Fishing Rod Power 101: A Complete and Updated Guide for 2021

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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When it comes to buying spinning rods or surf fishing rods, there are quite a few features you need to think about.

I often find my head spinning when looking for a new rod;

What rod action do I need?

Is it the right length?

What fishing rod power do I want?

All of these elements make a difference to what a fishing rod can and can’t do well.

Today we are going to discuss everything about fishing rod power, so you can make the right decision when buying a new spinning rod.

What is fishing rod power?

The power of the rod describes how much the rod will bend or flex when under pressure…

How much a rod bends depends on the rod blank used to build the rod.

Fishing rods with light power will be made of a thinner blank and bend and flex more.

Fishing rods with heavy power will be made of a thicker blank and bend or flex less when under pressure.

NOTE

How much your rod bends (rod power) will determine two major things; what size fishes you can catch and what size lures or baits you can use.

How to check the power of a fishing rod?

Every rod will be given a power rating when it’s made and you’ll find these power ratings in the specifications of the fishing rod and sometimes along the spine of the fishing rod.

TIP

If you’re buying your fishing rod in a store, the staff will be able to show you how to find the rod power very quickly.

Power Ratings

Rods are split up into a total of 7 power ratings ranging from ultra-light to extra-heavy power.

As the ratings get heavier the rods bend and flex less and less.

What Power Fishing Rod Do I need?

Man Fishing at a Mountain River
Man Fishing at a Mountain River

In order to pick a fishing rod with the right power you’ll need to think about three things;the size of the fishes you’re going after, the size of the bait or lures you want to use, and how you need to set the hook.

Target species

If you have a very bendy rod (low power), you’re going to struggle to land a 50lb catfish, as the rod bends and flexes so much you will never control the fish in the fight.

The opposite applies too…

When using a stiff rod (high power) to catch small 1lb panfish, you’re not going to feel a bite because the rod will not move, and the fight will be non-existent – in fact, you probably won’t’ even notice you have hooked a fish.

TIP

Made sure to balance your rod power with the size of the fishes you’re targeting.

Lure Or Bait Weight

All rods come with a rating of what weight baits or lures they can handle, and this is defined by what power the rod is, and thus how much it bends…

The lighter the power the smaller the lures or baits you can use, and vice versa – it affects both your casting distance and how long your rod will last.

Lure

If you were to put a heavy bait or lure, say in the 1-2 ounce range, on a bendy low-power rod, you’re probably to damage or snap the rod on your cast, as it can’t handle the weight.

If you put a 1/32 ounce lure or bait on a stiff high-power rod, you won’t have enough weight to load the rod for your cast and will end up casting a distance of 15ft instead of 60ft.

TIP

Be sure to check the lure and bait weight rating of a rod before you buy and match it to the target species and the lures or bait weights you want to use.

Usually small fish eat small lures and baits, so they should balance themselves naturally.

Hook Sets

How much a rod bends and therefore the power of a rod also dictates what kind of hook sets an angler can do.

This applies to bass anglers more than most, but all anglers should take this into consideration.

Hook Type

The type of hook set you’ll need to do depends on the type of hooks you’re using.

When fishing with single hooks with a jig, for example, anglers need a stiffer rod with more power to drive the hook into the mouth of the fish, practically if they have a hard mouth like bass.

Treble Hook

If anglers are using a treble hook with live bait or a jerk bait, there is no need for a stiff rod, as the treble hook in the live bait does all the work.

An angler just needs to keep tight in this situation and if they use a powerful hook set, will likely tear the trebles out of the mouth of the fish.

Power Ratings and When to Use Them

Fishing Rod Bend
Fishing Rod Bend

Ultra-Light (UL)

Ultra light power rods are perfect for subtle casting, light line, and light lures.

They are ideal for targeting small species like panfish, crappie, and trout and are best used with a light tackle lure that weighs between 1/32 to 3/8 oz as these will load the rod perfectly for maximum casing efficiency.

Light (L)

A light power rod is a step up and lures weighing between 1/16-1/8 oz will have it casting excellently.

These are also great rods for panfish and trout, with a low test line of around 4-8lbs and can handle large species such as walleye as well.

Their lighter power also means you will feel the bites of these small species and be able to set the hook well.

Medium Light (ML)

Medium-light, or light-medium rods as they are sometimes referred to, are great for medium-sized freshwater and saltwater species such as small bass or bonefish.

Medium-light or light-medium rods work with lures between the 1/8- to 1/2-ounce range and are stiff enough to set the hook into bass with a single hook.

Medium Power (M)

A medium power rod is the middle ground and is very versatile and is quite a step up from a light-medium.

You can fish a large range of bait weights from 1/4 to 3/4 oz and in a wide range of fishing styles from popping on saltwater to casing spinnerbaits for bass.

A medium power rod also has enough stiffness for tough hook sets and can handle larger fish like stripers or pike.

Here’s a quick informative video to better help you visualize the differences…

Fishing Rod Power VS Action

Medium Heavy (MH)

A medium heavy rod is the most common rod used for bass fishing. With medium-heavy, you have the stiffness to set the hooks and a huge variety of lure weights and fishing styles to choose from.

You can use a lure between 1/3 – 3/8 of an ounce with a medium-heavy and still have the casting accuracy needed to fish close to cover.

Heavy (H)

A heavy power rod will handle lures in the 3/8-1 ounce range and is ideal when fishing heavier lures like football jigs or when fishing deep on a wreck where you need the rod to stay stiff to haul a fish up from the depths.

They are also great when popping offshore for things like giant trevally or tuna.

Extra Heavy (EH)

The heaviest and stiffest rod in the line-up, this rod is ideal for large creatures like dogtooth tuna where you can’t give them an inch, and for using heavier lures in the 1/2 – 2 ounce range, like huge rooster poppers or heavy bottom jigs.

Powering Out

Thanks for reading my article and I hope you now understand everything you need to know about rod power and how to pick the right one for you.

Remember to choose your action and length first, and then your power.

If you enjoyed the article, please share it around and feel free to check out some of my others. I cover almost everything you might need to know about fishing or want to have from a gear perspective.

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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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