Fishing Rod Action Explained: What are slow, medium, and fast action rods?

When you’re out fishing, you’ll notice many different types of fishing rods available. Some of them are designed to be used for casting, some for trolling, and some for fighting fish.

However, there’s one type of fishing rod that’s rarely talked about—the action rod.

But what exactly does it mean to have “good action” on a fly rod? There are many different kinds of action in fishing, and each category has its own benefits and drawbacks.

In this guide, I will talk about what does fast action rod mean and the following types of actions: 

  • Medium action fly rods
  • Moderate fast action rod
  • Slow action rod

Now, if you are in the market for a fly rod, I invite you to check out my best fly rod combo under 400.

It includes the top rods you’ll find today as well as some important features to look for so the rod outfit will meet your exact needs.

Or, if you’re looking for a certain size budgeted fly rod, take a look at the best fly rod under $500, the best fly rod to buy for under 200, and the best fly rod under 300 to see what’s available in those prices.

So, give them a quick look.

Now, let’s begin with the definition of rod action.

What is fishing rod action?

Fishing rod action refers to how a fishing rod bends when it’s being cast. Most rods are designed to bend in one direction, which helps to create a smooth arc while casting.

Some rods, however, are designed to bend in both directions, which helps create a more powerful and faster arc.

Extra Fast Action Rod

These super-fast, super-strong action poles are only slightly flexible but have the only strength to bend at the very tip of the rod.

When the action is slow, they have less influence, but when the situation calls for sudden changes (when fish bites), they make the action fast and smooth, resulting in the tightening of the line from the momentum transfer from the rod.

You can experience the vibrations in your hand at fishing.

Fast Action fishing rod (What does Fast action rod mean?)

A fast action rod is a fishing rod that allows you to cast further distances and has a faster retrieve speed. They are good for casting into fast-moving streams, rivers, or ponds.

Fast action poles are longer than extra fast action poles, bending more severely at the tip.

When the tip of the hook is just at the right depth, it will allow you to feel the presence of a fish, delivering great sensitivity and accuracy and allowing you to change your presentation when necessary.

Moderate Action fishing rod

A moderate-action fishing rod is designed for beginners and casual anglers. This type of rod is made with a medium-weight line and has a moderate action. 

When using a moderate action pole, you have to make sure that the pole bends towards the middle of the rod and not just the tip.

This is a good choice of fishing rod for fighting the strong fish because they are less sensitive than the fast action rods.

A moderate-action rod is often so popular because it helps dampen the violent shock a fish can impart when hitting the bait. This results in the angler being more comfortable with the experience.

Slow Action Fishing Rod

Slow action fishing poles are also very flexible. They bend almost down when fishing, making them more versatile for the casting and lunging of big fish.

Slow poles are perfect for deep jigging and taking fish away from cover. You can use them for casting large crankbaits and swimsuits for bass.

Fishing Rod Power Vs Action

Anglers who are new to fishing might make this mistake. The term pole action has different meanings to different people, and you’ll find that some people equate power with pole action.

This sentence is confusing because both ‘pole-bending’ and ‘fishing-pole-bending’ mean the same thing.

The rod bends when enough pressure is applied and how much force is needed to bend the rod depends on its strength.

Light poles require less weight to be bent, so they can be made stronger than heavy poles, which require more weight to bend.

Other Fishing Rod Terms and Parts


Tapering is reducing the amount of steel in the rod over a predetermined distance. This allows for a specific amount of bend that will fit in a certain application, such as a fly rod or a bait rod.

Graphite is classified according to the carbon fibers’ tensile modulus (modulus of elasticity), which is directly proportional to the force applied over the surface area covered.

The higher the modulus, the more the stiffness will produce the lighter blanks. 


This refers to the amount of force required to deflect the rod. It measures the sensitivity of the rod and the type of line you are using. 

A-line with high responsiveness may not suit a delicate presentation, while a line with lower responsiveness can handle the extra load. 

Bass rods are designed with high responsiveness and heavyweights to withstand the strain on the rod when fighting a big fish. 


This is the measure of how much resistance a material has to deformation.

The higher the modulus, the stiffer the material. High modulus materials are used in rods that require stiffness. 

Reel Seats  

The reel seats are where the line gets attached to the reel.

The reel seat should be large enough to accommodate the largest line you want to use but not so large that it makes the rod too long. 


This refers to the deflection the rod will undergo when the line is pulled through it. It measures the sensitivity of the rod and the type of line you are using.

A-line with high sensitivity can handle the extra strain from fighting a big fish, while a line with a lower sensitivity will deflect more.  

Fishing rod action chart

  • Extra fast action (bending only at the very tip)
  • Fast action (bending in the upper 1/3 of the rod)
  • Moderate action (bending in the upper 1/2 of the rod)
  • Slow action (bending in the lower 1/3 of the rod)
Rod ActionBending behavior  Best used for
Extra FastBends only at its tipJigs, worms, live bait
FastBends in the upper 1/4 to 1/3 of the rodTexas rig, carolina rig, spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, topwater baits, buzzbaits
ModerateBends in the upper 1/2 of the rodCrankbaits, jerkbaits, swimbaits, rattle baits
SlowBends almost down to the handleLarge crankbaits and swimbaits

Fishing Rod Power Coding

Fly fishing rods come with different power coding, determining how much power it provides. They can range from 0 to 7.

The higher the number, the more power it has. So if you have a 3-weight and you’re casting in the 8-10 foot range, you might want to use a 6- 8 weight fly rod.

Check out my post on “what is an 8-weight fly rod good for? ” where I have discussed the quality key components of an ideal 8-wt fly rod that are needed to catch the big fish.

The weight of the fly line and leader, the strength of your arm, and the distance you cast will all determine how powerful you need to be.

Power Coding:

0: No power 

1: Little power – Ideal for light lures and test lines. (panfish, crappie, and small trouts)

2: Mild power – Ideal with lures in the 1/16-ounce range. (panfish, walleye, and trout.)

3: Average power – Ideal with lures 1/8 to 1/2-ounce range. (freshwater and saltwater fish)

4: Strong power – Ideal with a variety of rod lure ratings (1/4 to 3/4 oz)

5: Very strong power – Medium-Heavy power. Stiff enough to fish a jig and wide gap hooks.

6: Extra strong power – Handle lures in the 3/8- to 1-ounce range (Deep structure fishing)

7: Extra very strong power – Ideal with lures 1/2 to the 2-ounce range.

How to Check the Action of a Fishing Rod

To test the rod’s action, you might try to flex it out in both directions, one time against the floor and then against the ceiling. Do this, but don’t overdo it. Apply as little pressure as possible.

You’ll get a great idea of what your fishing rod is doing by checking its action without having to break it.

About one-fourth to one-third of the length of your fishing rod should be slightly more flexible than the rest.

Tips for Maintaining & Storing your Fishing Rod

You should consider a few things when storing your fishing rod, depending on the type of rod you have.

Generally, most rods made today are made with nylon, which can be easily damaged by moisture.

So, you should make sure that you dry it thoroughly before storing it and that it is stored in a dark, dry place.

If you want to make sure that your rod is well maintained and will last a long time, you should use a good rod holder. There are different types of holders, from simple to more advanced ones.

Most of them will be able to hold a rod up to about 8 feet, but some of them can hold even longer rods.

You should also clean the rod with soap and water and wipe the rod with a soft cloth to remove any dirt. And if you have a reel that comes with the rod, you should remove the reel to avoid any damage.

Does the fast action rod cast further?

Fast action rod casting is more efficient than slow action casting. This is because the faster the rod’s action, the faster the tip will move, resulting in a greater distance cast.

However, slower actions are more forgiving, and you can cast long distances without worrying about your rod breaking.

Is a fast-action rod stiff?

Yes, fast action rods become stiff while casting because the momentum and energy transfer from the rod to the line is higher and instant, resulting in greater line speed.

What is the action rod best for topwater?

The action rod you need depends on the type of fish you’re targeting and the lure you use.

Topwater fishing rods generally come with a medium to heavy action, which provides a smooth retrieve, and is best for catching small, aggressive fish.

At the same time, light action rods are better for slower, more subtle lures and for catching larger fish.

What action rod is best for crankbaits?

If you want to catch fish, don’t use heavy action rods. Use a moderate or slow action rod instead.

When a fish gets hooked, you can use the extra flex of the pole blank to cast it further, and if you jump into a run, the energy from the fish is absorbed by the blank.

What rod action is best for trout and bass fishing?

TypeOptionsAction Rating
BassSpinning ReelFast
BassBaitcasting ReelModerate
TroutLive BaitFast
TroutLuresModerate Slow

Fishing rod action Summary

I hope you have learned the difference between all the rod action types, including fast action, moderate fast action, slow action rod, and medium action fly rods.

I’d say that the best advice I can give you is to try different action rods until you find one that works for you. There is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to fishing rod action.

The more you fish, the better you will become at choosing the right action for your situation.

Overall, you want to buy a fishing rod that has a good balance between strength and sensitivity. 

If you haven’t purchased a rod yet, I encourage you to take a look at my best fly rod combo under 400

You’ll find the top fly rods you can buy today in addition to some key features you should consider the find the best action fly rods for your needs.

I also have dedicated guides to help you find the top rods for particular lengths.

Also, check out the best fly rod under $500, the best fly rod to buy for under 200, and the best fly rod under 300 to see what you can get.

Happy Fishing!

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