How To Select The Best Coarse & Match Fishing Poles & Whips

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Buying a coarse or match fishing pole can be extremely tough, especially since they are the most expensive part of your fishing gear. Given the multiple options available, with over twenty main pole manufacturers (and even more pole types), it can be a confusing task!

Poles are very expensive, so making the right choice is crucial. We will use the pole for several years, so let us look into breaking down the most important decisions for buying that dream pole!

We can break the criteria into two sections to make this process easier.

  • Most Important factors (must have)
  • Less Important factors (the nice to have) 

These two factors combined will result in the best value for money.

Pole Categories

The first and most important question is, what is the purpose of the pole we want to buy? Is the intention to fish close to the margins and at relatively short distances? Or a more versatile pole to be able to fish at long range?

We have three main choices:

A whip: The shortest option, used at 3 to 5 metres.

Normal Pole – Long Range: Used typically between 10 to 16 metres

Margin Pole – Short Range: Used in the 5 to 10 metre range.

Secondly, what style of pole fishing is your most common?

  • Are you planning to target a specific fish type?
  • Do we plan to use the pole for general fishing?
  • Are you using the pole mainly for match fishing?

Another important point to consider is the type of lake/river/canal you are targeting to use the pole for. Some poles are better for specific fisheries, and some are more general use. If you are an angler who regularly enters competitive fishing matches, your pole choice is one of the most important decisions you will likely encounter.

Once we have made this choice, we can narrow the pole choices to the specific uses that you require and eliminate the confusion!

Another alternative is a fishing whip; however, for the purpose of this article, I will not cover this slightly different variant. Whips are much shorter than poles and are fished without an elastic between your pole end and the line. Most commonly, whips are telescopic, made from fibreglass and can be very cheap. Given their size, they are designed for speed fishing for small fish such as roach or bleak.

What Factors To Consider When Buying A New Pole? 

Most Important Factors:

  1. What is your budget? 

Poles range in price tremendously even within the same category. Fix the maximum price you can afford before starting to review every pole that’s on the market. Focus on the key attributes and not the “nice to haves”

If you have already narrowed it down to the pole you want but your budget won’t stretch to a new pole, look at other affordable options via Facebook groups or eBay.

  1. What does the pole package include?

Check and confirm what is included in the package. When comparing poles, ensure that the options you need are part of the deal. Otherwise, you will spend more than the price stated on additional items. 

  1. Balance

Poles are heavy, and whilst anglers tend to look at the pole’s weight, this can be misleading. The balance is more important than the weight.

  1. Stiffness

A pole must remain stiff when held at all lengths; it should remain steady and with minimum sag at the top kit. A pole with a lot of “wobble” or dips is not a good indication as it’s held in front of you. Stiffer poles perform better in the wind and are easier to manage on the “lift” or strike. 

  1. Strength and Power Rating

Poles have a power weight rating scale, ranging from ultra-light to extra-heavy, indicating the weight required to bend the pole. The resistance to bending is called the power rating. Certain poles have an excellent rating of 30. Choose a pole with a higher rating where possible.

Lastly, check what type of elastic strengths the pole works with, both minimum and maximum ratings.

  1. Make sure that you go and try a few poles first before buying.
Pole alley

Visit a pole alley to get the feel of different poles and compare

This is a key part of buying a pole: always try the pole yourself before you buy. Go to a pole alley or shop where you can pick up various poles with different lengths and review the packages. In this way, you can see exactly what you are paying for.

I can’t stress the importance of this – Feeling the pole before making the final choice is extremely important.

  1. Ask around

When fishing, ask your fellow anglers if you can try their pole for a few minutes. Having a real-life try adds to the shop experience. 

  1. Pole Reviews

Read and understand more from users, not from the manufacturer’s websites! We are all different, but rating reviews give a good indication of the best poles.

  1. Warranty

Some pole manufacturers have a longer warranty than others, and poles can crack or break with use. Some manufacturers cover up to two years from the date of purchase, and some only six months.

  1. Compatibility

Certain pole companies have downward and upward compatibility between their models. You can also use the top kits for your margin pole or vice versa. This is typically between the same manufacturer. It gives greater flexibility and saves money at the same time.

  1. Spares and replacements

What are the options for spares? Are they readily available and at a reasonable price? It can be an issue with delivery times on some replacement sections. Note that if you have to wait several weeks for a spare section, you won’t be able to use the pole.

  1. Top kits

Most poles probably come with two standard top kits, which is generally insufficient. Multiple top kits are required for the easy quick-change option of using different rated elastic, and you will need multiple setups, even for a short session. You will likely need at least five top kits in your roost to change out. Look at the price of the additional top kits and if they are reasonably priced.

Also, confirm if all the top kits (match and power kits) are pre-bushed. This will save some money when you purchase.

Pole fishing requires at least one cupping kit; confirm if one is supplied with the pole. Alternatively, you can use pole pots that clip on the top kit’s end if you prefer flexibility.

Before we address the less important factors, pole safety is essential. Check out my in-depth article on the best pole rollers to keep your pole from damage while you ship in and out.

Less Important Factors:

  1. Extras and accessories

Are any square butt sections available or nose cones? A good holdall is crucial to maintain and protect the pole from any damages, scratches or nicks. A hard case is ideal for all your pole sections and top kits.

  1. Side pullers and bushes

Check if pre-fitted side pullers are a standard as part of the package. Make sure good quality long PTFE bushes are already fitted as standard. If not, what extra cost is required to re-fit?

  1. Weight at different lengths

Poles can vary in weight depending on which sections are used. Check by removing a section at a time and weighing the pole. Some anglers generally like to use it at only full length; however, it’s more likely that you will be using the pole at various lengths throughout a session. Understanding the weight at the length you use it most is the best indicator.

  1. Is the brand name reputable? 

Part of the decision process is checking if the manufacturer has been well-established and producing quality poles for many years. Check out their web pages and social media for complaints and feedback. Choosing one of the top-selling brands, such as Preston, Matrix, Diawa, or Maver, is strongly advised.

  1. Pole Logo and colour design

One of the least important factors given the purpose of the pole. Fancy graphics don’t help us catch more and should not be a factor in choosing the right pole for you.

  1. Discounts on older models 

When a manufacturer launches a new pole version, better discounts are available on the older model. Look at this as a great option to get value for money.

  1. Online or shop purchase

As stated earlier, I strongly recommend always trying the pole yourself before buying. Once you have decided, look around for the best pricing possible. Confirm every option you need, and only then place your order. Online buying always tends to have better discounts and options than your local tackle shop.

Lastly, and most importantly, consider the options for insuring your fishing tackle. Buying a pole is one of the most expensive items in your fishing gear, so always keep receipts, take photos, and add the items to your existing insurance policy, or shop around for the best deals.

In Summary, Which Pole Should You Buy?

The answer to this question depends upon the fisheries you visit and the fish you intend to catch. If you primarily fish for carp at shorter ranges, such as the margins, then a margin pole like the Preston Edge Monster, is the best choice between 8 to 10 metres

If you fish everywhere (lakes, canals and rivers), I strongly recommend buying a long pole with a minimum length of 14m, ideally 16m. This gives a greater range of fishing to cover far banks and with better versatility. 

If you fish many commercial fisheries with various small and big species, go for an all-purpose pole between 10 to 14 metre range.

Whichever you choose, I strongly recommend that you test it first, look at all the options, and keep to your budget. Keep to the more important factors I have listed to make the best decision.

Finally, if you want to protect your pole whilst removing sections, then make sure you invest in the best pole sock to keep it safe; accidents do happen!

Steve Fitzjohn