Fishing Rod vs Fishing Pole: Is There a Difference?


If you’ve been around different fishing circles, you might’ve heard of the terms fishing rods and fishing poles. At face value, they seem to be the same thing but are they?

What is the difference between fishing rods and fishing poles? 

Fishing rods have a reel and line guides attached to them and are designed for casting, jigging, and trolling. Fishing poles have no reel or line guides, and the fishing line is connected directly to the pole end.

Why would someone use a fishing pole instead of a fishing rod? Well, believe it or not, there are certain situations where a fishing pole might be the better tool for the job.

Let’s take a deep dive into this topic and better understand when you might want to use a fishing rod versus a fishing pole.

Trawling vs. Trolling – What’s ...
Trawling vs. Trolling – What’s the Difference?

What is a Fishing Rod?

A fishing rod is technically described as having a reel attached to it with line guides that keep your fishing line travelling in a straight line when casting, jigging, trolling, or reeling in your line with a reel. 

Fishing rods can come in a single solid piece or in multiple pieces, which requires you to assemble them before you can use the rod. Rod lengths range between 4.5 ft to 12ft.

There are many different types of fishing rods with a variety of different lengths and ratings. The different types of fishing rods can be generally described as

  • Casting Rods
  • Spinning Rods
  • Trolling Rods
  • Fly Fishing Rods

When to Use a Fishing Rod?

Fishing rods have overrun the market and will be the only thing you see in your local fishing store, but for good reason. Fishing rods are incredibly versatile and can be used in essentially any situation. 

You can use fishing rods to cast your bait at great distances, jig lures at the bottom of the water, and troll your bait across the water.

Essentially you can use a fishing rod for pretty much any use, which is why fishing rods are found in practically every tackle shop around.

What is a Fishing Pole?

A fishing pole is technically described as having no reel or line guides attached to the pole. The fishing line is only connected to the end of the pole, usually by some plastic/elastic fitting. The fishing line is typically several feet long only. 

Fishing poles will come in multiple pieces, requiring assembly before you can use it. Fishing poles can get as long as 50ft! But it goes without saying that poles can become challenging to handle.

There are typically only two different classifications for fishing poles: 

  • Freshwater Poles
  • Saltwater Poles

The only difference between these two types of poles is the material. The pole materials change because saltwater typically has larger fish, and the poles need to be made from stronger material.

When to Use A Fishing Pole?

You want to use fishing poles when fishing around a lot of vegetation or if the fish you are targeting are topwater and scares easily.

Whether you’re fishing freshwater or saltwater, the technique of fishing with a fishing pole is the same. To fish with a fishing pole, extend the pole end with the fishing line over the water to where the fish are and gently place your bait on the water. Typically, the bait used with fishing poles will usually float on top of the water or near the top. 

You use a fishing pole when there is a lot of vegetation and high bushes. You don’t risk snagging on the vegetation, unlike if you were casting your line using a fishing rod.

Is a Fishing Pole Better Than a Fishing Rod?

When it comes to using a fishing pole or fishing rod ultimately comes down to personal preference. 

A fishing rod is more popular worldwide, and if you don’t believe me, go to your local fishing store and ask for a true fishing pole, and they will assume you’re talking about a fishing rod. 

Essentially a fishing rod can do pretty much the same thing as a fishing pole, but a fishing pole can’t do what a fishing rod can do. But you should be aware of some slight differences between the pros and cons. 

Fishing Rod Pros

  • Can cast bait further distances than what the fishing pole can reach.
  • Allows you to fish at different depths and provide a realistic action to the bait as you reel in.
  • Able to cover more water by reeling in your line after casting.
  • Very versatile
  • Suitable for a wide range of fish

Fishing Rod Cons

  • Casting is less accurate.
  • More equipment and parts – more things that can break.
  • More maintenance.
  • More expensive

Fishing Pole Pros

  • Minimal components make it simple to use.
  • Places bait quietly and precisely, making it very stealthy.
  • Great for small ponds, streams, and shorelines.
  • Excellent to use around heavy vegetation so you don’t get snagged.

Fishing Pole Cons

  • It’s long, making it unwieldy to handle.
  • Hard to find, especially in North America.
  • Not very versatile.
  • Only suitable for a narrow range of fish

A Quick History Lesson About Fishing Poles vs Fishing Rods

Fishing poles are the oldest type of fishing equipment around. The idea of using a fishing pole or just a wooden stick with some fishing line tied to the end has been around for thousands of years. 

The idea of a fishing rod was invented when the first fishing reels were invented a few hundred years ago. But like any new technology, only the privileged and wealthy people had access to fishing rods and reels.

If you are curious about what the development of reels looked like over the years, then check out this article from fishingmueseum.org

The rest of the people were stuck using fishing poles instead. Think about the days of Huckleberry Finn fishing along the shoreline.

Nowadays, the terms fishing rod and fishing pole refer to the same thing: a fishing rod. The concept of a fishing pole is disappearing because fishing rods have become more readily available. 

The term fishing poles have been ingrained into our language because of its history, but these are just semantics. When talking to the average person, fishing rods and poles are used interchangeably.

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