What Does Action Mean In Fishing Rods?

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A quality fishing rod is an angler’s most important tool when they head out for a day of fishing. Still, many anglers are perplexed by the different specs that define fishing rods. Many newbies have questions such as “what is rod action” and “How does rod action effects the rod performs” when fishing.

Rod action is a characteristic that indicates where the fishing rod bends when force is applied to the fishing line. The three basic rod actions are slow, moderate, and fast, and those basic actions are further broken down to include moderate-slow, moderate-fast, and extra-fast.

Where the rod bends significantly affects its characteristics and how it performs when fighting a fish.

Read on as we cover everything you need to know about rod action. We’ll also touch on some other critical rod characteristics and share examples of the best time to use each type of rod.

Rod Action Defined

As mentioned above, rod action indicates where the rod will bend when a fish applies force on the fishing line. Where the rod bends can affect many different aspects of fishing, such as:

  • how far you’re able to cast
  • how easy it is to detect when a fish is biting.

Most fishing rods come in several different actions, and each rod is designed for a specific technique. Having multiple rod actions is critical if you plan to utilize various techniques or target a broad range of species.

  • Extra-Fast: Extra-fast rods bend at the tip when force is applied. Only the top 10-15% of the rod bends, while the lower portion of the rod is significantly stiffer.
  • Fast: Fast rods are slightly less stiff than an extra-fast rod, and the top 25% of the rod bends when applying force. The lower portion of the rod is still relatively rigid but less so than an extra-fast rod.
  • Moderate-Fast: The top 33% of the rod bends when a fish is on the line with a mod-fast rod. The lower portion of the rod is less stiff than a fast rod but still provides a good backbone.
  • Moderate: A rod with moderate action bends the top 50% of the rod when a fish is on.
  • Moderate-Slow: Rods with mod-slow action are noticeably softer than rods with faster action. The upper 65% of the rod bends when a fish is on.
  • Slow: Slow rods are the softest of all rod types, and they bend just above the upper handle of the rod when a fish is on.

How Action Affects Performance

As a rule of thumb, the faster a rod is, the most sensitive it is.

More sensitive rods make it easy for the angler to detect bites, and if you’re fishing the bottom, it allows the angler to “feel” the seafloor with their lure as they fish. With slower rods, it’s more difficult to detect bites or feel the bottom.

At this point, it sounds like a no-brainer. Wouldn’t you always want a rod that’s as sensitive as possible? Not always.

The extra sensitivity that a fast rod provides comes at the cost of casting distance. Softer rods with slower actions allow the angler to “load up” the rod as they make their backcast. The more flexible rod bends as you start your cast, and all that energy in the rod transfers forward as you complete the cast, translating to longer casting distances.

A rod with slower action is also beneficial when live bait fishing, as it’s typically easier to see a fish biting than it is to feel them. With a moderate or slower rod, all the angler needs to do to detect a bite is watch the tip of their rod.

Best Rod Action for Different Types of Fishing

A sure-fire way to ensure you’re selecting the ideal rod for the way you fish is to consider what rod action is best for different styles of fishing. Here’s what different rod actions are best for different kinds of fishing.

Extra-Fast and Fast

Extra-fast and fast actions are the leading choices for bottom fishing, and when you’re targeting fish with a particularly delicate bite. These are the most sensitive rods available, and they provide the angler with the best feeling when it’s essential to keep the lure in contact with the seafloor.

Moderate-Fast and Moderate

Rods with moderate actions provide a solid balance of sensitivity and feel without compromising casting distance. You can think of these rods as your all-purpose sticks that offer reliable performance for virtually every style of fishing. A moderate-fast or moderate action rod will serve you best as long as you aren’t bottom fishing.

Moderate-Slow and Slow

Rods with slower actions are excellent when casting distance is most important to you. A Moderate or slower rod is perfect for surf fishing, fishing with live bait, or when you’re using the lightest tackle possible to target larger fish.

Since these are the softest rods, they can absorb much of the shock generated by a fighting fish, allowing you to land the fish when you may have snapped the line if you were fishing a rod with faster action.


What action fishing rod do I need?

The best action for you will depend mainly on the type of fishing you do. Fast action rods provide excellent sensitivity but don’t allow you to cast as far. Slower action rods provide less feel and longer casting distance.

What power fishing rod do I need?

The best fishing rod power for you will depend on the type of fish you’re targeting. Heavier rods are stiffer, stronger, and best suited for targeting larger fish, whereas rods with lighter power are better for targeting smaller species.

What does it mean when a fishing rod is fast?

When someone describes a fishing rod as “fast,” this indicates that the rod bends along the top 25% of the rod when force is applied to the rod. Fast rods are rigid and provide the best feel of any rod action, making them popular for bottom fishing. But, fast rods don’t allow the angler to cast as far as slower rods do.

Happy Fishing & Tight Lines

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