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How crucial is rod selection?

In comparison, I know you shouldn't put a cheap scope on a high quality deer rifle. But some of these rods (prices) are just plain outrageous. Perhaps it's the $39 price tag, but all my rods are Shakespere ugly sticks. They are extremely durable and I haven't broken one yet. Are the real expensive rods that much better/more sensitive which helps you catch more fish? Who pays $300+ for a G.Loomis, or $150+ for a Shimano or Carrot Stix?? Just wondering.
I'm like you. I don't think I own a rod over $40. I'll put a nice reel on a cheap rod and not think twice. If I can cast it good and it isn't stiff as a 2x4, than I think I'll catch just as many fish with it as I will with a gloomis. I don't think a $300 rod will fix my lack of fishing ability.
More durable then an uglystick, noway. Helps you catch more fish, maybe. More sensitive, definitely. Lighter, definitely. Plus the more expensive rods just looks good.
Rod is by far more important than the reel, however it depends on what you are doing and your skill level.... If you fish a few times a year it prolly won't matter, if you are serious about speckled trout fishing and fish Lake Ponchartain rigs and bridges and that type where sensitivity and feel are important than it matters.... Now it doesn't justify to me to buy a $300 rod.. The most i will spend is about $75 on a Castaway or equivalent... For bass fishing i would say it is more important as well...
I look for rods that have a few simply requirements:

Tip Sensitivity - This is critical to feel the light taps from speckled trout. I do not look at the price as a determining factor in the quality of the rod. I have rods that are well over $100 and rods that are in the $50 range. I feel that graphite rods far exceed the sensitivity capabilities of fiberglass rods.

Balance - You need to balance the rod with the reel. A well balanced setup will alow you to fish all day without discomfort.

Legnth and weight - The legnth of the rod should be considered to match your fishing style. Longer rods are better for casting distance and make popping corks much less work. Weight should be considered to make sure that the lures that you typically use are within the tolerances for the rod. If you throw verly light jig heads, then you need to select a rod with the appropriate lure weight range that includes that lure weight.

Good luck!
i can honestly say having higher quality rods and reels have landed me countless more fish than I would have caught otherwise. I bass fish for hours and hours on end and fish a ton of tournaments. i can fish 10 hours straight and never feel tired or sore or anything, even with flipping the heaviest weights made.

you get what you pay for. low weight, highly sensitive, well balanced, specialized rods come with a higher price tag.

are you throwing shrimp on the bottom or under a cork? then not much more is needed than an ugly stick (sennsitivity wise)

are you throwing a beetle, a cocahoe, or a spinnerbait for reds/specks, then i would spend at least 50 or 60 bucks for a nice, light rod (if you fish often)

are you bass fishing often and fishing tournaments, where being able to feel the difference in an 1/8th of an ounce and being able to catch big fish can mean the difference between winning money or standing at the weigh-in watching what your day could have been like? then i'd suggest spending $80+.

it's all about what you need it for.