We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

Fishing is fun. Choosing gear is hard. You can get to the fun part faster by buying a fishing rod and reel combo, which takes all the guesswork out of matching a rod to a reel. This is important, because if the reel you pick is too heavy for your rod, our outfit will be less comfortable to use. A poorly balanced rod and reel won’t cast as far, either, and makes it harder to detect bites.

Rod and reel combos, which are matched by the manufacturer, solve this problem because both rod and reel accept the same strength and diameter of line and cast the same weight lure or bait. Pick the right size combo for the fish you want to catch and you can save time on research and make sure you won’t get a setup that doesn’t feel right when you’re out on the water.

Here are three ways to make sure a fishing rod and reel combo is right for you:

1. Pick the Right Size Rod

A medium light power rod with a fast action is a good all-around choice. It’s sensitive enough to use for smaller fish but can handle much larger fish when paired with the proper sized reel. Shakespeare

Rods have a “power rating” that should match the kind of fish you’re planning to catch. Ultralight rods are good for very small fish you find in lakes and rivers or in saltwater bays near the ocean. Light to medium light power rods are better for small to medium sized game fish like bass and walleye, as well as many saltwater species. Medium heavy or heavy power rods are best for large gamefish like big catfish, pike, muskies, and big saltwater fish like striped bass or tarpon. This article does not cover gear for fish bigger than these.

2. Pick the Right Reel

A good reel paired with the right size rod will let you fish lighter weight lines that let you fish smaller baits and detect bites better. Penn

Good fishing reels are built around quality drag systems designed to apply smooth resistance when a fish pulls line off your spool. A smooth drag that can be finely adjusted is essential for preventing a fish from breaking the line when you’re fighting it—and for preventing a fish from taking out too much line, which decreases your control of the fish and increases your chances of losing it.

3. Don’t Be Afraid of Disney Rods

These rods will take a beating and still let your kid reel in the biggest fish of the trip. Shakespeare

Rod and reel combos are great for beginning anglers. If you’re looking to introduce a young child to the sport, a colorful rod themed after your child’s favorite superhero is a great way to catch their attention. These things are easy for kids to cast and work great for fishing off docks or boats. They are surprisingly capable of landing even larger fish.