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 is the right rod action I need?

Is it the right fishing rod 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.

Read on as I discuss everything about rod power. So you can make the right decision on your rod selection for a new spinning rod or conventional rods.

What is fishing rod power?

The power of the rod describes how much pressure it takes to bend or flex the rod…

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 will 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. Most rod manufacturers put 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 the best 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 fishing pole flexes so much you will never control the heavy fish in the fight. Matching the rod to your target also means rod maintenance won’t be such an issue.

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 fish’s mouth, practically if they have a hard mouth like bass.

Treble Hook

If anglers are using treble hooks 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.

Ultra light rods are ideal for fly fishing applications or ice fishing and for targeting small species like panfish, crappie, and trout and are best used with a light tackle lure weight 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 it is a sensitive rod that 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. You’ll find that most spinnerbait setups start at medium power.

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 and Action

Medium Heavy (MH)

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

You still have some feel in a medium heavy rod, so they can still be used for throwing soft plastics and lures around structure if required.

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

If you’re frog fishing when catching bass, frog rods need the heavy power to get the distance you need and keep the fish out of heavy cover once hooked.

Here’s a link to our review of the best frog rods if you need one.

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.

Heavier rods 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.

Power & Rod Material

A rod’s material is also related to its power and most rods are made from graphite or fiberglass.

A graphite rod is much stiffer than a fiberglass rod due to the properties of each of the materials and therefore a rod’s power can be affected by this.

A lighter power rod can be made from either materials, but because fiberglass will flex a lot, it can’t be used to make a stiff rod that has heavy power.

Rod Action

While power refers to how much force it takes to deflect or bend a rod, fishing rod action describes where the rod flexes or bends when pressure or weight is applied to the rod.

The rod’s action affects how sensitive the tip is, how it casts, and the rate at which it transfers the hook set to the bait.

The construction material and construction method of a rod affect its action. An action may be slow, medium, fast, or a combination.

Slow action rods will bend starting in the lower third of the rod and into the handle or you could say that slower action rods flex down all the way into the butt section. Using a slow-action rod helps launch your small offerings with light lines.

A medium or moderate action rod will start bending more towards the middle part of the rod. You’re looking at half of the rod bending under pressure. A medium action rod is therefore firmer than a slow rod but not as stiff as a fast action rod. Moderate action rods do a great job absorbing and softening the violent shock a fish imparts on the line rod when it hits a moving bait.

While faster action rods flex mostly in the rod tip (the top third or less of the rod). A fast action rod will allow you to set the hook hard and powerful. Fast action rods are great for most species where a short to longer rod casting distance is involved. But take note that fast fishing rod action can be difficult for beginners to cast.

Matching Tackle To Power

Using a Fishing Rod at a Lake
Using a Fishing Rod at a Lake

You’ll need to match your tackle to the power of the rod you choose, and we are mainly talking about line and the reel when we talk about tackle in this case.

It’s quite common sense really but you need to balance the rod and reel for casting performance or the rod might be too light or too heavy to cast properly.

You should also check the rod’s line rating, fishing line compatibility(mono or braided line), determine the reel seat, and match it to the reel as well.

TIP

On the spine of all rods will be words denoting the line you should use with them, which you can then find the right size reel from.

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 and best rod for you.

Remember all my fishing tips on your best rod selection process such as choosing your rod’s length and action first, and then your power.

If you enjoyed the article, please share it around and feel free to check out some of my others such as this review of ultralight combos. 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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