Fishing Rod Power: Light, Medium and Heavy

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Fishing rod bent fighting fish feature image fishing rod power

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Rod power ratings are misunderstood by some anglers, but the concepts are quite simple.

The power ratings, as seen in the chart below, vary between light (or ultra light), medium and heavy.

The “power” of a rod is basically a measure of how much it will bend when subjected to a given force.

Imagine you hung a weight of the same mass of a variety of different rods and measured how much they bent – that would give you an indication of their power ratings.

Rods that deflected least would be heavy power, rods that bent the most, light power.

Fishing Rod Power Chart

Fishing Rod Power Ratings

The power of a fishing rod is often expressed in pounds. What the fishing rod manufacturer is suggesting with this is that the rod is suitable for a line of that weight. That then gives you and idea of the kind of fish it is suitable for.

For example, a rod of 5 to 7lb power rating is suitable for trout, as that’s the kind of fish you’d pursue with a 5-7lb test line.

A rod of, say, 10-14lb rating is a good bass rod for the same reasons. This is the strength of line that you’d spool on your baitcaster to chase bass.

Fishing Rod Power for Various Species

Ultra light rods are perfect for trout and panfish

Light (and ultra light) rods

These rods are suitable for light and ultralight fishing in rivers and streams.

Ultra light rods are ideal for trout fishing and fishing for crappie, bluegill and other panfish.

Medium power rods

These rods are good for fishing lakes and larger rivers and casting larger lures. A medium power rod is great for bass as it can throw relatively heavy lures well enough and cope with fighting big bass.

A medium power rod is also fine for walleye and pike and other medium sized freshwater fish such as small catfish.

Heavy power rods

A heavy power rod is used for big fish such as musky or large catfish that can pull hard, as well as large saltwater species such as sharks, tuna and other powerful and large predators where you need that lifting power to crank and wind to get the fish back to the boat or shore.

How lure weight influences rod selection

The other thing that influences rod selection is the kind of lures you are throwing – more specifically the lure weights you are using.

Light lures such as small crankbaits and spinners are impossible to cast a reasonable distance if you are using a medium heavy rod. You need to use a lighter power rod that will flex a bit more to give you the casting distance you need.

Similarly, for heavier lures such as large swimbaits, heavy jigs or large soft plastics, heavier power rods are going to be more suitable. You might find a medium heavy rod is the right rod for this application.

How a fishing rod’s power and action fit in

Heavy power rods are great for sea fishing where you are targeting big fish

The other part of the puzzle is the rod’s action. As you can see from the chart below, a rod’s action refers to the point on the blank that it starts to bend when a force is applied.

  • A fast action rod bends near the rod tip in the top third of the rod
  • A medium action or moderate action rod bends in the middle third of the rod
  • A slow action rod bends in the bottom third of the rod

As you can read in our article on fishing rod actions, anglers select what action they need based on the type of fish they are chasing and type of lures they are throwing.

Slower action rods are good for fish with soft mouths and lighter lures with treble hooks as they allow for a more gentle hook set that won’t rip the hook out of the fish’s mouth.

A slow action rod is great for fishing for crappie, which are dubbed “papermouth” for the thinness of their mouth tissue.

A fast action rod is great for detecting bites and for driving him a large single point hook – such as those used in topwater lures and jigs – with fish with a harder mouth.

Again, lure weight is a consideration with rod action. The whippy nature of slow action rods lends itself to casting light lures well. An ultra light slow action rod is going to perform much better for these lures than a medium heavy moderate fast rod.

For more on rod action, check out our companion piece here.

Final thoughts on rod power ratings

Hopefully this article has given you a sense of how important it is to consider the power rating of a rod, in conjunction with the type of fishing rod and the rod action in choosing the ideal baitcasting or spinning rod for you.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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