How to find the Best Rod and Reel Combo

When I bought my first brand new fishing rod & reel set I think I only had two criteria: one, it had to cost less than my saved allowance and two, it had to look cool tied to my BMX bike. Of course I was probably 10 or 12 years old so I really didn’t understand there was more to a rod than “small one for small fish, big on for big fish”. Years later I find myself wishing it were really that simple.

If you are about to go in search of your first, or even next, rod & reel combination be warned – schedule more than a few minutes and be prepared to view more variations than you thought existed.  Just as the rod & reel of my youth may have been more complex than the simple cane pole & line of my forefathers  today’s rod & reel is an intricate part of any successful fishing adventure, as much so as the boat they are used on or lures they are used to throw.  This means that you need to be prepared to shop, compare and scrutinize before making a final selection. Of course this also means you need a little knowledge, so let me help you.

Types of Rods

Look across the isles of your favorite sporting goods store and you will see rods of every size, length and color. While to the inexperienced shopper this may appear to represent an endless choice of rods types what you are really looking at is the many varieties of combinations based on two simple features – action and power.

Action describes how the rod bends when pressure is applied to the tip, like when a fish latches onto a lure or bait at the other end of the line. Action is generally described as fast, moderate or slow, although an additional description of extra fast is sometimes used for extra sensitive rods especially those on the upper end of the performance scale.  The faster that action the closer to the tip the rod will bend; fast or extra fast in the upper 1/3, moderate in the upper ½ and slow in the lower half.  Faster actions provide better hook setting power, moderate actions maintain hook setting plus increases casting distances and slow actions allow for better control while trolling of jigging in deep water for big fish.

Power refers to the rods overall strength, or lifting power, and determines how much pressure a rod can handle before breaking. Like action, power is described in general terms of heavy, medium heavy, medium, light etc. However, unlike action these terms are used relative to the type of fishing the rod is designed for. For example, a medium surf rod is still much heavier than a heavy fresh water bass rod.

Once you understand action & power you can than understand the various combinations available by changing length, reel set, handle type/position etc.  The biggest differences will be based on the type of reel the rod is designed to be combined with, we will discuss those reel types next.


Types of Reels

There are three basic reel types available and each offers its own advantages while also having individual disadvantages. There is no one type of reel which is perfect for every situation or fishing style. You need to make your final choice based on which style best suits your personal style and will offer the most advantages in the situations you are most likely to find yourself fishing.

  1. Spin Casting – this is the closed face spinning reel most young anglers learn to fish with. The reel is closed, or covered, and the line is fed through a hole in the front of that cover. This style is excellent for casting small lures or dunking worms, but is not usually available for heavier rods. Because of its ease of use it is typically markets to beginners or youth anglers and is the most popular rod of youth novelty sets.
  2. Bait Caster – These appear to be the simplest of reel designs, a drum with a handle, but there much more to it than meets the eye. The perfect combination of gears, bearing and brakes make this design perfect for making accurate casts at distant targets with even the lightest of lures. However, the real benefits of a bait caster can be observed when fishing heavy test line in cover – like the places monster bass call home. Although there is a bit of a learning curve when first using a bait caster they are well worth the time it takes to master one.
  3. Spinning – this design is easily recognized by its open spool face and flip bale which holds the line. Not too long ago the spinning reel was viewed as a mid-level piece of equipment, something you used after out growing a spin caster and before mastering the bait caster. But advances in design and materials have greatly expanded the spinning reel’s abilities to handle heavier line and has moved it toward the front of the pack. Despite this wider acceptance the spinning reel is best suited for light to medium/heavy rods when the angler will be using casted lures as their main means of fishing.

Matching to Line & Lure Weight

The final area of consideration when selecting a rod & reel is ensuring it matches the line and lures you will be using. Luckily the manufacturers have remove most of the guess work for you; line is manufactured in standard diameters, lures are made in standard increments of the ounce and rod/reel makers list the recommended line/lure sizes on each unit they make. One rods this information is generally listed on the area just above the handle or reel seat, reel will contain  similar information on the spool itself. Select a reel which matches your rod, load the spool with recommended line and add a lure from the suggested weight range.

Final Suggestion

Never buy a rod or reel simply because your favorite professional anger uses it or your friend swears by it. Select the rod & reel which feels right in your hand and your will be far better off .

Good luck, good fishing!

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