Understanding Different Types of Fishing Rods and How to Use Them

types of fishing rods
Whether it’s done on a lake, a river, a pond, a stream, or even the ocean, fishing is one of the most popular outdoor recreation activities around the world. In order to get out there and start fishing, it’s important to know the basics – like the different types of fishing rods and how to use them.

What are different kinds of fishing rods?   Each type of fishing rods entails a different method of use, though most involve similar basic steps like connecting the reel to the rod, stringing the rod, setting the drag knob, casting the bait, and reeling the line.  These are five common fishing rod types:

  • Casting Rods
  • Spinning Rods
  • Fly Rods
  • Ice Fishing Rods
  • Sea Fishing Rods

We’ve compiled all the information you need to know about the different types of fishing rods, what they’re used for, and how to use them. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be ready to grab the right fishing rod and start living the (fishing) dream.

Types of Fishing Rods and How to Use Them

As you just read, we’ll discuss 5 of the major types of fishing rods. What are their characteristics? What are they used for, and how do you use them?

You don’t need to fish for the answers – we already have them. Let’s get into it.

Casting Rods

Casting fishing rods are a type of rod that are built for accuracy. They allow fishermen to place their bait or lure in the area they want.

Casting rods usually have two categories: bait casting rods and spin casting rods. The difference between the two is that bait casting rods are intended to be used with baitcasting reels, while spin casting rods are intended to be used with spin casting reels.

Today, both bait casting rods and spin casting rods are sold as “casting rods,” so if you’re specifically looking for one over the other, it’s helpful to know the characteristics.

When casting rods bend over, the rod bends with the guides (eyes) facing upwards. This prevents big and powerful fish from pulling the eyelets off the rod.

What Casting Rods Are Used For

Casting rods are used very commonly and in a lot of situations. Generally, casting rods are used for those who plan on fishing for large fish or fish that tend to “fight” the line. Long casting rods are designed for tasks like power fishing, surfcasting, or trolling for large fish.

Casting rods also tend to be great for beginners, especially if they are shorter casting rods with smaller rod guides, because they’re easier to cast and control.

So, casting rods can be used by both beginners, novices, and professionals, and can be used in just about any body of water that has large, powerful fish like striped bass, salmon, and blue catfish.

How to Use a Casting Rod

Using a casting rod is a generally simple process, as long as you’re familiar with your gear, your equipment, and their purpose.

The basic steps to using a casting rod are:

  1. Gather your equipment and gear (rod, reel, line, bait, hook, etc.)
  2. Locate and adjust the braking system on your reel
  3. Adjust your tension knobs
  4. Test your tension
  5. Grip your fishing rod
  6. Release your line to get ready to cast
  7. Release your spool and cast
  8. Repeat!

Spinning Rods

Spinning rods are similar to casting rods, except they tend to be shorter and lighter. They vary in length but tend to be anywhere from 4 feet to 9 feet long. Spinning rods are intended to be used with spinning reels, and unlike casting rods, the rod guides face downward.

What Spinning Rods Are Used For

Spinning rods are some of the most commonly used fishing rods and are touted by beginners and professionals alike.

They come in a huge variety of lengths and actions, and can, therefore, catch a huge variety of fish. Light spinning rods can be used to catch small fish like trout, medium spinning rods are great for catching fish like bass, and long heavy action spinning rods can be used to catch large fish like salmon, steelhead, and even saltwater fish.

How to Use a Spinning Rod

The basic steps to using a spinning fishing rod are:

  1. Gather your equipment (rod, reel, line, bait, hook, etc.)
  2. Connect your reel to your rod
  3. Spool your reel
  4. String the rod
  5. Tie your knot
  6. Set your drag knob
  7. Release your line to get ready to cast
  8. Release your spool and cast
  9. Repeat!

Fly Rods

Fly rods are intended to be used for what they sound like: fly fishing. They tend to be more lightweight and thinner compared to other fishing rods, and the most common lengths are 6 to 8 feet.

Fly rods cast freely and fast because they don’t have a butt piece after the reel. Fly rods also have a unique component – a specialized eye that carb tangles when casting. This specialized eye allows fly rods to guide heavy fly line, making fly rods that much stronger.

The reel on fly rods is mounted very low on the rod, even below the handle. This creates more balance in the rod when it’s being used.

What Fly Rods Are Used For

Fly rods are used by fly anglers. Like spinning rods, fly rods have a large variety of lengths and actions. Again, this allows them to be used to fish for a large variety of fish in a large variety of waters.

Fly rods can be used to catch fish from the smallest of trout in a pond to the largest of tuna or marlin in the ocean.

How to Use a Fly Rod

Fly rods are typically used by more advanced anglers that are familiar with the sport. When it comes to using a fly rod, you need to be especially familiar with all the components of your fly rod, reel, and line.

Here’s a look at a basic overview of the steps to using a fly rod, once your rod, reel, line, and flies are set up:

  1. Grip your rod like you are shaking hands with someone; your thumb should be on top, pointed to the end of the rod. Your hand should be in the middle of the grip of the rod.
  2. Hold your fly line between your index finger and the rod to prevent extra line coming out
  3. Pull about 10 yards of fly line from the rod
  4. Wiggle the rod up and down to feed the fly line out and onto the ground or water below you
  5. Don’t bend your wrist, but lift your arm up until the line is tight
  6. Rotate your arm backwards to bring the line behind you (fast!)
  7. Bring the rod to a 1 o’clock or 2 o’clock position
  8. Pause – and let the line form a loop behind you (this is important)
  9. Once the loop is formed behind you, quickly bring your rod forward to a 10 o’clock position. Your line will be cast in front of you.
  10. Slowly and gently guide your arm and the rod down so that the line doesn’t slap the water. If the line slaps the water, it could scare the fish away.
  11. Repeat!

Ice Fishing Rods

Ice fishing rods are much like fly rods in the fact that they do what their name sounds like. Ice fishing rods are made for – you guessed it – ice fishing!

Ice fishing rods are the small rods of the fishing world, coming in at about 25 to 37 inches in length. In function, they’re relatively similar to spinning rods, although they have fewer eyes and no reel (although spinning reels can be used with them).

Most often, instead of a reel, ice fishing rods have two opposing hooks attached to the rod so the line can be wound by hand.

What Ice Fishing Rods are Used For

Ice fishing rods are short and ultralight, and as you might guess, those characteristics are for good reasons. Ice fishing rods are, of course, made for ice fishing, but ice fishing can pose its difficulties.

Bites can be very difficult to detect through ice, so ice fishing rods are very sensitive, especially at the tip. This allows fishermen to be able to see when they have a bite. Also, ice fishing rods are short, so the fisherman can sit closer to the ice fishing hole.

How to Use an Ice Fishing Rod

Ice fishing can entail a lot of different add-on equipment and gear, like tip-ups, jigs, rod holders, and augers. After all, ice fishing is done on the ice – and you need to cut your hole in the ice to access the water.

Let’s walk through some of the basic steps to using an ice fishing rod once you’ve found your spot and drilled your hole in the ice.

  1. Choose the bait, jigs, spoons, or lures for your ice fishing rod. You can use live bait like worms or artificial bait like tiny spoons.
  2. Add your desired bait to your line.
  3. Add weight to your line if needed/desired.
  4. Drop your line in the hole through the ice.
  5. Either hold on to your ice fishing rod while you’re waiting for a bite or prop your ice fishing pole up on a rod holder.
  6. Pay close attention to the top of your ice fishing pole – you want to watch for bites!
  7. Make sure the eyelet on the end of your ice fishing pole is clear of ice or slush so you can tell when you’ve got a bite.
  8. Repeat as needed!

Sea Fishing Rods

Again, you’re probably able to guess what sea fishing rods are used for. Sea fishing rods vary greatly in their lengths (they can be anywhere from 3 to 15 feet) and actions and the characteristics of sea fishing rods can depend heavily on if they’re being used to fish from land or a boat.

What Sea Fishing Rods Are Used For

When sea fishing rods are used to fish from land, they’re very long – up to 15 feet tall and in some instances, even taller. Adversely, when sea fishing rods are used to fish from a boat out in the open water, they tend to be shorter in length.

Longer rods have a longer casting distance, and shorter rods have a shorter casting distance. Overall, sea fishing rods are used to fish for ocean species – and they can be really large. Therefore, sea fishing rods tend to be more powerful, thick, and heavy than other fishing rods.

How to Use a Sea Fishing Rod

Since sea fishing can vary so greatly, and since sea fishing rods and their purposes can vary so greatly, there are a lot of different methods and techniques when it comes to using sea fishing rods.

However, we can go through a simple walkthrough to using a sea fishing rod:

  1. Gather all your gear (rod, reel, line, tackle, scissors, etc.)
  2. Put your line on the rod.
  3. Pull some line from the eyes of the rod and leave about 6 feet of line hanging from the tip of the pole.
  4. Reel in your line until your reel is about two-thirds of the way full of line.
  5. Cut your line at the 6 feet mark.
  6. Connect your lure, hook, or bait to your line.
  7. Squeeze some split shot about 33 inches away from the bait, especially if you are using live bait.
  8. Snap a bobber on your line if desired so you can tell when you have a bite.
  9. If you’re surf fishing, tie a weight around your line where the hook might go. This will keep your line in the water even through the surf.
  10. Repeat as necessary!

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Fishing Rod

By now, you know about 5 of the major types of fishing rods, what they’re used for, and the basic steps of how to use them. Now we can move on to the next important part: choosing a fishing rod that’s right for you and your needs.

If you don’t already own a fishing rod and you’re ready to try your hand at fishing, or if you already own a fishing rod and are looking for another, you’ll want to keep the following tips and factors in mind!

Where Do You Plan On Fishing?

The areas and environments in which you plan on fishing have a huge effect on the type of fishing rod you should purchase. After all, you wouldn’t want to buy an ice fishing rod when you plan on sea fishing.

So, where do you plan on fishing? This will tell you volumes about the type of rod you should buy. If you plan on fishing in lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds, you could have success with a casting rod or a spinning rod.

Likewise, if you plan on fishing in the winter, an ice fishing rod will be one of your best bets.

What Types of Fish Do You Want to Catch?

The types of fish you aspire to catch will also help you determine the type of fishing rod you need to buy. Again, those large fish in the ocean will likely need to be fished for with a powerful, long, heavy fishing rod like a sea fishing rod.

On the other hand, if you plan on fishing in the waters close to where you live, you can check with your fish and game departments to see what types of fish are abundant in the area. You may decide that based on the fish species near you, you need a different type of fishing rod.

As you’ve learned by now, fishing rods have different lengths, actions, and powers in order to properly catch and reel in different types of fish. The fish you want to catch can really determine the fishing rod you need to buy!

How Experienced Are You?

Your experience and skill level with fishing can also be a determining factor in the type of fishing rod to buy. For example, if you’re a beginner who hasn’t ever used a fishing rod before, you probably don’t want to leap right into fly fishing (although you could if you really desired).

Spinning rods are the best types of fishing rods for beginners, and they’re also used by fishermen with moderate to advanced experience. Additionally, casting rods and ice fishing rods are good fishing rods for beginners and novices to use.

If you’re a very experienced fisherman, you may not have to worry as much about this factor.

Final Thoughts

It’s no secret that fishing is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities, and it’s also no secret that there are a lot of different bodies of water and fish species out there. That’s probably why there are so many types of fishing rods that have so many different uses and techniques.

Remember, it’s important to know about the characteristics and uses of different fishing rods so that ultimately when you’re ready to cast your luck at fishing, you can choose the right fishing rod for yourself.

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