The Difference Between a Downrigger Rod & a Casting Rod


Downrigger rods and casting rods each perform specific functions. The rods are constructed from the same materials but are distinctly different. The primary differences are found in the design, weight and length of the rods and the two are easily separated by the naked eye. Many anglers own rods in both styles to accommodate different fishing situations.


  • Casting and trolling rods are both constructed from graphite or fiberglass depending on the manufacturer. The material is wrapped in thin sheets and bonded by resin before hardening in an oven. The end result is the blank to which all of the components are attached. The blank construction determines the rod's action and strength. The casting rod uses a thin profile blank with a stiff base and most of the flex concentrated at the tip. The result is a fast action that creates power through speed. The trolling rod uses a thick base on the blank and slow, full flex action that creates power through slow movements. The even distribution of power is necessary for absorbing the shock of heavy downrigger weights and constant pressure from trolling.

Construction Style

  • Every blank has a spine or natural bend. The bend on the blank is determined before installing the guides, grip and reel seat. The guides on trolling rods are installed on either side of the spine depending on the manufacturer. The guides on a casting rod are always installed on the outside of the spine. The guide position is determined by the type of reel used for trolling. All casting reels flush mount to the same side as the guides but trolling rods are used with spinning and closed face trolling reels. The spinning reels are used with guides on the inside of the spine, and closed face reels are used with guides on the outside of the spine.


  • Trolling and casting rods are both available in a variety of sizes and weights. Overall, casting rods are much lighter than trolling rods because they are not subject to the pressures of trolling. The ultralight trolling rods remain thicker and heavier than casting rods because they must hold a 4-lb. ball with added pressure from a moving boat. The length of the trolling rod varies, with 7- to 11-foot being common. The long build adds leverage and surface area to help absorb the weight of the trolling ball. The average casting rod is short, at 5 foot to 7 foot long. The rod is designed for quick bursts of energy and any extra length slows the action.


  • The performance differences are obvious while fishing. Attempting to cast with a trolling rod will demonstrate the ineffective power distribution for a quick casting motion. Trolling with a casting rod will show obvious stress on the rod as the weight and pressure are not absorbed. Trolling with a casting rod will damage the rod if too much pressure is exerted on the spine. Each of the rods serves a specific purpose and has limited range beyond the designated task.

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