Fishing rod buying guide

The right fishing rod is more than just the first step to becoming a great angler; it’s the start to afternoons on the water with family, watching your kid catch their first fish and creating lasting memories. But with so many kinds on the market, you may be struggling with exactly what type of fishing rod to buy.

To help save you stress, time and money, we’ve summed up everything you need to consider—from different types of fishing rods to useful maintenance tips—when choosing the perfect rod. Plus, our angler-approved picks will have you set for success on your next fishing trip.

Jump to

  1. Types of fishing rods
  2. Materials
  3. Power and action
  4. Length
  5. Components
  6. Maintenance
plus icon

1Types of fishing rods

Do you envision yourself sitting on a dock, casting a line between sips of coffee? Or maybe you want to jig up walleye from a boat. There are rods that can do both: Casting rods and spinning rods. The largest difference between the two is the type of reel used with each.

Spinning rods

Spinning rod

This style, mostly used by beginners, has the reel on the bottom of the rod, making it easy to cast. Even though this style is common on kids’ rods, spinning rods are used by anglers of all levels.

Best for: An all-around fishing rod that’s easy to use, simply maintained, ideal for lightweight lures and can be used for almost all species of fish in Canada. For heavier lures and species, you may want to consider baitcasting rods for ease of casting.

Shop our favourite spinning rods

Casting rods

Casting fishing rod

Often used by more experienced anglers, this style has a baitcasting reel mounted on top of the rod and has a trigger-like handle to rest your hand. A good way to learn how to handle a casting rod is by jigging (or mimicking the erratic movement of an injured fish with jigging lures) before casting so you get used to releasing the line.

Best for: These rods are excellent for precision casting, heavier lures and long-distance casts. They are also lighter in comparison to spinning rods.

Shop our favourite casting rods

Ultra-light rods

Ultra-light rod

Ultra-light rods lack stiffness and are best used for finesse fishing (a delicate approach to luring fish using natural-looking bait). They are often offered in two pieces for easy transport.

Best for: Stalking small creek trout or targeting pan-sized fish (or ‘panfish’) feasting on small prey.

Shop our favourite ultra-light rods

Fly rods

Fly fishing rod

Fly rods offer a whole new take on fishing. You’ll have to relearn everything you know, but fly fishing can be as rewarding as it is fun. Fly rods are measured by weight (wt) rather than power; instead of medium-light, you’ll find seven to eight-wt.

Best for: Contrary to popular belief, fly fishing rods can be used everywhere, from lakes to small creeks. Plus, they’ll catch just about every fish Canada has to offer, if set up properly.

Shop our favourite fly rods

Telescopic rods

Telescopic rod

Telescopic rods are exactly as they sound: Compact, sleek and easy to stow away. These rods have expanded to become more versatile and technical tools than the “pocket fishing rod” they started out as.

Best for: Keeping in your car at all times, as they are ready at a second’s notice for any riverside park or cottage dock you may find yourself on.

Shop our favourite telescopic rods

Surf rods

Surf rod

Surf rods are very long, sometimes up to 15 feet. They are designed for use on shore, including beaches for anglers to cast great distances with heavier, more stationary baits such as a weighted hook with an angler’s bait of choice. They are most used in saltwater for very large species, though some anglers have used surf rods for carp in freshwater.

Best for: Getting bait out from shore and in front of fish such as sharks, bluefish, striped bass and even smaller quarry like spotted seatrout.

Shop our favourite surf rods

Trolling rods

Trolling rod

Dedicated trolling rods have elongated handle butts, stout power options (meaning less bend in the rod and more control for the angler) and are largely designed to sit in a holder, rather than a hand.

Best for: Trolling can be described as an efficient way to cover large bodies of water to find fish. With this form of fishing, the line is usually let out behind a slow moving boat. There is a time and place for this practice—if you enjoy sipping your coffee while watching your lines, you may want to consider down rigging salmon or cruising for lake trout.

Shop our favourite trolling rods

money icon
BUDGET WATCH
Some rods such as bait casters and spinning rods are better suited than others for targeting multiple species—if you’re on a budget, those are the rods you’ll want to invest in, since they can be used for fishing just about every species in Canada.

2Materials

Most modern materials for fishing rods can be as interchangeable as the lures you decide to use with them. There is no right or wrong answer, only what best suits your fishing needs. Consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of each rod material below for a better idea of what you’re after.

Material Pros Cons
Fiberglass
  • Strong, reliable rods
  • Suitable for beginners
  • Can be heavier and lack sensitivity, which makes for less accurate casts
Graphite
  • Lightweight strength and flexibility
  • Has a big backbone that easily fights fish
  • Can be more expensive than fiberglass
  • If overloaded, it’s more prone to breakage
Composite
  • Have the flexibility of graphite rods and durability of fiberglass rods
  • Have slightly less accuracy than that of a graphite rod

3Power and action

  • Power: The amount of resistance a rod can take before it bends. For larger fish, you’ll need a heavier rod. Some other reasons you may want a heavier rod is if you’re fishing in a lot of thick cover and need power to get fish, such as largemouth bass out of thick weeds.
  • Action: Refers to where the bend of the rod occurs. On slower action rods, for instance, most, if not all of the rod will bend, allowing for flexibility and little resistance to fight fish that have soft mouths, such as perch and other panfish. Fast action rods bend closer to the tip, keeping more tension and resistance on larger, less forgiving fish such as muskie or even feisty bass.

4Length

The length of a rod is often determined by the species or environment you’re fishing. If you’re casting for large fish offshore, a longer surf rod may benefit your cause. (If you’re trying to catch bass or a walleye, a simple six-foot rod will do the trick.) Length will, however, be something to consider if you drive a smaller car or travel a lot and want to bring a rod with you. Sometimes, telescopic rods or rods that break down offer a solution without compromising the action and power you need in a rod.

5Components

Across the board, each rod you consider adding to your fishing arsenal will have the following components:

Fishing rod components

  • Handle: Located at the butt of the rod, the handle is usually made of cork; however, some companies lean more towards foam. The size of the handle on the rod will change depending on the function the rod was designed for—trolling, casting, jigging, etc.
  • Reel Seat: Situated either in the middle or front of the handle, these little divots are what hold your reel to the rod and often have moving components (sometimes screw-on) that lock the reel onto the rod, ensuring it doesn’t fall off while casting or fighting a fish.
  • Ferrules: These are the connection points on multi-piece rods that assemble the rod into a single unit. They vary in size, depending on the section you’re putting together, so you can’t accidentally put the top onto the butt of the rod without the mid-sections.
  • The blank and guides: The blank of the rod is simply the entire shaft length of the rod, while the guides are what keep your line running the length of the blank. When you are casting or fighting a fish you have control of the line and the rod as one.

6Maintenance

Maintenance is simple for fishing rods if they are being used for their intended purpose. On multiple-piece rods, you can use ferrules wax twice a year to help them go together and come apart freely. This will help prevent breakage of the ferrules after use. You can also care for your rod by using rod gloves, cases or tip covers when it’s not in use and making sure it isn’t laying around in delicate situations such as on the ground, across a tailgate or hanging over the side of a boat. Be extra cautious not to step or fall on your rod and it will continue to serve you season to season.

Shop our favourite items for fishing rod maintenance

Shop fishing rod accessories and other fishing essentials