What Is Your Rod Made Of? Fishing Rod Materials Explained

What Is Your Rod Made Of? Fishing Rod Materials Explained thumbnail

Many of the fishing rods in the old days were made from bamboo or steel, but most of today’s rods are made from graphite, fiberglass or a combination of both materials.

I remember buying a boron bass rod back in the 1980s when boron rods were popular. But boron fibers were extremely stiff and expensive so the amount of boron in so-called boron rods was usually less that 25 percent. Now boron is used merely in the butt end sections of rods and some rod blanks will have a layer of boron with graphite or other materials wrapped around it. The boron adds to the power and strength of the rod, and its stiffness generates a fast recovery from a bend of the rod.

Photo credit to Wagner Rods

Fiberglass Fishing Rods

Fiberglass is highly flexible and heavier than graphite but it is also less sensitive and weaker. Fiberglass rods flex in a parabolic arc so that the entire rod bends from tip to butt when you lift a weight at the end of the line. The distance of the area from the tip of the rod where a rod flexes when loaded determines the action of the rod.

Fiberglass rods are usually slow- or medium-action rods. The slow action of the rod tip gives fish more of an opportunity to get the bait before you pull it away from the fish. Fiberglass rods are ideal for novice anglers because the rods are less expensive and more durable than graphite models.
Graphite is a more sensitive and stiffer material than fiberglass.

Graphite Fishing Rods

fishing rod and reel

Graphite rods are available in different degrees of stiffness referred to as the modulus, a measure of applied stress that it takes to deform or bend a material in its finished process state. The higher the modulus the stiffer the material, which means rod manufacturers can use less material to get the same stiffness. So a rod with IM8 graphite is lighter in weight than a rod of IM6 graphite, yet both rods will have the same amount of stiffness. The sensitivity of graphite rods allows you to detect strikes easier and the stiffness of the rods produce stronger hook sets. With less flex in the material, graphite rods are rated as fast or extra-fast action.

Composite Rods

fishing rod

Composite rods are constructed from fiberglass and graphite or other fibers. The combination of materials makes these rods more sensitive than fiberglass but less powerful than graphite when lifting heavy fish.


COOLER ICE RETENTION TEST: YETI, Otter Box, and Igloo thumbnail

Cooler companies love to make ice retention claims, stays cold claims, and many other claims. I’ve seen claims of up to 96 hours and at the same time have never seen a cooler hold ice that long. It was time to do a controlled test and figure out, in a side by side comparison what some of these coolers like YETI, Otter Box, and Igloo.  The four coolers tested in this test were a YETI Tundra 45 ($299), the Otter Box Venture 45 ($299), the Igloo Amadeo Bachar Limited Edition BMX 52 ($249), and the Igloo Leeward 50 ($199).

It is financially restrictive to test all the coolers that the readers would like tested. It would cost potentially several thousand dollars to test them all. If you have a cooler you’d like to be tested, contact that company, show them this test, and recommend they send one to me to test. If I didn’t test your favorite brand of cooler, know I am definitely not opposed to it, I’m just not going to be able or willing to buy tons of coolers so every contingent is happy.

Additionally, there are thousands of ways to test ice retention. People will mention precooling, level of ice, draining off water etc in the comments. Trust me I know it’s coming and that is okay. I will only be reporting the results of this test, the way it was performed, and the measurements in between the start and final measurement.

How the Cooler Ice Retention Test was Performed

Cooler Ice Retention Test YETI Otter Box Igloo Payne Outdoors
The testing location but the garage door was closed.

I chose to use an ice weight measurement at all of the checked intervals after draining the water. I weighed all of the coolers on a scale with nothing in them (no accessories, baskets et al). After measuring the coolers’ dry weights I added 20 pounds of ice to each cooler and reweighed them to verify that indeed 20 pounds of ice was added. Each of the four coolers were kept in my garage in Texas (average temperature in the garage was 90 degrees) for the duration of the test. They all sat on the ground, not stacked, side by side at the same proximity to the garage door. No precooling was done.



Cooler Ice Retention Test YETI Otter Box Igloo Payne Outdoors
Igloo Leeward at 53.5 hours. (zero ice)

At each measurement throughout the test the water was drained off through the drain plugs and then the cooler was weighed. Once a cooler reached its dry weight and I confirmed no ice was left, that cooler was then eliminated and marked zero ice. I can’t speak to the actual moment when the coolers reached zero ice. I can only speak to the cooler going to zero ice sometime between the last two measurements.

Cooler Ice Retention Test YETI Otter Box Igloo Payne Outdoors
Igloo BMX at 53.5 hours (zero ice)

One cooler still had ice at the last measurement and was declared the winner. All other coolers were at zero ice.

Cooler Ice Retention Test YETI Otter Box Igloo Payne Outdoors
YETI Tundra at 53.5 hours

Again I will remind the readers that all possible scenarios were not exhausted here. This is a controlled test with equal variables for all four coolers. Draw from this test what you will. The data is the data for how this was measured. I chose to not remove and weigh the ice because I was afraid of loss due to external heat. I also did not open the coolers except to take a picture of the ice.

Cooler Ice Retention Test YETI Otter Box Igloo Payne Outdoors
Otter Box Venture at 53.5 hours.

Results of the Test

I’ve included a chart and two tables in graphics to show the ice degradation at the measurement points. What is hopefully clear from the data is that both the Igloo Leeward and Igloo BMX went to zero ice at some point between 28 and 53.5 hours. The YETI went to zero ice between 53.5 and 77 hours. At 77 hours the Otter Box Venture 45 still had one pound of ice in it.

Cooler Ice Retention Test YETI Otter Box Igloo Payne Outdoors
Showing both the combined weight and ice weight over the tested time intervals.


Cooler Ice Retention Test YETI Otter Box Igloo Payne Outdoors
Ice weight over time by each cooler. Notice the plateau of the Otter Box which represents good cold retention while others on a steady decline.

Cooler Ice Retention Test Final Conclusions

The winner in this particular test was the Otter Box Venture 45. After 77 hours it still had ice. Pretty impressive for temps in the high 90s through the duration. I’d also like to point out how well it held ice through the 53.5 hour mark. If you look at the weight of ice left at that juncture, 9 of the 20 pounds of ice were still in the Otter Box at 53.5 hours. The only other cooler still with ice, the YETI, only had 4 of the original 20 pounds still present.

Cooler Ice Retention Test YETI Otter Box Igloo Payne Outdoors
Otter Box Venture 45 is the ice retention winner!


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Bluegill vs. Bream: Different Name, Same Fish

Bluegill vs. Bream: Different Name, Same Fish thumbnail

Throughout my travels across the country, I have heard anglers give a common sunfish different names. In the South, some anglers call the sunfish a bream and others dub it a perch, while in the North and Midwest it is called a bluegill.

What Should We Call This Popular Panfish?

Well here is Wikipedia’s definition of this panfish: “The bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) is a species of freshwater fish referred to as ‘bream’ or ‘brim,’ ‘sunny,’ ‘copper nose,’ or incorrectly ‘perch.’ It is a member of the sunfish family Centrarchidae of the order Perciformes. It is native to North America and lives in streams, rivers, lakes and ponds.

Lepomis macrochirus is a mouthful to say so its common name became bluegill because of its blue coloration under its chin and lower part of its gill cover. You can also identify a bluegill by its slab-sided body and small mouth with the upper jaw not reaching past the front of its eye. The Bluegill has a spinous dorsal fin with 10 spines connected to a soft dorsal. Its pectoral fin is long and pointed and the fish has a prolonged ear flap.

Identifying Bluegill/Bream

In addition to the blue coloring around the gills, the bluegill has dark olive-green colors on its back and sides with yellow or reddish-orange on its breast and belly. The sunfish’s sides are often marked with dark vertical bars.

How Big Do They Get?


Bluegill commonly reach a length of 9 inches and a weight of about 12 ounces. If left alone, bluegill typically live between 6-8 years but can live up to 11 years old. The all-tackle world record for bluegill is 4 pounds, 10 ounces.

How To Target Bream


Targeting bluegill is an excellent way to introduce children and novices to fishing because the fish bite a variety of small natural and artificial baits. You can catch bluegill on crickets, grasshoppers or worms set below a bobber with a cane pole or fly fish with wet flies, dry flies or popping bugs.

Bluegill can be caught throughout the year, but my favorite time to catch these sunfish is during the spawn when the big bull males are protecting their nests. Casting a cricket or worm on a bobber to the nests is a guaranteed catch then.

When and Why to Use a Short Fishing Rod

By David A Brown

When it comes to catching bass in tight quarters, pro angler Drew Cook is long on interest and short on patience. That’s why he always keeps a short rod or two rigged and ready.

How short? How ’bout a 6-foot, 3-inch Dobyns Champion XP crankbait rod? Calling this somewhat of a throwback deal, the Elite Series rookie from Quincy, Fla. said he has never lost his early appreciation for a rod class that as fallen from the norm.

“When I was a kid, a 5-6 to 6-6 rod was normal and a 7-footer was what you had for flipping,” Cook said. “Everything has gotten longer. I think it’s because of new reel technology and the ability to cast longer. Also, there are new techniques developing all the time, and rod makers have to design new rods.”


Nevertheless, Cook frequently finds himself working areas in which a longer rod becomes more of a liability than an asset. His top short rod scenarios are as follows:

Small creeks, sloughs or canals with lots of overhanging vegetation. Here, it’s not only about the tight quarters; it also a matter of slinging a tiny spinnerbait or popper to match smaller backwater forage.
Floating docks with lots of cables on the bank side. This often-overlooked inside section offers tight pockets and narrow lanes best accessed with short, precise casts.
When fish follow high water into the trees, big opportunity awaits in small spaces. For this, he needs a rod he can cast without bumping trunks.

(2 of 3) ON THE MONEY

Pro angler Greg Hackney also finds sub-7 rod handy. For him, a 6-8 Lew’s Hack Attack allows him a higher degree of accuracy than models of 7 feet or more.

“I use this rod to target fish; for accurate casting under boat docks or overhanging limbs, or throwing to specific patches of grass,” Hackney said. “We’re not talking about open-water, two-handed firing it out there. We’re up-close-and-personal, picking apart visible cover.”

Now, Hackney has, in years past, used rods as short at 6 feet – and he still appreciates that size. However, overall consumer trends have made such sizing less common.

“The market has caused me to go a little longer because, for some reason, those short rods don’t sell well,” Hackney said. “I had this 6-8 rod built to my specs but I probably could’ve gotten by with a 6-6; but now everybody thinks you have to have a 7-foot or longer rod for everything.

“I disagree because longer rods don’t cast as good when you roll cast. Typically, when I’m using a 6-foot to 6-8 rod, I’m using my wrist to roll cast that bait. It’s all about target fishing. You have to be able to hit a 6-inch circle with the lure.”


The right match: Hackney matches his short rod with a Lew’s Super Duty LFS baitcaster because the lighter reel creates the right balance. Here, the lower line capacity is the right fit for short-range work.

“With a spinnerbait, I want a 6:1 gear ratio, but for topwater plugs and buzzbaits, I like a faster gear ratio; at least a 7:1, if not an 8:1,” Hackney said. “You’re fishing those latter two on a slack line and when a fish bites, you’re able to pick up line really fast.

“With a spinnerbait, you don’t want to overturn it because you’re fishing close – 10 to 15 feet. Most of the time, you have to get up close to get your bait up under that cover and it’s hard to do that from 70 feet away. Usually, once that bait hits the water, you’re only fishing it 5 to 10 feet, at the most, before you reel it in and throw it again.”

On the line: Cook agrees and notes his preference for spooling a Shimano Curado size 70 with 14-pound monofilament for spinnerbait.

“Anytime I’m using that short rod, the bait is no more than 10 feet from me, so I want more ‘give’ to make sure I don’t take the bait away from them,” he said.

Fighting form: Cook’s aware that the biggest drawback of short rods is less fish control, but he has a simple solution – wait ’til the fish runs out of gas.

“You obviously don’t have as much length to turn their head if they try to get wrapped in the trolling motor or the Power-Poles, so I play them out longer,” Cook said.

It doesn’t take long to exhaust a largemouth, but with any bass species, make sure you give him a few seconds to recharge his batteries before releasing.

Key smallmouth structure in flowing water

The next Bassmaster Elite Series stop happens to be my favorite fishery for tournaments.

That’s right, the St. Lawrence River. So I’d like to dedicate this column to covering the smallmouth structure I like to target in current. There are a lot of different things you can fish at the St. Lawrence, and in smallmouth rivers everywhere, but I typically focus on three different features. Here’s a rundown.

Depth drops
The first and most important structure for me is definitely breaks. These are ledges or humps — anything where the depth drops off. This is the main type of structure I focus on when I’m after smallmouth in rivers.

The breaks aren’t always adjacent to the shoreline — there could be a ledge right next to the main river channel, or a hump that rises out of the main river channel, or an underwater point that extends out from shore. If it’s a shoreline break, the fish are sometimes at the top (on the ledge), and sometimes they’re at the bottom, where the current is slower.

If the depth break is also breaking the current, like a hump, then the fish will either be right in front of it, feeding in the current, or resting in the slack water behind it. That’s why I like humps so much, because you can catch them when they’re feeding, and also when they’re sitting back more relaxed. That’s unique for a piece of structure.

I’ve noticed in the St. Lawrence that the depth of break doesn’t seem to matter much. It might drop of 3 feet deep, 10 feet, 20 feet or more. It’s just a place where the fish can push bait up against the ledge so they don’t have to chase it.

And I don’t really change baits for the feeding fish vs. the resting fish, but I do fish a heavier dropshot weight up-current from the structure to keep the bait down. In the slacker water, I can usually get away with a lighter weight for the same presentation, which can be important when I’m targeting neutral fish.

It’ll surprise a lot of guys, but you won’t really mark the fish on these breaks. They sit very tight to bottom in the current. So I’ll always take the time to drop, even if I don’t see fish. Sometimes I’ll even put my Aqua-Vu underwater camera down, so I can get a true understanding of what’s down there. I’m not sponsored by Aqua-Vu, I just like to use that camera. The one I’m using now is the HD10i Pro, which has onscreen water temp and depth displays. I attach a weight to stabilize it in the current, and it’s easy to hold the camera wire and take a good look around in the clear water.

Fish are actually tighter to the bottom now than they were in the past. They were always on the bottom eating crayfish, but nowadays they just don’t move as much, which is why you won’t mark them. They’re a lot more predictable. I think that’s probably because of the gobies. Why move when you’ve got so much food right there?

Big boulder milk runs
My second favorite smallmouth structure is boulders. Big ones. I’ll always spend a lot of time graphing and marking every boulder I can. Every smallmouth fisherman knows that a boulder will hold at least one smallmouth. At the St. Lawrence, it seems like they generally hold one big one, and maybe one small one.

Boulders are great for the fish because they offer a current break, shade if the water’s shallow, a concentration of food and probably some sense of safety.

For a tournament, I’ll set up a milk run of boulders, where I stop on each one, do a few short little drifts over it, then move on. If I catch a fish, it’s usually one-and-down, but if the fish is small I’ll drift some more. If the fish is big, I’ll move right away, because a boulder will typically only hold one big fish.

Again, I think the boulders used to replenish more quickly, but with the fish being more resident now, it takes longer. You generally can’t return to boulders in a tournament. That’s why you need to mark so many of them.

Places of change
Third on the list of my favorite structure is a bottom transition. In a lot of other places, gravel-to-rock transitions can be important. At the St. Lawrence, they’re really not — at least for me. The smallmouth seem to really like a flat bottom. So instead, I’m looking for transitions from hard bottom to soft, or rock to sand.

These transitions are easy to spot on my Garmin electronics. In the 2D view, the bottom will get hard. On side-imaging, it depends on the preferences you set. But you’re essentially looking for that color change on the bottom.

Also, I tend to want deeper transitions. It used to be that you could catch smallmouth pretty shallow at the St. Lawrence. They seem to all go deeper sooner now. I think it’s the pressure. It used to be easy to catch them shallow. Now it’s a pretty tough task.

So you want to fish a spinbait

The generic name for this lure is a spinbait. Many anglers call it a spybait. Either way, it’s a popular technique gaining momentum all across the country. Yet, a lot of people don’t know how to fish it. I didn’t realize that until I started designing the SPRO Spin John 80 that we officially released at this year’s ICAST show.

To give credit where it is due, Duo Realis is the company that put this technique on the map in the United States. I don’t know if they made the first one or not. There are a number of models on the market in Japan where it originated. Regardless, the Duo Realis model is the most popular here.

And, there’s a good reason for that. It had the best action of all the ones I tried before I designed my own.

The whole deal with one of these baits is that it rocks from side to side as it sinks and when it’s retrieved slowly. This unique action happens at the same time the blades on the front and the back are spinning.

But don’t be fooled. The blades don’t create that movement. You can take the blades off and the bait will still rock. All the blades do is create and accent the flash and vibration while they work to slow the bait’s horizontal movement so that it rocks better.

The 80 mm size works best on lighter line, the lighter the better. I usually fish it on a 6-pound-test Sunline FC Sniper leader for openers, but I do go up to 7-pound-test on occasion. Anything heavier than that starts to inhibit the rocking action. Some die-hards go as light as 4-pound-test but I can’t do that in a tournament setting.

The reason I’m mentioning line size first when I’m talking about how to fish a spinbait is that the action is what it’s all about with a spinbait. It’s a clear water lure. Any problems with the action will kill the bite.

After several years of fishing these baits, I’ve refined my tackle. This is what I use, and why:

My rod is a 7 foot, 6-inch medium action Cashion Elite spinning rod. The longer rod helps a bunch in getting a solid hookset and when fighting the fish back to the boat. My leader length is 20-22 feet long. It’s tied to 12-pound-test Sunline Xplasma Asegai braid. The braid really helps you get a good hookset with the long casts you have to make.

I spool my line on a Daiwa Tatula LT 3000 size spinning reel. My leader is tied to my main line with a FG Knot. I made a good YouTube video showing everyone exactly how to tie this knot because it is not easy and a lot of anglers don’t know about it. However, it is by far the best one.

Once your tackle is in order it’s time to make a few casts. One presentation is to simply make a cast and reel your lure back — slowly — towards the boat. The bait will drop like a pendulum on the way back. You can also let it sink partway down before you start your retrieve. This will get it down deeper in the water column.

A third choice is to let it sink all the way to the bottom. You can reel it slow enough to keep it close to the bottom or you can yo-yo it. I usually reel mine up, off the bottom at a medium pace and then let it rock back and forth as it falls down.

I’ve fished spinbaits all three ways, and I’ve caught fish all three ways. It’s a versatile lure. That’s what’s so cool about it.

After fishing the other spinbaits on the market, you can see why I wanted to design one. I want more anglers to be able to enjoy the technique. I tried not to reinvent the wheel, but with this lure, I thought we could do better based on the way I was modifying other spinbaits.

We started by putting a swivel on the front and back of our lures. The front swivel helps with line twist and the back swivel helps with hooksets by moving the hook away from the blade.

We also put a “chin” on the bait to push more water over it. This makes it rock back and forth better. I actually made this chin out of plumber’s putty on the prototype.

Last but not least, we matched our blades to the color pattern of the body for a more custom look, and we added a tiny feather to the back hook. I did that with other spinbaits, and it seemed like I got more bites.

When to fish a Spin John 80 is an open question. I’ve used it successfully on various lakes at various times of the year. I have seen spybaits excel in the late spring and late summer. About all I can say is to give it a try and see what happens.

I’ll never say you need every new thing that comes out on the market. But if you like fishing with light line, a spinbait is one you should add to your arsenal. It’ll make a big difference in how many bass you catch.