Probably the most fundamental tool in all of fishing is the rod. Used as the main interface between angler and a fish, no other piece of fishing equipment is scrutinized more. The sum of its parts all add up to ensure its effectiveness (or lack of) in helping you catch more fish. The aim of the game.
Newcomers to fishing, although familiar with the fishing rod, often struggle to name its individual components or realize why they’re important. Getting better in the sport of angling, however, is easier with a solid foundation and understanding of the tools used. In the case of a rod, it can also help better your choice and selection too.
From the Top
Perhaps the best place to start when considering what makes up a rod is at the top. This is the end furthest from the handle (which is easily distinguishable as the thicker part of the rod that’s built for hand placement). It’s also easily identifiable as its the part of the rod furthest from the reel (the component holding the fishing line).
The top of the rod is critical in fishing as it’s often the most fragile part and easily broken if struck against heavy obstacles or snapped under too much tension. It’s also the first part of the rod to twitch, shake or vibrate when the line is taken or moved in the water. An indication that it could be time to “hook-set” and land a fish by sinking the hook into its mouth.
The tip top refers to the metal guide at the very tip of the rod. This is the last component the line leaves before making its entrance into the water. You won’t be able to reel a lure past this point on the rod either. Thus preventing tangles and helping to keep a rod together as a single unit.
This part of the rod is usually the smallest and the guide that’s most likely to break off. Beginners, or those unused to transporting a rod or setting one up and down, should take extra care not to get the tip caught in doors or shutters or the like. There’s nothing more frustrating than breaking a newly purchased rod due to one careless moment (although it’s fairly easy to repair).
The tip top, along with other upper components of the rod, is also an important feature in terms of measuring a rod’s key characteristics like action. This refers to the bend or flex of a rod but, more specifically, how much and where this happens when a rod is “loaded” (by a fish or by a lure for example).
Medium action rods, the likes of which are common in bass fishing, bend fairly deep across the length of the rod. As a result, the rod tip will have more flex in it and curve greater than it would on a fast action rod (that tends to be stiffer). The consequence of which makes it easier to fight medium-sized fish that can be fairly aggressive and run with the line.
The tip refers to the upper part of the rod of which the tip top is a key component. This is the area of the rod that is the most flexible and prone to curve.
In the early days of rod building, this area of the rod was commonly made of bamboo. Due to the material’s elasticity, this enabled the user to throw bait out further with more accuracy. This extra propulsion that bamboo first gave has been replicated and improved in modern-day rods that often use fiberglass or graphite metal in their tip construction.
Anglers should be aware of the location of the tip as its often used to measure or rate a rod in reference to its opposite end. You’ll also hear manufacturers or rod sellers sometimes refer to a soft or hard tip based on the aforementioned characteristic of action. A hard tip is generally stronger and offers less flex.
Deciding on what type of tip to go for on a rod is largely dependent on preference and the style of fishing the angler plans on using. Deep sea fishing, for example, tends to call on hard tips that are slow in action because they’re primed to bring in heavy fish.
Guides and Windings
Following the tip, you’ll notice some common features on all rods that often run through the entire length up to the handle. Designed to help hold the rod together as a single unit and have the line run smoothly off an on the rod, these components should be high-quality enough to withstand fishing in all variety of conditions.
The windings are so-called since they are usually made of string or some other material wound around the rod guides to keep them bound to the rod body. Usually, these are affixed with some kind of glue or adhesive and then painted over or sheathed in another material. They prevent the guides from being ripped off the rod and help reduce the friction of the line moving off and on the reel.
Windings aren’t really discussed that much in the fishing community as they don’t play a huge factor in the performance of a rod but rather a supporting role. It’s important they are finished well and strong enough to handle a range of different pound-test lines. Those encased in enamel are often recommended.
Guide and Hook Keeper
The guides, as already discussed, run the length of the rod and help follow the line from reel to rod tip. Cylindrical in shape, they vary in materials with most high-end rods using graphite or ceramic guides that go a long way to dampen line friction. Guides are also provided by independent suppliers to that of the rod manufacturer itself. That’s why you’ll often see one rod manufacturers featuring a different name brand for its guides.
Guides are a vital feature of a rod as they ensure the line stays close to the rod on the reel and cast. Good quality guides also make both experiences smoother and reduce the chance of the line tangling on the reel or out in the water.
Spacing and numbering of guides can differ quite broadly in respect to rods. Different style rods differ in their use of guides. The position of guides too, as is visible in the two common bass fishing rod types of spinning and baitcasting, can have a big impact on a rod’s action and casting mechanism.
Baitcasters, for example, have their rod guides facing toward the sky rather than toward the ground (as in spinning rods). This helps makes the cast more accurate, as the line is thumbed off the spool, but also more difficult to master.
Another additional feature, the hook keeper, does as its name suggests. Usually, a metal ring affixed to the body of the rod, this is where anglers can hook their line to the rod when not fishing. This makes transporting your rod and switching positions easy, meaning you don’t have to worry about your line trailing and your hook catching.
The hook keeper is sometimes referred to as the “Keeper Ring.”
The ferrule applies to multi-jointed rods that aren’t single piece units. For the majority of beginner rods out there, that are either two or three-piece, ferrules are present. They refer to the meeting point of two separate rod parts.
Ferrules can also be male or female depending on what aspect of the piece fits with which. Male ferrules are those that fit into the join of another piece, thus extending the length. Females receive the opposing ferrule.
The strength of a ferrule is important because it dictates how well a rod will stay together as a single unit. Weak ferrules might mean a rod falling apart on a cast or retrieve. Make sure the ferrules of your rod are well looked after, display no cracks and fit together solidly.
You should also take extra care when dismantling the rod at the end of a fishing session. Take the individual components apart at their ferrules carefully.
From the Bottom
The bottom of the rod is just as important as the top. Designed to be held in your hand as well as serving as the attachment point of the reel, a rod should have a well-designed bottom made up of high-quality components.
The rod butt is usually the thickest part of the rod that is located close to the handle. Also referred to as the “end” or “plug,” the butt offers a lot of aesthetic customization to a rod and some level of functionality.
Many butts have additional metal components that enable them to be twinned with rod holders. This takes the strain off having to work the rod with your hands all the time. Something that’s often used in course fishing when bait and dropping.
In bass fishing rod holders are often present on butts so they are more easily transported. Moving around the water on a boat, especially if scouting schools of fish, is one popular reason for using a rod holder twinned with a gimbal on a rod butt.
Butt caps are the opposite of the tip top and finish at the other end of the rod. Usually made of rubber or other soft materials like cork, the cap is an important fulcrum point of a rod that is often placed against the body to help bring in big fish.
Butt caps can be further protected with covers or guards that stop them from getting cracked or warped in storage or if fishing in repeated heavy conditions. These are a particularly good purchase for the more expensive cork butts that tend to wear down faster but offer extra comfort (and less slippage) than their plastic equivalents.
The handle is where your hand grasps the rod and is the main site of weight distribution when it comes to “playing” your rod with twitches, pulls and pushes. Handles, given their role as the main interface between angler and the rod, should be comfortable to use. They should also offer minimal slippage in cases of rain and sweat.
Sometimes referred to as the “grip,” handles are similar to the rod butt in terms of material. Cork handles are often considered premium due to their malleability and comfort in the hand. Rubber handles are cheaper and durable enough to be used alongside most fishing styles.
EVA foam handles and composites (a mix of materials) also exist and have individual benefits and varying costs. Beginner anglers should value comfort above all when it comes to settling on a rod. That means paying close attention to the feel of the handle and considering how it would after prolonged use.
The site of attachment of the reel, the seat is a critical component of the rod as it houses the line and is the main site of the cast and retrieve. Reel seats can vary a lot in composition, especially in terms of rod type, length, and weight. Bass fishing reel sears, for example, are generally designed for use with either baitcaster or spinning reels and should fit both accordingly.
Most rods have a hood mechanism that affixes the reel foot into the seat. This usually involves screwing a metal or plastic piece up or down the seat to keep the reel and the rod together.
Having discussed the main components of the average rod from top to bottom it’s best to round off the discussion with one or two more commonalities.
The blank is another term used to discuss the rod “pole” or body. Oftentimes you’ll here anglers refer to the blank when discussing rod specifications or positioning when out on the water.
Blanks are usually made of fiberglass, graphite or a composite of both. Each material has its individual pros and cons, with graphite considered to be more rigid and better for power, while fiberglass is better for faster action rods.
For most anglers, the blank is chosen out of preference and fishing style above all else.
One final thing to consider when thinking about the parts of a fishing rod is the many individual styles and techniques of fishing itself. Even in rods made with one particular style in mind (like ice fishing rods), no one rod design is the same and there will be variations in terms of materials, specifications, and components.
Consider this article a general overview. Delving into the components of particular rod types could take you down a different rabbit hole.