When it comes to the subject of fishing rods, most fishermen have very little knowledge of what separates a good rod from a not-so-good one. The manufacturing process and the materials used to make a fishing rod blank varies dramatically. The quality of materials and the experience of the rod maker will determine the sensitivity, action & durability of a rod. Even the components that are placed on the rod blank, such as reel seats, guides, handle material and clear finish are all determining factors in rod quality. Having a rod of top quality is a pleasure to use & will usually out fish a rod of poor quality.
When you see a person take a rod off a rack in the store & shake it in a whipping motion, then make a judgment of that rod, they are in a dream world as to what capabilities the rod has. Most rod manufacturers label their rods as to the length, line strength recommendation and weight lures the rod will successfully cast. However, very few rods in the same class will act the same. Different manufacturer's rods will vary as to their true capacities.
The best way to check out a rod is with a reel mounted and line threaded through the guides. With the line tied to a solid object or with a friend holding it, load the rod up as if a fish were on it. This procedure will show you whether the rod has an extra fast, fast, moderate or slow action (this is the taper of the rod). It will also show you how much butt strength is in the fat part of the rod & handle. Extra fast & fast action rods will have 25 to 30 percent tip action. This means that the most flex is in the first 25 to 30 percent of the tip section of a rod. Fast action rods have a lot of butt strength with very light tips making them ideal live bait & catfish rods. Moderate and slow action rods have more bend towards the butt section as a slow action rod will usually bend all the way through the handle section. Moderate and slow action rods have less butt strength and are usually better for light lines, much like the line used for trout fishing. With the slower action the angler has much more flex (bend) in the rod which dampens the surges of a fighting fish.
The term "action" of a fishing rod is also referring to the strength of the rod. When rods are labeled medium action, the manufacturer is actually referring to the rods strength and not its taper. A fast action (taper) rod could have a medium action strength or a heavy action strength. When reading the label on a rod you will notice that the suggested lure weight and line strength specifications will be on that label. This specification will usually not give you a clear indication of the taper, whether it be fast, moderate or slow.
Another note about actions is that not all rods are equal. Most rods on the market today are labeled for the average fresh water fisherman such as a Bass fisherman. When rods are built for specific specie or specific applications the standards change. Such as a heavy action saltwater or catfish rod will have much more strength than a heavy action flipping stick (Bass rod). Many heavy action catfish rods can handle line strengths in excess of 50 lbs, far exceeding the average rod.
One other comment on the actions of rods that needs to be noted, especially when applying to the catfisherman, is catfish can sometimes be very sensitive on the bite. Rods with fast action tips (light tips) offer less resistance for the catfish to feel when initially taking the bait. Also, fast tipped rods will load up faster making solid hook set with less effort. With fast action rods having a lot of butt strength, a fisherman can horse a big cat out of cover. They will also allow heavy sinkers or lures to be cast and pull large fish upstream in heavy current.
Components and their quality are also very important items in the manufacture of a quality fishing rod. Guides of all shapes and sizes are available today and they all have different applications. Most good guides have a stainless steel frame with a ceramic type insert. These inserts are very hard and smooth, making them durable and practical. Cheap metal guides can wear, developing grooves as the line passes through them. An adequate number of guides is important to assure equal distribution of pressure through out the rods length. Rods with too few guides will allow the line to touch or go below the rod blank with a moderate load or bend. When guides are not numerous enough or spaced incorrectly, there will be excessive load applied to small sections of the rod which can cause breakage of the rod. With the reel on the rod and the line run through the guides and tied to a stationary object, the rod can be loaded to a curve equal to 90 degrees. With the rod loaded up the line should have an equal path from guide to guide throughout the length of the rod. For instance, if the line was touching the rod between 2 guides and not touching between some others. the spacing is not equal. The guides with excessive spacing will be causing excess load sharing between those guides and could cause the rod to break at that point. Of course I am referring to casting rods in general but equal spacing is just as important in spinning rods, they just don't require as many guides as casting rods.
Handles and reel seats are other components that make a noticeable difference in rods. Reel seats that will hold a reel firmly and be stronger than ever needed are a must. The fiber reinforced reel seats with stainless steel hoods that are so common in today's rods are excellent. Not only are they strong but they are more comfortable to the hands than the aluminum seats. Trigger reel seats are a plus because it gives the angler something to hook his index finger around just in case, during the cast, there is a back lash and the sinker tries to jerk the rod out of your hand. Handles are of 2 basic materials, foam and cork. Cork is the better choice with its durability and is easier to clean than the foam. Cork is more expensive but you get what you pay for.
There are a lot of good rods on the market today and believe me, they are reasonably priced. To custom build a good rod with quality components, it will cost you over twice as much for the materials than you can buy a completed rod.
For the serious cat man that needs rods with all the qualities I have mentioned, the Quantum Big Cat is the answer. When fishing for big fish or in rivers with currents the Big Cat rods deliver. They are very reasonably priced and when equipped with a Quantum Iron reel, you will be equipped for any ole' Cat that comes along. They are even excellent saltwater rigs and will handle huge fish.
The Big Cat rods are made in 3 strengths: medium, medium heavy and heavy. All are 7 1/2' long with cork handles, trigger reel seats, ceramic guides and made of very durable and strong E-glass.
In my opinion, these are some of best catfish rods on the market and they are reasonably priced at or about $65.00. There is also a spinning version for the spin fisherman.
I dearly love the medium strength rods when conditions only require 1 to 4 ounces of weight. They have a light tip which is perfect for the sensitive bite of the Flathead and has the backbone to pull them out of cover or upstream. These rods load and unload fast, making long accurate casts easy.
When conditions warrant, I go to the medium heavy which will handle 6 plus ounces of weight or the heavy which will easily toss a 8 ounce weight. I have yet to break a Big Cat rod and believe me, I have loaded them up with all my strength.
You won't go wrong with a Big Cat!!