The long and Short of It
S o, the bass anglers Sportsman Society has decided that beginning this past January, tournament anglers may use rods up to 10 feet long, up from the long-standing eight-foot limit.
The rule, C8 to be exact, was originally imposed as a response to California bassman Dee Thomas, long considered “The Father of Flipping,” using long saltwater rods to snatch bass out of tule clumps in the California Delta.
Contrary to what some old-school tournament fishermen are claiming, this will not result in the demise of bass tournaments—much like the Alabama rig didn’t consign bass tournaments to oblivion.
What bass fishermen are quickly learning is what we saltwater fishermen have discovered. Every rod has its place, and every length has its niche.
The long rod has been a longtime tool among the skilled fisherman of the Big Briny, be it a 12-foot surf rod, a 9-foot fly rod, or a 7 foot, 6-inch jigging rod. The rods can provide different facets to fishing techniques, and the myriad actions are essential to cover as many different tactical situations as a fisherman might encounter.
Many modern saltwater fishermen along the Texas Coast have a preference for light action rods. They’ll use 6-foot-6, 6-foot- 9, maybe 7-foot rods, to sling jigs and topwaters at speckled trout and redfish.
These shorter rods are tremendously effective for their function. They’re easy to handle, provide sufficient leverage, and can be very comfortable to use. However, sticking to just one length can limit a fisherman’s effectiveness when the tactical situation changes.
I remember a trip with friend, J.R. Watts. A frontal ridge had passed through the night before our trip out of Arroyo City, and cloudless, blue-bird skies and vodka-clear water greeted us.
There were redfish all around us, but they were skittish and bolted when we hauled back to cast. As luck would have it, I had an eight-foot custom rod that Joe Montemayor at Joe’s Tackle built for me with a Shimano Chornarch E on it.
I rigged a Gulp! Shrimp on an Owner Screwlock and started moon-launching it as far away from the boat as I could. That was the only technique that got the reds to eat. The parabolic action of the longer rod allowed me to reach out to an area where the fish weren’t as skittish as closer to the boat.
Granted, hooking a redfish at the end of such a long cast on such a light rod made things interesting, but that’s part of the fun of fishing, right?
Of course, it isn’t as simple as buying some long rods, rigging them with your favorite reels, and getting on the water. There are other factors to consider.
Fishing for snook and tripletail around structure, for example, may require a rod with the action akin to a freshwater flipping rod. There are plenty of variables to consider when using that kind of setup. The primary variable is leverage, and that can be affected by length.
“When it comes to pulling and leverage, I look at it like this. The rod has two sections, the part behind the reel, or behind where you’re holding it, and the part in front of that,” says Larry Dahlberg, host of The Hunt for Big Fish Classics, and rod designer. “We call the rear part the butt, I like to call the forward part ‘the blade.’”
“If the blade is lengthened, the anglers leverage is reduced,” he explained. “If the butt section is lengthened, your leverage is increased. So, if butt lengths remain equal, and the overall rod is made longer, you have less leverage. In other words, if I went from an eight-footer to a nine-footer the only way I’d gain leverage would be if I made the butt a foot longer, not the blade.”
So, you have to find the happy medium, where you’ll have both the leverage to bull an angry tripletail out of the pilings of a channel marker and the length sufficient to drop a bait right under a snook’s nose.
Experience has taught me that an ideal length for me, at 5 foot, 9, is between 7 foot, 6 inches and 8 feet. A taller man could use a longer butt with reasonable comfort, so his rod length increases to 8 foot, 6 inches or 9 nine feet.
Surf and jetty fishermen understand the importance of length, especially in the butt end. The long butts are necessary in order to gain enough leverage to use the 10- or 12-foot parabola they call a fishing rod to sling a bait and sinker, which can weigh up to eight ounces, out to the third gut and beyond.
Beach shark fishermen usually use kayaks and small boats to take their large baits hundreds of yards beyond the third bar. They also need the longer length to hold their line above the waves, to optimize the bait presentation, and the leverage to effectively fight a large shark or ray.
Fishermen who throw lures off the end of the jetties for kingfish, bonita, and any other nearshore pelagic are in a different tactical situation. They again have to balance the need for leverage and castability. They might match a 500-sized reel with a stiffer 8 foot 6 inch to 9-foot swimbait rod that can cast a big popper or spoon a long way, and have the stiffness to both work the lure and fight a big fish. The butt can’t be too long because of the comfort factor of constant retrieves, but enough leverage.
In the end, the tactical situations dictate the strategies, and the strategies dictate the equipment. A long rod isn’t always necessary, but there should be room in every fisherman’s arsenal for one or two long rods to suit the specific needs.
You never know when size does matter.
Email Cal Gonzales at
Email Cal Gonzales at ContactUs@fishgame.com