Fishing Rod Action 101 Choosing The Ideal Action 2021 Guide

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.

Balance

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.

TIP

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

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.

Light

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.

Medium

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

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.

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.

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

Share

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on email
Share on print

Share

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print
Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.