Before we get into catfishing rod specifics, lets talk about rods in general. There are a few things to be aware of when choosing a fishing rod such as: rod weight or power, action, line and lure weight, length, and number of pieces. So, here is a little overview and explanation of what each means.
Rod weight or power – This is, simply put, a measurement of the overall stiffness of the rod blank. These will be described as (UL) ultra light, (L) light, (ML) med. light, (M) medium, (MH) med. heavy, (H) heavy, and (XH) extra heavy. This refers to how much weight it takes to bend the rod. For most catfishing you will want a medium to heavy rod but, this will vary some depending on your targeted species.
Rod action – This spec tells you where the majority of the bend will occur along the length of the rod. Faster actions concentrate the bend towards the rod tip and slower actions spread the bend farther down toward the handle. Rods with fast actions will give you the ability to control the fish easier and a slow action can help casting distance.
Line weight – This is a recommendation on line test for a given rod. Very useful for fly fishing but for catfishing, it means almost nothing.
Lure weight – This is the recommended weight that is easily castable without fear of damaging the rod. It is usually expressed in ounces or grams and is more of a guideline than a rule. Can you cast a weight much heavier than the rating? Yes, with proper technique.
Rod length – Rod length is a very important spec on a catfishing rod for several reasons. A longer rod provides more control over a thrashing fish and allows longer and more precise casts. A shorter rod is great for confined spaces such as boats or bank spots with overhanging trees.
Number of Pieces – Most catfishing rods will be available in a one or two-piece. One piece is better if you can spare the space when transporting and storing your rods. Although two-piece rods will, most of the time, last just as long as a one piece it is just one more spot that could possibly fail. Also, a two-piece rod usually sacrifices a bit of sensitivity due to a small loss at the joint. If you have the room use one piece rods, if not you will find no substantial difference in a similar two-piece.
Type of Rod – Spinning or casting? This comes down to personal preference. What type of reel are you most comfortable using? There are a number of reels that are an excellent choice for catfishing in both spinning and casting varieties.
In part II of this article we will discuss what makes a good catfish rod. We also offer up some suggestions on buying a production rod. In a future article, we will cover having a custom rod built or even building your own.