PEOPLE'S CHAMP ON CHOOSING A ROD
Folks at home, folks at home it’s that time of the year. Finally, Spring has arrived in the Northeast, and the lakes and rivers are warming up. That means the fishing is also heating up. What does spring mean to me? Well, it means that not only bass, but almost all species of fish are feeding to get ready for the rigors of the spawn. This in turn means lots of fish catching opportunity! This may be the most exciting time of the year for me, and the more I catch, the more exciting it is.
So you ask, "hey Nick, how do I catch more fish?" There are so many answers to that question, but I’m going to focus on what I believe is one of the most important answers, choosing the right rod. The right rod will help you make better, more accurate casts, and improve your leverage, and accordingly, increase the probability of keeping that fish in the hook until you get it in your hands for the unhooking.
Like any specialty item, you need to know the lingo to make a good purchase decision for your needs. The first term you need to know is Action. The action is how much of the rod bends when you apply pressure to the tip. A fast action rod will bend in only the top third of the rod. Medium action will bend in the top half, and slow action bends starting in the lower third of the rod. Most bass rod actions are fast to very fast because this provides better sensitivity and faster power for setting the hook and are particularly good for single hook presentations like Carolina and Texas rig fishing. Faster power means you don't have to move the rod as far on the hookset, Medium and medium-fast rods will usually provide a little more casting distance and still provide adequate hook setting power. These actions are used for casting lures with treble hooks, or for reaction baits such as spinnerbaits. The type of lure you use will usually determine the action of the rod you want. The next term you want to understand is Power, the rod's lifting power. When someone says this rod has a lot of backbone, they mean it has a lot of power. Power ratings are described as heavy, medium heavy, medium, etc. Power is also related to line strength. Heavier power rods will handle heavy line weights and lighter powers will be good for light lines. It is important to
keep your line test within the limits printed on the rod since a heavy power rod will snap light lines easily and heavy lines can snap a light rod. The type of structure you fish will help determine the power of the rod. Thick, heavy cover requires a strong rod to get the fish out before it can tie you up. Clear, open water will often require thin, hard to see lines in order to get bit, meaning you will need a lighter power rod.
You also need to know the lingo concerning rod blank material. Graphite is the most common material used in building bass rods. Graphite is produced using extremely high temperatures in a two-part process, one to create tensile strength and one for stiffness. Generally the hotter the furnace in each process the more tensile strength and stiffness the fibers have, which means you need less material to build a rod, and the rods can be lighter and more sensitive. Fiberglass has been used to produce rods since the 50's and is noted for soft actions and toughness. Many anglers prefer glass rods for throwing crankbaits or other applications where a medium to slow action is required. The best rods get their specific actions by using a variety of materials, and by using layers of different graphite and/or fiberglass. These are Composite materials.
Finally you need to know the terms for the other components that go into a quality rod. Guides for bass rods today feature a metal frame and a ceramic ring that the line glides on. This ring can vary greatly in price. Silicon carbide, or SiC, is considered the best material as it is super smooth for less friction on the line during the cast and the retrieve. Alconite is another smooth material but it is much less expensive than SiC. Aluminum oxide is found on a lot of rods on the market today also due to cost. A rod with more guides on it will generally cast better and cost more than the same rod with fewer guides. With more guides the rod will bend more consistently throughout its length, allowing it to utilize all the power for longer casts and fighting fish. Cork is a comfortable, lightweight handle with sufficient grip, even when wet, and will transmit the delicate vibrations of a big bass picking up your bait. Most rod manufacturers base the grade of cork used in their rods on the overall cost of the rod; you will get the best cork with the most expensive rods. The Reel Seat holds the reel on the rod. There isn't much variation in reel seats. Most anglers prefer graphite seats with a cutout that allows you to feel the blank. Cheap seats will often rust and stain your reel, and can bind up, making it difficult to remove
When it comes to brands and types of rods there are so many options out there- different lengths, powers, etc. So how do you choose? I have fished a lot of different rods, and while there are a number of quality rod builders in the market, I have found the Kistler family of rods to be the best value for the way I fish. They have some very good options when looking for a good bass rod. To make this decision a little easier, match the rod with the size lure you are using, and the type cover in which you plan to fish those baits. A general rule of thumb is the lighter the lure, the lighter the action. If your gonna throw a finesse worm on a 1/8 shaky head or a drop shot, you're going to want a medium light to medium action rod that will help cast the smaller weighted lure but still have enough backbone to get the hook into the fishes mouth when you set it. It needs to have enough power to help control that fish during the fight.
If you throwing a crankbait, you’ll want to choose a rod that will handle the right size lure like Kistler#3 power light medium heavy action rod in the 7’3” length; This rod will get your lighter lure out where you want it, and still give you the power to set the hooks into the fish's mouth and then the fish to the boat. The nice thing about a rod with these characteristics is that it has enough forgiveness in the tip to allow the fish to get the bait in its mouth and then absorb the run shocks during the fight while at the same time keeping the hooks from ripping out. If you are throwing heavier lures like 3/4 to 1 ounce crankbaits or spinnerbaits, a med/heavy rod is what you need.
Now. it’s also important to choose a little longer rod like a 7’ to 7’6” rod if you want to get a longer cast or better absorb more power to keep those smaller crankbait hooks in the fish's mouth. When it comes to rod choices, I also go for a faster tip. This means the tip is a little more forgiving then the rest of the rod. This allows the fish to get the lure in its mouth a little farther when it bites, allowing for better hooked fish. You say, Nick, I want to fish a heavier jig in rocks and grass cover. Well, you'll need a heavier power rod like a med heavy to heavy action rod like a Kistler Helium 5 power heavy casting rod. I like the 7'3” model as a "can do" rod for this type of fishing. The fast tip on the rod will help with the cast /pitch/flip and the heavy action of the rod will get that big hook into the fish's mouth, and help you muscle that big bass out of heavier cover.
Despite what I think, there are other types of fishing for which you may need a rod. Dishing for panfish? You're not going to want a heavy rod, you'll need a soft rod made to cast light lures on light line- like the Kistler Helium medium Light action spinning rod. These rods are made for casting small 1/16 oz. lures like small rooster tails or a jig heads with a little Mister Twister grub tail on it. The light action of these rods will transfer the power of these small weighted lures into the rod for a better cast. The soft power will also absorb the power of the fighting fish, keeping the small hooks from pulling out of the fish's mouth enabling you to land more fish. It also helps the
angler enjoy the fight a little more. If it's something bigger you're after- like pike or musky with larger, heavier baits- you’ll need something that can cast those heavier baits, and has the power to hold onto these powerful fighters. I would choose the Kistler KLX #6 power heavy action rod in the 7’6” length. This rod has the back bone for casting oversized lures an gives you the power to
bring those monsters to the boat.
As you can see, there are quite a few factors to consider in choosing a rod, but if understand the basic concepts, and you break it down to a few simple choices based on how you like to fish, you will be able to find rods that will get you out on the water and help put the odds of catching the fish you want to catch in your favor. That’s definitely the best way to #LiveThePassion!
Nick Ferry, from Bucks County PA, is a winning tournament angler focused on advancing his bass angling skills and applying those skills at tournaments offering quality competition throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. He is competing in The Bass Federation Living the Dream Regional Championship, the Major League Fishing/Phoenix Boats BFL Northeast Series, and select tournaments on the St. Lawrence River and Chesapeake/ Susquehanna Flats. Nick is the “People’s Champ” using social media video and blog applications to provide angling information. He has pro staff affiliations with Ardent Reels, Forage Lures Seaguar Line, Team Kistler Rods, Zee Bait Co LLC and 9K Elite Lures. He was 2020 Berks County Bassmasters Angler of the Year, winning 3 of the 10 events with 8 Top 5 finishes, qualifying him to fish The Bass Federation Regional Championship.