Like most fisherman, we subscribe to the old saying, “I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it”. And while it’s true that having the best fishing rod for casting distance may not be the most important factor in choosing a rod, it does signal a well-balanced, well-conceived “system” of parts that match up well together. Translated, such a “system” is more enjoyable to fish and is more likely to remain on the deck at all times.
Some people spend too much time thinking about such things. I happen to be one of those people since I represent Fuji® brand components in North America. Now, after 11 years of research, study and rod building it dawns on me that it’s not really important whether you understand the ring material or frame structure or spacing or height of individual components. The key to discovering an off-the-shelf rod that works well with your reel is how you shop.
The best fishing rod for casting distance is out there, your job is to find it. Here are a few tips you can follow to select the best fishing rod for casting distance. And as we’ve mentioned, if you select for casting distance you will get all the other benefits of balance and comfort you are looking for in your next rod.
Step 1: Know what your looking for before you leave the house. What reel are you pairing the rod with? What is the ultimate use for the rod – spinnerbaits, crankbaits, soft plastics, drop-shotting? Look at the specs on a rod you already own and “love”. Length, power, action and lure weight. Then, consider why you are shopping for something new…do you want slightly more power for hook sets or a softer tip for better lure presentation? Do you need to cast heavier lures or lighter line for clear water and smaller baits.
Again, check the specs of what you have and pivot from there. From a 7ft Medium Fast for example. You might go to a 7ft Medium Light Extra Fast. Use specifications for shopping rather than “species specific” named rods. If you looking for a worm rod don’t limit your search to rods labeled “Worm Special”. There are many more choices when you look for a 7ft Heavy Moderate rather than a “Texas Rig Tornado”. Know before you go.
Step 2: Take the reel with you to the shop. How obvious, right. Yet, the vast majority of rods sold are shaken, bent and bought without a reel in sight. Why have we been led to believe that all rods are designed to work with all reels? Mostly, it’s because the world of factory rods and reels must face the law of averages. Reels and rods destined for the mass market are made to work when paired with as many other reels or rods as possible.
It’s simply good business when faced with “volume” as the primary goal. This does not mean that all factory rods are built the same, manufacturers try to solve this problem a thousand different ways. Your job is to figure out who did it FOR YOUR REEL.
Step 3: Worry less about brand and more about performance. Brand loyalty is a great thing but your search is for a long casting rod matched to your reel. Search first in your preferred brand but don’t keep your feet in cement. If choices outside your comfort zone are well constructed, carry high-quality Fuji® components and reel seat (had to say that) and are cleanly built and light in weight – they could be a better choice and might even be less expensive.
Step 4: Mount the reel and run line through the guides. This is where performance actually becomes a visual thing you can see from simply looking at the rigged rod. It is also a place where we come to a fork in the road between spinning and casting.
For casting rods the most important design feature is the angle of the line from the level-wind guide on the reel to the first guide on the rod. This angle should offer a smooth transition from reel to rod. Its job is to accept line coming from the reel at high speed and smooth and manage the flow to a point where line runs with no “chatter” through the remaining guides. With low profile reels this should be an easy fix and can be handled with a very small guide, perhaps as small as 6mm.
Choose the smallest guide that is tall enough and far enough out on the rod to feed line from the reel without any sharp angles that could force fast moving line to pile up and run past the guide or fly around and slap the blank. A guide positioned too close to the reel will “bunch” line, one too far out will allow “slap” on the blank. Both will rob casting distance and hinder overall performance of your combo.
Next, grab the end of the line and bend the rod using the line to do so. As the rod bends through different positions, check the line to see if it tracks along the top of the rod. If the rod has enough guides, it should follow the bend of the rod. If (in roughly a 90-degree bend) the line drops below the rod, it is likely that the rod does not have enough guides to support the blank properly. Too few guides will hinder performance, add extra stress to the blank and actually reduce the power of the rod. This can often happen with less expensive rods when manufacturers are trying to watch every penny in the manufacturing process.
One final consideration is the size of the guides. The total weight of all the guides has a noticeable impact on the sensitivity of the rod. Weight is the enemy of sensitivity. Choosing smaller guides will reduce weight and ADD SENSITIVITY but you must use some common sense. Make sure the guides are large enough to pass any braid to fluoro knots you may need to tie and consider ice or any line-clinging vegetation that may be part of your angling environment. In most cases a guide between 4.5mm and 6mm will be plenty.
Now for spinning rods. Spinning is a much different animal than casting when it comes to line control. While casting relies on nice smooth coils racing off of a small, well-organized spool of line, spinning is more of a controlled chaos affair. Line basically flies sideways off the spool at very high speed and needs to be managed to a smooth flow in less than a couple of feet. This is done with larger guides that “choke” the line down to a stream of smooth flowing mono or braid.
Mount the reel on a spinning rod that matches the specs your looking for and run the line through the guides (See step 4). Bend the rod holding the line and see if the line tracks straight through the first three guides (called the reduction train) down to the smaller “running guides”. There should be no notable angles in line travel from the reel to the first large guide it reaches (known as the “stripper” guide).
There should also be no angles between the “stripper” guide and the first small guide after the reduction train (this will usually be the forth guide called the “choke” guide). Look for relatively straight line travel from the reel to the choke guide. The idea here is unrestricted line flow from the reel to the tip of the rod. The logical choice would be a straight line. There will be a slight angle between the reduction train and the running guides as the line flow turns to “run” to the tip of the rod.
If you have successfully found a rod that meets your specs and visually demonstrates a smooth line flow from reel to top guide, take the final step and ask the retail guy if you can actually cast the combo to see how things look (and feel). Make a cast and look at the line coming off the reel. As explained with a casting rod, the line should not run past the stripper guide (bunch or pile up on the back of the guide) nor should the coils of line slap or rub the rod.
Both are indications of a guide train that is too close or too far from your reel. Both are also things you can normally feel in your hand. Although there is always a little hum, excessive vibration is an indication that something is not as smooth as it should be. Normal vibration ranges from almost none with light braid to a pretty good buzz with heavier mono or fluorocarbon.
Spinning or casting, if the cast is smooth, long and silent – you have found the best fishing rod for casting distance.