by: Shaye Baker
There are more choices today when it comes to rod selection than there have ever been in the history of bass fishing, and this selection is expanding by the day. With hundreds of companies offering dozens of lengths, actions and powers, the task of selecting the right rod for your particular needs can seem a little daunting. We’re here to help!
Right out of the gate, the best thing to do is make sure you have a couple of good all-around setups that you can use to fish a wide variety of baits and techniques. There are two basic styles of fishing rod and reel combos available to bass anglers that are wanting to build themselves a bass fishing arsenal: spinning gear and baitcasting gear. Let’s start there.
Two good all-around combos -
For the spinning gear, you can do a lot with a mid-sized spinning reel and a spinning rod between 6- feet, 9- inches and 7- feet in length, with a medium action. This spectrum offers something to fit any size angler. A younger or shorter angler may find that the 6’ 9” rod is a little easier to use. But a taller angler may feel a little more comfortable with the 7- footer. Though a rod even longer might feel fine to a taller angler, you don’t really want to venture far above the 7- foot mark for an all-around spinning combo. You want to be able to do a little bit of everything if need be with this setup. Skipping a wacky rig may be perfectly doable on a 7- foot, 2- inch rod, but that combo isn’t suited well for a dropshot. Picking something from this 3- inch range will give an angler of any size and skillset the ability to effectively fish a Neko rig, Ned rig, dropshot, wacky rig, single swimbait as well as other finesse tactics. And as for the reel, mid-sized reels will be those that are indicated by some sort of 3 in the nomenclature. Each brand does this differently. Some may have a 3, 30, 300 or even 3000 in the name. These are the best all-around sizes, with something like a 2500, 250 or 25 size being a little smaller and the second best the for most applications. Reels larger and smaller than these models are designed for more specific uses. As for the best all-around baitcaster, this is pretty simple. You’ll want to go with a 7- foot medium heavy rod with a low profile reel in the 7:1 gear ratio range. This is the best combo for the widest range of techniques, from squarebills to lipless cranks to topwaters and on and on.
Treble hooks versus single hooks -
One of the easiest ways to distinguish the rod action needed for a bait is to look at the type of hooks that are on it. If the bait has a single, big hook, you’ll usually need to set that hook pretty hard and thus need a stiffer rod. Treble hooks however, require very little force to penetrate a fish’s mouth. And a rod that’s too stiff will actually rip these smaller hooks out of a fish, or bend them. The same is the case for light-wire, single hooks, like dropshots, Ned rigs and wacky rigs. These hooks slip into fish easily and can bend if too much force is exerted on them. So the rods for these techniques shouldn’t be stiff. This means that almost all spinning rods will need to be medium heavy and under in strength, with medium and medium light even being common selections for baits like spybaits and drop shots. Moving into the baitcaster realm, it’s best to use medium heavy as the dividing line between treble hook lures and single hook baits. Baits with multiple small hooks like squarebills and jerkbaits should be thrown on rods in the medium to medium heavy range, basically going lighter on the rod action and shorter on the length as the hooks get smaller. Then starting with the medium heavy rods, you can use a 7- footer for shaky heads, single swimbaits and even small spinnerbaits and buzzbaits, shifting to longer rods for bigger reaction baits and heavier action rods for jigs, frogs and other power fishing techniques.
Specialty rods -
There are a few techniques that require very specific gear. Even though a dropshot can be fished fairly effectively on a 7- foot medium heavy spinning rod for instance, a 6- foot, 9- inch medium action rod is ideal so that the fish don’t feel you before you feel them. But a 7- foot, 2- inch medium heavy spinning rod is far better for shaky heads and wacky rigs than the shorter, lighter dropshot rod. And then there are the baitcasters, for which the specific needs abound at times. A good example is an umbrella rig. If you try to launch one of these on the 7- foot medium heavy all-around rod, you’ll snap it in half. Instead, you’ll need something heavy in the 7- foot, 6- inch to 8- foot range with a fairly continuous parabolic bend, so that the rod can load up and launch the rig, and it’s also not so stiff that it will straighten the hooks out on a bass once you hook up. Then shifting over to punching, you’ll need an even stronger roughly 8- foot rod to pull big bass out of super thick vegetation. And then for deep cranking, it’s good to have a medium to medium heavy action rod that’s softer than the umbrella rig rod, but longer than the 7- foot all-around combo. Dialing in these specialty rods will take a little time. But for starters, just make sure you have two good combos that you can do a lot with. And then use the hook style and size to help you branch out from that solid foundation to select rods for certain baits and add technique specific gear overtime.
These simple tips should help you make sense of the madness the next time you go to select a rod.