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Do You Know Your Rods? Types Of Fishing Rods Explained

Fishing rods are as diverse as the needs of anglers. Whatever you’re after--no matter the technique--there’s a rod for you!

From tackle to help you fight a monster to delicate rods designed to fish small mountain streams, the right options for you are just a few clicks away.

But do you know what types of fishing rods are out there? How deep is your rod savvy? And are you sure you’re using the right rod for your fishing?

Let’s find out!

Types Of Fishing Rods

Casting Rods

casting rods

Casting rods are designed to accept baitcasting reels. As such, they’ll have a reel seat on the top of the rod, and (often) small guides running above, rather than below the blank. They usually have some form of “trigger” for your first finger to grip, too, as in the pic above.

Casting rods are designed for heavier line, stronger fish, and more desperate fights than spinning tackle. Indeed, the baitcasting reels you pair them with at their best offer line of more than 10-pound test (diameter). They also feature powerful drag systems to help protect your line against even the worst abuse large fish can dish out.

So as you’d expect, casting rods tend to be stout and strong. In fast actions, they’re designed to provide positive hooksets with worms and soft plastics, and in slower actions, to provide some cushion for treble-hooked crankbaits.

But whatever the action, they’ll have a superlative backbone, allowing you to muscle fish out of cover and turn a real brute as it tries to make an end-run around a stump. Most casting rods come in one- or two-piece models, and the latter are joined by a strong ferrule to provide a solid connection.

casting rod

They’re common choices for bass anglers, but you’ll see them in the hands of fishermen chasing muskie, pike, reds, tuna, shark, and anything else that demands robust tackle.

Casting rods come in a variety of lengths, ranging from short, thick rods for the largest fish to more slender choices for longer casts.

man using casting rod

Choose a casting rod for:

  • experienced anglers
  • large, strong fish like lake trout, pike, tarpon, etc.
  • ine heavier than 10-pound test (diameter)

Spinning Rods

spinning rods

Spinning rods are designed to accept spinning reels, and you’ll find the reel seat below the handle. It’s typical to find larger guides on these rods, especially close to the reel. And of course, they’ll be mounted below rather than above the blank.

spinning rod

The reels they’re designed to pair with are easy to use and popular. And with the lighter lines they run well, they’re excellent choices for windy days, smaller fish, and new anglers. Best with lines below 10-pound test (diameter), spinning reels are popular options for perch, panfish of all kinds, trout, croaker, speckled trout, and anything you can catch on lighter line.

man using spinning rod

Often more supple than comparable baitcasting rods, they’re available in ultralight power as well, providing greater challenge--and more fun!

But don’t think spinning rods--even ultralights--are weak; you can catch real monsters on them!

Like casting rods, most spinning rods are either one- or two-piece models, with the latter sporting a robust ferrule to join the two sections.

Choose a spinning rod for:

  • less-experienced anglers
  • line lighter than 10-pound test (diameter)
  • windy conditions

Surf Casting Rods

surf casting rods

Surf casting rods are designed to help you cast from the beach--past the surf--and into deeper water accessible just offshore. As a result, they tend to be longer to allow you to load them properly. And as you’d expect, they’re also rated for heavy lures and weights--another nod in the direction of distance.

You’ll also typically find extra-long handles to allow for plenty of space and two-handed snap casting.

Surf casting rods tend to be spinners rather than casting rods as they need to buck the wind common on the beach.

Starting at about 7 feet, these rods can be as long as 15 feet for situations that demand maximum casting distance. Many are multi-piece models, connected by strong ferrules, but some are telescoping, making them easy to pack and store.

Choose a surf casting rod for:

  • fishing from the beach

Fly Rods

fly rods

Fly rods are designed to cast wet and dry flies. Their length and action facilitate fly casting, allowing you to work your line with the rhythmic action necessary to keep it aloft. Neither spinning nor casting rods can cast these ultralight flies, so if you’re interested in giving this technique a try, fly rods are the only game in town.

Fly rods are paired with fly reels that are attached below the rod handle, very near the back. Like spinning rods, their guides run beneath the blank, but like casting rods, they tend to be quite small.

Fly rods come in a variety of lengths and weights, which are measured in # increments.

Choose a conventional fly rod for:

  • long fly casts
  • larger fish

Tenkara Rods

tenkara rods

Tenkara rods are a subset of fly rods that originally hail from the small mountain streams of Japan. Offering fly anglers a simple, clean aesthetic, tenkara rods are not fitted with a reel at all.

These telescoping rods are light, strong, and easy to pack--explaining their growing popularity with fly anglers who target small streams. And while they can’t cast as far as a conventional fly rod, they’re perfect for their intended use.

Instead, the angler works the fly from a limited length of line, hooking and catching fish much like you would with a cane pole.

Choose a tenkara rod for:

  • short fly casts
  • smaller fish
  • easy portability
  • simplicity

Ice Fishing Rods

ice fishing rods

Ice rods are designed to allow anglers to work jigs and live or dead bait through the hard water. Since many ice fishermen seek refuge in shanties or shelters, they need to be short enough to use in confined spaces. As a result, they tend to be very short.

To the uninitiated, they may look like children’s toys, but make no mistake--these are serious fishing tools! Designed to accept in-line reels similar to a fly reel, you’ll find the reel seat and guides below the handle and blank. Given their length, these rods are one-piece models.

They sport short handles. Many are intended to be gripped like a pistol, holding the reel at the junction with the handle, to make jigging less taxing on your hand and wrist.

But not every ice rod is pencil-thin. Some are designed for large fish like pike, muskie, or lake trout, and these are identical to heavy, short casting rods.

Choose an ice fishing rod for:

  • fishing hard water

Trolling Rods

Though you can troll with just about any rod, tackle manufacturers have stepped-up their game and started producing dedicated trolling rods. But trolling techniques vary a lot, from spider rigging for crappie, to running massive lures for marlin, to dropping a downrigger for pike.

spider rigging trolling for crappie

trolling rods sea fishing

As a result, “trolling” rods can be anything from an extra-long, light action spinning rod to a very short, super-heavy casting rod.

All that really defines a trolling rod is its intended purpose: they’ll be designed more for sitting in a rod holder than casting.

Choose a trolling rod for:

  • You guessed it--trolling

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has clarified rod types for you--and maybe you learned a thing or two! There’s plenty of misinformation on the web, and if you’ve ever been confused by terminology or unsure which rod is best suited to an application, you’re in good shape now.


About The Author
Pete Danylewycz