Capt. Rick "Rod Man" Bennett of Wrightsville Beach understands a lot about fishing. He understands a lot about fishing rods, too, because he builds custom rods for everything from bluegill to blue marlin and fishes them when he guides out of his home port of Wrightsville Beach. Bennett said fishermen need to understand a number of things about rods to use them properly, including how fast or slow their actions are, and that there is a wide price range in fishing rods for a reason.

Bennett said the heart of every fishing rod is the blank, which can be made of various materials, each with its own characteristics. In general, fiberglass is more durable but heavier, and graphite isn't as durable, but is significantly lighter. There are also hybrids that combine materials for certain characteristics.

"The other key with the blank is the action," Bennett said. "Most people really don't understand actions, but they refer to how the blank bends. A fast action has most of the bend out near the rod tip. This rod is easier to load and casts lures well. Fast actions are also more sensitive to feeling a bite and come up on resistance quick to help set the hook.

"There are also moderate and slow actions," Bennett said. "I don't do much with slow actions, but I build moderate action rods for fishermen who like to fish with bait. Moderate-action rods aren't as whippy on the cast and work better for casting live or naturals baits. They also have more backbone throughout the rod for fighting larger fish."

Bennett said after the proper blank is selected, the components are the second big concern. The components include the guides, the reel seat and the material for the grip and butt, and they come in three general categories: good, better and best. The differences are in the strength, weight and corrosion-resistance of the individual parts, and sometimes a little weight may be added for extra strength and durability, or maybe corrosion-resistance is more important. He said components were definitely not a "one-size-fits-all" situation.

"Pretty is nice, but don't let a pretty rod keep you from examining the other components," Bennett said. "A rod with the right components that isn't as pretty will help you catch more fish than a pretty rod with the wrong components."

Bennett (910-520-7661) said the rod and reel must balance as a package. Even a great rod paired with a reel that is too heavy or light will not balance and will not fish as well as the right combination, causing your wrists and arms to tire quickly. Match the outfit so it balances at your hand, and you will fish easier, stay comfortable longer and catch more fish.

"Everyone should spend the money to have at least one custom rod made for their favorite kind of fishing," Bennett said. "Custom rod builders can work with you to pair the correct blank with a combination of the right components and build you a rod that works just right for you and makes you feel special when using it. Confidence is a big part of fishing and when your rod and reel feel like an extension of your hand, it makes you confident and when you're confident, you'll catch more fish."