Fishing rods come in all sizes, but is it better to buy a long rod or a short rod? There are some obvious pros and cons to both, so understanding the qualities of both will help you make the right decision for your next rod purchase.
Pros of Long Rods
Fishing rods range in length from six to twelve feet. Seven feet is a good starting point for a beginner. Assuming that you have progressed in the hobby far enough to know that you want to try a longer rod, there are some specific advantages to upgrading.
Simply put, longer rod lengths offer greater casting distance when compared to shorter rods of the same power. This makes longer rod lengths a great choice for open waters. But, by the same token, also more challenging when fishing in confined spaces like narrow rivers.
Greater lengths can often lead to more catches because many types of fish are smart enough not to come within 75 feet of a boat in the water. Being able to get your hook out far enough and down deep enough is much easier with a longer rod.
The hookset is the power move of fishing. You know that moment when you feel the tug of a bite and need to make your move get the fish hooked so you can reel him in? Longer rod lengths give you more leverage in the hookset, although this fact is highly debated.
The reason for the controversy is probably because both are correct in different circumstances. When the line is out, and you have just hooked the fish far away from the boat, a longer rod offers more leverage. But, as you reel the fish in closer to the boat, a longer rod keeps more distance between you and the fish, which lowers your leverage.
Casting Accuracy at Greater Distances
If you are looking for greater accuracy in a nice deep cast at greater distances, then a longer rod length can assist. Modern fishing gear has gotten bigger, better, and much longer. In days past, five-foot fishing rods were quite common, and today, the baseline seems to start at about 6 foot 6 inches.
Rod length is always relative to the height and skill of the user, so it is not as simple as telling someone to use an eight-foot rod. But generally speaking, longer rod lengths are of great purpose in open fishing waters, particularly when trying to target fish from greater distances.
Pros of Short Rods
Shorter fishing rods, defined as six-foot and below, steal the show for specific fishing situations that require close proximity and tight accuracy. Seasoned anglers usually keep both short and long rods tackled and ready on any fishing trip so that they are ready with the best rod for any situation.
Built for Tight Quarters
Short rods are almost a requirement for fishing in small creeks or areas with a lot of surrounding trees and vegetation. Remember that long rods perform better for casting at great distances, so if you don’t have cast a lot of distance, there is no need for the bulky length of a long rod.
Some fish seek refuge in hard-to-fish areas like under floating docks or brushy areas. In these situations, there is a big opportunity to increase your catch, but only if you can get to them. Shorter fishing rods offer the versatility that you need to drop your line in the trees.
Best for Target Fishing
Speaking of high-yield, hard-to-reach areas, a shorter fishing rod gives the experienced fisherman the ability to pick off precise targets. If you want to be subtle and drop your line in a specific patch of grass or under a boat dock from a close distance, the accuracy and precision of the short rod are unparalleled.
If you can find them, something in the five to six-foot range works well for target fishing. This size was once common, but in the era of ‘bigger is better,’ they are increasingly hard to find. It is not that you cannot drop a line in close proximity with an eight-foot pole; it is just more cumbersome when working with shorter distances.
Better Overall Leverage
Touching back on the great debate over which provides better leverage, long or short. Some of the best fishermen will argue that it is a matter of simple physics – shorter is better. In most areas, a shorter pole does provide better leverage.
A shorter rod offers no comparison for the control and leverage it provides in close range. However, that same fishing pole will be less giving and more likely to snap on a big fish from a greater distance.
You will probably want to pair up with good choices for both long and short poles because each has its advantages in specific fishing situations, near or far.
Cons of Long Rods
While most fishermen don’t seem to have much criticism of longer rods, there are some things to consider before taking the plunge for a longer rod. Despite what popular marketing trends might tell you, bigger is not always better.
Long Rods Put More Distance Between You and the Fish
Distance can be both a blessing and a curse. If you are trying to target witty fish that know better than to approach your boat or the shoreline, it is a blessing. But imagine pulling in that big catch in the last ten feet to the boat. At that moment, you are probably cursing the extra length on your rod.
There is a moment in every catch where you are specifically working with a fish within a close distance. The bigger the catch, the harder the work. And, if you fish with a long pole, you make that work that much more difficult.
Long Rods are Less Precise
While rod manufacturers sell models with different levels of sensitivity, simply comparing long and short rods, long rods are much more flexible and, therefore, less precise than their shorter counterparts.
Shorter rod lengths are by comparison stiff, unforgiving rods. Longer rods tend to be more flexible, which allows for a quieter entry when casting, but significantly hurts precision. With more flexibility in the rod, you might not feel nibbles from smaller prey, especially from greater distances.
Longer Rods are Heavier
While longer rods are more forgiving in most areas, their sheer size means that they are bulkier to handle. For some, the heavier weight is a deterrent from using longer rods. A seven-foot rod is a nice middle-ground for most people that offers the lighter weight maneuverability of a short rod with the power and distance of a long rod.
Cons of Short Rods
After all of that, you may be seriously re-thinking the idea of buying a longer rod. But to completely dismiss it would be a mistake. Short rods have loads of complaints too. Shorter rods are stiff and offer very little flexibility, which means they require a certain finesse, a certain gentleness, to use well.
Less Sensitivity Makes it More Difficult to Catch Smaller Fish
It depends on what type of fish you are after. Small fish require gentle, precise movements that are more difficult to accomplish with a shorter fishing rod. While some shorter rods are engineered to provide the necessary level of sensitivity for small fish, the majority are not that great for smaller fish.
It would be quite easy to miss the nibble of a small fish, even up close, on a small stick simply because you wouldn’t feel the movement on such a stiff rod. At least a short rod makes up for its shortcomings by offering the best control over larger fish at all distances.
Has Limits to Its Distance
In open water, most fish are caught from a distance of around seventy feet. Even the most powerful short rods will struggle to launch your lures to this distance. A longer rod naturally means more power, which is better for casting at great distances.
All in all, a shorter rod is a lot more work for the user. They are a great tool to have in your arsenal for fishing up close, but they are a lot less forgiving for beginner fishers. If you are going to use a short rod regularly, you will have to perfect casting techniques and learn the feel of these rods.
The Takeaway on Choosing Rod Lengths
One is not always better than the other for every fishing situation. A well-rounded and experienced angler will probably have a range of different size rods, each with their own purpose. Beginner fishers can start with a seven-foot rod and go up or down depending on preference, skill, and typical fishing environment.
Where you primarily fish dictates the length of rod that you need more so than any other factor. Saltwater anglers on the ocean will most certainly prefer the advantages that a long rod can provide. Back creek fishers are far more likely to prefer a short rod.