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 accurate casting.
So, similar to fishing rod maintenance, 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…
In this article...
What materials are fishing rods made out of and what are their features?
Bamboo was the first material rod manufacturers started using in 1910 and it’s still being used today.
Among natural fishing rod materials, bamboo is probably the best in rod manufacturing.
Bamboo is a flexible material which is why it was chosen back in the day and makes quite a strong, bendy but heavy rod.
A bamboo rod feels nice in your hand.
The bamboo has a lot of flex and the fishing rods are usually slow action so you can feel your cast.
Bamboo rods are also great for fighting smaller fish like trout as they bend a lot making catching them a lot more fun.
The downside to bamboo rods is their weight, expense, and lack of durability.
Bamboo rods 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 they are mostly used by fly fishermen for fly fishing, where tradition runs deep.
Fiberglass is the closest fishing rod 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.
Fiberglass rod flexes in a parabolic arc so that the entire rod bends from tip to butt when you lift a weight at the end of the line.
But it’s still a bit heavier than the other fishing rod materials on the list and less sensitive too.
Fiberglass rods have a slower action and bend from the butt section.
This makes fiberglass rods generally suitable for casting heavy lures and live baits on moderate to heavy power fiberglass rods.
Rods made of fiberglass are also the most affordable and durable rods out there making them ideal for novice anglers.
A fiberglass fishing rod can bend from the butt almost in two and will handle scuffs and scrapes better than any other rods.
The best thing about a fiberglass rod in my eyes is that you can hold fish in a fight.
Because fiberglass rod flexes 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.
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.
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 rod tip due to their stiffer structure. That and their lightweight durability make for some of the best steelhead fly rods.
Graphite fishing rods are excellent for both novice anglers and more experienced anglers plus they can be pretty affordable if you look for a deal.
The advantages of graphite fishing 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.
This extra sensitivity in the rod 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.
Graphites rods are usually medium action rods or fast action rods meaning they are quite stiff rods 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.
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 top-quality rods, and more so than fiberglass rods.
Carbon fiber and graphite (alternatively called graphite fibre or carbon 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…
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
So how does this relate to fishing rods?
The higher the modulus of a carbon fiber or graphite rod blank, the stiffer the material, which means rod manufacturers can use less material to get the same stiffness.
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.
IM8 modulus graphite or carbon fiber rod blanks will be lighter, stiffer, and more brittle than an IM7 or IM6 modulus rod. Plus more expensive too.
The happy modulus I’d recommend going for is IM7. It’ll be light, stiff, sensitive, more affordable, and less brittle.
Composite fishing 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 lightweight rods as graphite.
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 inexperienced anglers and even for young anglers.
Things to consider when choosing the right rod material
Budget & Pricing
Buying a good fishing rod and reel can be an expensive purchase and you’ll also have to buy some fishing line and lures too.
So which materials are best when it comes to value?
Fiberglass and Composites
Fiberglass and composites are the most durable and affordable fishing rods on the market but you’ll have to manage the extra weight and lack of sensitivity that would come with a carbon fiber or graphite fishing rod.
Graphite and Carbon Fiber
If you can afford it, a graphite or carbon fiber fishing rod is your best bet and you can find some great deals on them.
But if they are above your budget line, then composites are the best fishing rod to go for.
They have a lower weight than fiberglass, more sensitivity, and are still super durable so you can reel in a big bass with them.
Having a sensitive fishing rod helps you fish lures better, feel more bites, and set the hook better.
The best fishing rod when it comes to being sensitive is a fishing rod made from carbon fibers or graphite.
They are extremely stiff, durable, powerful but they are the most expensive.
Your fishing style whether it’s baitcasting with live bait in the surf or pulling worm jigs for bass denotes what action rod will work best for you, and thus the rod’s material.
Fast action rods are perfect for fishing situations when you need to feel bites, set the hooks hard, and throw your lures far and accurately.
They are the perfect choice for fishing lures to bass, crappie, snook, and more.
For this, you’ll need carbon fiber or graphite rod blanks.
I always use graphite rods because they work in many different scenarios as mentioned above, plus they are light so I can cast with one all day without getting tired.
Slow and Moderate Action
Slow and moderate rods are perfect for using dead or live baits.
They aren’t so fast that your baits fly off the hooks, and they load well and can send your bait way out into the water.
They are ideal for surf fishing and should be composites or fiberglass.
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. If you’re looking for a cross between decent rod build and portability consider looking at some of the best backpacking fishing poles.
Remember graphite and carbon fiber are king, and then the price and quality go down from there.
Until next time, tight lines!