, stouter rod will provide greater leverage for "pumping" this kind of powerful, sounding fish up from deeper water. In addition to length, rod weight and diameter are also important variables. Casting and fishing with an extremely heavy or bulky rod can wear upon an angler, especially over the course of a long day on the water.
After choosing a desired rod type, length and weight, next consider whether a one-piece or multiple-piece rod will better suit your needs. Many anglers prefer the strength and solid feel of a one-piece rod, especially for heavier duty applications. But what if you will be flying, driving or hiking to your fishing destination? For scenarios like these, a rod that breaks down in at least two sections may be a necessity. Some rod manufacturers even offer selections of compact three- and four-piece "travel rods," complete with their own carrying cases, specially designed for easy storage and transport.
Determining the species and size of the fish your adversary will help you make decisions in regard to rod action. In general terms, a rod's "action" refers to the way a rod performs when the angler casts and fights a fish. Rod action takes into account the size of the fish that a rod can handle, the weight of the lures it can cast, and the recommended pound-test line (ie. 8- to 10-pound test, 12- to 20-pound pound test, 20- to 30-pound test) for that particular model. Tackle dealers may offer everything from light spinning rods built for taking on small inshore species, to heavy action models made for taking on big game saltwater predators. General rod action classifications include: Ultra-light, Light, Medium-Light, Medium Heavy and Heavy.
The taper of a particular rod also helps determine the overall action. For instance, some rods are "fast-taper" models, which means the rod features a lighter, more sensitive tip that quickly tapers into a stronger, more stout portion of the blank. A "slow-taper" rod has a tip portion that tapers more gradually into the rest of the blank. Finally, some rods are parabolic in design, which means that there is very little difference in action throughout the entire length of the rod blank. Differing rod tapers are designed for handling the requirements of specific fishing situations and applications. A fast-taper saltwater live bait rod, for example, provides the sensitivity in the tip to sense subtle strikes, plus plenty of strength and backbone in the rest of the blank for overpowering hard-fighting game fish.
Materials, Construction, and Components
Choosing a basic rod category, size and action is just part of the rod selection process. You also should consider the composition of the rod, its overall construction, and the quality of the various components. As far as rod blank materials are concerned, three basic types are used in the manufacture of most rods on the market today - graphite, fiberglass and graphite/fiberglass composite. Graphite rod blanks are extremely light and offer the highest level of sensitivity. The best choice for targeting species that hit lightly is graphite, which delivers superior detection of subtle bites and pick-ups. Due to the nature of graphite construction, such vibrations are transmitted more quickly and effectively through the entire length of the rod, from the tip all the way to the handle and the angler's hand. While graphite rods are lightweight and sensitive, they tend to be more fragile than fiberglass or composite rods. There's often a durability trade-off for the decreased weight and increased sensitivity of graphite.
Rods made of fiberglass are typically tougher and more durable than graphite rods, yet they are not as sensitive when it comes to detecting strikes. Two basic categories of fiberglass rods are available - tubular and solid. Tubular fiberglass rods feature hollow cores and are lighter than solid fiberglass models. Solid glass models generally offer greater strength and durability than tubular rods. The downside being that solid fiberglass rods can weigh considerably more than their tubular cousins.
Composite rod blanks, made from a blend of graphite and fiberglass, offer a happy medium. By combining these two materials, rod manufacturers are able to offer anglers a balance of durability, sensitivity and weight, ideal for handling a wide variety of fishing assignments.
Rod guides can differ in both style and composition. Spinning rods feature ring guides, while conventional rods can have ring guides, roller guides, or a combination of the two. Ring guides may be stainless steel, anodized aluminum or ceramic. Some lower price-point rod rods may have plastic ring guides. Rods with roller guides generally made of stainless steel, are designed for either trolling or stand-up fishing applications. The rollers reduce the amount of friction and stress put on the line during a fight. This is an important factor, especially when battling larger, saltwater game fish.
When it comes to composition, stainless steel guides offer high strength and corrosion resistance. Aluminum guides are also corrosion resistant, yet they not as strong as the stainless steel variety. Ceramic construction allows line to flow more freely through the guides when casting or fighting a fish for reduced friction and less wear and tear on the line.
Rods not only offer varying types of guides, but wraps can be differ as well. Rod wraps along with epoxy coating, secure each guide to the rod blank. Wraps vary in quality and workmanship. Most high quality rods feature guides that have multiple wraps for superior strength, security and durability.
Like guides, rod grips may also vary in composition and design. Most rods feature either EVA foam grips or cork grips. The grip length and style can also differ according to the type and overall design of the rod. For example, a heavy duty, stand-up saltwater rod may have an elongated foam grip that allows for better traction and leverage for fighting big fish. Many lighter action spinning and conventional rods feature cork grips, which transfer vibration better for increased sensitivity, while helping to maintain the rod's reduced weight. Rods specialized for baitcasting reels, typically come with "trigger style" handles, which can feature either foam or cork grips. Also known as "popping" rods, baitcasting models allow for a more secure and comfortable grip for situations requiring a significant amount of casting.
Cost, Quality, and Warranty
When it comes to purchasing any type of rod, whether it be a spinning, conventional or baitcasting model, the old adage "you get what you pay for" usually rings true. While kids and novice anglers may want to start out with a lower priced, "entry level" rod model, it doesn't make sense to sacrifice quality, performance and durability to save a few bucks in the short term. Investing in a quality rod will provide you with superior, longer lasting fish-fighting performance. Also make sure that every rod you purchase carries a full U.S. manufacturer warranty covering breakage and any manufacturer defects. If you have already determined the type of rod you are looking for, you may want to consider shopping online for greater savings and convenience. Reputable tackle e-tailers, such as BoatersWorld.com and OuterBanksOutfitters.com offer a tremendous selection of quality rods with full U.S. Warranties, plus the added benefits of a "Low Prices Guarantee," and no sales tax.
The OuterBanksOutfitters Custom Power Stick Collection
The new Outer Banks Outfitters Custom Power Stick Rod Collection (available online at OuterBanksOutfitters.com and BoatersWorld.com) includes a complete family of high quality rods designed to handle a variety of inshore and offshore angling assignments. The collection features customized rods for taking on everything from finicky speckled trout to giant bluefin tuna. In addition to the general "rod selection" tips provided above, you can use the product details and technical information at the newly-created Outer Banks Outfitters Custom Power Sticks - section to select a rod that's perfect for you. Custom Power Stick Rod categories include: Custom IGFA Trolling; Custom Crafted Stand-Up; Custom Inshore Spinning Series; Custom Offshore Spinning Series; Custom Surf Series; Custom Offshore Sand-Up Series and Custom Offshore Live Bait Series.