I use for my light tackle striper fishing.
You can think about action in terms of how far down the rod the rod bends when you put pressure on rod tip. Ratings differ among manufacturers, but in general the rating or scale goes: extra fast, fast, moderate, and slow. An extra fast rod will generally only bend in the top fifth of the rod and as you move down the scale more of the rod will bend where at the bottom of the scale you’ll find a slow action rod will start to bend all the way down in the lower third of the rod.
For my light tackle striped bass fishing I use extra fast and fast action rods, with more of my rods falling in the fast action category. In order to produce a cast with a light tackle rod you are using the weight of the lure and the release of the energy from the bend in the end of the rod to project your lure forward. If you are casting a light lure you rely more on the release of the energy in the bend of your rod to project the lure forward to your target which usually means you want a light action rod so it bends easier and further down the rod length to produce enough energy for a good distance cast. Generally the striped bass lures I cast are heavier lures, ranging from 3/8th oz. up to 3oz, and because of this I do not want too much bend in the rod, but enough to generate the energy needed for good length casts. Action ratings vary from manufacturer to manufacturer so make sure to try a rod out by making some casts with it to make sure it feels good for your casting technique coupled with the size/weight lures you will be casting. If you cast with a lot of power a faster action rod will be better for you, if you like to put less power into your casts a slower action rod will be better for you. If you are going to be fishing shallow water and casting lighter lures you will probably want a little slower action rod, if you are going to be generally fishing deeper water with heavier lures you are going to want as faster action rod because the weight of the lure will put more bend in your rod.
This refers to the rods lifting power and is related to the line and lure weights that the rod is rated. The power scale generally goes from heavy, medium heavy, medium, light, to ultra light. Usually following the power designation will come the line weight that the rod is rated (10lb-15lb test etc.); it is important to keep the line weight within the constraints of the rating on the rod. Following that will come the lure weight range and it’s a good general rule to follow those guidelines, although sometimes I find myself cheating up or down a bit, which simply requires an adjustment in my casts to accommodate the different weight. Note that these line weight designations refer to mono fishing line.
For my light tackle striped bass fishing I like heavy to medium heavy rods. While I use a few manufactures, the majority of my striper rods are made by G Loomis; I like their feel and as we’ll touch on below, they are one of the only manufacturers that make a variety of rods in three piece which I need when I travel. Within their power rating system I find myself using rods with the medium heavy rating more often then not. In their rating system these rods are generally rated for 10-17lb test and ¼-1oz lures. Note that the line and lure ratings vary depending on length of the rod along with the power designation and type of graphite, so it’s important to always read the ratings on the rod and not generalize based on ratings alone.
Most modern fishing rods, and the ones we will be talking about for light tackle striped bass fishing, are made from graphite and often you will see ratings such as IM6, IM7, IM8. These ratings originated from a company called the Hexcel Corporation that is known in the industry as one of the larger graphite rod blank manufacturers. They use this these designations to describe the make up of the graphite used in a rod. Unfortunately, these ratings are not standardized between manufacturers so you cannot conclude that an IM7 graphite rod made by St. Croix is better then an IM6 graphite rod made by G Loomis. However, what you can conclude is that an IM8 graphite rod is better then an IM7 graphite rod when looking at rods made by one manufacturer. Generally what “better” means is that the actual material used to make the rod is better. Higher ratings mean better material and with that come generally a lighter (as in weight) and a more sensitive rod.
The G Loomis rods I use are comparable to IM7 and IM8. I use a lot of their GLX series which is made from different types of material then IM6,7,8 designation. The Berkley Series One rods that I use for some of my spinning rods are all IM7 graphite along with a few of the custom rods that I have had built. If you are just getting into the light tackle sport do not be hesitant to purchase a cheaper priced IM6 rod, it will generally not be as sensitive, but it will get you in the game and do a fine job of casting. If you like the light tackle game you can easily move up into the more expensive rods and as you gain more experience will be able to tell the difference in sensitivity and construction.
A word of caution, graphite is a great conductor of electricity. If you find yourself fishing in a thunderstorm or see lighting anywhere near you, make sure to store your rods in the lowest available location. If your rods start buzzing or even glowing get to shore immediately, tie up your boat and get off it. If you are onshore, drop your rods and leave them alone until the storm passes. This sounds funny at first, but coming from someone who has experienced buzzing rods in his boat that have zapped me, it’s the real McCoy.
Guides are important because they what your line has to slid through to get out of your reel and down the length of your rod to the water. Guides have a metal frame that makes up its backbone and is designed to be wrapped onto your rod. The inner circle of the guide is made up of a ceramic. Both the make up of the metal frame and make up of the ceramic vary. Since we are fishing in saltwater you want some sort of non-corssive metal for the frame. The make up of the ceramic run the spectrum from silicon carbide being the best to anconite, hardloy and aluminum oxide. The difference between these different materials is how smooth the ceramic is, the smoother it is the easier your line goes out of your guides and the easier it is to cast.
I generally do not change the guides on my light tackle rods and I would suggest you will not need to either as long as you pick a rod that is built and designed for saltwater. Most manufacturers will put decent quality guides on that will serve you fine. If you decide to have a custom rod made or make one yourself then is time to get some nice silicon carbide guides.
I use three rod lengths in my light tackle fishing on the Chesapeake Bay, six foot, six foot six inches and seven foot. If there is one all around rod length that I use the most it is a six-six.
I use six foot rod for close quarter areas such as drifting in and around pilings or other closely located structure.
I use a six foot six inch rod as an all around length and one where if I can only carry a few rods. I will use it when in close quarters, but where I have a little more room to work, when I am jigging straight down or one a steep slope. Also at times I use it in open water long casting situations where I am working back from a shoreline, casting to structure located a medium distance from the boat or when working breaking fish.
I use seven foot rods when working open water where I want or need to make long casts such as to breaking fish. The longer lever gives you more leverage to make long casts and a good long fighting section.
Number of Pieces
Rods come in different number of pieces, one piece, two piece, three and in some cases with light tackle rods four pieces. If you are not going to be traveling on a plane and have room in your car a truck a one-piece rod is your best choice. It allows for a smooth transition from the butt of the rod to the tip with out any interruptions. It’s not that multi piece rods have less strength, however I believe you lose some sensitivity because of the necessity to make the pieces larger to fit into one another. As a basic rule of thumb, get the least amount of pieces you need for the travel you do to your fishing destinations.
Types of Rods
When talking about light tackle rods we are generally talking about two types of rods, spinning rods and baitcasting rods. These two different types of rods require using different types of reels which we cover in our next part in the series when we talk about reels. Once difference we can note here is that in general bait casters have shorter butt sections then spinning rods, but in either case you can choose different length butts to accommodate your casting style and comfort. I prefer having shorter butt lengths on my six and six-six rods and a littler longer butt sections on my seven foot rods to balance the weight of the rod when it is in my had.
Light Tackle Rod Manufacturers
Some manufacturers to look at for light tackle striped bass rods: G Loomis, they make a series of different rods, but one series stands out as great performance for the money is their Green Water series. Personally I use their GLX series which is mostly dictated by the fact that over time this series has offered two and three pieces. St. Croix makes a good line of light tackle rods that are priced well for their performances and craftsmanship; their Avid series is a good line to check out which I have used in the past. Another brand that I use is Berkley and their Series One rods; they are designed for largemouth bass fishing, but I like their sensitivity for what they call their IM7 graphite. The one thing you have to make sure you do is wash off your guides well from the saltwater because they are designed for freshwater. One other brand that I have used and like is Shimano’s Inshore series of rods in their Clarus and Teramar lines. I hope this provides you a framework to work off of when choosing a light tackle rod for your striped bass fishing.
Next in this light tackle fishing article series Part 3 we’ll take a look at light tackle fishing reels.
The Light Tackle Fishing for Striped Bass Series
Part 1 - Introduction to Light Tackle Fishing for Striped Bass
Part 2 - Light Tackle Fishing Rods
Part 3 - Light Tackle Spinning Reels
Part 4 - Light Tackle Baitcasting Reels
Part 5 - Fishing Line
Part 6 - Fishing Knots
Part 7 - Lures: Plastics and Jigs/Bucktails
Part 8- Lures: Topwater Poppers
Part 9 - Lures: Crank Baits
Part 10 - Lures: Spoons
Part 11 - Putting it all Together: Where to look for Striped Bass
Part 12 - Boats: Reviewing the Best Light Tackle Boats
Part 13 - Boats: Rigging your Boat for Light Tackle Fishing