Spinning Rod Buyer's Guide

Springtime Crappie From The Reeds

Spinning reels are a preferred method of fishing for many anglers, with ease of casting, lack of backlashes and easily replaceable spools being some of their preferred advantages. While spinning reels have many positive benefits, matching the right rod to your reel of choice could have a dramatic affect on its performance.

Spinning rigs are very effective for fishing live bait, casting small lures and the ability to leave the bail open, so line can pay out undetected by finicky biters. For walleye anglers and panfishermen, it is by far the most used method of fishing, especially when light line is involved.

Both reel and rod selection is driven by the species of fish you are going to target. In some areas, where large predators may be lurking, you might want to factor in that possibility as well. It is not uncommon for an unsuspecting angler to be spooled by a large northern pike that didn't know smallmouth were the limited target. Overkill isn't the answer, but having a little margin of error is a good thing.

Spinning rods are designed with the reel seated hanging under the rod. This type of outfit is gripped by placing the reel's support shaft between the middle and either the index or ring finger for added security. When fishing for larger species, having that additional finger ahead of the reel shaft just gives you a better grip for unexpected strikes.

Cork and EVA foam are the two most prevalent handle materials for spinning rods. Traditionalists prefer cork, and you'll find good-quality rods are made with both. When cork is the choice, top-quality rods feature Portuguese cork handles. EVA foam resists stains better and is probably the best choice for rods that will spend a lot of time in a rod holder. Two-handed models produce optimal results for long casts and more leverage in a fight.

The latest innovation in spinning rods is a shortened foregrip that allows the angler to put a finger on the rod blank. By placing a finger on this exposed blank you'll be able to detect even the most delicate bite. Ergonomic handles on the latest designs make for a more comfortable day on the water.

Reel seat
If you've had the misfortune of owning a rod with a reel seat that seemed to work loose just at the most inopportune times, you know how important it is to have a quality seat. After all, this is the place where the reel is attached to the rod, and the stress of a fight applies a lot of torque to this component. A good reel seat should accept all major brands of reels, have cushioned hoods and fit snugly when tightened.

Line guides
The line guides on this style of rod are aligned in a gradually descending size, on the bottom of the rod blank. The diameter of line guides is very large near the reel, descending down gradually in size to the tip. Line paying off of a spinning reel tends to flow more erratically than a casting reel and the larger first guide helps to manage line on casts. Generally, the number of guides is based on the length and flexibility of the rod blank, with more guides being used on rods that flex more dramatically.

The insert of line guides is made of various materials such as plastic, metal and ceramics, which vary in their hardness as well as cost. Plastic anchors the lower end of the quality scale, ceramic guides are top quality, but many anglers will argue that RECOIL® nickel-titanium guides cap off the pinnacle. Since the quality of a rod's guides affects both casting distance as well as being a critical part of any battle, choose a rod with quality guides. When fishing the new braided or super lines, ceramic guides are the best choice, since they are most resistant to wear. In addition to the material of the inner surface that touches the line, improvements to the metals that support the eyelet have also been dramatic.

RECOIL® guides are made of a special nickel-titanium alloy with unique physical properties that does not require plating, cannot corrode in any environment, and returns or "recoils" to its original shape after repeated deformations. This special metal is not used just on the frame, but the entire guide is made of nickel titanium and it's just as durable as ceramics with a lot more advantages. A significant advantage over guides with ceramic inserts would be increased sensitivity because there isn't any material to deaden vibrations. Without direct contact between you and the fish, even the slightest tick is transmitted directly through the rod to hands that are waiting for the hookset.

Fuji's® Concept guide is also an excellent choice. Its Alconite ring material produces a thinner, lighter weight guide that improves the smoothness of line travel during casting and retrieving.

A rod's action describes the way a rod will perform when both casting and reeling in a fish, and is categorized in general terms such as fast, Moderate, or Medium and Slow. Fast-action rods bend mostly in the top third of the rod's length. Moderate- or Medium-action rods bend farther down the rod's length; typically through its midsection. Slow-action rods bend throughout the entire length of the rod, down to the handle. A rod's action also relates to the size and weight of lures that are being fished. With smaller lures, a lighter action will be more effective in achieving maximum casting distance, since the more limber rod will have a greater flex and develop more kinetic energy.

Fast-action rods provide a quick hookset for techniques such as jigging. A moderate action works well for casting middleweight crankbaits and Slow-action rods work well for long gentle casts when fishing live bait. Naturally, there a many more applications and techniques that each of these actions would be suitable for, but a critical issue is always going to be personal preference.

Power is relative to the fight and rods are generally classed into Ultra-Light, Light, Medium-Heavy and Heavy, with smaller fish calling for less power and larger fish falling to the stiffer end of the spectrum.

Blank materials
The majority of quality rods today are made of graphite, fiberglass or a combination of these two materials. Historically, graphite was a on the fragile side, bruising easily; however, the process of refinement that graphite has enjoyed in the past 10 years is pretty impressive. Graphite is the ultimate material for flexibility and fighting power, as well as the most sensitivity for feeling delicate nibbles and subtle takes.

In essence, graphite used in rod construction is simply a carbon fiber that is engineered to have structural properties ideal for flexing and resisting to pressure when flexed. Both the quality of the bonding agent and the amount of graphite used in the blend has a bearing on the finished product. The system of rating graphite's tensile strength is calculated by measuring how much it is elongated when a few million pounds of pressure per square inch are applied. Graphite with a higher modulus rating indicates that it will not elongate or stretch as much. Elongation, or elasticity allows a rod to bend and spring back.

Graphite's modulus of elasticity, or resistance to bending, is indicated in terms such as 24 million modulus, 35 million modulus and so on. The higher the number, the stronger the rod will be for its weight, but this increased strength also allows manufacturers to make rods with a smaller diameter that weighs less. IM6 rods have a modulus rating of 40 million. Graphite rods range from 33- to 64-million modulus, while fiberglass rods have a modulus of six to 13 million. The higher the modulus, the greater the tendency toward brittleness.Many rods incorporate a number of modulus to offset this characteristic.

Fiberglass rods are more durable but less sensitive, and usually heavier than a graphite blank of the same diameter, length and action. However, fiberglass rods do have their place. Boat rods used for large fish and heavier applications that do not require casting or sensitivity are ideal for this more durable material.

Composites of these two materials produce rods that are lightweight, powerful and sensitive, but not as much as a pure blend of either material alone.

I've covered the various elements that make up a rod, but what makes the difference between a rod that sells for $30 and one that goes for $300? It is possible to find rods with the same graphite composition selling for drastically different prices. The quality of the resin, cork and reel seat used is a critical issue when it comes to price as well as performance, so don't hang your hat on modulus alone.

A fishing rod is a tool, and for similar reasons is comparable. You wouldn't try to build fine cabinets with a hand-held circular saw or rip a 2" x 8" piece of oak with a scroll saw. Pick the right rod for the job you have in mind, and your day on the water will be more enjoyable as well as productive.