Medium vs Medium Light Spinning Rods: What’s the Difference? – 2021 Guide

| Last Updated April 21, 2021

Can’t figure out the difference between a medium and medium-light spinning rod

You aren’t alone, and the many similarities don’t make it easier. We’ve found that one is better for anglers looking for versatility and the other for those looking for long-distance casting paired with high-sensitivity. 

Let’s start with the big picture:

Medium vs Medium Light Spinning Rods

Here’s an overall rundown:

Medium Spinning Rods

Medium Light Spinning Rods



  • Versatile
  • Lots of Compatible Lures

  • Excellent for Surfcasting and Finesse Bass        Fishing

  • High Sensitivity

  • Farther Casting

  • Catch Large Bass on Small Tackle



  • Less Sensitivity

  • Not Best for Extremely Large Fish (Striped          Bass, Muskellunge, Etc.) 

  • Better Suited for Smaller Fish

  • Less Versatile

Best For

Best For

These rods are best for jigging for Largemouth Bass, catching channel catfish, and spinning for walleye.

These rods are best for drop-shotting in deep water, catching trout on in-line spinners, and bass fishing with shaky heads.

What is a Medium Spinning Rod?

The power of a rod relates to how strong it is and how much weight it can hold. Anglers categorize rod power into ultra-light, light, medium-light, medium-heavy, and heavy. 

Medium spinning rods are a fantastic choice because of their versatility. They can handle bait weighing up to ¾ oz. Several soft plastics and hard body options fall in this range.  

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These rods allow you to set your hook quickly and accurately because of their stiffness. Plus, you can use medium power for freshwater or saltwater fishing. They’re a first-class choice if you can only afford one rod because they cover most situations. 

Medium-power spinning rods are ideal for surfcasting, jigging, or worm fishing for Largemouth Bass, finesse tactics and lures sized for bass or walleye. You can also use them to catch black bass or catfish. 

What is a Medium Light Spinning Rod?

Medium-light spinning reels are another outstanding choice. This power level is ideal for lures that weigh between ⅛ and ½ an ounce. You will find these rods more sensitive to hits and faster at setting the hook than lower options while still being strong enough to fish at deeper depths. 

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Using medium-light rods with heavier bait allows enough rod flex to cast long distances and keeps fish on lighter hooks. Their limber tips are superb for topwater fishing. You can use these rods in both fresh and saltwater.

While anglers mostly choose these rods for crappie fishing, some also like trying to catch big bass with light tackle for fun. You can use medium-light rods for jigs, smaller plastics, crankbaits, drop shots, split shots, shaky heads, and in-line spinners. 

Relevant Characteristics Between These Rods

Below we compare some vital characteristics of these rods. 

Medium Spinning Rods

Medium Light Spinning Rods

Depends on the rod’s action


Depends on the rod’s action


Average Cost


8-12 lb

Compatible Line Weight

6-10 lb

Up to ¾ oz

Compatible Lure Weight

⅛ to ½ oz

Similarities and Differences

We’ve explained the basics of each rod type. So, how are they different? Let’s break it down for you. 


A medium spinning rod and a medium-light one have noticeable differences. These contrasts make each type better for specific conditions. 

Compatible Line Weight

Having a heavier line than recommended for your rod’s power can easily break your line. Neither heavier nor lighter is better. However, your line's weight affects what types of bait you should use and what kind of fish you can catch. 

A medium-light spinning rod uses a lighter line. This factor makes it better for casting long distances with a smaller topwater bait, using smaller self-setting hooks, feeling hits in deeper water, and fishing with lighter plastics in open water.

Compatible Lure Weight

Using a bait that’s too heavy for your rod can cause your line to snap. On the other hand, a bait that’s too light can contribute to wind knots when casting. Like line weight, no lure size is better than another overall. Following the recommendations for your setup is vital. 

Medium rods use heavier baits than medium-light ones. This added weight allows you to use a wide variety of plastic and hard-body bait. You can catch larger fish with these products, such as black bass, walleye, and catfish. 

Medium-light rods use smaller lures that are perfect for making longer casts. This setup is wonderful for shaky heads because the increased sensitivity better controls your bait while fishing on the bottom. Medium-light also works well for smaller fish, such as crappie. 


Medium-light rods are more sensitive. This increased responsiveness means you can feel more bites at deeper depths. You can also better control lures when fishing at the bottom. 


Despite their differences, medium and medium-light spinning rods are similar in many ways. 


For both rods, how much they bend depends on their action. The power of a rod only relates to how strong it is. 

Anglers categorize action into fast, moderate, and slow. Fast rods bend in the top third or less, moderate in the top half, and slow in the lower third. Both medium and medium-light rods come in every category. 

Slower rods are superb for pitching or using crankbaits. You should use moderate action when bass fishing or using swimbaits. Fast rods work well when attempting a drop shot. 


These rods are pretty similar in cost. Many sellers will offer the same rod in both categories. Any rod type you buy can either be pretty cheap or very expensive. 

Ultimately, the price point depends on how much you're willing to spend. You can get an incredible rod that’s on the pricier side. But, you can also get quality products on the lower end of the scale.


You can use both medium and medium-light rods in a large variety of situations. Anglers can use either for fresh or saltwater fishing. Of course, a medium rod offers more versatility because they’re compatible with more lure weights.

Quick Hook Setting

Both rod types allow you to set the hook faster than lower powers. This speed comes from their increased stiffness. 

Advantages of a Medium Spinning Rod

There are some exciting benefits to using a medium spinning rod:

  • These rods cover most fishing scenarios and are fantastic if you can only afford to buy one product. 

  • Medium-power equipment works well for surfcasting. These rods have enough sensitivity to feel lighter nibbles from fish like flounder or trout while still being strong enough to keep your line from snapping and reel in heavier fish. 

  • These rods have a wide variety of compatible baits. They can use all the same bait as medium-light or heavier rods. You can use a ton of different plastic or hard body bait. 

  • Medium spinning rods are ideal for finesse bass fishing tactics that require a lighter line. This type of fishing allows anglers to catch bass in cold weather, heavy cover, and clear water. 

Advantages of a Medium Light Spinning Rod

Medium-light spinning rods also have some terrific advantages:

  • These rods have high sensitivity. You’ll be able to feel smaller hits, which will help you catch more fish. The sooner you feel a nibble, the faster you can set the hook. 

  • You can catch big bass with a smaller tackle with a medium-light spinning rod. Not only does this accomplishment bring immense satisfaction, but it’s also a ton of fun. 

  • These rods can improve casting distance. A lighter line is a great way to cast farther, and these lines are perfect for medium-light spinning rods. 

What About Medium Heavy Spinning Rods?

The medium-heavy power category is also popular among anglers. Bass fishers use this setup the most often. These rods are strong enough to reel in bigger fish, such as Striped Bass, Muskellunge, Flathead Catfish, and Blue Catfish. 

However, unlike heavy setups, they're light enough to have some sensitivity still. Medium-heavy spinning rods suit one to four-ounce lures and 12 to 25-pound lines. You can even use live bait with these rods. 

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You can also use this setup to flip or pitch when fishing for Largemouth Bass. It’s superb for finesse fishing, drop-shotting, throwing topwater, and fishing in heavy cover. You can use these rods with:

  • Jigs

  • Wide-Gap Hooks 

  • Texas Rig Soft Plastics

  • Carolina Rigs

  • Spinnerbaits

  • Jig Worms 

Medium Spinning Rod Uses

There are several uses for medium spinning rods. Let’s discuss the top three. 

Jigging for Largemouth Bass

Jigs are one type of lure that often gets light hits. So, when you use them, you want a sensitive rod. However, Largemouth Bass are often attracted to floating vegetation, reeds, and other covers. 

Medium spinning rods are a fantastic choice for jigging for these fish because they’re sensitive enough to feel a nibble and ideal for fishing in thick cover. 

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Fishing for Channel Catfish

Most channel catfish in the US are average-sized, only weighing a few pounds. You need to feel light nibbles, but you also need a pole strong enough to reel in the occasional larger catch. Medium spinning rods are terrific for this because they’re both sensitive and stiff. 

Spinning for Walleye

Using a spinning rod to catch walleye requires various baits, such as lightweight spoons and heavier crankbaits. Medium spinning rods are fabulous for this type of fishing because they’re so versatile. Plus, they’re fabulous for fishing in heavy cover where walleye love to hide. 

Medium Light Spinning Rod Uses

You can use medium-light spinning rods for many different fishing scenarios. We’ll discuss the top three below.

Drop-Shotting in Deep Waters

When trying to drop-shot in water that’s 20 or 30 feet, sensitivity is critical. A lighter reel allows you to feel exactly what’s happening with your lure. However, you need your pole to be strong enough to set the hook at this depth. These factors make a medium-light rod the best option. 

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Using In-Line Spinners to Catch Trout

In-line spinners have a spinning blade that triggers strikes from active and inactive fish. Plus, the flash they make mimics minnows, which trout love to eat.

Pairing these lures with a medium-light spinning rod means that you can catch smaller trout that put up a good fight. You can reel in larger fish, too. 

Bass Fishing With a Shaky Head

In the Fall, the bass gets finicky and don’t stray far. The best fishing technique for this situation is to drag a shaky head along the bottom of the water. 

This tactic requires sensitivity and bait control. Using a medium-light spinning reel will help you feel the slightest bite and make sure your bait does what you want it to. 

Bottom Line

Ultimately, whether you should use a medium or medium-light spinning rod depends on what type of fishing you prefer. 

If you’re looking to catch larger fish, consider getting a medium setup. If you desire to try your hand at surfcasting, this rod has an excellent balance of sensitivity and strength. If you want one pole that works great in almost every situation, a medium-light spinning rod is the one for you!

On the other hand, if you’re looking to increase your casting distance or bag a smaller fish, a medium-light spinning rod is what you’re looking for. This setup has even more sensitivity, which is perfect for deep-depth fishing. If you want to fight a trout or catch a finicky bass, get yourself a medium-light spinning rod today!

People Also Ask

Still, have more questions? We’ll answer them below. 

How Do You Tell the Difference Between a Medium and Medium Light Spinning Rod?

Each rod has its power printed above the handle. Medium is noted as “M,” while medium light is “ML.” This is the easiest way to tell the difference.

Is a Medium Light Spinning Rod Good for Trout?

Yes, a medium-light spinning rod is suitable for trout. You can use this setup with in-line spinners to catch small trout that put up a good fight. You can also reel in larger catches when necessary. 

Can a Medium Spinning Rod Handle Heavier Fish Than a Medium Light?

Yes, a medium spinning rod can handle heavier fish than medium light. The higher the power, the larger the line and weight a rod can endure. So, the bigger a fish is, the bigger your rod power should be.

My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at Read more about Big Game Logic.