6 Different Types of Fishing Rods Explained

Picking a new fishing rod can be tricky. This article details all you need to know when searching for a new rod.

A good fishing reel is the backbone of your setup. Choosing a quality rod that is perfect for the applications you need it for is so crucial and can be extremely helpful out on the water. Rods can be complicated though and there are many aspects of the rod that must be considered before choosing the perfect one for you. In this article, each aspect of the fishing rod will be discussed. We will take the time to break down the complex into more simple and easy to remember features. By the end of this article, you will be able to choose the best rod for you with the knowledge you need to make that important decision. 

Rod Material

Fishing rods are generally made of three types of materials (fiberglass, graphite, or composite). The type of rod has a huge impact on the performance. Let’s begin the discussion on the types of fishing rods by looking more closely at the rod material. 


Fiberglass is heavier than graphite, but is also more sturdy

Fiberglass rods are the least expensive of the three types. They are great options for beginners due to their weight and strength. Fiberglass rods are heavier than graphite rods and tend to be used when targeting larger fish. The heavier weight of these rods also means that they can be stiffer than graphite rods. This can be an issue if needing the rod to give a little more however. Fish can break off on the fiberglass rods when the resistance is too great and exceeds the test of the line on the spool. As far as action, fiberglass rods tend to be on the slow to medium side of the spectrum. More on what exactly action is later in the article. 


Graphite rods are very appealing, lightweight, and high quality

Graphite fishing rods are renowned for their high quality. They also tend to be lighter than other rod types. The lightness of the rod makes graphite rods a very good option for finesse fishing. The fast action that graphite rods are known for means that it is sensitive to light bites and nibbles from finicky fish. In terms of price, graphite rods are a little more expensive than fiberglass or composite rods. Graphite rods come in a variety of options that make them a great option for versatility. Seasoned anglers tend to turn to graphite rods due to the options, quality, and lightweight build. Definitely try out a graphite rod if you want high quality with a little higher price tag. 


Composite rods give you the best features of fiberglass and graphite

Composite rods are a graphite and fiberglass mixture. This means that they share features from both types of rods. Meaning they are generally fairly lightweight and strong. They also have a more moderate type of action than graphite or fiberglass rods. Composite rods are fantastic as performance rods. They offer a versatility that cannot be matched by other types of rods. This makes them a very popular choice if you often fish a variety of waters for different species of fish. The one downside to these rods is the price. They are the most expensive of the three types that we have discussed. If needing a do it all rod though, check them out because they can be more cost effective due to their versatility. 


Action is characterized by the rod’s shape and material. Action will direct how much and where your rod will bend. Action controls the speed at which the rod goes from a position known as loaded, when a fish is hooked, back to the original position. The three types of action are slow, medium, and fast. In general, fast action rods tend to be for casting. Medium and slow action rods allow the flexibility to fight larger fish. [1]


Notice the flexibility and bend in this slow action rod

Slow action rods bend along the whole length of the rod. This makes it the most flexible of the different actions. An example of a slow action rod is an Ugly Stik. These rods are renowned for being very flexible and almost unbreakable. The con of this type of rod is the hookset. The flexibility and bend of the rod causes the angler to set the hook more deeply. This can be an issue if needing to set the hook quickly or if you are in a cramped area. Once the hook has been set, keeping tension on the line is much more simple with a slow action rod however. Slow action rods can be great options for beginners due to the forgiveness in fighting a fish. Give them a try if you need a rod that is flexible and can take a beating. 


Medium action has less flexibility than the slow action

Medium action rods are less flexible than slow action and bend along half of its length. There is still comparable flexibility in the rod tip and upped part of the rod. Medium action allows the angler to cast with more distance and accuracy than slow action. Since they are more rigid than a slow action, they allow for more powerful hook sets. They also are a great option from a versatility standpoint. Medium action rods can handle a variety of hook and lure setups. Expect medium action rods to be a more all around action for anglers. If slow action rods have been too flexible and slow for you, try the medium action instead. Personally I prefer the medium action to other actions purely due to the versatility. Medium action rods tend to have a little flexibility in the rod tip, as discussed, which can give fish the opportunity to take the bait/lure without the immediate resistance. This can be important in certain applications such as catfishing. 


Notice the fast action rod only bends at the tip

Fast action rods only bend at the tip. This is a solid type of rod that can be necessary when needing quick hook sets. An application that I have used fast action rods in is fishing in heavy cover. Fish will tend to run into cover when taking the bait and this type of action allows you to quickly set the hook and power the fish out of cover. The drawback is that fast action rods tend to be much more rigid and not as forgiving when fighting fish. They are also more likely to snap if a great amount of pressure is applied to them. In my opinion, they are much more application specific than the other types of actions. If you need a fantastic hook setting rod that will allow you to fish in heavy cover, make sure to try a fast action rod. 


Many anglers get confused by the differences between rod power and rod action. Rod action refers to where along the backbone the bending occurs. Rod power refers to how much force is needed to bend it. There are many classifications for rod power. Heavier classifications are generally reserved for larger fresh and saltwater fish. 

Heavy: Requires the most force to bend 

Medium: Requires intermediate force to bend

Light: Requires relatively little force to bend

Here is a further breakdown of rod power and the types of fish the power generally targets. 

Ultra Heavy: Sailfish, Sharks, Tuna, etc. 

Heavy: Tarpon, Salmon, Sturgeon, etc. 

Medium Heavy: Northern Pike, Snook, Redfish, Musky, etc. 

Medium: Largemouth Bass, Catfish, Redfish, Walleye

Medium Light: Smallmouth Bass, Trout 

Light: Bream, Crappie

Ultra Light: Bream, Crappie, Baitfish

If you are looking for a challenge, try targeting fish with a lower rod power than what is recommended. For example, target bass with a light or ultra light rod. Just make sure to hang on, set the drag appropriately, and enjoy the fight. 

Rod Length

Choosing the length of the rod is as important as any other aspect. Rod lengths vary over a number of feet. Knowing the application that you are planning to use the rod for is an important first step in choosing the right length. One thing to remember is that the rod length will affect casting distance. Shorter rods do not allow for the casting distance that longer rods allow for. The trade off is that shorter rods will tend to allow for more control. If you plan to fish far from the bank or boat consider a longer rod. If not casting far or needing to just fish at depth under the boat, consider purchasing a shorter rod. If you are just looking for a great overall length for versatility, try out a 6’6” to 7’0” rod. Most of my personal rods fall in this category and can handle the applications I need them for. 

Spinning Rods

Notice how the line guides and reel are on the underside of the rod

Spinning rods are used with spinning and spincast reels. The reels attach to the spinning rods on the underside of the handle. This means that the line guides of the rod are also on the underside of the rod and face down. Most anglers will find that the spinning rod is much easier to master and provides more control than other rods. This is due to the fact that the reel is on the bottom side of the rod and the rod can be controlled by the dominant hand. The spinning rod is a serviceable casting rod, but may not provide the accuracy that you desire. 


  • Lightweight
  • Versatile


  • Not as accurate for casting as other rods

Casting Rods

Notice how the line guides and reel are on the topside of the rod

Casting rods are in the same category as spinning rods. The difference is that the reel and line guides are mounted on the topside of the rod. Baitcasting and spincast reels are used with casting rods. Casting rods allow for more casting accuracy and distance. They are also known for being more durable than most spinning rods. The rods can handle heavier fishing lines which is important when using a baitcasting reel. The downside to casting rods is that they tend to be more expensive than spinning rods. This is to be expected since they are used in conjunction with more expensive fishing reels such as the baitcasters. 


  • Casting distance
  • Casting accuracy 
  • Durability 


  • More expensive than spinning rods

Fly Fishing Rods

Fly rods are longer than any other rod on this list

Fly fishing rods are used for a specific application. These rods are not ones that can just be matched with any type of reel. They do come in a variety of lengths, power, and action so they can be used for multiple species. The first thing that most anglers notice about fly fishing rods is the length. The average length is around 9 feet. The flexibility of the rods also sets them apart from other types of rods. They can take a lot of work to master, but should not be ruled out for any fresh or saltwater applications. When given plenty of room to cast, they can exhibit effective techniques for catching fish in a variety of circumstances. 


  • Versatile
  • Allows for delicate presentation
  • Enjoyable to learn and master


  • Decreased casting distance
  • Difficult to master

Surf Casting Rods

More lines in the water to increase the chances of a hook-up

Surf casting rods are common when fishing saltwater. These rods will have a longer butt area of the rod. The extra length allows the angler to cast farther, while also allowing them to bury the butt in the sand, if necessary. These types of rods are commonly used on the beach or on the piers. They also come in spinning or casting varieties, depending on your needs. One of the more amazing features of a surf casting rod is the durability. They are made from materials that can stand up to the ocean’s effects. You will find that they clean easily and are overall a pleasure to handle. Make sure to check them out before your next trip out on the ocean. 


  • Casting distance
  • Durable


  • Heavy
  • Saltwater specific

Trolling Rods

Trolling rods are stiff to allow for quick hook sets

Just like fly fishing rods, trolling rods are application specific. They will be found on boats in fresh and saltwater. Trolling rods are stiffer than most other rods to keep tension on the bait being trolled. Most often they will be found on offshore boats targeting fish such as tuna and sailfish. The fast action of trolling rods allows the hook to be set easily which is crucial. Trolling rods will not be used for casting. They excel in their application, but cannot be considered versatile rods out on the water. 


  • Durable


  • Not versatile
  • Application specific

Ice Fishing Rods

Ice fishing rods are the shortest rods on this list

Ice fishing rods are application specific much like trolling rods. They are very short which is important due to the control needed when ice fishing. Most ice fishing rods will be 2 to 3 feet long. Many ice fishing rods are used with spinning reels. If you need to cast an ice fishing rod, you will be upset. These rods are not suitable for casting. You will find that they are perfect for the application they serve. Ice fishing rods are not expensive. It can be a good investment to purchase a few rods at a time. They have been known to snap, and it always pays to have a backup handy. 


  • Inexpensive


  • Can break when handling large fish
  • Application specific

What’s Next

Hopefully this article has been helpful in teaching you more about the types of fishing rods. Our goal was to make you more comfortable in preparing to purchase your next fishing rod. If you would like to learn more about the different types of fishing reels or types of fishing line, make sure to check out our other articles. Good luck out on the water!

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