Saltwater vs Freshwater Fishing Rods: What to Know Before You Buy

By Debbie Hanson

Feb 26, 2019

Learn fundamental differences between saltwater vs freshwater fishing rods. Which type of saltwater vs freshwater rods to use for certain techniques, situations

If you're wondering what the differences are between saltwater vs freshwater fishing rods, those differences are actually a lot easier to distinguish than you might think. When considering which saltwater vs freshwater rods to buy, just take a few key factors into account.

  • When selecting the right saltwater vs freshwater fishing rods for your angling adventures, you should first consider the fishing techniques you plan to use. In other words, will you be trolling offshore for kingfish or casting crankbaits to largemouth bass in a local pond? Once you have taken into account the technique, you can factor in the size and strength of your target species to select the appropriate rod power.
  • Depending on the species, certain saltwater fish (such as marlin or sharks) can literally weigh thousands of pounds, which means that many saltwater rods have to be made much thicker and heavier than freshwater fishing rods.
  • Heavy offshore saltwater rods are often made from fiberglass, which is more durable. These rods typically fall into the slow to medium action categories. As a general rule, the more a rod flexes, the slower the action.
  • Many freshwater or inshore saltwater fishing rods are made from graphite or a blend of fiberglass and graphite (referred to as composite), which makes these rods lighter in weight with added sensitivity. Graphite or composite rods generally fall into the fast or extra fast action categories.
  • Saltwater fishing rods generally fall under one of three categories: spinning, bait-casting, trolling and jigging. Offshore trolling rods, for example, will be shorter and sturdier than an inshore spinning rod that is used for casting long distances in the backwaters and on the flats.
  • Freshwater fishing rods generally fall into one the following categories: spinning, baitcasting, closed-faced spincasting, transportable telescopic, and ultra-light.
  • If you want a versatile rod that can be used when fishing inshore saltwater spots as well as freshwater bass fishing holes, you might opt for a medium power saltwater rod that is rated for line weights between 8-17 pounds. Light tackle saltwater rods can be used in freshwater, but you would not want to use a freshwater rod in a saltwater environment because freshwater rods and fishing gear may not be made with the corrosion-resistant guides or components that saltwater rods are.
To sum up, the differences between saltwater vs freshwater rods will primarily be focused on rod construction and the materials that are used. Now that you know more about selecting the best rod, buy your fishing license and start rigging up.
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.