Choosing The Best Baitcasting Rod
So, you’ve received the special gift of a new baitcasting reel, but now you need a rod to go with it. That’ll be easy, just go to the rod store and pick one out, right? Then you get there and a walk down the aisle reveals a literal forest of rod selections. There are six foot rods, six and half foot rods, seven foot rods, the options just never end. Oh yea, and then, there are different rod actions including medium, medium light, fast, extra fast and so on. Do you a want split or solid grip? How many and what size guides? You could always just pick one and “hope” for the best baitcasting rod results, but man are they expensive… and the reel was a special gift, so you want everything to work properly. Here ‘s a little information from two rod nerds that hopefully will help you with that selection.
After deciding how much you want to spend, the first question you must ask is “What am I going to be doing with this baitcasting rod and reel?” Slip corking with live bait, popping cork fishing, top water or Slick Lure fishing, grub fishing or all the above. We’ll get the easy answer out of the way first before we nerd out. If the answer is “all of the above”, pick a seven foot medium action rod with a minimum of nine guides and a tip. Be sure the guides are at least 6mm so any knot in the line can pass through freely. That rod will be “pretty good” for everything, but not great at any of them. Now if you really want to get specific about an application read on.
Baitcasting Rod Length
Length of the rod should probably be the first consideration. For inshore saltwater use, you’ll never need anything shorter than six and a half feet nor longer than seven and a half, so let’s keep the discussion in that range of lengths. The shorter the rod, the better the feel, or sensitivity whereas, the longer rod, will cast further as more tip speed can be generated. So, if your rod is going to be used as a grub rod, where feel is most important, stay with the shorter rod.
If you’re going to be using it for popping cork or top water fishing where the bite is more visual and casting distance counts, go with a longer rod. If the rod is going to be used for top water or Slick Lure fishing, you may want to consider going to something in the seven foot two or three inch range. Here you’ll gain some casting distance but not totally give up feel. The strike on these types of lures is usually so pronounced it doesn’t require a lot of feel and the longer casts cover more water.
Next, let’s look at rod action. Rod action is heavy, medium or light with combinations of the three. Heavy action means stiffer whereas lighter action means flimsier. So, here again, these are the extremes. Neither heavy nor light actions have much use as an inshore saltwater rod, so we will limit the discussion to the medium action ranges. The heavier action side of the range will have the better feel and the lighter action works better for casting while sacrificing some sensitivity.
Adding to the discussion of action is rod tip “speed”. It is designed as extra fast, fast, medium fast, medium and so on. This refers to what takes place in the last third (towards the tip) of the rod. A fast tip is going to bend much more than a medium tip. Feel is lost with the fast tip, but casting distance improves. Also, the faster tip can compensate for a heavier action rod’s lack of “softness” when fighting a big trout, where concern would be pulling the hooks out.
Baitcating Rod Guides
If you’re not confused enough yet, continue reading as we’ll discuss the rod guides. Even the finest rod blank in the world won’t perform well if there are not the correct number of guides on the blank and they are spaced improperly. What is the correct amount? There is no magic number but, to answer simply, there needs to be enough guides to keep the line from touching or crossing the blank when the rod is loaded. The correct number of guides also need to be spaced properly to prevent this happening.
A custom rod builder will take care of this for you, but for a production rod, the obvious easy check is to put a reel with line on the rod and load the rod as there would be with a fish on it. Make sure the line never crosses or touches the blank when the rod is bent. The number and size of the guide will also affect casting distance. When the line travels through the guides, the amount of “waviness” needs to be kept to minimum. The smoother the line travels, the less contact with the guide resulting in longer casts with less effort. Larger and fewer guides allow for less laminarity causing shorter casts.
As mentioned previously though, if you’re going to be using a tied-on leader or a slip cork, you’ll need guides that are large enough to allow for the knot to freely pass through the guides. You should be able to “eyeball” the guide size to know if your knot will pass freely through them. If you’re not using a leader, go with the smaller guides. Very generally speaking, as a summary, you’ll want at least 9 guides and a tip for a 7’ rod, maybe one less on a shorter rod, one or two more on a longer rod.
The Perfect Rod Handle
Lastly, let’s take a look at the rod handle design. There are two options, either split or solid. Split grips were new not too long ago, but now most manufacturers offer them on most rods. There are two advantages of a split over solid grip.
First, the reel seat can be moved up or down the rod to affect the rod performance. By moving the seat closer to the butt, the casting distance will improve but some feel can be lost. By moving it closer to the tip, feel is improved at the expense of some casting distance. If you’re going to be wading with your rod, the shorter butt will be handy as it will be easier to keep the butt out of the water.
A longer distance from the butt to the reel will give you some support if you’re going to using a popping cork as the rod handle can be laid against your inner forearm for support. The other advantage to a split over a solid grip is that the split will be lighter as there won’t be as much handle material, bushing or glue in it as would be in a solid grip.
While all of this is important in your baitcasting fishing rod selection, the most valuable piece of information is how the rod feels in your hands. Keeping in mind that in a day of fishing you could be making hundreds of casts (and hopefully catching a fish on every one of them), You’ll want the rod to feel good and look good. So, make that your main consideration and if you decide to use the provided tips, we sure hope your new rod and reel is one that you’ll enjoy for a long time!
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