The Fishing Rod: Parts & Terms

Posted by nick under Fishing Beginners Guide

So you want to get started fishing, but don’t know anything about rods, reels, line or terminal tackle. You don’t know what terminal tackle is, you say? Not to worry. I’m going to break it all down for you. I’m going to explain basic tackle to you: what it’s called and what it does.

Let’s start with the basic fishing rod:

fishing rod diagram

There are different kinds of fishing rods on the market; different sizes, made of different materials for different purposes. But the terms you see above are common to all fishing rods.


*By the way: its called a fishing rod not a fishing pole. Fishing rods have guides and a way to attach a reel to it. An old fashioned fishing pole is made of cane, has no guides and the line is attached to the tip (it has no reel).

The basic parts of a rod:

Butt Cap: This is at the bottom of the handle: sometimes made of rubber, sometimes of cork. This is the end you might press into your stomach if you’re fighting a good fish.

Handle: Referred to as a Grip, as well. This is where you hold the rod; can be made of foam or cork.

Reel Seat: This is where your reel gets attached to the rod. There are different mechanisms available to attach the reel. Some rods will have rings that go over the reel foot (see the reel diagram below to see a reel foot). Most rods have some sort of hood mechanism that screws either up or down on the foot of the reel to keep it in place. See the picture below:

reel seat photo

Hook Keeper:

Also called a Keeper Ring. This little ring is a big convenience, as it gives you a place to hook your hook so you wont impale yourself when your on the move.


Butt: This is the thick part of your rod that closest to the handle.

Ferrule: If you have a rod that breaks down into 2 pieces or more, the ferrule is the joint where sections of the rod fit together. See below for a close up of what ferrules look like.

fishing rod ferrule

Butt Guide:

This is the guide closest to the handle end of your rod. Its located on the thickest part of the rod (butt), that’s why the call it the butt guide.


Guides: These are the rings you see going all the way down the rod, they "guide" the line down the length of rod to the tip. The number, spacing, and size of the guides depend on the kind of rod you are using. But, generally speaking, the more guides the better. A higher quality rod will have at least one guide for every foot of its length (i.e. 6 foot rod should have at least 6 guides).

Windings: Those windings are how the guides get and stay attached to the rod. It’s basically string that gets wound around the foot of the guide, and is then painted over with a kind of glossy enamel to protect it. See picture below for a close up.

fishing rod windings


This is the uppermost part of the rod, the thinnest and most flexible, nearest the tip top.


Tip Top: This is the guide at the very tip of your fishing rod, its also the smallest, and probably the most important. This is the guide you are most likely to break off. When you are not watching, it likes to get caught in car doors and the like. See picture below.

fishing rod tip

Learning new terminology can be a bit of a pain. But, learning this stuff is important: knowing the names and purpose of tackle will help you compare equipment when you’re ready to buy your first fishing outfit, and make it easier to get your questions answered when you need help (because people will know what you’re talking about).


Before moving on, there is one more term you may hear about when trying to find the right rod and that term is Action.

fishing rod action diagramAction: The action of a rod refers to the flexibility of the rod. The action of a rod describes how much and where a rod bends when its "loaded" (bent). There are three main actions:

  1. Fast Action: This type of rod is generally stiff, and most of the bend happens at the tip part of the rod.

Medium/Moderate Action:

This rod bends a little deeper, so it has flexibility in the tip and in the middle of the rod.


Slow Action: This rod is the most flexible, it bends well into the butt end of the rod.

The type of action you need depends on what you plan to do with it; what kind of fish you are targeting and what kind of technique you plan to use.


Hot Technique Alert: Have you ever heard of the fly and bubble technique? It’s an awesome and versatile fishing tactic that every spin fisherman should know… read about here.

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59 Responses to “The Fishing Rod: Parts & Terms”

  1. raynell Says:

    you’ve been very helpful thanks a lot..

  2. Anonymous Says:

    What is the ring above the windings called?

  3. Fishing lure master Says:

    A good fly fishing tackle shop is a wonderful thing to find close to where you live because it will come in handy when you get ready to go on a fishing trip. This tackle store will carry all of the equipment you could possibly want and some you may not have thought of. Most stores carry tackle boxes, fly rods, reels, flies, baits, lines and nets. Brand names you may find there include Daiwa, Esox, Shimaro and St. Croix. A local tackle store is a good place to try out rods and reels and be sure you like one before you purchase it.

  4. nick Says:

    A ring above a winding is called a “guide.” If its the ring at the very end of the rod’s tip, its called the “tip top.” The ring closest to the butt end of the rod (and the reel) is called the “butt guide.”

  5. action Says:

    You’re a little off on action.
    It has nothing to do with “how easily” a rod will bend. In most cases, where you have two rods with the same power rating, a faster rod will catually be EASIER to bend in the tip.

    Action refers to WHERE a rod initially bends at a given load.

    when comparing characteristics of rods of different actions, it is manditory to take into account the power ratings of these rods.

    SO, If you have three rods of a given power, and you suspend two pounds from the tip, the fast action rod will bend drastically (i.e. quickly, i.e. FAST) in the tip section The moderate action rod will have a more moderate bent down into the mid/upper section section. The slow action rod will have it’s bend spread out over the mid section of the rod.

  6. John Says:

    what is the ring that forms the inner portion of a guide called?

  7. John Says:

    the inner ring of the tip top is gone and needs to be replaced. I want to replace the tip top but the (factory) tip top will not loosen with heating. Any suggestions?

  8. nick Says:

    I don’t know what kind of heat you’ve applied, but if you’re using something like a hairdryer, try something more intense like a lighter and use some pliers to pull it off. There’s a good video of it here:
    replacing the tip top

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  10. Shakespeare Ugly Stik Says:

    Not a thing similar than searching the internet and discovering information about fishing, fishing supplies, and good fishing stories. Thanks

  11. Shakespeare Ugly Stik Says:

    Is this fishing rod to heavy, to robust for use with 1/4-1/2 oz spinnerbaits, spoons, crankbaits, etc. ( It is a 6’6″ medium/heavy ugly stik…

  12. nick Says:

    You can get away with using 1/4 or 1/2 oz lures with rod, but you’ll have to scale down your line to 6 to 10lb test. Remembered that all your equipment has to be matched in order for it to perform to the best of its ability.

    Check out my post here, and scroll down to the section “The Importance of a Balanced Outfit” to read more about this and how to get the specs on your equipment.

    Which Rod and Reel Should I Use

    Also, there’s a great chart here, on the dummies site, that shows which rod, line and lure match up. It’s a great chart, and after a while it will become intuitive:

    Matching Your Your Fishing Line Lure and Rod

    Hope that helps someone.


  13. Cassandra Hawkins Says:

    I am cassandra i am 8 and learning to fish. your page has helped me learn the parts of a rod. Because I going fishing today! thanks!! and God Bless You

  14. nick Says:

    I’m so happy to hear that Cassandra! Hope you had fun fishing. Keep it up!

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  16. aishwarya Says:

    what is the purpose of attaching guides?

  17. therese Says:

    Humans use: a pole, a reel, filament, a hook, a sinker.
    Osprey uses: its talons.
    Which species is superior?

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  19. anonomes Says:

    thanks it helped alot

  20. james Says:

    why is there male and female rods

  21. Kenny Says:

    There aren’t male and female rods. It refers to the 2 sections of a 2 piece rod the male section slides in and out of the female section.

  22. Catfish mama Says:

    My Johnson reel …..won’t catch after I click shut…..line still pulls out….why?

  23. nick Says:

    Hmmm. It sounds like your drag is either set too lose possibly broken. You need to tighten the drag setting. If you can’t find the drag setting, take it into a tackle shop and have them take a look. Good luck.

  24. hash Says:

    Thx for this helpful site

  25. Olivia Says:

    I love this site. I started to love fishing when I was in my grandmother’s house. I first fishing rod is the twig of a tree. After that I bought a fishing rod. This is a very helpful site. to those newbie like me and also to those who love fishing. I will recommend this site to my other fishing pals.

  26. grrr Says:

    Thanks for wasting my time reading the “Hot Technique Alert”. Longest ad ever.

  27. nick Says:

    I’m sorry you feel your time was wasted. That ad is for my book, “The Spinning Fly.” It costs $7, and its how I pay the web hosting fees to keep this website online. A lot of people have found it really helpful.

    I hope you found something of value elsewhere on my site. Good luck with your fishing.

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  29. iggy Says:

    um… so do you “reel a line in”??? I’m writing an essay for a contest and i don’t know if this makes any sense

  30. Tim G. Says:

    Good article. Found a similar, descriptive one for fishing lines, here.

  31. ROBERT A. Says:

    i need to find the top half of the fishing pole i was fishing and the top half of the fishing pole came off and flew into the water and the hook got jammed between rocks of something at the bottom couldnt retreive it. Can anyone help me find that part or refer me to a website where i can buy another top half thanks here is my email thanks again

  32. nick Says:

    You might have some luck contacting the manufacturer of the rod.

  33. Jason Says:

    this is good

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  39. harry Says:

    Hi, iaccidently bro tip top of my newly purchased shimano 902 shore spin rod . How ill this effect my fising capbabilty. Suggest measures if any.

  40. harry Says:

    Hey its accidentaly broke.

  41. harry Says:

    Can I still use if I cut it till next guide.

  42. nick Says:


    You’re going to need a fishing rod repair kit. You can find one in your local tackle shop or sports store or order it online. It is a simple repair. Don’t cut to the next guide! Cutting the rod down that much will affect the action of the rod. Breaking a rod is no fun, but it happens.

    Here’s an overview of the repair:

  43. owi Says:

    Daiwa black bank rod will it go Gud with daiwa sw2500-2b??

  44. brandon scoffing Says:

    I want to catch stergeon and big size bass , i want to no whats the best kind of pole to get and reel. im n ca bay area. we have alot of warm water fish here. and wats the best bait to use.

  45. Ali slight Says:

    What’s fast action?

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  49. Abdullah Khan Says:

    Hi There,

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  51. New to this Says:

    Does the string need to be put through the “butt guide”?

  52. israel lopez Says:

    I need parts ,call me my num.. is 703 870 6886

  53. STEVE Says:

    Where can I find these items; Most rods have some sort of hood mechanism that screws either up or down on the foot of the reel to keep it in place. I think they are called clamp & screw. I have been looking for these for a long time.

  54. Ashton Says:

    Me and a friend are planning on starting a fishing club here at school. We both have been fishing since as long as we can remember but unlike me… he was taught the ways of “fishing”… Thanks to your website I am finally able to understand the lingo”language” that all bass fishers speak. A very helpful website and will be posted for all members of the club to see. Thanks…

  55. adam Says:

    What is the purpose of having two diffrent lines on a fly reall

  56. adam Says:


  57. Greatdane Says:

    The first line on a fly reel is a weighted line.
    The weight of this line is what helps cast out the fly as you cast it into the water. Thus the back and forth “whipping” motion of the rod and line.
    The second line is called backing…originally caddyhunk “sic”. This was tied to the weighted line and was fed out (unspooled) and used to allow the fish to run when hooked. Especially helpful for large salmon species etc.
    Hope this helps.
    My technical jargon is probably not the best.

  58. aj Says:

    I inherited a bunch of fishing rods and I was wondering if there is any way to tell what kind of action they were?

  59. The Amazing Supply Chain of a Fishing Rod | Inventory & Supply Chain Optimization Says:

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