Fishing Tips

How to Buy a Fishing Rod


Every good fishing product resulted as the sum of good materials, good engineering and good construction. Fishing rods possess a unique ability to show off great materials and manufacturing yet it still seems so few anglers understand what goes into a rod and what they should consider in how to buy a fishing rod.  We recently spoke with Jeff Schluter, VP of Sales and Marketing for St. Croix Rods. St. Croix has been building rods from the blanks to the finished product stateside for 65 years, so we figured they would be a perfect resource for understanding the terms in fishing rods.

Anglers want the best rod for the money so they are lured in by a lot of marketing and actually a lot of misinformation because terms get blended and misrepresented. We wanted to break down all the differences in terminology for anglers. The four primary references  to how a rod blank performs include the following:

  • Power 
  • Action
  • Taper
  • Modulus or Tonage

Power refers to how much pressure it takes to bend a rod blank,” Schluter said. Folks often intertwine this with action. But power refers to how much the rod resists bending under pressure. A heavy power rod won’t bend as much as a light power rod.  

Action, on the other hand, refers to where the rod bends in the blank. A fast action on a rod means most of the bend will be up near the tip. A moderate to slow action means it bends further down in the blank. If it’s fast, it reacts quick and flexes quick in the tip. If it’s a slower action, it’s slower to react and bends all the way through the rod before it gets down into the power of the backbone.

Some confusion comes with a parabolic bend which simply describes the flex pattern of the blank as it bends through the entire blank. It can also be termed a slow action. It’s been used as a “buzz” word with rod makers in recent years but it’s not always the best action in a rod.  Taper is also very similar to action.

Taper describes the changing thickness of the rod blank from the butt to the tip. If a rod has a fast taper, it usually means it will have a small tip and thicken quicker into the blank for more back bone. If a rod has a slower taper it means the thickness increases over a longer distance through the blank. Once you increase your diameter you’re going to gain power.

Materials make the rod, literally

Modulus refers to the individual meshing of the carbon fibers in a fishing rod,” Schluter said. “Most folks think all rods are made out of graphite. But most manufacturers are using a combination of graphite and other materials because frankly graphite is brittle and not the best material for making a rod. In theory you can use less materials with higher modulus rods because of the stiffness of the materials with more threads cross weaved.”

There’s a lot more to a rod than modulus. People assume a higher modulus rod is a better rod because it has that many more graphite or carbon fibers meshed together. “Quite frankly modulus is not a good measurement of rod quality,” Schluter said. “If you made a rod of 100 million modulus it would be too brittle. It would be light, but it wouldn’t be durable.”

Carbon fibers, scrim, glue and resin are the components in a rod blank that make it durable and usable. Without the scrim a rod would bend with a crease like a straw under load. The scrim helps maintain its form throughout the load on the rod. The patterns that the graphite and carbon fibers are laid can lend to better blank construction. But the processing and manufacturing of the blanks in a proper environment is what makes for a great rod. That’s where companies like St. Croix Rods have put 65 years of engineering focus in blank manufacturing.

“The rod actions and powers are determined by the tapers of the mandrills, the patterns of the carbon materials used and the number of patterns used in making the rod,” Schluter said. “Those will determine the characteristic of a rod more than anything.”

You can shake a rod to feel the action and power. Maybe bend the tip gently on the floor and see how the rod flexes under load. That can give you a reasonable estimation on power and action in the rod.

How to handle most rod grips

For some anglers the grip often determines why they buy a fishing rod. Most rods have either cork or foam handles. In the last few years, however, newer technologically advanced traction grips have been developed. These new technologies have a lot of advantages like improved grip in wet conditions and added sensitivity but cork has long been considered the constant in rod handles.   As you grade up in cork, it becomes more expensive. Lower grade cork will have a lot of filler in it and that is the part that disappears over time and use. A higher grade cork will be smoother and last longer but will make a rod more expensive.

EVA foam handles are lighter and cost much less but may not perform as well as cork in certain conditions.

On the water determination

The number one consideration in a rod is how it handles on the water. Some things like handle grips, length, cosmetics, foregrips become matters of personal preference and taste. You might like a certain handle style, or reel seat or type of guides but many of those things are ancillary to a good blank designed for intended applications.

Heavier power and faster actions are good for baits that require a hookset to drive a hook through a weed guard or plastic. Whereas a bait with a lot of trebles typically fishes better on a rod with a more medium power and moderately slower actions. Baits will load better on a back cast on more moderate to slow action and medium power than they will on heavier powers and faster actions. However very heavy baits will become unwieldy on a rod that is too slow or too weak in power. Keep those things in mind as you seek to choose the best fishing rod for your intended fishing uses.

Check out some rods here at and see if you don’t understand a little more about what you’re thinking of purchasing in a new fishing rod. And take a look at this video on choosing the right fishing reel.