Selecting the best bass fishing rod means matching your rod to the what, where and how you will be fishing.
For most techniques the right bass rod will be a casting rod.
There are times when a spinning rod will be the superior choice.
Regardless of whether you are using a casting or spinning setup understanding rod power, action and length is crucial to choosing the right bass fishing rod.
Baitcasting setups are undoubtedly the most popular for bass fishing. They make life a whole lot easier when casting lures all day or when pin point accuracy is required.
For many beginners however using a baitcaster reel seems quite daunting and as a result they never take the time to learn how to use one.
Casting rods for bass make all of the power style techniques possible such as big crankbaits, topwater frogs in deep cover and big spinnerbaits.
These styles of fishing require heavy line and that is where a baitcaster excels. Throwing frogs over heavy weed beds needs at least 50 lb braid and that would mean a very heavy spinning setup that would be very tiring to cast all day.
Spinning rods thoroughly start to shine when you are using lighter style presentations.
Any kind of finesse fishing is best done on light line in and around 8 lbs breaking strain. On a baitcaster that's not going to be easy!
Baitcasters need a bit of weight to get the spool spinning whereas a spinning reel doesn't need much to get the line to fall off of the spool.
As a general rule if you are using small light lures then use a spinning rod.
Rod power refers to how strong a rod or to put simple what weight lure and line that it is rated for.
Between different manufacturers these ratings will vary slightly but generally they mean the same thing.
On the low end is ultralight which is best suited to finesse style fishing such as very small jigs.
The top end is a heavy power rating which is suitable for big lures and heavy line like tossing a frog into thick weed cover.
Most bass fishing will require a rod with a medium power rating or higher unless you are specifically trying out finesse fishing on really light gear.
Action and power are often confused and you will routinely hear anglers use the two interchangeably.
But they are completely different things.
Rod action describes where on the rod blank that the natural bend in the rod starts to form.
A fast action will start to bend much higher up the rod towards the rod tip.
Whereas a moderate action will bend towards the middle of the rod blank.
Fast actions are probably the most useful to have as they strike a balance between a more moderate action and an extra fast action.
Faster actions are usually a lot more sensitive and are best used when you need to set the hook quickly or pull a bass out quickly from cover.
Moderate action are best suited to lures like crankbaits or other such lures that have large treble hooks as you do not want to set the hook too aggressively when using a treble hook.
Shorter rods are usually considered to be more accurate than longer rods which are better at casting longer distances.
As a rough guide any kind of close quarters work is best with a shorter rod of roughly 6'6".
Longer rods will also be better suited to the deck of a bass boat.
The height of the angler will also play an important role in rod length, something that is often over looked.
The best bass fishing poles are those that match the techniques and lures that are being used, saying that there are other elements than those that we outlined at the beginning of this article.
Rod material and the quality of the hardware that is on the rod can have a huge impact on the casting performance and sensitivity.
Most modern bass poles are made from graphite or some form of graphite blend.
In the olden days almost ever rod you could buy were made from glass fiber or S-Glass.
Glass rod blanks are normally heavier in weight have a slower or more moderate action and a lot less sensitivity than graphite ones.
The only real advantage that glass rods have is that they are a lot more durable so they could take a lot more punishment than graphite which can snap quite easily especially if stood on when left on the deck of a boat.
Glass rods are still used by some anglers when fishing crankbaits especially if they are casting large ones long distances as the more moderate action allows the rod blank to load up when casting and transfer a lot of power through the full length of the rod.
Plain graphite bass fishing rods have now evolved into all sorts of different exotic blends that usually involve carbon fiber.
These types of bass rods will be lighter and a little bit more sensitive so they are a firm favorite of those that are into fishing small jigs.
Although line guides might look simple they are a critical part of any high performing rod.
The less friction the line makes when running through the line guides the better the casting distance.
That friction will not only impact your casts but it will also slowly cause small abrasion marks on your line which will eventually lead to it snapping.
Only look to use a bass fishing pole that has high quality line guides and inserts.
Braid in particular can play havoc with inserts and can cut grooves in them over time.
It is generally accepted that ceramic line guides are the hardest wearing.
The strongest line guide material is Sic then Zirconia then Alconite and the finally Aluminum Oxide.
There are weaker materials than Aluminum Oxide that are used as guide inserts but I would use Aluminum Oxide as the minimum that is worth having.
Handles are one of those components that really do come down to personal preference.
The usual choices are cork or EVA foam.
Cork is the classic choice but does make your rod look like a classic too.
More modern rods will use EVA foam that is looks a lot sleeker especially if the rod builder is going rod a dark modern finish to the rod.
Rod finish is also some thing that is rarely taken into consideration and what a lot of angler fail to realize is that the type and thickness of a finish on a fishing pole will have a direct impact on how heavy the rod is.
In many cases it adds considerable weight to the rod.
The standard is a two part epoxy resin that is mixed and then applied to the rod in an even manner over the thread wraps of the line guides.
A spinning rod and reel is normally how most anglers start out fishing.
However, a lot of bass anglers in particular will eventually move on to a casting outfit.
Spinning rods do have an advantage over a baitcasting rod in that they are much better suited to casting smaller lures or bait rigs.
Choosing the best spinning rod for your needs requires that you understand certain attributes of a rod before you but so that you can be sure it will be the right match for your needs.
The following specifications will normally be printed on the rod blank just above the handle:
Understanding how these specifications will affect the performance of your spinning rod is paramount to matching it to the type of fish you are targeting and the kinds of fishing techniques you might be using.
A shorter rod with a fast action and an ultralight power rating will be better for smaller species when fishing on small rivers and streams for trout or any other panfish.
A longer rod with a more moderate action and a medium/heavy power rating would make a great crankbait rod.
A medium power rod of around 7' in length with a fast action would make a pretty good all round bass rod for lighter techniques.
The best spinning rod to buy is one that the exact techniques you will be using when fishing.
If you are looking to cast really light lures then a fast action rod with an ultralight or light power rating in the 6' to 7' range is the best option.
But if you are looking to haul big catfish or inshore species then you'll need a rod with a much stronger backbone.
Pairing a decent spinning rod with the best spinning reel is crucial to getting the most accurate casts possible.
If they are mismatched then you rod will become unbalanced and your casting performance will suffer not to mention your arm will tire from repeated casting.
Longer rods give you a bigger lever to wing when you cast which results in the ability to throw a certain weight further than with a shorter rod.
Long rods will also take up line quicker when you strike allowing for a quicker hook set.
Shorter rods are more accurate but won't get the same kind of distance. A short rod is best suited to smaller rivers.
Most freshwater spinning rods will be in the 6' to 7' range. In saltwater they can go as large as 8' in length.
Rod power describes ho heavily built the rod blank is or in other words what kind of weight it is designed to handle.
An ultralight rod will be rated for line in the 2 to 6 lbs range whereas a heavy power rod might be rated for 20 lbs plus line depending on the type of rod and it's intended usage.
Most spinning rods for freshwater use will fall between and ultralight or a medium/heavy rating.
Trout fishing for example will use ultralight rods whereas bass fishing using lighter techniques like a ned rig will use a medium or medium/light power rod.
Rod action defines roughly where on the blank that the bend in the rod will start to form once some weight or pressure is applied to the rod.
It is usually described as one of extra fast, fast, fast/moderate or moderate.
A fast action will bend high up towards the rod tip and it offers the best sensitivity. You can also set the hook quicker with a faster action.
A moderate action is usually preferred when casting big weights or lures as it allows you to get more power into the middle of the rod which results in a much longer cast.
It is also better when using lures with big treble hooks like a crankbait as it will delay the strike for a brief second allowing the fish to fully engulf the crankbait before you set the hook.
There was a time when fishing poles were made from split cane.
More modern materials such as fiberglass then replaced split cane. For the past twenty years or so fiberglass has been all but replaced by graphite.
Graphite is lighter and can transmit a lot more feedback through the rod blank for better sensitivity.
It's one major drawback though is that it is much less durable than a fiberglass spinning rod.
Fiberglass can take a lot of abuse but it is heavier and doesn't have the same light crisp feel that a graphite rod does.
Very high end best bass fishing rods will have a carbon/graphite blend that gives you a lot of strength and sensitivity but with an even lighter rod.
The best spinning rods are made from graphite or a carbon/graphite blend.
The carolina rig has existed in some form or another for decades, after all it is just a sliding weight and a swivel combined with a jig head and a soft plastic or other such lure.
Choosing the best carolina rig rod requires that you understand what kind of rod is required for weights you will be throwing and the type of cover or structure you will be fishing around.
A good all rounder rod for carolina rigs would be 7'3" medium/heavy power rated rod with a fast action
The above is just a guide and if you are using heavy weights among thick weed then that power rating might need to be bumped up to a heavy rated rod and even up to 7'6" in length.
The fast action will always be a requirement though.
You'll rarely see someone using a spinning setup for heavier type rigs although if you are taking a more finesse style approach then they can work out just fine.
You'll want a rod that is rated for between 15 and 20 lbs, this applies to fluorocarbon if you are using braid then you can use double the strength as a rough guide.
The majority of carolina rig rods will be rated for weights in the 3/8 to one ounce range and there is good reason to use these medium/heavy to heavy power rated rods as the types of locations you will generally fish a c-rig will normally require considerable backbone from the rod.
The best length rod for carolina rigs is going to be in and around 7'4" which is a little longer than a lot of bass anglers would be used to unless of course they do a lot of work with a flipping rod around deep cover.
That extra length gives you two main advantages:
A longer rods all else being equal will usually cast further than a shorter one. You have a mush bigger lever to work with so you can really load up the rod blank and get as much energy into it as possible.
When using a carolina rig you will be making some fairly decent casts especially if you are working you lure along deep drop offs.
With a lot of line out when you feel the bite you'll need to take up any slack in the system as quickly as possible.
This is why you should also use a high gear ratio baitcaster, the quicker you can get your line tight once you feel a bite the better and more precise your hook set will be.
Both rod power and action are often confused and some anglers really do not know the difference between the two.
Power rating describes how heavy a lure or line that the rod is best suited to casting with.
Whereas rod action describes how far up the rod blank that the natural bend in the rod starts to form.
For the most part a carolina rig fishing pole should have a minimum power rating of medium/heavy if you are working across very thick cover then a heavy power rating might just be the order of the day.
You'll have a lot of backbone in most heavy power rated rods and that backbone is required when casting heavy weighs long distances.
A mentioned above action describes where in a rod the bend will form when pressure is applied to it.
A moderate action will start to bend at the middle of the rod and is generally what is considered as a 'slow' action.
A faster action starts to bend much higher up in the top one third of the rod.
So, what's the best action for a carolina rig ?
A fast action is always preferred when using any single hook lures or rigs as they give you a quicker hook set and a lot more sensitivity and feedback through the line and into the rod.
Most carolina rig rods will be baitcasting rods as they will need a medium/heavy power rating as a minimum and spinning setups are normally better when used on lighter line techniques.
You also get the added benefit of using a baitcaster reel which have a much bigger choice of high gear ratio's.
Shaky heads are one of the best producing finesse techniques year round.
Although that being said they are at their most productive when bass are less active and choose not to chase a faster moving lure.
Given that you will be using lighter jug heads it stands to reason that the best shaky head rod will need a fast action and be light enough to handle line in the 6 to 10 pound range.
However, some anglers have found great success with heavier jig heads and really large soft plastics for which a finesse style setup would no longer be appropriate.
In that scenario a beefier rod and heavier line is required and if you are close to heavy cover then braid would be a better option over fluorocarbon.
Any type of single hook lure rig will need a fast action and a good rod for shaky heads is no exception.
A fast action rod will bend much higher up the rod blank in the top one third of the rod towards the tip.
A more moderate action will bend lower in the rod blank nearer the middle.
Moderate actions are not as sensitive and have a slower hook-set that a faster action.
All jigging applications call for a lot of feedback from the lure and down through the rod to you handle.
This feedback is crucial for knowing what is going on at the hook both in terms of how the jig is moving and in terms of a bite and potential strike.
Slower action rods will just not cut it and you will be left with little or no feel as to what is going on with you shaky head jig.
Most shaky head rods will fall into the lighter type of setup once you are using jig heads that are less than a half ounce in weight.
Clearly 1/8 ounce jig heads need a pretty light overall setup so our line would be in the 6 to 10 pound range if using fluorocarbon and roughly 20 lb braid with an 8 lb fluorocarbon leader.
A casting setup only really starts to make sense once you hit 1/2 ounce or heavier with your jig heads.
When using a big jig and a large worm in and around heavy weeds it is nice to have a baitaster with a high gearing so you can pull bass quickly away from any snags.
Generally speaking shorter rods will have a bit more feel to them than longer rods of the same power and action but a longer rod for shaky heads has an advantage in that when you strike the longer rod can take up line much quicker than a shorter one.
You may also be flippin you shaky head when fishing in close quarters so a bit more length in the rod will really help with casting.
Most standard flippin rods will be too heavy to use as a shaky head rod but you can still flip and pitch with them.
Unlike a regular jig rod a shaky head fishing pole will need to handle much smaller jigs so a medium or medium/heavy power rating is normally the best choice.
A lot of shaky head casting will be down into open water or around drop offs in colder months so you won't necessarily be casting into very thick cover.
Thick cover requires a rod with a much heavier backbone than a finesse style rig.
Any type of jig work requires a lot of sensitivity and feedback to come through the rod and into your hand.
This means either a fast or an extra fast action rod.
Rod action and power are unfortunately used incorrectly all the time by angers.
Power means how heavy the rod is or in other words how heavy a lure and line it is rated for.
Action means where on the rod blank does the rod start to form it's natural bend when pressure is applied to the line.
Fast action rods will bend much higher up near the rod tip.
This gives you a lot more sensitivity a the rod tip so you can feel a little bit more connected to the hook.
They will also allow you to strike considerably quicker than when using a rod with a moderate action.
Always make sure any pole you use as a shaky head rod has a fast action at a minimum.
For most anglers a casting setup is the preferred choice when throwing larger lures or heavier bait rigs but sometimes a spinning reel for bass is the better setup.
Spinning reels excel when you need to use lighter gear. For a lot of fishermen their first reel will be a spinning reel and they may well never use a baitcaster regardless of what setup they are using.
As a good all rounder the best bass spinning reel will be a size 3000 paired with a medium power spinning rod with a fast action.
This type of rig should be usable for a lot of different techniques.
More specialist lures may need something lighter than can be used on a medium/light power spinning rod for bass.
So throwing small lures when up close to cover would need a 2000 or a 2500 sized reel.
If you need a medium/heavy power option then a 3000 or 3500 size spinning reel for bass is best, the only argument to use a 4000 or larger is the greater line capacity which is rarely an issue when bass fishing.
When choosing the best spinning reel for bass matching the size to your setup is normally the first decision you need to make.
After that the quality of the components is when differentiates a good reel from a poor one.
Big brands like Shimano, Abu Garcia, Penn and Pflueger have been refining the design and materials in their spinning reels for decades.
A cheap bass spinning reel might be a good purchase for a child who is just starting out but of you are in any way serious about your fishing then a high quality reel for bass is a must.
Rods break all of the time particularly the tip section and line guides. There is not a whole lot you can do about that.
But a high quality reel if properly cared for and serviced regularly should last at least a decade.
The following list of components are the most important things to get right on a reel.
Modern day reels of a higher quality will use little or no graphite in them. There was a time when most reels had the reel casing made entirely from graphite.
The problem with graphite is that it can flex under load, if your reel housing is warping or flexing when a large bass is putting it under pressure then there is a high probability of the internal gears being damaged.
Gears need to mesh together and be perfectly aligned to work correctly. This is why most modern spinning reels will be made from metal.
The drag rating on a spinning reel will describe how much pressure it can apply to the spool to restrict how quickly a bass is capable of taking line off of the spool.
Once hooked a large bass can run for cover and bury it's head in a thick weed bed. You need a very strong drag system to stop a fish from striping line off of your reel.
The best spinning reels for bass will have a high quality drag washers that will not overheat when put under pressure.
Spinning reels unlike baitcasters have a pool that is mounted in such a way that the line falls off the top of the spool and through the line guides. It is stationary unlike the spool on a baitcaster that spins when the line is paid out from it.
Because the line runs over the lip of the spool, spools need to have a super smooth curved lip that not only helps to reduce friction on the line but also reduces the chances of damaging the line as it runs over it.
The internal gears of a spinning reel are the heart and soul of the reel. Every turn of the handle results in engaging the internal gears that eventually turn the bail arm around the spool which is how the line is retrieved.
Using a spinning rod for bass may not be every anglers first choice. For many a casting setup will be their main go to.
But if you are trying some lighter techniques or finesse style rigs then a spinning rod can be the superior choice.
The best bass spinning rods give you the ability to throw much lighter lures than when using a casting outfit.
Baitcasters also have a higher learning curve so if you are just starting out it might be easier to choose a spinning rod and reel.
You need to get the rod length, action and power correct otherwise you will end up with a rod that will not match the type of technique you are trying to fish with.
If you are using a spinning rod that is over 7 feet in length then chances are you are looking to throw larger lures a long distance and in that instance it would be better to use a casting setup.
Rod action and power are commonly confused even by very experienced anglers as they never took the time to learn the difference in the first place.
Rod action describes where on the rod blank the natural bend will start to form when the rod is put under pressure.
A fast action means it beds higher up towards the rod tip. A slow action means it bends lower down towards the reel seat. A moderate action is somewhere in the middle.
When using a spinning setup on smaller gear you should be using a fast action, particularly if you are using a bait style rig with single hooks.
Single hooks should e set quickly when you strike and a fast action allows you to do this plus it gives you more tip sensitivity so you get more sensitivity for lighter lures.
Rod Power describes how heavy a lure the rod is rated for and usually the line rating. These ratings normally come in a range from 8 lb to 15 lb line rather than one exact number.
You need to match the correct size spinning reel for bass to the size of line and lure you are using along with the rod.
The best rod power for a bass spinning rod will either be medium/light or medium. Although you can use an ultralight rating for really small lures the chances of dragging a bass out of heavy cover on a rod that light is slim.
A medium/light action is suitable for use as ned rig rods, drop shot rods and other finesse style applications
If you are using heavier rigs like a Texas rig, or smaller jerkbaits and lighter topwater lures then your can use a medium power spinning rod for bass.
You will rarely see anyone use a heavy power bass spinning rod, if you require such a setup then switch to a baitasting rod as they are better suited to it.
Choosing the best spinning rod for bass really boils down to buying a high quality rod with the right specifications from one of the leading rod manufacturers.
The majority of bass spinning rods will be made from graphite of some kind of graphite blend.
There was a time when all rods were made from glass fiber but those days are long gone and more modern materials are used for better performance.
Glass fiber is nowhere near as sensitive as graphite, the blanks are just to big and heavy and it is really difficult to get a sensitive rod with a fast action when using glass blanks.
Graphite due to how it is wrapped during construction an have a much better taper and is easier to control how the sensitivity is distributed along the rod blank.
Line guides on a spinning rod meed to be large at the bottom closest the reel seat and then taper in size towards the rod tip.
This is one of the major differences between a casting rod and a spinning rod, that and the reel seat being on the bottom.
When line leaves the spool of a spinning reel it does so in a big circular motion and a small first line guide would cause a lot of friction, which reduces casting performance.
Good quality guide inserts are also a must as the friction between the line and the guide will not only cause casting issues but over time it will also cause unnecessary wear and tear which an result in a snapped line.
Topwater fishing is one of the most exciting ways to fish, seeing a bass smash your lure from below is hard to beat!
But there is no one size and shape of top water lure and you may need to adjust your tackle accordingly.
Choosing the right topwater rod will depend on how big a lure you will be using and whether or not you will be fishing in either open water or over heavy weed cover.
Throwing topwater frogs over or into thick weed needs a much more powerful backbone than when running a popper or a chugger in open water.
The Best Topwater Rods will be roughly 6'6" to 7' with a moderate to fast action and a medium/heavy power rating.
For bigger heavier lures like a buzzbait then you might need to match the power up to a heavy rating and the action even up to a fast/xtra fast.
But if you are looking for an all rounder then medium/heavy with a fast action is a pretty safe bet.
Spinning or Casting ?
For lighter lures either a spinning setup or a casting setup is sufficient, but once the lures get bigger and heavier then it is advisable to switch to a casting rod.
With a baitcaster you can find higher geared reels much easier than a spinning one and some topwater techniques work best with a quick retrieve.
Given that there is a such a huge range of topwater lures available it is perfectly understandable that a lot of anglers will have more than one topwater rod depending on how and where they are fishing.
For most anglers one should be sufficient but two different topwater rods are the norm especially among tournament bass anglers.
The most popular choice to use as a topwater fishing rod is a baitcasting rod. The majority of bass fishing rods will be baitcasters but for some lighter techniques a lighter spinning rod for bass can be a better option.
Casting setups are also a lot less tiring than a spinning rod when you are casting all day. A spinning reel is normally heavier and you have to constantly open the bail arm on every cast.
Whereas a baitcaster just requires the flick of a switch and then cast away.
You also get much better line control as you thumb the spool.
The best length for a topwater rod will be either a 6'6" rod for smaller lures or those that are used in open water.
For working baits in thicker cover then a longer rod allows you to have more control. A good flipping rod will be roughly 7'4" in length allowing you to make longer casts.
A longer rod with a heavier power rating is also best in weeds as you have a much more powerful lever to use against the bass.
When fishing in more open waters you a good rod power will be medium/heavy.
This power rating is a really great all round choice and can cover a lot of different bass techniques.
For casting frogs into heavy weeds then a good frog rod would need a heavy power rating as it requires a pole with a very strong backbone so that you can steer bass out of thick vegetation quickly.
Rod power and rod action are often confused and some anglers make the mistake of using the two terms interchangeably.
Rod power means how heavy a lure or line the rod is rated for, in other words how strong the rod blank is.
Rod action however is about where in the rod the natural bend will start to form once pressure is applied to the tip.
A fast action will bend high up in the top one third of the rod blank near the tip section.
A more moderate rod action will start to bend a little lower down towards the middle of the rod.
For heavier single hook lures such as frogs a fast action is best as it allows you to set the hook really quickly.
A lot of open water lures will have treble hooks on the. Usually it is best to help slow down your strike a little bit as the bass need time to really engulf the hooks into their mouths before your set it.
For treble hook lures I prefer a topwater rod that has a more moderate action as it slows the hook set momentarily.