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Choosing the Proper Rod Length

Fishing rods are very personal tools. Luckily, there are some useful guidelines in selecting the best fishing rod for any fishing task.

Most anglers focus their attention on rod materials and action. That’s good, but it’s not enough. They also need to consider rod length.

There’s no doubt that rod materials are important. These days, most high-quality fishing rods are made of graphite, fiberglass or a composite of the two. Generally, graphite is lighter and more sensitive (perfect for plastic worm and jig fishing), fiberglass is softer and more forgiving (ideal for many treble-hooked baits) and composites are a compromise between the two.

Actions are also critical. For lighter lines and baits, a light action rod is typically best. Medium or medium-heavy action rods are often a great choice for lures with treble hooks or for spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and bladed jigs that are fished fast and generate “reaction” strikes. Heavy action rods are the default choice for single-hooked baits like plastic worms and jigs or for techniques like Flippin’ and pitching.

But rod length has a big — and underrated — impact on your fishing.

Fishing rods lying in boat

In the past sixty years, standard rod lengths have changed a lot. In the early 1960s, almost all bass rods were made of fiberglass and most were about five feet long. Reels were not the velvety smooth machines we have today, and they couldn’t cast conventional baits very far, but that was okay. All the fishing literature kept telling us that if we could hit a pie plate at 30 feet, we were ready to take on the bass world.

Those conventions began to change, just a little, in the early ’70s. That’s when the Flippin’ technique came to prominence. It added a full two feet to the standard rod length of the day, and anglers saw some advantages. Because Flippin’ was an underhanded, fixed line presentation method, great for presenting lures out to about 20 feet, it didn’t have any impact on casting length, but it was an eye-opener for many anglers when it came to leverage.

Plain and simple, you have much more hook-setting force with a long rod, and that fact was magnified because of the fishing lines of the day. Monofilaments like Berkley Trilene and DuPont Stren ruled the market. They were and are great, but there’s a lot of stretch in mono, and a longer rod helps to overcome that.

Several fishing rods lying next to each other

As anglers began to realize the advantages of longer rods, manufacturers took note, and rods got longer for every technique, not just for Flippin’. Longer rods and longer casts were important for lures like crankbaits (they dive deeper on a long cast) and for fishing in clear water (if you can see the fish, the fish can see you).

Over the years, increases in intelligent fishing pressure and advances in equipment have resulted in longer and longer casts, making longer rods the norm. Will the trend continue, or is it time for the pendulum to swing back to shorter rods? For now, the bass market seems to have settled on an average rod length between 6 1/2 and 7 feet.

Ultimately, rod length impacts four aspects of your fishing and should be considered any time you’re choosing gear.

(1) Accuracy

In a nutshell, shorter rods allow for more accurate casts … as long as we’re not talking about long-distance accuracy. A shorter rod is more manageable and maneuverable. It requires less energy to put it into motion and to flex (or “load”) it for the cast (except for heavy action models).

A short (6 feet or less) rod is ideal if you want to make short, accurate casts. When pinpoint accuracy is less critical, a long rod (over 7 feet) is the way to go. Dingy or dirty water and heavy cover are two situations where short-range accuracy is part of the recipe for success, and a shorter rod can really shine.

(2) Distance

Hand picking up reel

Long rods make long-distance casting much easier. If a 40 yard cast with a big, deep-diving crankbait like the Berkley Dredger is critical to your catch, your rod should be at least 7 feet long, and you’ll want a smooth reel and a line with a slim diameter.

Just remember that by gaining distance you necessarily sacrifice accuracy. No one is as accurate at 120 feet as they are at 30 feet, but when the water’s clear, fishing pressure is high, or you need some extra depth from a crankbait, long casts and long rods are the way to go.

(3) Leverage

Longer, heavier action rods offer more leverage than shorter, lighter action rods. This leverage is most critical on the hook-set where a longer rod can move more line faster than a shorter rod, and a heavier action rod loses less energy because it flexes less than a softer rod. It’s also true that a long rod with a light or medium action is often best for treble-hooked baits since keeping tension on a hooked fish can be more important than hook penetration.

Fisherman casting line

Action often trumps rod length here. When Flippin’, pitching or fishing a plastic worm or jig, a sledgehammer hookset with a long, heavy action rod may be important to drive a single hook deep into the jaw of a lunker bass. But if you’re throwing a crankbait or jerkbait with multiple treble hooks, a light rod action is generally more critical for keeping a fish on the line rather than a forceful hookset.

In other words, longer rods are typically best once a fish is on the line.

Abu Garcia has a wide variety of rods that offer the lengths and actions you need for any bait style, any hook style, any presentation style (casting, pitching, Flippin’) and any line type (monofilament, fluorocarbon or braid). If more leverage is your goal, check out the 7-foot-3 medium-heavy or heavy action Veracity casting rods (#1488293 and #1488294, respectively), the 7-foot-6 Veritas medium-heavy casting rod (#1430499) or the super stout Veracity 7-foot-6 heavy action casting model (#1488296) that’s tailor made for wrestling big bass from heavy cover.

(4) Comfort

Fisherman casting line

Here’s where rod length gets personal and where you need to be very honest with yourself. Just because your favorite bass pro recommends an 8-foot pitching rod doesn’t mean it’s best for you. That pro might stand 6-foot-4 and have the upper-body strength of an NFL linebacker. Maybe you’re less than 6 feet tall and not as buff as you used to be. Choose your rod accordingly. If you’re tall, you’re more likely to be comfortable with a longer rod than if you’re short.

Most bass anglers can handle a rod up to 7 feet in length with little difficulty — whether it’s a Flippin’ and pitching rod or one designed for deep cranking or anything else. Rods over 7 feet can be problematic if you’re vertically challenged. Know your comfort zone and stay within it. It’ll mean more fish in the long run.

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