Have you ever asked the question, "How do I choose the right bass rod?" The simplest way to select a bass fishing rod is to match the rod's action with bait-specific techniques. We can narrow techniques down into 2 categories: tight-line fishing techniques and slack-line fishing techniques. And the "action" of a fishing rod is determined by where the rod flexes along the blank.
Remember this formula: Technique + Action x Power = Big Bass. Let's break down each of the varibles that equal big bass fishing.
Tight-line Fishing Techniques
These fishing techniques include fishing with crankbaits, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, and buzzbaits that are retrieved quickly, keeping the line continually tight. Bass tend to hit these baits hard, and a moderate action rod with a soft tip allows the fish to grab the bait without getting the lure yanked out of its mouth by the resistance of a still fishing rod. Ideally, the rod's flexible tip allows the fish to turn its head before setting the hook. You don't need the power of a stiff rod to set the hook with tight-line baits as they generally have thin treble fishing hooks and bass hit them with speed, greatly aiding in getting the hook set.
The design of tight-line baits supply the lure's action (the angler does not give the lure action with the rod) and a soft tip allows the lure to move properly in the water. The flexibility of a moderate action rod also loads well for increased casting distance. Greater casting distance will allow deep-diving plugs to get down to their maximum depth.
Slack-line Fishing Techniques
These fishing techniques include pitching and flipping plastic worms, dragging tubes, and fishing with jigs. With these techniques, a fast action rod with a stiff tip sets the fishing hook best. Bass don't usually slam these baits, which tend to use a single, heavy-gauge hook that has its tip buried inside the plastic bait, and often there will be some slack in the line. All of these factors make getting the hook set past the barb difficult, necessitating the use of a fast action fishing rod with a stiff tip.
When fishing with plastic baits and jigs, the lure's design does not supply its action, and a stiff rod tip gives you more control over how the bait moves in the water. A stiffer rod also gives you the ability to put more pressure on the fish to horse it out of heavy vegetation such weeds and lily pads, where slack-line baits are often used.
Generally, shorter rods (6 foot range) provide better casting accuracy for fishing in tight spots, and they'll cast lighter lures. Longer rods (7 foot range) provide greater casting distance and leverage to fight the fish, and they handle heavier lures better. The fishing rod handle should fit your hand comfortably to cut down on angler fatigue, which can greatly affect your success by the end of the day. Cut-outs in the fishing reel seat that put your hand in direct contact with the rod blank provide greater sensitivity -- something to consider when using slack-line baits.
Breaking Down What "Action" Means on a Fishing Rod
A fishing rod's action is determined at the point where it bends under pressure. A rod with a"fast action" is very sensitive and flexes mostly near the tip. A "moderate action" rod flexes towards the middle of the blank. "Slow action" rods bend the most and flex near the butt section. Standard bass actions range from moderate to extra-fast.
Selecting the Rod Power
Anglers sometimes are confused with rod power and action. The "power" of a rod is listed on the rod and the flex of hte rod is the action. Rod power refers to how much pressure it takes to flex the rod. To select a rod "power", choose a rod designed to cast the lure weight and fishing line you use most often. As an example fishing bass in weeds and cover will require a stronger power rod using a heavier fishing line where on open water a lighter line and lower rod power rating will surfice for crappies.
Historically, graphite rods are lighter and more sensitive than fiberglass rods, and are a better choice for fishing slack-line techniques. Fiberglass fishing rods are tougher and more flexible, and are a better choice for tight-line techniques. However, advancements in technology have been narrowing the gap between graphite and fiberglass rods, and you can now find composite fishing rods that deliver both the sensitivity of graphite and the flexibility of glass.
TIP: After getting out on the water and refining bait-specific techniques, you can fine-tune your rod selection according to your personal fishing methods and the waters you fish.