Choosing a Rod for Beginners

Every new angler has been confused by walking into a Walmart or sporting goods store and seen aisles and aisles of different fishing rods. This can be extremely overwhelming to the point of where you want to either take the first one you seen in your budget and run, or just walk out shaking your head and never wanting to fish again.

You can also shop on-line, but when you find a rod you like it should have several different options like length, power, action, yada yada yada, and since you aren’t there to hold it and feel it in your hands, you might end up with the wrong rod for the fish you are trying to catch and either break it in half your first time out, or its so heavy, that you never feel a trout bite. Not to worry though, I am going to try and help you figure out exactly what you might need, or a at the very least, a good idea.

Choosing the right fishing rod really depends on a couple of things. First is what are you going to be fishing for, so for trout and smaller fish, you may want to go with an ultralight fast action rod that will give you the power to land it, but also the action to feel the fish bite and help you set the hook. For trout and smaller fish, I generally use under a six foot rod.

For Bass and other larger fish, I go with a medium power and fast action rod so it has the power to lift a ten pound fish, but can also feel when it just nibbles at my bait, and I try to keep my rods from six to seven feet in length with a nice braided line. For the larger fish like Carp and Catfish that can get pretty big, I use a heavy power, medium action rod, with a length of about six to seven feet.

When fishing ponds and lakes, you don’t really have anything like current weighting your rod down, so you can stick to what I just said, but for rivers that have strong currents, you may want to beef up the power a little bit, or your rod is going to be bent over like you have a fish on all the time.

Go to a store and look on the rod for the power and the actions which should be around the base near the reel seat, and shake them and see how they feel in your hand. You will see a HUGE difference between ultralight and a heavy rod.

What Type Of Rods Are There?

When it comes to rods, there are a few different types.


This is the most common of the rods out there because a lot of people love them. This the rod where the reel sits below the guides and have a bail that you flip in order to cast. You are going to be able to find these rods in all different sizes, power, and actions. These rods will also come in one piece, two piece and even telescoping rods. If you are new, this is a really good type of rod to get, and will offer the most flexibility in fishing.


Spincast rods were really big back when I was a kid because these are the rods that you could get at the store in a package that had things like Batman, and Starwars on them. This type of rod has the guides on the outside of the rod, and has a reel with a push button on it to release the line. These rods are usually meant for children or beginners because the are easier to cast because of the push button. You can find these rods for adults as well, but don’t always off the same power, and action as a spinning rod.

man wearing jacket fishing off the lake


These rods are similar to spincast, but use a completely different reel on them. They have the guides on the outside and instead of having a button to release the line, you have to use your thumb. This type of rod I use mostly for bass, and really gives me control over my casts, especially if I just want to toss my bait under a tree or by a boat dock. These are quite popular for bass fishing, and you can find these rods in all different sizes, power and action just like spinning rods. The one downfall to these rods is it can take some time to learn how to cast them, or you can “Birds Nest” the line super easy, making for a bad day.

Fly Rods:

Fly fishing is extremely popular for rivers and streams, and is is also good for ponds and lakes. These rods are going to be longer, and take a special fly reel that is seated at the very bottom of the rod, unlike the other rods that have the reel 12 to 18 above the end. I would not recommend these rods for beginners because it can take years to master casting them so you don’t snap your bait off, and can take a lot of clearance when casting them.

What Is Rod Power?

A rods power is a main factor when choosing a rod. Rod power is a rating that tells us how rigid the rod is and usually will relate to how thick the rod is going to be. It also will tell us how much raw lifting weight the rod can handle when pulling a fish out of the water because if you are trying to pull a ten pound bass out of the water with an ultralight rod, its going to snap in half.

Another key thing to remember about power is that it closely relates to how heavy of line you can use on the rod. A heavier rod can handle a higher pound test line than say an ultralight rod. To break it down, ultralight and light rods would be great for smaller fish like trout, crappie and sunfish.

Medium would be good for your heavier fishes like bass, and then heavy rods would be great for the larger fish like big catfish and striper. Knowing what you are going to be fishing for is going to help you when picking rod power, but if you are just looking for an overall size for most fish, medium/medium light would serve you well.

What About A Rods Action?

People often mistake rod action with rod power, but its important to understand that they are very much different. A rods action really means where and how much a rod will bend when the pressure of a fish is applied to it. So say you have an ultralight rod with a fast action, and you hook a trout.

The rod action is going to tell you where its going to bend, so for fast action, about the top third of the rod is going to bend when pressure is applied. A medium action rod will bend around the top half of the rod, and so on. The action of a rod will also say how quick the rod is going to respond when you throw bait out and a fish bites and you set the hook.

For a Fast action rod, you are going to see and feel the tip of your rod twitch more than a heavier rod, so for smaller fish that you really want to feel bite, a faster action may be good for you, but if you are going after bigger fish that are really going to eat your bait and setting the hook isnt going to be a huge problem, a heavier action will work. The more you fish, the more you are going to learn about what action rod you like, but for bass and trout, I like a faster action rod as my go to.

So Many Sizes

When I first started fishing, I had a couple of rods that I used for years. They were nice trout spinning rod combos from our local retailer and size, action, or power never really meant anything to me. When I got older and moved into our community and started fishing with my neighbours, I quickly learned that times had changed a lot.

They would bring four or five rods with them, and I was amazed because they were all different sizes. They had six foot, and seven foot, and they all had a different bait on them, so I asked them why so many different sizes? Well, it is like this, when it comes to rod length, it is really up to the angler using it, but they do help with surges that you are going to have when the fish jumps.

young fisherman fishing off the shore

A longer rod is going to give you more control over the line, the fish and hook setting, so in my opinion, I would stick with a longer rod. For me, when I fish for trout I use a five foot six inch to seven feet sometimes, and for bass, I don’t use anything under six foot six inches. Again, if you are going for the middle of the road, stick to a six foot to 7 foot rod, and you should have no problems catching anything.

The Money

Everyone asks this question when trying to find a rod, especially new people to the sport. Rods can be as cheap as $20, and go all the way up to several hundred dollars just for a rod. So, is a more expensive rod really worth it?

My advice to you, especially for someone new to the sport is not to go out wasting your money on a G Loomis rod that is going to cost you a couple hundred bucks. Yes, there are some nice rods out there, but really think about what you are wanting before you go buy it, especially if you are reading this article and maybe have not fished a ton.

I have found that the rods I like to buy are around $100 to $150 dollars, but that is my personal preference. If I were you, I would go on line to Amazon and find a nice rod that is going to suite you needs for the type of fish you want to catch, and spend around forty to fifty bucks.

For that price, you are going to get something decent quality, but not break the bank for your first rod. Go out a few times and see how you like it and get the hang of fishing before spending the big bucks. The worst thing you can do is spend hundreds of dollars for a rod and only use it twice.


I know this was a lot to cover for someone that might be new to fishing, but selecting a rod is really important, and believe it or not, finding the right rod is going to impact your fishing trip. If you are new and really don’t want to fiddle with all the length, power, and action stuff, then go middle of the road and find yourself a nice six foot, medium power, fast action rod, and I am sure you are going to do just fine.

Don’t let all of this stuff confuse or overwhelm you when trying to find your first rod because this article is more for at least having the knowledge to know what all the different stuff means, so if you go to a large retailer, you can talk the talk and not get hosed by a salesperson. My advice to you is to figure out what type of fish you want to catch, and then start narrowing your choice down from there.

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