Rod Specs - Action, Power, Line Rating and Weight
Whether you’re a seasoned pro, or just getting into fishing, understanding rod specs is crucial to make sure the rod you choose will match your application expectations. As with anything fishing related, there are MANY factors that come into play when discussing these topics. Rod preference is one of the most subjective areas in the game. However, to save you all from a 20 page thesis, I’ll briefly touch on the “need to know” aspects. If you feel like reading into the more technical jargon, I will carry on farther down in this post. Here we go!
Action: This is best described as how the rod will bend and where in particular the blank will primarily flex. For example, if you have a fast action rod, the rod will flex primarily in the tip section. A moderate action rod will flex more towards the midsection of the rod. A slow action rod will flex deep into the lower section of the rod closer to the handle.
Power (Gear rods): I like to describe rod power as how much force it will take to get the rod to flex into its action. Another good way of thinking about it is what size fish you’re planning to fish with it? You wouldn’t take a lite power rod to fish for halibut, just as you wouldn’t want to target grayling with a heavy power.
Line Rating (Gear rods): This is an area where we see some folks mix things up a bit. Simply put, line rating on a rod is the manufacturer's suggestion on what pound of line to pair with the rod. The idea behind this is if the rod is under maximum load capability, the line will break first before the blank fails. If you spool up a 8-12 lbs rated rod with 25lb line and torque down your drag, there’s a darn good chance when push comes to shove that rods going to lose the tug of war battle with the line.
Weight (Fly rods): Similar to the power rating found on gear rods, the weight on a fly rod determines how strong that rod is. Most anglers choose a rod weight based on the size of fish they plan on using it on. For example, a 4wt would be a good grayling rod while a 7wt is generally a good steelhead option.
That is a great starting point to gain a baseline foundation on understanding rod specs. So next time you're shopping for a new rig, keep the above in mind. And of course if you have any detailed inquiries, feel free to contact us and we would LOVE to chat about your setup. Whether you get a rod from us, or another company, Alaska Rod Co is always here to help make your fishing journey fun!
Okay! If you have made it this far, you have reached the point of no return. I’ll now take you down the proverbial rabbit hole with all the nitty gritty details on rod specs. So go grab a caffeinated drink and let's get started!
Action: Since we established above the basics of rod action, we now can dive a little deeper on how specific actions can further benefit your fishing style and application needs.
- Slow action: A slow action rod is sometimes overshadowed by the more popular moderate or fast rods on the market. However there are some great uses for a slow action. For fly fishing purposes, a nice slow action rod can be sought after to aid in the application of presenting flies delicately at closer to mid ranges in smaller waters. The slower action will allow you to really feel the load deep in that rod while casting, and can be a very methodical casting experience. When it comes to gear rods, slow action rods work well for applications where you want a lot of action in your lure. Applications such as vertical jigging where a fast and responsive hookset is not necessarily needed is one example. The slow action flexing deep into the blank can also help play the fish and not pop the hook if you are fishing with smaller hooks.
- Moderate action: The moderate action rod is loved by many and for good reason. Starting out with fly fishing, the moderate action can offer a controlled delicate presentation while giving you the capability of casting distance that the slower action lacks. Some folks like them because they can be more user friendly to beginner casters since your casting techniques and timing can be a little more forgiving with the moderate action flexibility aiding your cast. If you're someone who likes a versatile rod for both wet and dry flies, you might prefer a moderate. As for gear rods, moderate action is a great option for casting and jigging when you need a little more backbone.
- Fast action: If you set foot on my boat, chances are you’ll find 90% of my sticks are fast action. When fly fishing, the fast tip gives you great versatility when the elements are less than favorable. The ability to punch thru windy conditions, control and turn over streamers and indicator rigs is very advantageous. Paired with the correct line, I’d argue the fast action rod offers the best casting distance and accuracy. The fast tip offers a very responsive hookset, and the stiffer butt section aids in a little more control when fighting your fish. For gear rods, fast action holds many similar benefits. If I’m back bouncing or twitch jigging, the faster tip really helps those far out hooksets. If i’m pulling mag lips or kwikfish, I may go for a mod/fast to work those plugs yet still have the backbone to put the brakes on those bigger fish.
Power (Gear rods): Picking the right power to correlate with the action to achieve your application needs can be a little daunting since there are so many models with power and action variations. As mentioned above you want to match the power with the fish you're looking to target. Here is a detailed list of all the powers you may see printed on a rod blank and “subjectively” the size of fish you target with them:
- Ultralight (UL)
- Light (L)
- Medium Light (ML) = Smaller fish (Trout, Panfish etc.)
- Medium (M)
- Medium Heavy (MH) = Midrange size fish (Steelhead, Salmon, Rock Bass etc.)
- Heavy (H) = Bigger fish (Chinook, Musky, Sturgeon etc.)
- Extra Heavy (XH)
- Extra Extra Heavy (XXH) = Whoppers (Barn door halibut etc.) Roughly put, if the fish is bigger than you, then I’d spring for the XH on up!
Line rating (Gear rods): This is still pretty straight forward with not a whole lot of details to further delve into from what we already covered above. One good point of interest to consider when stringing up your rods is the type of line you plan on using with it. Monofilament and fluorocarbon provide great abrasion resistance and offer more stretch. Braid on the other hand has less memory so it won’t twist up as much, and it can be smaller in diameter then mono/fluoro and still be as strong allowing you to get more line spooled on your reel. If you’re fishing in deeper water or longer distances, braid offers a faster and quicker line pickup. Just something to consider in advance when picking out a rod if you have a line preference you primarily fish with.
Weight (Fly rods): When getting into the debate of what weight fly rod is right for a specific species, things get a little squirrely since everyone has their own preference. We have all heard the classic question, “What’s the best fly rod for Alaska”? That is a whole blog post in itself! To wrap this up, I’d like to talk about how you can better find a line to match the weight of your rod. Back in the day, the AFFTA (American Fly Fishing Trade Association) standardized the weight of the fly line to pair with your rod by weighing the first 30’ of fly line. For example, if you google the AFFTA chart, you will see a 6wt has a range from 152gr to 168gr with the optimal grain weight of 160. While trying different tapered lines can get expensive, it never hurts to try a couple different 6wt lines to find which one fits your casting style and rod in particular.
There is so much more I would like to add to this post, however I tried to keep things as basic as I could given the topics. There will be more to come as the long Alaskan winter sets in. For now, I have to get back to the shop. Thank you for taking the time to read the words of a humble rod builder. As always, if you have further questions regarding the subjects above, please feel free to get in touch!