Fishing Rod Weight Rating Explained – Which One Should You Choose?
UPDATED 17 MAY 2023
by Robert Ceran
If you’re new to fishing, chances are you’re confused by all the different types of fishing rods on the market.
And to make matters worse, you not only need to choose between different types of fishing rods, you also have to choose the right fishing rod weight rating for your purposes.
To help you with this process, we’ll explain rod weight rating in full detail in this article, and we’ll also give you a rod weight chart that will help you choose the best one for your purposes.
What is fishing rod weight rating?
Every fishing rod has a weight rating, which is also referred to as its power rating. This rating is given on a scale from Ultra Light to Extra Heavy, and indicates how much weight is needed to bend the pole.
Essentially, the weight (or power) rating of a fishing pole refers to its resistance to bending. In other words, a light rod is less stiff, and therefore bends more easily than a heavy one.
Thus it intuitively makes sense that you should choose a light pole for catching smaller fish, and a heavy pole for catching bigger fish.
However, choosing the right rod is a little more complicated than this, since you not only need to choose the right weight to match the size of fish you want to catch, you also need to match pole weight with line weight, lure weight, and reel size.
In order to make this choice easier, most fishing poles come with a series of letters and numbers on their rod handle, which are there to help you to match it with the correct line and lure weight. Let’s look at these numbers in more detail.
Rod power, or weight rating, should not be confused with fishing rod action, which refers to where along its backbone a pole bends under pressure.
What do the numbers on a fishing rod mean?
Most fishing poles come with a set of numbers and letters written on them, usually next to the handle (see image above).
So what do these numbers mean? In most cases the first group refers to the type of rod (e.g. ‘S’ for spinning and ‘C’ for casting), its length, number of pieces, and weight. For example, in the photo above, S762M signifies that this is a spinning rod, which is 7’6” long, comes in two pieces, and has medium weight/power.
The second set of letters and numbers usually refers to the recommended line weight to be used with the pole. This is usually given for monofilament line, and in the example above, it is 4-12 lb line.
Finally, the third set of letters and numbers usually refers to the recommended lure weight to be used with the rod. In the example above this is 1/3 – 1/8 oz.
Once you understand these numbers, you can use them to choose the ideal line strength and lure size to pair with your pole Also, based on the recommended line weight, you can choose the right fishing reel size to pair with the pole.
So now that you know how to read the numbers on a fishing pole handle, you still need to figure out which pole weight rating is best for your specific purposes. Let’s take a look at the range of rod power ratings, to help you with this process.
Fishing rod weight chart
|Rod weight||Line weight||Lure weight||Recommended species & application|
|Ultra Light||1 - 4 lb test||1/64 - 1/16 oz||Panfish, trout|
|Light||4 - 8 lb test||1/32 - 1/8 oz||Perch, trout, small bass|
|Medium||6 - 12 lb test||1/8 - 3/8 oz||Bass, walleye, pike, lake trout|
|Medium Heavy||8 - 14 lb test||3/16 - 1/2 oz||Salmon, pike, catfish (casting)|
|Heavy||15 - 25 lb test||1/2 - 1 1/2 oz||Muskie, pike, salmon (trolling)|
|Extra Heavy||25 lb test and more||1 1/2 oz and more||Heavy casting for bass with oversized baits or rigs|
The table above lists all main fishing rod sizes, and correlates them with the line weight and lure weight they are best suited for.
Fishing rod line weight
The line rating of a rod doesn’t refer to the size of fish you plan to catch. Instead it describes the ideal fishing line size to use with it. Using this line strength will result in the best casting performance, and it should also pair well with the overall sensitivity of the pole.
In general, it’s very important to use the correct line strength for each rod weight class. For example, if you use a line that’s too light on a heavy rod, it’s more likely that you’ll lose fish due to line breakage.
Fishing rod lure weight
The lure rating of a rod describes the ideal lure weight to use with it, which will result in the best casting performance.
If you try to cast a lure that’s too light for your rod power, you won’t be able to cast very far, and if you use a lure that’s too heavy, you risk breaking your line during the cast.
Now let’s take a closer look at each of the power ratings, and what kind of fish they are best suited for.
Ultra Light: as the name already suggests, these are very lightweight rods that are best used for catching panfish and small trout. They are very sensitive, which makes them ideal for casting small lures.
Their sensitivity also makes it fun to fight small fish, while they don’t have enough power to handle larger fish.
Light: these poles are a little stronger than the ultra light ones, which makes them strong enough to handle slightly bigger fish, such as perch, trout and even small bass.
Medium: these are the most commonly used rods, and can be adapted for a very wide range of fishing applications, including smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye, pike and lake trout in freshwater. You can even use them for smaller saltwater fish species.
Medium Heavy: these are great poles for catching bigger freshwater fish, such as pike, salmon, and catfish. They are also good if you want to cast heavy lures, or fish close to cover (where it’s necessary to strongarm a hooked fish away from the danger zone as fast as possible).
Heavy: this is the preferred weight rating for trolling rods designed for big freshwater fish such as salmon, muskie, and trophy sized catfish, or big saltwater fish like tarpon.
Extra Heavy: these are the heaviest poles, and are used either for catching the biggest fish, or for fishing with extra large lures or rigs, such as over sized swimbaits for trophy sized bass close to submerged timber.
Fishing rod power chart
|Rod power||Lure weight||Line weight||Recommended species & application|
|Ultra Light||1/64 - 1/16 oz||1 - 4 lb test||Panfish, trout|
|Light||1/32 - 1/8 oz||4 - 8 lb test||Perch, trout, small bass|
|Medium||1/8 - 3/8 oz||6 - 12 lb test||Bass, walleye, pike, lake trout|
|Medium Heavy||3/16 - 1/2 oz||8 - 14 lb test||Salmon, pike, catfish (casting)|
|Heavy||1/2 - 1 1/2 oz||15 - 25 lb test||Muskie, pike, salmon (trolling)|
|Extra Heavy||1 1/2 oz and more||25 lb test and more||Heavy casting for bass with oversized baits or rigs|
The table above compares different fishing rod power categories with the corresponding line and lure weights they should be paired with, as well as the species they are ideally suited for.
It’s important to note that rod power is synonymous with rod weight, and this can be confusing for beginners.
And what’s even more confusing is that a lot of anglers use rod action interchangeably with rod power, while they are clearly different, and should be considered separately.
How to choose the right rod weight
Now you’re ready to choose the right rod power for your purpose. Refer to the fishing rod size chart above, and find the fishing rod capacity that best matches the type of fish you plan to catch.
For example, if you want to catch panfish, the sizes to choose from would be either ‘Ultra Light’ or ‘Light.’ As you can see, you can usually use more than one rod weight to catch a particular kind of fish.
In some cases, the pole weight you need to choose is determined not only by the species you want to catch, but also by the fishing application you plan to use.
For example, if you’re wondering what the best fishing rod size for bass is, you’ll notice on the chart that Medium power is the most commonly used rod weight for bass fishing.
But you can also use Heavy, or even Extra Heavy power poles for bass fishing, if you plan to cast extra large lures, or fish close to cover. In the latter case, you need the extra power to crank fish away from cover as fast as possible, so they won’t get snagged.
Once you’ve figures out the right power rating, you also need to choose the right length. For more details on how to do this, check out our fishing rod length guide and chart.
How to choose the right size fishing reel for your rod
Once you have decided what rod power you want to get, you are ready to choose the right fishing reel size to pair with it. In order to do this, use the line rating of the pole to find a reel with similar line rating.
For example, if you want to match a spinning reel to your rod, just use the recommended line rating of the rod to find a reel that has a similar recommended line rating. You can use our spinning reel size chart to find the best size to pair with your pole.
This wraps up our article on fishing rod weight rating. It’s very important to choose the right fishing pole for the job, as choosing the wrong one will either result in tackle breakage, or it will take the fun out of the fishing.