Fishing poles are typically distinguished by where they'll be used, what sort of fish they're expected to catch, the kind of line and lure or bait they can be rigged with and the type of reel that best suits them. While there is some variance within general categories--for example, catfish poles are often stiffer than other freshwater poles of the same size--you'll find relatively more variation between freshwater, saltwater and fly fishing poles (Reference 5).
Freshwater fishing poles are relatively small and light when compared to their saltwater counterparts. The longest freshwater poles, used for big fish in grass and weeds, are 7 or 7½ feet long and fitted with 20-pound test or heavier line, along with a special type of reel called a baitcaster, intended to handle heavier lines and heavy bait. Smaller and lighter poles work with between 4- and 10-pound test lines and use smaller, lighter spinning reels. Make sure to check the label on the shaft of any fishing pole--it will tell you what weight fishing line and what weight bait work best with that pole (See Reference 3).
Saltwater fishing poles are distinguished by the sort of reel they're to be used with--baitcasting or spinning. You can also differentiate between saltwater poles' functions according to length; surfcasting rods might measure anywhere from 6 to 15 feet long depending on how far you're casting and what sort of lures you're using, and use spinning reels. You'll find baitcasting reels on boat rods--between 5 and 6 feet long, but rigged with line that might exceed 100-pound test--and bottom-fishing rods, which are typically about 10 feet long and use up to 30-pound test line (Reference 4).
Fly Fishing Poles
Fly fishing poles are classified by "weight." The larger the number, the larger the rod, the heavier line it will cast and the bigger the fish you're trying to catch. A 4 or 5 weight rod is strong enough to fight small fish or fish in small streams. A 7 or 8 rod would be used in larger bodies of water--or those with stronger currents--to catch larger fish. A 6-weight, 9-foot rod makes a good all-around fly fishing rod. Fly fishing lines should be matched to the weight of the rod, so a 7 or 8 weight rod would the corresponding line. Fly fishing rods also take a special reel, either a single-action or multiplier (References 1, 2).
Article Written By Marie Mulrooney
Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics and contributes regularly to various online publications. Mulrooney's print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.