Like most tournament bass fishermen, B.A.S.S. Elite Series pro Pete Ponds will have as many as 10 or 12 different rods in his boat, rigged and ready to throw.
Seriously, is that really necessary?
“Yes, and I’ll tell you why,” said Ponds, of Madison. “I would compare it to a golf pro. You wouldn’t send him or her to a tournament with one or two clubs. No, they’re taking a bag full and each one has its own purpose. They won’t be blasting out of a trap with a driver.
“Fishermen face the same thing in rod selection. I don’t want to flip in heavy cover with the same light-action rod I want for a jerkbait.”
So it was with great protest that Ponds approached the class plan for today's lesson in bass basics.
“I can't recommend what one rod a starting fisherman ought to go buy,” Ponds said. “Seems the logical thing to do is teach people what rods best suit different fishing conditions.
“That I can work with, and from that we can maybe come up with four or five starter rods for somebody.”
OK, so go ahead professor.
“The first point, and most important point I want to stress is sensitivity,” Ponds said. “You want to be able to feel every vibration of a spinnerbait blade, every wobble of a crankbait and identify every piece of structure your lure hits.
“Linear graphite composites do that the best. They translate the feel of lures, cover and strikes better than any other rod material. Don’t go cheap on a rod, if you can help it. Rods are where it all starts.”
The one time when sensitivity is not a factor for Ponds is when he's throwing a topwater bait, like a frog, when strike recognition is more visual than feel.
When matching rods with lures there are some subtle differences in rod variations that are critical.
“Used to be that everyone thought that you had to have a stiff rod to make long accurate casts,” Ponds said. “Not so. A more limber tip allows more accuracy. A limber tip doesn’t necessarily mean a light action rod, either. There are medium-heavy action rods with limber tips.”
When you look at Ponds’ lure-to-rod combinations, you will notice that Ponds tends to recommend lighter action rods (medium light to medium) with any lure that has multiple treble hooks (crankbaits, jerkbaits and most topwaters) and medium heavy to heavy for single-hook baits (worms, spinnerbaits).
“The heavier action rods allow you to drive the hook with power on a hookset,” he said. “With a treble hook, that isn’t as critical and the lighter action also gives you a delay in the hookset, which is important on something like a Pop-R or a hard jerkbait. And lighter action rods are lighter in weight and that's important when you're working a hard jerkbait with a downward twitch all day long.”
Lighter action rods also don’t have the memory of the heavier actions, which is beneficial in a treble hook situation.
“Lighter actions don’t spring back as fast, and that’s important," Ponds said.
Pushed to help beginners, Ponds finally listed these four purchases in order.
“Buy a medium-heavy 6 ½-foot graphite rod first to learn worm and spinnerbaits,” he said. “Then a 6-foot or 6-foot-2 medium or medium-light for a small crankbait or a topwater lure.
“Third, I’d get a heavy 7-footer for short distance flipping, frogs and for fishing heavy cover. Then, as you start to experiment with other worms and soft plastics, get a 6-foot-6 medium. It’s a good all-around rod.”
MATCHING RODS TO LURES
*Texas-rig worm, 6-foot-6 Medium-heavy
*Carolina-rig worm, 7-foot Medium-heavy
*Senko, swimming lizard 6-foot-6 Medium
*Spinnerbait (¼ ounce) 6-foot or 6-foot-2 Medium
*Spinnerbait (½ ounce), 6-foot-6 Medium-heavy
*Spinnerbait (5/8-1 oz.) 7-foot Heavy
*Small crankbait, 6-foot or 6-foot-2 Light Medium
*Lipless crankbait, 6-foot-6 Medium-light
*Big or deep crankbait, 7-foot Medium-heavy
*Topwater, small (i.e. Pop-R) 6-foot Medium-light
*Topwater, big (i.e. Spook) 6-foot-6 Medium
*Topwater, buzzbait, 6-foot-6 Medium-heavy
*Topwater, frog, 7-foot or 7-foot-2 Heavy
*Jerk bait (soft plastic), 6-foot-6 Medium heavy
*Jerkbait (hard), 6-2 Light