As mentioned in the introduction, rod “weight” that is quoted on the blank refers to the rod stiffness. It is often referred to as “power” in an equivalent sense. For example a “medium power” and “medium weight” rod would be the same thing.
Soft rods are a real pleasure to cast at medium range because they load deeply and help sling the lure toward the target when they unload. This loading of the rod is key to the proper performance of a baitcast reel, and softer rods make casting light lures easier when using a baitcaster. So if you’re having trouble with overrun when baitcasting a small lure, try a softer rod.
But for every bit that softer rods are nice to cast, they are worse on hook setting power---not that that is a bad thing. You may find that lures brought in on a steady retrieve, such as spinnerbaits, may benefit from a softer rod. They also suffer at long range, because they don’t transfer as much power to the lure as a stiffer rod. So if you want better range and harder hook-setting power, use a stiffer rod.
The conventional descriptions that you’ll see printed on a rod are:
Micro Light – applies to spinning rods only. These rods good for panfish, trout, and other very small game. Micro-light rods are a fairly recent addition to the industry and are only marginally different than ultra-light rods. Most people would probably look at a micro-light rod and call it an “ultra light” rod.
Ultra Light – applies to spinning rods only. Ultra light rods are also good for panfish, trout, and other small game. They range from very short, such as 4 feet, to borderline fly rod around 7 feet or more.
Light – applies to spinning rods, and occasionally, casting rod. The “light” category is often skipped, with a rod makers lineup going from ultra light to medium light directly. Light action rods are good for lures up to about ¼ oz. in weight.
Medium Light – a good all-around weight for a bass rod with lighter action. Medium light rods are an excellent choice for dropshot and other small lure work. A medium light action rod in casting or spinning is the perfect choice for small (~3” or less) jerk baits and crank baits.
Medium – the most common of all rod weights. If you can’t decide on what rod weight to use for bass fishing, grab a medium action. It is the best all-around rod weight for most applications. It is a good overall balance of lure size, casting range, and hook setting power.
Medium Heavy – A long medium action rod may loose some of its casting range if you don’t stiffen up the rod a bit. If a 7’ rod suits your fishing situation, you may want to use a medium heavy action in place of your medium rod. This will give you a little more casting range and hook setting power. Medium heavy is a good choice for long-range searching lures, such as Fish Heads and spinnerbaits.
Heavy – In the traditional (largemouth) bass fishing world, the heavy action rod is the premier choice for worm fishing. You need raw power for driving home the large wire hooks used in Texas rigs and Carolina rigs. Such a heavy choice is less common in the spotted bass community, but the heavy action rod still has its place for the long-range more typically needed in spot fishing than largemouth fishing. Heavy weight rods in 7’ or 7’6” are good choices for spinnerbaits and Fish Heads, as they have excellent range and hook-setting power. A heavy action rod is significantly more rod than most anglers are used to, so ease your way into one if it isn’t already in your inventory.
You will sometimes hear anglers refer to the weight of a rod as the rod’s “action.” Unfortunately, there is terminology confusion with actual “action” of a rod, which refers to the taper design. We discuss rod action here.