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The modern spinning rod and reel combo offers a convenience that’s hard to beat. Manufacturers like Shimano, Penn, and Abu Garcia have taken the guesswork out of pairing rods and reels, making it a breeze for anyone to pick up a ready-matched combo, head out, and start reeling in fish immediately. These combos are a boon for beginners, providing a straightforward solution for those still navigating the complexities of rod types and reel sizes. 

I’ve been using spinning rods and reels for years, and I’ve had a lot of success with different setups, whether I’m chasing bass or heading out on the open ocean. Based on my extensive experience behind the rod and hours of testing, these are the best spinning rod and reel combos for any style of fishing. 

The Best Spinning Rod and Reel Combos

Spinning rod and reel combos lined up
We put each of these combos through the paces to find the top performers. (Photo/Travis Smola)

Best Overall: Toadfish Inshore Spinning Combo

Rod Specs

  • Lengths: 6’ 8” and 7’ 2”
  • Material: Graphite
  • Power: Medium
  • Action: Extra Fast

Reel Specs

  • Gear Ratios: 4.0:1 – 6.0:1
  • Ball Bearings: 4+1

Pros

  • Incredibly smooth
  • Great casting distance
  • Versatile

Cons

  • Some might not like the colors

Versatility, affordability, and smoothness are all terms that come to mind with ToadFish’s inshore spinning combo. I was pleasantly surprised when this combo became my favorite during testing for this article. It’s marketed towards inshore, but I found it a true joy to use in freshwater. The first fish I caught on it was a frisky walleye. The moderate 7’ 2”-inch rod model’s fight was a delight, and the graphite blank construction gave it a lot of sensitivity.

Toadfish Inshore Spinning Combo sitting on boat
A close-up of the Toadfish combo during testing. (Photo/Travis Smola)

It’s a beauty when it comes to casting. When I needed to go long, I could bomb the lures out there. At the same time, the rod has enough finesse to throw light lures tight into cover. While I initially worried ToadFish’s unique reel seat looked bulky, I found it surprisingly ergonomic. My hands never got sore or tired casting this thing all day. The rod is also durable. I bent it on several low-hanging branches while kayak fishing. It took all the abuse in stride.

Close-up of angler holding Toadfish Inshore Spinning Combo
The ToadFish is bulky around the reel seat but surprisingly ergonomic. (Photo/Travis Smola)

ToadFish touts the reel as braid-ready with no backer, so that’s exactly how I spooled it. It’s been a while since I’ve had an easier time loading a reel with a new line. As someone who hates putting new line on reels, this one was a breath of fresh air. This rod’s only downside is that some people may not like the black and teal color scheme. Otherwise, it’s a surprisingly capable and versatile setup, especially at the $140-$170 price point. No matter what style of angling you prefer, this combo deserves a look. 

Best Budget: Shimano FX Spinning Combo

Rod Specs

  • Length: 7’
  • Material: Aeroglass
  • Power: Medium
  • Action: Fast

Reel Specs

  • Gear Ratios: 6.2:1
  • Ball Bearings: 2+1

Pros

  • Surprisingly durable 
  • Well balanced
  • Great price point

Cons

  • Reel seat and handle aren’t anything special

The Shimano FX surprised me with its durability and functionality. I first tested this one during a day of shaded river fishing. To put it bluntly, I beat the hell out of it on that trip. It caught on tree branches several times, sitting in my kayak’s rod holder, bending precariously far in the wrong direction. It never took any damage.

Shimano FX Spinning Combo sitting on boat
A close-up of the Shimano FX during testing. (Photo/Travis Smola)

The FX is a simple setup without many bells or whistles because it doesn’t need them. This is an effective rod and reel for anglers of all skill levels. I found the reel to be surprisingly smooth despite only having 2+1 bearings. While testing, I caught a 19” smallmouth bass on this rod. As expected, the fish was a real fighter. She smacked my lure hard and made several powerful runs. This rod handled the roughly minute-long fight in stride. 

Close-up of the Shimano FX spinning reel
The Shimano FX’s reel is surprisingly smooth for the price point. (Photo/Travis Smola)

As for the reel seat and the handle on this combo—they aren’t terrible, but they aren’t anything special, either. While I wasn’t a huge fan, I still found it a comfortable setup to use all day. Considering the whole combo only costs about $30, it’s a bargain. Since Shimano offers reel sizes from 1000 to 4000, there is something here for nearly every angling style and situation. 

Best for Bass: Abu Garcia Veritas Spinning Combo

Rod Specs

  • Lengths: 6’ 6” and 7’
  • Material: Carbon fiber
  • Power: Medium
  • Action: Fast

Reel Specs

  • Gear Ratios: 6.2:1
  • Ball Bearings: 10+1

Pros

  • Incredibly smooth
  • Great sensitivity and backbone
  • Excellent drag

Cons

  • White color gets dirty quickly
  • Expensive

I’ve owned two Veritas combos for years, and they have become my go-to bass setup. They’re ideal for soft plastics, especially Ned rigs, drop shots, and wacky rigs. I rarely miss fish with these rods. They also have the backbone to power a fish from grass if necessary. I’ve hooked into a few bowfin and northern pike with these, and it makes for a fun fight every time. The titanium guides have also proven extremely durable. I’m rough on my equipment and haven’t had any issues with them. 

Abu Garcia Veritas Spinning Combo sitting on boat
A close-up of the Abu Garcia Veritas during testing. (Photo/Travis Smola)

While the rod gets much attention with this combo, the reel is one of the best for bass. Abu Garcia gave the reel 10 stainless ball bearings and one roller bearing. As you might expect, this translates into an ultra-smooth retrieve that’s hard to beat. The reel and rod’s light weight combine to create a very comfortable rig for long days on the water.

Close-up of Abu Garcia Veritas Spinning Combo
The Veritas’ white coloration shows dirt over time. The bottom rod is newer than the top one. (Photo/Travis Smola)

My one gripe: I wish this combo wasn’t white. As expected, it shows a lot of dirt and needs to be cleaned constantly. I keep hoping for a black version, but it hasn’t happened yet. That and the high price tag are my only real complaints, and neither are deal-breakers. This near-bulletproof combo will last through years of fishing and abuse in the field. 

Best Beginner: Pflueger President Spinning Combo

Rod Specs

  • Lengths: 4’ 8” to 7’
  • Material: I-M8 Graphite
  • Power: Ultra-Light, Light, Medium  
  • Action: Extra Fast

Reel Specs

  • Gear Ratios: 5.2:1
  • Ball Bearings: 10

Pros

  • Incredibly smooth
  • Variety of sizes
  • Good ergonomics

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive for a beginner setup

Pflueger is one of those brands I feel doesn’t get enough love from the mainstream fishing community. This is a popular setup, but all that popularity feels like it’s through word of mouth. This combination gives beginners a super-sensitive graphite rod that makes it easy to detect strikes. Plueger offers the combo with rod lengths as short as 4’ 8” and as long as seven feet. That means there’s a size for panfish, and another that’s perfect for light bass applications. The reel is the main reason I recommend this for beginners. Plueger gave these reels a 10-bearing system. It’s incredibly smooth and forgiving for a new angler learning the ropes. 

This setup is more expensive than some of the other options available today. However, I feel it’s fully worth the price of admission to learn on solid equipment. A new angler can also continue to use this setup for years down the road as their skills grow. 

Best Inshore: Penn Fierce IV Spinning Combo

Rod Specs

  • Lengths: 7’ to 9’
  • Material: Graphite Composite 
  • Power: Medium, Medium-Light, Medium-Heavy 
  • Action: Extra Fast, Fast, Moderate Fast

Reel Specs

  • Gear Ratios: 5.6:1, 6.2:1
  • Ball Bearings: 5

Pros

  • Very durable
  • Excellent ergonomics
  • Sharp looks

Cons

  • A little heavy

Penn’s saltwater offerings continue to be some of my favorites. I love the ergonomics of the Penn Fierce IV. The grips have a nice, slightly tacky feel that helped significantly when my hands were wet. The rod has a nice backbone. As expected, with a graphite blank, there is a ton of sensitivity. I love the Dura-Guides on this one. They helped me make some longer casts than expected with lighter lures. 

Penn Fierce IV Spinning Combo sitting on boat
A close-up of the Penn Fierce IV during testing. (Photo/Travis Smola)

I only caught some smaller fish with it, but I could see how it is a very capable rod. There is even some crossover appeal here for freshwater. This would be a great salmon rod on larger lakes. Like other Penns, I wasn’t surprised when the reel was silky smooth on the retrieve. The drag system is great, too. 

Close-up of Penn Fierce IV Spinning Combo
The bulky handle adds a little to the weight but is very ergonomic. (Photo/Travis Smola)

My only complaint is that this combo feels slightly heavy. It tired me slightly faster than some of the other combos I tested. However, I think it’s a worthy tradeoff, especially given the quality of the construction and the price point. Even the nine-foot version comes in under $200. This is an incredibly affordable way to add rods to the boat or start saltwater fishing. 

Best Saltwater: Shimano Spheros Spinning Combo 

Rod Specs

  • Lengths: 7’ to 9’
  • Power: Medium, Medium-Heavy 
  • Action: Fast

Reel Specs

  • Gear Ratios: 6.0:1, 6.2:1
  • Ball Bearings: 4+1

Pros

  • Good drag
  • Smooth feel
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not quite as rugged as other Shimano offerings

For anglers wanting a good all-around combo that won’t break the bank, the Shimano Spheros SW is a good choice. The rod has a lot of backbone but doesn’t sacrifice sensitivity. It was easy to throw long casts, even with heavier lines. I also liked the ergonomics of the handle.

Shimano Spheros Spinning Combo sitting on boat
A close-up of the Shimano Spheros during testing. (Photo/Travis Smola)

The reel often draws unfair comparisons to Shimano’s flagship Stella and Saragosa reels. However, the Spheros isn’t trying to be those expensive, high-end reels. This is more of a working angler’s saltwater reel. That means it’s not built as ruggedly, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing, considering the $200 price tag. Properly cared for, this reel will still withstand years of abuse. It’s also just a nice-looking reel. 

Close-up of angler holding Shimano Spheros spinning combo
The size 5000 Spheros has a very beefy handle that’s easy to hold. (Photo/Travis Smola)

This combo is ideal for inshore and pier fishing enthusiasts who want a quality rig under $300. It’s capable of tackling redfish, snook, and other inshore species. It should have the strength for tarpon, too. I think there is room for some crossover appeal for freshwater, too. This would be a good pier outfit on the Great Lakes. It would also probably be effective for catfish given the heavier lines it can handle. 

Best Freshwater: Abu Garcia Revo X Spinning Combo

Rod Specs

  • Lengths: 7’ 
  • Material: Intracarbon
  • Power: Medium
  • Action: Fast

Reel Specs

  • Gear Ratios: 6.2:1
  • Ball Bearings: 6+1

Pros

  • Incredibly smooth
  • Very lightweight
  • Smooth casting 

Cons

  • Smooth handle could be slippery

The Revo X combo made me audibly utter “wow” the first time I picked it up due to the light weight. I don’t think I’ve recently fished another 7-foot medium power that compares. That makes this combo a true joy to cast for long periods. It also gave me a lot of control when throwing my bait into tight windows.

Abu Garcia Revos Spinning Combo sitting on boat
A close-up of the Abu Garcia Revo X during testing. (Photo/Travis Smola)

The sensitivity is also outstanding, making this a functional rod for various techniques. Time will tell for certain, but from my early impressions, I think this is my new favorite for drop shots and Ned rigs. It has the right amount of sensitivity for bumping lures along the bottom. This reel has seven bearings, which gives a satisfying, silky retrieve. I only caught a few fish during testing, but it left me wanting more. 

Close-up of Abu Garcia Revo X Spinning Combo
The Revo X combo’s reel has a skeletonized appearance that cuts down the weight. (Photo/Travis Smola)

The only thing I don’t like is that the handle and areas around the reel seat are all very smooth. The ergonomics are solid, but the hand feels a little slippery on it sometimes. That won’t be a problem for everyone, but I also have issues with butterfingers.

As much as I love the Veritas, the Revo X gives it a run for its money as a bass fishing rig. I think I might like the Revo a little more just because of that lightweight construction. This was a rod I never tired of casting during my hours on the water. 

How We Tested Spinning Rod and Reel Combos

I’ve owned some of the combos on this list for years, and the others I tested specifically for this article. I evaluated each combo on balance, ergonomics, casting distance, and smoothness. I tried to catch as many fish as possible with each to evaluate the backbone of each option.

Angler in kayak holding fish caught with Shimano FX Spinning Combo
The 19-inch Indiana smallmouth I caught on the Shimano FX. (Photo/Travis Smola)

Additionally, I considered the following factors when making my choices:

  • Case Use: Is the combo meant exclusively for one species? Can you use it in both freshwater and saltwater?
  • Sensitivity: Is the rod sensitive enough to handle lighter bites? 
  • Weight: Is the combo comfortable enough to use all day without getting tired?
  • Value: We didn’t want to fill a list with combos that cost over $300. Does the price point match the rod and reel value provided? 

Spinning Rod and Reel Combo Buying Guide

The best spinning reel and rod combos will quickly get anglers on the water. When you’re choosing one, you’ll first want to consider the type of fish you plan on targeting and the techniques used. Both of these will influence the rod length and power you need. 

Rod Length

Most bass rods fall in the 6- to 7-foot range. A spinning rod of that length is usually versatile enough for most major bass scenarios, especially finesse techniques. Ultralight panfish rods are typically much shorter, although some “spider rigging” rods for crappie can be as long as 12 feet.

Many bank and surf fishing scenarios call for longer 8- to 13-foot rods. The longer length helps make lengthier casts to where the fish are hiding. 

Action and Power

Action and power are sometimes mixed up or used interchangeably. However, they are two distinct features of a rod. Action refers to the amount of flex. A rod with a fast action will see more flex at the tip. Conversely, a rod with a slow action flexes more towards the butt of the rod. 

Power refers to how much effort it takes to bend a rod. You might hear it referred to as the backbone. Rods with a stronger backbone have less flex, which is ideal for tiring out larger fish. For most angling scenarios, a medium or medium-heavy power is adequate. Those powers are ideal for everything from bass and walleye in freshwater to inshore species like redfish and drum. 

Drag Systems

These systems keep the fish from simply running off with the bait once hooked. Thus, it’s important to select a drag system that’s strong enough to handle the targeted species. Drag isn’t a super important factor for some species like panfish. However, it becomes a major factor with larger species like pike and muskie or saltwater fish like tuna and tarpon.

Look carefully at the maximum drag on each reel when sizing for a species. It’s usually better to err on the side of too heavy rather than too light. We also recommend a sealed drag for saltwater applications. 

Freshwater vs. Saltwater

While a saltwater rod can easily transition to fresh, most freshwater rods aren’t built to protect from the corrosive effects of saltwater. I like to look for reels that have waterproofing for extra protection. 

FAQs

Q: How do you cast a spinning rod and reel combo?

While holding the reel in your dominant hand, open the bail and hold the line with your finger. Bring the rod back past your shoulder. I like to keep my eye on the bait to ensure it doesn’t snag something behind me.

Q: Is it better to buy a rod and reel combo or buy them separately? 

Experienced anglers usually like to buy separately because you can better customize your setup to specific species or techniques. However, beginners usually find a combo a much better option because there’s no guesswork in matching the rod and reel. Combos can also save you some money.

Q: What is the best length for a spinning rod?

It depends on the intended use of the rod. While 6 to 7 feet is popular for most bass and walleye applications, shorter rods in the 5-foot range are great for smaller panfish species. Spinning rods 8 to 10 feet long are popular for bank fishing for larger species like catfish. Surf fishermen sometimes use rods in the 14-foot range. 

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