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If you have done any research into new fishing rods, you will certainly have seen ‘Power’ and ‘Action’ mentioned in the design specifics for each rod you look at.
It is important to understand these two factors as the performance of a rod will vary significantly depending on the power and action a rod has.
To help demystify these two design characteristics, I have provided a detailed overview of what each one means so you can make a more informed decision when you buy your next fishing rod.
Fishing Rod Power
The ‘power’ ratings used for fishing rods are a reference to the lifting ability of each rod and should be taken into consideration if you are wanting to cast weights for beach fishing and throwing lures if you are after a spinning rod.
Below is the range of power used for fishing rods:
UL – Ultra-light
UL power used on a fishing rod would mean that the rod is extremely soft and bendy and is ideally used for very light tackle and fishing for smaller fish such as panfish and small stream trout.
For UL power rods, the ideal lure weight is from 1/64 oz to 1/16 oz, and to be used with a very light test line.
L – Light
L power rods should be used for smaller species still, and where you expect to get very light bites, and the rod can feel these and respond fairly quickly.
Think panfish, medium-size trout, and walleye as ideal species for using a Light power rod. The ideal lure weight is around the 1/16oz to 1/4oz range.
ML – Medium Light
We are starting to build the power now, and ML power rods are ideal for use in fresh and saltwater. Use an ML power rod for soft plastic lures and lure weight from 1/4 oz to 1/2 oz range.
An ML rod will still be sensitive to bites and will allow you to set the hook faster as the rod will tighten more quickly than a UL or L power rod.
Now we’re at the mid-range of the power for rods, and with an M power rod, you can vary your lure weight and the type of lures quite a bit.
The ideal weight range for lures is up to 3/4 oz, and this will allow you to throw a range of soft plastic or hard body lures.
You will get fast and sure hook sets with an M power rod due to the extra stiffness and can be used in fresh and saltwater.
MH – Medium-Heavy
Now we start getting into the ‘heavy’ levels of power, and an MH rod can be used for bigger species of fish and for heavier lures and jigs.
You still have some feel in an MH rod, so they can still be used for throwing soft plastics and lures around structure if required.
Now you can look at lures with a weight range of 1 to 4 ounces with an MH rod.
H – Heavy
With an H power rod, we’re talking bigger fish now, heavier line and lures, and just a lot more grunt in these rods to do battle with some decent specimens.
You can look at lure weights from 4 to 8 ounces now, and the rods will be very stiff so not a great deal of feel in them at this range. But you’ll know as soon as anything grabs hold of an 8-ounce lure!
XH – Extra Heavy
Hit the gym and pump up those guns if you’re intending to get some action on an XH power rod! These are used for the harder fighting fish such as tuna and billfish.
No issues with throwing 8 oz + lures with these big boys, and you are going to need to stiffness in these XH rods to do battle with anything that grabs hold of one of these massive lures.
Fishing Rod Action
Now you have an understanding of what the ‘Power’ of a fishing rod is, I’ll cover what the ‘Action’ of a fishing rod means, so you have all the pieces of the puzzle.
The range of action used in fishing rods goes from ‘Extra Fast’ at one end of the scale, to ‘Slow’ at the other end.
Below is the full range of rod action you will find, and basically what a rod action refers to is how much of the tip of the rod bends under pressure.
On an Extra Fast action rod, the bend comes at the very tip of the rod so the response time when setting the hook is much faster as less of the rod bends.
On a Slow rod, the bend will go a lot further down the rod, so you can imagine that setting hooks is generally slower, but these types of rods are ideal for things like fly fishing, where the extra bend is required.
XF – Extra Fast
XF rods are ideal for lure fishing, as they give an instant response as soon as you feel a fish hit the lure. Many bass anglers prefer to use either XF or F action rods due to their responsive hook-setting ability.
Sensitivity is at its greatest on an XF action rod, and the power comes from the rod more than the angler. Better suited to shorter more accurate casting.
F – Fast
The response rate from an F action rod is still high and will enable you to set the hook quickly and efficiently. Still suited to shorter casting distances, and is ideal for species such as Musky, Large-mouth Bass, and Pike.
MF – Moderate Fast
MF action rods are mid-range and suitable to those that want a rod that can be used for multiple purposes. Great for beginners, or those that really want to use one rod for many occasions.
M – Moderate
You’re looking at half of the rod bending under pressure with an M action rod. You can fish for a wide range of species with M action rods, and they provide a decent amount of casting ability.
The striking action on an M action rod needs to be a lot more deliberate than the faster rods, but they are still capable of a powerful hook setting.
S – Slow
S action rods are best used for species that have softer mouths and do not require a hard strike. If you just want a fish to pick up the bait and run, and basically hook themselves, then a slow-action rod is what you need.
The bend of the rod goes down the majority of the length of the rod, so the shock absorption on these S action rods is much greater than the faster rods at the other end of the scale.