MATCHING SPINNING REELS TO RODS

Many fishing tackle retailers, especially those trying to move volume, seem to match spinning rods and reels based on achieving a particular price point rather than whether the two items of equipment are actually compatible. Some of the budget rod and reel pairings are very poorly matched and would underperform spectacularly on the water. These combinations would be either heavy to hold for long periods of time or cast much shorter distances than they would be capable of if paired optimally. This problem is not so obvious in the specialist tackle stores as generally the staff understand what they are doing.

It is very important to select a spinning rod that matches the spinning reel that you intend to use.  Regardless of how light and responsive a given rod is, it may NOT be right for the particular reel that you plan to add to the rod. The RIGHT rod is one that balances the reel so that it sits comfortably in the hand while also allowing the line to leave the spool and flow up the rod with choking in the guides. I’ve touched on this topic briefly before in the AANZ Rod construction guide set-up video:- https://activeanglingnz.com/2015/08/28/rod-construction-guide-setup/

Recently I found an excellent guide to selecting a new rod on the Anglers Resource website. http://anglersresource.net/ This is a Fuji rod building website but the comments on spinning rod selection are so good that I’ve reproduced the key points below:-

“Today’s rods are high-tech tools that have moved the industry forward at a rapid pace in the past few years. For shoppers, it’s a bounty unheard of just a few years back but it can also be a multi-headed snake when faced with the task of expanding your arsenal. Below you’ll find 5 keys to helping you find a rod that offers excellent performance for your needs and your fishing style. It is provided to help fishermen better understand the importance of rod design and the resulting increase in performance when a few simple observations are made.

The components on a rod and their position are critical in how the rod performs. Shaking, bending and ”hefting” a rod in the showroom will do little to get you closer to the ”right” rod. Here are a few tips that will.

  • DETERMINE IN ADVANCE WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR

You shouldn’t shop for a fishing rod like it was a tomato. You’re not looking for good color and nice feel. You’re looking for performance! Consider what it is you want to catch, what pound test line you plan to use, what type of lures you intend to cast, what kind of line you will be using; braid, mono or flourocarbon and finally, consider the length that will best fit your application. We also suggest you visit a few rod websites and become familiar with terms like “action”, “power” and “speed” to further narrow your search. By taking this first simple step, you can eliminate 90% of the rods in the store. You’ve narrowed your search considerably before you ever leave the house.

  • TAKE THE REEL WITH YOU TO THE STORE

When you need to match a nut or bolt you carry it with you to the store. When you need to repair some plumbing, you have the PVC fitting in your pocket when you hit the plumbing aisle. But, somehow we’re often more prepared to by a 50-cent PVC fitting than we are to shop for an expensive fishing rod! Most of the time you have a good idea of the reel you’ll be using on the rod you seek. Having it with you while shopping is the most important element in locating a top performing rod. Refer to your answers from number 1 above and limit your search to appropriate rods. Check the line weight ratings and lure weight range printed on the rod and choose from the selection that matches your needs.

  • SHOP BRANDS IF YOU MUST BUT LET ”FIT” GUIDE YOUR DECISION

Sticking with established brands is a good way to make sure you get what you pay for. Your favorite ”brand” has obviously given you satisfactory performance in the past and earned your trust and loyalty. By all means look for a rod that works with your reel that is made by a company you trust, but don’t limit your selection to a specific brand and settle for a rod that isn’t built to match your reel. There are plenty of good rods available in a wide range of prices. Concentrate on performance.

  • MOUNT THE REEL ON THE ROD AND CHECK IT OUT

Now we’re getting to the nitty gritty.

When you find a spinning rod that meets your criteria, remove the spool from your reel and mount the reel on the rod. Lay it down on the edge of a counter and align the spool axle with the edge of the counter. Set up properly, there will be a point on the rod where it crosses the edge of the counter and sticks out into the air (see photo below). This point is called the ”choke” point and it’s important in the layout. Guides “on the counter” are larger guides that control and reduce line flow when you cast (reduction guides). Guides “off the counter” control and channel line to the tip of the rod (running guides). If the top edge of the reduction guides line up along the edge of the counter, the rod will work well with your reel . There are some layout options that will move guides off of this line but generally speaking, reduction guides should follow the angle of the reels spool axle. Since you are dealing with a production rod you may not achieve a perfect match, but the closer you get, the better the rod is likely to perform with your reel. If things don’t match up and angles seem odd, try another rod. At this point you may discover that a lighter, smaller reel won’t “fit” a heavy blank. Manufacturers build rods for a particular group of reels to better match the action and power of the rod. Let the reel tell you if you’ve chosen the right rod.

Spinning rod 1

The photo above shows a sample of a rod that would work well with the selected reel. The red line indicates the projected path of the spool axle as it travels to cross the rod near the halfway mark of the rod. The red line touches the top of the first and second guide, ideal positions for these guides to “reduce” the coils of line. The line travels through the third guide, which is acceptable, and on toward the choke point. This rod, provided the action and lure weight is correct, should cast exceptionally well with this reel.

Note: Some of the latest Micro-Spinning rod layouts are utilizing a new ”Rapid Choke” layout that will move the ”choke” point discussed above closer to the reel. These reduction guides should still form a straight line, but it will ”point” to the blank closer to the reel than a traditional ”choke” point.

Spinning rod 2

This rod is a “marginal” choice for the particular reel. Although the first guide would collect line nicely and the second is acceptable, the third guide is very near the choke point and should be much lower to the blank for this particular reel.

Spinning rod 3

This rod (which by the way is a very good rod) would be a poor choice for this particular reel. The first guide accepts the coil of line coming from the spool very low in the ring while the second and third guides are too high for where the line “wants” to travel based on the spool axle.

  • FINAL TESTING: WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T TEST CAST WITH YOUR REEL?

If you’ve read this far, we can assume you’re pretty keen on performance and further assume that you didn’t read all of this to prepare to shop for a $30 rod. Chances are you’re about to ”invest” a few hundred dollars. Doesn’t it make sense to put the spool back on your reel (spinning) or mount your casting reel and conduct one final test?

STATIC LOADING:

Irrespective of the type of rod, the POWER in the rod you select comes from its ability to transfer the energy stored in the (bent) rod to the guides on the rod and then into the line. The result is pressure on the fish. The closer the line tracks the natural bend of the rod, the more powerful the rod becomes because it is using the available power more efficiently. To test this, a comparison should be made between the ”natural” bend (the shape the rod would assume when lifting a weight attached ONLY to the tip of the rod) and the bend when lifting a weight with the line running from the reel through all the guides. This is a pretty complex test and one you probably don’t need to perform in the showroom. Instead, run your line through the guides, have the sales guy hold the line and flex the rod into a ”deep” bend.

Guide spacing 1

Guide spacing 2

On a spinning rod, there should be enough guides to track the line closely along the blank. Anything that looks like a strung bow (as in bow and arrow) is not good. This ”bowstring effect” is power lost from the rod and should be avoided.

Once you settle on the perfect match you might as well take it outside and test cast before reaching for your wallet. Your choice should be quiet, smooth, long casting and very sensitive”.

Reel balancing 003

There is one critical point which the Fuji article fails to touch on and that is balance. When the reel is fitted to the rod then the pivot point should be somewhere close to the front of the handle. At this point the rod should sit horizontally when balanced on a fingertip. This means that when rod is held in the hand by the angler (as it normally would be during use) then the rod will actually pivot around the forefinger and the tip will then point slightly downwards as a result. This is perfect position for retrieving lures. If you want the rod tip to assume a horizontal position using the forefinger as the pivot point then it will be necessary to either increase the reel weight or add extra weight to the butt of the rod.

Hopefully this all makes sense and takes some of the guesswork out of selecting a rod to balance your favourite spinning reel.

5 thoughts on “MATCHING SPINNING REELS TO RODS

  1. Hi Alan,
    Thank you for your answer.

    I think I should have been more specific……It was the balance point, in particular on a surf rod, I was wondering about after checking the other points (all good)….. but the balance point on my 15 foot surfcaster is about a foot ahead of the front of the reel (with spool on) which is a long way.

    The main aspect on a surf rod is the ability to cast so if I added weight into the butt of the rod to alter the balance would I affect the casting aspect?

    Thanks, Rick

    1. Hi Rick,
      I have to be honest and say that I do very little surfcasting but the principles should hold true. Is the balance point slightly ahead of the rod foregrip? I’ve got a 9’4″ spinning rod where the balance point with one reel is well forward. The guides are spaced well though, it casts into the next post code and having the tip pointing down when I retrieve lures is ideal. If you like the tip to sit slightly higher when you are retrieving then it is possible to alter the balance point by adding a small amount of weight at the butt. It really comes down to how comfortable it feels for you. Add some weight at the butt and see if it is easier to hold. If it makes no difference and the rings are properly aligned then it should be fine. Cheers, Alan.

  2. Hi Alan ~
    Great article! Wish I would have known about the info in your article before I purchased spinning rods and reels. I found out that I have a lot of mismatched kits. What rod/reel kit have you found is ideal for river and creek fishing for resident trout? I’d like to eventually purchase a top-notch spin kit.

    Thanks in advance,
    Jim (USA)

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