The long and short of baitcaster rods
  |  First Published: February 2014

When it comes to fishing, having the right gear for the right species and environment goes a long way to achieving success. It can be as simple as using the right line, leader, or lure, but on the other side it can prove far more complex, especially when choosing what rod or reel will ensure the best results.

Focusing on baitcaster gear in particular, overhead baitcast lure fishing rods may seem to have subtle differences that can mean big differences in terms of your lure fishing capability. When choosing an overhead baitcasting rod most anglers look for brand, line class, weight and construction material and, while all these contribute to the enhancing fishing capability, one of the most important variables to consider is length.

The old adage that ‘size does matter’ is important when choosing a baitcast rod, as a few inches longer or shorter can have a major impact on your fishing capability. Ranging from as short as 5’ in length and pushing beyond the 6’ 6” mark it’s important to realise that subtle differences in lengths are tailored to specialised fishing environments, even specific species, and understanding where they all fit is key.

The short of it

Starting at the shorter end of the scale are your 5’-5’6” baitcast overhead rods. The 5’6” sized rod is commonly regarded by most overhead lure anglers as the most popular rod length for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, it is short enough to throw lures in tight confined spaces, such as small creeks where space to flick casts are limited by both boat space and natural features, like mangroves and trees. Anglers fishing these tighter confined areas don’t require long winded casts and predominately cast only 3-4m maximum, so the longer rod lengths to achieve longer casting distance are not required.

This is where the really short 5’ baitcast rods dominate as they could be fished quite comfortably and accurately in even the most cramped of fishing spots. Overhead baitcast anglers mostly fish larger hardbody and soft plastic lures, which also help achieve better casting distance so this also eliminates the need for extra length.

These shorter rods also pack a lot of punch and with less give, especially at the tip, allows for plenty of torque, which is what is needed when you are fishing tight areas. When you are fishing only 3-4m of water and success or failure is measured in the first 30cm of the fight on fish like jacks and barra, having some pulling power is essential. It’s important to remember this can also go the other way at times with the lack of flex proving to pull hooks on fish, especially when anglers bully fish to the boat. If anglers find this is happening on a common occurrence than it’s a good idea to consider finding a rod a couple of inches longer to help stem the directness of the fight. Basically, if you are fishing space-constricted areas and only require shorter casting lengths than these sized rods are a preferred option.

The middle of it

Moving up in length is the 6’ range of overhead rods with the most commonly built size being 6’1”. This sized rod has quickly gained popularity with anglers in the last five years, especially as baitcast fishing has diversified away from just snag bashing with big hardbody lures to include finesse style fishing for species such as bream and bass.

The 601, as it is commonly known, is a favourite for many as it provides a lot more flexibility to the angler. While an extra 5” may not seem a lot, it can actually have a huge effect on all aspects of fishing.

The extra length makes it a lot easier to cast longer distances and to throw underhand casts, as the longer taper does most of the work. If you have ever fished a 5’6” rod in tandem with a 601 then the difference becomes very clear.

The 601 can still be fished in relatively cramped conditions with control, however it opens up more options into open water snag bashing or when you are fishing areas such as drains. It also allows for fishing lighter lures and this is helpful when fishing smaller soft plastics or lighter hardbody lures.

The 601 sized baitcasters really allow for a lot more flexibility and is a good middle of the road sized baitcast rod. Its action can be a little light sometimes when needing to bully a fish out of structure, however most have plenty of power to these days with the development of newer and better composites.

The long of it

Finally we begin getting up into the longer end of the baitcasters, which can push the tape beyond the 6’6” mark. Many of these longer baitcast rods originated from the States where the extra length suited the longer casts required by anglers for fish such as largemouth bass.

These length rods are becoming popular amongst anglers in recent years, especially with the boom in impoundment fishing where anglers want to fish large lures from an overhead and still achieve long winded casts across structure like weed beds.

These longer rods are actually better suited to impoundment fishing, especially for big barra, as their long length allows for a less direct fight between the angler and fish that can see hooks pulled. This is where technological advances in rod design, action and strength has come a long way as these longer rods are still able to cast heavy lures a long way and still produce plenty of power when you need it.

Similarly saltwater anglers fishing open flats and even drains, which require long casts to not spook fish, are finding these longer rods to be excellent. For many anglers this has been the domain of the spin combo but these extra length baitcasters have really opened up options for those anglers who love to fish overhead along the flats. Fish species like queenfish, trevally and even croc-sized flatties are great to target on overheads as well.

The longer rods are perfect for this style of fishing and with the introduction of carbon, the extra length is barely registered in terms of added weight. The extra length in the rod really opens overhead fishing and begins to share some of the key features that anglers enjoy from spin gear.

Baitcast rods really have come a long way over the years and the range available to anglers has allowed them to really tailor combinations to suit specific styles of fishing. Knowing which rods will suit specific areas will go a long way into achieving length and accuracy of casts that will translate into more fish. So if you are in the market for a new baitcast rod have a think about what will suit your needs and the areas you fish and tailor your rod accordingly.

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