Beginners Bass Rod Basics
you looking for a new rod? Do you have some basic
questions about rods? I occasionally get asked for my opinions
about rods by anglers who are shopping for a new rod. These are
often only very general questions, so you can really only expect
very general responses from me here in this article!
Should I get baitcasting or spinning? First
and foremost, there is an obvious decision to go either with
spinning or baitcasting for the new rod. Here are just some
assorted tips and suggestions in no particular order. Perhaps one
of these random pointers will help you make a good rod choice
because it matches with something you are looking for in a new
rod right now:
- Many smallmouth anglers go to spinning rather than
baitcasting. Why? Smallies have smaller bodies, smaller mouths
and smaller lures are often used which require lighter lines.
Further, smallies do not get deep into wood or weed cover -
especially if largemouths occupy it. In the absence of
largemouths, smallies may very well occupy such places...those
are the place where you desire to use baitcasting's advantages
(heavier lines, more power) - in bad cover. But typically,
smallies are in more open, light cover where spinning is fine.
- Baitcasting rods are often presumed for largemouth. Many
casual anglers presume they need baitcasting gear since that is
what they see tournament pros using on TV and in magazines.
- Spinning works great with topwater floating worms, soft
plastic stickbaits, finesse fishing with lightly-weighted
- I also like spinning for lightweight vertical tactics such as
Western doodling, shaking, splitshotting and dropshotting deep
fish. The way you can hold the spinning rod just feels like an
advantage to me here!
- Crankbaits, spinnerbaits? You can truly go either way because
you are not necessarily fishing such lures deep in the heart of
heavy cover all of the time. You are often casting long
distances. Getting the spinnerbait or crankbait down to the
bottom, bumping into unforeseen cover along the way - but
essentially drawing active fish short distances out of sparsely
scattered cover to come to your crankbait or spinnerbait. In the
situation just described, either spinning or baitcasting is
- Anything in heavy cover? For example, a heavy jig 'n pig or
stout Texas rigged worm? Baitcasting is often better. Baitcasting
will allow you to take solid authority over big bass in the
extreme conditions found in heavy cover. The simple reason is
that you can really put pressure on the fish and winch the fish
in with baitcasting. There are several leverage and torque
disadvantages with spinning rods - even the way you hold them -
that makes spinning awkward for winching big bass out of heavy
cover. Therefore, most people will use baitcasting in heavy
Once the baitcasting versus spinning decision has been made
either way, then many new rod shoppers next ask for suggestions
as to the correct rod length.
Seven foot. Personally, I like to
use 7' rods for largemouth and smallmouth fishing whenever
possible. Why? It let's me keep all my rods (spinning &
baitcasting) the same overall length. By keeping the lengths
equal, to learn the logistics of casting, setting the hook and
fighting fish on one of them is to learn the "length"
logistics of them all (understanding that the rod handles will be
Six and a half. Understand,
however, that most manufacturers offer more choices of 6'6"
models than seven footers. If I was impressed by the qualities of
a particular 6'6" rod, I would not hesitate to buy it if
there was no preferable seven foot alternative!
Longer rods. I can't possibly
think of a situation where I would prefer a rod longer than seven
feet. In some heavy flipping to tight cover, there are a number
of good rods on the market measuring 7'6" and even 8 foot. I
have used a number of these rods, and I cannot recall ever having
any advantage over a seven foot rod. Of course, if I was on the
rocky riprap banks of a dam tailrace wanting to reach
surface-busting stripers in mid-current, I would probably have
some lengthy surf casting stuff with me...but that's beyond the
"casting distance" of this simple rod selection
Shorter rods may possibly be
better in extremely tight cover where the extra length of a seven
foot rod becomes a handicap when there's just not enough room
between the boat and the cover to get a good rod swing on the
cast or hookset. Perhaps skipping baits far back under docks is
the only place I can really see that a shorter rod MAY be an
advantage to some anglers, but I find I can usually skip fine
with a seven foot rod.
Light action rods. In situations
containing small lures, small bass, small streams, canals and
farm ponds, I downsize both spinning and baitcasting rods to six
foot to handle string strengths of 6 to 8 lb. test on spinning or
10 lb. test on baitcasting. The seven foot fulcrum starts feeling
too long to me - the tender rod tip on a light action rod is too
collapsible to get a good hook set at the seven foot length.
Finessing the depths. Please note
that there are specialized deep water finesse fishing tactics
that also use tiny lures on 6-8 lb. test. Western tactics called
doodling, shaking, splitshotting, and dropshotting fish off
bottom or suspended in mid-water. For these tactics, I always use
a seven foot rod. Although light lines are used here, in what is
often a vertical application over deep water, the seven foot
fulcrum gives you a clear advantage for loading the tip (simply
by reeling in line until feeling light pressure). Once the tip is
nicely loaded, you set the hook (by simply continuing to reel
plus a long sweeping rod set). Can't do that nearly as well with
a shorter rod!
Rod ratings. About manufacturers'
rod ratings...I am reluctant to make any suggestions to you about
that. Why? First, I don't think any two manufacturers have
cross-compatible rating systems. That is, give the same rod to
several manufacturers, and you will probably end up with several
different ratings. Oh, the tip action is easily definable
(medium, fast, extra fast, etc.), but I never could figure out
how they came up with the recommended line strengths, lure
weights or "power" ratings. Often the lure weights and
line strengths that I use with a rod are different than the
manufacturer's suggestions...plus my opinion of a rod's
"power" often differs from that of the manufacturer as
well! Not a whole lot - but enough to make a difference!
Hope this helps you pick a winner of a rod!