I should clarify before we begin our discussion about fishing rods that there is a difference between a fishing ‘pole’ and a fishing ‘rod’. A pole is a simple stick-like object that doesn’t typically have guides or a reel which may be constructed of fiberglass, carbon fiber, graphite, or more commonly, bamboo. The most common type you will see are “cane poles”.
A fishing rod is a more complex beast that comes in hundreds of styles for different purposes. The rod will have line guides (often called eyelets) and a reel to hold line for casting and retrieval. They are made of a variety of materials just like fishing ‘poles’. Without further ado, let’s get into the basic types of fishing rods available.
This type of rod groups together ‘bait casters’ and ‘spin casters’ which have only a few differences in the rod itself. The primary difference is the type of reel used with the two options. Traditionally, spin casting rods are around 5′ to 6′ in length with small eyelets and are designed for small to medium fish. The casting rod ranges from short to long depending on it’s use and usually has more and smaller eyelets. The last eye, closest to the reel, on a baitcasting rod is smaller than on a spincaster because the way line on a conventional reel is fed off the spool. Both types of rods typically have a “pistol grip” handle.
This rod is designed for the spinning reel. Does not typically have the “pistol grip” used on casting rods and eyelets are gradient with a larger diameter closer to the reel progressively getting smaller towards the tip of the rod. This is probably the most common “beginner” rod due to their adaptability and ease of using a spinning reel.
Fly rods are thin and lightweight designed for casting small weightless flies. Modern rods are made of various man-made composites but many are still made in the classic style with split bamboo (also called Tonkin Cane). Fly rods have a large stripping guide eyelet for feeding line followed by a series of smaller looped guides called ‘snake guides’ for controlling the thick fly line.
These are miniature spinning rods usually around 24″ to 36″ inches long with fewer line guides (eyelets) primarily used for ice fishing.
These are large heavy duty rods used on sport fishing boats in the ocean. They include specialized rods like for shark fishing and marlin fishing. You will often see these rods with roller guides as eyelets which help avoid line abrasion when tackling large fish.
Extremely long casting or spinning rods with long grip handles designed for two-handed casting long distance from the shore. These rods are generally between 10 and 14 feet long and some can cast 6 ounces of weight over 100 yards! It is very important with surf fishing that you can cast past the breakers to where fish congregate making this a necessity.
Although casting and spinning rods work well for trolling smaller fish, manufacturers have introduced trolling specific rods designed for tuna, marlin, wahoo, salmon, steelhead, and more. For the casual fisherman, I would recommend a casting rod/reel combo rated for the line test you intend to use for your targeted fish.
A specially designed rod that breaks down or closes on itself. This type of rod is great for travel and small storage spaces. Many surf fisherman enjoy using telescopic surf rods because it is difficult to transport a large 14ft rod even if broken down into two pieces.
Beginning fisherman should, in my humble opinion, start with a lightweight spinning rod. These are suited more for smaller fish (i.e. crappie, perch, bass), are relatively inexpensive, and easy to use until you are able to master the basic skills needed to handle larger more complex fishing rods.