What you should know about balancing a fishing rod
In considering a new rod, reel, or rod-and-reel package, the issue of balancing a fishing rod in coupling these two essential components of the fishing gear is addressed. The subject of balancing a fishing rod, or balanced tackle in general, is two different topics.
1. Matching rod and reel
The first is how to properly match a particular rod to a particular reel. People often refer to the correct reel for a given rod as the “balanced device” when it really means that these products are properly tuned to each other so that the resulting package is convenient to use and has the necessary features for casting, retrieval, stroke and detection Attachment of hooks achieved.
This term means that the rod and reel should be complementary and suitable for use together. You wouldn’t use a small ultra-light reel with a medium weight rod. You also wouldn’t use a large reel that can hold 200 yards of 12 pound line with a light stick for 4 to 8 pound line. Filling this large reel with 6 pound line is also not a solution as it is not designed that way and you still have a reel that is too large for convenient use with this particular rod.
If the rod and reel fit together properly, the rod should not be too heavy either in the tip area or in the grip. If a reel is too heavy or too light for a particular rod, casting distance and accuracy are compromised, as is stroke detection. This is especially true for spinning devices.
To see if the rod and reel are properly balanced, first select a rod, then adjust the reel. Using the example of a spinning rod with a reel mounted on the rod (no bait tied), hold the rod with the roller shaft between your little finger and the ring finger or with the roller shaft between your ring finger and the middle finger. Choose what is most convenient for you. If the outfit is balanced, in the first example the point of balance is where the middle finger touches the bar handle, and in the second example the point of balance is where the index finger touches the bar handle.
When the bar is properly balanced, you can hold the bar at the balance point with one finger and the bar will stay straight and won’t tip either way. This applies to the general range of spinning equipment, with the exception of heavy outfits.
Incidentally, some manufacturers offer rod-reel combinations in which rod and reel are tailored to their suitability, so that you do not have to worry about balancing a fishing rod. These are usually well balanced and sold separately with a discount off the purchase of the components.
2. Adding weight to the bar
The second problem with balancing a fishing rod involves modifying a rod to change the balance point. This may be desirable depending on your fishing method. Some baits, such as worms and jigs, are fished with the rod tip up, and balance is especially important when retrieving for hit detection. Others, like crank lures and spinner lures, are fished tip down, and balance isn’t as critical in retrieving. Because of this, many rods are designed for specific applications.
That said, if you have a rod that is tip heavy with the reel it’s tuned for (tip falls off if you hold it at the point of equilibrium), or if you want to keep casting heavy bait / weights, you can by adding do weight to the bottom of the pole. This moves the balance point further down the bar handle.
One method of doing this is to place one to four quarters at the bottom of a butt cap, which is then pushed over the end of the bar handle. Make sure the plunger cap is tight. Another method is to buy a rod balance kit, which consists of weights and a piston cap. Place one or more of the weights in the cap and place it over the rod piston.
When considering how to balance a fishing rod, you find that what works or feels comfortable for a person is due to differences in hand size, hand strength, the way each fishing tackle is held, and so on other reasons may not work for another person. You have to find out what is best for you.
Don’t forget to buy your fishing license before planning your next fishing adventure!
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Ken Schultz was a longtime contributor to Field & Stream magazine and is the former fishing editor of ESPNoutdoors.com. He has written and photographed nineteen books on sport fishing topics as well as an annual fishing tips calendar. His writing has appeared on various websites for nearly two decades. His author website is kenschultz.com.