Angler holding a fishing rod

How to Choose a Saltwater Fishing Rod

How to Choose a Saltwater Fishing Rod

Life on the ocean has a way of curing what ails you. Saltwater, however, is not so kind to your gear. It’s corrosive by nature, and fishing in the open sea often means enduring high winds, shifting tides, and volatile waves; investing in quality equipment pays off in the long run. A rod is one of the most important parts of your fishing setup. Its performance (and your level of comfort using it) play an outsized role in how much you enjoy your time on the water. Whether you’re sportfishing from a boat offshore or simply dropping a line from a pier, selecting the right saltwater stick is the only way to ensure you’re prepared for that first bite. Begin by considering the ocean terrain you’re covering and the fish you’re targeting. Then evaluate how the rod’s material, its action range, castability, power, and length will play to your advantage. 

Saltwater fishing rod materials determine its durability and finesse out on the water.

Fiberglass: The most widely used saltwater fishing rod due to its flexibility, durability, and strength.

Pros: It can withstand abuse on boats and rough seas.

Cons: Heavier than graphite rods, and harder to detect subtle bait pickups.

Graphite: A softer material, made from carbon fiber for performance.

Pros: Lightweight, great at detecting subtle pickups and strikes.

Cons: Brittle and not as durable as fiberglass, can break under pressure or with sudden shocks.

Composite: A mix of graphite and fiberglass, this hybrid material can get you the best of both worlds.

Pros: Lightweight yet tough, good power range. 

Cons: Can be pricey.

A fishing rod’s action. In fishing, the action refers to how much a rod can flex when pressure is put on the tip of the rod—or, how far down the rod can bend. It’s the primary contributor to a rod’s performance. 

  • Fast to extra-fast action: When the rod bends in the top third (or less); good for casting accuracy and large baits and lures intended for bigger fish.
  • Moderate or medium action: When the rod bends in the top half; good for casting longer distances and when fishing for both large and small species.
  • Slow action: When the rod’s bend begins in the lower third or the rod, or into the handle; good for casting live baits and working smaller lures, seeking smaller fish. 
Saltwater Fishing rod on a boat. Photo: Mat Hayward

Castability. Simply put: Castability is the rod’s ability to cast, or how well it lets out a line. Factors to consider include accuracy and distance, which are influenced by a rod’s bend and materials. 

  • Accuracy: Fast and extra-fast action rods will deliver more speed and power, which can help you land your lure directly on-target. However, the stiffness can reduce casting distance, which can be mitigated in some instances with heavier bait.  
  • Distance: Medium and slow action rods have more bend, and therefore can load more energy during the cast, and generate farther distances. Due to the rod’s comparative softness, accuracy can suffer, but might be preferred for pitching live baits, as they’re less likely to fall off the hook. 

Rod power describes its ability to resist a force pulling at its tip, i.e., a fish caught on your hook. Defined on a spectrum between ultralight and heavy, a rod’s power will help determine what line strength and lure size to use, as more power is needed for heavier targets. In general, the lighter the power, the smaller the fish target. 

  • Ultra Light rods: the most precise, designed for up to 8-pound lines and light lures that catch smaller fish
  • Light rods: 10- to 20-pound lines and lures in the 1/16-ounce range
  • Medium rods: 20- to 30-pound lines and lures between 1/8 and a 3/4 ounces
  • Medium-heavy: 30- to 50-pound lines and lures up to 3/8 ounce
  • Heavy: up to 80-pound lines with heavier lures in the 1-ounce range that catch larger fish 

Fishing rod length. Generally speaking, longer rods increase casting distance and shorter rods provide better leverage. Picking the length of your fishing rod is largely a matter of the type of fishing you plan to do with the rod, and the strength of the line you plan to use. 

  • Distance: Rods longer than 7.5 feet will help you nail a distant target by harnessing more energy and providing more leverage when you cast.
  • Power: Rods shorter than 7.5 feet will keep more control in your hands when your fish nabs the bait, upping the likelihood of a successful catch.


All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.