Finding the best fishing gear among all the lures, rigs, lines, and reels out there is a challenge for anglers searching for effective tools. Nowhere is this more clear than with fishing rods and fishing poles.
The two names are often used interchangeably, but are they really the same thing? Find out in our guide to the fishing pole vs rod debate and learn which one is best suited to your angling needs.
A fishing pole has line attached to its tip and may use lures and bobbers but doesn’t have a reel seat, line guides, or a reel. For many anglers, it’s not truly a fishing pole unless it’s made out of a natural material like bamboo - or better yet, cut out of cane or willow right on the banks of a fishing hole.
Simplicity is the defining feature of a fishing pole vs rod for many anglers. That doesn't make them obsolete, though. Today, fishing poles are used for highly sustainable pole and line tuna fishing.
Benefits Of Fishing With A Pole
Fishing Rods: What Exactly Are They?
Unlike a simple fishing pole, fishing rods have line guides, reel seats, and a reel attached. The line isn’t tied onto the pole itself but rather spooled on the reel and fed through the line guides.
The vast majority of modern-day angling is done with a fishing rod, typically made of graphite, fiberglass, or a composite that blends both. Some models of bamboo fishing rods are still in production, but you’re much more likely to see them made out of graphite or fiberglass.
Related Article: Telescopic Fishing Rods - Best On The Market
Benefits Of Fishing With A Rod
Fishing Pole Vs Rod: Key Differences Explained
1. Durability When Fishing
Naturally, a homemade fishing pole cut from cane isn’t going to have the durability or the fast action of a store-bought fishing rod. However, some manufacturers do make carbon fishing poles that are comparable to fishing rods.
The trouble is that a fishing pole doesn’t give anglers more pulling leverage the way a rod and reel combo will. So even if the pole can handle pressure about as well as a fishing rod, you’re unlikely to be able to put it to full use.
If you’re chasing bass, catfish, or similar species that can put up a good fight, you’re probably better off with a fast-action rod and a good fishing reel.
2. Ease Of Use
Learning to cast a fishing rod isn’t the most difficult thing in the world, but learning to use a fishing pole is undoubtedly much easier. For one thing, casting is simpler. You're working with a fixed amount of line and don't need to concern yourself with casting distance as much.
You can place bait into the water exactly where you want it when you’re using a fishing pole. Annoying birds’ nests and line tangles can happen with a spinning reel or baitcaster, but not with a fishing pole.
Fishing poles are often used with simple hooks and bait, so the angler doesn't have to be precise like they would with finesse fishing and other bait presentation methods. Although their potential is more limited, fishing poles are generally easier to use than fishing rods.
Learn More About: How To Cast A Baitcaster For Accuracy
3. For Beginner Anglers
Many anglers who started fishing at a young age began with a fishing pole rather than a fishing rod. The lack of additional features helps new anglers focus on the fundamentals of getting bait in the water and playing a fish.
Of course, anglers who continue with the sport will want to learn how to use a fishing rod and reel combo eventually. But that doesn’t mean they won’t switch back to a fishing pole now and then.
You won't learn much about casting if you only use a fishing pole, but it will get you acclimated to being on the water and searching for a target. Beginner anglers should give both fishing poles and fishing rods a try.
Related Article: 5 Best Beginner Fishing Rods: Reviewed, Rated & Compared
4. For Saltwater Fishing
Saltwater fishing spots are less likely to have viable entry points for anglers using fishing poles. Unless you have a boat, you’ll want the high line capacity of a spinning reel and rod combo to get your lure far out into the ocean.
Fish in saltwater also tend to be much bigger and put up a big fight. The power of a fishing rod is probably much better for the majority of saltwater environments. That being said, cleaning a fishing pole is much easier because there’s no reel to clean.
However, people do use fishing poles to fish for tuna all the time, as we mentioned earlier in this guide. It’s not that fishing poles have no use in saltwater, but if you don’t have a boat, you'll likely prefer a fishing rod because they cast further.
Learn More: 6 Best Saltwater Fly Rods For The Money
5. For Fresh Water Fishing
A fishing pole is very useful in small rivers, creeks, and lakeside fishing. When there is too much cover or vegetation, making casting with a fishing rod too difficult or hang-ups more likely, you can get your bait near the fish easily with a fishing pole.
True, most freshwater anglers searching for catfish or bass use a casting rod and baitcaster combo. A rod is much better for casting, trolling, and bottom fishing. But fishing near vegetation or structure is usually easier with a fishing pole.
For example, one of the places bass like to hide is in sunken logs. If you have enough line, you can place your lure right in front of them in virtual silence. The easier it is for them to attack the bait, the greater your chances of a strike.
6. For Ice Fishing
Typically, anglers use specialty rods for ice fishing. They're much shorter, and the catches are usually smaller than you'd find in warm weather. Ice fishing rods come in various actions and have line guides like regular rods do. Their reels are specialized.
Although ice fishing rods are the most common method, fishing poles work just as well. All you need to make sure of is that you have enough line to get your bait where you want it in the water column. And if you’re fishing in a shelter, the fishing pole should be short enough to fit inside with ease.
Since you’re already aiming for a vertical presentation and dropping your lure or bait into the water is the same as placing it in an ice-free environment, fishing poles work just as well as rods for ice fishing.
Fishing Pole Vs Rod FAQs
How do you set up a fishing pole for beginners?
Beginning anglers should focus on learning the basics first, so they don't need a complicated setup for their fishing poles. Once you have the string on your pole, tie a hook and maybe a few weights ontoa the end and put your bait on. Stick with mono line - its neutral buoyancy makes it sink slowly for great lure presentation.
Are poles or rods generally more expensive?
Rods have more features, and they're made of more resilient material, often making them more expensive than fishing poles even when you don't consider the cost of the necessary reel.
There’s an old joke attributed to fly fisherman Lefty Kreh - What’s the difference between a fishing pole and a fishing rod? Answer: about a hundred bucks.
Do poles or rods last longer?
As with most fishing gear, it’s in the way that you use it. Although fishing rods typically take more of a beating over their lives, they’re also more durable. Fishing poles are less rugged, and anglers tend to care a bit less for fishing poles because they’re easily replaceable.
How do you cast a fishing pole?
The goal of fishing with a pole vs rod fishing is to place your lure or bait exactly where you want it noiselessly. To that end, you don't really cast with a fishing pole the same way you would with a rod. You can pitch your lure or flip it, but since you have a fixed amount of line, casting isn't the same as it is on a rod. Rather, you can just place your lure where you want it in the water.
Now that we've settled the fishing poles vs rod debate once and for all, you should have a better idea about which one suits your fishing needs best. Regardless of which type you wind up using the majority of the time, give both a try to experience the difference between a rod vs pole and their impact on your angling.