Fishing Rod Power vs. Action

Anglers often misuse the terms “power” and “action” when talking about fishing rods. Do you know the difference?

Fishing Rod Power vs. Action

When it’s time to buy a new fishing rod, it’s important to understand the terms “power” and “action.” And FYI: Don’t be surprised if the salesperson at your local tackle shop doesn’t understand the difference.

There is no standard within the fishing industry for rod power and action. In other words, one company’s heavy-power baitcasting rod might be another company’s medium-heavy. Of course, this only adds to the confusion when trying to purchase the right fishing rod for the job.

Most spincast rods are medium power and have a slow action. As demonstrated here by the author’s son many years ago, the rod’s slow action, meaning it bends from tip to handle, makes it easier for beginning anglers to keep the line tight while fighting fish.
Most spincast rods are medium power and have a slow action. As demonstrated here by the author’s son many years ago, the rod’s slow action, meaning it bends from tip to handle, makes it easier for beginning anglers to keep the line tight while fighting fish.

Fishing Rod Power

Sometimes called “strength,” fishing rod power is a way of gauging how much weight a rod can lift. A heavy-power rod can lift a lot of weight — say a bowling ball — off the floor, while a light-power rod wouldn’t have a prayer of lifting it. Companies make fishing rods in a wide variety of powers: ultralight, light, medium-light, medium, medium-heavy, heavy, extra-heavy, etc.

Anglers need to consider rod power when it comes to casting lures effectively as well as fighting fish, especially if you need to haul fish from thick cover.

 

Fishing Rod Action

Companies use terms such as extra-fast, fast, medium (or moderate) and slow when defining a fishing rod’s action (see illustration below). An extra-fast rod bends only near the tip; a slow-action rod bends from tip to handle.

Illustration courtesy of St. Croix Rods
Illustration courtesy of St. Croix Rods

From my retail experience selling fishing rods to customers, the confusion between action and power isn’t a problem when the terms “extra-fast,” “fast” or “slow” are spoken, but it’s the word “medium” that gets everyone’s head spinning because it’s used for both power and action. To avoid this confusion, many fishing rod companies use the word “moderate” instead of “medium” when describing action.

Bass anglers typically prefer fast-action rods like the one above for most lure presentations. The only time they choose a moderate action is when using crankbaits because the flex helps treble hooks remain in the fish during the fight.
Bass anglers typically prefer fast-action rods like the one above for most lure presentations. The only time they choose a moderate action is when using crankbaits because the flex helps treble hooks remain in the fish during the fight.

In general, anglers who need to detect subtle strikes while jigging will want a fast-action rod. And once a strike is detected, a quick snap of the rod causes the rod to load quickly (remember, only the tip will flex), which provides a strong hookset.

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