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Gary Howey

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The right Rod can make A Big difference

Entered by Gary Howey

Former tournament angler, hunting and fishing guide. Inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing "Hall of Fame" in 2017. Active member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), Past Executive Director (AGLOW). Howey has been an outdoor communicator since 1980 with his award winning syndicated "Of the Outdoors" columns appearing in magazine, newspapers, and tabloids throughout he upper Midwest and nationally.

February 6, 2020


When fishing for more aggressive fish such as pike, a medium heavy rod works well. The author and a Team Member were throwing lipless crankbaits in a lake near Webster, S.D. for walleye, when this pike made a pass at the bait and missed. Howey grabbed a medium rod rigged with a shallow diving crankbait, landing this big pike on his second cast. (Outdoorsmen Productions Photo)


When we’re doing seminars and in store promotions, one of the most often asked questions asked, deal with what type of rod should an angler use.

  This column will deal with rod is recommendations by rod manufacturers and what rods will work for your type of fishing.

  I’ll bet there were times when fishing you had trouble detecting a bite or were constantly setting the hook because the end of your wimpy rod was jumping all over the place?

  There is a definite difference between rods and if not set up correctly, it will affect your bite detection and casting ability.

  I made a mistake as far as what rods I should take on a trip several years ago when fishing with a friend near Niobrara, NE.

  It was one of those days when I had problems detecting a bite as well as its castability.  When I started fishing, it was obvious that I’d grabbed the wrong rods for the type of fishing we were doing.

  We were trolling cranks, and my rods were set up to fish bottom bouncers, the wrong action, for pulling cranks. 

  It’s the vibration on the end of your rod when trolling crankbaits, is the only way to tell if your bait is doing what it’s supposed to.

   What I should have been using, medium action rods with a quicker tip allowing me to see if my bait was working properly and to indicate if I was dragging a small fish or dragging a mess of weeds and cotton seed.

  Some anglers don’t even look at the action of a rod before they purchase them.  I like a lot of anglers have pushed them against the floor while others shake the rod to see how much give is in the end of the rod.

  Sure these are a couple of ways letting the  angler see how stiff or fast the rod tip is, but you won’t know if the rod your buying has the correct action until you look at the manufacturer’s recommendations.

  Look for the manufactures recommendations as far as lure size, line weight and the action of the rod, this information is located just above the handle on the rod blank. 

  Different action rods perform differently, especially when the reel you put on the rod is filled with the wrong weight line.

  A rods line rating doesn’t mean that that’s the size the size of the fish you can catch, because it depends on the amount of current you’re fishing in, along with the strength of the fish.

 The line rating on a rod is an indication as what line diameter should be used for the best casting, accuracy and distance and works with the rod’s flexibility, the bend in the rod.

  When using a braided line which has a smaller diameter than mono, you can go with heavier break strength for the best results.

   If you spool a reel with heavier or lighter line than recommended, the rod won’t perform as well and if you’re throwing a lure that is too light or too heavy, you’ll also get poorer action out of your rod.

  They key to having a rod that works well on any number of fish and that the reel attached to the rod has its drag set properly

  If your drag is set too loose or too heavy, it doesn’t matter what rod your using as the drag needs to allow line to be released when the fish hits the bait and if not set properly, the games over.

  When it comes to rod action, there are several categories, Ultra Light, Light, Light, Medium, Medium Light, Medium Heavy, and Heavy.

  Below are some manufactures recommendations on which rod should work best for the type of fishing you’re going after.

* Ultra light rods are set up to throw smaller 1/16 – 1/8 ounce baits and spooled with 1 to 6 pound line, which works well when fishing for crappie and bluegills.

* Light rods work well for walleye, larger panfish and trout using 1/8 – 1/4 ounce baits when spooled with 6 to 15 pound line.  A lighter rod will generally have a quicker rod tip; and some anglers like to go to a lighter rod as it helps them to detect a soft bite.

 * Medium-light rods work well when rigged with ¼ – 3/8 ounce baits using 6 to 12 pound test line. These are the rods I use for walleyes and smallmouth bass, a rod with a sensitive tip allowing me to detect the nibbler, yet strong enough to land a big fish.

* Medium power rods using 3/8 – 5/8 ounce baits and 6 to 15 pound test line work well for bass fishing in water with fewer snags. These rods are popular because they can handle so many different species of fish; work well for pulling cranks as well as finesse techniques for smallmouth and largemouth bass.

* Medium-Heavy, made for using heavy tackle and what you want in a rod when fishing for larger fish. When these rods are rigged using 5/8 to 1 ounce baits and spooled with 10 to 25 pound test line, they work very well when fishing for bass and pike in heavy cover.

* Heavy power rods set up with 3/4 – 1 1/4 ounce baits set up with 10 to 20 pound test line are used on those hard charging big fish or in snag infested waters.  Bass fishermen, pike and musky fishermen use these rods to rip fish from trees, brush and weedy areas and once you set the hook the rod will have the back bone to move big fish, bringing them off the bottom and towards the shore or your boat. These rods work well for musky, bass swimbaits and live bait usage. You should be able to put a lot of pressure on a fish with a heavy action rod.

  By taking a little time to check out the information on the rod and following the manufacturer’s recommendations, you’ll find that you’ll get the most out of the rod.

  The next time you purchase a new rod, think about what type of fishing you’ll be doing and what weight bait you plan on throwing as well as the line you plan on spooling up with.

  By knowing what you expect out of a rod and reading the manufacturer’s recommendations, you’ll be able to find the best rod for the type of fishing you’re doing. 

  With the proper rod, you’ll detect a lot more bites and enjoy the sport of fishing much more.

Fish Hard, Fish Often and “Pass it ON” by Introducing a Youngster to the Outdoors!

  Gary Howey, , Hartington, Neb. is a former tournament angler, fishing & hunting guide,  an award winning writer, producer, photographer and broadcaster, a recent inductee into the “National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame” in 2017.  Howey is also the Producer-Co-Host of the Outdoorsmen Adventures television series and Outdoor Adventures radio. If you are looking for more outdoor information, check out, and like Gary Howey’s Facebook or watch his shows on





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