From the multitude of rods available how do you choose which to buy? The first criterion has to be length. Action, handle, and even the number of eyes on the rod are also important, but those aspects will be covered another time.
There are many reasons to pick a longer rod, but many don’t consider the reasons to go with a shorter one, too. I use both for different applications. Longer rods allow for longer casts and cast many lures better, giving one the ability to cover open water more efficiently. Also, longer rods have more room for the parabolic bend, transferring the action of the rod over a greater range. This can be helpful when fighting large fish with light line or using crank baits when too much power can rip the hooks right out of the fish’s mouth. I like to use a longer rod, over 7 feet, for making long casts with light lures like tubes and small worms on light line, and with heavy line in heavy cover for flipping and pitching power techniques like ½ oz. jigs and soft plastics. The longer rod allows more line pick-up on the hook-set and gets the fish out of the cover quickly. I also prefer longer rods when making extra long casts in open water and for fan casting a windy point or paralleling grass beds with spinner baits, crank baits, or swim baits.
But don’t forget that there are excellent short rod applications. I know many anglers who, for whatever reason, only like to use long rods. I wonder if it probably isn’t psychological. I use my short rods just as often as a longer one and for good reason. A long flipping stick is best when making short presentations to cover. When accuracy is required, distance can be an issue, as flipping or pitching usually requires a shorter distance between the angler and the target than other casting techniques. Not just because targeting is important, but also because having a quiet presentation and a vertical fall next to and in the cover is important. When pitching from a distance there is a higher likelihood that the lure will fall away from the cover instead of falling vertically.
With a little practice, being able to present a lure quietly and accurately with a short rod is easy. One of my favorite techniques, using a 5 1/2 feet pistol-grip rod (Fenwick HMG, GC555, 5’6”, ¼ - ¾ oz. lure, 8 – 20 lb. line), is casting spinner baits and small crank baits into and around cover, the heavier the better. Using a sidearm cast, I can place a lure with as much accuracy as pitching, but over longer distances; masking my presence and still getting the lure where it needs to be. A sidearm cast also allows the lure to be cast just above the water surface, and feathering the line with your thumb will let the angler slow the lure as it approaches the target, making a quiet landing and presentation.
Recently in a Colorado Bass Federation State Team Qualifying Tournament at Lake Powell, in a small cove choked with thick bushes, I could cast the short rod accurately into narrow little channels between bushes. What I call threading the needle. One of the biggest fish of the day, a 4.65 pound largemouth, came while casting under limbs and to the base of heavy bushes where the only shade was available. A quick sidearm cast and practiced accuracy placed my lure where others had not been able to reach.
I also call it the money shot, since I get excited when I see these hard to reach spots with all the right elements: heavy cover, shade from a high sun, a narrow slot to cast into, and a difficult cast to make. When I make the cast I expect to get a strike, which is often immediate. So be prepared to set the hook when making these accurate and quiet presentations into a bass’ house. Those using a long rod cannot get the same presentation in such a confined space and so they avoid casting to these prime spots, or they only cast to the outside edges.
The best short rods have a fast tip action. A sidearm cast is often no more than a flick of the wrist and the
fast tip lets the weight of the lure bend the rod and shoot the lure to the target. Since the strikes are often sudden and immediate, the strong lower two-thirds of the rod allow an immediate response and hook-set and it has the strength to get the fish away from the cover quickly so that they don’t wrap the line on the brush. I use 17 pound Trilene XT with short rods and when targeting heavy cover.
The pistol-grip handle allows for more control over rod, lure, and line (feathering) when casting, whereas a longer handle will too often hit clothing when casting. I also use a short pistol-grip rod for other applications: jerk baits and top water presentations. With both, the rod is pointed at the water and short rod jerks give action to the lures. A longer rod often strikes the side of the boat or the rod tip slaps the water surface when working the lure and a longer handle hangs up on clothing. A short rod eliminates these issues.
Here are three of my favorite long and short rods. The Fenwick HMG pistol-grip (detailed above) is my go to short rod. I often carry two, one with a spinner bait and a top water bait on the other, (buzzbait, walk-the-dog lure, popper). During the spring or in very clear water I will also use this rod for larger jerk baits, (I’ll use a longer spinning rod for smaller jerk baits, for distance.)
The new Abu Garcia Veritas Micro Guide 7 feet (VRC70M-6, 7’0” MH, ¼ - 1oz. lures, 12-20 lb. line)has become my go to rod for many types of presentations and lures, jigs over ¼ ounce, smaller swim baits, soft plastics like Havoc Pit Boss or the new Rocket Craw, and large tubes.
For those who don’t want a full arsenal of rods to contend with, the line of Abu Garcia Verdict Rods may be for you. One of the benefits of the Verdict series is that the handle is adjustable! A medium long handled rod or short handled rod can be had with just a twist of the wrist. The one I use often is the Abu Garcia Verdict (VCC70-5, 7’0” Med., ¼ - 5/8 oz. lure, 8-17 lb. line). Having this versatility mean you need fewer rods in the box or to be carried along the shoreline, as there are more applications for each rod.
All these rods are strong and light, especially the newer Abu rods. I generally prefer a fast action rod, with the exceptions being the one used specifically for crank baits, when a more parabolic bend is required, and when using super-light lures, like a 1/16 ounce tube jig, where a long medium action rod will get greater casting distance.
If you are not using a short pistol-grip rod, which seems to have fallen out of fashion as I see very few others using them, then you’re missing out on an important tool. It is my go-to rod when fishing is tough and placing reaction lures extremely close to cover is paramount. And more importantly, with practice it allows the angler to cast into tight spots that others avoid, right where the bass lives.