Fishing Rod Length Guide (And How To Choose The Right Size)
UPDATED 14 SEPTEMBER 2023
by Robert Ceran
Most anglers learn a lot about the different fishing rod types, as well as how to choose rod power and action.
But an area that’s often overlooked is the importance of fishing rod length.
Does it matter how long your fishing pole is?
The answer is yes, it makes a huge difference, and you need to choose the right rod size for your specific fishing application.
Fishing rods come in a wide variety of lengths, ranging from 2 foot ice fishing rods to 14 foot surf fishing poles.
The most commonly used pole types are spinning rods and baitcasting rods, and these usually come in the 6 to 8 foot range.
If you are a beginner, I recommend starting with a 7 foot pole, since this standard fishing rod length is easy to master, and can be used for many different applications.
In this article I’ll cover the most commonly used lengths of different fishing pole types, and I’ll also discuss the pros and cons of short vs long poles, and which fishing rod length is best suited for which purpose.
Fishing rod size chart
|Fishing rod type||Length range||Most commonly used length||Fishing applications|
|Spinning rod||4'5" to 9'5"||6' to 7'5"||Casting lures, bottom fishing, bobber fishing, live lining, surf fishing|
|Baitcasting rod||5'5" to 9'||6'5" to 8'||Casting lures or rigs|
|Fly fishing rod||6' to 10'||7' to 9'||Fly fishing|
|Surf casting rod||9' to 14'||10' to 12'||Surf fishing|
|Boat rod||5' to 7'||6' to 6'6"||Boat fishing|
|Trolling rod||8' to 14'||9' to 11'||Trolling|
|Ice fishing rod||20" to 48"||28" to 36"||Ice fishing|
The fishing pole size chart above compares the lengths of the 7 main rod types. It shows both their overall length range, as well as their most commonly used ones.
As you can see, all of them cover quite a wide range of lengths, but the most commonly used ones are more narrowly focused.
Now let’s look at the length of each of these pole types in more detail.
Ugly Stik GX2
My favorite all-around spinning rod, which regularly outperforms more expensive models.
Spinning rods are the most versatile fishing pole type, and are used for a wide variety of applications. Because of this, they also come in a wide variety of lengths, from short 4’5” poles to super long 9’5” poles.
Extra short and extra long spinning poles are designed for specific purposes, but the mid-range lengths are more versatile, and can be adapted to many different styles of fishing.
- Short spinning rods (4’5” to 6’): these are often used for kayak fishing, since it’s awkward to handle a long pole on a cramped kayak. Short models are often fast action rods that are used for fishing in small creeks with overhanging trees and shrubs. In those conditions a short light rod enables you to cast underneath the vegetation, while a longer rod may get you snagged all the time.
- Medium length spinning rods (6’ to 7’5”): these are the most commonly used rod type and size overall. They are usually graphite rods that can be adapted for dozens of different fishing applications, ranging from lure casting to bottom fishing and bobber fishing. This pole size is the best for beginners, since it’s easy to cast with, and can be used in many different ways. And once you gain experience, you can then use shorter or longer poles for more specific applications.
- Long spinning rods (7’6” to 9’5”): these are usually used for applications that involve long casting distances, such as surf fishing or open water lure casting. Their extra length helps to increase casting distance, but at the expense of accuracy. They are also harder to cast with than shorter sized models, and you need a lot of space for casting with them.
Baitcaster rod length
These are the second most popular rod type, and casting pole length tends to be a little longer than that of spinning poles on average, though there is a lot of overlap in the middle of the range.
But unlike spinning poles, they are used mostly for casting lures or rigs, as well as trolling.
Casting rods are designed to work specifically with baitcasting reels. In the hands of a skilled angler, these have higher casting accuracy and longer casting distance compared to spinning poles & reels.
Because of these differences, casting poles are the preferred choice of many bass anglers, who often have a whole collection of different fishing rod sizes to choose from.
If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of each pole type, check out our article on spinning rod vs casting rod.
- Short baitcasting rods (5’5” to 6’4”): these offer greater casting accuracy, but only at relatively short range. So if you want maximum accuracy at a distance of 30 feet or less, these poles are the best choice. Just like short spinning poles, they are also best for kayak fishing, or fishing on small creeks with lots of vegetation.
- Medium length baitcasting rods (6’5” to 8’): these are the most commonly used pole sizes for bass fishing, and can be used in most scenarios, including bank fishing, kayak fishing or fishing from a bass boat. They are also relatively easy to master, and combine high casting accuracy with long casting distance.
- Long baitcasting rods (8’ to 9’): these are often used for power bass fishing, which involves extra long poles that have Medium Heavy to Extra Heavy power, and that are used with high pound test braid (30-60 lb or more). The reason for using these long, heavy poles is that you can cast very large lures close to cover (such as sunken timber fields, or overhanging trees), and catch big lunker bass that way without letting them get snagged in the surrounding cover.
Fly fishing rod length
Fly rods tend to be longer than other rod types, and most commonly measure 7 to 9 feet.
They need to be long because fly fishing involves casting very light lures, so instead of using the lure weight for casting, fly anglers use the weight of the fly fishing line, which is much thicker than other types of fishing lines.
This technique requires a long pole to be able to cast meaningful distances.
The only exception to this is when fishing small trout streams that have a lot of overhanging trees and shrubs.
In those cases you can’t use a long fly rod, and need to downsize to a smaller 6 foot model.
Surf casting rod
These are among the longest rod types used by anglers, and are usually 10 to 12 foot long.
Their extra length helps to extend casting distance, which is necessary to reach fish feeding on the other side of the breaker zone.
When operated by a skilled angler, surf casting poles can achieve a casting distance of 100 yards or more.
In fact, the world record for this rod type is more than 300 yards casting distance, but you normally don’t need to cast that far in order to catch plenty of fish.
Boat fishing rod length
In contrast to the other pole types discussed above, boat rods tend to be shorter, and most often measure 6 to 7 foot.
The reason for this is that a long pole is difficult to handle on a boat, where there’s often relatively small space for casting.
Also, when you use a boat rod for deep sea fishing or reef fishing, you don’t need to cast the bait, but instead lower it vertically down into the water (kind of like ice fishing).
Tolling rods tend to be longer than other rod types, and come close to surf fishing rods in this regard. They are most often between 9 and 11 foot long.
The reason for the extra length is that it allows you to troll with several poles at the same time, without getting their lines tangled.
You can achieve this by extending a long trolling pole to the right and the left of the boat, so their lines will be separated maximally.
The second reason why trolling poles are very long, is that they are often used with down riggers (for example, check out our review of the best salmon trolling rods), as this type of rod bends all the way down to the water surface.
When a fish strikes the lure, the line is released from the downrigger, and the pole snaps up and sets the hook. All of this works much better with a long pole than with a short one.
Ice fishing rod length
Ice fishing rods are the shortest out of all fishing pole types, and most commonly measure 28 to 36 inches.
The reason for this short length is that you don’t need to cast with an ice fishing pole, and instead just lower your lure or bait vertically down into the ice fishing hole.
Also, the short pole length allows you to sit close to the ice hole, and instantly feel if a fish bites. Plus, it’s easier to grab a fish when you pull it through the ice with a short pole.
Finally, short poles are much better for fishing inside the cramped space of an ice fishing shelter, where a longer model would be a real hassle to use.
For more details on this, check out our article: can you use a regular rod for ice fishing?
What are the advantages of a short fishing rod?
A short fishing rod has four main advantages:
- Easier to use than longer pole
- Higher casting accuracy
- Better on small streams with lots of vegetation
- Better on kayaks
Shorter rods in general have higher casting accuracy than long poles.
For example, a 6’5” spinning rod can cast your lure to a very specific location at a distance of about 30 feet, while an 8’5” spinning pole would be much less accurate at that range.
On the downside, short rods don’t support a long casting distance, so you need to decide what is more important for you.
What are the advantages of longer fishing rods?
Here are the main advantages of long fishing poles:
- Longer casting distance
- More leverage for a hard hook set
- More leverage to pull a big fish away from cover fast
The length of a rod has a very strong effect on casting distance. The longer the pole, the further it can cast (though you need to pair it with the right kind of reel to get the best results).
This is why surf fishing poles are so long, with the longest models going all the way up to 14 feet.
But keep in mind that these extra long poles are difficult to use, especially if you aren’t super tall yourself.
So you may want to start with a shorter length to see if you feel comfortable casting with it.
Power bass anglers like to use long, heavy rods, because that gives them lots of leverage to set the hook very hard when a bass strikes the lure, and it also helps to haul a big bass away from cover as fast as possible.
For examples of these types of poles, check out our review of the best jig rods for bass.
Best rod length for surf fishing
When it comes to surf fishing rods, choosing the right length is even more important than for other rod types.
This is because surf fishing usually requires casting 100 yards or even more, to reach fish that are at the edge of the shallow sandy region of a beach.
In general, the longer a fishing pole is, the longer you can cast with it.
So the ideal length of a surf fishing pole is 10 to 12 feet, since this is long enough to achieve really good casting distances, but not too long as to become unwieldy or causing too much arm fatigue when fighting a fish.
You can even go up to 13 or 14 feet length with surf rods, but keep in mind that as the pole gets longer, it also gets harder to cast with it, plus it’s more exhausting to fight a big fish with it.
On the other end of the scale, the minimum length of a surf fishing pole should be 9 feet, since below that it gets really hard to achieve sufficient casting distance.
Best rod length for bass fishing
Bass fishing rods usually measure 6 to 8 feet in length, with the most commonly used length being around 7 foot. Here’s what the different lengths are used for:
- Short bass rod (6’ to 6’6”): Used for fishing drop shot rigs, topwater baits, and skipping docks.
- Medium length bass rod (6’7” to 7’3”): Used for most standard applications, including crankbaits, worms, jigs, buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, or frogs.
- Long bass rod (7’4” to 8’): Used for jigging, flipping, pitching, or fishing close to cover.
Most bass tournaments don’t allow poles that are longer than 8 feet, so that determines the upper length limit for bass pros.
Short bass poles (shorter than 6’6”) are most often spinning rods, while the longer ones (longer than 6’7”) are usually casting poles.
If you’re in doubt about the ideal bass fishing rod length, choose a fishing rod that’s 7 feet long (either casting or spinning), and you’ll be covered for the majority of bass fishing applications.
Best rod size for trout fishing
If you’re planning to target trout, the best rod size to use is in the range of 6 to 8 feet. The exact length that you choose depends on where you’re planning to fish:
- Short trout rod (6’ to 7’): Used for small streams with lots of surrounding vegetation.
- Long trout rod (7’1” to 8’): Used for open water fishing in lakes and large rivers.
A short pole is essential if you’re fishing creeks with lots of vegetation on their banks, since it’ll allow you to cast accurately underneath the overhanging canopy of trees.
On the other hand, if you’re fishing for trout on large rivers or lakes, using a long rod will help you to achieve longer casting distances, and it can also be helpful if the trout are bigger (such as lake trout, for example).
And if you want to get a pole that covers the best of both worlds, go for a 7 foot model.
What size fishing rod do you need?
The best way to figure out what length fishing rod you need for your purposes is to start by deciding which species of fish you want to target, as well as the rod type and the fishing tactic that you want to use.
For example, let’s say that you want to catch tarpon fish by throwing lures with a spinning rod.
Next, by referring to our fishing rod size chart above, and also by checking the other relevant sections in this article, you’ll see that fishing rod sizes between 6′ and 7’5″ is most commonly used for this purpose.
Then just proceed by choosing a rod to your liking that falls in this size range.
This concludes our article, and if you’re still wondering, “what size fishing rod do I need?”, I suggest you start by figuring out what kind of fishing you want to do, and then refer to the fishing pole length chart above to determine how long your pole should be.
Having said that – if you’re a novice angler, it’s probably best to start with a pole that’s around 7 feet long, since this is a medium length rod that is relatively easy to use, and can be adapted for many different purposes.