How do fishing rods work?

How rods, reels, lines and lures help us catch fish

Image source: Pixabay

Fishing is an ancient practice at least 40,000 years old, with archaeological finds including hooks made from bone dated as far back as the Stone Age. Traditionally, fishing rods have been made from bamboo, but today most are built from carbon fibre or fibreglass.

A fishing rod’s main function relies on energy transfer through the rod and bending to deliver power. The potential energy stored in a rod must be transferred all the way to the end of the line. This is done by casting a smooth stroke, building in acceleration, until it is abruptly stopped to allow the rod to return to a straight position while the energy is transferred to the line, causing the line to launch towards its target.

There are two main types of fishing that each rely on their own set of expertise to be executed successfully. Spinning rod fishing uses bait, such as worms or insects, or artificial bait ‘lure’ made to resemble a small prey fish. These rods are designed so the weight of the bait pulls out the line and causes a splash as it lands. Between 80-150 precision-built components of the reel allow an angler to cast long distances, while stainless steel ball bearings allow it to spin more than 10,000 revolutions per minute.

Fly fishing relies on tiny lures called ‘flies’ that are made to resemble insects and are light enough to avoid startling fish with a splash. They rely on the weight of the line to launch the almost weightless fly. These are attached to an almost invisible thin line up to around 4.5 metres long called a leader, which is attached to a thicker, braided line that’s even longer and weighs a lot more. The trick to fly fishing is to allow the thicker line to hit the water first so that the fly lands further along with no splash.

In fly fishing, the reel is only used to store the line and is released by hand before being cast. But in the spinning rod, the line is held down and released at the right moment to fling the bait or heavy lure into the water.

Spinning rod vs fly fishing

How do these two fishing techniques compare?

Image credit: Future PLC

 This article was originally published in How It Works issue 101, written by Charlie Evans 


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