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How are Fishing Rods Measured?

Father and son fishing on a lake.

Being a successful fisherman requires the right conditions, skill, patience, and equipment. A bit of luck is often helpful.

One of the most important (& obvious) pieces of any angler’s equipment is the fishing rod. While the most primitive fishing rods were simply a stick with a line attached, the modern versions have been developed that allow for more bait and lure control and enhanced casting power and distance.

Fishing Rods Components Explained

A man fishing using a long rod on a lake.

The components of the rods are generally universal, with minor modifications depending on the specific type of rod style.

The Rod’s Handle

The handle, as its name implies, is where you hold the bottom of the rod or pole. The rod can vary in length and is constructed of cork (or EVA foam). A longer handle is generally preferred for casting, mainly because both hands can be used. Shorter grips are more suitable for shorter casting (using one-hand or roll casting). The other grips I have seen include a split grip and the pistol grip.

The Reel Seat

The Reel Seat is located further up the rod and the area where it can be locked onto the rod, typically with sliding bands or metal rings.

The Blank & Guides

The central part of the rod is called the blank. Circular pieces (aka guides) are attached along the rod’s winding-checks (which are more cosmetic than anything) to control the placement of the fishing line. The rod’s guide can be made of ceramic, metal, or plastic. Guides are placed in different positions, depending on the style of the fishing rod and the purpose of its use.

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How Are Fishing Rods Measured?

Fishing rods vary in size from a mere four feet to forty-eight feet. The fishing pole types that are the most commonly used are spinning rods and bait casting rods.

Rod Type Length Range Most Commonly
Used Length
Fishing Applications & Uses
Spinning Rod 4’ 5” to 9’ 5” 6’ to 7’ 5“ Casting Lures, Live Lining, etc.
Baitcasting Rod 5’ 5” to 9’ 6’ 5” to 8’ Casting Lures or Rigs
Fly Fishing Rod 6’ to 10’ 7’ to 9’ Fly Fishing
Surf Casting Rod 9’ to 14’ 10’ to 12’ Surf Fishing
Boat Rod 5’ to 7’ 6’ to 6’6” Boat Fishing
Trolling Rod 8’ to 14’ 9’ to 11’ Trolling
Ice Fishing Rod 20’ to 48’ 28’ to 36’ Ice Fishing

Pro-Tip – If you are new to fishing, it was suggested to me to start with a seven-foot pole which is the easiest to manage and master. The other benefit is that it can be used for multiple fishing purposes and waters.

The Spinning Rod Length

Two man wearing jacket fishing on a creek.

The Spinning Rod is the most versatile of the fishing rod types. It is for this reason that Spinning Rods are available in a large variety of lengths.

The Baitcasting Rod Length

Baitcasting Rods are nearly as popular as Spinning Rods but tend to be longer. This is because the Baitcasting Rod is most often used when casting rigs or lines. Skilled anglers attain great accuracy and distance with this type of fishing rod.

The Fly Fishing Rod Length

The Fly Fishing Rod tends to be even longer than the first three mentioned above. This is mainly because Fly fishing requires the use of lightweight lures. The Fly fishing Rod uses a thicker fishing line which replaces the weight needed to control the line – the heaviness once provided by a lure weight. Fly fishing requires casting to great lengths, which is, from a physics perspective, easier to accomplish with a longer fishing rod.

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Pro-Tip – If you plan on small trout stream fishing – with overhanging brush and branches, a smaller rod is more suitable because it is less likely to become entangled.

The Surf Casting Rod Length

A man with long rod fishing on high waves.

Surf Casting rods are generally 10 to 12 feet long, which assists in extending the distance you can cast a line – past the breaker zone. Remarkably, skilled surf casters can reach more than 100 yards.

A skilled angler using a Surf Casting pole can achieve a casting distance of 100 yards or more. In fact, a world record was set in 2019 for Surf Casting for a distance that exceeded 300 yards.

The Boat Fishing Rod Length

Boat rods tend to be shorter because the deck of a boat offers limited space for casting. Plus, the boat’s movements (which can be unpredictable on the water) can make it tricky to manage a longer fishing rod.

The Trolling Rod Length

Trolling Rods are extra-long, which allows several lines to troll at once without their lines tangling.

The Impacts of the Fishing Rod’s Length

A long fishing rod left in the lake with lotus.

The fishing rod or pole’s length impacts these four important aspects –

The Accuracy

As logic dictates, a shorter rod offers the angler more accuracy. Shorter fishing rods are far easier to maneuver and manage and generally require less effort/energy to set it in motion, etc.

For short but accurate casts, a fishing rod of six-feet maximum is ideal. When perfect accuracy is not as important, a seven-foot fishing rod works great.

The Distance

Long rods help long-distance casting anglers achieve the desired distance. But note, as a rule, as the casting distance increases, it results in a corresponding reduction in the accuracy of the cast.

Leverage

The longer the fishing the rod, the more leverage it offers. While I am no physicist, the general idea here is that the longer lever (in this case, the fishing rod), the more force will be generated. This is perhaps most clearly described by Archimedes

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 “Give me a long enough lever, and I can move the world.”  

The Comfort

This is the most personal part when selecting a fishing rod. In addition to the pertinent and technical information described above, a fishing rod must fit your size accordingly.

An NFL linebacker or a professional jockey would clearly need a fishing rod to meet the differing needs created by their height and strength variances. Longer fishing rods, as a rule, are more comfortable for taller anglers than those with less strength or size.

The seven-foot fishing rod is typically manageable by most anglers. At 5’1”, I went with a smaller fishing rod to remain in my comfort zone – which hopefully translates to more caught fish in the future.

Fishing Rod Materials

A fishing rod broken into parts.

Fishing rods are constructed from a number of different materials.

Fiberglass – these are strong, well-priced, with the ability to take a beating, which is why they have been used for decades.

Graphite Rods – these lighter-weight rods were developed in the 1970s and offer a variety or degrees of stiffness. Their lightweight design provides for easier control.

Composite Rods – a Composite Rod is manufactured and uses both fiberglass and graphite to create the ultimate performance in various waters. They offer fantastic flexibility without limited weight or a loss of sensitivity. However, Composite Rods tend to have a higher cost.

The Take-Away

A father and son with a fish catch using a fishing rod.

The right fishing rod is the foundation upon which your fishing success is built. While there is a significant amount to consider when deciding which fishing rod would be best, there are also a variety of helpful online resources to help in this personal decision.

The first step is knowing which type(s) of fishing you hope to use with your new fishing rod.