In this section you’ll find a list and short description of the most common types of fishing rod, as well as links through to suggested tackle set-ups and even recommended rods, as used or vouched for by various members, colleagues and associates of the Drowning Worms team.
Whether you’re just starting out, or you’ve decided to try something new, don’t be alarmed – you don’t need a different rod for every single style of fishing. Many modern rods will work equally well for multiple applications, and many can be used to target numerous different types of fish. If you buy wisely, you’ll probably be able to get away with just three or four different rods… Or just start with one!
Most anglers I know – myself included – have cupboards full of rods: rods they’ve purchased over the years, rods they’ve been gifted, rods they don’t remember buying, and plenty of others besides. With the advent of eBay and Facebook, it’s easier than ever to find a new owner for your old fishing tackle but, for one reason or another, many of us end up hoarding. Maybe it’s sentimental value, who knows? But the point is, no matter how many rods an angler might have, most of them stay locked away, while he or she uses no more than three or four at any one time.
The reason for this phenomenon is that anglers tend to focus on one or two particular species at any one time of the year. I know people who, in winter, say they “get their pike head on”, which basically means that all they can think about is pike fishing! Others love bass, others carp or trout, and so it goes on. It may be from season to season, or it may be from year to year, but realistically nobody needs dozens of different fishing rods to be able to enjoy their pastime. Of course there are some devoted anglers who do bounce from one species to the next, day-by-day, but in my experience such people are few and far between.
Different types of fishing rod
Sadly, do just one search for fishing rods online and you’ll immediately wish you hadn’t – the amount of choice is enough to blind you! What’s more, every manufacturer has their own terminology and rationale behind their ‘superior casting action’ or the latest ‘hexagonal weave’ that will undoubtedly increase the number of successful strikes you get; but of course that’s just normal marketing behaviour. (Who said that 85.3% of statistics are made up on the spot?!) The reality is that a good angler could probably pick up any rod and make a decent go of things.
With that in mind, when buying a new rod, there are two issues you should focus on above everything else. The first is budget: you need to make sure that what you’re buying isn’t going to overstretch you. Don’t fall for the marketing chatter – a fantastic rod is, in reality, only a little bit better than a good rod, and it probably takes a very experienced angler to achieve its potential anyway. Buy something you can afford: it’s hard to enjoy a day on the riverbank when all you can think about is your overdraft!
The next thing to do is to work out what types of fishing you want to be doing in advance. Where are you based? What waters are nearby and where will you fish? What kind of fish are you targeting? What do those fish eat and, therefore, what type of bait will you be using? If you’re focusing on predatory fish in, say, a shallow inland lake or fast moving river, it’s likely that you’ll need totally different tackle to someone fishing for bottom feeders in the surf.
It’s not straightforward, I know, but that’s where we will try to help. This section is designed to make life slightly easier for you. Have a read through the headings below and you’ll see that we’ve group together popular types of fishing – giving you an overview of the different kinds of fishing available around the world and the specific kinds of rod you might need for each. It’s not exhaustive – I’m sure there will be a few things we’ve missed, but it should give you a fair idea of where to start.
If you’re just starting out fishing… congratulations! You’re opening the door to a lifetime of unique sights, places, friendships and experiences that you would otherwise never have had. Welcome! Before you get baffled by the huge range of equipment available, take a look at our beginner fishing rods section >>
Whether you love trout and salmon, feel like trying a new method for your favourite species, or just love the way it looks, the beauty of fly fishing is its simplicity. No digging for bait, no mess, nothing to refrigerate – all you need is a fly rod, reel, line, some leader material and a box of flies. What could be easier?
Fly fishing is often regarded as the most beautiful to watch type of fishing – mainly because it requires a very different style of casting. The reason for this is the weight of the bait or ‘fly’, which is negligible. The fly, which is hand tied either to resemble the target species’ natural food or, in the case or ‘lures’, to provoke an attack, is cast using a specially weighted fly line. This requires a very different rod than other styles of fishing. Read more about fly rods >>
Spinning or spin fishing, as it is sometimes called, is one of the most popular forms of the sport; so much so in fact, that a spinning rod can sometimes be referred to as a conventional fishing rod. Like fly fishing, spinning benefits from being one of the simplest forms of the sport and there is only a minimal requirement for tackle. Spin fishermen can often rove for miles, covering huge expanses of water in pursuit of taking fish. Better still, and quite unlike fly fishing, spinning is very quick to learn. Read more about spinning rods and how to buy them >>
To coin a phrase, surf rods are a totally different kettle of fish. They are also casting rods but, unlike spinning rods, which may be used in all kinds of fishing situations – and therefore tend to be quite middle-of-the-road in terms of length, thickness and power – surf fishing rods are almost exclusively used when fishing from the beach or rocks. The key purpose of a surf rod is to cast a baited as far out into the sea as possible, which means they are built for distance and power above all else. Read more about how to choose and buy a surf rod >>
Of course, you won’t always be fishing the sea from the beach, so these long powerful rods aren’t always a requirement. Another common type of sea fishing is to fish from a boat – provided you can get your hands on one. Boat fishing is a much better way of covering more area and, if things are proving productive, you can just pull up the lines and change position. Boat fishing will usually involve the use of much shorter rods, which often don’t need to be cast at all. These rods can be subdivided into inshore fishing rods, trolling rods and jigging or bottom fishing rods. See our guide to buying the best sea or boat fishing rod for you >>
If you’re a consumer of fishing videos on YouTube, you’ll be aware that another popular type of sea angling is to fish from a kayak. Each year, kayak equipment becomes more specialized and many kayak anglers leave shore with rods and poles sticking out in every direction! While it’s possible to enjoy kayak fishing with a spinning rod or standard inshore fishing rod, many brands now manufacture tackle specifically for use with a kayak – with specially shaped rod butts and fixtures to help anglers secure them to their craft. Read more about kayak fishing rods here >>
Whether you fish in the sea or in freshwater, you may decide that it’s inconvenient to carry a full-length rod around with you. Most rods come in two or three pieces but can still be five or six feet in length when packed away. If you’re looking to travel with your fishing rod, this can be inconvenient. The alternative is to purchase a telescopic or collapsible fishing rod, which can be much more portable and compact. Such rods tend to fold away in one of two different ways – either breaking apart into multiple small pieces, or simply retracting like a telescope, with each section disappearing inside the next. If you’re looking for advice on what’s the best travel rod, I can tell you that I’ve used both designs and found them both to be equally capable and fun to use. I used a telescoping rod for a trip to the USA where we caught largemouth bass, crappie, bluegills, garfish and some very hard-fighting catfish. A few years later I backpacked around New Zealand with a seven-piece fly rod and landed numerous trophy trout without a problem. We’ve put together a separate page on telescopic rods, which you can find here >>
Float fishing or coarse fishing rods
One of the most productive, fun, and most recognised styles of coarse fishing is to fish with a float. It’s straightforward, very visual and is one of the best ways of recognising sensitive bites from smaller fish. In the UK, popular species to target with a float might include roach, rudd, bream, dace, tench, chub, barbel and carp. Unless you are an advocate of the seven-metre-plus fishing poles I’ve described below, it’s likely that you’ll need some kind of float fishing rod – sometimes called a match rod (named after the fishing matches, which are quite popular in the UK and Europe) – to fish in this way. Such coarse rods will be anywhere from ten to fourteen feet long, very thin and very sensitive – usually fished with either a fixed spool reel or a centrepin. Thanks to the strength and flexibility of modern rod design, it’s possible to find coarse rods that are light enough to hook and play a small fish without damaging it, while powerful enough to fight a bigger one should it decide to take your bait. You can find our review of the best coarse fishing rods here.
If you love coarse fishing but want to try something different, or if it’s important for you to catch as many fish as possible – perhaps in a competition – a popular alternative to using a float fishing rod is to use a pole. Usually between five metres and twenty metres in length, fishing poles are unlike any other kind of rod (except perhaps a Japanese ‘tenkara’ rod) in that they don’t require a reel. The reason many anglers prefer to fish the pole is the added accuracy it gives them over their presentation: because the pole tip sits directly above where you’re fishing, you can essentially place the bait, or move it, anywhere you want it, quickly and easily, regardless of the weather conditions and with no casting skills required whatsoever. To add distance you simple slide on additional sections one by one. Here’s a nice demonstration:
Instead of a reel, poles rely on a section of elastic to subdue the fish before netting. The elastic is hidden inside the top section of the pole and stretches out when you hook a fish, retracting again when the pressure eases. If that’s not enough (for example if you hook a monster!), the angler has the ability to add and remove sections of pole to deal with longer surges – twenty metres is quite a distance!
Ice fishing rods
To many anglers, a twenty-metre fishing pole probably sits at one end of the ‘weird and wonderful’ category. If that’s true, then at the other end must sit the ice fishing rod! When someone asks you to picture the average set of fishing tackle, your first thought is probably a rod, a reel, a tacklebox and maybe some waders, but the rod is almost certainly as long as the fisherman is tall, right? Well, a regular ice fishing rod is only about 50 centimeters long! There’s a simple reason for this. Ice fishing not only involves no casting, but also it regularly takes place indoors. OK, maybe I’m being a little loose with my terminology, but many anglers construct a small hut around their ice-fishing hole, which they then use as protection from the wind and snow (either that or tow in a ready-made shelter, then drill a hole in the ice once it’s in position). Have a look at this video of a monster trout being caught in a North American ice fishing hole and you’ll see what I mean, both about the hut and about the rod. See our guide to the best ice fishing rods >>
Finally on our list of whacky fishing rods is the electric fishing rod. Until I wrote this article I had no idea such a thing even existed, but check out the action on this little beauty:
I’m not quite sure when you’d use something like this, but it’s definitely an interesting idea! However, I think what most people mean by the term ‘electric fishing rod’ is the automatic rod and reel systems used by some big game fishermen, who are bottom fishing or ‘deep drop fishing’ for monster tuna, marlin and other game species. Sometimes known as ‘dredging’ this heavy-duty fishing technique puts massive loads on the tackle – often too much for a traditional fibreglass rod to handle, so instead of using standard rods and reels, a specialist fishing rod is needed – usually manufactured from aerospace grade metals like aluminium.
What creates these huge pressures? Well, electric rods are so called because they are typically used with an electric fishing reel or ‘dredge’. Unlike a normal reel, electric reels allow the angler to fight the fish without having to crank the handle of the reel. It’s not totally automatic – the angler still sets the drag to match the line strength and fishing conditions, but unless it’s deliberately set to manual, the winding is done by an electric motor. Whatever next?!