Explaining Fishing Rod Terminology

Clarifying fishing rod specifications will help you connect customers with the right equipment.

Explaining Fishing Rod Terminology

You may be familiar with terms like action, taper and power when it comes to fishing rods. Not all customers are, though. Knowing how to explain these terms and specifications will help you sell, and it’ll make your customers happier. 

Rod racks holding hundreds of different lengths, styles and colors can be overwhelming to an avid angler who knows what they’re looking for, let alone a novice. Picking up a rod and seeing a series of numbers and letters stamped on it will only add to the confusion without a little background knowledge. Educating customers about fishing rod specifications will give them confidence in their decision, and position your store as a trusted resource. 

Model Number 

In the example above, the first set of numbers and letters — 853C JWR — indicate the rod’s model number specific to the manufacturer. The letter “C” following the first three digits specifies that the rod is a casting model for baitcasting reels as opposed to a spinning rod.


The next number is the rod’s overall length including the handle. This particular rod is 7 feet, 1 inch long. 


The power describes the rod’s overall strength or lifting ability. Power ratings are almost always described as extra-heavy, heavy, medium-heavy, medium, medium-light, light or ultra-light. The example above clearly lists the rod as “MED-HEAVY,” but it is often represented as MH and likewise abbreviated for the other rod powers listed. Abbreviations are common and will vary among different rod manufacturers. When targeting larger fish or fish in heavy cover such as thick weeds or brush piles, a heavier-power rod will help pull fish out of the cover. For smaller species like panfish or trout, steer customers toward lighter-powered rods.

Action or Taper

The action, sometimes referred to as the taper, is an indication of how much the rod will bend when weight or pressure is applied to the tip. This can be the most confusing part for people to understand so make sure to explain thoroughly and provide examples. The chart below is a great thing to have ready to show a customer.

In this example, the rod has an extra-fast action, which is easily recognized on the rod itself. An extra-fast taper means the rod will load up quickly and the majority of the bend will occur at the tip, or top third of the rod. A moderate-action rod will bend mostly in the top half, where a slow-action pole will bend throughout the majority of the rod blank.

Using different actions for specific fishing techniques will result in better hookup and catch ratios. For example, when using a jigging technique or fishing slowly across the bottom, an extra-fast or fast-action rod is going to provide the most sensitivity and the best taper for a solid hookset. A stiffer rod that loads up toward the tip won’t have to move as far on a hookset before getting to what’s referred to as the backbone of the rod, which is the stiffer part of the blank. The stiff backbone in the upper portion of the rod provides a solid wall to drive a hook in.

When using lures such as spinners, crankbaits, topwater lures or anything else with treble hooks, it is best to use a rod with a moderate or slow action. These rods will provide added casting distance and more importantly a better hookset for lures that requires a steady retrieve. If the rod is too stiff it can result in pulling the hooks through a fish’s mouth upon hookset. Moderate-action rods will bend more, creating a softer hookset that absorbs the movement while still driving the hooks, keeping the lure in the fish’s mouth.

Medium-heavy power with fast action is a common rod that can handle a variety of techniques. The versatility of this power and taper makes it a great choice for anglers looking for a one-rod-does-it-all fishing setup.

A basic chart representing how a rod will bend when under load can be a useful tool to help customers.
A basic chart representing how a rod will bend when under load can be a useful tool to help customers.

Line and Lure Size

Recommended line strength will also be listed on fishing rods. This is an often-overlooked but important bit of information. A heavy-power rod with will snap light line very easily when setting the hook, and if stronger line is used with a light-action rod, the rod itself could break. 

Lure weight recommendations are also helpful. Lures too light for the rod will be difficult to cast, and a lure that’s too heavy will increase the chance of rod failure.


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