Since trout season is the next "big" thing for most outdoorsmen, there is much to think about when it comes to gear. One of the things that has always amazed me is that some anglers like short rods and some like long rods. We are obviously talking about spinning gear here because other than a handful of 6- and 7-foot fly rod users, most fly guys opt for 8 to 9-footers.
Generally speaking, most "trout" rods are around 5 feet long, give or take a half a foot or so. They cover the needs of most anglers.
Years ago, you could hardly find a long ultra light rod and guys desiring such a thing usually had someone make one or they used a fly rod. Today you can find factory ultra light rods up to 8 feet or more. Simply put, longer rods allow longer casts. When the tip of a long rod is held high, it keeps more line out of the water and allows a more precise drift and presentation.
Longer rods are generally used on bigger streams, but on a small stream, a long rod can be used to drop a bait in the water without getting close to the stream. This can be a deadly tactic when the fish spook easy, which wild brookies do all the time. It’s a pain to drag an 8-foot rod around in the laurel, but you can weasel the tip through the brush and drop a redfin or redworm into the boil without showing your profile. When walking, point the rod behind you, it’s much easier.
On small- to medium-sized streams, a little 4- or 5-footer is easy to navigate with. The little rigs are fun and an 8-incher puts up a good battle on ultra light tackle. A guy who is good with his little ultra light can flip a waxworm or a spinner into a paper cup at 10 yards with regularity.
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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