Major League Fishing

Wills Point Major League Fishing pro Jeff Sprague cites lure type, weight, use and fisherman preferences as important factors in choosing a bass rod. Sprague is coming out with his own signature series rods with Lew’s this fall.

Today’s fishing rods, at least those for bass fishing, have come a long way over the years.

All fishing rods can trace their lineage back to the same bamboo pole, but at some point in time bass fishermen split off in their own direction. The earliest specialty rods were probably short fiberglass rods that had all the sensitivity of a broom handle.

Fast-forward to today and it is carbon fiber rods stretching upwards of 7 feet long with a multitude of options and configurations. It all seems very confusing, especially since it is difficult to test drive the various brands, but it’s not. The hardest part is realizing you do not always have to spend top dollar to impress your friends or get a good rod.

“When I began fishing, I would use the same rod for a spinner, a Carolina rig, a football jig or a Texas-rigged worm. It can be done.If you are looking for a rod on a budget, there are rods out there that can be used for any techniques,” said Wills Point’s Jeff Sprague, a Major League Fishing Pro Tour angler.

Admittedly, Sprague no longer fishes with just one rod. In fact, he has about 30 onboard during a competition, but there is reasoning behind that madness.

“In our situation, every minute counts. If we sit down to tie on a bait, it could cost us money, so I have duplicates,” said Sprague, who is coming off a second-place finish at the MLF Heavy Hitters tournament in North Carolina. He also earned a $100,000 bonus for a 5-3 big bass coming in the last round on Shearon Harris Reservoir.

While weekend fishermen do not have the need for that many rods, knowing which ones to have and how to use them is the same.

“I think of what I am going to be doing, what kind of bait I am going to fish with and how heavy the bait is going to be,” Sprague explained.

Knowing those factors, it comes down to reading the information on the rod to find out what matches the fisherman’s style of fishing. Many rods are labeled specifically for certain types of baits, while others just identify specified bait weights that fit that rod’s design.

For those who cannot afford a bevy of rods, Sprague said split the middle.

“Look for a good medium heavy rod. It is right in the middle and you can fish anything with it,” he explained.

Understanding there are a lot of fishermen, including beginners, who cannot afford a rod for each lure type, Sprague has teamed with Lew’s for a more general-purpose signature series rod that should be showing up at Walmart stores nationwide this fall.

The difference with our rods and others is I designed the action of these rods and I designed them with every type of angler I could think of in mind. Not everyone has a $100,000 boat and can afford any rod. This is an opportunity to go with a high end rod, or one anyone could afford,” he said, adding the base price is expected to be $99.

Over the years bass rods have been stretched more than 2 feet in length. They started life at 5- or 5½-feet, but are now often found anywhere from 6½ to 7½ feet. Again, Sprague said fishermen should match rod length to their style of fishing.

If they are fishing smaller lakes or ponds, or plan to fish tighter spots, a 6-10 rod might be the right length. For longer casts, the 7-foot-plus rods offer more whip. A stiffer, long rod is also more suited to situations like heavy jig fishing in the summer because they offer more leverage in the hookset.

While these generalities are a starting point, they do not completely answer the individual choice question. That comes from trial and error.

“Everyone has a different hook set, a different retrieve. It is all on personal preferences,” Sprague said.

Factored in with that comes feel. Some people have smaller hands, some larger so even rod grips are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Fit is something you can get a feel for in the store, especially if you test it topped with a reel similar to the one you are going to use.

Of course, picking out the right reels can be as difficult as buying a rod, but Sprague recommends 5:1 gear ratios for crankbaits and similar lures, 6:1s for medium or medium or short crankbaits and speed retrieves, leaving 7:1s and 8:1s for frogs, flipping, Texas rigs and anything else you want to crank quickly. If you can only afford one or two reels, go to the middle with something in the 6:1 range.

Like with bait selection, confidence in a rod and reel go a long way in bass fishing success.

“There is no right or wrong answers to bass fishing. That is what makes it so popular. You may like a Lew’s because it fits in your hand, or you may be a guy who likes G Loomis or a Duckett because they feel good,” Sprague said.