One day last week my daughter invited me to tag along while she went shopping at the local Bass Pro Shop. After spending most of the last six weeks cooped up in the house recuperating from a medical issue, I was game.
Calli and I took a tour through the fishing department and couldn’t help but notice the number of people looking over the many racks loaded with fishing rods in various lengths, colors and configurations. Many stopped at the first rack they came to and ventured no further. Most picked up a rod, maybe two, and gave them a good shake. If the tip wiggled according to some predetermined standard of flexibility, they checked the price tag. When the price and the flexibility matched, it was time to head for the cash register.
One man came in with three young girls who quickly noticed a collection of pink fishing rods with color-coordinated reels. A quick flip of the wrist, a look at the price tag and the decision was made. Next stop, cash register. The rods might have been what the girls wanted, but were the rods really what the girls needed?
Anglers who have been around the fishing block a few times know there is more to buying a fishing rod than flipping the wrist and checking the price tag, but at the same time getting started in the sport isn’t rocket science, either. Rods are designed for various uses and fishing conditions. What a particular rod is best suited for can be determined by reading the specifications. These can be found printed on the rod blank, usually just above the handle. These specs tell you the action of the rod and recommended line sizes. In some cases you will also find recommended lure weights.
There are five basic rod actions: ultralight, light, medium, medium- heavy and heavy. Ultralight rods are generally used for fishing small streams or rivers and when using small lures. Light-action rods are generally used in similar situations as the ultralight, but might be a better choice for a beginner. Both actions are a good choice for trout and pan fish such as bluegill. Medium-action rods are a middle-of-the-road choice that enables anglers to fish a variety of waters and for a variety of species from walleye to smallmouth bass to trout. (These are too light for throwing large striper lures.)
When you’re interested in bigger fish, such as stripers that tip the scales at 10 to 20 pounds, consider a medium-heavy action. For anything larger, or when fishing heavy cover, a heavy-action rod will help you do the job with less frustration than a lighter action rod. The key to success is matching the rod to your intended use.
Serious anglers, such as those who compete at the tournament level, or perhaps those who are simply more seasoned, will want to invest in rods made of higher-quality materials, but they also come with higher price tags. Those just getting started and those who enjoy the occasional outing can be a little more budget minded when selecting equipment, but don’t settle for a flip of the wrist and a price check when doing so.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.