How to Read Fishing Rod Specs? Most Important Characteristics!

How to Read Fishing Rod Specs

Buying a new rod is a fun experience, however, it can also be a tedious task when you start comparing all the available features.

Although they look simple, rods are very sophisticated parts of your gear, and they can make or break the overall fishing experience. 

Knowing how to to read fishing rod specs is important because it explains what is the rod made for, how will bait presentation be, how will hooking happen, how balanced and sensitive the rod is, and how strong it is.

The most important characteristics to look for are rod type (casting rod or spinning rod), action, power, length, material, number of guides, handle type, line and lure weight, and rod sensitivity. 

So, here is a short guide that will tell you everything you need to know before you choose a fishing rod!



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Understanding Fishing Rod Length

When it comes to understanding of fishing rod specs, the first and most obvious is rod length.

Length greatly affects casting distance. Longer rods enable very long casting distances and can cover more water, however, those casts are a bit less precise, especially in the hands of inexperienced anglers. Shorter rods can't achieve such great distances but you can usually be very precise while casting shorter distances. 

In addition to that, long rods are great for open spaces, but for heavy covers, bushes, or small boats, they can be a nuisance to handle. 

Short rods are less bendy and are excellent for techniques where bait is positioned right in front of you, like ice fishing or jigging. Long rods are excellent for larger bodies of water and fast lures like crankbaits which cover great distances. 

Here are the recommended lengths for various fish and techniques:

  • SPINNING FOR TROUT - 7 ft rods (most versatile), especially for beginners
  • CARP FISHING - long rods, 12 to 13 ft
  • VERTICAL JIGGING - short rods, 6 to 6.5 ft
  • BASS FISHING - 7 ft for buzzbait,  6.5 ft for topwater, 7ft for worms
  • SURF FISHING - 9 to 14 ft

Fishing Rod Specs - Length

Deciphering Fishing Rod Power Rating

A very important rod specification is its power

The power of the rod is defined as the resistance to bending when pressure is applied. It is frequently mixed up with action, and the difference must be clarified. 

Power must be chosen in accordance with fish size and weight. The bigger and heavier your targeted species is, the higher the power rating you should choose. 

  • HEAVY POWER - means that the rod will have high resistance to bending, and that is useful for large artificial lures that create a lot of resistance and catch very big and heavy fish. Some rods are even defined as ultra heavy and those are great for offshore fishing for fish like tuna.

  • MEDIUM POWER - is very versatile and used for medium size fish. Because anglers love to have very specialized equipment, medium power is also divided into medium light and medium heavy subcategories.  It is excellent for bass, catfish, and similar fish.

  • LIGHT POWER -  is used for small fish and light lures, and it is great for beginners fishing in smaller bodies of water. There is also an ultra-light subcategory, used for the smallest specimens when fishing for panfish or trout. 

This also affects fishing line and lure weight. For example, ultra-light power rods go well with 2-4 lb test lines and 1/64 to 1/16 oz lures. 

If you choose too little power for large fish, hooksets won't be precise, the rod will bend a lot, and landing the fish will be a nightmare. It could even break. The same goes for working a large lure with a light and bendy rod. The negative impact on performance is quite big when wrongly chosen. 

Fishing Rod Specs - Power

Examining Fishing Rod Action

Rod action determines where the rod will bend when pressure is applied

  • FAST ACTION - rods bend at the top third or fourth. Ultra-fast ones will bend only at the tip.These rods are very sensitive and you can have incredible lure control.

  • MODERATE ACTION - rods will bend at half of their length. A subcategory of medium fast also exists and those will bend somewhere in between the middle of the total length and upper third.

  • SLOW ACTION - rods will bend along the whole length. 

This rod flexibility determines the control over fish when fighting it and lure control. For example, slower rods are less responsive and "softer" which makes them great for using live bait where a gentle approach is needed and can work well with treble hooks. 

Medium action is the most versatile and great for beginners. It offers good casting ability and fairly fast and precise hooksets. Goes well with spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and similar lures. 

Fast action rods are very responsive and give the fastest hooksets. Bass anglers love these rods! They are great for worms and single hooks. 

Both power and action are among the most important specs. 

Fishing Rod Specs - Action

Evaluating Fishing Rod Material

When choosing the best rod you should check the material too.

  • FIBERGLASS RODS - are among the most popular, most affordable, versatile, and ideal for beginners. It is strong, flexible, and usually slow and medium action are made of it. They are quite resilient and suitable for rough use, in rocky terrains. These rods work well with live baits.

  • GRAPHITE RODS - are lightweight, very accurate, and sensitive, enabling great casts, and this material is excellent for fast action. They are stiffer and stronger, but the downside is the very high price and sensitivity to impacts and mishandling. They are best to be used with strong and large fish, and due to precision and sensitivity, bass anglers love them.

  • COMPOSITE MATERIAL - rods are "the best of both worlds". The combined properties of different materials give them versatile features. Usually, the combination consists of fiberglass, carbon fibers, and similar.

    These rods are more sensitive than fiberglass, but also less powerful than graphite. Many medium-action rods are made of composites, and the price of these rods can vary a lot. Usually, they are in some mid-price range. They go excellent with a large selection of lures. 

Among other materials, some traditional fishing rods are made of wood or bamboo

Considering Fishing Rod Handle and Grip

The perfect rod is comfortable to use!

How it lays and feels in your hand is extremely important in techniques like jigging or spinning when you have to hold it for a prolonged period.

If you keep it in a rod holder while waiting for carp to bite that's one thing, but jigging for bass is something else. Sensitivity is also important for "hands-on" fishing, while for techniques like trolling it doesn't affect you. 

There are three main materials and all have certain advantages and disadvantages. 

  • FOAM - durable, lightweight, and water-resistant if quality-made. It is excellent for rough use. The downside is less sensitive as it doesn't transfer vibrations so it is not suitable for use where high sensitivity is required (jigging for example).

  • CORK - comfortable, relatively lightweight, does not absorb. It is sensitive and lightweight. Vibrations are transferred excellently. The downsides are chipping and price.

  • RUBBER - cheap, easy to clean, and offers excellent grip. However, it has the worst sensitivity and adds extra weight.

  • WOOD - looks great but it is heavy and due to lack of soft cushioning, it is not comfortable to use. 

Fishing Rod Specs - Handle-and-Grip

In addition to this, consider the grip too ...

  • FULL GRIP is the most common one, they cover the length of the handle and can be used with both hands. Very useful in long surf rods and rods used for fighting large fish. The downside is that it adds to overall weight of the rod.
  • SPLIT GRIP is divided into 2 parts, leaving the rod blank exposed in the middle. This reduces weight and increases sensitivity to vibrations through the exposed part. It is not that comfortable to hold for a long time and fight very large fish, however, those who prefer sensitivity and want to have light rod often choose these grips.

  • PISTOL GRIPS are made specifically for single hand use, but are less comfortable and offer less control when fighting fish. 

Importance of Right Fishing Rod Guides

Fishing rod line guides have a large effect on your fishing experience and you should check them thoroughly as you would action and power, or any other feature when buying the perfect rod for your needs.

Rod may have different numbers of line guides and they can be made of different materials. If the rod doesn't perform well, it may be due to line guides. 

Guides need to enable the smooth passage of lines through them. The lower the friction, the greater the casting distance will be. In addition to that, your line won't suffer friction damage. Line guides also affect the overall sensitivity. 

Historically, steel with ceramic inserts was used, but that was too heavy. 

Today, silicon carbide guides and titanium carbide guides (both with ceramic inserts) are the ones to go to, if you have the budget. They are used on high-end rods, friction is minimized, and casting distance and line control are maximized. 

Various aluminum alloys are also used, and their performance is very good, while the price is lower. 

Titanium guides are also one pricey possibility, and those are the lightest due to the lack of ceramic inserts. 

The style of guides can be double or single-footed. Single are more sensitive and light, while double are more suitable for fighting very heavy fish. 

When it comes to number, the higher it is, the better casting and line control. Energy and stress will be more evenly distributed along the blank.

How to Read Fishing Rod Specs - Guides


When looking for a rod, you will often see a description that contains fishing rod numbers.

For example: 7`6", Line 4-12lb, Lure WT 1/3-1/8 oz, 4pc. The first number shows the length. Second is the line rating, and third is lure weight. The fourth number shows you a number of pieces (here it is a 4-piece rod). 

Choose all those features, including rod power and action of the rod in accordance with your preferred fishing technique and the fish you are catching. 

No matter what type of rod you choose or what type of fishing you prefer, it is important to invest in equipment made by reputable rod manufacturers who consider performance and durability. 

The fishing rod terminology may seem complex but when you know the meaning of it, you will easily recognize all the specs stated. That will enable you to choose the perfect rod for your needs!

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