If you or someone you know is just getting into fishing, you probably have a lot of questions. One of the first questions beginners have is what’s the best length for a fishing rod? If you walk in the store you’ll see rods everywhere from 2 feet long to over 10 feet. Each rod is designed with a purpose in mind, so there are a lot of factors to consider.
Don’t worry, I’ll give you a quick answer, but if you’re getting serious about fishing, then be sure to read the whole article.
A 6’6″ medium power fishing rod is the best length for most beginner freshwater anglers. However, there are a number of things to consider especially if you already know the species you are targeting, and the technique you’ll be using to catch them.
Rod Length and Action
Before I go on, there is one thing I need to mention. That is rod power. Without going into too much detail, the power of the rod is just as important as the length.
To keep things simple, I’m just going to give you the three main powers and match them with the species, or size of fish you can target with them.
Light power is for casting smaller baits and lures. Often when you are fishing for bluegill, crappie, trout, and other small fish, you’ll need to cast small baits, like a worm, salmon egg, small jig. Light and Ultralight power rods cast these best.
Medium power fishing rods are good all around rods, That is why I recommended it for beginners. They won’t cast light baits as far as a light power rod can, but they are still very usable.
These rods are good if you want to catch a variety of fish such as bass, catfish, trout, and bluegill and don’t want to buy multiple rods.
Heavy power rods should be reserved for big fish and big baits. These are very stiff rods which give you a lot of power to cast heavy lead and bait combinations. The stiffness also helps you to drive big hooks into the fishes mouth. However, that stiffness will not allow you to cast light baits and lures very far at all.
Serious bass anglers will use heavy action rods to make sure they can really get a powerful hookset. Catfish and carp anglers will use heavy action rods to cast big weights long distances. If you are targeting only big fish like catfish, carp, and largemouth bass, then you’re usually better off with a heavy power rod.
Short VS Long Fishing Rods
Now we can get into fishing rod length, but as you go forward in this article, you’ll want to already have your rod power in mind. Rod power and length go hand in hand. Here is an example:
If I’m fishing for stocked trout, I know I want a long rod because it’s casts light baits farther. But if I get a 7 foot rod that is heavy power, it’ll be too stiff and I won’t be able to cast my earthworm more than maybe 10 feet… So what I really need is a 7 foot light power rod.
There are benefits to both long and short rods. I have listed these benefits below. And as you can see there are more benefits to having a long fishing rod.
Longer Fishing Rods…
- Cast farther
- Are more accurate
- Can cast lighter baits
- Help you to get a better hookset
- Give you more leverage to fight big fish
- Give you more control when reeling in fish
Shorter Fishing Rods…
- Are easier to cast when there are trees overhead
- Don’t weigh as much as longer rods.
- Are much easier to store and transport.
Considerations For Rod Length
The recommendation I gave above is best for youth and full grown adults.
For children under the age of 8 I’d recommend a short rod like the Spincast Dock Demon made by Zebco. These are short 3′ fishing rods that are extremely durable and fairly easy to learn.
Being that these rods aren’t long, they won’t be able to cast very far, but if you are trying to get a young beginners into fishing, then I recommend fishing for bluegill where rod length and casting distance isn’t as important. The kids will catch more and have a better experience.
What Fish Do You Want To Catch?
If you already know what type of fish you are after, then we can really narrow things down.
Different fishing rods are designed to target different species and accommodate different techniques. That’s why you see so many fishing rods when you go into a tackle shop.
Below are some categories of fish and what fishing rod power and length would be best for beginners.
Bluegill, Crappie, Trout and Small Bass
Answer: 7′ ultralight.
When fishing for these smaller fish, I always go for a long, light or ultralight power rod. My go to rod for these fish is a 7′ ultralight spinning rod. This will allow me to cast the smallest of baits that are needed to catch these species.
For more detail, check out this article on choosing a trout rod.
Catfish, Carp, Buffalo, and Other Large Fish
Answer: 8′ heavy power.
For these bigger fish, you need to be able to cast large sinkers and baits. Most anglers targeting big fish, will use heavy power rods.
If they are fishing from the bank and need casting distance they’ll use rods with a length of around 8 to 9 feet.
If they are fishing from a boat and don’t need to cast far, then they may use a shorter rod around 6 to 7 feet long.
Here is an article to help you choose a catfish rod and reel.
All Around, From Small Fish to Big Fish
Answer: 6’6″ medium action.
If you want one rod that can do a little bit of everything, then you can go with a 6’6″ medium action rod. It won’t be great for small fish, because it will be more difficult to cast small baits, but it will be ok. And the same for big fish, it won’t cast heavy sinkers very far, but it’ll work ok.
Are You Fishing From a Boat, or The Bank?
Since fishing rod length has a lot to do with casting distance, beginners should consider if they will be fishing from a boat or from the bank.
If you are fishing from a boat, then you can usually get close to wherever the fish are. A shorter rod may be worth the benefits of simple storage and transportation.
However if you are stuck on the bank like me, then you’ll want a longer rod to cast out to wherever the fish are. (Fish aren’t always far out, often they are near the shore, but a longer rod will help you either way.)
How Serious Are You? And What’s Your Budget?
Are you ready to go all in on fishing? Or do you just want to throw a line in during your family camping trip once a year?
If you are just going out to the lake a couple times a year, then you can’t go wrong with most rod and reel combos in the $20-$30 range. You can get these in different lengths and different powers, just take what you’ve learned above and apply it.
If you are ready to get more serious into fishing, then I recommend spending just a little more. A fishing rod and reel combo in the $40 to $50 range can be quite a bit better.
Know that your first rod won’t be your only rod. The truth is that there is no one rod that will fit all types of fishing. That would be like restricting an artist to one brush, or a wood worker to one tool. If you are really getting into fishing, there is nothing wrong about starting with a $30 rod.
As beginners learn what type of fish they like to target, and the techniques they like to use, they’ll have a better idea of what fishing rod length works best for them.
If you know that you are going to target trout and other small fish, then again, I recommend you read this article on trout rods.
And if you plan to start with bigger fish then read this article on catfish rods.
This website is dedicated to helping beginners get into fishing. I have written a handful of articles and write more every single week. Explore around and learn about fishing for trout, catfish, carp, as well as gear and techniques.