Fishing Rod Action, Power and Length Charts & Recommendations

The two most important attributes to consider when selecting a fishing rod are “action” and “power”. Anglers will sometimes use these terms interchangeably, but they’re actually quite different. A rod’s action indicates the point where a rod bends under pressure. Power refers to how much the rod bends, or far it bends, when under pressure. Together, action and power determine how a rod will perform.

The best fishing rods combine the optimal level of action and power for a specific fishing application. For example, a medium-fast to fast action rod with medium-light to medium power is ideal for targeting perch. But if you’re going after pike, or other large predatory fish, you’ll want a fast action rod with heavy to extra-heavy power. While there isn’t a one size fits all rod for all fishing applications, a moderate-fast or fast action rod with medium power is going to be the most versatile rod option.

Rod Action

“Action” is where a rod bends under a load. Action is generally labeled as extra-fast, fast, moderate-fast, moderate, or slow. The faster a rod’s action, the closer to the tip the rod will bend. The slower the action, the farther down the from the tip the rod will bend.

fishing rod action chart

Fish rod action chart for extra fast, fast, moderate fast, moderate and slow designations.

Fast action rods typically bend about a quarter to a third of the way down the rod from the tip. Moderate action bend in the top half. Slow action rods bend in the lower third of the rod—and in some models all the way to the handle.

Extra Fast

Extra-fast action rods are relatively stiff but flex enough at the tip to provide sensitivity and response to strikes. They bend the least of all rods.

They are ideal of powerful hooksets and fighting larger fish. They are often used for fishing jigs, plastic worms and Texas rigs when targeting largemouth and smallmouth bass. Heavy action rods are also useful for punching heavy vegetation and pulling lures through the grass.


Fast action rods have a pronounced bend about a quarter of the way down from the tip. They are excellent for fishing jigs, topwater lures, twitchbaits, and finesse presentations. (e.g. Neko, drop shot, etc.) They excel at single hook applications where maximum control over line and bait is essential.

They tend to be a bit more versatile than extra-fast action rods. They deliver accuracy and are responsive when fishing light baits. They are often used for panfish (perch, crappie, etc) and bass fishing.

They work well for single hooks and finesse presentations, and are good for a getting strong hookset. Fast action rods can be used for most fishing applications, but excel where quick hooksets are necessary and pressure is required to get a fish of cover quickly.

Fast action rods are ideal for targeting hard-mouthed fish, such as bowfin or snakehead, where getting a solid hookset can be challenging.

Moderate Fast

Moderate-fast rods, sometimes referred to as regular-fast rods, offer more bend and cushioning than fast action rods. They generate a solid hookset without ripping the hook out of the fish’s mouth. There are a good option for casting baits and lures.

They are also popular for trolling and fighting powerful fish, and ideal for straight retrieves using spinnerbaits, crankbaits, swimbaits, and chatterbaits.

They have a moderately fast tip and are sensitive to bites, while providing a somewhat softer hookset than a fast action rod. A moderate rod performed best with medium and medium-light powers.


Moderate action rods provide good casting ability for medium-size to small baits and lures. These rods have a good hookset rating and can be used for fishing smaller species including river trout and panfish.

They are great rods for fishing treble hook lures such as crankbaits, plugs and spoons because the softer and consistent pressure on the hook ensures it will stay in the fish’s mouth.


Slow action rods have a low degree of sensitivity and responsiveness. These rods bend the most. They can be used for targeting smaller panfish with ultralight power. Hookset capacity for slow action rods is lower compared to moderate and fast action rods.

These soft rods are not as popular today as they once were. However, slow action, ultra-light rods are still used in some fly fishing applications and for catching panfish. Slow action rods use light lures with light line.

Rod Power

“Power” describes how resistent a rod is to a given load. For example, a rod that bends only a little under a 10lb load has more power than a rod that bends quite a bit under the same load. When you hear an angler say “This rod has a ton of backbone”, what they’re really saying is the rod has a lot of power.

There are seven designations for rod power, denoted as Ultralight (UL), with power 0, all the way to Extra Extra Extra Heavy (XXXH), with a power of 7. An XXXL rod with a lot of backbone is designed to catch larger fish and cast heavy lures, where an ultralight (UL) or light (L) power rod is used for targeting smaller fisher using lighter lures.

fishing rod power chart

Fishing rod power designations for fishing applications and target fish species.

If you’re just getting started, select your rod power based on the general size of the fish you’ll be targeting. For small fish (e.g. panfish, trout, etc.) go with lower power. For predatory fish (pike, muskies, stripers, etc.) select a rod with a heavier power rating. If you’re planning on doing some serious saltwater casting from the shore, you’ll want a surf fishing rod with extra-heavy power, or greater.

A rod’s power rating will correspond to it’s line and lure rating. A rod with a heavy power rating will typically have a higher line and lure weight rating than a rod with a light power rating, which will havea lower lower line and lure weight rating.

fishing rod power chart by line size and lure weight

Fish line size and lure weight recommendations by rod power.

A medium-light to medium power fast action rod will typically support a line rating of 6-12 lbs and lure rating of 1/4-1 oz. If you are spooled with a line and lure rating within this range, then your rod will partially load up to your action rating as you retrieve your lure through the water. For example, if you’re using a rod with a “fast” action rating, then your rod should bend about 10-15% as you retrieve. This leaves you with about 10-15% more bend to allow you to sense any bites and set the hook.

When you use a line and lure combination that is heavier than the recommended load for your rod action (e.g. 20lb line and 2 oz. lure) then your rod will oveload, you’ll lose the ability to effectively mnitor the bite and set the hook, and in a worst case scenario you may even break your rode.

Rod Length

The third thing to consider when selecting a fishing rod is length.

Selecting a good rod length is part science, part art, and part personal preference. Some anglers will swear by specific rod lengths for specific fish species, and there are certainly benefits to using specific rod lengths for specific fishing techniques and conditions, but at the end of the day it really comes down to what you prefer—and a applying a little common sense.

Fishing with a longer rod is beneficial—almost necessary—for distance casting from the shore when you need to get your presentation out beyond the surf. A typical surf casting rod is going to be in the 10′-12′ range. One of the most popular rod lengths for bass fishing is 6’6″ to 7′. And shorter rods under 6’6″ are perfect trout, panfish and beginners.

The following is general list of rod length, action, and power rating recommendations based target gamefish species and bait setup. This is just a starting point, but if you plan on using stardard lures and baits for each species, a rod with these ratings should perform well for you.

fishing rod length, action, and power ratings by species and fishing option

Fish rod length, action and power ratings by fish species and bait type.

When selecting rod length you also need to consider a few other factors. If you’re a bit on the short side, trying to cast and retrieve with a long rod can get a bit unwieldy. If you know you’re going to be doing a lot of fishing in the thicket where space is limited, a shorter rod is going to be a lot easier to cast without snagging on branches. Find a reasonable rod length for the type of fishing you plan on doing, then adjust the length up or down accordingly.