For most anglers (esp beginners), the main issue is getting a proper set of balanced tackle.
There are so many types and ratings available that for the untrained, they may simply fall into the trap of getting the wrong set of gear that looks nice but does not match up.
Let's start with rods:
Line rating: There are plenty out there and commonly you may see:
- 6-12 (lb)
- 8-14 (lb)
- 12-25 (lb)
This is in poundage and recommends you to use a fishing line which breaks in this range.
Then there is the PE ratings, and roughly we would just gauge it to be:
- PE1 = 10lbs
- PE2 = 20lbs
We will get to the actual breaking strength of the line later on.
averaging an Ounce to 28 Grams and 1/4 of an Ounce would be about 7 Grams, 1/8th is 3.5 Grams
Weight rating: There is the casting weight which is further differentiated by Ounces and Grams, you'll need a converter handy to make good sense of the numbers or have a fast brain.
So that we don't further confuse ourselves, we will make it simple by averaging an Ounce to 28 Grams and 1/4 of an Ounce would be about 7 Grams, 1/8th is 3.5 Grams and so on.
a dual purpose casting and jigging rod may be labelled 10 - 30 Grams for casting and 60 - 80 Grams for jigging.
And then there is the Jig Rating, this can be much higher on a dual purpose rod. For example, a dual purpose casting and jigging rod may be labelled 10 - 30 Grams for casting and 60 - 80 Grams for jigging.
Length: This plays a part in terms of reach, casting distance and how easy it is to wield one. You'll need a balance for the type of fishing you commonly do.
For example, if you are mainly using it off a jetty or boat, you'll prefer one which is shorter as you do not need much in terms of casting distance as well as the limit in room for swinging the rod. And if you do it on shore and you need more distance, you'll want to look at a longer rod which would be able to launch the lure/weight a good distance.
Handle type and length, there are a couple of types and the most basic is single handed design vs the double handed design. One is made for use with a single hand more and the other allows you a double handed grip for longer casting. Some jigging rods also have a long butt section which can be placed under the armpit for a pivot point while you lift with your hands.
Type: Bait-casting (aka BC), Spinning, Jigging, Popping, Surf-casting, Fly fishing, Big game, etc...
This is the comparison of a Spinning rod vs a BC rod's stripper guide (aka the last guide nearest the reel)
And here we have a double handed rod and a single handed rod.
These are fly fishing rods where the reel is attached to the rear of the rod.
This is a trolling rod, it comes with a gimbal butt which fits into the gimbal fighing belts. And note the larger guides and the roller tip. There were some which were fully roller guides too.
Moving on, we shall continue with the reels :
The overhead reel, also known as the bait-caster was one of the first type to be made following the centrepin type reels. This have a gearing system and allows the user to make several turns of the spool for each crank of the handle. From then, there have been many refinements and additions to make it easier to use and cast further and with better drag systems. Centrifugal brakes, magnetic brakes, digital control, friction controls are some of the ways to assist in control during a cast and they really make a difference in allowing better longer casts with lower chances of birdsnest or as we like to say, char bee hoon.
Spinning reels or the eggbeaters as some term it were created after WWII when monofilament was invented and made available to the masses. This reel have a fixed axis which is parallel to the rod and the rotor and bail arm picks up line and winds it onto the spool which is allowed to move up and down. This oscillation process lays the line in wraps in a alternating manner and prevents the line from digging in as well as allow smoother casts out. The drag is either on the spool itself (front drag control) or inside the reel (rear drag control). The main issue with the rear drag control design was that the reel limited the size of the drag washers and thus limited the drag strength. Front drag designs had a much larger area and allowed for bigger washers and higher drag power, the trouble was with ingress of water and debris which would hamper the function of the drag, but the new way is to protect the whole drag system inside a waterproof area which negated those issues.
There are more specialized forms of reels which I will not go into for now and let's head to the line choice.
Monofilament or mono was the line we had to be contended with when we first began fishing, Dacron and other lines were too costly to even consider. And the main problem faced by mono users were line stretch as well as memory. Some makers reduced such problems but they were still there and frustrated the anglers who wanted a thinner line.
Then came co-polymer lines which was a combination of 2 different monomers or more. Only issue with these lines were that it is much stiffer than normal mono and of course more expensive. But it had the advantages of being less visible as well as being more lasting than mono.
Fluorocarbon lines are made originally in Japan when they wanted a line which could fool the fishes in heavily pressured waters and this line which had a refractive index close to the water was the answer and it was soon adopted around the world. It does not stretch much, sinks fast, has minimal memory effect and tougher than monofilament. It also boasts good UV resistance which means it can last longer. Main issue along with the superlines which I will go into next is the line's slipperiness and the need for better fishing knots.
Superlines are made up of 2 main types out there. One being the fused lines where the extruded filaments are guided together into one straight line and fused together under heat. Some have a coating added which makes it more resistant to abrasion but also increases the diameter slightly. The diameter is very thin when compared to mono and often makers will label the lines as 10lb breaking strain/3lbs mono diameter.
The other is the braided type where the filaments are grouped together and then braided, 3 braids, 4 braids as well as 8 braids are all available in the market and each have their pros and cons. A 3 braid have a triangular shape and is the cheapest to construct but the shape does have some drawbacks. The 4 braid is boxy and square shaped and is slightly more expensive. And the shape does interfere with proper line laying too. The 8 braid is the best so far, but the most costly. So weigh in your budget and requirements before choosing your line.
PE ratings are a form of Japanese rating in which they measure in terms of line diameter and not the breaking strength, so be very careful when choosing your lines and tackle choices. Roughly they will equate to PE 1 = 10lbs, PE 2 = 20lbs. But these days many makers of the PE lines have been able to make the lines much better and one of the latest line I got, a Varivas Advani Casting PE line was rated at 48lbs breaking strain at PE 3!
Now after we have gone thru the basic tackle choices, next comes the important part. Choosing and using a balanced setup, all 3 components of rod, reel and line must match up to offer the best performance as well as having the least possibility of tackle failure.
For example, a UL setup may consist of a UL rated rod (mine for e.g. is 3-8lbs) and a small reel (example a size 1000 reel) and line from 4lbs to 8lbs would be best matched to such a setup.
Using a bigger reel would mess up the balance, make it strenuous to hold and be a waste of line capacity. That said, some makers do make shallow spool versions of some reels such as the Daiwa 2000 series and those esp in the high end reels can be a joy to use as they are very light and is able to balance in terms of the weight to the rod. Getting the actual feel of the whole setup is important and as such, it's often a good idea to bring your reel when looking for a rod or the other way around.
A light setup may be anything from 6-12lbs, 8-14lbs or even 10-20lbs depending on what you are targetting and terrain constrains. Reel wise, size 2000 to 3000 (up to 4000 for Shimano) should do fine. Line choices should stay in between the ranges of your rod.
Same goes for the heavier setups.
Just be careful not to mis-match the gears. Often I have seen beginners mistakenly match a light telescopic rod with a big reel of 4000 or 5000 and load the reel with 20 or 30lbs mono and expect the setup to hold against a big fish. You can be sure where this setup will fail in the event that a big fish does connect, and yes the rod will crumble like a toothpick against a Goliath grouper... Faster if they forgot to set the drag loosely or locked it down tight.
While we are at drag settings here, let me just remind you guys to keep it to a basic 1/3 of your tackle rating. i.e. if you are gonna use a 3lb line on a UL setup, set the drag to 1/3 of 3lbs = 1lb. And if your tackle of 8-14 has a 12lb line running on it, keep the drag to a max of 1/3 of 12lbs = 4lbs. Setting it any higher should only be done if you are experienced enough and understood the risks involved.
Terminal tackle comes next and you should balance them as well. Using a humongous snap swivel on UL gear will only throw the balance off and sink your lure's swimming action. Likewise, using a tiny snap or split ring on heavy setup is asking for trouble and will only cause failure at the wrong time when you encounter a biggie. So Rod, Reel, Line, Leader and terminal tackle all has a part to play and if one portion has an issue, your tackle as a whole will still fail. Skimping on one area while spending a lot on the others is a joke, do not underestimate the possibilities of losing a fish due to poor quality gear.