Your flipping and pitching rod is a mighty important part of your fishing equipment. Without the right one you won't get very far on the water. That said, picking the right rod isn't all that tough. It's a matter of blending several performance characteristics into one smooth functioning unit.
Here they are, and why they matter.
If you're new to flipping and pitching, you probably want to start with something a little shorter and a little lighter. A rod around 7 feet, 4 inches is just about right. That length will give you a chance to learn the basics and still be an efficient angler.
For the more experienced angler, something around 7 feet, 6 inches will do a better job. That length will give you more distance, more control and more leverage.
For a really big man, or someone fishing in extremely heavy cover where there's the possibility of catching a giant, you may want to add an inch or so to your rod. That'll serve your specific needs better.
Regardless of which rod you choose, you need one with some flex in the tip. A little spring at the end of your rod will help you properly present your bait. A tip that's too stiff will cause your pitches and flips to turn into lobs. This will destroy both your accuracy and your distance.
Your rod must have a stiff backbone. Anytime you're flipping and pitching, you're fishing near cover. That will make the hook-set more difficult and will give the bass something to use against you during the fight. A heavy backbone will help you overcome both of those challenges.
You do not want a cork handle on your flipping and pitching stick. When cork gets wet it gets slippery. It's hard to maintain a firm grip on anything that's slippery.
A synthetic handle that's made from the right material will allow you to hold on tight when you're jerking and pulling on big fish. In fact, if it's made from the best material it'll actually give you a better grip when it's wet.
American Rodsmiths has built — with my input — two lines of rods that meet all of these requirements. We called the less expensive series the Wreckin' Stix. They come in three models. The first is 7 feet, 4 inches and called the Flipping and Pitching Rod; the second, which we call The Perfect Flipping Stick, is 7 feet, 6 inches; and, we make the Big Nasty for big men with big ambitions. It measures 7 feet, 7 inches.
The second series, the H3 Titanium, measures exactly the same. They are made with somewhat better components and, over the long haul, will perform a little better. The H3 Titanium Series is, of course, more expensive.
If you want the very best, and your budget allows for it, buy the H3 Titanium Series. Otherwise go with the Wreckin' Stix. Do not think you're going second-class if you buy something from the Wreckin' Stix series. You aren't. They are fine products and will give you many years of fishing enjoyment.
Both series of rods come with handles made by Winn, the golf club people. They've made top quality, non-slip golf club handle-wraps for a long time. Their fishing rod handle-wraps are no different. Both series were designed to work perfectly with my Ardent F700 reel.
Finally, I'll say the same thing to you about rods that I said about reels. Sure, you can catch fish with a lesser product. Lots of guys are out there doing it. I've done it, too. However, you'll catch more bass, and enjoy your time on the water more, if you have top-quality tackle. It's really that simple.
Choosing a flipping and pitching line is a fairly simple and straightforward process. I use two types of line for my flipping and pitching needs — fluorocarbon and braid. I never use monofilament.
In clear water situations, I go with 25-pound-test fluorocarbon. It's heavy enough to allow me to handle the fish and light enough to be easily handled by my equipment. There's no stretch, so setting the hook and controlling the fish is not a problem.
On rare occasions — maybe flipping a dock for small fish when the water's extremely clear — I may downsize to 20-pound test. Regardless of which test weight I choose, I always use Seaguar. Overall it seems to do the best job for me.
When the water has a little color to it, or when the cover is really heavy, I'll go with 65-pound-test braid. Why use 25-pound-test line when you will get just as many bites with 65-pound test?
Really, I use braid sometimes even when I know it'll cost me a few bites. What good does it do to get more bites if you can't get them out of the cover and into your livewell? (Remember when you are flipping and pitching you're setting the hook at an angle. You don't have a straight pull to the fish. You need all the line strength you can get.)
I can't make a manufacturer recommendation for braid. Years ago Mustad had some braid they were thinking about marketing. I loved it and laid away several bulk spools for my personal use. Unfortunately, they never brought it to market so it's not commercially available.
Those are the basics when it comes to choosing line. As we discuss specific fishing scenarios in upcoming months, we'll talk more about the subject and why it matters.