If you are new to fishing, the terms power and action might seem interchangeable. This is not the case – they are two very distinct terms that affect different factors in fishing. But is one better or more important than the other?
Both power and action in a fishing rod are equally important to netting the fish species that you desire. In simplified terms, power tells you if your rod can take the weight of the fish you want to catch, while action tells you which type of fish you can catch.
If you want to learn more about the difference between power and action in a fishing rod and which is better, keep reading.
What Is Action?
Action refers to the degree to which a fishing rod bends and the speed it returns to its neutral position. Essentially, it describes the amount of time it takes for a rod to go from a flexed position back into its neutral state.
Here are the most popular different types of actions within a fishing rod:
- Extra-fast. An extra-fast action rod bends just at the tip.
- Fast. A fast action rod bends only in the top third of the fishing rod.
- Medium. A medium action rod bends in the top half.
- Slow. A slow action rod bends into the lower third of the rod, sometimes reaching all the way up to the handle.
How Action Affects the Following Factors
The changes to specific factors are essential to understand if you are looking to catch a particular fish species. Here are those factors, with in-depth explanations as to how they affect different action types.
Castability refers to the distance in which you can throw your fishing line into the water as action decreases from extra-fast to slow, castability increases. This is due to a phenomenon known as “rod loading,” where the wider curve on the parabolic bend of a rod means more stored energy. This can be translated into greater kinetic energy, which means a greater distance cast.
Essentially, the more the rod loads, the more of the rod that you are using to cast. As fast action rods only have the tip for casting compared to the entire rod length for slow action rods, casting distance is much greater with slow action rods.
As a fisherman, you generally need to be aware of when your rod is vibrating and the extent to which it is shaking because it tells you if you can set a hook or not. A fast action rod lets you feel vibrations much more quickly and intensely because only a small portion of the rod has a flex in it. This way, you can immediately tell when a fish is having a nibble. However, this does not mean that slower action rods are inferior.
Using fast action rods would only be appropriate when you are vertical fishing, and there is not a lot of room for the fish to struggle around. For the best possible results, try using a graphite rod – these are very stiff, allowing vibrations to travel down the rod to a greater extent and making the rod more sensitive.
If you decide to use live bait, fast action rods will also work against you by throwing live bait from the hook to a greater extent than a slow action type. This way, it is possible to have your line down for ages and not get the slightest movement, unrealizing the fact that your bait has already been eaten, and hence waste minutes or even hours away.
Ability to Fight Fish
Faster does not necessarily mean better. Using an extra-fast action rod, for example, is very tricky because the tip snaps back into the neutral position very quickly, making it difficult to maintain an appropriate level of tension to keep the lure secure when a fish struggles. Without some experience, using fast action rod types could prove to be more frustrating than fruitful.
For a fast action rod, as soon as the fish starts struggling about and gets close to the boat, the rod cannot dampen the shock because it does not have as great a parabolic curve. As a result of this, there is a great chance that you could lose your fish.
Depending on which species of fish you’re hoping to catch, you need to modify the rod’s action type that you use appropriately. However, a fast action rod does give you a better ability to turn a big fish.
Match Lure to Action
There are different types of baits should be used with different kinds of action rods. This is because these lures go with varying fishing techniques that require different types of action rods to succeed.
Faster action rods go with vertical fishing, but because your lines scope is small, you cannot just let the line remain idle; otherwise, you will never attract any fish. Fish are attracted to movement, so you can use jigging, where you move your jig in short bursts upwards so that the fish will mistake it for moving prey and bite on your hook.
Alternatively, you can use live bait, which will move, produce sound, and release pheromones so that fish will be attracted to the hook. When using live bait, especially, you need to be sensitive to vibrations so that you can set the hook. Otherwise, the fish will eat your bait and be off on its merry way – leaving you with no fish and no bait.
Moderate to Slow
Moderate to slow action rods involve fishing with a great casting distance. In these scenarios, because the sensitivity is reduced, most fishermen never use live baits. Instead, they use artificial lures that make some sound or motion, like plugs, which wobble, rattle, or gurgle, imitating baitfish movements so that a fish will take the bait.
Hook Type to Action
For fishing with a fast action rod, a single hook is preferred. It is adequately lightweight enough, and because there is only one hook when a fish struggles upon biting into the lure, there is a greater hook-up ratio, and the hook is driven deeper into the fish’s mouth.
Using a single hook also prevents the probability of gutting, where the hook gets stuck in the fish’s belly instead of the mouth. Reducing this probability is important because some fish species are endangered, and it is necessary to release them even if you have already caught one.
Moderate to Slow
Fishing with a moderate or slow rod usually involves a treble hook designed to have three hooks. This is used because using a moderate or slow action type usually means that you will be catching either heavier fishes or fishes that tend to struggle a lot.
Hooking three hooks into the fish’s mouth means that it will stay secure and that you will have a greater chance of catching the fish than by simply using a single hook.
A treble hook is also typically thinner than a single hook, requiring less pressure to set the hook when a fish bites down on the bait.
Moderate to slow action types are also better at keeping a fish hooked during a fight and preventing the ripping or bending of a hook.
Here’s a small table to better detail what you can do with different types of an action rod:
|Action||Fishing Type||Fishing Species||Lure Type||Casting Distance|
|Ultra-fast||Vertical fishingusing single hooks||Yellow PerchGreen SunfishBluegill CrappieSmallmouth Bass||Plastic worms, jigs, or live bait||Short to medium|
|Fast||Vertical fishingusing single hooks. Better suited to catching heavier species in the ultra-fast category because it has both flexibility and sensitivity.||MuskyPikeLargemouth Bass||Plastic worms, jigs, or live bait||Short to medium; Can cast farther than an ultra-fast|
|Medium/Slow||Bait castingSpin casting||BlackbassWalleyeChannel CatfishStriped bass||Multi-hook lures:|
|Medium to far|
Because there is no industry standard, a slow action can be different based on different manufacturers. If you want to test the bend of a rod, provided that you are in-store, you can place the tip to the floor and gently apply some pressure to straighten it out so that you can see the extent of the bend. However, be sure to do it discreetly because the shop will likely not be too happy about this.
Now that you know everything there is to know about action on a fishing rod let’s learn more about power.
What Is Power?
Power describes how stiff the pole is, and how much weight it can support. Here are the various power categories that you might come across:
- Extra Heavy
To better understand what power is, let’s say we have two fishing rods with the same action, the same amount of line, and the same anchor point, but different power. The heavy rod will be stiffer, and it will require more power to put a bend in the rod than a medium rod, for example.
How Does Power Affect Different Factors?
Like action, power can also uniquely affect several factors in fishing in different ways.
Lure weight has an increasing relationship with the power of a rod. The heavier the lure, the heavier the power of your fishing rod needs to be. This could seem unnecessary, but a rod has to weather the weight of other objects besides the lure, like the line. If you use a heavier lure than is specified by the manufacturer, you could break the tip of your rod when you try to cast – a rather expensive mistake.
Line Weight Rating
The lighter the line weight rating, the lighter the power of your rod. It might seem appropriate to use a light line on a heavier rod, but that could result in your line breaking because the heavier rod couldn’t absorb the shock of using that light line when trying to get a fish. Follow the specifications as they are stated and don’t try to make modifications, especially when you’re a beginner to the fishing scene.
Here’s a table detailing the type of lure and line weight best suited to different power types of a fishing rod:
|Power||Line Weight (Ib)||Lure Weight (oz)|
|Ultra-light||1 – 4 (0.45 – 1.81 kg)||1/64 – 1/16 (0.44 – 1.77 g)|
|Light||4 – 8 (1.81 – 3.63 kg)||1/32 – 1/8 (0.89 – 3.54 g)|
|Medium||4 – 12 (1.81 – 5.44 kg)||1/8 – 3/8 (3.54 – 10.63 g)|
|Medium-Heavy||8 – 14 (3.63 – 6.35 kg)||3/16 – 1/2 (5.32 – 14.17 g)|
|Heavy||15 – 25 (6.8 – 5.44 kg)||Up to 1.5 (42.52 g)|
|Extra Heavy||>25 (11.34 kg)||>1.5 (42.52 g)|
Anyway, whichever fishing rod will come with detailed instructions on the acceptable weight for your lure and line, so be sure to look through them before buying any.
Vegetation and Cover
Denser vegetation and cover require the use of a heavy rod. Due to the very nature of the waters from where you’re trying to fish, fishing means you’re not only netting a fish but also a few pounds of grass. Medium rods might not sustain this pressure and break, but heavier rods are adapted to handle greater loads.
On the other hand, a light rod is more suited to clear waters during vertical fishing because a thin, clear line is required to get the fish to bite down on the hook. Otherwise, the visibility of the thick fishing line on a heavy rod will scare the fish away.
Which Power Rod Type Should You Buy?
This all boils down to which type of fish you want to catch. However, generally speaking, many fishermen like a medium rod with medium action because you can capture a broad range of the smaller species and a few bigger ones. For a more detailed understanding, here’s a handy table:
|Power Type||Fish Species|
|Light||Heavier troutBass drop-shotLight steelhead|
|Medium-light||Smallmouth bass Steelhead|
|Medium||Heavy troutSteelhead Small salmon|
|Extra Heavy/Heavy||Saltwater fishSalmon|
Although extra heavy and heavy rods are meant to be used on saltwater fish, it’s not possible to bag all of them. Large saltwater fishes like the marlin and the sailfish are nearly impossible to get, even with these heavy-duty rods.
It is also generally agreed that most ultra-light rods are not worth the price since it can easily snap, so for the smaller species, try sticking with a light power rod at minimum.
Usually, it is fair to say that the fishing rod’s weight determines the fish you catch. The heavier the rod, the heavier the fish.
Which Is Better Between Power or Action?
In truth, neither power nor action is better. These are just different factors that you need to work with when deciding the type of fishing rod you want, based on the fish species that you want to catch.
However, you need to pair them together properly if you don’t want it to end up in a catastrophe.
For example, if you have very light action and light power and are attempting to catch a heavier-sized fish, the rod will not be suited to handling the fish’s weight, and it will break.
On the other hand, if you use a heavier rod than your fish, you could lose your bait or yank away from the fish. It is very important to do all the proper research regarding the fish you want to catch to get the appropriate rod specifications.
Now that you know what power and action are let’s talk about some of the most popular combinations of these that you can find in the market and the types of rods that they go with.
A spinning rod holds the spinning reel under the rod. It is popularly used for trolling or fishing with live bait for different types of fish. This is an easy type of rod for beginners to use and protects light lines, allowing newbies to make mistakes while bagging a larger fish without snapping off completely.
Spinning rods should be used for traditional boat fishing in streams and rivers or fishing off the sides of jetties, piers, and wharves.
There are a variety of combinations that you can get for spinning rods:
- Medium power, fast action. This is good for catching smaller species such as bass and panfish, typically able to catch any fish less than 30lb (13.61kg). The medium power ensures the rod can support larger fish’s weight, while the fast action lets you set the hook rather quickly when fishing.
- Light power, fast action. A light power is used for small-scale fishing by beginners just starting out who don’t feel ready for the bigger fish just yet. This rod is good for catching fish like small black and white crappie.
A baitcasting rod is not for amateurs, requiring some prior experience with fishing before you can get comfortable with it. This is because it is rather easy for them to get tangled on the spool. However, once you get the hang of it, it allows for much greater accuracy and precision than using a spinning rod.
- Medium power, medium action. This lets you get the large black bass, walleye, and channel catfish.
- Heavy power, fast action. This setup is a good idea if you want to fish for striped bass, or other types of catfish like blue catfish, which unlike channel catfish, can go up to 100lb (45.36kg). However, if you choose to use live bait instead of an artificial lure, use a slower action rod with heavy power because this prevents the bait from slipping off the hook or even worse, being eaten without you bagging the fish.
Surf rods are best for surf fishing. These are used to cast extremely long distances, past the shallow waters of the surf where you’re standing, to the breaking waters where fish like to feed. Surf fishing rods are known for being rather long, using a lot of lines, and as a result, light power rods are almost never used.
Here are some combinations that you could find on surf rods:
- Heavy power, medium action. This rod has the backbone for bigger fish such as Bull Reds, medium-sized sharks, Tarpons, etc. At the same time, it is possible to sacrifice sensitivity because you know when these fishes bite on your bait. Medium action also improves casting distance, and it is very unlikely that these larger fishes will be closer to the shore.
- Medium power, fast action. This type of rod is to handle fish with soft bites, such as flounder, or trout, which still struggle and fight to some extent, thus requiring the backbone that medium power offers.
These are the travel rods of the fishing world, with the ability to collapse into themselves so that you can easily take them anywhere you want. These fit into the category of the other types of rods. It is widely debated if telescopic rods are any good – most say they are, but they are prone to breakage if you do not handle them carefully.
These rods are the traditional boat fishing rods. They work with an overhead reel and are usually shorter and more powerful than the typical casting rod. These rods were engineered specifically to catch deep-sea fish and sportfish – for the fishermen who love the sport’s game.
Fly rods are used for fly fishing. While traditional fishing involves the bait being beneath the water’s surface, fly fishing uses flies as their lure, and most flies can only be found on the surface of the water.
Fly fishing comes with its special reel, and because the line weight rating needs to change depending on which species you’re aiming after, the line power subsequently increases too.
This handy table will show you have action affects different components of fly fishing, courtesy of BackCountry Chronicles:
|Playing/Lifting Large Fish||Good||Medium||Poor|
|Casting Large Flies||Good||Medium||Poor|
|Casting Small Flies||Poor||Medium||Good|
Power also affects the type of fish that you can catch because in fly fishing, you use different line weights to catch different species of fish, as detailed by CamperMate.
- 1-3 weight fly line is best for catching small fish, like stream trout.
- 4 weight fly line is used for medium-sized freshwater fish like trout in big rivers.
- 5 – 6 weight fly line is for larger freshwater fish in lakes that need a longer casting distance, like lake trout and bass.
- 7 – 8 weight fly line is for large freshwater fish in open water that can be caught by casting long flies over long distances.
- 9 – 16 weight fly line is for big saltwater species using large flies.
As fly line weight increases, you need a greater power to support the weight of the line; otherwise, the rod will break.
But which type of rod do we use for fly fishing? Generally, most casters use fast action with power varying, depending on which species of fish you want to catch. However, fast action rods are difficult to use for beginners because it requires the right timing and technique. As a result, the best rod for newbies would be a medium or medium-fast action rod with light or medium power, based on the size of the fish you want to catch.
Which Fishing Rod Is the Best for Me?
If you’re looking for a good overall rod as a beginner, you should go with a medium-heavy, medium-action spinning rod. This type of rod has the range to get a great variety of fish without snapping. You can also use a wide variety of baits and lures to attract different species of fish.
However, in the fishing industry, there is no set standard. Even if you have the exact specifications in mind that you are looking for in a fishing rod, this standard is not generalized across all manufacturers. That means that a medium-fast action rod by different manufacturers will all have slightly differing bends and will not feel the same.
As a result, if you’re looking to buy a fishing rod, you should always do it in-person unless you’re an experienced fisher and confident that it will fit your specifications.
You might also encounter the problem of manufacturers only listing action without power. When the action is missing on a rod, assume that the “action” is the rod’s power.
It is probable to assume that the lighter ratings refer to moderate to slow action while the heavier ratings are moderate to fast action. As such, “Medium Action” is probably “Medium Power Medium Action,” while “Light Action” is “Light Power Slow Action.”
Unless you have no choice, it is the best choice not to buy fishing rods that do not have all the important specifications either written on it or written in an accompanying manual.
In conclusion, you need power and action to work with each other to catch your preferred type of fish. Fishing can seem intimidating, with a wide variety of terms to learn about knowing the kind of fishing rod you need to buy; however, if you break it down as this article has, it is actually not very complicated.
If you’re not very sure what to do, you can always ask the store attendants to help you out.