Fishing Rod Size Guide: How To Choose Fishing Rod Length

fishing rods

The perfect cast isn’t always just about the person behind the rod. When any angler goes out to try and bring in their optimal catch, they need the right fishing rod. From the right material, the right action, power, and length, there are so many different styles of fishing rods out there, that it’s tough to know the right fit all the time.

This fishing rod size guide aims to steer you toward picking out the perfect rod length to deliver peak performance for the job. The right rod is the foundation for any angler’s tackle box. In this guide, we will look at how the length of the rod is influenced by the species you’re after, the angler themself, the type of fishing, and what type of rod is used. Choosing the right fishing rod length is the first step toward finding the perfect rod.

Fishing rod length greatly impacts the distance and accuracy of your cast. The right size depends on the type of fishing, fish species, and level of experience. Shorter rods under six or seven feet work for accurate casts and more control. Longer rods cast farther, with less accuracy.

Fishing Rod Sizes Explained

With such a wide range of lengths, you need to understand why there are so many different lengths of fishing rods. Choosing the best fishing pole is hard, but the length is a great launching point. The length can drastically affect the performance and success of a rod, meaning that it’s near the top of the list of things to pay attention to.

Small rods, those that are around four feet, are typically used for children or ice fishing. The shorter length allows kids to handle them more easily and makes them more manageable in a small heating hut on the ice. A short rod can be a great pick when there isn’t much action necessary.

On the other hand, a longer rod works well for a long cast, so long as you’re willing to sacrifice accuracy. Surf rods made for casting into the ocean from the beach can be insanely long, closer to fourteen feet. This allows the line to make its way into deeper water and provides the leverage necessary to haul in fish as big as a halibut.

Rods that sit right in the middle tend to work well as a “do-it-all” rod that can do almost everything, albeit not perfectly. This is why most people recommend a six-foot rod for beginners and amateur anglers. It encompasses all aspects without overwhelming novices. These mid-range rods are great for fishing freshwater lakes and rivers when more control and accuracy are needed over a long cast and strong leverage.

Fishing Rod Size Chart

So while that gives a brief look into fishing rod lengths, what is each size fishing rod good for? The length will always change depending on your fishing technique, the type of fishing you’re used to, experience level, fish species, and so much more. This chart is a great place to start.

LengthRod TypesUsed For
< 4 ftIce, kid rodsIce fishing, beginner freshwater for kids
4-5 ftSpinning, ultralight, older kid rodsFreshwater and beginner saltwater
5-6 ftSpinning, baitcasting, boatFreshwater, bass, trout
6-7 ftSpinning, baitcastingFreshwater, jigging, flipping, pitching
8-9 ftFly fishing, surf castingLong casts, jigging, flipping, pitching
9+ ftSurfcasting, deep sea fishing, trolling, TenkaraCasting from shore, hauling in heavy fish, trolling in the ocean

Related: Fishing Reel Sizes Explained! All Reel Types with Charts

Pros and Cons of a Short Rod

Ice fishing

Grabbing a larger rod and trying to bring in a monster is an all-too-common goal of more novice anglers that don’t know what they’re doing. The fallacy is that long rods are the best for when you want to catch a huge fish. While it’s true sometimes, that doesn’t mean any angler can do so.

Fishing rod sizes are almost as much about the person using them as they are about what they’re being used for. Someone super tall and strong could try casting an 8-foot pole and run into trouble immediately, while a shorter person who has been fishing their whole life will know exactly how to cast and utilize an 8-footer to its full potential.

That said, shorter fishing rods have their benefits over long rods in many situations.

For starters, short fishing rods are by far the best choice for kids who are just learning how to fish and anyone that’s going ice fishing. The ultra-short rods (around 4 feet) allow the user to fish with control, learn how to cast, and fish from a small confined space like an ice shack.

Even six-foot rods are considered short when put up against their longer counterparts. These rods, which land more in the middle of the length spectrum, are perfect for any beginner, anyone fishing freshwater lakes and rivers, or anyone using rod techniques like pitching, flipping, or jigging. The shorter rod provides more control over the line, meaning you can move the bait around more intentionally.

The biggest drawback of shorter rods is that you can’t cast very far and you get way less leverage to bring up larger fish. So if you’re looking to bring big fish up from far out or deep down, a shorter rod isn’t going to cut it.

Pros and Cons of a Longer Rod

Surf fishing

Where the short rods fall short, a longer rod excels. The longer rods are mostly considered to be anything that is seven feet or longer. In this range, you begin to sacrifice accuracy for pure power. To cast farther out, the longer rods help provide the range of motion necessary to throw a line past 50 yards.

Then, when you snag something larger, the physics of fishing starts to come into play. The rod’s length allows you to have more leverage, making it easier to pull in a heavier fish that is putting up a tough fight.

While you can get a line out an incredible distance with a longer rod, very little accuracy comes with that cast. You also lose a lot of control as the rod length increases. The distance you move your wrist will move the tip of the rod even more when there’s more distance between the two.

When you want a delicate touch, a long rod won’t give it. When you want power, nothing does it like a fourteen-foot surf caster.

Fishing Rod Length for a Beginner

Buying your first fishing rod can be incredibly overwhelming with all the different options, but getting into fishing can be a movement towards recreation, conservation, and more. A fishing rod size guide is a good place to start, but even then it can be tough because, even as a beginner, the choices vary.

The general consensus is that a seven-foot rod is an excellent choice for beginners. With that size, you can begin to understand how the rod moves and how to control it, gaining experience before moving on to something else.

I started with a 7-foot rod that belonged to my dad, and in retrospect, it was likely far too big for me as a young kid. But for older kids and above, it’s a great length to start with.

Nowadays, I am grateful for that experience, as I can control longer rods with a bit more finesse than I would have if I had started on a shorter rod.

Something like the St. Croix Victory Spinning Rod can be great for those looking to start fishing. It is an excellent balance of all the different features that makes it easy to learn.

Both lengths of the Falcon BuCoo SR make for a good rod to learn on. The 6’6” and the 7’ options can provide more range to help learn more accurately on a shorter rod or focus on practicing longer casts.

Best Fishing Rod Length for a Child

Grandpa and kid fishing

Kid rods are great because they’re tiny and made for simple use, but they aren’t always exactly what you need. If your child is getting to the age where they can figure out a spinning rod or a bait caster, it might be worth buying a five-foot rod just for more practice to be ready to move up to a longer rod.

I started fishing with my dad when I was around 8 years old. He used a seven-foot rod and would cast it for me and I would sit on the shore and watch for the bobber to dip below the water. If I was lucky enough to snag a fish, he would help me reel it in.

This scenario is the best of both worlds: a little bit longer rod, cast by someone with longer arms, gets the line out farther. But the kid still gets to feel like they’re a part of the adventure. And they have a better chance of actually catching something with the longer rod.

The shorter kid rods are best for children who won’t understand a rod and reel quite yet but still show interest in fishing. They’re unlikely to catch much, but it’ll excite them to go out!

Fishing Rod Length by Fish Species

You may need a different-sized rod depending on what fish species you’re after. This can vary due to the different techniques used for catching certain fish, and the correct length rod does wonders to help you maneuver the bait through the water just the right way.

In different environments where all these species live, you must choose rod length based on what’s around you and where the fish live.

Rod LengthFish Species
<4 ftPike, Pickerel, Walleye, Panfish (while ice fishing)
4-6’6” ftTrout, Panfish
6’6”-8 ftTrout, Crappie, Perch, Bass, Catfish, Redfish
8+ ftSalmon (up to 9’), Tarpon, Halibut, Carp, Pompano

What Length Fishing Rod for Bass

Length is at the top of the list when looking for the perfect bass fishing rod.

Rod length for bass has changed over time, significantly so with the development of the flipping technique. When this was added to the angler’s toolbox, two additional feet of rod length were added to everyone’s rods. The extra length helped move the bait around with a small flick of the wrist, dramatically affecting the other end of things.

With this new addition of technique, bass rods are typically around 6.5 to 8 feet long, depending on how you plan to fish. This is perfect for casting far enough out while still having great control over the rod.

Short bass rods (6’-6’6”): Drop shot rigs, skipping docks, and topwater baits are all the best when paired with a shorter bass rod.

Medium bass rods (6’7”-7’3”): Medium bass rods perform well for worms, jigs, buzz baits, and frogs or all other standard uses.

Long bass rods (7’4”-8’): The longest bass rods are used for jigging, flipping, and pitching, some of the most common techniques when fishing tubes.

What Length Fishing Rod for Trout

Fishing for trout can take you to some beautiful places, which will often determine the length of the rod needed. In the clear and open alpine areas, trout fishing can be done well with a longer rod that allows for a farther cast, so you can try out a 7-8 foot rod.

In the lower regions surrounded by scrub and brush, you want a shorter rod that won’t get caught up in the trees around you. This makes a shorter rod more acceptable for trout fishing. It is easier to maneuver in a tight space.

Fishing Rod Length by Rod Type

Fly fisher

Different rod types will also call for a certain length, which can be unsurprising as you will use these other rods for various fish species. It’s still essential to understand what kind of fishing you will be doing primarily because the rod length will change dramatically between an ice fishing rod and a fly rod.

Spinning Rod Length

You want something that can set the hook well and cast a decent distance when using a spinning rod. You’ll usually want a rod no shorter than 6’6”, but a 7’ rod is often recommended. These provide a good balance of casting distance and control over the rod itself.

Spinning rods will range from 4’5” to 9’5”, but it’s more common to see people stick to a 6’ to 7’5” rod.

Baitcasting Rod Length

Baitcasting falls into a similar length category as spinning rods. When you want more accuracy, grab a rod under 6’, but when you want to go for distance, try something closer to 7 or 8’.

You can find a good bait caster rod that’s 5’5”, but you can also find them up to 9’ in length. It all depends on how and where you’re hoping to use it!

Fly Rod Length

Fly rods are typically a bit longer than others just because of the action used in casting. A good fly rod will be between 7’ and 9’, but you can find some down to 6’ or up to 10’. I have had several moments where I tangled a fly rod in some willows by a stream where I should have used a shorter rod.

The lengths will most likely be determined by where you’re fishing. Fly fishing with a dense canopy surrounding you will call for a shorter rod, but wide open spaces let you have a long rod that will make a long cast.

For fly fishing in saltwater, a nine-foot rod gives the best range of versatility and can be easily used during bone fishing.

Like fly fishing rods, Tenkara fishing rods must be significantly longer. These range between 9-14’ but are most commonly closer to 11’.

Surf Fishing Rod Length

Surf fishing rods are all much longer. You must cast from the beach, set the hook far enough to find the fish, and avoid the rocky bottom. The longer the rod, the better the cast when fishing from the shore.

Most surf fishing rods are around 12’, but a 10’ rod can also suffice when learning, or when you know the beach well enough and don’t need to cast as far. Each inch on the rod will change your distance and make a huge difference when well-practiced.

I’ve seen anglers on the coast of Alaska using 14’ rods to surf cast for halibut, bringing in the same monstrous fish you can get in deeper waters.

Boat Rod Length for Inshore vs. Offshore

A boat rod will change when you’re inshore or offshore fishing, but a middle-ground rod of 6’ to 6’6″ will work well. These are manageable without getting snagged in the boat’s ropes and equipment.

An inshore rod around 7’ can work well to get a longer cast and set your hook near mangroves or other areas where fish would be spooked if the boat came too close. Offshore fishing is more about getting depth than distance, so the rod doesn’t need to be nearly as long.

Trolling Rod Length

When trolling, you want a longer rod to help provide leverage, get the line far from the boat, and make bringing in a huge fish easy. Many trolling rods can get up to 14’ in length, but it’s most common to see some between 9 and 11’.

Ice Fishing Rod Length

Most ice fishing doesn’t involve an active cast, meaning you can use an incredibly short rod to help pull fish out of the water, and it won’t ever be in the way.

Some ice fishing rods are under two feet long, but most of them are closer to three feet, making them easier to manage. Remember that you aren’t worried about casting with these, so the longer ice fishing rods should be used when you expect to catch larger fish.

What Size Fishing Rod Should I Get?

Even at the end of a fishing rod size guide, so much information is laid out that making a final decision can be tough.

If you want something that can “do it all,” a 7-foot spinning rod is your best bet for almost anything outside the ocean. This changes when you’re hoping to get into fly fishing or trolling.

Most experienced anglers likely remember growing up with a 6-7 foot rod given by their parents or grandparents. Some probably have memories of learning with a far too-short or too-long rod, which likely hindered their learning process.

In reality, knowing the type of fishing you’re hoping to do is what can make a quick decision easy for you. Use this size guide to choose your fishing rod length, and then play around with the size you land on. You’ll get a good feel for how that rod handles before trying other lengths and gaining more experience.