Before you purchase a sword, you need to decide on the purpose for owning one. Consider the style that suits you such as: the hilt (handle) and blade type. Next, you should consider the fighting style. Do you prefer to lunge rather than slash? Or do you prefer a crushing attack?
Wait a minute. What does a fishing guide know about swords? Well, actually very little. Although Braveheart is one of my favorite movies, I confess that I went to a website, www.wikihow.com, and did a little reading. This article is really about choosing the right fishing rod.
I am often asked to make recommendations to friends and clients regarding what type of fishing rod they should buy. My questions back to them are very similar to those above about swords. There are many options, and few specific answers.
First, you need to decide what you will be using the rod for. Stop. You have to be a little more specific than just “fishing.” There are several basic types to consider: Spinning rods, and bait casting rods are the most common; but also fly-fishing and trolling rods.
What type of reel do you prefer? Often that depends on what species are you planning to fish for. Many walleye and pan fish anglers prefer spinning reels; while bass and musky anglers often use open-face baitcast reels. Stream trout anglers prefer fly-fishing set-ups. Many novices and youth start with closed-face reels. The type of reel will dictate the style of rod handle.
How many “shekels” are you willing to spend? The better question may be: “how much do you really need to spend to get a decent rod?” Blades (rod blanks) are made from fiberglass, graphite, carbon fibers, boron, and high-tech composite materials–in that ascending order of price. Look through any Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shop catalog and take notice of the range in prices. Some rod blanks are rated IM6, IM7, and IM8 for graphite content. Other manufacturers use “ton” or “million modulus” ratings. How do the ratings compare? It gets very confusing. Whatever the rating, the higher number usually means higher graphite content. Graphite content is linked to more sensitivity. Sensitivity comes at a price. How much sensitivity do you need? Where does price meet expectations? Unless you spend more than a few weekends during the summer fishing, you probably don’t want to spend more than $100 for a rod. An IM7, or equivalent rating, rod blank is probably the most sensitivity needed for the average angler. Most tournament anglers would be hard-pressed to prove they can actually feel fish bite better with a $300 rod versus a $100 version. The big outfitters have their own name brands, which tend to be cheaper, and many times, a better value for your dollar than advertised brands. Unless, you do a lot of airline traveling to fishing destinations, stay away from 2-piece rods. You will have better sensitivity with a one-piece rod, no matter what the graphite rating.
Next, you need to choose the right hilt (handle). Most manufacturers use cork, or high-density EVA foam on the handle. At least one manufacturer uses neoprene covering for a better grip when wet. The way it feels in YOUR hand is what is really important. Personally, I don’t like rod handles that force you to grip the reel seat threads–they tend to be uncomfortable after a few hours. Handles that allow you to grip the rod blank under the reel, telegraph subtle bites better than all cork or foam ones. In cold weather, I prefer cork because it tends to be warmer. The handle and reel should balance out the weight of the rod blank.
Line guides are another selling point. Rod manufacturers generally use line guides made with lightweight metal supports wrapped with thread, then coated with epoxy. The hardness of metal used in the line guide “insert” varies, and again, dictates the cost. While monofilament lines generally don’t cause any wear on the guides, the new “super” braided lines tend to wear out guides made of softer metals. The number of guides affects the price as well. The more guides, the more smoothly the line conforms to the shape of the rod when fighting a fish.
Your “fighting” style will dictate the “action” you choose. Rod actions are rated: ultra light, light, medium light, medium, medium heavy, and heavy. Lighter action rods make a small fish feel like a monster. On the other hand, in some situations you want to play the fish quickly–demanding a rod with a strong “backbone.” Blanks also have different tapers. A slow taper means a fairly consistent diameter, a longer curve, and lighter action. A fast taper means the rod has lots of backbone with a soft tip. In most situations, I prefer the latter.
Lastly, you will have to choose the “draw” (length) of the rod. Long rods seem to be the rage nowadays. Personally, I like shorter rods for windy conditions, because wind doesn’t affect the sensitivity as much. I like longer rods when I am using long live bait rigs, and braided lines that don’t have much stretch. The longer rods are more “forgiving” on the hook set.
If you want more advice, visit a sporting goods store or an outfitter that employs people that actually fish. Want to try before you buy? Consider hiring a fishing guide who has the right equipment for the job. You may even catch fish while you are “test driving.” Contact me at www.ifishmn.com.