Bass rods - the long and short of it

Megastores like Bass Pro Shops have such a wide selection of fishing rods on hand it can be overwhelming. There are 5 1/2-footers, 6 1/2-footers, 7-footers and more. Then there's graphite, composite and fiberglass.

There are specialty rods for cranking, jigging, flipping and so on. There are various actions like medium-light, medium, medium-heavy and fast. And what about composition? There's IM6, IM7, IM8, IMX and IML, which leads me to I'M confused.

But really, as for bass rods, the long and short of it is even in this forest of fish catchers, each rod design can have its place when it comes to a specific way of catching fish.

Of course, trends come and go in all things, even with fishing rods. And one point of interest my friend Bob Bagby, vice president of marketing at Quantum, has told me is that more anglers are buying long bass rods. Where 5 1/2-footers used to make up the bulk of sales, these days many or most rods sold measure 6 1/2 feet or longer.

Of course, there are benefits in using longer bass rods:

1. You improve your strike-to-catch-rate ratio. Rods are basically a simple lever. When a longer rod is lifted, it pulls more line, increasing the hook-setting motion. You have more leverage.

2. The rod tip travels farther when a longer rod is cast, and this increases cast length. This is an advantage when fishing crankbaits in that it allows greater depth control.

On the other side, the negatives of longer bass rods are less accuracy; you have less ability to fish in tight quarters; and they are also not as easy to transport as the once favored 5 1/2-foot models.

Anglers often ask me why there are more and smaller guides on today's rods. The answer is that more guides match the bend of the rod and the flex eliminates flat spots or areas where the line might otherwise touch the rod.

Of course, regardless of lengths, rods also come in various grades. In graphite, this relates to the stiffness of the fiber used and how resilient it is to stretching. Here is where the IM5, IM6, IM7, etc., come in to distinguish pounds per square inch. The higher the number, the stiffer the rod.

On of my favorite rods, a Quantum Energy PT, comes with the designation of HSX54. This is the equivalent of IM6 graphite. It is responsive, sensitive and super tough. Believe it or not, I caught a 70-pound marlin with it as well as four sharks that had a total weight of over 500 pounds while filming a saltwater show earlier this year.

Sure, the rod, reel and line make up the total package as far as results go. But when people tell me they have a good bass rod, and still can't turn a largemouth, it certainly makes me wonder.

Also, remember, when considering which length rod to fish with, to consider your stature. For example a 5-9 fisherman might not handle a 7 1/2-foot rod as well as a 6-3 angler. But that's something you simply need to experiment with.

Again, the trend today is go long, and the bottom line as to why is that I think anglers are becoming more aware of the advantages these tools offer.

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