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Best Fishing Rods

Updated September 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 16 Models Considered
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 100 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best fishing rods

    Last Updated September 2018

    Whether you’re a first-time fishing newbie or an experienced angler, choosing a new fishing rod can be a time-consuming but enjoyable task. After all, half the fun of fishing is talking about it – and there are plenty of avid fishermen who will give you advice, opinions, and tips, mixed with more than a few fish tales. We are here to help.

    Read our shopping guide for the most important information you’ll need to know when picking out a fishing rod to meet your needs. Or if you’re ready to buy a new fishing rod, check out our top picks.

    Avoid the term “fishing pole.” Modern fishing rods are a far cry from the stiff cane poles that older anglers remember from childhood.

    Types of fishing rods

    For such a simple-looking piece of equipment, a fishing rod has a devilishly complex set of specs that determine where and when it is used, for what fish, and with which reels, lures, and sinkers.

    A new angler, however, shouldn’t worry too much about getting every detail perfect when choosing a rod. Instead, consider two things to help you narrow down your selection:

    • What kind of fish you want to catch

    • Where you’ll be fishing most often


    There are two main types of fishing rod: spinning and casting.

    Spinning rods

    The eyelets, or guides, of a spinning rod all face downward, and the spinning reel mounts underneath the rod in line with the eyelets. These rods are easier for new anglers to use.

    Casting rods

    The eyelets of a casting rod all face upward, and the reel is located atop the rod, too. Casting rods are more difficult to master but offer longer, more precise casts. The location of the eyelets adds to the strength of the rod, too.

    Within those two broad categories are fishing rods tailored to the conditions in which you’ll be using them. The most common fishing rods include the following.

    New anglers will have a much easier time learning the basics by using a spinning rod and reel.

    Freshwater rods

    You use these fishing rods in lakes, rivers, and streams.

    • Price: Freshwater rods vary in length, and prices range from as little as $15 to over $700. You can expect to pay about $200 for a good mid-range rod. Composite, high-quality, and custom rods can cost as much as $700 or more.

    Saltwater rods

    These rods resist corrosion caused by saltwater and salt spray. Saltwater rods tend to have more power – and are therefore heavier – than many freshwater rods, allowing you to cast farther. (Note that anglers can use a freshwater rod in saltwater, and vice versa. Cleaning the rod after use is key to keeping it free of corrosion.)

    • Price: You can find saltwater rods in a wide price range from about $90 to over $500.

    Surf rods

    These tend to be among the longest and heaviest saltwater rods, designed for long casts made from shore.

    • Price: A good-quality surf rod can cost anywhere from $200 to $400.

    Anglers fishing from kayaks and other freshwater boats do best with shorter rods and light action. Long casting isn’t usually needed in these situations.

    Fly rods

    These long, flexible rods are in a class by themselves. They are designed specifically for fly fishing.

    • Price: Fly rods prices vary from about $80 to over $500. Inexpensive fly rods can be found for $80 to $140.

    Pocket fishing rods

    These lightweight, short rods either fold or telescope from three to four feet long during use to about one foot for storage.

    • Price: You can find pocket fishing rods priced between $20 and $50.

    Ice fishing rods

    These rods are typically short and ultra-lightweight, designed specifically for fishing through holes cut into the ice on freshwater lakes and ponds.

    • Price: You can spend $10 to $100 for these rods, although you can find a good-quality rod for around $30.
    EXPERT TIP

    Too much information about what rod to choose? Go with the simplest guideline: big fish, big rod; small fish, small rod.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Fishing rod features to consider

    Material

    Fishing rods are made of four different materials. The material varies according to price, performance, and the type of fishing the rod is designed to catch.

    • Bamboo: A traditional material used in fishing rod construction, today bamboo is most often used for fly rods. It’s heavier than composite or graphite, but it offers a lot of advantages to anglers looking for a specific feel and experience, including slow action that helps with the precise “presentation” style casting used in fly fishing.

    • Fiberglass: An all-fiberglass fishing rod is heavier than graphite. It is also much more flexible and difficult to break.

    • Graphite: Fishing rods made of graphite are lighter and faster than fiberglass rods but also comparatively stiff. The stiffness makes the rod more sensitive so anglers can detect fish nibbling at the lure, it also means that graphite rods can break more easily than fiberglass rods.

    • Composite: The combination of fiberglass and graphite is a popular choice in fishing rods, offering the best of both worlds: greater flexibility and good sensitivity.

    Length

    Fishing rods can vary in length from about 4 to 14 feet (or longer). While the shortest rods are usually categorized as ultra-lightweight or lightweight, don’t discount their utility. Many anglers prefer a shorter rod for hauling in big fish because it doesn’t have the added weight of a longer, heavier rod. And, of course, short fishing rods are much easier to transport.

    Test a rod’s action by holding it by the grip and giving it a quick jerk by snapping your wrist. Note which part of the rod moves: the tip, the midsection, or the entire rod.

    Action (flexibility)

    Action (slow, medium, fast) describes how much the rod deflects (bends) when pressure is applied to the tip. For example, a “slow” rod bends along almost all of its length; a rod with “medium” action bends at the tip and along the upper part of the rod; a rod with “fast” action bends only at the tip.  

    Power or weight

    The length, construction, and flexibility (action) of a rod all play a role in how much force a rod can effectively handle. Power, also referred to as “weight” or “taper,” and categorized as ultralight, light, medium, heavy, and so forth, also plays a role in casting distance, important when reeling in a fish.

    A fishing rod’s length, weight and action are usually found in the product description and on the packaging. This information is often printed on the rod itself, near the grip, which is handy when you have several rods and need to find a specific configuration for the kind of fishing you plan to do. Also printed on the rod may be specifications for the type of line to use and the recommended lure weight.

    Use practice plugs instead of hooks when you’re learning the art of casting. That way you won’t accidentally hook yourself or others.

    Fishing rod components

    • Tip: This is the end of the rod, the thinnest and most flexible part.

    • Butt Cap: This is the bottom piece, a rounded or beveled cap that closes up the end of the fishing rod.

    • Grip: The grip, or handle, of a fishing rod prevents your hand from slipping off the pole. The grip is typically made of natural cork, foam, or a combination of the two. The construction is important in terms of the type of fishing you plan to do. A longer grip, like a trigger stick, allows you to use both hands to cast. Shorter grips make one-handed casting easier. The shortest, a pistol grip (or split grip) helps with precision casting.

    • Reel Seat: This is the notch or recess above the main grip where the reel is attached.

    • Hook Keeper: This is a small ring at the end of the grip to which you attach the hook and line when the rod is not in use. Lower-priced fishing rods may not have this option.

    • Rod Blank: A term used to describe the rod itself, minus the line guides, grip, and other parts.

    • Midsection: This is the length of the rod between the grip and the tip.

    • Ferrule: This is the joint in the midsection where the two pieces of the fishing pole meet (for rods that come apart for storage).

    • Guides or Eyelets: These are the rings along the length of the rod that hold the fishing line. Good-quality rods have one guide per foot (a seven-foot rod has seven guides). The guide closest to the grip is often called the “butt” guide. The guide at the tip of the rod is called the “tip top” guide.
    EXPERT TIP

    A “bird’s nest,” or backlash, happens when a reel spool spins faster than the fishing line travels, causing a tangle that’s difficult to undo. The fastest way to resolve this is to cut away the snarl and retie your hook and lure.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Tips

    • Practice casting at home before your first fishing trip. Make sure you have a clear, open space to work in. If you’re stuck in a small apartment, you might be able to at least practice the casting movements ahead of time. Learning to cast, even with a more forgiving spinning rod and reel, can be a humbling experience. Follow directions for casting, but accept that you’ll have some really weird moments as you learn how the rod behaves.

    • Lower-priced fishing rods sometimes use lower-quality fittings. Guide inserts and the line guides themselves may be made of plastic, which can be damaged or break down more quickly with use than guides and inserts made of titanium or silicon. That’s a trade-off you might have to make if you’re looking for an economical way to start fishing. As you gain experience and enthusiasm for the sport, you can upgrade to pricier rods.

    • Talk to other anglers. Whether at the bait shop, the sporting goods store, or online, word of mouth is the best way to find out about good fishing spots, the kinds of lures or bait to use, and advice about how to rig your fishing rod to catch certain type of fish. Most anglers love talking about the sport and are willing to share advice.

    • Rinse your fishing rods in clean water after use. This applies no matter whether you were fishing in a lake, river, or ocean. Clean off algae or other debris from the guides. Stand the rods up to dry before storing.

    • Check the line guides periodically for damage. They can chip, crack, or warp.

    • When assembling a two-part rod, make sure the guides line up precisely. This ensures that the fishing line will feed through the guides smoothly when you cast and reel and correctly distribute the tension on the fishing rod when you hook a fish.
    Always be aware of the space around you before casting! Make sure no one is too close behind you or anywhere in the path of your casting arc.

    FAQ

    Q. What kind of fish can I catch with a rod rated as “light”?
    A.
    A good rule of thumb to follow is, the smaller the fish, the lighter the rod; the bigger the fish, the heavier (and longer) the rod. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Here are some general configurations to match the type of fish you plan to catch:

    • Ultralight: bait fish, crappie

    • Light: small fish such as bluegill

    • Medium-Light: bass, trout

    • Medium: bass, catfish, striper

    • Medium-Heavy: salmon, pike, snook

    • Heavy: salmon, sturgeon, tuna, tarpon

    • Extra-Heavy: sailfish, tuna, halibut
       

    Q. Do I need a license to catch fish?
    A.
    Always check the regulations for the area in which you’ll be fishing. Most states require you to buy some sort of fishing license for freshwater fishing. There is now a federal license requirement in the U.S. for saltwater fishing, too (on the plus side, it costs much less than a freshwater license). If you plan to fish in a state for just a few days, you might need to purchase a license for those days. There are also license requirements for catching specific species of fish in certain areas. You can find these regulations online or contact the state’s parks and recreation department for details. Sporting goods stores that sell fishing gear may also sell licenses.

    The team that worked on this review
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      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Amos
      Amos
      Director of Photography
    • Branson
      Branson
      Videographer
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Kyle
      Kyle
      Writer
    • Samantha
      Samantha
      Writer

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