Published on June 27, 2015

How to choose a fishing rod

By Patrick Savard

Choosing from the hundreds of fishing rods available in a specialized shop can be very confusing. Which one will best suit your needs? How much should you pay? I thought I would describe the various characteristics of a fishing rod in order to help you in your selection.

The rod blank

A rod's main fibre can be made of a graphite compound, which can be present at varying percentages, up to 100%. The higher the graphite content, the lighter and more sensitive is the rod, and the less likely it is to have its action change over time. However, graphite is just like the lead of a pencil—it breaks easily. The take away here is that shocks should be avoided with higher-end rod.

Beyond 100% graphite, there are IM 6, 7, 8 or 9 graphites, which are graphite modulus variations, indicating an even greater sensitivity.

The guides

You first need to know what material they are made of. Are they composed of simple metal, which indicates a lower-end rod? Metal has the annoying tendency to notch, and any roughness with wear your line out, or worse, outright cut it. Guides can also be made of ceramic and for the highest quality, look for Fuji or titanium guides.

Take the time to count the number of guides on each rod. Each guide acts as a support point for the line, distributing the weight of the fish during a catch. That is why rods with more guides can have a finer blank, since the weight of catches is better distributed over a greater number of support points. A high-quality rod therefore has more guides than a lower range one.

The handle

The handle includes both the reel seat and the handle itself. A good reel seat is characterized by its metal components. If it is only made of plastic, you can expect it to break on the medium-term.

The handle can be made of plastic, but that is not very comfortable for the hand, and becomes slippery when wet. It can also be made of foam, which is more comfortable, but tends to keep fish odours—especially if you store your rod in a rod case. Finally, the handle can also be made of cork. Cork is both aesthetic, comfortable and durable. However, cork is becoming more and more scarce, so expect to find substitutes on the market.

Some might find me difficult, but when I choose a rod, I pay particular attention to the material the manufacturer has put where my hand will be. Too often, there is cork in the front and in the back of the reel seat, two metal guides and plastic where the rod is to be held. A rod designer who thinks of placing cork in that specific place shows an attention to detail and this attention is generally transposed to the product's other components.


The length generally does not have any incidence on the price, as long as we are comparing rods of the same category (ultralight, light, or heavy rods). It is not an indicator of the rod's quality. In fact, your rod's length should be based on your needs. As a general rule, a longer rod allows to cast further and provides more control when trolling because it allows to have the line further away from the boat than a shorter rod. On the other hand, when fishing in hard-to-reach areas, for example through riverside branches, a shorter rod offers more versatility. So, for a lightweight casting rod, I recommend river anglers to go with a six-foot rod, boat anglers with a seven-foot rod and for people who practise both, I recommend using a six and a half.

Choosing a fly fishing rod

Anyone who practises fly fishing will confirm this: it truly is a wonderful activity. Many are too quickly discouraged by its apparent complexity, when in reality, it is rather simple and can easily be demystified. One of the first questions people ask when we first get started is: "What is a good fly fishing set?" Here are several points that will guide you:

First, the set consists of a fishing rod and a fly reel in which we spool the fly line backing, the fly line and the leader, starting at the bottom of the fly reel. It is essential for this set to be adapted to the size of fish desired and that each component fits perfectly with the others.

The first thing to establish is the number of the kit based on the species of fish concerned. Fly fishing rods and fly line sizes are numbered from 00 to 16. The bigger the fish, the bigger the number. For the most commonly fished species in Quebec, we use a weight 5 for trout, a weight 8 for salmon and a weight 10 for pike. For a trout-specific rig, I will therefore have a weight 5 rod, a weight 5 fly line and a fly reel of appropriate size.

The second aspect to consider resides in the fly rod's specifications. The length of a versatile fly rod is nine feet, but it can vary from seven to eleven feet, depending on your needs. In addition, fly rods can be described as slow, moderate or fast action fly rods, which are flexibility indicators. Slow action is said to be much softer, while fast action is more rigid. When beginning, moderate action is ideal.

Let's take a closer look at the fly lines used. The part of the line at the bottom of the fly reel—which we rarely see—is the fly line backing. As its name suggests, it serves as back-up in case you were to catch the fish of a lifetime. The fly line is attached to this fly line backing. It is a line of approximately 90 feet with a much heavier weight than other fishing lines. Their weight is often located at the front end (weight-forward), in which case the diameter of the line decreases toward the leader to allow an aerodynamic cast and a delicate presentation. The fly line is usually "floating," which allows to use dry and Noyée flies, but there are also sinking lines of various density, which will sink at a speed ranging between one and a half, and nine inches per second. To finish, we add a nine feet-long transparent line of decreasing diameter. This leader is used to lay the fly precisely and delicately, but mostly to catch fish. It can be shortened depending on the fishing situation or lengthened with a monofilament (tippet). Leaders are usually made of nylon, but certain anglers are willing to pay thrice the price for a fluorocarbon leader, which is invisible in the water, more durable and has the characteristic of sinking.

To conclude, one last question needs to be covered: How much should I pay for my fly fishing set? Just like for any other product, there is a whole range of prices. For a beginner who wants to get away with it at a low cost, there are $200 sets that include a case and a lifetime warranty. However, a set of higher quality will follow you as you develop your skills. Quality and lightness come hand in hand, and your castings will be more efficient with a lighter kit. It's your choice!

About Patrick Savard Teacher and passionnate fisherman Articles from Patrick Savard

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The opinions expressed in the articles are the sole responsibility of the authors of the texts and do not necessarily represent those of Magasin Latulippe.

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