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Dock Talk: Choosing the correct fishing rod length

There are many factors to consider when choosing a fishing rod. The materials, the action, the power...

SHAWN SMITH | GEORGIA | April 11, 2023

It can be intimidating, and it's easy to understand why. Do you want a rod that is made of graphite or fiberglass? Or possibly a composite? Should the power be medium or medium heavy? Or why not medium light? Should the action be fast or extra fast???

All that said, one often overlooked attribute is fishing rod length. So, now I have made the choice that much harder and you’re asking yourself “what length fishing rod do I need?”. Now when you are first starting out this may not be much of a factor, but as your skill grows so will the number of rods in your quiver.

Rod length affects many elements while fishing. Accuracy, casting distance, leverage, spread of lures, ability to impart action, and comfort. In this instance we are going to focus on freshwater fishing and what rod lengths you should consider. 

Let's take a step back and look at the history of fishing rods over the last 60 years or so. In the 1960s your average bass fishing rod was about 5 feet long and nothing really changed until the 1970s when the flippin’ technique came on the scene. This new technique prompted rod manufactures to add a full two feet to what was considered the average rod length.

Along with the proficiency the 7 foot rods brought to flippin’, they also helped anglers overcome the stretch of popular monofilament lines of the day and can deliver more hook setting power when compared to their 5-foot predecessors because they move more line in the same hook set swing. Manufactures took notice of the flippin’ inspired length and began to produce rods in multiple lengths to suit individual techniques. Today, anglers have a wide range of rod lengths to choose from, so let’s help narrow down your search.   

When it comes to accuracy, it basically boils down to the shorter the rod, the more accurate the cast. As long as we aren't talking accuracy at 40 yards that is. In most cases, a shorter rod is more manageable and easier to maneuver.

As you get more in tuned to your equipment there are more factors like material recovery rate. This is something to consider for techniques like a jerkbait or other lures where a lot of rod action is necessary, especially with the rod tip down.

A shorter rod, somewhere around 6 foot or less would be ideal for short, accurate casts. If surgical precision is less necessary, you may want to consider a longer rod, something around 7 feet.     

dock talk proper fishing rod length distance image

Distance can be an enormously important factor depending on technique and conditions. The longer your rod, the easier it will be to make those longer casts.

For example, a longer rod works great with deep diving crankbaits because it allows the angler to cast farther which equates to more time for the lure to dive and stay at its intended depth. The ability to cast farther also aids in clear water conditions. If you can see the fish, they can see you. Being able to zip a lure near them from a distance offers a huge advantage.

But remember, what you gain in distance, you lose in accuracy. The best anglers in the world aren't as accurate at 40 yards as they are at 10.  

Dock Talk proper rod length leverage image

Leverage is also key when determining rod length. And we can't talk leverage without mentioning power. The longer the rod and heavier the power the more leverage it can apply. To paraphrase Archimedes, give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I will move the world.

In our case your rod is the lever, and the world is that behemoth you plan to pull out of the water. This benefit of longer, stiffer rods Is evident during the hook set. The longer rod moves more line faster, and the heavier power supplies enough grunt to drive the hook home, perfect for something like a jig or Texas rig.

A longer rod with a light to medium power will be beneficial when using treble-hooked baits as tension on a hooked fish is equally as important as hook penetration. Here, a long rod applies force more evenly, keeping the line tight without fear of breaking light line. 

Comfort is where things get subjective. What is comfortable for me may not be comfortable for you. If someone standing 6-foot-5 recommends you buy an 8 foot flippin’ stick but you're 5-foot-6, you may want to reconsider.

Standard practice here would be to take your height and strength into consideration when deciding what would be comfortable for you. Those on the taller side will be more comfortable using a longer rod for extended periods than someone who may be a bit shorter. Most anglers today can handle a rod around 7 feet in length with little issue.

When in doubt, 6’6”rods are an excellent middle of the road option and offer a blend of all the features. From there, adjust to what feels best and works best for you. So, the next time you are looking for a rod remember, accuracy, distance, leverage, and comfort are all factors to consider before making a choice.  

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Shawn Smith, Author, Pure Fishing


Shawn Smith is a native of Northwest Georgia and a graduate of the University of Georgia. An avid outdoorsman, he was introduced to fishing as a child and has spent the better part of the last 25 years with a rod in hand while venturing throughout the United States. As the Ecommerce Marketing Manager for Pure Fishing, Shawn is able to put his passion into practice while sharing his knowledge and love for the sport with others.

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