Best Spinning Gear: 2013 Best of the Best Award Winners

We didn't winnow the more than 100 Best of the Best entries down to 15 winners by sitting at a desk and reading marketing copy. Instead, our experts took the tackle on the water and fished with it--hard, in all kinds of conditions. What survived the rigors of testing in experienced hands is here--the Best of the Best.

Best of the Best is not only about high-end fishing tackle. This year's winners in the spinning category have prices typically seen on mid-shelf gear, but their quality is top of the line. --John Merwin

About 50 years ago Penn introduced its first "greenie," as the Spinfisher brand was widely called (after its body color). Now, Penn has made notable improvements to its new Spinfisher V series.

The bail arm is thicker and stronger. Most of the drag washers have been moved from the reel's top to inside the spool bot-tom. This allows for bigger washers and also for the drag to be -protected against water intrusion. The reel's metal side plate is sealed with a gasket to keep water from entering the gearbox, a problem with some of the older versions. There are 11 sizes, including three live-liner versions. They range from the 3500 at 131⁄2 ounces to the giant 10500 (39.8 ounces). Price: $140 - $200 pennreels.com

After casting one of the new Cabela's Fish Eagle 50 rods for a while, the test team was agog at the great value they are at $90. "A lot of rod for the money" was the typical comment. Cabela's original Fish Eagles were its bestselling rod series for the past 10 years or so. The 50 series is much improved--but the price has stayed close to the same.

All are made with 50-million-modulus graphite, stiffer and stronger than the previous Fish Eagle, which used fiber rated at 38 million. As a result, the rods feel slightly stiffer and substantially lighter. The 17 spinning models range from 6 feet 6 inches to 7 feet 6 inches. Most are two-piece; a few are one-piece. (There are also seven baitcast versions.) All have fast actions.

Nicely finished in what appears to be a dark olive paint, the rods have -single-​foot ceramic guides wrapped on very neatly. The reel seat is down locking so there are few, if any, screw threads against your hand when a reel is mounted. The all-cork handle shows fairly good workmanship with few gaps or holes. All in all, this series is a winner. Price: $90 ****cabelas.com