8 Different Types of Fishing Rods – When to Use Them and Why?


All rods are pretty much the same, right? Nope!

You couldn’t paint a masterpiece with a sharpie, could you? The same is true of your fishing. To get the best results, you’ve got to have the right tools for the job.

There are many types of fishing rods, and today I will go through the main fishing rod types and uses. I’ll also tell you the pros and cons of various fishing pole types.

Let’s dive in!

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8 Different Types of Fishing Rods Explained

There are so many different types of fishing rods around. There is also a significant crossover between them. You can get a carp rod that is also a travel rod or a baitcasters used for surf fishing.

Here’s everything you need to know about rod choices available to you.

Spinning Rods

Lure fishing is such a popular discipline. There are very few fish that can’t be tempted to attack something tiny! As a result, you’ll find plenty of choices when it comes to spinning rods. They normally have a few essential features that can help you to identify them.

fisherman fishing with spinning rod in pond

Such as?

Fast action for one.

These lures don’t tend to weigh a lot, so they need a ‘whippy’ and fast rod to propel them into the distance when casting.

Spinning rods tend to be relatively short too. Normally they range from 6 – 10 feet. The reason for this is that spinning requires you to be pretty mobile. It is not fun walking around with a long 14-foot rod!

The same is true of the rod’s weight. Because lure fishing requires you to constantly cast, a big heavy rod will soon leave you feeling fatigued.

Spinning rods tend to have a short handle as they are designed to be used one-handed.

Pros

  • Great for casting short distances.
  • Fast action giving plenty of sport.
  • They are relatively cheap.
  • They can be quite versatile. You aren’t limited to spinning only.
  • You have plenty of choices.

Cons

  • They aren’t suitable for really big fish, like, say, catfish or carp.
  • Very short casting distance.

Baitcasting Rods

Baitcasting rods are some of my favorites. As the name suggests, they are designed for throwing out larger baits (and the occasional lure).

Baitcasting rods occupy a range of sizes from tiny 5′ rods all the way up to huge 16 footers!

angler with rod and reel fishing carps in lake

Baitcasting rods are a good all-rounder. If you like to lure fish every so often, you could get away with a lightweight version. But be warned, bait cast rods are generally designed to sit in a stand. You can also float fish with baitcasters.

You’ll find baitcasting rods made from a variety of materials, normally graphite or carbon composite. The reason is that manufacturers are trying to keep the weight down.

Pros

  • Great all round rods.
  • Very durable.
  • Great for both big and smaller fish.

Cons

  • They can get expensive.
  • A little heavy.
  • Not always the most portable.

Surf Fishing Rods

You’ll already know that the sea is a big place. You will need some heavy-duty gear if you want to thump out your bait any considerable distance.

boat fishing rod and reel for saltwater fishing

The answer?

Surf fishing rods. These tend to be quite long with a heavy blank designed to cast 3oz or greater weights. They are rather heavy and are not at all suited to lure fishing. Instead, you cast out and then stow your rod on a beach spike or rod rest.

You can easily cast 100 yards or more. Surf fishing rods are designed to haul in huge, hard-fighting sea fish. You’ll tend to find they are thick, solid, and really durable without much ‘whip’.

When it comes to cost, surf fishing rods are varied. You can go budget or super expensive.

Why not take a look at my article on the best saltwater rods and see if there is something that you like?

Surf fishing is seriously heavy-duty, and any old rod just isn’t going to cut the mustard. My advice? Well, check out this guide on the best surf rod and reel combos to make life easy.

Pros

  • Heavy duty.
  • Huge casting distance with big weights and baits.
  • Anti-corrosive properties, they last a while.

Cons

  • Normally very heavy.
  • Not suited for all types of fishing.
  • They can be cumbersome and hard to transport.

Travel Fishing Rods

I like travel fishing rods. While I wouldn’t use one as my ‘main’ rod, they are very handy if you want to get out onto the water quickly.

Travel rods are so named because of their compact size. You’ll tend to find that they come in several easy-to-carry sections… If you invest in a good one, you’ll even find that they come in a carry case or tube.

Their compact size is their limiting factor. They are neither heavy nor particularly long. You’ll tend to find that they are better for things like lure and float fishing than heavy disciplines like distance casting for bigger species.

Travel fishing rods are very much a case of ‘you get what you pay for’. The cheaper models tend to be really low quality compared to the “premium” versions.

If you’ve never seen a travel rod before, you are in for a treat! I’ve got a great article telling you everything you need to know right here.

Pros

  • Easily transportable (obviously).
  • Good for getting out quickly.
  • They can be quite cheap.

Cons

  • Not really suitable for long term use.
  • Dedicated rods do a better job.
  • They can be a little flimsy.

Fly Fishing Rods

Fly fishing rods are great. If you are looking to catch trout, salmon, bass, steelhead, or any other predatory species, some would argue that there is no better rod!

fly fishing rod and river in background

Fly fishing rods tend to be really lightweight. You can normally tell which rods are fly fishing rods as they have a really short handle, and the reel is mounted behind your hand instead of in front of it.

Fly fishing rods are made of all sorts of materials, including carbon fiber, fiberglass, bamboo, split cane, and more.

The downside with fly fishing rods is that you can only fly fish with them and nothing else. So if the fish aren’t taking a fly, then you are kind of stuck! Nowadays, fly fishing rods tend to all come in several easy-to-carry sections.

Want help choosing a good fly fishing rod? I’ve got you. If you are brand new to the sport, I’ve also assembled a great list of beginner fly fishing rods too!

Pros

  • Really easy to transport.
  • Great fun.
  • Lightweight and normally quite affordable.

Cons

  • Casting is difficult to learn.
  • You can only use them for fly fishing.
  • Requires other ‘specialist’ equipment such as different reels and lines.

Kayak Fishing Rods

Kayak fishing rods are also a little specialized. Here’s the best way to describe them.

Take a standard fishing rod with all of its great features, and shrink it down to at least half its size.

fisherman on inflatable fishing kayak with fishing tackle

Why do they do this?

Easy.

When you are sat in a kayak, you need a rod that is easy to handle. The shorter, the better. You don’t need to cast a great distance as you are directly over the fish. You also need to be able to reach the end of the rod as it isn’t like you can stand up and walk to the end of a kayak!

Kayak rods are normally around 4-8 feet long and are designed to be used with a single hand. They are normally pretty lightweight and easy to manage. One great thing is that if you pick a good rod, you can fish in several styles, including lure fishing, float fishing, and bottom fishing!

Here’s an amazing selection of kayak fishing rods.

Pros

  • Really versatile rods.
  • Lightweight and easy to manage.
  • Relatively cheap.

Cons

  • Can only be used in kayaks.
  • No casting distance.

Telescopic Rods

Telescopic rods are a sort of cousin to travel rods. They are designed to be really portable. As the name suggests, they work just like a telescope, with each rod section sliding down into the larger lower section.

Telescopic rods are great if you are going on vacation and want something that you can easily throw into a suitcase or keep in your trunk.

The downsides are that they aren’t robust or particularly suited to any style of fishing. If you have no other choice, I will use one. Still, I would never consider them anything more than a temporary solution.

That said, they aren’t junk and do have a use. Take a look at some of these great telescopic fishing rods before planning your next road trip!

Pros

  • Easy to transport.
  • Great for impromptu sessions.
  • Ideal as a backup.

Cons

  • They don’t shine in any area.
  • They can be quite flimsy and cheap.

Boat Rods

Boat rods are designed to be easily manageable. Because room on a boat is limited, they are also pretty compact.

man fishing on the lake from inflatable boat

The standout feature of boat rods is their strength. They have to be capable, not only of hauling big fish up through the water but being able of holding a very heavy weight too.

Boat rods come in a range of sizes. You can get really whippy ‘uptide’ rods or heavy duty ‘trolling rods’ designed to battle huge fish like sailfish and Marlin! You won’t be able to use one from the shore to great effect. They have a really limited casting distance.

Pros

  • Really compact.
  • Easy to use.
  • Normally pretty durable.

Cons

  • Limited to boat use only.

Types of Fishing Rod Material

When looking at different types of fishing rods, you’ll be blown away by the number of different materials. There are several types that you might see.

Here is a quick rundown of the most common fishing rod material types and how fishing rods are made:

Carbon Composite

Carbon composite is a really interesting substance. If you’ve ever seen a carbon composite sheet, you might be surprised at how weak and breakable it is.

So why use it in fishing rods?

Well, if you roll it into a tube, carbon composite becomes super strong due to its molecular structure!

Take a look at how it is made here…

Carbon composite has some crazy strength, and as a result, you’ll find that the best fishing rods are nearly always made from either this or graphite.

Graphite

Graphite is a specific form of carbon that is famous for being extremely lightweight and strong. In one form, you’ll actually find it in the middle of pencils!

Graphite particles are bonded between thin layers of plastic and made into sheets before finally being formed into the shape of a fishing rod. Along with carbon composite, graphite is a hugely popular choice.

But…

As you’d expect, this is a complex manufacturing process. As a result, you’ll find the best quality graphite and carbon fishing rods tend to occupy the upper ends of the price bracket.

Fiberglass

If you are looking for a cheaper alternative to carbon or graphite, you won’t go far wrong with fiberglass.

As the name suggests, this is a material made from binding long plastic fibres in a random crisscross direction between layers of resin to create an extremely strong and pretty lightweight material.

Notice something?

I said pretty lightweight. Fiberglass isn’t as light as carbon and graphite. It might be great for certain types of rods, but for fishing pole types that need to be low weight, you might want to consider something else.

Bamboo

This is one of the oldest materials used to manufacture fishing rods. Back in the day, this and split could be the only types available.

You won’t tend to find many modern rods that use bamboo in their construction.

Why?

Man-made products are much lighter, stronger, and durable.

different types of spinning rods on the fishing boat

What Type of Fishing Rod Should I Buy?

The truth is that it is all up to you. Here’s what you need to think about when choosing a fishing rod:

Where Will You Fish?

The type of fishing rod you intend to buy could be influenced by the answer to the above. If you are planning to head down to your local small pond or stream, then a big bait caster or surf rod is probably going to be overkill.

Likewise, suppose you intend to go after big fish like catfish or carp. In that case, a telescopic rod probably isn’t going to be your first choice.

Try and match the type of rod you choose to the venue. Normally manufacturers make it pretty clear what each rod is suited to.

Consider ease of transportation too. Suppose you have to carry your rods any appreciable distance. In that case, you will want to choose something that isn’t just lightweight but is manageable too.

How Will You Fish?

Can you imagine casting hundreds of times a day with a heavy boat rod?

Yep…

Your arms are going to be super tired! If you are spinning or lure fishing, it makes sense to pick as lighter a rod as possible.

If you are going to be fishing in a style that allows you to leave the rod on a rest then weight doesn’t matter quite so much.

Want a piece of simple advice.

Do the following.

Choose a rod-type that satisfies two simple criteria, and then refine your choice from there.

The criteria?

First, choose a rod that allows you to reach the fish wherever they may be. Need a long cast? Pick a longer, stronger rod. On a boat? Pick something that lets you get down deep with ease. Do you get a general idea?

Second. Choose something that will allow you to pull the fish in relatively easily. It might be a great sport battling a big fish on light gear, but it will soon tire you out (plus, it is unkind to the fish). Instead, pick a suitable rod size with enough strength and pulling power.

What Do You Intend to Catch?

Look, I’m all about simple rules.

It goes something like this.

The bigger the fish and the heavier the conditions, the beefier the rod. It really is that simple.

Don’t try and catch steelhead or salmon on a travel rod. It just isn’t going to work; likewise, you don’t need big baitcasters to snag a few panfish.

Conclusion

There are so many types of fishing rods out there, and as I said, you can expect to see some crossover. There are saltwater fly fishing rods, telescopic bait casters, and everything in between!

Match your rod to the type of species and venue and then refine your choice based on other features like ease of transport and durability.

What type of rod do you use, and where do you use it? Let me know in the comments!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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