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Whether you are new to fishing or diving into the gear-junkie life, you are probably wondering what material your rod is made of. Knowing your rod’s material will help you understand the rod’s action and best application. Understanding the material options will also be beneficial if you’re someone looking to build your own rod from a blank.
Your fishing rod is likely made from one of three materials: graphite, fiberglass, or composite. Each of these materials has arrived in the fishing industry at other times, and each provides unique qualities to fit a variety of fishing techniques or styles.
However, before you go out and buy one of these rods, you will want to understand the benefits and setbacks of their characteristics. Unsurprisingly, the newest fishing rod material provides the most benefits, but “outdated” materials can be a fun way to turn back the clock and seek a new fishing challenge.
Understanding Fishing Rod Materials: Graphite, Fiberglass, and Composite
Graphite Fishing Rods: Lightweight Design and Fast Action
Introduced in the mid-70s, graphite rods are the most common on the market today. They’re most known for being stiffer or having a “fast action.” This means the bend in graphite rods, compared to fiberglass, is closer to the rod tip, which leads to quicker hooksets and a more powerful rod. Less flex in the rod means you will a) detect strikes easier and b) the time between your reaction and the hookset is much quicker than slow action rods.
Sometimes you will hear the term “carbon fiber” to describe another type of fishing rod, but don’t let this term confuse you- it’s essentially the same thing as graphite. To get technical, graphite and carbon fiber are both carbon-based, but their construction and manufacturing processes may differ. For fishing purposes, graphite and carbon fiber are the same.
The quality of graphite and carbon fiber rods depends on the rod’s modulus. Modulus, in layman’s terms, measures stiffness per square inch and how far the material can stretch before it breaks. A higher modulus means manufacturers can use less material to achieve the same stiffness. This is why graphite rods weigh less but have more power than fiberglass.
Overall, graphite rods’ lightweight design and fast action make them popular for a very good reason: you can have a successful all-day excursion without tiring your arm! However, their ease and convenience will come at a higher price than fiberglass, and they are prone to breaking easier if bent too much.
Fiberglass Fishing Rods: Heavy, Flexible, and Durable
Fiberglass rods were introduced to the fishing industry in the 1940s and are still commonly used today. Their heavy, flexible characteristics make them great for beginners or clumsy friends prone to breaking a rod. Fiberglass rods will have slow action, meaning they will appear very “wobbly” when flexing the rod, and their heft creates some durability.
This slow action means they will not break easily, but you must sacrifice bite sensitivity. So for the beginner using a fiberglass rod, be assured they will likely not break the rod, but detecting bites and setting the hook may be difficult.
Like any rod material, the price range of fiberglass can vary- but overall, fiberglass is an inexpensive option. Its durability and flexibility will be perfect for beginners, but low sensitivity and power may make hooking and fighting fish difficult.
Composite Fishing Rods: The Middle Ground Between Graphite and Fiberglass
Since composite rods are made of fiberglass and graphite, composite is the middle ground between graphite and fiberglass. Composite rods will have less strength than graphite, but they will be stiffer than fiberglass. As with every rod-material, composite rods will vary in power and flexibility- this depends on the rod’s fiberglass ratio to graphite ratio.
For example, if a composite rod is made of more graphite than fiberglass, it will be stiff. If there is more fiberglass than graphite, it will have more flex. Since composite rods can play with these ratios, composite rods offer various options for flexibility and power.
Composite rods are great for anyone who wants to avoid covering the cost of graphite but is frustrated by the slow action of fiberglass.
Bamboo Fishing Rods: Oldest Fishing Rod Material with High Flexibility and Sensitivity
Bamboo is considered the oldest fishing rod material and is easily recognized for its flexibility and heft. Although many anglers feel a sense of nostalgia while using their bamboo rod, they are likely not fishing with it all day, as your arm will quickly tire after a couple of hours. However, bamboo rods are incredibly flexible and very sensitive- to the point that you can feel every bump or tick along the bottom of any creek, stream, or lake.
Today, bamboo rods are most commonly found in the fly fishing industry, and if you’re lucky, you can find someone local who builds beautiful bamboo rods. Their application is best with small, light flies- particularly dry flies. Because of the rod’s high flexibility, it takes almost zero weight to flex the rod to cast the line and fly forward.
If you’re looking for a quality bamboo rod, be prepared to pay more than even graphite. Unfortunately, this cost also comes with the risk of damage to a bamboo rod, as they are fragile and lack durability.
How to Choose the Right Fishing Rod Material for Your Needs
What Material Is Best For Fishing Rods?
Graphite is widely considered the best material for fishing rods due to its combination of strength, reactivity, and lightweight. With their stiff structure and fast action, graphite rods also provide the power to cast further with precision.
Where Should I Buy A Fishing Rod?
Like everything else in our world, you can find products online or in-store. If you know what you want and understand the characteristics of a rod, feel free to buy it online. However, if you have any questions or are new to any type of fishing, your best bet is to go to any brick-and-mortar shop. Typically, these stores, even the chain ones like Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops, have knowledgeable employees ready to help you find the right fishing rod.
What’s The Difference Between Cheap And Expensive Rods?
The difference between cheap and expensive rods generally comes down to their performance (reactivity, casting) and material composition (fiberglass vs. composite vs. graphite). Expensive rods typically have a “good feeling.”
This is a subjective measure as people have different preferences, but generally, the rod balances easily when held in your hand. More importantly, expensive rods combine strength and fast action with a lightweight design to ensure fishermen cast further and more accurately without a tired arm.
Here is a tip while shopping: if you flick a rod and watch its tip, notice how the tip “recenters” to a steady position. The quicker it returns to the center, the more accurate the rod is likely to be.
With all of this said, despite the advantages of expensive rods, don’t let them fool you- some rods are costly because they have a convenient label slapped on them. So do your homework to find what is best for you, as there are plenty of rods out there that are affordable and effective.
How Do I Know Which Rod Is Best For Me?
Choosing the best rod material can feel overwhelming, but it can be narrowed down by considering experience and fishing techniques. If you are a beginner worried about breaking a rod while fighting fish, handling the rod, or transportation, a fiberglass or composite rod may be best because of its durability. If you are making far casts into precise locations all day and are frustrated by slow hookups, a graphite rod will be best.
Don’t buy if you can’t appreciate the reasons and components that make a fishing rod so expensive. First, as you dive deeper into your passion for fishing, you will naturally look for improvements and higher quality in your tackle and gear. Second, there is an infinite number of rods out there that do not break the bank and remain suitable for all experience levels.
Fishing rods are most commonly made of graphite, fiberglass, composite, or bamboo. Each rod material offers its benefits and setbacks, so using a variety of types will help you understand the best application for each.