How To Hold A Fishing Rod The Right Way: Beginner Guide

by Julie | Last Updated:   June 6th, 2022
How To Hold A Fishing Rod The Right Way: Beginner Guide
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Fishing is a great sport, not just because it is fun and relaxing, but because it is a great family and friend pastime. It’s a teachable sport that is especially enjoyable when teaching younger children how to hold a fishing rod and catch their first fish.

Everyone and anyone can start fishing at any age, and with summer nearly underway, it is a fantastic way to enjoy the warm weather! Once you start, you’ll likely be hooked for life.

Now, everyone needs to know the basics in order to get started. That’s right, we’re starting from the very beginning and learning how to hold a fishing rod. Don’t be fooled because not every fishing pole is designed to be held the same way as others.

Baitcasting rods are very different from spinning rods. You hold them completely opposite of each other. Nevertheless, let’s dive right in so you’ll be ready to get out fishing and/or teach others how to too.

In What Hand Do You Hold A Fishing Rod?

Just like in most other sports, like baseball and golf, your dominant hand is the one you use to hold a fishing rod. The majority will hold a fishing rod in their dominant hand and reel with their non-dominant hand.

It makes the most sense that you do all the muscle work with your strong hand. Your dominant hand will be in control of casting and anchoring the fishing pole toward you while fighting a fish.

However, it is not uncommon to see anglers do the opposite. Myself included. I am right-handed dominant but hold a fishing rod left-handed. It is what is most comfortable for me, though it requires some switching because I still cast with my right hand.

If it is your first time fishing, you’ll want to start by using your dominant hand to hold the fishing pole. If you don’t have a comfortable grip that way, then try the opposite hand.

The Basic Parts of A Fishing Rod

Spinning rod parts

Fishing rods are pretty basic and they don’t have that many parts, but all the pieces serve a purpose and function. Just having a general knowledge of them is sufficient enough for most amateur anglers.

We’ll list them here, starting from bottom to top:

  1. Butt cap: The very base of the fishing rod.
  2. Handle: Usually made from cork or kind of foam. This is where you grip the fishing rod.
  3. Reel seat: Exactly how it sounds, this is where the reel goes and is secured into place but can be unscrewed and removed to switch reels.
  4. Hook keeper: A small half loop usually located above the reel on the main part of the pole, or between the butt cap and handle. This is used to secure your lures during travel and not bend the rod.
  5. Guides or eyelets: There are several line guides that go all the way to the tip of a fishing rod with each smaller than the one before it. The tip is the smallest one. These guide your fishing line through to keep it straight when casting. Allows for more control and direction, the lure will travel wherever the point of the fishing pole is directed.

For a more in-depth look at the anatomy of a fishing rod and all its working pieces, check out this video:

How To Hold A Fishing Rod: A Step-By-Step Guide

How To Hold A Fishing Rod

Learning to hold a fishing rod properly is important. Otherwise, it will not function as it is supposed to. It will merely make it more difficult to use. Fortunately, it is simple to learn, and with a little practice, muscle memory will start to take over.

Palm Placement On Fishing Rod

You will be holding the fishing pole in your dominant hand. Your opposite hand is your reeling hand and assists in casting, that is all. Follow these steps:

  1. For a strong and comfortable grip, you’ll want to grip the handle with your thumb resting on the topside, that would be facing you.
  2. The index finger and middle finger will rest above the reel foot that secures the reel seat.
  3. Your other 2 fingers will be wrapped around the handle below the reel foot.
  4. Having the reel foot between the third and fourth fingers allows for faster and easier access when casting a spinning rod.
  5. The handle of the fishing rod should fit comfortably and firmly in your hand with your fingers almost if not touching your palm.

Proper Forefinger Positioning

Remember to place your index finger above the reel seat as this offers the most secure grip. It will be slightly different when using a baitcasting rod. Your finger will rest on what looks like a trigger on the bottom side of a casting rod.

This makes it easier when casting to direct your bait and ensures you will not lose control of the rod. Also, it allows you to effectively use more power when casting, so that you can cast your bait farther.

How Do You Hold An Open Face Reel?

How to hold a fishing rod

As there are mainly two different styles of fishing rods that you’ll see, they are both held differently because their reels are designed differently. An open-face reel, or spinning reel, as it is also called, goes on a spinning rod that has the guides facing down.

Anyone that holds a spinning rod with the spinning reel facing up has it facing the wrong direction and is not using it correctly.

An open-face reel points downward. Just as explained above, you’d hold it with your dominant hand, or whichever hand feels most comfortable.

Your fingers will wrap around the handle and the reel foot will be between your third and fourth finger (middle and ring finger). This allows you more control to grab the line with the pointer finger when casting.

For a visual on how to hold a spinning rod you can watch this video:

How To Hold A Baitcaster Rod

How to hold a fishing rod

You hold this fishing rod with the casting reel facing up, unlike the spinning rod above. Using a very similar grip as well, but where your thumb would rest on the handle of the rod. It should be able to press the bail release button on the baitcasting reel.

There is also a “trigger” on the backside of the handle where you can rest your pointer finger. A casting rod is designed with these features that make it apparent that it is to be held with the baitcasting reel facing up. The balance of its weight makes this the most comfortable.

To see how to hold a baitcaster fishing pole properly check out this video:

Disadvantages Of Not Holding A Fishing Rod Correctly

If you hold a fishing rod the wrong way, you’re limiting its potential, and it won’t feel as comfortable. Holding a spinning rod with the spinning reel facing up will feel incredibly awkward as gravity works against you and wants to pull the reel downward, where it should be. Also, by holding it this way, reeling will be uncomfortable because you’ll have to reel backward.

When you have a spinning reel in the right position, then everything should work smoothly. Casting and reeling will be easier and catching fish will be too.

A baitcasting rod is the opposite, as it wants the baitcasting reel to be facing up. If you have it facing downward, not only will you have difficulty casting, but it won’t fit right in your hands. Pressing the button release will be more difficult as there are other adjustment factors that go into baitcasters. Some for weight, line release speed, and more.

Holding a fishing rod in the right position is the most important thing for any angler, amateur or otherwise. You’d be wise to follow these fishing tips so that you find the most success in catching powerful fish.

Final Thoughts & Takeaways

The kind of fishing reel and rod setup you have will determine which way you hold a fishing rod. The fishing reels that are the most common to find are open-faced reels and baitcasters. Whichever you choose is what will determine how you hold a fishing pole. It is a vital piece of fishing equipment, and either of those reels is an excellent choice for bass fishing.

Just as much as using your right hand or left hand will hold it. Many find it easier to hold with their dominant hand, but not all. Which hand you reel with will determine which side you need the reel handle on to do so.

Fortunately, there are fishing rods made for left-handed anglers and right-handed ones as well. Most reels also have the convenience of being able to switch sides as the handle goes on.

The perfect grip can determine whether you get that big fish! You’ll have better control and more power when casting and setting the hook when fish bite. You don’t need any fishing experience to get started, and learning how to hold a fishing rod is pretty easy. So, try it out and teach the younger ones too, so that they can enjoy this long-enduring sport too!

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I was fishing before I could walk and it's been a family tradition for centuries. Fishing is my life, or at least as long as I can remember. In the Lake Champlain International Fathers Day Fishing Derby, not only have I won first place twice but also third place! Also, in addition to majoring in Wilderness Recreation Leadership, I also happen to be a licensed camping, hiking, and hunting guide for NY.