A Beginner's Guide to Understanding the Different Types of Fishing Poles

Matt Johnson
Matt JohnsonPublished: April 21, 2023
A Beginner's Guide to Understanding the Different Types of Fishing Poles

So you're trying to get into the sport of fishing. We can't blame you; it's a lot of fun! However, as a beginner (or even a seasoned expert), you should know about the different types of fishing poles. They're a bit more than a rod and fishing line; there are different poles for various types of fishing.

Whether you’re looking for something that fits in a tight budget or you’re after the latest trends, this guide has got you covered. From rod material and length to action and power ratings, this piece puts forth all the information necessary to make a well-informed decision.

So, let’s take a look at the options available. We're going to make sure your next big catch is more than just luck!

Fishing Rod TypeUseDescription
Spinning polesGeneral purpose fishingEasy to use, great for beginners. Can handle a wide range of bait sizes.
Casting rods or baitcasting fishing rodsTargeting larger fishOffer more control and accuracy over cast, but require practice to master.
Trolling polesFishing from moving boatsHeavy-duty rods designed for dragging bait through water at low speeds.
Surf polesBeach fishingLong poles that allow for casting bait far out into the surf.
Fly fishing polesFreshwater fishing (rivers, streams)Specialized rods designed for casting lightweight flies. Require skill and finesse.
Telescopic fishing rodsTravel/portabilityCan be extended and collapsed for easy transportation. Vary in strength and flexibility.
Ice fishing polesIce fishingShort and lightweight rods designed for catching fish through holes in the ice.
This chart shows the fishing rod types and their uses.

We'll get more into these, but that's a good start for now. Don't worry, we're going to cover every aspect of fishing rods so you can go from beginner to expert.

The 6 different types of fishing poles.

Anglers have a variety of fishing poles to choose from, depending on the type of fishing they plan to do. The seven primary varieties of fishing poles include spinning rods, casting rods, trolling rods, surf rods, fly rods, telescopic rods, and ice rods. Of course, some of these may be used in various types of fishing or be a combination of the types.

Spinning rods are the most popular choice among anglers. They are suitable for a variety of techniques and are the most affordable type of rod. Casting rods are designed for bait or lure fishing, and are typically longer than spinning rods. Trolling rods are designed for trolling from a boat. Most of them are usually shorter and more rigid than other types of rods.

Surf rods are designed for fishing from the beach or rocks. These rods are typically longer and more flexible than other types of rods. Fly rods are specialized rods that are ideal for fly fishing, and feature a unique design that allows for accurate casting.

Lastly, ice rods are rods designed for use in ice fishing. These may look like kids rods, but they're extremely specialized.

Each type of fishing pole has its own unique features and benefits. So it is important to consider the type of fishing you plan to do before selecting the right fishing pole for you.

Spinning poles.

Spinning Rod

Spinning poles are a type of fishing pole used for a variety of fishing techniques. We recommend these types of fishing rods for beginners as they're fairly universal for all types of fish.

ProsCons
Easy to use, great for beginners.May not be ideal for targeting larger fish.
Can handle a wide range of bait sizes.Less control and accuracy compared to casting rods.
Suitable for both freshwater and saltwater fishing.

They are distinguished by their flexibility and the presence of a reel mounted beneath the handle. Spinning rods are typically shorter than baitcasting and trolling rods, ranging in length from 4 to 9 feet; however, longer rods are available for extended casts.

Spinning reel rods feature several line guides that become progressively smaller as one moves toward the tip of the rod. This design allows for a drag-and-fly action and reduces pressure on the wrist when casting.

The action and power of a spinning rod are determined by the flexibility and the amount of bend it has. This is determined by applying pressure to the rod. Lighter rods are suited for light lines, lures, and small diameters. However, heavier rods are more suitable for larger lures and heavier lines.

Spinning rods are a popular choice for anglers, as they are suitable for a variety of techniques and fish. We like them because they're the most universal of all of the rods we have. They can be used for both freshwater and saltwater fishing and are particularly well-suited for inshore saltwater fishing.

The best part? Spinning rods are relatively affordable and offer a wide selection of lengths, actions, and powers, making them a versatile and popular choice for anglers. Spin cast rods are also common for deep-sea fishing. If you watch the show, Wicked Tuna, the types of fishing rods they use is usually spinning rods.

Casting rods or baitcasting fishing rods.

Baitcaster Rod and Reel

Casting poles, oftentimes called a baitcasting rod or a casting rod, are a specialized type of fishing rod that is used for casting bait or lures with a reel mounted near the handle.

ProsCons
Offer more control and accuracy over cast.Require practice to master.
Suitable for both freshwater and saltwater environments.Not recommended for beginners.
Ideal for targeting larger fish and fishing in dense vegetation.

This allows the thumb or finger to control the line during a cast and encompasses both bait casting and spinning rods. Casting rods are around the same length as spinning rods, ranging in length from 4-8 feet. And similar to a spinning rod, casting rods feature a large eye near the handle, which is designed for use with a casting reel.

Casting rods are distinguished by their multiple small eyes, whereas spin casting rods are characterized by their multiple small eyes with a larger eye situated near the reel. The action and power of a casting rod are determined by the flexibility of the rod and the amount of bend it has when pressure is applied.

Casting rods are suitable for use in both freshwater and saltwater environments and are the ideal choice for use with heavier lines. They are also favored by anglers when fishing in dense vegetation or pursuing larger species, as their power and strength enable them to tackle larger fish.

While casting rods are popular for lake and river fishing, making them a great choice for anglers looking to target bass, we don't always recommend these casting reel mounted rods for beginners as they require a bit of learning how to use.

Trolling poles

Trolling Poles off Back of Boat

Trolling poles are a unique type of fishing pole that is designed for the purpose of trolling. This technique involves drawing one or more lines with lures or baitfish through the water behind a moving boat, or slowly winding the line when fishing from a static position.

ProsCons
Heavy-duty rods designed for trolling from boats.Not versatile for other fishing techniques.
Shorter and more rigid, suitable for larger species.Requires a boat for optimal use.
Resilient and durable, especially in saltwater environments.

Trolling rods are not too different than others. They are typically made of fiberglass or graphite and feature long cork or foam handles that fit into rod holders mounted to the boat. The big difference being the corked ends.

Trolling rods are typically shorter and more rigid than other types of poles, with lengths ranging between 4-8 feet. This makes them more suitable for trolling, as they can be mounted in rod holders and have enough power and strength to handle larger species.

On top of that, trolling rods are distinguished by their extended length and robust construction, making them more resilient than other fishing rods.

Another advantage of trolling rods is that they are well-suited for use in saltwater environments. The fiberglass construction of the rod is designed to be resistant to corrosion and wear, making it highly durable and low-maintenance.

If you have a boat, it's always a good idea to have a couple of these types of fishing rods around.

Surf poles.

Surf Fishing Rods on a Beach

Surf poles are a type of rod that is designed for surf fishing and fishing off rocks. They are the longest and heaviest rod available, measuring from 13-16 feet in length. This enables surf rods to cast further distances and haul in heavier fish from breaking waves.

ProsCons
Long poles allow for casting bait far into the surf.Heaviest and longest rod, may be cumbersome.
Suitable for beach fishing and catching large species.Requires skill to handle due to length and weight.
Two-handed casting handle provides improved control.

Surf rods are suited for fishing from varied sources– shore, boats, piers, or small boats. They are even used for angling from larger vessels out in the open sea.

Surf rods are generally distinguished by a longer handle, a corrosion-resistant rod blank, and the ability to cast further distances than other types of fishing rods.

What really makes them stand out from the pack is their two-handed casting handle provides anglers with improved control when casting. Throw on a fish finder rig and cast it way out - you'll catch something big.

Heavy draws or lures are generally utilized when fishing with a surf rod. This type of rod is suitable for catching large species such as marlin, sharks, and other big game fish. However, it takes some getting-used-to to get good with this rod length.

Fly fishing poles

Man Fly Fishing on a River with a Fly Fishing Rod

Fly fishing poles, commonly referred to as fly rods or fly fishing rods, are a type of fishing rod crafted for the purpose of fly fishing.

ProsCons
Specialized rods designed for casting lightweight flies.Require skill and finesse to use properly.
Ideal for freshwater fishing in rivers and streams.Limited to fly fishing only.
Lightweight and slim design for skillful casting.

Featuring a lightweight and slim design, fly rods are used in conjunction with heavier lines and flies, as opposed to lures. The purpose of a fly fishing rod is to cast artificial flies accurately and consistently. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from 6 to 12 feet in length.

Fly rods are generally made from graphite or fiberglass, though some are constructed from composite materials. The eyes of the rod are larger than those of a spinning or trolling rod, allowing for a heavier fly line.

Fly rods are designed for fishing smaller species in freshwater environments. They are capable of casting light lures and weights and are more suitable for experienced anglers than those just starting out.

If you've ever seen someone fly fishing, you know that they take skill and practice to use properly.

Not only is the pole a bit different, but so is the reel. Fly reels are designed to use thicker lines than those used for trolling and spinning, allowing them to handle greater weights. They're also characterized by their lack of a butt or handle since their main purpose is to control the line.

These types of fishing rods shouldn't be used for anything but fly fishing.

Telescopic fishing rods.

Telescoping Rod

Telescopic poles are an ideal choice for anglers looking for a versatile and adjustable fishing pole. These types of poles are constructed from metal, typically aluminum, and can be adjusted to a variety of lengths, ranging from 3-9 ft.

ProsCons
Extendable and collapsible for easy transportation.Vary in strength and flexibility.
Versatile and adjustable, suitable for various fishing conditions.Not suited for larger game fish or saltwater environments.
Ideal for anglers who travel or have limited storage space.

Generally, telescopic poles are cheaper than other types of fishing poles, making them an economical choice. That's not to say there aren't high-end collapsable rods.

What makes these telescopic rods different from the rest is their obvious ability to retract. This makes them very portable and ideal for anglers who like to travel light or don’t have the space to store a full-size fishing rod.

For example, fly fishermen that travel to austere rivers for the best trout and salmon often have telescoping rods. Sure, they're high-end, but they need to travel with them.

These fishing rods are also suitable for beginner anglers, as they can be shortened and adjusted according. So when you're taking your 5-year-old fishing, a telescopic rod is probably your best bet.

Telescopic rods are generally used in freshwater and small bodies of water. They are not suited for larger game fish or saltwater environments. They simply can't hold the weight of larger fish species.

Ice fishing poles.

Man Ice Fishing with an Ice Fishing Pole

Ice fishing rods are designed for use in ice fishing. Unlike traditional spinning or casting rods, ice fishing poles are much shorter in length, typically measuring between 2 to 4 ft.

ProsCons
Short and lightweight, designed for ice fishing.Limited to ice fishing only.
Durable and capable of handling large fish.Short length may not be suitable for other fishing techniques.
Efficient for fishing through holes in the ice.

Although they may look like a child's rod, these are specialized rods with unique features and functions.

Ice fishing poles are built with a durable frame, usually made from metal or fiberglass. The handle is usually shorter than a conventional rod, and the eyes of the rod are also smaller.

This allows for more efficient placement of the bait or lures directly under the ice, as well as retrieval of the line. After all, when you're fishing through a hole in the ice, you don't need to worry about casting an ice fishing rod. Despite their small size, ice fishing poles are designed to be robust and durable, capable of handling the weight of large fish.

Selecting the right fishing pole.

When selecting a fishing pole, it is essential to consider the type of fish to be caught, the type of water in which the fishing takes place, and the length, power, and number of guides on the rod.

It is important to consider the type of fishing one will be doing, as this will influence the kind of rod most suitable. For instance, a spinning rod is most appropriate for light lures, while baitcasting rods are better suited for heavier lures. The size of the targeted fish should also be considered, as a heavier rod may be necessary to capture larger, more powerful fish.

The activity for which the rod is intended should be considered, as this will determine the type of rod necessary. Of course, some of these rods can be used differently than how they're designed, but not optimally. For example, you can easily troll with an ice fishing rod, but we wouldn't recommend it.

Length of the rod.

The length of a fishing pole is important when selecting the right one for your needs. Generally, the type of fishing one is doing and the species of fish being targeted will dictate the rod length necessary. For example, novice anglers should opt for a 7-foot rod, while experienced anglers may prefer a two-piece that is 9 ft.

A 9-10 foot rod and reel combo is recommended for fishing in creeks, rivers, or small lakes, and an 8+ foot rod is recommended for optimal performance when paddling or utilizing topwater walking baits. On the other hand, shorter rods, ranging from 8-9 feet, may be more suitable for areas with dense vegetation or in wood areas.

Longer rods, such as 10+ feet, are great for expansive, open areas. Longer rods also provide greater control over the cast due to increased reach.

Most of the time, anglers select a rod's length based on preference. For example, our go-to pole is a 7'6" Hellcat rod.

How do you measure a fishing rod?

The easiest way to measure a fishing rod is to extend it fully and measure it from the butt of the rod to the tip. This will give you the full length of the rod. Be sure to hold the rod with the guides facing up and make sure the rod is completely straight before measuring. You don't want to accidentally include any curves or bends in your measurement.

It's important to check if your rod is telescopic or not before measuring. If it is, make sure it's fully extended before measuring from the butt to the tip. If you don't extend the rod fully before measuring, you might not get an accurate measurement of the actual length.

Material of the rod.

The material of the fishing pole is an essential factor to consider when selecting the right fishing pole. Fiberglass, graphite, and bamboo are the most commonly used materials for fishing rods, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Fiberglass rods are more durable, while graphite rods are more lightweight and sensitive.

We like graphite for its sensitivity. When you're feeling for a bite, it's the graphite rods that provide you with the most feedback.

Bamboo rods, while heavier, offer superior performance and are the preferred choice for experienced anglers. There are also aluminum rods, which aren't as common these days but are generally cheaper and low-end. They simply don't hold up to the wear and tear fisherman put on them.

Action & power.

Once you've been fishing for a while, you might want something with a bit more performance. That's where the action and power of the rod come into play.

Action refers to the speed at which the rod bends, while power describes the strength of the rod and the amount of pressure it can handle. These characteristics should be considered in conjunction with the type of fishing being done and the size of the fish being targeted.

For instance, lighter rods are best for inshore saltwater fishing, while medium-action rods are ideal for catching smaller fish. Additionally, slower action rods are recommended for casting dry flies, while faster action rods are recommended for trolling.

For beginners, medium action with high rod power is a good combination.

Fishing rod FAQs.

That's a lot to digest; we get it! That's why our experts put together some FAQs to help make the selection process a bit easier.

How many types of fishing poles are there?

There are seven different types of rods made of various materials and countless features. Depending on where you live, what type of fishing you're doing, and the species of fish you're targeting, you'll need to consider various factors when selecting the right fishing pole.

What is the best type of fishing rod for beginners?

For beginners, our experts recommend a spinning rod (often called spin cast rods) with medium action with high rod power. This will provide better control over the cast and help ensure that catches are landed successfully. They're also easier to learn and work with making them great for beginners.

Do I need a specialized rod for each type of fishing?

No, not necessarily. Many anglers choose all-purpose rods that can be used in multiple types of fishing scenarios, from trolling to casting and everything in between. However, some anglers prefer the extra performance and control offered by more specialized rods and will invest in them accordingly.

What length of fishing rod should I use?

The ideal length of a fishing rod depends on the type and size of fish being targeted. However, most of the time it depends more on the angler’s preference. Generally speaking, shorter rods are better for inshore saltwater fishing, while longer rods are better for casting dry flies or trolling.

What are the different types of spinning rods?

There are a variety of spinning rods available, made from fiberglass, graphite, and composite material. Fiberglass is known for durability, whereas graphite is lightweight and very sensitive to movements. Composite rods offer a combination of the two materials, providing anglers with a great option. We recommend fiberglass for newer anglers as they're a bit cheaper. You don't want to plunk down hundreds of dollars on a pole and not know how to use it. No matter the preference, there is a spinning rod to meet an angler's needs.

What's the difference between a fishing pole and a fishing rod?

There is no difference between the two. It's semantics. Some will call it a fishing pole, while others will refer to the same item as a fishing rod. The terms are interchangeable. We might call it a rod one day and a pole the next.

Can I use any type of reel with my fishing rod?

No, it is important to select a reel that is compatible with the type of rod being used. For instance, spinning reels are designed to be used with spinning rods, while baitcasting reels are used with baitcasting rods. Most of the time, you won't even be able to mount the wrong type of reel to the pole.

Why are some rods more expensive than others?

The price of a fishing rod is determined primarily by the materials used to make it. Beyond that, its features and performance will affect the price as well. Higher-end materials like graphite or composite will generally cost more than fiberglass or aluminum. Additionally, manufacturers may incorporate special features such as guides, handles, and reel seats that all add to the price. Lastly, rod performance should be considered. Generally speaking, higher-end rods will offer more action and power, which can affect the angler's ability to land fish successfully. For these reasons, more expensive rods typically provide superior performance.

Can I use a fishing rod for both saltwater and freshwater applications?

Yes, for the most part. The biggest factor here is the material used to construct the rod. Generally, you can use fiberglass or graphite, but you'll want to focus on the material of the eyelets and reel seat. Saltwater can be very corrosive, so it's important to make sure the eyelets and reel seats are made of a material that won't corrode or rust. Some rods have special coatings that help protect against corrosion as well.

Do I need a "fast action" rod?

This depends on the type of fishing you are doing and your own preferences. Fast-action rods are designed to be more sensitive and provide more power, making them ideal for certain applications such as casting lures or using heavy lines. Slow-action rods, on the other hand, offer a smoother feel and less power but can be great for light lines or topwater fishing.

What type of rod should I use for bass fishing?

Bass fishing typically requires medium-action rods with high power, as these will provide the best combination of sensitivity and strength to handle heavier lures and larger fish. As for the length, that depends on whether you're looking for a casting rod or trolling rod.

What kind of rod do you need for fly fishing?

For beginners, we recommend a versatile rod that suits the type of fish you'll be fishing the most. Our experts suggest that a 9-foot rod with a 5-weight line is the most versatile type of fly rod. If your fishing activities include a combination of lakes, creeks, and rivers, then choosing an 8-9 ft rod with a 5-weight line is a simple and wise decision as your first rod.

What's your favorite rod?

Our daily pick is the Hellcat fishing rod! It's made from a combination of carbon and S-glass, so it's lightweight and durable. It has great sensitivity, responsiveness, and power for casting lures. Plus, it looks good too! We have a 7'6" Hellcat, and it's a great all-around rod.

Hellcat Rod Color Options

Hit the water and start casting!

No matter what type of fishing you’re doing, having the right rod is essential for success. Whether it's a spinning reel for freshwater applications or a fly rod for trout streams, there are many different types and styles to choose from.

Prices can vary depending on the materials used and features included. However, overall performance should be the main factor when selecting your next rod. You may need to compromise between price and quality.

Consider the fish species you will target most often as well as your own preferences before making a purchase – that way, you'll get exactly what you need without breaking the bank.

With these tips in mind, hit the water with confidence, knowing that your gear won't let you down!

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

Master Outdoorsman

Matt is a seasoned outdoorsman with expertise in fishing, hunting, and wildlife. With a Master's degree in Wildlife Science, he combines his passion for nature with conservation efforts, sharing his knowledge through his writing for Fish and Game Report.

We may be compensated through the links you find on this page.

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