Maybe one of the most underappreciated powers of rods is the Medium Light fishing rod. Many people consider medium rods as a workhorse that can serve a variety of needs, and then if they want to go lighter for trout, panfish, or crappie they go straight to light or ultralight gear.
Medium Light rods have their own place to shine and really should be at least one of the rods in your arsenal. Let’s get into where a Medium Light rod shines below, when you should buy it, what you can catch with it, and what makes it so unique.
Explaining Medium Light Rod Power
First, let’s explain what medium light rods actually refer to. All rods are rated on their power on a scale from light to heavy. The lighter a rod is, the more easy it is to bend. The heavier the rod, the less likely it is to bend.
You may think heavy is always best then, why would you want a rod to bend? Well rod bend is actually extremely important for fishing. When you cast, you need a rod that bends because it makes a whiplike motion that will fling a bait further. Try casting the exact same lure on a heavy rod and then on a light rod, the light rod will almost always cast further because it bends easier and creates that whiplike action.
Also when a fish is hooked, you need your rod to bend and keep tension on a fish. If you rely on the line only when a fish turns quickly, slack can be created more easily and a hook will fall out of the fish’s mouth. If the rod adds tension, when the fish turns then the rod will go slack before the line does – giving you more time to regain tension and not lose a fish.
So medium light is a really great option for when you want a rod that will bend easily but not be completely underpowered for larger fish. Medium light poles have enough “power” to set a hook in most fish’s mouths, but are also able to bend and fight a fish well. And you can catch fish up to 100 pounds on a medium light rod if you play them right, even if that’s not suggested.
Medium vs. Medium Light vs. Light
Explaining and feeling the difference between a heavy and light rod is easy, they are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. This gets a little more difficult when you compare a medium light rod versus a medium. Or a light versus a medium light.
Essentially every fishing rod goes from light power to heavy power in this order – Ultralight, Light, Medium Light, Medium, Medium Heavy, Heavy.
And you can expect that flexibility or the ease of bending the rod will follow suit. It’s easier to bend a light than medium light, so on and so forth. But to what degree? Well honestly it can depend on the rod manufacturer. You’ll find that some brands’ medium power feels more like another brand’s medium light. So getting some firsthand testing is key.
But as a very broad brush, you are best to think of which power rod you want to use as which weight lures you will be casting on them and matching them as such. A simple chart is below that will give you a good starting point.
Under ⅛ ounce
⅛ ounce to ¼ ounce
⅛ ounce to ⅜ ounce
¼ ounce to ¾ ounce
½ ounce to 1 ¼ ounce
Over 1 ounce
There are a ton of things that can change this, but it’s a great place to start. If you’re interested, read this article where I break down all of the things you’ll want to think about when selecting the right power rod for you.
Fish you should target with Medium Light Rods
Now that we know what Medium Light actually refers to with rod power, let’s get into some fish species that you can catch with medium light Rods. Many people think they can only be used for smaller fish, but you might be surprised at some other things you can catch on them. Like…
Yes, medium light rods are terrific for a variety of finesse techniques that will catch largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass. If you’re using any lure under ¼ of an ounce, a medium light is probably a great option to use. This includes light texas rigs, dropshots (read here for why it’s the best rig for ponds), shaky heads, flukes, senkos (more info here), balsa crankbaits, and a ton of other light lure techniques.
The key here is that you want to have lures that don’t require a very hard hookset. This is because medium light rods bend really easily. So when you set a hookset hard, the rod will absorb too much of the force instead of the hook into the fish’s mouth. But if you have a good sharp hook, you normally don’t need that hard of a hookset. Especially if your hook is open or only has soft plastic surrounding the tip.
Once you do hook a bass, medium light rods are plenty of power for anything up to 10 pounds and will help you keep tension on smaller bass as well. It’s a common misconception that you need heavy rods to catch big fish – this isn’t at all true. You can catch the biggest bass of a lifetime on medium light rods and be absolutely fine.
Another great species to target with medium light rods are crappie. Many people use light or ultralight rods for crappie, but you can use a medium light rod also and fix a couple of issues that lighter rods will present.
The main issue light rods have with crappie is that you don’t have as much control after the hookset. When fishing for crappie, you’re most likely to find them hovering over some type of cover. Brush piles, dock pilings, or stump fields are common. With a light rod, if you hook a good sized crappie it can pull you into cover before you can horse it out. That means broken lines or getting stuck and not getting the fish out.
So use a medium light rod instead and your pole won’t bend as easily and let them get into bad situations. You can more easily horse them out of the dangerous waters and into the boat.
Medium light rods are also usually flexible enough to cast light lures with good distance. You will have to be light on your hooksets – remember you can “blow out” a crappies mouth easily by pulling too hard. So just lift up firmly and your rod will have enough power to do the rest of the work to get the fish hooked.
An even smaller species group, bluegill and all other types of panfish can also be targeted with a medium light rod. Crappie are very similar to panfish, so I won’t rehash the points above. But instead will offer one more scenario.
Most of the time when fishing for bluegill or similar species, you’ll be using small insects, live worms, or lures that imitate small fish. While you are most likely to catch a bluegill or the like on those types of baits, they aren’t the only thing you’ll catch. When I was a child, I only used nightcrawlers as bait. In just one week-long vacation at the lake I caught hundreds of panfish, but also caught a few bass, a lot of catfish, and even a carp!
So just because you are targeting smaller species doesn’t mean that is all you’re going to catch. Having a medium light rod is great for being light enough to handle small species, but big enough to handle whatever may bite your line. So using a medium light rod is really the safest option to catch everything that may bite.
Maybe my new favorite species to target, trout are really fun to catch, good to eat, and are great to target with medium light rods.
You can use anything from an ultralight to medium rod to catch trout, so medium light really fits right in the middle to great success. Most trout lures are heavy enough that you can still cast them well with a medium light, but medium light rods are also heavy enough to handle even the biggest of trout you may catch.
Because trout have small mouths, you will want to be easy on hooksets with a medium light rod but this can actually be a benefit. If you are wading in a trout stream with trees overhead, you don’t want to have to make big hooksets. Having a rod that does some of the work for you can help not get into trouble, trees, or whatever else may be around you.
I love to get a long 7 foot medium light pole and fish at my lake for stocked trout as well. It can handle powerbait (read here for best colors) or any artificial lure that has a little bit of weight to it, like the Kastmaster, my favorite artificial trout lure.
Medium light rods can be a perfect match for Walleye fishing. The majority of walleye you will catch are between 1 and 3 pounds, not nearly as large as other species like carp, catfish, or even bass. So while you may get a 25 pound walleye from time to time, you’re much more likely to see smaller catches.
Those sizes of fish are matched perfectly with medium light rods, as they can handle the 1 pounders you’ll catch but still have enough beef to handle larger fish. Most popular lures for walleye fishing are light crankbaits, spinners, and other open hook baits that match well with medium light rods too. Because the hooks are open, you don’t have to hammer a hookset home with a heavy rod. In fact, you might damage the fish’s mouth and miss the fish if you do that.
I’m not a walleye fisherman, I live in the wrong part of the States to target them. So don’t just take my word for it, look at this article of the best fishing rods for Walleye. You’ll see a lot of them are medium light power rods.
Best Fishing Line for Medium Light Rods
The type of fishing line you use should always match the rod power. Unsurprisingly, with a heavier, more powerful rod you need a higher pound test that can handle the strength of the rod without snapping. But a medium light rod needs something with a low pound test so it can cast easily and match your lighter rod strength.
So aim to use nothing higher than 8 pound test fishing line with a medium light rod. The only way you can get around this is if you use a heavy braid to fill the spool and then use a lighter leader line. But generally, just fill it with an 8 pound test or under and you’ll be fine.
Since medium light rods are used for finesse techniques mostly, you will also want a very clear line that isn’t easily seen by fish. So fluorocarbon fits that bill nicely. My personal favorite fluorocarbon is Seaguar InvisX. Another option is to fill with braid, and then use a fluorocarbon leader like this. And of course if you are on a budget, a great copolymer is a great option too.
Best Medium Light Rods
While not as popular as medium or medium heavy rods, most manufacturers still make plenty of options in medium light power. If your favorite brand is a major retailer, chances are they have a few offerings for you. But if you want some guidance on where to start, below are my favorites for the price.
13 Fishing Omen Black
First, you can never go wrong with 13 Fishing. I consistently buy, use, and recommend their products. For the money, I don’t think anyone is more consistent in providing great equipment that I personally use and recommend. For light power rods, I’d recommend a 13 Fishing Omen Black. This is more of their base rod option and comes in just over $100. But it performs like a $150 rod in my opinion. I also find that 13 Fishing leans just slightly in the lighter side of powers in comparison to other manufacturers which I personally like in a medium light rod.
Bass Pro Shops Micro Lite Graphite
But if you really want a great budget option, it’s hard to beat the Bass Pro Shops Micro Lite Graphite series. They are $60 regularly but often go on sale for below $50. Price wise the only comparison is something like an Ugly Stik, and while I grew up using Ugly Stik’s I have to say there is no comparison. Bass Pro rods are lighter, more sensitive, and durable. If you don’t want to spend a bunch of money on a new rod, Bass Pro Micro Lite Graphite series is the go to.
St. Croix Legend Elite
On the other hand, if price isn’t a factor for you, St. Croix has always been in my opinion the supreme rod making manufacturer. The Legend Elite series is one of those things you probably don’t want to start using, because you’ll never want to go to anything else. Everything is upgraded on these rods from their blanks to the reel seats and it all feels premium. Of course, you have to suffer the plus $400 price tag to get that. But it does come with a 15 year warranty – meaning it will last you a long time for the investment.
The medium light fishing rod has been under-appreciated for a while in my opinion. Once you start developing a real fishing rod arsenal, you will want to make sure you at least get one medium light rod. Personally, I probably use my 13 Fishing Omen Black (6 foot 7 inches) more than any other rod. It’s great for just throwing in the truck and heading to a farm pond. It’s great for tying up for trout fishing in the local creek. And when fishing on big lakes I always have it tied up with a senko to skip docks.
Just remember to use it for the right techniques – light, finesse type applications. And pair it with a good 8 pound fishing line like Seaguar InvisX. And then wait for the fish to start biting – cause you’ll have a heck of a lot of fun catching fish with it!