Fishing Rod Action 101 Choosing The Ideal Action 2021 Guide

Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.


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I used to puzzle hard about what rod actions meant and if I needed it to be lighter or if the rod and reel had to match because of it.

But it’s actually quite simple and when you use the right action for the right situation, boy do things get easier.

When you’re buying a new fishing rod something you need to decide on is what action you want it to be.

But what is fishing rod action? How does it affect your fishing? And how do you choose the right rod actions for you?

What is fishing rod action?

Man Wearing a Green Jacket Casting a Rod on a Lake
Man Wearing a Green Jacket Casting a Rod on a Lake

Fishing rod action determines how much of the rod bends when pressure is applied to the tip.

A rod can be categorized as:

  • Slow action
  • Medium or moderate action
  • Fast action
  • Extra-fast action
  • And anything in between such as moderate fast action.

The Test Curve

Fishing Rod Power VS Action

The test curve is used to determine the action and power ratings of a rod.

The test is done by attaching weights to the end of a line on a rod blank.

The weights gradually go up until the tip of the rod will bend to a 90-degree angle to the butt section of the rod.

The more weight required to bend the rod tip to 90 degrees the higher the power rating. And where the rod bends along the length of the blank determines its action.

So what does the action of a fishing rod mean?

Man on a Boat Reeling in a Fish
Man Reeling in a Fish

The action of a rod describes where along the rod it will bend;

A fast action rod will bend in the top third of the rod, a moderate action rod will bend in the middle third, and a slow action rod in the bottom third near the butt section.

How rods bend affects everything from sensitivity to your casting distance and how you fight a fish.

Picking the right action fishing rods for your intended fishing style is important. But more on that later…

How do you know what action a fishing rod is?

All spinning rods, casting rods, and fly rods should have a symbol along the shaft denoting the rod’s action.

If it’s not on the rod, then it will be in the info leaflet that comes with it and it should definitely be in the specs if you’re buying it online.

If there is no info about the action of, say the graphite spinning rod you want to buy, there is a way to check it.

Determining Rod Action

Hold the butt section of the rod and shake the rod up and down to flex it and try to feel and see where the flex happens.

If it’s near the top it’s fast action, the middle medium action, and the bottom slow action.

What is the power and action of a fishing rod and do they need to match?

The rod power describes its stiffness or resistance to bending when under pressure…

Rods come in numerous power ratings from ultra-light, light power, medium power, heavy power, plus everything in between, like medium-heavy power.

An ultra-light rod power means the rod will be bendy, a medium power rod will be a little stiff, and a heavy power rod will be super and bend less easily.


Balancing power and action is done by the manufacturer and they are separate decisions for you to make.

You could go for a slow/heavy action/power rod or a fast-medium, for example.

What rod power does equate to is the rod’s casting weight, ie – lure mass and the size line and fish the rod is intended for.


It’s best to choose your action first and then your power in the power and action decisions.

Casting Weight & Rod Power

Man Wearing a Vest and Beanie Fishing at Dusk
Man Wearing a Vest and Beanie Fishing at Dusk

The stiffer a rod and the more resistance to bending it has, the stronger it is.

Therefore, the more weight it can handle when it comes to the fish you’re going after, the size lures you want to cast, and the breaking strain of the line you want to use.

Lighter rods are for small fish and casting lighter lures or bait.

While heavier rods are for big fish and casting heavier lures or bait.

Checking Casting Weight

On the rod blank, you will see markings describing the rod’s casting weights.

This number is in ounces and suggests the minimum and maximum lure weights that will load the blank properly for maximum casting distance.

Here is a handy reference system to show you how rod power equates to lure weight and line class.

You should use it to match the rod power up with the species of fish you want to catch…


Ultra-light fishing rods are made for small baits and lures between 1/64 – 1/16 oz and are usually rated for 1-4lb test for small panfish species like sunfish and crappies.


A light fishing rod is made for lures or baits that weigh 1/32 – 1/8 oz and are rated for 4-8lb test.

They are great for trout and small bass.

Medium Light

Medium-light fishing rods are for lures between 1/16 – 2/8 oz and are rated for 4-10lb line. They are great for bigger bass and larger trout.


Man Casting a Rod While on a Boat
Man Casting a Rod While on a Boat

Medium power rods are for lures between 1/8 – 3/8oz and lines from 6-12 lbs. Another great bass, trout, and pike setup.


Medium-heavy rods are for heavier lures and large fish with a lure rating of 3/16 – 1/2 oz and a line rating of 8 to 14 lb Test.

Medium-heavy rods are great light saltwater rods when you want a challenge to land a bonefish or a snook.

Heavy & Extra Heavy

Heavy and extra heavy rods are for the big stuff like live bait and sharks in the surf or popping for GTs.

They can handle a lure of 1.5 oz and above and have a line rating of 25-130 lbs depending on the rod.

If you ever want to send out a big live bait, you’ll want to do it on one of these rods.

What are the uses and advantages of each type of rod action?

Man Sitting at a Riverbank Holding a Rod
Man Sitting at a Riverbank Holding a Rod

The action ratings of a rod will determine a lot of things from the length an angler can cast to how well an angler can set the hook into a fish’s mouth.

So which action rating is the one to choose for when and why?

Slow Action

Slow action rods will bend through the entire blank and the slower action provides the most flexibility available.

A slow action rod is perfect when fishing for small fish like crappie as it will give the angler a better fight and a slower hook set to the hook isn’t ripped out of the mouth of the fish.


They are also great for live bait as the slower action ensures the bait stays on the hook and the slow tip means you won’t pull it out of the fish’s mouth before it fully engulfs it.

Moderate Action

Moderate action rods are the middle ground and can be used for a wide range of species from trout to bass and bonefish.

They will bend in the top two-thirds of their length which helps you cast further and they have enough power to set the hook into larger fish when they eat your baits.

Medium Fast Action

Medium fast action rods will bend in the top half of the rod.

This aids your casting distance for a better energy transfer but doesn’t make it so fast that your baits will come flying off the hooks.

Anglers should use medium-fast rods when fishing with baits like minnows or livers for walleye or channel cats.


The tip will have enough sensitivity to pick up subtle bites but it’s not too fast to ensure the baits stay on your hooks when you cast.

Fast Action

Fishing Rod
Fishing Rod

A rod with a fast action bends in just the top third of the rod.

The faster action equates to good casting distances, more sensitivity in the tip to bites, and more hook setting and fighting power.

A fast action rod is made exclusively for fishing with single hooks and is the best rod anglers should use when fishing for species like pike, bass, and muskie with worms and jigs.

The rod’s action allows anglers to hit fish hard and stop them tangling them up in cover.

Extra Fast Action

Extra fast action rods are the stiffest of all the action ratings are made for sensitivity to bites, a quick powerful hook up, and having enough power in the fight to stop any fish from getting into snags.


This is the best rod action to use for single hook rigs when going after any species that wants to tangle you up, like bass.

Actioning Away

Thanks for reading my article about rod actions, I hope you enjoyed it and now know how to match the action and power ratings to the lures and baits you’re using and the species you plan on catching.

Please share the article around with all your fishing buddies, and feel free to check out some of our other articles.

Any info you need around fishing, we have covered it in great detail.


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Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.
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