The Ultimate Fishing Rod Power Guide

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It’s common for beginner anglers to confuse the concepts fishing rod power and fishing action, but the fact remains that both are different. Fishing rod power is generally a weight or value that refers to what species you can catch with a specific rod.

When you’re using fishing rods of varying power values, each value symbolizes what fish species it can tackle for you. A blank’s overall stiffness and how the blank reacts is basically what the power relates to. We usually have power ratings on the fishing rods because countless fish species of varying sizes live underwater.

You will find tiny fish to gigantic fish in the water, but no single rod can tackle all species. Hence, the blank power of a rod is merely a rating that tells us its power-handling potential.

Power Categories

Fishing rods fall into different power categories. These are as follows:

  • UL | Ultralight – ideal for 1/64 to 1/16oz of lure weight and 1 to 4lb of line weight
  • L | Light – ideal for 1/32 to 1/80z of lure weight and 4 to 8lb of line weight
  • ML | Medium-light – ideal for 1/8 to 1/4oz of lure weight and 4 to 10lb of line weight
  • M | Medium – ideal for 1 1/8 to 3/8oz of lure weight and 4 to 12lb of line weight
  • MH | Medium-heavy – ideal for 3/16 to ½oz of lure weight and 8 to 14lb of line weight
  • H | Heavy – ideal for 1 ½ oz of lure weight and 15 to 25lb of line weight
  • XH | Extra heavy – ideal for 1 ½ oz and more of lure weight and 25lb and more line weight

Each power category excels at catching a particular species or perhaps specific sizes. For example, the ultra-light fishing rod power can help you catch panfish or other kinds of tiny baitfish. But extra heavy rods may excel at capturing larger varieties, such as tuna, mackerel, or whatever deep-sea anglers and surf anglers are after.

We have a separate power category for the different species because it enhances an angler’s ability to score a catch. You can fish with just about any rod, but your technique will lack finesse. For example, an angler might snag a Snapfish on his/her heavy rod, but how perfect would that feel?

Similarly, if an angler with his/her ultra-light rod tries to catch a bigger fish; they would require extraordinary handling skills. Even then, they risk ending up with a broken tackle and an escaped catch. The whole point of power is to match the rod’s capacity with the targeted species’ size and strength.

With the many power options available, you can fish for particular fishes with the appropriate rod power. The lighter your rod is, the smaller the fish you can catch. On the contrary, the heavier your rod is, the heavier your catch can be.

If you’re mainly targeting panfish while on a trip, you can do great with a light rod or an ultra-light rod too. But if you’re after the sea giants like big musky, you will indeed be casting larger lures, and heavy to extra heavy power ratings work best.

In all of this, do you wonder what factors precisely determine the fishing rod power? Quietly simply, the line sizes and the lure weights determine how much power a particular fishing rod can handle. For instance, your ultralight varieties can manage two to six pounds or lures and lines with a weight of 1/32 ounce.

fishing rod power

The Fishing Rod Power in Theory

Theoretically, the fishing rod power is generally how much the rod will resist bending under a weight. By power, we’re also referring to its stiffness, bending resistance, and the most common expressions are light, ultra-light, heavy, medium-heavy, and extra heavy for the powers.

When dealing with a TFO rod, you will find a power ID chart with color-coding that helps the buyer or user distinguish one rod from the other. Generally, when an angler selects a rod for a specific purpose, they can quickly determine the appropriate length. Then, the next step is to determine the proper action. After this, you must consider rod power. When analyzing the appropriate power, the color ID chart is helpful. It is best that you refer to one for convenience and clarity.

Here are the ratings you will find on a color-coded chart:

  • UL 1 tells you the rod is ultra-light and that it is best for subtle presentations. If you’re testing lines or casting light lures, the UL 1 category is ideal. These rods help you load faster and efficiently. These rods are also a standard choice when fishing for trout, crappie, and panfish.
  • L 2- if you’re at a slightly higher power level, we recommend choosing the L2 category. It can manage an ounce range of up to 1/16 and feels softer. If you’re after the light-biting species, you will find these more delicate rods appropriate for hook-sets. You can catch trout, walleye, and panfish quite successfully with this power category.
  • ML 3- this power means a medium-light fishing rod power. This tool is best for casting lures within an ounce range of 1/8 to 1.2, and you can use it in both saltwater and freshwater. You will find faster stiffening in these rods as well as a quicker hook setting. The medium-light 3 rods come with soft plastics and jigs.
  • M 4- You will find various lure ratings in the medium power category, between ¼ – ¾ oz. We recommend using the medium-stiff rods if you’re planning to pop cork in the salt or throw spinner baits in the water. With the appropriate stiffness level, you can set hooks quite quickly, and every season or occasional angler will find these pleasing.
  • MH 5- This rod packs a load of power and is the standard choice for bass boats. It has enough stiffness to fish a jig, perhaps because of the hooks with a wide gap. It is, however, also easy enough for loading tips for a variety of reasons.
  • H 6- if you’re going fishing for deep structures, heavier lures, or football jigs, this rod power will be ideal for you. It features a lure capacity of 3/8- 1 ounce and has incredible stiffness.
  • XH 7- this one is the stiffest you will find in terms of power. If you’re after rapid hook sets, you can trust rods from this category to give you just that, in addition to effective loading. Pair it up with lures from ½ ounce to 2 ounces and you get the best results.

Fishing Rod Power vs. Fishing Rod Action

In simple words, power refers to the maximum force a rod can take without bending or how much pressure you need to bend a rod. If you’re using artificial lures for your fishing trips, then you must work with a stiffer rod so that it gives you an excellent hook set. It must also have enough power to bring your catch in.

In most fishing projects, anglers generally require a medium-heavy rod, but this power can vary depending on the brands. It is always best to double-check the power capacity before you make the final purchase.

Action, on the other hand, refers to that spot on the rod where the bending occurs. For instance, if you’re looking at a fishing rod with fast action, it means that only the top part of the particular fishing rod will bend. However, a moderate action or slow action rod means the bending occurs in the middle part of your fishing rod too. A fly fishing rod is an apt example over here because the line only propels forward due to the entire rod’s flexing action.

If you’re using artificial lures for your inshore fishing experiments, we recommend selecting fast action. These not only help you cast farther but also enable you to feel bites more while getting improved hook sets.

Check out this infographic below for a more detailed explanation!

Fishing Rod Action vs Power Infographic

A Small Test

If you’re out shopping for a fishing rod and wish to check its power, here’s a small test you can try. Place the rod you’re considering on the floor in a tip-down position, and then bend the rod. This will help you gauge how much pressure you need to exert on it to make it bend.

Repeat this test with the other options you’re considering and then compare the results for the rods’ power idea. With such a simple test, you’d not only get a fair argument but will also be able to locate the positions where the rods start to bend. Hence, with this, you will also get a fair idea of the rod action.

It is also best to check reviews of your potential options online before you step out to buy your rods. Some of the best brands may also not live up to the rod power they promise, which could ruin your day out on the water.

Final thoughts

The fishing rod power refers to how much force a rod needs to bend. Rod power is not the same as action, which refers to where a particular rod starts to bend. The different rod powers exist for helping anglers catch a specific fish specimen or type.

Since power ratings vary per brand, it is best to conduct a small feel test at the stores when shopping for a fishing rod. At best, the medium-heavy fishing rod power works best for most fishing projects, considering their fast action tip.

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