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Fishing Rods 101: Different Types of Fishing Rods (2021 Complete Guide)

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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There are so many types of fishing rods on the market that it’s hard to know which fishing rod might suit an individual fishing environment or your skill level.

When I first started fishing some 30 odd years ago, I never knew about certain fishing gear being better for this or that, I just grabbed whatever was in my dad’s store.

Since then, I’ve come to know and use all the different types of fishing rods out there and believe me, it makes a huge difference when you pick the right fishing rod for the job

Here is everything you need to know in order to pick the right rod for every occasion and enjoy your fishing time even more.

What are the types of fishing rods?

Spinning Rods

Spinning Rod
Spinning Rod

Spinning rods are the most common and versatile rods on the market as they can be used in any environment and almost all fish species.

Spinning rods come in a range of lengths, pieces, and weights to match the fish you want to catch and they work exclusively with spinning reels. The reel hangs underneath the bottom of a spinning rod opposite to the top making them easy to use for beginners.

What are they used for?

Spinning rods, unlike a fly or ice rod, can be used for anything as long as you choose the right strength spinning rod for the job. You can catch large fish like tarpon or smaller fish like trout and they are most commonly used with spinners or crankbait lures.

What are the Pros?

  • Versatile for use in any environment from the river to lake and deep sea fishing
  • Simple and easy to use for beginners
  • Come in a range of sizes for all fish species
  • Quick and simple to rig
  • Can be very affordable

Are there any cons?

  • Smaller children age 3 to 5 might find them heavy and technical

Spin-Cast Fishing Rods

Spincast Reel
Close up of Spincast Reel

Casting rods, often called spin-cast rods, are small casting rods that look just like a spinning fishing rod, in fact, you’d struggle to tell the difference between a spin and a casting rod without a casting reel mounted on there.

The main difference is the spin casting rods use a spin-casting reel which is kind of an enclosed spinning reel.

Spin-casting rods are designed for kids and beginners to cast, you only need to press a button on the reel and flick the spin-casting rod making fishing very easy.

What are they used for?

A spin-casting rod is perfect for beginners to use when on a river or lake and targeting medium-sized and small fish like bass and crappies. The biggest fish they can handle is probably about 6lbs and they are the perfect fishing rod to start your fishing career off with.

What are the Pros?

  • The most affordable fishing rod out there
  • Minimal tangles thanks to the enclosed reel
  • Super simple to use for beginners

Are there any Cons?

  • Poor casting distance
  • Limited fishing line capacity
  • Can’t handle big fish
  • It will be outgrown quickly
  • Tangles are a pain to fix

Telescopic Fishing Rod

Telescopic Fishing Rod
Telescopic Rod

Telescopic rods are spinning rods that collapse down into itself. This means you can have a more extended rod that squeezes down to a 1-2 ft length when stored making it ideal for traveling with.

Like spinning rods, you can find telescopic rods in multiple sizes to match the species you intend on catching, making them very versatile.

What are they used for?

This is the right to take with you when you go camping, on a hike, or to have in the car for those spontaneous fishing opportunities that sometimes come out of nowhere.

You can use them for river, lake, or as sea fishing rods but don’t use them instead of a regular spinning rod as they are not as robust.

What are the Pros?

  • Lightweight rods which are easy to carry
  • Pack down very small for portability
  • Versatile for use in all environments
  • Super affordable and easy to use

Are there any Cons?

  • They can collapse without warning
  • Not as strong as a regular rod

Fly Rods

Fly Rod
Fly Rod

Fly rods are made exclusively for fly fishing which is my personal favorite form of fishing. When you’re fly fishing, you are using a fly reel and rod with a lightweight draw attached to a weighted line to cast a fly (feathers and hair tied on a hook to imitate baitfish or insects) to a hungry fish.

Fly fishing is the most technical form of fishing and it takes years to master but it is the most rewarding. I often say to people who haven’t heard of fly fishing ‘imagine the hardest way to catch a fish possible, and you have fly fishing.

NOTE

Fly rods only work with fly reels which are very different from any other kind of fishing reel. They sit on the bottom of the rod and have a 1:1 ratio, unlike all the others.

What are they used for?

While fly rods are most commonly associated with trout and salmon fishing, you can use a fly rod to catch any species on the planet as they come in different lengths and weights to suit every fishing situation. Whether it’s chasing saltwater giants like marlin or small brook trout in streams, there is a trout rod for it.

What are the Pros?

  • Learning fly fishing is an art and very rewarding
  • The funnest way to catch a fish
  • You can catch every fish species on fly
  • Opens up the world of fly tying and matching the hatch
  • A very active form of fishing with no downtime

Are there any Cons?

  • It’s not easy to learn and takes a lot of time
  • You will catch fewer fish
  • It takes a lot of time to be able to cast far

Ultra-Light Fishing Rods

Ultralight Spinning Rod
Ultralight Spinning Rod

Ultra-light fishing rods can be any type of fishing rod from fly to spring and spin-cast fishing rods. The idea is that they are extremely light and delicate which makes catching smaller fish species like bluegill more than using a big heavy fishing pole. They achieve this by using lighter materials for their component parts.

Some anglers would even use an ultra-light rod for the challenge of landing a good fish on one as it provides more enjoyment and is more rewarding. They are also great for young kids as they are very light to cast with.

What are they used for?

They are the perfect rod for catching small panfish like trout or crappie and are ideal when you want to fish with lighter lines and small baits or lures. They are also very accurate to cast with.

What are the Pros?

  • Make catching small fish more fun
  • You can feel everything when fighting a fish
  • Perfect for casting small baits or lures
  • Great casting accuracy

Are there any Cons?

  • Can break easily
  • Won’t handle big fish
  • Limited to small species
  • You can’t cast very far

Surf Rods

Surf Fishing Rod
Surf Fishing Rod

Surf rods (or sea rods) are exclusively made for use in the ocean when you’re surf fishing and need to cast really far and have the chance of hooking a huge ocean fish.

Surf rods can come in a range of lengths up to around 15 feet and it’s the extra rod length that allows anglers to cast so far from the shore, pier, or rocks over the surf and into the feeding zone of the fish.

Surf or sea fishing rods come in both bait-casting rod or spinning rod styles so you can choose your preferred reel type with them.

What are they used for?

A surf rod is generally used for sea fishing from the shore but it can also be used in lakes and rivers where a long cast is needed and the chances of catching something big like a sturgeon or catfish is a possibility.

What are the Pros?

  • Strong enough for big fish like sharks
  • Cast extremely long distances
  • Super tough and durable
  • Good for inshore fishing

Are there any Cons?

  • Very heavy and tiring to use
  • Not easy to travel with
  • Quite expensive

Trolling Rods

Trolling Rods
Trolling Rods

Trolling rods are made for trolling lures or baits behind a boat. If you ever go trolling offshore or in a lake or river, you will be using a trolling rod.

This kind of rod doesn’t vary much in length but you can find the weight of these rods range from 20lb to 130lb to match the species you’re after and the 130lb rods catch some real heavy fish like 1000 lb+ marlin.

NOTE

A trolling rod is specifically made for use with a trolling reel that sits on the top of the rod. You will always fight the fish with the rod in your left hand and the reel handle in your right, unlike other rods where you generally always have your rod in your strong hand.

What are they used for?

Trolling rods often sit in a rod holder and are always used for trolling lures behind a boat in a river, lake, or ocean. You can not cast with them as they are too short.

What are the Pros?

  • Made in different weights for different species
  • Very easy to use
  • The best at what they do (trolling)

Are there any Cons?

  • Can only be used for trolling

Ice Fishing Rods

Ice Fishing Rods
Ice Fishing Rods

An ice fishing rod is made for ice fishing and is pretty much just micro spinning rods. Ice rods are kind of a lighter rod that is usually around 3ft long and very bendy. This allows you to stand next to your ice hole and fight even big fish like pike.

These are not made for casting lures as they are too short but they are great for toddlers to use as they are so light.

What are they used for?

  • Ice fishing only

What are the Pros?

  • Super short so you’re close to the ice hole
  • Very strong and bendy for handling big lake trout or pike
  • Light and easy to use
  • Fun for small kids to use

Are there any Cons?

  • An ice fishing rod will only suit ice fishing and not much else

Baitcasting Rods

Baitcast Rod
Baitcast Rod

A baitcasting rod is like a spinning rod but made for use with a baitcasting reel which sits on the top of the rod instead of on the bottom like a spinning reel.

You use a casting rod like this for casting super long distances with high accuracy.

They are the rod that anglers progress to having mastered spinning rods and are looking for something a little more refined.

If you have ever watched a bass pro tournament on TV you will have seen them using a baitcasting rod.

What are they used for?

Baitcasting rods are used mainly for catching predatory fish that hang out near snags such as snook, bass, barramundi, and more but you can use them in most situations except for huge fish like marlin tuna. They are all about being able to cast with incredible accuracy and long distances.

What are the Pros?

  • Super accurate casting
  • Excellent casting distance
  • Range of lengths and weights for different species

Are there any Cons?

  • Hard to use
  • You can get a lot of tangles

Do The Types Of Fishing Rod Materials Make a Difference?

Yes they make a huge difference which I will run through in detail below. It’s tough enough knowing all the types of rod and now there is the material curveball to get your head around. Don’t worry though, it’s actually pretty simple as when it comes to the material fishing rods use, they all follow the same rules.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass rods are very bendy rods and are almost unbreakable and you can pretty much bend them in half.

Fiberglass rods are great rods when you want to be able to stop a fish running into a snag as they won’t break and they are also great rods for casting light baits accurately.

I love using a fiberglass rod because you can feel everything since they are so bendy. This allows you to work a bait just right and you’ll notice every tug of a fish when they are on the line.

Graphite

Graphite is the most common material and the most expensive that rod makers have created rods with. Graphite rods are the highest performing rods on the market and the best spinning, baitcasting, trolling, fly, and any other types of fishing rods will be made from graphite.

Graphite rods are super tough, durable, and stiff. This makes them excellent at casting both long and accurately plus they have immense power to fight fish with but if you push them too far they can break.

Composite Rods

Composite rods are made from a blend of graphite and fiberglass. This means they are both bendy and a bit stiff while also being almost unbreakable.

They are the perfect middle ground in terms of affordability and performance.

Other Important fishing rod features to know about

Action

The action of a rod describes where along the length of the rod, the rod flexes, which defines the stiffness of a rod.

Action is measured from slow to extra fast and slow action fishing rods will bend at the butt and fast action rods at the tip. Thus slow action rods are bendy (all fiberglass rods are slow action), unlike fast action rods which are stiff.

Power

The power of a rod describes how strong it is and thus the size of the line, lure, lure weight, and thus fish it can handle. Power is measured from ultra-light to extra heavy and, for example, a light action spinning rod is better for smaller fish while extra heavy is for bigger fish and lures.

Length

A fishing rod can come in various lengths and the main reason for this is casting. Long casting poles provide more leverage and therefore you can cast further with it but with extra casting distance comes less accuracy.

Shorter rods won’t be able to punch a lure 100 feet into the distance but you can land your lure on a side plate at 40 feet.

Fly Rod Weight

Fly rods use a different power rating called weight (wt) which ranges from 1-16 wt. A 1 wt fly rod is thin and delicate, perfect for catching fish like crappies or bluegill while a 16wt fly rod is made for large fish like tuna or marlin.

When trout fishing you would use a 3-5 wt rod, when chasing bonefish or bass a 6-8 wt, and for the likes of tarpon and sailfish a 12 wt rod is best.

What Type Of Fishing Rod Should I Buy?

This all depends on how proficient you are at fishing, what you want to catch, and how you want to fish.

If it’s been a dream of yours to learn to fly fish, then get a fly rod immediately. If you’re just starting fishing, then spinning rods will be best as they’re very versatile, easy to use and you can progress to various species and techniques as you get better and better.

If you live next to the ocean and want to bring dinner home every night, a surf rod is the way to go – you get the idea.

Fishing is about having fun so pick the species, the style and find a rod to match.

After your purchase, be sure to read my guide about setting up your fishing rod. Getting it done the right way is the key to your fishing success.

Lining Out

Thanks for reading my article, I hope you found it useful and now know every type of rod and which can serve as the best possible rod equipment for you.

Please share the article with anyone you know who might find it useful, we all need a helping hand when getting to grips with this amazing hobby.

Check out some of my other articles such as the best spinning rod or the best travel rod so you can find the right rod for your fishing style and tactics.

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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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