Fishing Rod Grips and Handles: The Complete Guide


Whether you are an experienced angler or a novice just starting your fishing journey, the choice of your fishing rod’s grip and handle significantly influences your how your fishing rod performs. This comprehensive guide is your deep dive into the crucial yet often overlooked world of fishing rod grips and handles. Understanding the types, materials, and designs, and their implications on comfort, control, and overall performance, can transform your angling experience. So, let’s reel in a trove of knowledge that will help refine your gear and fishing technique.

The Difference Between a Fishing Rod Grip and a Handle

A fishing rod grip and a fishing rod handle are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they technically refer to different parts of the rod. The grip of a fishing rod is the part that you hold onto when you’re fishing. It’s typically made of materials like cork, EVA foam, or synthetic materials, designed to provide comfort and prevent your hand from slipping, especially when fighting a fish. The grip is intended to provide a secure and comfortable hold for extended periods.

The handle of a fishing rod, on the other hand, is a broader term that includes the grip but also encompasses other elements like the reel seat (where the reel is mounted) and the butt cap, which is at the very end of the rod. The handle’s design, length, and material can significantly impact how the rod is balanced, how it transmits vibrations from a biting fish, and how comfortable it is to use for long periods. While “handle” and “grip” are often used interchangeably in casual conversation, in a more technical context, the grip is the part of the handle that you actually hold onto when using the rod. The handle includes the grip, the reel seat, and the butt of the rod.

Fishing Rod Handle Types

Fishing rod handles come in several styles, each offering its unique advantages and disadvantages. The three main types you’ll come across are Full Grips, Split Grips, and Pistol Grips.

Full Grips: 

Full Grip handles, also known as standard or conventional grips, are the most common. They run the length of the handle with no interruptions, providing a large surface area for both hands. This style is typically seen in surf rods or other longer rods used for casting long distances or handling larger fish species. The benefits of a full grip are its durability, comfort, and control during cast and retrieve. However, full grips can add extra weight to the rod and can slightly diminish sensitivity compared to split grips.

Split Grips: 

Split Grip handles have a noticeable gap in the grip material, typically in the middle, leaving a section of the rod blank exposed. This design reduces overall weight and may enhance sensitivity, as the angler can feel vibrations more directly through the rod blank. It can also offer better balance depending on the rod and reel setup. Split grips are popular with bass anglers and others who prioritize lightness and sensitivity. The trade-off is that they can be less comfortable to hold for extended periods and may provide less control for battling larger fish.

fishing rod split grips

Pistol Grips: 

Pistol Grip handles are much shorter than full or split grips and are designed to be held in one hand, similar to how one would hold a pistol. They are usually found on casting rods used for precise, shorter-range casting, like pitching and flipping techniques in bass fishing. The benefit of a pistol grip is that it offers excellent control and accuracy for single-hand casting. However, they offer less leverage against a fighting fish and may be less comfortable during long fishing sessions.

The choice between full grips, split grips, and pistol grips depends on the angler’s specific needs, style of fishing, and personal preference. Each has its benefits and trade-offs related to comfort, weight, sensitivity, and control.


Fishing Rod Handle Materials

Each type of material used for fishing rod handles has unique characteristics that can make them more or less suitable for different fishing scenarios. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of the main fishing rod handle materials:


Advantages: Cork is a classic choice for fishing rod handles due to its lightweight nature and comfort in the hand. It’s also highly sensitive, allowing anglers to feel bites more easily, and has a traditional aesthetic appeal that many anglers appreciate.

Disadvantages: Over time, cork can degrade and chip, especially lower-quality cork. It’s also generally more expensive than synthetic materials like EVA foam.

EVA Foam Fishing Rod Handles

Advantages: EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam is durable, lightweight, and water-resistant. It’s more durable than cork and can handle rough treatment, making it a great choice for those who frequently fish or for rods that may take a beating.

Disadvantages: EVA foam isn’t as sensitive as cork, meaning vibrations may not be transmitted as effectively. Also, some anglers find it less aesthetically pleasing compared to cork.

Rubber Fishing Rod Handles

Advantages: Rubber handles provide excellent grip, even when wet, and are very durable. They are also easier to clean compared to cork or foam.

Disadvantages: Rubber is not as sensitive as cork or even EVA foam and can be heavier. Additionally, some anglers may find the feel of rubber less comfortable or pleasing.

Hypalon Fishing Rod Handles

Advantages: Hypalon is highly durable, resistant to UV rays, chemicals, and temperature variations. It also provides a good grip, which can be a huge advantage when battling larger fish.

Disadvantages: Hypalon is less sensitive than materials like cork and may be a bit heavier. It also can be more expensive.

Carbon Fiber Fishing Rod Handles

Advantages: Carbon fiber handles are extremely lightweight and offer excellent sensitivity. They are also very durable and resistant to both UV rays and corrosion.

Disadvantages: Carbon fiber can be more expensive than other handle materials. They can also feel less comfortable to hold during long fishing sessions due to their hardness and the lack of cushioning.


Factors to Consider When Choosing a Fishing Rod Grip and Handle

Choosing the right fishing rod grip and handle can significantly influence your angling success and enjoyment. Fishing can be a lengthy endeavor, and discomfort can quickly turn a relaxing pastime into a frustrating experience. Consider the texture and shape of the grip and how it feels in your hand. Keep in mind the conditions you’ll be fishing in as well—some materials may become slippery when wet or uncomfortable in colder temperatures.

Durability should also be a deciding factor in your fishing rod handle. Fishing rods are often exposed to harsh conditions, including saltwater, UV rays, and rough handling. The material of the grip and handle should be able to withstand these conditions without degrading quickly. The more durable the material, the longer the fishing rod will last.

Sensitivity is also an important consideration. The ability to feel subtle bites or changes in the water’s movement is crucial for fishing success. Materials like cork and carbon fiber provide good sensitivity, transmitting vibrations from the line through the rod to your hand. This may be less of a concern for certain rods such as trolling rods or any others where feeling the bite is not a factor. 

fishing rod grips

The weight of your rod can influence casting and retrieval, fatigue levels, and the balance of the rod. Lighter materials like EVA foam or carbon fiber might be preferable for anglers who hold their rods for extended periods or need to cast farther. Along those same lines, the type of fishing you’ll be doing should also influence your choice. For example, if you’re fishing for larger species, you may need a handle that allows for more leverage, such as a full grip. If you’re primarily casting and retrieving lures, a lighter split grip could be more appropriate.

Your personal preference on Style should also not be ignored. Who doesn’t love a pretty rod? Some anglers prefer the classic look and feel of cork, while others may prefer the sleek modern look of carbon fiber. Your rod should be something you’re proud to wield and fits your personal style.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing a fishing rod grip and handle. What works best for one angler might not work as well for another. It’s important to consider all these factors, understand the trade-offs, and ultimately choose what will make your fishing trips more enjoyable and successful.


Fishing Rod Grips and Handles Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the importance of selecting the right fishing rod grip and handle cannot be overstated. These components play a significant role in your angling performance, influencing comfort, control, sensitivity, and the durability of your equipment. Choosing the right grip and handle will not only enhance your fishing experience but could also significantly improve your success on the water.

Understanding the characteristics and benefits of different grip types and handle materials is a crucial step in making an informed decision, especially when you are building your own fishing rod. Full grips, split grips, and pistol grips each cater to different fishing styles and personal preferences. Similarly, materials like cork, EVA foam, rubber, Hypalon, and carbon fiber offer varying levels of comfort, durability, sensitivity, and weight.

It’s important to take your time when selecting a fishing rod handle and grip. Think about your usual fishing conditions and your preferred techniques. Consider what you value most: Is it sensitivity to detect the faintest bites? Durability to withstand harsh environments? Or perhaps the comfort to fish for extended periods?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution—every angler is unique. As such, we recommend trying a variety of options if possible. Feel the different grip styles in your hands, consider the weight, and reflect on your fishing goals and preferences. Remember, the right equipment can elevate your fishing experience, but it’s ultimately your passion and patience that truly make a successful angler. Here’s to great fishing adventures ahead, armed with the perfect rod, complete with the right grip and handle. Tight lines!