Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fishing Pole or Fishing Rod?

When I was a young man, my mentor, "Junior Herron" caught me calling my fishing rod a "Pole".  I got to listen to several minutes of thorough instruction as to the differences between a "rod" and a "pole".  I intend to share those observations with you as well since I feel like many folks do not understand the concepts between the two.

So why the hubbub? What difference does it make?  Does it really make a difference what I call it?

Back in the old days they used "Cane Poles" to fish with.  This was the typical language they used and I maintain that it fits the style.  Why?  Because the line was attached to the *end* of the pole and the line had a predetermined limit to how far you could cast.  If the line was too long you couldn't get it off the ground to swing it out over the water.  There was no such thing as "casting" like we think of it.

You simply swing your bait out over the water and your line goes as far as you can swing it.  Not much distance as compared to a modern fishing rod, but definitely effective when fishing small ponds and creeks.

So why do we call modern fishing devices "Rods" instead of "Poles"?  Isn't the concept similar?

Yes is it, however there is a core concept that is completely different. But first we should probably get some history on exactly where the fishing rods came from.

Fly Rods.  Yep, All you bass fishermen out there who think that Bass Casters and Spinning rods are the only way to go need to remember if it weren't for fly fishermen, you wouldn't have the rods you use today.

Early fly rods didn't have reels per se.  There were devices on them like we often see on ice rods today.  Devices where you wrapped the line by hand over two closely placed metal rods.  This was obviously uncomfortable so it wasn't long before someone invented a spindle style "winch" and a way to keep it on the rod. The fly reel we see to  But it wasn't until the world decided to go to war that someone decided there were other ways to fish.

Enter metal rods.  I think you see where this is going.  The mere fact that I said "Metal Rods" gives you an idea of a solid metal rod that is thin enough to be flexible...  right?  Well, if you imagined that, you were exactly right.  And that is where the term "Rod" started to be commonly used for fishing.

It no longer made sense to call a fishing rod a "pole" because the newer style of rod was much more slender than previous cane poles.  Additionally, reels changed drastically at this point with push button reels were the norm followed by large casting reels and spinning reels.  Baitcaster reels are a new addition to the angler tackle box. The steel rods were heavy and tiresome.  At this point surf fishing was near impossible the way we think of surf fishing.

As the first world war brought about the invention of slender steel rods, so did the second world war bring about long cylindrical fiberglass. We can thank airplane engineers for their hard work in inventing fiberglass rods. But those solid glass rods were somewhat cumbersome.  It wasn't until much later that someone found out that wrapping fiberglass at an *Angle* around a steel rod and firing it in a furnace that we ended up with hollow core rods.

The fact is, fishing rods are not really "Rods". They are "Tapers".  A "rod" indicates a cylindrical or solid length of round material much longer than it is wide.  These "rods" should be the same size the entire length to be called a rod. However our modern fishing rods are actually tapers because they are large at one end and small at the other like a very elongated cone. This is why many candles are called "Tapers" because they are bigger at the bottom than at the top so they burn properly.

At the factory, every rod has a steel taper called a mandrill that matches it's size. The fiberglass and graphite material is wrapped around the taper, fired in a oven, and then knocked or pulled off the mandrill taper to create a "mold" of the mandrill which is called a blank.  It's called a blank not just because it's "blank" without a handle and guides, but also because the steel mandrill has been removed and it's "blank" or "empty" now without it's steel core.

I have oversimplified the process somewhat but the idea is that we are carrying around Tapers when we go fishing.  We call them rods because of the steel rods that were originally used, which was transferred to the concept of a steel taper that was used to create the blanks that we call a "rod".

Old angler's used to call the original fiberglass wound rods, "Tapers" because they knew the origin of how it was made.  But popularity of the word "rod" caused most of us to forget the real name of a fishing rod is "Taper".

Now you know why we call fishing rods "Rods".  The next time you are with your fishing buddies, tell one of them to "hand me that Taper there Fred" and see if he has a clue.  I'd guess if he's over 60 years old he won't even bat an eye...  except to wonder if you were trying to be funny.

So the next time someone tells you that you have a nice fishing pole, you need to tell them call it a rod or a taper but don't call your bass rod a pole.

As my mentor said to me "Does that look like a telephone pole to you?  No?  Then DON'T CALL IT A POLE!".  And THAT goes for you too!  :-)

Tight lines y'all!



  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! By the way, you're the first person to comment... ever. There's an old article on this site that mentions this with instructions... (hint hint)

  2. Well, I guess I better learn the vocabulary better. But, what to you call a bass fisherman in Poland?
    Answer: A fishing Pole.

  3. Well, I guess I better learn the vocabulary better. But, what to you call a bass fisherman in Poland?
    Answer: A fishing Pole.

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