Fish Rod Identification & Selection

This article will give you some ideas as to which type or size of fishing rods that may work better in different usages. A fisherman can use about any rod as a multi-purpose rod, but some are more adapted to specific purposes. Times have changed from the “One Size Fits All” situation. Sure we caught fish then, sometimes being dumb and happy has it’s benefits. But in today’s world where there is a declining number of catchable fish, if we are to somewhat justify our passion and also possibly bring home food for the table at the same time, we need to have the odds on our side as much as possible. If you need to explain to your bride why you need another rod/reel, let her read this article.

Let’s review a bit of history before we get too deep here. Now, I am not going back too far in time, but to my boyhood 60 plus years ago. When I was a kid fishing the creeks, my first rod a 5′ 6″ True Temper steel casting rod that my dad picked out, which did catch many trout. But the rod that I used the most was a 8′ steel telescoping rod. It did not take me long to find that I did not need to cast anything more than maybe 15′. And the telescoping rod could be adjusted to any length (fitting into the brush/limbs) when needed. I just used the old level wind reel that had been on the casting rod, but basically just used it for storing line as “Flipping” seemed to work quite well in the creeks where I grew up near. And if I ventured to a river, I could still use it for casting (not far, but you learn to overcome). These telescoping rods had a habit of getting bent or rusty, making it hard to get them back inside themselves. I finally upped to a 9′ octagon telescoping rod instead of the cheaper round rod, which worked considerably better, but then maybe I had learned to take better care of it by then.

About the time I was 12, my uncle introduced me to salmon fishing. When I was about 16, I bought my own salmon rod from Montgomery Wards. It was a 5′ 9″ solid fiberglass rod (that I still have it). My next rod was 6′ long, again solid fiberglass, one piece, with a Ocean City star drag reel (non level wind). The problem was getting it inside the car with dad and brother being a problem. We finally tied it so that by rolling the side windows up using a rope attached to the door handles holding the rod in place outside the car. Next upgrade was to a 7′ 4″ Horrocks & Ibbitson but 2 piece and again a sold glass. All these rods utilized maple as butt-sections and fore-grips. These rods were indestructible, but lacked sensitivity. It did not take long before it became apparent that when a new breed of salmon rods came on the market that were 9′, 2 piece hollow fiberglass with cork handles that this was the way to go. Boy were these an improvement, but we occasionally broke a few tips sections (never on fish however unless it was our fault). And up into the present time, rods are still constantly being improved.

Rod Types ; There are numerous rod types. These can be designed for trout/pan fish all the way up to tuna, and for tuna is not really the one size fits all. Casting, spinning, and fly rods being the main ones. The difference between casting and spinning rods are the size of the rear 2 or 3 guides, with the spinning rods having larger rear guides. All rods will have progressively smaller guides as they go toward the tip.

Casting rods will have the rear guide (which will be on the butt section) possibly 1/2″ in diameter for a salmon rod. A spinning rod of the same size will have no trigger and the rear guide being quite large, like about 1 1/2″. This is so the line coming off a spinning reel does not become restricted close to the reel’s face, slowing the line down and causing problems.

Many of the modern casting type rods also have a “trigger” on the handle under the reel seat. The smaller trout, bass type rods will usually have a short handle maybe 6′ long, (which may be shaped to fit the hand) where larger rods will usually have a rear handle about 12″ plus a fore-grip of about 4″ long.

In the mix of casting rods, you may also encounter “Spiral Wrapped Rods”. These are rods where the guides transition from normal position, then in a 3 guide 180 degree transition. The purpose of spiral wrapping is to eliminate the torque or roll of the rod that’s caused by the line pulling against the guide frames on a casting or boat rod making the rod to want to roll against the spine and roll left to right in your hand, it is usually unnecessary unless your trolling for big game fish. This wrapping does have it’s advantages if you can get by the hideous look of them. The advantage really stands out is when your vertically jigging with braid, where it really minimizes the amount of tip wraps.

It is possible to interchange the larger, (steelhead/salmon) casting or spinning rods to some degree. There is no problem using a casting reel on a spinning rod, however the reverse could be done, but with a slight casting shortfall if you used a large spinning reel on a casting rod as mentioned above by the size of the rear guides. A number of years ago (like 50) these rods all were made with the smaller rear guides and no one knew better. They still caught fish.

Fly rods are pretty easy to identify because of them being lighter and usually longer in relationship to the others, plus they have the reel seat at the rear of the rod. The old rods were generally made of split bambo, while the newer are probably a graphite or a fiberglass/graphite composite.

Then you will have specialty rods like the, jigging rods, tuna rods and others. Jigging rods are usually shorter, like 7′, are a bit stouter than others of the same length. They will have a fast action tip so that the hookset can be done with a flip of the wrist. Graphite would be a good material here as you will be using it continually, reeling, raising, dropping, reeling, so light weight is a plus.

There is another type of salmon rod used extensively in Canada. This is the saltwater mooching rod, which is usually at least 10′ and are made to accommodates the single action mooching reel, very similar to a large fly reel. This rod is rather limber all the way to the grip section. The reason is that the rod matches the reel, and since this reel is single action, (it however has a friction drag), but if a salmon makes a hard run, if the fisherman does not take his hand off the reel handle soon enough, it was nicknamed knuckle-buster for good reason. This rod needs to be limber enough to telegraph the fish’s movement early on as the rod needs to act as a shock absorber. Some fishermen swear by them, but to each his own. Some even use them for downrigger rods, but they are so limber that self setting the hook by the fish is difficult and you may miss some.

This Canadian mooching rod was Americanized creating a 10′ 6″ salmon rod to be used with a star drag reel. These rods work great for the inexperienced fisherperson that has not been exposed to or does not really understand salmon fishing. With this longer more flexible rod, if a fish makes a sudden run, or the fisherperson may not be in the best stable position, or the drag may be slightly tighter than recommended, this rod’s shock absorbing qualities may save the day and the fish can be landed. I believe this is one reason many fishing guides use these rods at times. These rods also, being more flexible over the whole rod length give the fisherperson more “fight” from a smaller fish. The downside is they are cumbersome in a small boat, can get in the way, and can be a problem handling them for a small/short person.

You may also see 12′ and even 15′ surf casting rods. Some of these can cast an 8 oz weight.

You may even see a “Combo or Pack Rod”. This is usually a 6′ 6″ to 7′ medium trout rod that comes in many short sections and is designed to be carried into high lakes or on a airplane. I used one extensively in Alaska for Sockeye. They are usually made so the handle could be reversed allowing either a casting, spinning or fly reel to be used. They come in sections of about 12′ long and will usually come in a protected pack case.

Then there is ice fishing rods that are only a little more than a couple of feet long. I have found that these also work great jigging for bait, (anchovy or herring) when salmon fishing and these baitfish are breaking water all around us. I have installed a old single action fly reel, which is just used for line storage and a convenient method of reeling the catch in. In use, attach a ounce of lead to the bottom of a herring fly jig setup, which is a line about 8′ long with multiple small tinsel colored hooks. The end result was fresh bait and of the same size the salmon are used to eating in that location

And I probably missed a few specialty type rods.

Rod Usage by Type ; Yes, you can use about any rod for any type of fishing, but you can handicap yourself by using a heavy 8′ 6″ salmon rod if you are side-drifting for steelhead as you will not feel the light bite as compared to using a 10′ medium light sensitive tipped rod. You will not be able to distinguish a bite from the weight dragging over a rock.

Ideal rod lengths and weights will vary depending on the style of fishing and personal preference. Modern rods are built to handle a specific line and lure weight. A trout rod could vary from a light 6′ rod if boat fishing with light tackle to a longer rod if you were casting from shore with a weighted spinner. A salmon river back-bouncing rod will usually be in the 7′ 6″ length range in a medium action, while if side-drifting, it could be a 10′ 6″ lighter action, even if used on the same river during the same day. A salmon ocean downrigger rod needs to have enough backbone to be pulled down and stressed so that when the fish hits and pops the line out of the downrigger wire clip, that the rod actually snaps upward, setting the hook in the fish.

River salmon fishing guides that may have 4 to 6 clients aboard, need different length rods in order to keep the lines apart and not tangle. In instances like this, the front rods may be 10′ 6″ and be pointed straight out from the boat using 10 oz. weights. The middle rods could be 8′ 6″ and be angled rearward at a 45 degree angle using 8 oz weights. The rear rods could also be the 8′ 6″ rods but pointed almost straight rearward using 6 oz of lead. This separates each line, eliminating as much as possible any tangled lines. Also in the mix with these guides, since they are catering to many who are inexperienced, they need to stack the deck in the client’s favor, like using longer, more flexible rods which act as a shock absorber of sorts if the client does a few things wrong, which may result in lost fish if they were using a more normal 8′ 6″ less forgiving rod.

Also rod length/action may well determine whether mono or braid line should be used. When using braid, the longer rods are normally what is needed as the long whippy rod takes up for the stretch of mono. Some fishermen swear by braid for anything, but using it has a learning curve with benefits and drawbacks. The benefits are less stretch and smaller line diameter per line weight. The drawbacks are unless you can condition yourself into changing you “set the hook” methods, you may be ripping the bait out of the fish’s mouth. And you may consider using a inline bungee as a shock absorber to keep Coho from tearing their jaws apart on the initial hookup.

Rod / Reel Usage ; Most fisherpersons will look at this title and wonder where I am coming from. And to the newbie or uninformed, the proper usage of a rod may be intimidating. OK for small fish, trout or panfish fishing, this may not be as important, but as the size of the intended fish increases, so should the rod and you method of holding it. Many fish are lost because people don’t know how to hold the fishing rod, or how to operate it during the fight.

When you are holding your fishing rod, in anticipation of a bite, the handle should be laying UNDER and supported by the arm of the fighting hand, with that hand steadying the reel. Newer non spinning rods that utilize the trigger built into the reel seat are very helpful in this situation. The thumb of that hand can be laying on the spool’s line surface as an extra pressure point in case needed. At the bite, you can decide and react quickly to let the fish eat more and if the lure is taken, the pressure is there from the fish, you can react with a hookset, using just this one arm. Once this fish is hooked, your non-cranking hand should always be in front of the reel on the foregrip, with the butt buried into your belly, no matter what. This gives you more control over the rod giving you the leverage advantage over the fish. This also allows you to maintain the reel’s position from becoming twisted during your cranking while the fish is doing it’s thing.

A more experienced fisherperson may allow the rod to still held in one hand while cranking with the other, depending on the size of the fish.

In fighting a large fish, hold the rod at a 45 degree angle upward, using the rod to maintain tension on the fish. If the drag system is set properly, once the fish has made the initial run and it seems you may be able to reel it in, reel in as you lower the rod tip, raise the rod, pulling the fish in a few feet. Crank down, while lowering the rod as before and repeat the process. It is not really wise to just start cranking as the fish is pulling heavily, especially if you are using a spinning reel, as on these type of reels it will twist the line.

If the fish is large, you may want to allow the rod but to rest in your belly. Fishermen who target LARGE fish use a fighting belt that straps onto your waist and has a socket for the reel butt to rest into.

If you happen to be using one of the conventional non level-wind reels, it’s again important to have your hand in front of the to help guide the line back and forth onto the reel correctly. In doing this as you crank the line in, you guide the line across the reel’s spool, trying to maintain some sort of levelness. If line is not guided on straight, evenly and with proper tension, the next time you cast or let out the line you’ll likely backlash.

It is extremely important to NEVER give the fish any slack, but to maintain constant tension on the fish AT ALL TIMES, especially with the requirement of using barbless hooks. The fish may make many runs until you get it near the boat or shore and then they sometimes find renewed energy, making another run. As you bring the fish near the boat, try to position the fish so your netter has a better opportunity to net it from the head, NOT the tail. Lead the fish in near the boat, BUT DO NOT lift it’s head out of the water. You want the fish just under the water, but not out as they seem to get rather excited at times if you pull the head out. Try not to have the rod pointing straight in the air at this letting time as IF the fish decides to make a last dive, the rod has no bend left and will many times break. If you need to, step rearward a bit allowing the fish to come along side nearer the the boat allowing the netter a better shot. You do not need to watch the action and it give the netter a better chance of doing a good job.

Once the fish is in the net, drop the rod tip, immediately strip off 8-10′ of line off the reel so the netter now can manipulate the net/fish aboard without breaking the rod tip that would otherwise be held tight from the fish to the reel.

If you are bank fishing and have hooked a large fish and have no landing let, tire it out and try to find a sandy/gravel bank. Reel the tired fish in toward the bank, then back up, pulling the fish onto the bank.


A Shakespeare Ugly Stick rod takes a beating & keeps on ticking



Rod Material ; Older rods were made of either steel or split bamboo. Next came solid fiberglass with hollow fiberglass to follow. Then came the graphite material.

Then Narmco developed hollow fiberglass for military aircraft applications during WWII. After the war (1945) they started producing hollow fiberglass fishing rod blanks which they made their own brand of rods and also sold blanks to other rod companies. The highest end rods from 1960 until around 1963 where naked (unpainted) blanks. This company were bought out by Garcia in 1963.

Just about all modern fishing rods are made of fiberglass, graphite or a combination of both which is called a composite. According to Okuma, (as best I can understand it) material used in rod building is basically five types, (1) E-glass, (2) EVO Graph, (3) IM-6, IM-7, IM-8. The E-glass is plain old hollow fiberglass rod is tough and durable, but not that sensitive. And is used for the lower priced rods and performs quite well for the average fisherman, along with downrigger rods designed with this in mind. Then there is a composite which is usually a blend of the IM-6 and fiberglass. While the IM-8 is usually reserved for the higher end more sensitive drift rods. The IM-7 is somewhere between the two.

Rods will be made in lengths from 6′ to 12’+. Each is designed for a specific use. Trout or panfish rods will be the shorter/light rods because of the smaller fish being targeted. As the intended fish gets larger, so does the power and possibly the length of the rod. I am not going to delve into bass tournament rods here now as they seem to very specific and I am not really familiar with their usage. Salmon rods are usually in the 8′ 6″ to 9′ lengths and of a medium to heavy action with the line weights varying from 15# to 30#. Sturgeon rods will usually be a heavy action in lengths from 7′ to 9′. Halibut rods may be from 6′ to 7′ and will be a extra heavy action with line weight of 50-80#. Tuna rods will usually be short and stout in about 5′ 6″ length utilizing a looong fore grip and in a extra heavy action. These are usually labeled as “Standup Tuna Rods”.

Also downrigger rods need to be set into a rod holder with the tip initially pointing almost vertical but slightly to the rear when not being deployed. The line is snapped into a clip on the downrigger cable (that has a 12# lead cannonball on the bottom). The cable is descended to the desired depth, with the fisherman allowing the rod/reels line to be pulled down. When the depth is achieved, the reel is reeled in ever so slowly pulling the rod in a big arc as seen in the top LH header photo above. This takes any belly out of the line to the clip, making for a more direct connection to a possible fish. The principle here is that when a fish takes the lure, the line pops out of the clip attached to the mainline, the rod snaps up with great force, setting the hook.

Graphite rods are lighter and way more sensitive in relationship to the same length/action of a fiberglass rod. This has its benefits if you are mooching or jigging for salmon where you are holding and working it all day. Whereas in downrigger trolling where the rod is set in a rod holder until a fish hits, weight is of little consequences.

Graphite rods, when used by inexperienced fishermen when downrigging, if they try to pop the line out of the clip by using the rod when bringing the line in, if not being popped off by a fish, have a pretty good chance of breaking the rod. So if you are using a graphite rod on a downrigger if you need to pull the line in if not popped off by a fish, either point the rod tip toward the downrigger wire (even if you have to immerse the tip in the water), then reel down using the reel to pop the clip off so there is no strain on the rod with it pointing directly along the downrigger wire, or bring the downrigger wire/ball up using the downrigger then manually release your rod’s line from the clip when it comes up.

Some sport fishing guides who fish for salmon do not use the more sensitive graphite rods because of the wide variety of competence/incompetence or experience of their clients.

Steelheading is an ideal use for graphite, where the fisherman is drifting the lure downstream just off the bottom so they get used to the sensations transmitted to the rod, many can tell if the sinker is bumping the bottom, a log, and can tell when it stops as when the bait being sucked in by a fish. This is about impossible with a plain fiberglass rod.

Jigging for bottomfish, like many other types of fishing, the gear is as important. Too heavy a rod action will hinder your ability to detect a bite if they hit the lure as it is dropping (which happens many times) or if they are not being aggressive that day. Too light a rod puts a lot of strain on the rod if you have to deeper and use up go to a 10 or 12 ounce weight.

So, if you were going to fish for salmon and want to do a variety of methods, like mooching, jigging, trolling, or downrigger trolling, but could only afford one rod, undoubtedly it would be best to look at a composite rod. However if you were basically be using a downrigger, then the fiberglass far outweighs any other, because it will stand up better under the abuse of being under extreme stress most of the time and seems to handle abuse better from the fisherman.

For regular trolling without a downrigger, a graphite rod works quite well, but then you normally do not have the rod in a big straining arc, but mounted in a rod holder low on the gunwale and only use a lead weight of from 2 to 8 oz.

Rod Identification ; Most modern rods (at least from about mid 1970 on) you will find have a rating in recommended line weights from minimum to maximum plus they will also be rated as to the weight of the lure. Before this date, rods may only have been identified as being light, medium or heavy and without any recommended line weight. This recommended line weight is deciphered as the highest weight listed equates to the line that will break at that poundage before the rod will. This recommended line weight refers to monofilament line. Some of the newer rods are now showing up with a braid rating also.

Specifically, a 6′ 6″light weight trout rod may be listed as using 1/8-3/8 oz. lures and 2-6# line. A salmon rod my have the inscription on the rod of 8′ 6″, medium heavy action, line weight 10-20#, and a lure weight of 1-1 1/2oz. Each manufacturer my vary slightly on the line weight, but could vary considerably on the recommended lure weight for very similar rods. The lure weight can get confusing so many fishermen only go by the recommended line weight. This system carries thru all the manufacturers. Some will use a complicated code system to identify their rods, while other manufactures simplify the issue where about anyone familiar with rods can decipher once you understand the system.

G. Loomis Rods ; The initial letters for Loomis are species or technique specific (BBR = back bounce rod, HSR = hot shot rod, SAR = salmon rod, STR = steelhead rod, SJR = spin jig rod, WJR = walleye jig rod, etc.). This is just a sampling of the coding.

Then the next two or three digits are rod length in inches, followed by power rating. The power rating is subjective though, depending on the technique or species code. A one-rated salmon rod is heavier than a two-rated steelhead rod, etc. So you need to also look at the line rating, ask around, and just look through the catalog to get a feel for the different blanks.

Each G. Loomis rod is listed by a model number that is coded to match the length and power of each blank by category. For example–Model P842IM6 equates to P=Popping; 84=84″ (7′); 2=2power; IM6=Type of graphite. If the blank is two or four piece, the model number would be followed by either a -2 or -4. Note; Regular graphite models would just show the category, length and power as P842

Lamiglas Rods ; Lamiglas use a totally different code and sometimes express the rod length in feet and inches, (106 is 10’6″) but sometimes just have a number series like 1326T for a 1000 series graphite, 9′ salmon moocher with trigger handle.

Okuma Rods ; Okuma seems to have a pretty straightforward numbering system using a code, then length in feet and action.

Berkley Rods ; Berkley pretty well follows the common system of using a numbering system using a code, then length in feet and action.

Shakespeare Rods ; Shakespeare also follows the common system. They do have one model called the Ugly Stik that is about indestructible.

Fenwick Rods ; Fenwick again follows the same basic system with the model, then length, action and number of pieces.

The Information Below Was Copied off Lamiglas’s Website ;



The Revolution Strengthens.

Lamiglas integrated Titanium with IM700 graphite and revolutionized sensitivity forever. These rods are light in weight, high in strength, unparalleled in durability and more sensitive than any other rod ever! The properties of Titanium also include excellent fatigue resistance, positive dampening characteristics and superior corrosion resistance. IM700 graphite is secured to the Titanium with a special aerospace bonding agent creating a rod that not only transmits sensitivity more efficiently but also amplifies the most subtle sensations. There are no finer rods for the serious fishing enthusiast

XMG50 Graphite

The Newest “Super” Graphite.

This super graphite allows us to make smaller-diameter blanks with faster actions. The XMG 50 utilizes a blend of high-modulus graphite fibers to create a perfectly balanced, lightweight blank that is more responsive and more sensitive than anything on the market today. We use this material in our XMG 50 Fly Rods, Appalachian Fly Rods, XMG 50 Salmon/Steelhead series and XMG 50 Bass series.

IM700 Graphite

Advanced Engineering and Design.

IM700 is one of Lamiglas’ own specially formulated rod blank materials. This third-generation graphite is made of high-tensile strength fiber and is used exclusively in the manufacturing of high-quality fishing rod blanks. IM700, coupled with our proprietary resin formulation, produces the ultimate in sensitivity, power, strength and durability. IM700 rods come in a rich polished natural graphite finish with the highest-quality components

Certified Pro Graphite

Remarkably Lighter and Stronger.

Our broadest selection of rods. The Certified Pro series employ an all-new smaller-diameter blank design with an improved resin system to produce a 15 percent lighter-weight rod than comparable graphites on the market. These rods exhibit properties found only in second- and third-generation graphites. Superior performance at a great price!

G1000 Graphite

A Lamiglas Exclusive.

This is our most distinguished and versatile material. We employ first generation graphite coupled with a special resin formula to reduce overall weight while maintaining exceptional flexibility. G1000 graphite is used in a broad selection of rods with a variety of actions, line ratings and specialty characteristics to pursue an endless list of species.


E-Glass Earned Its Place In History.

This material is structurally the most durable of the fiberglass family. The glass properties are expressly matched to each unique application-such as cranking rods for bass; mooching and down-rigger rods for salmon, shark, tuna, stripers and king mackerel. We use the same epoxy resins and technology in these rods as we do in our graphite rods to offer you lighter weight and improved sensitivity over other manufacturers’ fiberglass rods.


Exclusive Graphite/Fiberglass Construction.

These rods encompass the use of a graphite base and fiberglass overwrap, then are reinforced with graphite through the butt and mid sections. You get the best of both worlds…the sensitivity of graphite and the durability of fiberglass. We refer to this as “tri-wall” construction. The tips are lightning fast and softer so they cast live bait as well as throw heavy iron, while the graphite reinforced portion of the rod gives tremendous fish-fighting control and lifting power.


“Action” is the measurement of deflection or flex the rod exhibits under load, and more importantly, where that flex occurs along the length of the blank. “Extra Fast” actions concentrate more of the flex towards the tip. “Slow” actions distribute the flex progressively throughout the entire blank. Because there is no single, scientifically accurate measurement system accepted by the entire industry, not all actions are exactly alike. Lamiglas rod actions are dictated by a variety of factors: the intended application, targeted prey, lure weight, line weight and, quite honestly, what the professionals on our pro-staff recommend.


Applicable to our salmon, steelhead and bass rods, “power” is defined by the amount of pressure required to flex the blank. These rods are designed to optimally manage a specific range of lure and line weights. The heavier the line and lure, the more power you’ll need to cast, fight and pull effectively. The lighter the line and lure, the less power you’ll need.


A rod that feels heavier each time you cast eventually slows you down. The type and amount of material used contributes greatest to this factor. Lamiglas selects the lightest material and components for the job, but we resist the temptation to go “too light.” All rods can break. (A fact so many other manufacturers want to keep secret.) We design rods that will cast for a lifetime, without ever leaving your arms lifeless.


The measurement of the change in the diameter of the blank from tip to butt is known as taper. Many use the term synonymously with “action.” But actually, taper is one of the factors which rod builders use to achieve the desired action. An aggressive taper at the tip creates a faster action. A straight taper (one which changes at an equal rate throughout the blank) creates a moderate or slower action. And there are infinite combinations in-between.


Lamiglas coding



Trend Toward Lighter Rods ; The trend now seems to be to produce lighter rods. This is accomplished by utilizing 5 things. (1) Using a graphite material in making the rod blank. (2) Since graphite is stronger, the blank diameters at the rear are smaller than the fiberglass blanks, creating less weight. (3) They are now using 2 different size blanks and where joining them in the middle now just the rear slides inside the front instead of as in the past making one long blank, cutting it in the middle then using a metal ferrule, again less weight. (4) The line guides are made differently and lighter than before, usually using Zirconium. (5) By using a nylon or graphite reel seat unit instead of metal.

Rod Action ; This terminology to some refers to how much “backbone” the rod has. This is the change in the diameter of the blank from tip to butt is known as taper. Many use the term synonymously with “action. When used relating to fishing rod terminology, “action” is the term which describes a blank’s taper or relationship of butt to tip diameter/size/ power. This in turn effects where most of the blank’s initial flex will occur.

The illustration below was taken from an old G Loomis rod blank catalog.


Rod taper/action description



The above pertains mostly to graphite rods, it would be impossible to have a fast action bamboo or fiberglass rod when compared against modern graphites. Kind of like comparing apples to pears. Probably simply because the term was not used at the timeframe of the non graphite rods. However fast action bamboo and fiberglass rods do exist, but this is because the correct use of the term refers to the blank’s taper, butt to tip relationship but they would not be in the same ballgame as the graphites.

Now comes the situation of being able to compare one rod brand to another as for rod length/power/taper/action. Some manufactures give it all on the rod model, while others make you go to their catalog and still you may be confused. Some give you the length in feet, others inches or feet and fractions of a foot. Some codes you can easily decipher, like Okuma SST-C-862MH, which equates to their SST rod, Casting, 8′ 6″, 2 piece, Medium Heavy power, (which in the catalog relates to Medium Fast taper), with a 10-25# line weight and a lure weight of 3/8 -3/4 oz. As said, this can get confusing if a rod company uses special names or codes.

One tackle salesman showed me his method of ascertaining the action if the rod manufacture did not specify on the rod, or as a comparison between manufacturers. He said to, on a carpet floor, hold the rod by the handle, press the tip section to the floor and at the same time move the handle down. The idea is to have about 8″ of the rod tip lay on the carpet with the guides pointing up (to protect them) with the handle rod vertical. Keep forcing the handle toward the tip all the while exerting a backwards twist to the handle. Using this method you will be able to refer to the above descriptions to decide what action your rod is.

The fast action works best for a jigging rod that the jig needs to be set immediately upon the takedown, where the slow action may work better for a steelhead or salmon fisherman who is drifting a lure and wants the fish to not feel the rod if they take the lure. The medium rod is good for the majority of fishing including trolling or downrigging.

This does not really relate to what the manufacturer says when they say light, medium, medium heavy or heavy rods. Sure, it has some relationship, but these descriptions usually refer as to the diameter or stiffness of a rod. And one manufacturer’s description may not be an exact match to another manufacturer’s. Also do not use rod diameter size of the tip section to determine line weight, as each manufacturer or rod blank material could be different especially between a older as compared to a newer rod.

In the photo below, notice how the fisherman is holding the rod allowing the rod to do apply the strain on the fish. And notice the arc in the rod. Which action would you say it is?? By the way they never landed this fish. They were fishing 30 miles out of Westport in 2011, hooked this fish, using 20# mainline, fought it for an hour, saw it once before the leader was cut by the fish’s teeth. Both experienced fishing partners agreed the fish would have weighed in at least 40#. That is another explanation of the difference between “fishing and catching”.

Here the fisherman is letting the rod and reel do what they are supposed to do in fighting this large salmon


Rod Guides ; All rods need line guides to hold the line onto the rod. The older rods did not use as many as we see now. The old guides were made of chrome plated metal and over time could get corroded, or grooves worn in them by extensive use. Newer rods went to ceramic inserts in the guide rings and now the lighter rods will probably be made of Zirconioum. Newer rods seem to have more guides, probably since the advent of downrigger fishing. The reason is that with the rod arced as much as it has to be, the more and closer together guides on the rod, the less strain is put on the rod. The older 8′ 6″ salmon rods only had a total of 6 guides, while the newer versions may sport 9 or 10 guides.

Then with the higher grade fiberglass and graphite, producing lighter and more sensitive rods require more guides to protect the rod when under a lot of stress like fighting a fish. Using an 8′ 6″ rod as a reference, my old (1970s) 12-25# rated rod had 5 guides plus the tip. Newer IM-8 rods of the same rating have 11 guides plus the tip.

Casting rods in the 8′ 6″ lengths will usually have 10 guides including the tip, spinning rods of the same length will have only 8.

The guides usually will have 2 feet, one on each end. However a few, the ones designed for lighter weight rods may only have a foot on one end. By feet we mean something as a base for the guide that lays on the rod and the wrapping is wound over to hold the guide to the rod.

In the photo below you will see the single foot guides on top, the casting rod guides in the middle and spinning rod guides on the bottom. The largest, which would be for a 8′ 6″ or 9′ salmon rod, is 1 3/16″ dia.


Rod Guides



Rod Handles ; Here you can see differences depending on the manufacturer, the intended usage of the rod and price. Sixty years ago you would see maple, after that most handles were made of cork and many still are. Some modern handles will be made of a semi-hard foam material with a nonslip coating, (usually black). They can be short, long or in between depending on the model and the intended use. Some will have fore-grips. Most salmon /steelhead rods will have a handle long enough to, when holding onto the rod or casting, the handle is long enough to be supported by your whole arm.

Some of the lightweight rods if using a longer grip will use a blank that goes completely thru the handle section, but with no cork in the center, leaving it to the naked rod blank.

Some rods will have a spiral graphite wrapped butt section handle. This is a recent design that was designed with the boat salmon/halibut angler in mind that utilizes the rod holder on a boat. When a fish hits is heading to far away places and the rod is in the rod holder, it may take effort to remove the rod. Cork or foam handles do not stand up well under these conditions.

You will find many different types as, Pistol Grip Baitcasting; Straight Handle Casting; Straight Handle Live Bait Rod to name a few.


Casting rods, with a hand fitting cork handle Salmon/Steelhead rods with a trigger



Rod Ferrules ; Other than one piece rods, they need some sort of arrangement to attach the sections together and yet be strong. The common type for many years was a brass ferrule that was nickel plated (for corrosion resistance) made in a male/female snug fit for from about 1″ to 2″ depending on the size of the rod. A change was made about the mid 1970s for the rods being made so that the tip section is larger where it joins the butt section which simply slides over the butt’s front end. These contribute to lighter weight rods and being tapered provide a stronger joint. Sometimes the rod tip section is wound with guide winding thread over this rear mating section to provide more support to the joint.

Rod Colors ; Here you may see many different colors, where the manufacturers have mostly picked a color for their line and stayed with it. Black may be predominate, but dark green, dark blue, dark redish, even yellowish gold will be seen. Rod color is just a exterior color and should have no bearing on how the rod is made or how it will perform.

Also, here is a thing that I have been doing for years, that allows me to see the rod tip better and what is going on under the water surface, that is paint the last 2 or 3 tip sections with a bright color paint. Some may call this improving the bite/strike indicator factor. You would be surprised at how easier it is to see even on a cold rainy day while you are setting in the heated covered top/cabin. Seeing the action of the tip will tell you if the lure is swimming true, or if a weeds get wrapped on the line, when a salmon makes a drive by, not to mention a wakeup during a BS session, but if all else fails, that one is what your clicker is for. For those days when the fish really takes the lure, you will know it anyway.

This strike indicator painting would be more useful when the rod is mounted in a rod holder at anchor or normal trolling, which I do a lot in estuary fishing. However for downrigger trolling, this would not be very useful as when a fish hits, tripping the clip, the rod pops up from the pressure that it was loaded to when making the setting of the initial crank-down. For all this action on a downrigger take down, and you are not normally watching the rod, any extra high visibility color would not really make any difference anyway. Where for any rod being held in the hand, you will feel the fish, therefore a strike indicator is also not needed.

In painting these, it is beneficial to tape off the guides, clean the rod, do a white primer coat first, then the color of choice, and finally a clear protective coat over the top. Mask off the guides beforehand. After looking at my rods, I have decided that with a rod’s recommended higher line weight of over 20#, I paint it florescent orange. For rods the next step down, under that line weight, it is lime green.

For you who do not want to void a rod warranty, even a few wraps of steelhead yarn would help. Or some bright tape. What ever you try, you will like it.

A old Fenwick rod with the tip painted to improve it’s strike indicator characteristics


Rod Repairs (Factory) ; These limited lifetime guarantees may seem misleading and are really only for factory defects. How many of you have taken the time to look up and truly understand the meaning of limited lifetime warranty? And many rods warranty are only for one year from the date of purchase. Did you fill out and mail in the registration card? Many newer high end rods have a date code on them.

I have only broken two rods, and one a new trout rod, (my fault) that I sent back to Lamiglas for a new tip section. They replaced the tip section for $15.00 plus freight. I was a happy camper on that one. For some reason I seem to never break an old rod.

If you break a rod it will almost always be the tip section if a 2 piece, unless you drive a vehicle over it. Some, but not all manufacturers do make spare tips available. I recently purchased a new tip section for a 8′ 6″ Okuma Celilo salmon rod that was not covered by warranty at a cost $10.50, but with a shipping cost of $13.50 from the factory warranty center. This was not a defect, but the rod just did not hold up to a 20# salmon, plus a hungry harbor seal. The owner was so mad when this new rod broke, that he removed the reel and threw the rod overboard, which I happened to find floating soon afterward. I later learned “the rest of the story” this from his fishing partner back at the boat launch.

Other manufacturers may be set up to replace the tip section for a fee of near $50.00, which is great to salvage a rod that you paid $150.00 + for. This seems fair to me.

Some manufacturers/retailers just say sorry. Like Cabelas, where I BROKE about 14″ off the tip section of a Pro Guide steelhead rod on the second cast (hung the lure on some brush behind me). I went back to the store and had a hard time convincing them I needed a complete tip section, not just the tip top eye. They couldn’t do anything, but to for me to call the phone number on the hang tag. No, the Cabelas main store can not help, but to call their warranty center in Missouri. OK, but was told ” Cabelas does not import any spare rod tips”, but if I would send the rod/broken parts in that he could laminate a outer coating and repair the tip section. When asked if it would stiffen the rod greatly, his response was I have been doing this for years for fly rods and no one has come beating my door down because they broke. OK, I thought about it, but add $14 for shipping to get it there plus another $14 return freight to the $25 for the repair which comes within a few dollars of the price of the rod new. In looking at my other rods, I found that a Okuma 8’6″ Cellilo Medium Light tip was nearly a perfect match. So a call to Okuma again and I now have a complete rod back, (a slight non color match, but what the heck). The Okuma parts technician did say that they do make some of Cabelas rods, but did not elaborate. This new tip section slid onto the butt section about 2″ farther than the original. OK, it would work, but I mounted the butt section in my rod lathe and spray painted numerous thin coats of clear enamel on the upper 10″ section of the butt, building it up to where that diameter now matches the new tip’s female ferrule part enough to allow a lesser ferrule assembly depth.

Rod Repairs (You) ; Like all products, you need to do regular maintenance. Rods are no different. The most frequent repair is probably replacing the tip top guide. This can be the result of stepping on the rod tip, or breaking off the last couple of inches. Rod tips are held in place (or should be) by a ferrule cement, which is applied by heating the tube’s end, (this cement is about 3/8″ in diameter and a couple of inches long, is a solid material). To remove a damaged tip, heat the metal tip section up with a match or Bar-B-Que lighter, while it is warm, twist it off with a pair of pliers. You can clean the area, apply new heated cement to the rod tip section, then also heat the tip guide, slip it on, allowing things to cool. If you get it slightly off center, just reheat then twist it until aligned with the other guides. These tips are made in different size holes, so if you break a section off, you may not be able to use the old one by setting it back on the rod because the rod may be just enough taper there so that the old tip will not fit. I usually carry a few extra tip top eyes of different sizes in my tackle box so getting a rod back into service is no problem unless it is broken back over a foot or so. A few inches broken off, you can add a new oversize tip guide. Otherwise always carry a spare rod onboard.

During your season, you need to take care of your gear. Inspect the rod for loose guides created by unraveled guide wrappings. If one comes a bit loose, wrap it with electricians tape as a temporary repair. After each use wash the rod and reel down with warm soapy water if possible, also to remove dried bait roe or herring scales. After your season, then do a complete inspection. Rods will last a long time if taken care of. I still have one rod that I bought new 60 years ago and a number over 40 years old that are still going strong.

Inspect all parts of the rod for anything that is not right. This could be a removing any stuck fish scales, guide loose, the cork handle needing re-varnished, or the reel seat being cleaned. Maybe the butt cap needs to be re-cemented or replaced. If everything looks OK, then you might want to apply a slight amount of wax to the rod, then wipe it off, leaving a thin coating.

For a link to further rod repairs CLICK HERE.

Occasionally you may have a reel seat come loose. I have seen sheet metal screws into the base and into the fiberglass butt section. Not really a good idea as it may weaken the fiberglass. What I have done in the past is to drill a few small holes (1/8′) in the front and rear, around the base but just thru it (not into the rod blank itself). Then mix up a fiberglass resin, using a hypodermic needle, inject this fiberglass resin into all the holes in the base. If some resin tends to leak out on the lower holes, cover these with masking tape until curing takes place.

Rod Prices ; You will find many rod manufacturers who produce rods in many sizes and prices. It is hard to get a bad rod now days partly because of quality control and partly because they have pretty well perfected the method of making them. Rods can range from $24.95 to $300.00+. I have used many $35 to $50 salmon rods an do not feel a bit handicapped in my style of fishing and have only broken one on a fish, but that was over 40 years ago, and a story in itself.

Warranty ; Most of the rods may, or may not have had a guarantee with some only for a year. If they do, there will always be some disclaimer where the manufacturer needs to inspect it. Retail stores are not authorized to just give you another one. Possibly some of the pricier rods may have a lifetime unlimited guarantee no matter what happened, but you are paying for that with the original purchase. One rod manufacturer offers a insurance policy of $50 for a one time replacement no matter how it got broken.

These guarantees are really only for factory defects, which usually make themselves known within the first few times (usually the first) the rod is being used. High sticking a rod at netting time, trying to pull a snagged plug off a log, stepping of the tip breaking it, slamming a car door on it, or using braid line way in excess of the recommended line weight and having the rod explode, would not be considered warranty.

Just put yourself in a manufacturer’s position, if you were in business (just fill in a name, it probably would not make any difference) and you made a product for sale to the public, where you try the best you can to make a quality product. However you can bet someone sooner or later will either break it or swear it does not fit/function. Upon your inspection, you find file marks, plier marks and solid evidence it was installed or used wrong. Do you happily replace it, or tell this dumb shit what he did and NO you will not replace it for free? Sure customer relations is important to any business, but this guy knew exactly that it was he who broke it. He may however not have understood exactly what he did wrong. But I doubt that he was pure white and he knew (or suspected) he was wrong, but he was trying to work the system.

In my previous business of making obsolete firearm parts I have seen this so many times, even where they returned a broken part the we did not make, but by some other manufacturer but in my package. Or they ordered it for the wrong gun. When I would get a broken part back, I would pull another from inventory and fit it to our sample gun. Yes, occasionally we got a bad part because of improper heat treating, but we soon learned to take care of that problem.

Listed below is a copy of both Okuma and Shimano warrantees off their warranty card with the rod or their website.

Okuma Fishing Tackle, limited warranty

Okuma rods and combos are covered by a limited warranty, against defects un workmanship and materials for a period of one year. Should damage occur due to a manufacturers defect, Okuma will, will at the company’s discretion, either repair or replace the product at no charge. Damage resulting from alteration, accident, neglect or normal wear and tear will, at the company’s discretion, be repaired or replaced for a nominal fee. This warranty is valid only to the original owner and does not extend to products purchased for commercial or rental applications. Products requiring warranty work should be sent postage prepaid and insured to Okuma Fishing Tackle, 2310 E. Locust Court, Ontario CA 91761.

Okuma products not covered by this warranty may be repaired at a minimal charge, plus shipping and handling. Customers will be contacted with a complete estimate prior to any repairs being performed. Prior to returning any product for warranty or repair please call (909) 923-2828 to obtain a Return Authorization number. This number should be placed on the outside of the box and easily identified. To protect against lost or damaged items, all products should be carefully packaged and insured prior to shipping. We ask that you keep all shipping receipts in case a claim is necessary with the shipping company. Please include a copy of your proof of purchase, your warranty card and a brief statement pertaining to the problems you are encountering.

A check for $10.00 to cover return shipping on all warranty claims is required. This warranty gives you specific legal rights. You may have other rights which vary from state to state.


Shimano Rod – Limited Lifetime Warranty

As used herein, “Shimano” will mean “Shimano American Corporation” with respect to United States warranty claims and “Shimano Canada Ltd. / LTÉE” with respect to Canadian warranty claims. Shimano and Shimano Canada Ltd. / LTÉE warrant to the original retail purchaser that this rod will be free from non-conformities in materials and workmanship. Shimano’s sole obligation under this Limited Lifetime Warranty is to repair or replace, at Shimano’s option, a non-conforming rod at no cost to the original retail purchaser other than the cost of packing, insuring, and shipping the rod to Shimano. This Limited Lifetime Warranty will be considered VOID if the rod is found to have been subjected to repairs not authorized by Shimano, or if it has been modified, neglected, improperly maintained, misused, abused, or the appearance of the product reveals damage by your failure to provide proper maintenance.

To request warranty repairs on a United States warranty claim, send your rod, postage prepaid, to Shimano or return it to the retailer that it was purchased from. To request warranty repairs on a Canadian warranty claim, send your rod, postage prepaid to Shimano Canada Ltd. / LTÉE.. All warranty requests must be accompanied by a valid dated sales receipt and a brief note describing the difficulty you are experiencing with the rod in as much detail as possible.

Rods that are repaired or replaced by Shimano or Shimano Canada Ltd. / LTÉE under the terms of this Limited Lifetime Warranty will be shipped back to you with Shimano or Shimano Canada Ltd. / LTÉE paying the return shipping charges. Retailer and wholesaler outlets are not required to perform warranty repairs or exchanges on behalf of Shimano or Shimano Canada Ltd. / LTÉE, nor are they authorized to modify this warranty in any way.


Shimano Rod – One Year Warranty

As used herein, “Shimano” will mean “Shimano American Corporation” with respect to United States warranty claims and “Shimano Canada Ltd. / LTÉE” with respect to Canadian warranty claims. Shimano and Shimano Canada Ltd./ LTÉE warrants to the original retail purchaser that this rod will be free from non-conformities in materials and workmanship for a period of one (1) year from the date of purchase. During this period Shimano’s sole obligation under this Limited One Year Warranty is to repair or replace, at Shimano’s option, a non-conforming rod at no cost to the original retail purchaser other than the cost of packing, insuring, and shipping the rod to Shimano. This Limited One Year Warranty will be considered VOID if the rod is found to have been subjected to repairs not authorized by Shimano, or if it has been modified, neglected, improperly maintained, misused, abused, or the appearance of the product reveals damage by your failure to provide proper maintenance.

To request warranty repairs on a United States warranty claim, send your rod, postage prepaid, to Shimano. To request warranty repairs on a Canadian warranty claim, send your rod, postage prepaid to Shimano Canada Ltd. / LTÉE. All warranty requests must be accompanied by a valid dated sales receipt and a brief note describing the difficulty you are experiencing with the rod in as much detail as possible.

Rods that are repaired or replaced by Shimano or Shimano Canada Ltd. / LTÉE under the terms of this Limited One Year Warranty will be shipped back to you with Shimano or Shimano Canada Ltd. / LTÉE paying the return shipping charges. Retailer and wholesaler outlets are not required to perform warranty repairs or exchanges on behalf of Shimano or Shimano Canada Ltd. / LTÉE, nor are they authorized to modify this warranty in any way.


Observances ; I now own approaching 50 rods total on my wall, some economical, but most are medium price range like Shimano, Shakespeare, South Bend, Wright & McGill, Okuma and even a couple of Lamiglas but nothing on the higher end name brands. I do not feel that my catching rate is diminished because of being handicapped with these rods. One of my favorite salmon rods has been a Garcia graphite 8′ 6″ Medium Heavy that I bought on a closeout special at Sunbirds Shopping Center for $14.88. I found out later that it was part of a combo set which included a reel. Apparently the manufacturer ran out of the reels for this promo and dumped the left over rods.

The first time I tried the above rod, I liked it so well I went back and bought another one for a spare, figuring that since it was so cheap that there must be something wrong with it, this other could be just a backup. I then went back and bought 4 more. This rod functions so well that I am very impressed and after 8 years of usage, two of the others are still unused naked rods with the tags still intact. The other 3, I donated to a fishing club salmon derby as I figured I would not live long enough to go thru that many rods.

The other rod I am gaining a lot of respect for in my type of salmon fishing and that I use as a loaner on my boat that works quite well is the Okuma Cellio graphite 8′ 6″ #CE-C-862-H in a recommended line weight of 12-25# for Chinook. If I chasing river Coho the next lighter rod #CE-C-862-M with a recommended line weight of 8-17# works well.

These rods work quite well as most of my fishing is salmon trolling, but when using the downrigger in the ocean, I do prefer my old fiberglass Fenwicks.

Some of these rods I have owned as long as I have been fishing and they are still in my arsenal.

It seems when I do acquire a higher grade rod, that it is the one I break, even on the 2nd cast, (as mentioned above). At my age, peer pressure is of little consequences, so I do not worry about using a high end rod to impress others. Sorry Gary Loomis or those custom rod makers. However if I was an ardent steelheader, then maybe I would entertain the thought of looking at a more sensitive rod, but for now, I seem to get by.

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