Long Rod VS Short Rod For Fishing: Differences

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Newbie fisherman might think that the length of the rod does not make a big difference in comparison to other important aspects of fishing gear, but this is simply not so. The length of the fishing rod you are using will go a long way in determining your success when fishing in various conditions and with accessories. Fishing rods can be anywhere from 4 to 14 feet in length.

The average is usually between 5 and 9 feet, with bass fisherman usually choosing to stick to rod length between 6 and 8 feet. The length of your fishing rod affects many vectors such as;

  • Casting distance
  • Sensitivity
  • Impact absorption
  • Fatigue
  • Where you can easily fish from.

Today we are here to talk about the differences between long and short fishing rods, and what each is best used for. So, when do you want to use a long fishing rod and when do you want to use a shorter one?


Long Fishing Rod VS Short: The Differences

As we mentioned before, there are stark differences in what short and long fishing rods can do. There are many factors which will be affected by the length of the fishing rod you are using.

So, what factors are affected by the length of your rod? What makes a long rod different from a short one?

Casting Distance

The first difference you will see when it comes to short vs long fishing rods has to do with casting distance. Simply put, a shorter rod offers less leverage and power when it comes to casting your lures and baits.

This is a basic rule of physics. The longer the rod or pole is, the more power is transferred from one end to the other. Therefore, the longer the rod in question is, the more power you can get out of it, thus leading to much longer casts.

Short rods are great if you are fishing in fairly closed off waters and in small streams or lakes. If you do not require your casting distance to be very far, a short rod will do just fine.

For example, trawling is a prime example of a fishing technique where you do not require a far casting ability. However, for fishing techniques and areas where you require a further casting ability, the longer the rod is, the better off you will be.


Another big factor to keep in mind when choosing the length of your fishing rod is sensitivity. Sensitivity is an important factor to think about. If you have a really sensitive rod, it means that it is fairly stiff, does not bend much, and allows you to feel even the smallest of movements in the handle.

A fishing rod that is not very stiff and sensitive will not allow you to feel as much movement in the handle of the rod, especially when smaller fish are concerned.

If you are fishing for small prey that is hard to detect, you want to have a fairly sensitive rod so you can feel the nibbles. There is a certain tradeoff though, because a rod that is more sensitive usually does not have as much bend and flex, or in other words, fishing rods with high sensitivity are not as strong and do not have as high of an ability to absorb the impact which big fish cause when they fight you.

Stiff fast action rods are sensitive and good for small fish, whereas more flexible slow action rods do not really let you feel the nibbles as well, but they have an increased ability to deal with the strain of larger fish.

Pole Length & Sensitivity

Now, in terms of how pole length affects this, let us explain. A shorter pole is generally going to be stiffer. This is just another one of those rules. The shorter the pole is, generally speaking, the less bend it will have to it. Therefore, shorter poles are more sensitive.

They work well when hunting for smaller fish that require a high level of sensitivity to detect. They also work well for things like jigging where you need a lot of control and sensitivity to get the bait to move in the way you want it to move, fast and jerky in the case of jigging.

Getting back to the tradeoff we mentioned just above, longer poles are not going to be as sensitive. Because they are longer, they usually are not quite as stiff and have more flex and bend to them. This causes a decrease in sensitivity, so long poles are not ideal for really small fish as you might not feel them.

Long poles, due to a lack of sensitivity and fast reaction speeds to your actions, they don’t work the best for fishing techniques that require quick movements, such as jigging. However, due to not being as stiff, longer rods do better for power fishing where big and boisterous fish are involved, which we will talk about next.

Line Pressure & Impact Absorption

As we talked about before, several times now in fact, when it comes to long and short fishing poles, there is a tradeoff between sensitivity and power, which is closely related to impact absorption. A fishing pole that is fairly short is usually also fairly stiff, and therefore it does not bend much.

Therefore, this means that a shorter fishing pole does not give and bend as much when you have a big fish on the line that is fighting for its life. If the pole is way too short and stiff when trying to reel in a big fighting fish, it could snap the pole.

Another thing that can happen in this case is that your line snaps. The reason for this is because a rod that bends more takes some of the impact and pressure off of the line, thus allowing the line to take more pressure without snapping.

A short and stiff rod just cannot absorb much impact and it won’t bend much before snapping, thus making shorter rods ideal for fishing smaller prey, and larger rods better for fishing larger prey that is going to put a lot of strain and pressure on the line and rod.

The rule of thumb here is that the bigger the fish and the rougher the waters you are fishing in, the longer and more flexible you want the rod to be so that it and the line does not snap under strain.

Spatial Limitations

Another thing that you need to consider before settling on a certain rod length is what your own fishing space is like. Simply put, if you are fishing from cover, such as a place that has a lot of bushes and trees, you are going to want to limit the length of your rod.

If there is not much clear space around, a short rod will be more maneuverable and easier to cast. If the rod you are using is too long, and there is a lot of cover around, it won’t be easy to cast and you will get it snagged in bushes and branches.

If you are fishing from the shore, such as from a pier, wharf, or dock, a really long rod will do just fine, especially because it will allow you to cast further. On the other hand, if you are in a small fishing kayak or canoe and have limited space to work with, you will probably be better off with a smaller rod.

It takes a lot more power and movement to launch your bait with a long rod, which could end up tipping your small kayak or canoe over, especially if the weather conditions are not favorable. It’s also a good idea to get a small and waterproof tackle bag, more on those here.

Close Range Leverage

The leverage needed to pull a fish out of the water once you have reeled it in to a close distance is another factor to keep in mind when deciding between a long or short fishing pole. When you get the fish close to the boat or pier, you need to have a good amount of leverage to actually get it out right beside you and out of the water.

Keep in mind that if you are a muscle man, this is not as important, but if pumping iron is not your think, this leverage factor is pretty important to keep in mind.

A short rod will not provide you with much leverage, thus making it harder to reel in those big fish and get them out of the water at a close range. When the fish is right beside your boat, even between the tip of the rod and you, a longer rod will afford more lifting leverage to get your kill into the boat or onto the pier.

If your upper body and arm strength is not top notch, the final moments of reeling in that big fish will be much harder with a short rod as opposed to a long one.

You might also like: Our summary of the 7 most common types of fishing reels, you can check it out here.

Your Footing

The footing where you are fishing from should also be considered when choosing the length of your fishing pole. If you are on very stable footing, such as on solid shore, a pier, or on a large boat, a long fishing pole will be fine.

The stable ground will afford you the footing stability to really wind back and cast your rod with a lot of force with running the risk of you falling down.

However, if you are on unstable ground, a long rod is not going to do very well. If you are on unstable ground, such as in a small canoe, fishing kayak, or standing on a rocky river bottom, the force and motion required to cast your bait with a long rod will put you at risk of falling down or tipping your fishing vessel.

If you have stable footing, a long rod is fine, but a shorter rod is best used when your footing is unsure and precarious.

The Bait & Fishing Technique

You do also need to pay attention to the type of bait you are using when choosing a fishing pole length, and closely related, the fishing technique you are using too. Fishing techniques that require a subtle hand, finesse, and lots of control require a shorter and stiffer rod, whereas fishing techniques that are more about casting distance, power, and getting those big fish are best used with longer, stronger, and less flexible rods.

For instance, if you are jigging, you want your rod to be under 7 feet, with an ideal length being around 6.5 feet. For cranking, which is all about power, to get your crankbait in quickly, something like an 8 or 9 foot rod is ideal. Trawling requires a strong pole with decent flex and power, so for trawling, a 7 or 8 foot rod is ideal. If you are using a jerkbait, which requires lots of constant and quick motions, a shorter 5.5 or 6 foot rod is ideal.

It all depends on the type of fishing you are doing and the type of bait being used. There are of course many other types of fishing and types of baits than we mentioned here, but there is enough info for a whole different piece of writing.

The rule of thumb here is that fishing baits and techniques that require quickness and fast reaction times are best used with shorter rods, whereas as power fishing and other types of fishing that require a bit more flex and impact resistance are best used with longer rods.


This might sound a little trivial for anyone who is not an avid fisherman and does not fish on a daily basis, but fatigue is a big deal. It takes quite a bit of power and stamina to cast a fishing rod time after time for many hours on end.

Sure, it might not be like bench pressing a Cadillac, but the point is that you do actually have to be pretty fit in order to fish for any prolonged period of time. Simply put, a shorter rod is going to be lighter than a longer one, therefore making it less fatiguing to cast over and over again.

A longer rod is heavier than a short rod and therefore requires more muscles and a higher level of fitness. With that being said, in terms of casting distance, a short rod won’t allow for a long cast, or in other words, for the same casting distance, a short rod will require a lot more force than a longer one.

So, if you want to cast very far distances, while a longer rod is heavier, it will take less effort to achieve a longer distance cast than with a short rod.


As you can probably tell by now, the length of the fishing pole you have in your hands goes a long way in determining how you can fish, what kind of additional gear you need, what you can fish for, and where you can fish from.

In terms of long vs short fishing rods, be sure to take all of the factors we have talked about today into consideration, as they will go a long way in determining your overall success when fishing.

Jason Downs

I created Fishtackly to share my 30 years of fishing experience and knowledge with others with the aim to help, and hopefully get more people involved and educated in this fantastic hobby that I love.