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Medium vs. Medium Heavy Rods – which one you should choose

One of the most common questions beginning and even experienced anglers have in choosing a rod is should I get a medium rod or a medium heavy rod? What’s the real difference?

Well thankfully, after reading this entire article, you’ll know exactly what both are for and when they should be used.

But if you don’t want to read the whole thing you can follow this quick guide – If you are only going to throw baits ⅜ ounce and less then opt for the medium rod. If you’re going to throw ⅜ ounce and over, go for a medium heavy. 

But a true answer to getting you the rod you want is much more complicated so please read on as we will discuss how lure weight, casting, hooksets, and fighting the fish are all affected and depend upon the strength of your rod. And the differences in each if you have a medium or medium heavy.

What does rod power really mean?

First, it’s important to understand what medium or medium heavy actually even means. Both are types of rod power which ranges from ultra-light to heavy. This is a rating of how easily the rod will bend under pressure. It is often referred to as the “backbone” of the rod or strength of the rod.

But it is not necessarily strength in the way we commonly think of it. Medium rods aren’t meant for 15 pound fish and medium heavy for 30, that’s not correct at all. It simply means at what point weight or resistance will make the rod begin to bend. Light rods will bend with little to no pressure. A heavy rod takes a lot of resistance to begin bending.

That is all rod power actually refers to. How much weight or resistance they can take before they start bending. Keep that in mind.

medium medium heavy rods weight action

Lure Weight and Rod Power

The number one factor to consider when choosing a medium or medium heavy rod is to think about the weight of lures you will be throwing on it.

Most rods will have their rating displayed somewhere near the handle on the rod blank itself. This is important to read because not all medium heavy or medium power rods are made the same. Some manufacturers lean more on the “heavy” side, some lean on the “lighter” side. So reading how each manufacturer rates their poles will give you the best information.

Generally speaking, medium rods are best when throwing ¼ ounce and lower weights. They can handle anything up to a ½ ounce without worry but really shine on the lower end. I personally have used up to 1 ounce weights on them before even with no issues, though you have to be careful not to put too much weight on the rod. 

Medium heavy rods are best when you want to throw any lure weighing over ¼ of an ounce. You are much more likely to have issues with lures that weigh ¼ of an ounce or less as the rod is too stiff to allow for casting, working, or any other movement your rod should be making as you fish.

Remember that power is how easily a pole bends. So the reason lure weight matters so much is that the lure will naturally bend your rod when casting or reeling in a lure. You want some bend as it creates tension and helps you load up for a cast. But you don’t want your rod completely bent all the time or you will increase the risk breaking it or losing action and feel with your bait. 

This is why matching the rod power with lure weight is important. The lure weight should make the rod tip bend just slightly. If your lure is bending your pole over significantly it is too light of a pole for the lure and you should go heavier. If your tip doesn’t move at all even when casting, your rod is too heavy for the lure and you should go lighter.

Rod power's effect on casting

Many people just stop at lure weight and don’t go any further. But if you want to get the most out of your rod you need to think about more than just how heavy the lure is. You need to think about the rod’s ability to bend during a cast.

This is one area where “action” and “power” of rods get confused. Action refers to where the rod bends when put under resistance. So a fast action will bend in only the first quarter of a rod. A moderate action will bend in the first half. Many people confuse this with power, which as discussed earlier is how easily a pole bends. 

So remember – power is how easily a rod bends. Action is where it bends.

Now on to how this affects casting particularly. Whether you are using a spinning or baitcasting reel, you want your rod to flex when you cast. This lets you load up on a bait and increase your casting distance. Many people believe casting distance is just your arm exerting force to propel a lure forward. But this isn’t actually the case.

Ideally your arm motion is only part of what drives the lure forward. It is assisted by the rod bending backwards as you load up behind your head, and then provides extra force coming over your head as it takes the momentum and resistance built up and flings it forward as you release.

If that is confusing, think of it like shooting a rubber band. You don’t actually shoot a rubber band by throwing it yourself. Instead you build the resistance backwards (like a pole when putting it over your head) and then release that resistance quickly which causes the rubber band to shoot forward into the air (much like what happens when you release fishing line in a cast). A fishing pole does the same thing as a rubber band, just to a lesser, more controlled extent.

medium medium heavy pole rubber band flex

Now that physics class is over – what does this mean for choosing a medium or medium heavy rod? You simply want to choose the rod that gives you good flex that allows for casting. A medium heavy rod will not provide enough flex if you use light lures, are trying to make the longest cast possible, or anything you want to “load up” when casting. So crankbaits for example, even if they’re ⅜ ounce or so, are best on a medium rod. Because you can cast it easier.

But if you are throwing heavier baits, don’t care about distance at all, or are even doing casts like pitching and flipping that don’t require overhead casts or anything where you load resistance into the rod, a medium heavy can work quite nicely.

A Brief Note

I want to thank you for reading this far and hope you’re getting all the information you need on what type of rod will be best for you.

If so, please consider using our Bass Pro Shops affiliate link here when purchasing your medium or medium heavy rod. There is no additional cost for you and Bass Pro Shops will give me a portion of your sale which helps me create more content for you! It’s a win-win. And you always want to buy your rods from a reputable dealer like Bass Pro Shops who has tons of great brands and rod powers available. 

Now, back to the article!

Rod Power's affect on hooksets

Another factor you will want to consider when picking between a medium or medium heavy rod is how you’ll need to set the hook for the types of lures you are using.

There are many baits that are considered open hooked, which means there is nothing in the way that prevents a hook from entering into a fish’s mouth. Think of crankbaits or anything with a treble hook for this. If a fish bites it, they are directly biting into the hooks. 

These types of baits do not require a hard hookset as the hook will easily cinch into a fish’s mouth with just a strong jerk. In fact, if you pull too hard you are more likely to blow a fish’s mouth out and lose the fish. A medium rod is perfect for this kind of hookset, as it has a good bend which ensures the line tightens into a fish’s mouth without blowing it out from too much force. A medium heavy can easily be pulled too hard as it has no bend to forgive a hookset that is too strong. That means you’ve lost a fish.

medium medium heavy pole setting hook

But then there are also many other types of baits where the hook is hidden or has multiple layers to get through. Think of fishing a jig for example with a weed guard and skirt. The hook needs to subvert the trailer, the weedguard, the skirt and maybe even the jig head to end up in a fish’s mouth. This takes a lot of force and a hard hookset is required to make sure the hook gets through everything to cinch tightly in a fish’s lips.

A medium heavy is made for these types of hooksets as they give a ton of resistance with very little flex. You can set the hook hard and know that hook is going to end up right in the fish’s jaw where it’s supposed to be because the rod has the power to make it happen. Try and do it with a medium rod instead, and your rod will just bend and never give enough backbone to hook every fish that bites. 

So don’t just think of how heavy a lure is – think about the hookset it needs. If you are using something with many open hooks, a medium rod is probably all you’ll need. But if you are using anything where a hook is not exposed or has to have a lot of power to create a good hookup, you might want to go towards a medium heavy rod instead.

Rod Power and Fighting a Fish

A final consideration that will help you decide between a medium and medium heavy rod is how you will be fighting the fish after you hook it. 

As I have said again and again by now, a medium rod will have more bend and a medium heavy will have less. The best way to keep any type of fish hooked up is to keep tension on it the whole way in. This prevents the lure from falling out of its mouth as it stays snugly in place.

So if a medium rod bends more easily, it also means that it keeps tension more easily as well. If you’re fighting a fish and it has a rod completely bent, a quick change of direction will just make the rod unbend and tension between the tip of rod and the fish will remain. But if there is no bend, when a fish makes a sudden move all tension can be lost and a hook can easily fall out.

medium medium heavy rods fish on

This doesn’t just mean a medium rod is better for fighting a fish, though this technically is true. It just means you need to compensate for your rod power in other ways. A medium rod keeps tension well so you can fight a fish longer, let it play, and use lighter line as well. However if you’re using a medium heavy rod you need to try and reel the fish in as quickly as you can since you don’t have the rod flex to keep the line tight.

So if you use medium heavy rods, use a heavier line that you can really horse a fish in with. Also try and use a higher gear ratio reel if possible, so you can get as much line in as quickly as you can. The rod, line, and reel all will work together to be a fish fighting machine ready to quickly pull in even giant fish. 

But if you are a person that fishes mainly because you enjoy the fight of catching fish, then only use medium rods or even lighter if you can. Keeping your rod and tackle light makes even small fish seem huge and let you fight them even longer without increasing your risk of losing them significantly. 

Conclusion

If you made it all the way to the end of the article, then you know now everything there is to know about medium versus medium heavy rods and when each one is best. Simply put, there is not one best rod that works in all situations. Each are meant for certain lures or techniques and you should pick the one right for the job. Because of the type of fishing I do, I am using a medium rod at least 75% of the time. But maybe you really like jig fishing and want to go with a medium heavy because you’ll use it more often. Just think through everything mentioned above and you’ll be able to make the right decision to make your time out on the water that much more enjoyable and productive!

If you enjoyed this article, consider checking out these popular articles below for more information on fishing! 

2 thoughts on “Medium vs. Medium Heavy Rods – which one you should choose”

  1. Sid Vicious

    You missed one important element: cover. The type of cover you are fishing can have a decisive effect on deciding which rod to use. This discussion focuses on open water. Other than that great article!

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