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Power Vs. Action: Decoding Fishing Rod Terminology

Advice on selecting the best fishing rod for your needs from Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Resources.

Power Vs. Action: Decoding Fishing Rod Terminology
Fishing rod action and power are terms often confused, even by experienced anglers. This graphic helps explain the action of a fishing rod. (Courtesy of Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources)

The terms “rod action” and “rod power” are not interchangeable when it comes to fishing rods. Understanding the difference can help you have a better day on the water.

You may hear an angler say, “I like a medium action rod” – but there really is no such thing. What they’re likely describing is a medium power rod with a fast action.

“Action” describes the amount of bend in the rod. “Power” refers to how much weight it can cast.

Understanding rod terminology will help you make a better choice when selecting a rod to use for the style of fishing you plan to do as well as the species you want to pursue.

Rod Action

What defines a rod’s action is where it bends the most. This is called deflection in fishing rod parlance. Rod actions range from extra fast, with the bend mainly at the tip, to slow, where the bend may extend nearly to the handle.

You’ll encounter several rod actions when you’re shopping for a fishing rod. They include:

  • Extra Fast Action: This bends the most near the tip but is not as “boardy” as the name implies. Extra fast action rods are great for fishing jigs or soft plastic baits deep in reservoirs. Extra fast action rods allow for fast and powerful hooksets and increased sensitivity. Rods with extra fast action also help make accurate casts; but are not as forgiving when dealing with jumping fish or protecting light lines.
  • Fast Action: Fast action rods bend mainly in the upper one-quarter of the rod. Fast action is hugely popular because of its versatility. Fast action rods do many things well: sensitivity, casting accuracy and powerful hooksets. Fast action provides additional forgiveness when fighting a fish because the rod bends a bit more in the tip than an extra fast action rod.
  • Moderate-Fast: This action bends more in the upper one-third of the rod. It is more forgiving than a fast action rod while still providing decent hook setting power and sensitivity. A “forgiving” fishing rod transmits less force to the end of the line, much like a shock absorber reduces bumps felt in a car. This can reduce the chances of breaking off a lure or throwing off live bait during casts. A moderate-fast action is a good choice for bass anglers casting spinnerbaits, bladed jigs and surface wake baits. This action is also good for anglers throwing in-line spinners for trout or white bass.
  • Moderate: Moderate action rods bend all the way into the middle of the rod and grant great forgiveness. They are the best choice for anglers fishing with fragile or live bait on light line. The bending nature of a moderate action rod keeps the live bait on the hook during the cast and protects light line during the fight. They also excel for anglers fishing crankbaits or topwater lures with treble hooks. The softer action absorbs the shock of the violent strike provoked by these types of lures and better keeps the treble hooks in the mouth of the fish all the way to your hand or net. Many professional bass anglers use moderate action rods for crankbait fishing.
  • Slow: In the days before graphite composites provided lightweight stiffness to fishing rods, slow action rods made of fiberglass were the standard. Slow action rods bend all the way into the handle and protect light line – but they have little backbone. Setting a hook on a fish can be a challenge. These rods mainly fill niche applications now.
Rod Power

Another component of picking a fishing rod is its power rating. The power rating is simply the manufacturer’s recommended line and lure weight. This information is usually printed near the handle.

For example, if the rod’s markings show 6’ 0” Light, 4 – 8 lb., 1/16 to ¼ oz, that means the rod is 6 feet long, light power, designed for 4- to 8-pound test fishing line and can cast lures ranging from 1/16 to 1/4 ounce.

Spinning rods, where the reel is under the rod, have more power ratings than baitcasting rods, where the reel is on top of the rod. Spinning equipment is designed to throw lighter lures than baitcasting equipment. A good rule of thumb is any situation that requires 10-pound test line or lighter and 3/8-ounce or lighter lures should be cast on spinning gear. Lures weighing ½-ounce or more should be thrown on baitcasting gear.

  • An ultra-light power rod can cast lures as light as 1/64-ounce and are mainly designed for lines from 2- to 6-pound test. Ultra-light power rods are great for bluegill in a farm pond or for trout in a stream or in a Fishing in Neighborhoods (FINs) lake.
  • Light power spinning rods are not utilized as much as they should, as many opt to go up to a medium light or medium power rod. That is a shame as a light power rod is a fantastic choice for wading streams for smallmouth bass or fishing the Lake Cumberland tailwater for trout. Light power rods also excel at casting small swimbaits for white bass or curly-tailed grubs for large crappie.
  • A medium light power spinning rod ranging from 6½ to 7½ -feet long makes an excellent choice for kayak fishing in streams and small lakes. This power casts 1/8- to 5/16-ounce jigs and soft plastic lures well. A fast or moderate-fast action grants the needed forgiveness for kayak fishing in moving water or being blown by the wind in a lake.
  • A medium power spinning rod is good for fishing jigs deep in reservoirs such as Lake Cumberland. A medium power baitcasting rod is a good choice for fishing spinnerbaits, deep diving crankbaits or bladed jigs. A medium-heavy power baitcaster is what you need to fish larger and heavier lures for largemouth bass.
  • A heavy power rod is designed for large fish and may throw lures up to 2 ounces. This is the choice for striped bass, blue or flathead catfish or muskellunge.

Understanding the correct action and power of a fishing rod that suits your style helps increase enjoyment and satisfaction. Consider these elements when selecting your next fishing rod.


  • Kentucky Afield Associate Editor Lee McClellan wites fishing advice columns that post occasionally on gafmag.com . See more articles from the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources on the Kentucky Afield Outdoors page.



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