Choosing the Right Rod

By Todd Reed

The sun is just popping out over the trees as you walk to your first fishing location of the spring. Poles-check, bait-check, tackle box-check, bucket-check, it was going to be a perfect day for some springtime fishing. Mild temperatures with a slight breeze from the south, nothing could go wrong on a day like this. If this is something you are looking forward to in the near future then this article is a must read. That first item that every angler grabs for their day on the water is the most important one, your fishing rod.

Fishing rods come in all different sizes and shapes for a lot of different reasons. A rod that is perfect for crappies, may not be any good for catching bass. There are many examples of rods that anglers use that simply are not made for what the angler is using them for. When going after your favorite species of fish, it would be in your best interest to pay a lot of attention to the rod you are selecting to chase down those fish. It may help you catch more fish, and help you land the big one, and not let it get away.

We all have had our stories and heard of stories of the big one that got away. More often than not, I can attribute this loss to not having the proper rod in our hands to accommodate the baits or fish we are targeting. To try and keep the process of selecting a rod simple, I am going to break the most common Iowa fish species up into three categories; panfish, big game fish, and bass/walleyes.

Panfish (bluegills/crappies/trout)
Most anglers around the state chase after these tasty creatures throughout the year. However, many times I see anglers working too hard to catch these fish. When fishing for panfish, typically we use very tiny baits, thus requiring us to use a light action rod. These light action rods allow us to use the smallest baits and still be able to cast them a good distance, as long as we keep our line test at a minimum. A rod is simply a whip that allows us to throw different sized baits. A light action or medium-light action rod will allow us to do this. A longer rod will allow us to throw our baits greater distances as well, with just a quick flip of the wrist. When panfishing with jigs or live bait rigs I prefer at least a six-foot, six-inch rod in the medium-light action. This type of rod also let’s us hook the small game fish without tearing the hooks out of their mouths. The lighter action rods will absorb the hookset and let you battle the fish. Other rods work well too, and we all have our favorites, if we can match the lightest baits to our lightest action rods we will be more successful casting our baits and battling those panfish.

Big Game Fish (muskie/pike/carp/catfish)
These bigger creatures are on the exact opposite end of the “rod spectrum”. Opposite to the smaller panfish, these fish need to be bossed around by a stout rod. Medium-heavy or heavy action rods should be used when targeting these species. When searching for these fish most anglers are throwing large artificial baits or heavier live-bait rigs. To accommodate the larger baits a longer rod should be used to make casting and fighting the fish an easier chore. Seven to eight foot rods would be the standard when going after these fish. Rods that are med/heavy and heavy action will allow you to set the hook with authority and battle the largest specimens available. If you are trying to catch these fish, using your panfish rods will make that task very difficult.

Bass and Walleye
These fish species probably have the most complicated array of fishing rods that you may need. These fish are often chased with artificial baits, allowing anglers to try different styles of baits to trick them into biting. Different baits, require different rods and different actions. It would be impossible to go through all the techniques, so I will choose a few of the more popular ways to fish for these species. A general guide for any rod that you are chasing walleyes or bass should be six-foot, six-inches long to seven-foot, six inches long. This will cover just about every kind of presentation you will be making for these predators. When chasing bass and walleyes it is nice to have several rods rigged up to the specifications. Again, some rods are not made for some types of baits. Here are a few examples of some rods and the baits they are best suited for.

Drop-shot, shakey head and jigging for walleyes are all pretty much the same technique. Move a lighter/smaller bait at or near the bottom to entice a strike. This is most often done with a spinning combo. My preference would be a medium action rod for these techniques. This allows you to set the hook with lighter line and play out the fish if needed. Throwing crankbaits is another top choice for both species. In my opinion, this technique is one that anglers really need to pay attention to their rod selection. Medium action works well with smaller crankbaits and a med/heavy action works well with larger offerings. Not only the action of the rod, but paying attention to the tip is very important when selecting a rod for crankbaits. You want a very soft tip when using crankbaits. This allows you to feel every twig, rock and those light bites. Quantum Rods and Reels makes an entire series of rods especially designed for crankbaiting. The Tour KVD PT Casting rods come in all different lengths and actions, they are on the high end of casting rods, but worth every penny you spend. If you are serious about feeling everything with your crankbaits, those rods are for you. Another key to any crankbait rod is the parabolic bend that Quantum PT rods offer, this is key to fighting the fish and keeping them hooked up on those smaller treble hooks. (Medium action rods are also great for topwater, spinnerbaits, and chatterbaits)

One of the most popular ways to catch bass throughout any season is pitching a jig or Texas-rigged plastic bait. When rigging this rod you should focus on the longest rod that you feel comfortable using. The action is probably the most crucial part of the rod when pitching these baits. At the minimum anglers should use a med/heavy or heavy action rod. This allows you to set the hook on those bass with power and get the fish coming towards you quickly. This information doesn’t cover every situation for bass and walleye but covers the most popular techniques and the rods you should be rigging for the upcoming season.

Anglers are really fortunate these days will all the choices that companies offer for rod selection. If you are in the market for a new rod this year, think about what rods you have and try to have a good selection of different sizes and actions. Each species, and lure deserve their own specific rod, and if you do get specific you will notice more fish coming your way in 2021.