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How To Set Up A Fishing Rod-Is Your Fishing Rod and Reel Ready for Action?

by Tom Melton 10 Jan 2022

Are you an old-school angler who used to use heavy fiberglass fishing poles and bulky reels? Do you remember trying how to set up a fishing rod to balance the fishing rod and reel to make it at least a little bit comfortable after fishing for a period of time longer than 10 minutes? I remember trying to make sure that when you held the rod about four inches in front of the reel seat and seeing how close it was to being balanced. Boy times have changed and now balancing is a breeze due to fishing rods and fishing reels being so light. So what do you have to do today to set up the perfect fishing rod to fishing reel, and fishing gear to make your day fun, effortless and rewarding? Let's take a look and see how to set up a fishing rod and what needs to be done, plus a few tips to keep you fishing all day.


Before you even make your first cast of the day, there are several things you should check. We all store fishing rods in various places; storage racks, V10LS Rod Rack, hand-made rod rack, boat storage compartments, and some guys just lay them in a heap in the garage corner.

Rods are fragile – yes even the newer, stronger and lighter models are fragile to a point. Graphite is strong, but cannot take being stepped on or roughed up like the old fiberglass broom sticks. Before I make a cast, I first check all the guides to make sure there are no nicks or breaks. A quick visual, plus running a Q-Tip around the ceramic insert takes no time at all. Next up is a quick look at the reel seat to make sure the reel is tight, and the locking nuts have no cracks or appear to be loose.

How To Set Up A Fishing Rod


Okay, the rod is good, but what about the fishing reel? Is your bail working okay? Does the line release on the baitcaster release the line? Does the spool spin freely on the baitcasting reel? Is the handle tight on the spinning reel? You get the point, make a quick check to be see if the reel is functioning as it should be. Nothing is more frustrating than hitting the water, then having your reel malfunction do to a lack of care or service. Lastly, take care of your fishing reels and they will take care of you. 

How to set up a fishing rod


Earlier I spoke of balancing that old and heavy fiberglass fishing pole. In today’s world of lightweight graphite fishing rods, balance still plays a factor. If you plan on being on the water for a period of time longer than 15 minutes, you will want the rod and reel to “match up.” To me match up means, ensuring I can cast and retrieve with minimal effort or torque on my body under normal conditions of fishing. And again, normal conditions is when you are not “catching!” Once a fish is on, there is no normal as you could be pulled this way or that and your body torqued and twisted. However, during the remainder of the 100 plus casts you may make, I want balance and comfort.

Every rod made has a range of line and lure weights written on the handle usually right above the reel seat. These are guidelines for what the rod is capable of, but by no means is designed to judge how big a fish you may catch. Heck, I have seen guys land 50-pound striped bass on 7-foot spinning rods made for trout… that is why reels have drags!

For example, if I was setting up the KastKing Speed Demon Bladed Jig rod for throwing small swimbaits in the 2 to 4 inch size, I would not want a heavy Kapstan 300 Baitcasting reel on the handle because I was searching for huge early season smallmouth bass in deep water. That set up after casting for about 10 minutes would wear you out. Instead, you could use a nice KastKing Crixus which weighs close to 3 ounces less than the Kapstan and be real comfortable. Trust me, 3 ounces may not seem like a lot, but think about casting a 3-ounce plug all day compared to a 1/2 ounce version and you should be able to relate.

The same holds for spinning fishing rods. If you were using the new 10-foot KastKing KONG rod, which is rated for 10 to 40 pounds and baits/lures of 2 to 8 ounces, you would not want a small size 4000 Carbon KastKing Zephyr on the reel seat. First off it would never hold the quantity of line you need, but would also never give you the torque or leverage to fight a decent fish. For this rod, a new Kapstan Elite Spinning Reel in size 8000 is a much better fit.

How To Set Up A Fishing Rod


This is something that plagues anglers more than they realize. Ever since braid fishing line entered the equation, anglers feel the need to over use breaking strengths do to a thinner diameter line. Fishing reels also have ratings on them just like fishing rods, but that is a guide on what it can handle.

For example, my KastKing Kapstan Elite 300 is “sized” for 230 yards of 14-pound test monofilament fishing line or 230 yards of 65-pound test braid fishing line. This does not mean you have to use 65-pound test braid fishing line! This reel has amazing drag strength, and can handle 65-pound line, but it is not needed, and a line rated for 20 to 30-pound will cast farther, work baits better as it is thinner, and holds even more line if you feel the desire.

As a rule of thumb, I use the lightest line for the circumstance I am fishing, not the size of fish I am targeting. I want to cast as far as I can, if needed, and I want to work my baits to the best of their ability with no restrictions because of oversize line. Don’t worry about landing your fish, your drag and working the rod properly will make that happen.

In closing, before you head out, check your rod and reel and ensure they are in good working condition. Make sure your line is the appropriate size for what type of fishing, not just what was on sale last week at Academy Sports. And last, make sure the reel matches the rod and feels good in your hands and not too heavy to use the entire day. Hit the water, have some fun and catch ‘em up! 

Hopefully now that you have read this far you will have a better understanding of how to set up a fishing rod and why you should do it.

Tom Melton is an expert in all aspects of inshore saltwater fishing and freshwater fishing. As an authority on angling he strives to excel while teaching others, and in his own outdoors adventures. Whether it is a freshwater bass fishing tournament, or recreational fishing with family, his skills and knowledge always shine. Tom has been an outdoor writer for more than three decades.

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