Fishing Rod Materials 101 Easy Guide on Choosing the Ideal Rod

Fishing rods are made of a range of materials ranging from metal to wood. Each material has different qualities and features they bring to the rod and ultimately to your fishing, such as sensitivity and casting accuracy.

So, picking the right rod material for you is a key part of having the best rod for you.

I used to have no idea what difference they made but once I understood I honed in my rod selection to the materials that suited me, and it made a big difference to my fishing overall.

So, what are all the fishing rod materials, and which one or one’s are right for you?

Join me as we take a deep dive into all the materials out there so you can pick the right rod for you…

What materials are fishing rods made out of and what are their features?

Bamboo

Fishing Rods on a Rack
Fishing Rods on a Rack

Bamboo was the first material rod manufacturers started using in 1910 and it’s still being used today.

Bamboo is a flexible material which is why it was chosen back in the day and makes quite a strong, bendy but heavy rod.

Pros

A bamboo rod feels nice in your hand.

The bamboo has a lot of flex and the rods are usually slow action so you can feel your cast.

TIP

They are also great for fighting smaller fish like trout as they bend a lot making catching them a lot more fun.

Cons

The downside to bamboo blanks is their weight, expense, and lack of durability.

They are much heavier than modern fishing rods, break more easily, and cost more too.

But traditional fishermen still hold them dear to their hearts and the type of fishing they are mostly used in is fly fishing, where tradition runs deep.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass is the closest material to bamboo and started to be used by rod manufacturers in the 1940s.

As a material fiberglass is as bendy if not more bendy than bamboo plus it’s a lot lighter, more durable, and affordable.

But it’s still a bit heavier than the other materials on the list and less sensitive too.

Fiberglass rods have a slower action and bend from the butt section.

NOTE

This makes fiberglass rods generally suitable for casting heavy lures and live baits on moderate to heavy power fiberglass rods.

Pros

Rods made of fiberglass are also the most affordable and durable rods out there making them ideal for novice anglers.

A fiberglass rod can bend from the butt almost in two and will handle scuffs and scrapes better than any other.

The best thing about a fiberglass rod in my eyes is that you can hold fish in a fight.

NOTE

Because fiberglass rods bend so much, when a fish runs it adds an immense amount of drag so you can hold fish and stop them tangling you up in a snag.

Cons

The main problem with fiberglass rods is that they are not very sensitive so you may miss a bite or two and they are heavy and will tire you out on a long fishing day.

Two Fishing Rods on a Stand
Two Fishing Rods on a Stand

Graphite

Graphite material revolutionized the rod-making industry in the 1960s.

The material itself is lighter and stronger than both bamboo and fiberglass meaning they can be strong enough while using less material.

This resulted in thinner, longer graphite rods that were lighter and weighed a lot less than the previous bamboo and fiberglass rods.

Plus they have way more sensitivity in the tip due to their stiffer structure.

NOTE

Graphite rods are excellent for both novice anglers and pros plus they can be pretty affordable if you look for a deal.

Pros

The advantages of graphite rods are numerous.

With graphite rods, you can fish for hours without getting tired thanks to the lighter weight.

A graphite rod also has a lot of power to help you cast further and it’s way more sensitive at the tip.

Sensitivity

This extra sensitivity in the tip lets you fish a lure better as you can feel their action on the retrieve.

And the tip sensitivity also helps you detect subtle bites so you can hook every fish that comes along.

Action

Graphites rods are usually medium action or fast action rods meaning they are quite stiff which makes for solid hook sets on fish like bass, and you can use the strength of graphite rods to control fish in a fight so they come in fresh.

Cons

The only downsides to graphite rods are that they are a bit delicate and if they bend too much they will snap.

They can also be quite expensive when looking for high-quality fishing rods, and more so than fiberglass rods.

Carbon Fiber

Fishing Rod Placed on the Ground
Fishing Rod Placed on the Ground

Carbon fiber and graphite are technically the same material when it comes to fishing rods and has the same characteristics.

So when someone talks about a graphite or carbon fiber rod, they mean the same thing.

Instead of running through all the pros and cons of a carbon fiber rod, as they are the same as the graphite ones mentioned above, let’s talk about the quality of the carbon fiber or graphite rods can come in aka high or low modulus…

Modulus

Carbon fibers are classified by the tensile modulus of the fibers. Tensile modulus refers to how much weight per square inch the fibers can handle before breaking.

So modulus is actually a level of stiffness and how far the fibers stretch under a certain amount of stress.

Here’s a short video demonstrating low and high modulus carbon fiber

Low and high Modulus carbon fibre

So how does this relate to fishing rods?

The higher the modulus of a carbon fiber or graphite rod blank, the less it will bend before it begins to break.

This is what gives these rods their stiffness and thus the medium action or fast action.

The Modulus Scale

You might have seen rods labeled with an IM rating when referring to the blank in the specs and it is usually either IM6, IM7, or IM8.

These refer to the modulus of the graphite or carbon fiber used to make the rod and the higher the number the higher the modules.

Types

IM8 modulus graphite or carbon fiber rod will be lighter, stiffer, and more brittle than an IM7 or IM6 modulus rod. Plus more expensive too.

RECOMMENDATION

The happy modulus I’d recommend going for is IM7. It’ll be light, stiff, sensitive, more affordable, and less brittle.

Composite

Fishing Rods on a Beach
Fishing Rods on a Beach

Composite rods are made from composite materials that include both graphite and fiberglass.

This means that fiberglass graphite composite rods have both the features of graphite and fiberglass ones but not to the extremes, composite rods sit right in the middle.

Composite rods have a faster action than fiberglass but are slow compared to graphite. They are not slow action though and the rods usually sit in the medium action category.

Pros & Cons

Composites have a low weight, are durable, bendy, sensitive, affordable, and versatile.

But not as bendy, durable, or affordable as fiberglass or as sensitive and light as graphite.

TIP

They are great for hauling in big heavy fish, using live bait techniques, and are the best material if you’re on a budget making them ideal for beginner anglers.

Materializing Away

Thanks for reading my article about rods and their materials.

I hope you now know everything you need to so you can choose the right rod next time you’re at your fishing shop.

Remember graphite and carbon fiber are king, and then the price and quality go down from there.

Until next time, tight lines!

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