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Taking a look at fishing rod ratings

With warm weather hopefully on the horizon, many of us are taking a look at our current fishing gear and thinking about what we need to add to the arsenal. Several years ago I wrote an article on graphite rods and thought it might be a good time to review the rating levels of graphite fishing rods.

How do you know if you are getting a good rod for the money? And what do all those IM6, IM7 and IM8 ratings really mean?

I am basing the information for this article from a column written for FLW Outdoors by Craig Baugher in December of 2003. He interviewed one of the premier rod builders of our time, Gary Loomis.

Essentially, the goal of any rod is to be as light as possible without sacrificing strength. Weight is the biggest detriment when it comes to talking about quality rods.  

The Hexcel Corporation developed the IM ratings strictly for in-house terminology when it comes to different levels of graphite tensile strength. These ratings have spilled into the fishing world, but by no means are a standard for all the different rod manufacturers.

A typical rating, let’s say IM6, has a modulus of 36 million PSI tensile strength, while an IM7 rod typically runs around 42 million modulus.  he higher the modulus rating, the less material is needed to build the rod blank to perform well under acceptable strain rates. In other words, less material equals a lighter more responsive rod.

With today’s technology advancing rapidly, top-end rods usually have a modulus rating of 62 million or higher. What was considered a good rod, IM6, a few years ago, is now considered a more entry level, price point rod.

If you are considering buying a top-end rod, 62 million modulus or higher, expect to pay at least $90 to $100. The top-level rods can easily reach costs of over $300. Like many things, you get what you pay for.

There are few guarantees in the world of outdoor sports, but I can make this promise. If you use a quality rod, you will catch more fish. Why? Because the sensitivity is so much better than in a cheap rod. You will start to feel bites that you didn’t even know you were getting.

When I first made the jump to using quality rods, I was short of breath from sticker shock, but I bought it anyway. Now, I will never go back. Ask any good fisherman what using a quality rod can do. It is typical to be able to feel the difference between a sandy bottom and a clay bottom. Pea gravel as compared to chunk rock. This information is paramount towards a successful day. Once you can identify what type of structure the fish are using, you can eliminate less productive water and focus your time on areas of similar composition.

Most tackle shops and stores with fishing departments in our area have quality rods as part of their offering. Find one of these rods that have a higher price tag and pick it up.  The first thing you will notice is how light it is. This transfers into less fatigue on the water, better hooksets, increased sensitivity and, in the end, more fish.  

As with all sports, there are specific tools for very specific tasks. There are rods designed for only throwing crankbaits, rods that are specially designed to handle a topwater lure, etc. But that is a conversation we’ll save for another day. So until then, save up some money, and treat yourself to a whole new fishing experience.

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