Picking the Right Fishing Rod & Reel
If you are just getting started and you want a fundamental fishing rod & reel to get started it is pretty overwhelming. There are thousands of options to choose from for all different functions and techniques. I am going to cut through all of the weeds and tell you the best fishing rod and reel for beginners. First, I will take you through what is important in a fishing combo. Then, I will give you a strong recommendation of a good quality fishing combo with the correct specifications at a fair price. First, it is important to know the fishing rod and reel basics so you feel confident out on the water and avoid common pitfalls.
Different Types of Fishing Rod & Reel Combos
Spinning Rod and Reel Combos
Stick with a spinning rod paired with a spinning reel while you are learning the basics. This style of rod & reel is the most popular and versatile option available. A spinning reel has an open face design with a spool exposed and a bail to facilitate the line. A spinning reel will mount the spinning rod facing down and the guides will face down as well. When you hold the rod, the reel will be between your fingers underneath your palm and the guides will be facing down as well. It’s hard to explain and very wordy, so take a look at the image below which explains the style better.
Learn how to spool your reel, cast, and retrieve with a spinning combo in the Ultimate Beginner Guide to Fishing
Baitcasting Rods and Reels
There are other types of fishing reels that are paired with accompanying rod styles. The 2nd most common, and definitely the most popular in Bass fishing is a baitcasting combo. We do not recommend this for first timer’s because they are less versatile for different species outside of Bass. You can catch plenty of Bass with a spinning rod & reel, but baitcasters are not entirely functional for most other species outside of Bass fishing and specialized techniques. If you are looking to get into Bass fishing, I still recommend starting with a spinning rod & reel combo before you graduate to a baitcaster.
Other Rod & Reel Combos
Avoid spincasters, which are closed faced spinning reels with a push button. These are typically cheap alternatives that are less durable and less functional. They may be easy to cast in the beginning, but their closed face design typically ends in tangles and rat’s nests. These are a good option to get kids started, but unless they are tots, I would recommend getting them started on a multi-species spinning combo. Conventional Rods & Reels, Fly Fishing Rods & Reels, and specialized combinations are outside the scope.
Best Fishing Rod Sizes for Beginners
Here are the general specs you need for a well rounded, multi-species spinning rod:
Rod Length: 6’6″ Rod Power: Medium Rod Action: Fast Rod Lure Weight: 1/8 – 5/8 Oz.
This recommendation gives you the ability to target virtually all species in Freshwater & In-Shore Saltwater. I am not claiming it is the best recommendation for a particular species or technique, but when you advance and want to drill down towards a particular type of fish or master a specific technique then the specs will need to coordinate. However, this recommendation gives you a general average of the important factors so you can target Walleye in the morning, Panfish during the day, and Largemouth Bass in the evening, all on the same rod. If you’re interested in surf fishing, however, you’ll need a much bigger rod and reel.
Measured from the butt of the rod to the tip, rod length typically ranges from 5 – 9 Ft. Longer rods cast further but they are challenging to manage at the beginner level. For now, a rod between 6-7 Ft. is all you should have in mind.
This is the stiffness of the rod, meaning the rod’s resistance to bending when weight is applied. Typically measured Ultra Light, Light, Medium Light, Medium, Medium Heavy, and Heavy, the rod’s power is a good summary of its functionality. Medium is the best place to start because it allows you to use a large range of fishing tackle sizes and weights while pursuing multiple species. The lighter power you go, the smaller the fish you can target and vice-a-versa.
Action is important and often confused with Power. Action is the rating at which your rod bends along the rod’s blank up to the tip. Fast action means the rod bends at the top 1/3 of the rod from the tip, Slow or Moderate action means the rod bends to the tip starting in the middle. This is important because a Fast action means a sharper, more sensitive tip to feel bites. A Slow or Moderate action is less sensitive, but the flexibility allows you to cast lures further distances (especially smaller ones).
Rod Lure Weight
More self explanatory, lure weight dictates the size of the lure you can cast with your rod without damaging the rod. For example, if you tried to cast a Surf Fishing Rig with a 4 Oz. pyramid sinker with your Medium Power combo rated at a lure weight rating of 1/8-5/8 Oz. you would snap the rod in half. The Medium Power recommendation will suit your needs as the majority of lures and rigs used in Freshwater land in the 1/8-5/8 Oz. range.
Best Fishing Reel Sizes for Beginners
Here are the general specs you need for a well-rounded, multi-species spinning reel:
Reel Size: 35, 350, 3500
Gear Ratio: 5:1
Ball Bearings: 4-7
Line Capacity (Mono): 6 Lb. / 230 Yds. 8 Lb. / 185 Yds. 10 Lb. / 150 Yds.
Similar to the Rod recommendation, these specs give you the ability to spool enough line at a tensile pound test that can be used across different Freshwater species. The size of the reel and its’ line capacity is the primary filter for picking the right reel. You need to have enough line at the right Lb. Test to target the right fish. Our recommendation of a Size 35 reel with the Capacity listed above is important for going after all sorts of fish with the same reel.
You can spool your reel with 200 Yds. of 6 Lb. test which is small enough in diameter to fool Panfish off the dock and also strong enough to land a typical Largemouth Bass.
Fishing Reel Gear Ratio
Less important at this stage is the reel’s Gear Ratio. Start with a 5:1, but a specific ratio is not critical for your first reel. Gear Ratio is how fast your reel retrieves, at a 5:1 (Often listed as 5.2:1 or 5.4:1) your spool makes 5 rotations each time you complete the turn of your reel’s handle. 5:1 is an average Gear Ratio, try to avoid really fast reels like a 7:1 for now.
Fishing Reel Ball Bearings
Ball Bearings medium through which your reel body rotates around its’ axis. The Ball Bearing count in a reel can be kind of a gimmick. While having more Ball Bearings may improve the smoothness at which your reel turns over, the machine tooling of your reel’s body is the main factor. Unfortunately machine tooling doesn’t have a rating to advertise, so BB’s are typically used in ad copy to sell the smoothness of the reel. While this is misleading, you definitely need some BB’s. Most staple brands with reels of reputable quality have BB’s in the range of 4-7. Anything less is typically associated with lower quality, and anything more is often not necessary and may signal a dud.
The Best Fishing Rod and Reel for a Beginner
Designed with the beginner in mind, we highly recommend our Multi-Species Combo which has the recommended Medium 6’6′ Size 35 Combo. This combo is your best bet to get after all sorts of Freshwater and In-Shore Saltwater species, and is our team’s go-to combo for a majority of our days on the water.
How much to spend on a Fishing Combo?
The best fishing rod and reel combos balance durability, versatility and affordability. The price range to check all three boxes is in-between $49.99-$99.99. It may sound a bit pricey but anything below this isn’t going to last you more than 4-5 trips. If you give up the sport you’re short $20 but if you have made it 3-5 trips, the investment is much more affordable than shelling out $30 at first and another $50 once you get your licks in. Combos in this mid-price range are great because if you advance into the intermediate level, you can use this combo for all sorts of advanced techniques. Stay away from the combos over $100 at this stage in your career.