Types of Fishing Rods


a bunch of fishing rods laying out on a fishing boat

With so many different types of fishing rods to choose from, it’s important to use the proper one for your style of fishing, location, and target species. There are six main types of fishing rods: spinning rods, casting rods, trolling rods, surf rods, fly rods, and ice rods. Our guide explains the features and differences between each so you can make a better decision as to what type of fishing rods will work best for you.

Spinning Rods

a girl holding onto a spinning rod

Being one of the most versatile and easy to use, a spinning rod is the most common type of fishing rod for any level of angler. This type of fishing rod requires anglers to use a spinning reel that sits below the rod providing stability and power. With a spinning rod, anglers can choose between a wide variety of different lengths, actions, and powers to match their target species. 

  • Type of Reel: Spinning
  • Skill Level: All
  • Pros: Used for a variety of species and fishing conditions
  • Cons: Unable to handle heavy line

Casting Rods

a fisherman holding a casting rod

Casting rods are a bit more durable compared to spinning rods. The most popular reel to use on a casting rod is a baitcast reel, but if you're fishing with younger children or a beginner angler, using a spincast reel is a good choice. With this type of fishing rod, the casting reel sits on top of the rod. Designed to handle heavier lines, a casting rod is usually a top choice for anglers fishing in thick vegetation or targeting larger species like bass. 

  • Type of Reel: Baitcast or Spincast
  • Skill Level (with Baitcast Reel): Intermediate to advanced
  • Skill Level (with Spincast Reel): Beginner
  • Pros: Ability to cast farther and with more accuracy
  • Cons: Challenging to master with a baitcast reel

Trolling Rods

A trolling rod is designed specifically for a particular fishing application — trolling. When trolling for fish, your fishing rod is mounted in a rod holder (or you can hold onto the rod too) while the boat moves slowly through the water. This type of fishing rod features an action that allows the blank to bend enough should you catch a rock when trolling yet be durable enough to prevent breaking. 

  • Type of Reel: Conventional or Baitcaster
  • Skill Level: All
  • Pros: Can have multiple lines in the water (depending on state regulations)
  • Cons: Can only be used for trolling

Surf Rods

A surf rod is designed for use when saltwater fishing because anglers need to use heavy lines and lures to withstand challenging fights with larger fish. Typically, surf rods have a longer handle compared to other types of fishing rods to give anglers better control when reeling in their catch. The rod blank on a surf rod is designed to withstand corrosion from the saltwater and offer greater casting distance too. 

  • Type of Reel: Large spinning or conventional
  • Skill Level: All*
  • Pros: Designed to withstand corrosion
  • Cons: Specific to ocean fishing

*Please note that a young angler may need assistance with casting and using a surf rod.

Fly Fishing Rods

an angler holding a fly rod

Fly fishing requires a bit more technique to ensure your bait is presented properly when casted. Therefore, fly fishing rods come in a variety of lengths and weights so anglers can match their target species and fishing conditions. You’ll pair your fly rod with the appropriate reel that sits underneath the rod. Fly fishing rods are typically very lightweight and come in multiple pieces for easier transport. 

  • Type of Reel: Fly
  • Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • Pros: Lightweight, easy to transport
  • Cons: Challenging to master technique

Ice Rods

an angler holding an ice rod

An ice rod is typically shorter in length compared to other types of fishing rods. This is because you don’t need to cast while ice fishing and often have limited room within ice shelters. Like nearly every type of fishing rod, ice rods come in a variety of different rod powers and actions. The style of ice fishing, jigging or deadsticking, as well as your target species will influence the rod power and action you choose. Learn more about how to choose an ice rod with our guide.

  • Type of Reel: Inline or spinning
  • Skill Level: All
  • Pros: Can be used as a kid’s rod
  • Cons: One-dimensional—only able to fish vertically, doesn’t cast well

With the proper type of fishing rod, you’ll be well on your way to a successful outing. For additional questions about what type of fishing rod works best for you, call or stop into your local SCHEELS to speak with an expert today.