Fiberglass vs. Graphite Fishing Rod: Main Pros and Cons Revealed


Finding the right fishing rod is never an easy task, whether you’re a beginner angler or an advanced angler looking to replace your old equipment. Fishing rods are made of different materials, with the most common being fiberglass and graphite. However, does one material outweigh the other?

Fiberglass fishing rods have advantages like low-maintenance, flexible and strong, while graphite rods have a sensitive and faster recoil with more lifting power than fiberglass. Most rods may be made from graphite with some elements of fiberglass. The combination gives you a rod that’s durable.

In this detailed guide, we go over some pros and cons of fiberglass and graphite fishing rods. In the end, you’ll understand what attributes each rod contains and features that make each unique for your fishing needs. 

History of Fiberglass and Graphite Fishing Rods

Fiberglass material was first used in aircraft applications during World War II. That’s because fiberglass was easy to mold into any shape and its mechanical strength allowed it to handle various applications without breaking.

In 1940, fiberglass replaced bamboo as a fishing rod material as it was affordable and straightforward to work with. Companies like Orvis, Hardy, and Winston began to create fiberglass rods in 1960 to compete with bamboo. These rods could be mass-produced without using so many skilled workers. Fiberglass rods were also less maintained, which made them popular with anglers.

Graphite was introduced in 1970, and it began to compete with fiberglass. Graphite is a light material, and this aspect made it ideal for fishing rods. Some companies started to produce more graphite rods and fewer fiberglass rods. More manufacturers are now producing both fiberglass and graphite fishing rods to cater to different preferences.

What You Need to Know About Fiberglass Rods

Fiberglass is divided into two-S-Glass and E-Glass. The difference between the two is that E-Glass is slower than S-Glass, but this depends on how it tweaks the rod. These rods are available in different colors and are customizable, unlike bamboo rods. 

Modern fiberglass rods measure between six and seven inches, with 3-5 weights. 

When Should You Use a Fiberglass Rod?

You can use fiberglass rods for short lengths, which should be under eight feet. These rods work correctly in the short distance, especially when you are trying to catch trout. Rods between 2-4 weights work for stream fly fishing and small creeks that require you to be quiet if you plan to catch the fish.

These rods flex and bend without breaking. You can easily manipulate the line while it’s in the air if you don’t want it to get stuck in trees or bushes. Fiberglass rods are perfect for fly fishing as they can load with minimal false casts.

Manufacturers are now producing heavyweight rods for anglers who would like to catch species like steelhead, salon, and lake-run browns. When buying fiberglass fishing rods, you need to look at their strength, tempo, load, presentation, and affordability. 

Pros of Fiberglass Rods

Some of the pros of fiberglass fishing rods are:

Strength

Fiberglass fishing rods are durable and robust. That enables you to catch various fish species. Professional anglers prefer these rods as they are better at protecting the tippets of all diameters and allow you to place pressure on a fish as required. You don’t have to worry about the line breaking, which means anglers can get fish easier and faster.

Fiberglass rods are more robust than graphite and bamboo, which makes them ideal for travel rods. When going through rough terrain, you’ll be more relaxed carrying a fiberglass rod instead of a bamboo or graphite rod. 

Flexibility

Another reason why more anglers prefer fiberglass fishing rod is their flexibility. These rods flex in a parabolic arc allowing the whole rod to bend from tip to butt when lifting a weight at the end of the line. The rod’s action is determined by the area’s distance from the rod’s tip, where it flexes when loaded. 

Fiberglass rods can be medium or slow-action. The rope’s slow action allows the fish to get the bait before pulling it away from the fish. That makes fiberglass the best material for the tips of rods. Because fiberglass rods flex easily, they are gentle on your tippet. Big fish will have a challenging time breaking light tippet on a glass rod. 

Fishing enthusiasts love how fiberglass feels in hand. You won’t have to deal with sore arms at the end of a fishing trip because of keeping up with the casting stroke. The rod does most of the work. 

These rods can load themselves due to fiberglass weight and flexibility. You can comfortably make a nice loop without a line out of the tip-top. That makes it perfect for small streams.

Tempo

Fiberglass rods are slow, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. The slow casting tempo makes work a bit easier, particularly for new anglers. 

Maintenance

Fiberglass fishing rods are simple to maintain compared to other materials. Beginner anglers will find this a useful feature. 

Price

Fiberglass has an advantage over graphite due to its affordable price. Unlike quality bamboo rods that can cost up to $1000, you can quickly get a fiberglass fishing rod for about $350. The material is readily available and cheap. In case of any damage, you can relax and not worry about spending a lot on a new rod. 

Suitable for Beginner Anglers

Fiberglass rods are ideal for beginners, especially those looking to specialize in fly fishing. That’s because the rods allow you to get the timing of the back and forward casts right, hence getting a big catch. 

What’s more, the rod takes the line’s weight and bends quickly, which allows you to cast as far as 50ft with ease and accuracy. Using a fiberglass fishing rod makes fishing exciting as the rod reacts immediately when the fish takes the bait. Many anglers also enjoy fishing with fiberglass.

Ideal for Streams and Creeks

Most fiberglass rods are 8 inches in length. Some say that this is the best length for fly fishing rods.You can use these rods for small creeks and streams without worrying about the rod missing the target.

Cons of Fiberglass Rods

Despite fiberglass being flexible, strong, and easy to maintain, it has its drawbacks, which include:

  • Less sensitivity – Compared to graphite rods, fiberglass rods are less sensitive. Unfortunately, being less sensitive means the rod will be less accurate, which can be frustrating for beginner anglers. You need to understand that fiberglass is not a fast-acting rod. A graphite rod will be an excellent alternative if you need something that acts fast and is more sensitive. 
  • Can be heavy – Fiberglass rods can be heavier than other rods, primarily if you use a longer rod and high line weights. These rods are not suitable for streamer fishing. You may experience casting fatigue, which makes you fish poorly and have an unpleasant experience. The good news is that fiberglass rods are lighter than bamboo rods. 
  • Not available in long sizes – You won’t find fiberglass rods in extended sizes. That’s because long rods don’t perform well when fishing in large streams or lakes where wind may affect the rod. You should opt for a graphite rod if you’re planning on fishing in large streams. 

What You Need to Know About Graphite Rods

Graphite fishing rods were first introduced in the 1970s. The material has become popular due to its stiffness and high tensile strength. While some brands will claim to have high modulus rods, some of them can be very stiff. The problem is that without the force to back up the rod, it can easily break under pressure. 

The technology used to create high strength and modulus in graphite rods needs extreme heat, making the process expensive. That’s the reason why quality graphite rods can stretch your budget. 

When Should You Use a Graphite Rod?

Graphite rods are preferred due to their fast action as they have little flex along the rod’s length. You can feel as the fish crawls along the bottom from your hook. These rods are ideal for diamond jiggling, bucktails, and tossing lures when you want to strike at the hint of a bite. 

Most graphite rods are suitable for fly fishing in demanding situations. These rods work well when throwing big streamers, heavy nymphs, and hopper-dropper rigs. You should also get these rods if you plan to fish the whole day. When handling long-distance casting, opt for a graphite rod and pair the rod with a weight-forward fly line. 

Pros of Graphite Rods

Some of the pros of graphite rods include:

  • Strength – A graphite fishing rod transfers the energy from your hand and places it in the line. That strength means line speed to cut the casting distance and the power to cast sinking lines and heavy flies. 
  • Lightweight – Graphite fishing rods are incredibly light. That makes this material ideal for improving your casting performance and handling more extraordinary lengths and higher line weights. 
  • Sensitivity – The speed at which the graphite rod goes back from a flexed position to straight makes it perfect when casting for long distances. The recovery rate is what determines if the rod is slow or fast. With a fast recovery rate, you can throw tight loops. These tight loops cut the wind and increase accuracy and distance. A sensitive rod also places the flies under overhanging vegetation, which makes it perfect for fly fishing. 
  • Get more fish – Graphite rods are stiff, something that makes it ideal for handling tough fish. With that, you get more fish in better condition. 
  • Multi-modulus design – Graphite is available in different varieties of resin and fiber. These materials enable rod designers to blend and layer materials to create a rod with unique properties. Manufacturers use these materials in each section of a rod to work as required. You’ll find that most graphite rods also incorporate fiberglass for added strength. 

Cons of Graphite Rods

Some of the cons of graphite rods include:

  • Expensive – Graphite is an expensive material, given its nature and manufacturing process. Most high-performance graphite rods are costly and may not be ideal for anyone on a budget. 
  • Prone to physical damage – While graphite rods are generally strong, the material is prone to physical damage and can break when bent deeply in the fine sections. Fortunately, this is something you can prevent.

Are Composite Rods Better Than Graphite and Fiberglass Rods?

Composite rods have elements of both graphite and fiberglass in their design. That means they perform between the extremes. These rods are more sensitive than fiberglass but less sensitive than graphite. Nonetheless, they are not as powerful as graphite on the lift. Composite rods do not snap easily under sudden or heavy loads. 

A rod with composite guarantees overall strength, durability, and increased sensitivity. If you are looking for an inshore rod that is versatile, you’ll love the composite rods. However, you should note that the rod’s action depends on how far down the blank the composite materials and fiberglass meet. That’s where the rod flexes.

You’ll also realize that most composite rods fall under the medium to medium-fast action range. That means they flex from the tip to somewhere between one-half way and one-third down the rod. The label indicates the action of a specific rod. 

Which Fishing Rod Material Is the Best?

There’s no one size fits all when it comes to fishing rods. The best rod depends on your fishing techniques. Your budget will also determine the type of rod to get. Fiberglass rods are ideal for those on a budget and anyone looking for a rod that provides good flex for small fish and is perfect for beginners.

However, if you’re looking for a strong rod that can withstand small to big fish and is sensitive, then a graphite rod would be an excellent option. The best thing would be to get a composite rod that provides benefits from both types of materials. 

What Else Should You Look for in a Fishing Rod?

Material is not the only factor to consider when choosing a fishing rod. You should evaluate other factors like:

Style of Rod

You need to know what rod you’ll use as fishing rods come in two styles depending on the environment and targeted species. There are two styles of rods: spinning rods and casting rods.

Spinning Rods

Spinning rods are light and small compared to other rods as they are designed to house spinning reels. These rods have the guides on the bottom, while casting rods have the guides on top of the blank. That makes spinning rods comfortable and straightforward to use, especially for beginner anglers. 

You can also find saltwater rods, also known as surf rods, that are long and gravy. They are meant to accommodate large baits and heavy sinkers. Surf rods are made for long casts for cases where the fisherman will need to get the bait out past the rocks or pier.

Casting Rods

Casting rods are manufactured with the guides on top of the blank, enabling the fisherman to place their cast with more precision and accuracy. These rods are available in either spin casting or baitcasting models to match each type of reel. The guide size close to the reel seat is one thing that differentiates spin casting rods and baitcasting rods. 

Trolling rods are more round than casting rods as they are designed for large fish species like marlin and tuna. You can use this type of rods when targeting large fish species. 

Components

The different parts of the fishing rod that you need to consider include:

The Handle

The handle is where you will hold the pole. You need to find a rod that has a durable and comfortable grip. A rod’s handle can be made from EVA foam or cork. Note that the handle can vary in length.

A long handle works best if you’re planning longer casting as both hands are involved for more load. Shorter handles allow you to cast with one hand, which makes it excellent for shorter casts. You should choose a rod with shorter handles if you’re looking to master roll casting. Bass fishermen need to look for rods with a split grip to keep the weight down for short casts with lighter baits. 

The Guides and Blank

The blank is the central shaft portion of a fishing rod. Within the blank are circular guides. The guides are where the fishing line is threaded for control. Guides can be made from metal, plastic, or ceramic materials. They are attached to the rod’s windings.

You need to ensure that the first guide lines up with the reel seat. When the reel doesn’t match up with the first guide, that puts pressure on the reel seat. Check the guides for gaps and cracks between the rod and guides. Any gaps can allow water to seep into the rod, which means it could rust from the inside out. Openings can also make the guide weak. 

Moreover, you need to check that the guide inserts are present as some reels come with missing inserts. 

Ferrules

A collapsible rod has two ferrules-a male and female. That’s the location where the rod comes for the right use. You need to ensure that the guides lineup when connecting two pieces. 

Reel Seat

The reel seat is found when you move further up. That’s the area where you rig the reel by sliding the reel foot into the collars. This tightens them down to reduce any play or shake from the setup. When choosing a fishing reel, check to see that the angling setup is solid from top to bottom. Ensure that the reel seat is centered as some defective rods have the reel at the off-center in the seat. 

Rod Length

A fishing rod length is measured from the end of the handle to the end of the rod’s tip. Typically, most rods range from 6-12 ft. Remember that the rod length impacts your casting abilities. You’ll realize that long fishing rods cast long distances and vice versa. 

Anglers can use short rods where combat is required. These rods also come in handy when fighting fish in cases of fly fishing. That’s because they have less bend, unlike the longer rods. If you’re looking to fish deep and cover more area, you should choose the longer fishing rods. 

You need to find a size depending on the type of fishing you’re planning on doing, your current needs, the fishing environment, and the species you are targeting. Beginner anglers can start with a 7 ft rod. That size gives them the right balance between casting accuracy and distance. With time, an amateur angler can refine his skills through experience. 

Power and Action

You need to find a rod with the right combination of power and action if you’re looking to ensure your bait and lure presentations work well in the water. Power is the force required to bend the fishing rod. It can be ultra-heavy or ultra-light.

An ultra-light rod is suitable for small fish species like panfish or trout, while the ultra-heavy are for deep-sea fishing. Some manufacturers refer to power as the rod weight. 

Action is where along with the blank, the bend happens. Fast action rods are rigid and will only flex at the top part of the blank, but slow action rods bend next to the structure’s handle, which guarantees whip and flexibility in this pole. 

If you need to get your catch out of stuck vegetation or bush, a fast action rod will be ideal. You can also use an immediate action rod if you need to throw heavier baits. Light lures and slow baits work well with slow action rods. You can also find action classes in between that are more versatile as they give you a balance between fast and slow action. 

Your Environment

You need to pick a fishing rod depending on the environment you plan on using it in. For example, a saltwater angler requires a rod that can withstand the corrosive nature of this water. Choose a quality rod that is corrosion resistant. Ice fishermen also need to find a simple rod to handle with gloves on for an extended period. You should also ensure that the rod can withstand extremely cold temperatures. 

Experience Level

Another determining factor is the angler’s skill level. A beginner, friendly rod is simple to use. Spinning rods are suitable for beginners. Once you get more experienced, you can opt for a baitcasting rod. Also, note that spinning rods are designed to work with spinning reels. 

Most beginners make the mistake of getting a baitcasting rod for a spinning reel. However, you need to match the reel to the rod.  

Baitcasting rods are designed for seasoned experts. These rods hold the reel snugly on the top and give the angler optimum control over the casting. Despite baitcasting reels being known for tangles, once you master how to use them, you’ll enjoy high levels of control and accuracy. 

Another thing worth noting is that baitcasters come in low profile or round profile designs. A low profile design enables the angler to palm the reel while casting and retrieving. That makes it ideal when sportfishing. You can target bug bream, barramundi, and bass species. 

A round profile holds most of the line, something that contains most of the line. You can use a round profile design for trolling and targeting fish species that take long runs. 

Baitcasters have a braking system that you can adjust with a spool tensioning knob. That enables the fisherman to loosen or tighten the spool’s rotation to avoid line backlash. When using different weighted lures, you need to adjust the rotation to create a long and accurate cast. 

Brand 

You’ll notice that there are hundreds of brands manufacturing fishing rods. Sometimes it can be challenging to tell the reputable brands from the knockoffs. That’s why you need to do your research and read reviews on the brand you trust and know. Remember that getting a rod is an investment, and you need to put your money into something you are confident about. 

Some of the trusted brands include the Shimano rods, Shakespeare rods, Daiwa rods. Okuma fishing rods and Penn fishing rods. These brands guarantee quality and innovative products. Moreover, you can find something within your budget from one of these renowned brands.

Warranty

You also need a rod with a warranty period that is reasonable. Most manufacturers offer a one-year warranty, while other brands provide a lifetime guarantee on their rods to ensure you never have to replace the rod. 

Conclusion

While graphite is light and more sensitive than fiberglass, it can be weak when subjected to a sudden shock like catching a big striking fish. Fiberglass rods are affordable, more massive, and flexible, which makes them excellent for beginner anglers.

The rod’s material to choose will depend on the location you are planning to fish and the type of fish you are targeting. A composite rod with a graphite shell and fiberglass core is a fantastic combination that works for both beginner and advanced anglers.

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