Line-rating, power and lure rating are a staple of rod development for determining best practices when fishing a rod. They are not always a perfect science and vary from rod company to rod company. In this article we will explain the basics of the ratings and how they vary between styles of rods.
Line rating is meant to suggest the normal breaking strength of line that can be paired with a properly adjusted reel. If a rod says 8-12lb you should be able to fight a fish with reasonable drag without breaking the rod. You should not run 50lb mainline and a 30lb leader with an 8-12lb rod.
It does not mean "weight of fish" you can catch, because that is highly dependent on current, strength of fish, and other movement facts on the rod.
This can also mean line used to achieve best possible cast ability (accuracy and distance) while working effectively with the bend of the rod. There is a range that is given that can typically be thought of as the “mono-rating.” This simply means that the line diameter that is desired is based on monofilament line diameter. Therefore, if you are working with braided line, which has a smaller diameter than mono, you can up the strength of your line to achieve similar results.
For instance – a rod with a line rating of 10-20lb may work effectively with braid from 15-30lb. This is not a hard and fast rule, but a good guideline to follow.
Line rating will typically correspond with the “power” of a rod but is not always a straight across comparison. Many bass rod types do not designate line-rating but instead rely simply on power ratings to designate type of line used.
This rating may also provide a good guideline for the weight of leader you may use. If you are using a heavy mainline and a leader much higher than the line rating, you run the risk of stressing the rod to a break point. If your leader is within the rating you have a much better chance of breaking the line instead of the rod.
If you are having difficulty casting your rod take a look at the line you are using and whether or not it falls within the line rating.
The “power” of a rod is determined by it’s ability to leverage weight. The interesting thing about rod “powers” is that they vary greatly in different rod types. It is important to use the right line for corresponding power. If you use too light of a line on a heavier rod, you are in much more danger of breaking the line on a fish. If you use too heavy of line on a light rod, you could possibly break the rod. Again, matching your gear to the rod is essential for best performance.
Surf rod powers are vastly different – Where a steelhead rod rated “medium” would typically be 8-12lb line, a medium surf rod could be somewhere around 12-25lb line. A medium-heavy salmon rod 10-20lb and medium-heavy surf 17-40lb.
Let’s look at the main “power” ratings.
Ultra-Light | Light | Med-Light | Medium | Medium-Heavy | Heavy | Xtra Heavy
Ultra-light rods are typically for trout, crappie, kokanee and other smaller species fisheries. These have lots of bend-ability and action that makes lighter species a ton of fun. These would have difficulty moving a larger fish and thus fall under the “ultra-light” rating.
Light power rods could be everything from a more capable trout rod, to a bass drop-shot or a light steelhead rod. There is a lot of variety in this range on up as different species rods will be defined differently.
Medium-light is just what it sounds like, the bridge from light to medium. These are common for smallmouth bass rods and steelhead offerings. Many rod companies skip this power-rating. In surf rods these may have the ability to throw a few ounces, where as in other ranges you should be very careful and stick with light presentations.
Medium power rods are very popular in that they can handle a broad range of fish. Slightly on the heavy side for trout they are the most common steelhead rod. They work excellent for smallmouth and largemouth finesse techniques and can handle the smaller salmon species. Some saltwater rod series start out at medium for lighter saltwater options. Surf Mediums are pretty capable rods that can heave a few ounces a long way.
Medium-Heavy is an excellent power for those looking for a rod that can handle bigger fish while still retaining good action. Medium-heavy rods are very common in surf, saltwater, bass, salmon rods and beyond, however, a medium-heavy may vary greatly between a saltwater jigging rod and a salmon/steelhead combo rod. Don’t use the rating as a catch-all for every species.
Heavy power rods are meant to move big fish effectively. The variety of actions can change but the rod should still have enough power and backbone to move larger fish or carry heavier weight. Heavy power rods are very common for musky, swimbait, salmon trolling, saltwater trolling & live bait usage. You should be able to pull hard on a fish with a heavy action rod.
Xtra Heavy rods are the all-out bruiser rods meant for ultimate power. They are related to the heaviest needs of each fishery. An Xtra Heavy salmon rod will be able to hold the maximum amount of weight required and still move a fish. An Xtra Heavy saltwater rod is meant for big species that require big leverage. Xtra Heavy in the bass world is often related to big heavy swimbait fishing or Alabama Rigs. This rating is for big presentations and big fish!
Note: As you move into giant saltwater species like marlin and sailfish these power ratings go out the window.
This measurement is primarily meant to describe the ideal weight for “loading” the rod upon the cast. If you have too light of a lure, the rod will not load properly and result in a shorter cast. If you’ve got too heavy of a weight, the rod will load too much and have a sluggish cast. If you have the right weighted lure on, the rod will load properly and achieve optimal casting distance.
With bass rods this is pretty straightforward. If it says 1 – 2 1/2 ounces you can bet on that rod casting those weights effectively.
When it comes to salmon trolling rods you may be surprised at the lure rating. A rod that has a pretty soft action may say 1-8 ounces. This may produce a sluggish cast. This rating could be applied to the ideal trolling weight to load the rod with rather than a casting rating.
Also of note, on a trolling rod where you are not casting but simply letting the lure down to the bottom, you can often exceed the lure rating with good results. Some rods that are rated 1 – 8 ounces are often trolled with 12 or more ounces. As always, be careful and keep an eye on if the rod is maxed out or being over-worked. Also, take into consideration the drag that the lure may impart. You may only let down 4 ounces but the drag of your plug is loading the rod with much more intensity. You can usually see if your rod is being over-loaded and adjust accordingly.
If your rod has no lure-rating, it may be a rod that is not meant for casting but instead trolling or down-rigger use.
Are you putting your rod in danger?
If you are over-loading your rod upon a cast be extremely careful with the cast as the rod is not meant to take that and could break due to over-stress.
Be cognizant of if your lure or weights are hitting your rod at any point of storage or fishing.
Don't run a really heavy line and put undue stress to your fishing rod.
Choose The Right Rod for the Job
Using these concepts about line-rating, power and lure rating, you can better make an informed decision on what rods will work for your particular fishery.
This article does justify the big rod collections that many have due to the fact that every type of fishing can have different needs and thus a need for a specific rod.
In a separate article we will discuss rod “action” which is a full discussion in and of itself. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. Otherwise – take a look at our wide range of rods.