If I’m not fly fishing, I’m tossing lures with a 5-and-a-half footer. For me, it is a compromise that works well. If I spent more time on larger streams though, I would get a longer rod. When I do get to good-sized water, I take advantage of it by flailing away with the fly rod.
Aside from length, another important factor is the stiffness of the rod. There is a host of technical terms that I won’t bore you with, but they basically describe the stiffness of the rod. If you are using bait, you want a "softer" or more flexible rod. This allows you to cast without throwing the bait off the hook. With "soft" action rods, you need to put a little more into the hookset.
When using minnows, spinners or small plugs, you want a rod that has a little more backbone. A stiffer rod allows you to impart more action to the aforementioned baits and gives you a better hookset.
It comes down to what the individual likes. There is no real right or wrong, but having the right tool for the job makes it easier.
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