|Best for Drop Shotting||Denali Lithium Multispin||SEE IT||
Extreme attention to detail and top-quality components deliver one rod that covers all your drop-shotting and finesse tactics.
|Best for Spinnerbaits||13 Fishing Omen Black||SEE IT||
With everyone reaching for the long rods, 13 Fishing still offers a solid rod that offers unmatched casting accuracy and a solid backbone to horse fish from cover.
|Best for Crankbaits||Lew’s KVD Composite Cranking Rod||SEE IT||
This rod launches lures a country mile and performs under pressure. The composite construction is ideal for crankbaits.
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Bass fishing rod prices can run anywhere from the price of a super-sized meal deal at a fast-food restaurant to something that requires a considerable portion of a paycheck. Add the various lengths, powers, and actions of specific rods needed to present the different types of lures to catch bass in any pond, and the decisions can be overwhelming. Choosing the wrong rod for the presentation can make the difference between a good day of fishing and an experience akin to trying to drive a nail with a screwdriver. Here are the best bass fishing rods to have ready on the front deck and still be able to afford some gas to get to the lake.
- Best for Drop Shotting: Denali Lithium Multispin – 7 foot, 4 inch medium heavy
- Best for Topwater/Jerkbaits: St. Croix Premier – 6 foot, 6 inch medium
- Best for Spinnerbaits: 13 Fishing Omen Black – 6-foot, 7-inch medium heavy
- Best for Crankbaits: Lew’s KVD Composite Cranking Rod – 7-foot medium Squarebill rod
Things to Consider Before Buying a Bass Fishing Rod
There’s no one-size fits all approach to bass fishing. As such, you need a few different rods to handle all the techniques you’ll need to score consistently with bucketmouths. When filling your rod quiver, take the following into account.
Length: The best rod length varies with the technique being used. Years ago, a 6-foot rod was on the long side of rod design, but now you rarely see a rod on a bass boat’s deck shorter than 6-and-a-half feet. Longer rods offer more leverage on hooksets, and they increase casting distance. However, a short rod offers pinpoint accuracy around close targets.
Power: The amount of flex in a rod is described as its power. The more effort it takes to make the rod bend, the heavier its power rating. A lighter power rod may be needed to cast lighter lures, while a heavier rod will offer more “backbone” to fight fish and heave larger lures with more force. Some manufacturers even try to offer rods like the Kastking Perigee II which has two rod tips of different powers for the angler to choose which they prefer.
Action: A rod’s action refers to where the rod begins to bend when put under a load. Faster actions bend closer to the rod’s tip, making them feel stiffer and snap a hook home quickly. Moderate and slower actions bend lower in the rod, allowing more give on the hookset and to keep fish hooked during the fight.
Modern rods are made of fiberglass, graphite, or a combination of the two. Fiberglass was top technology in the 1970s when it was introduced but has largely given way to graphite. You can still find glass in some specialty rods, and a handful of manufacturers mix graphite and fiberglass to create slow action rods. Most of the rods covered here are made from graphite, so I’ll examine those blanks more thoroughly.
Modulus: There really is no industry standard for the construction of a graphite rod, but modulus can give you a good indication of the quality of the build. Essentially, modulus is a measurement of the stiffness of the carbon fibers that make up the rod’s blank. Lower modulus ratings will be more elastic, while higher modulus ratings will be crisper and more sensitive. However, modulus alone doesn’t indicate a good rod. The resins and cooking process used to create the blank also weigh heavily into a rod’s sensitivity and stiffness-to-weight ratio.
Guides: You can take the best rod blank in the world and outfit it with poor guides and have a rod that falls short in feel and performance. Guide style is important, but how many guides and where those guides are placed along the blank are just as critical. A quick look down the rod from butt to tip also will reveal guides on some rods that are out of line. These off-center guides not only affect feel, but they also destroy casting distance by creating friction.
Grip and Handle: Cork or modern polymer grip material is a personal choice, but buyers should beware of any materials that aren’t made to handle extreme temperature and exposure to the elements. All high-quality rods also should feature exposed blanks in the reel seat to place a hand on a portion of the blank for better sensitivity. The custom reel seat of the Phenix Maxim casting rod takes this to the extreme, leaving enough room to nearly wrap your entire hand around the exposed blank.
Best for Drop Shotting: Denali Lithium Multispin
Why It Made the Cut: Extreme attention to detail and top-quality components deliver one rod that covers all your drop-shotting and finesse tactics.
- Length: 7’ 4”
- Action: Moderate-fast
- Power: Medium-heavy(ish)
- Rating: 10-15 pound/test line; ¼-3/4 ounce lures
- One rod that performs for all finesse fishing
- High modulus graphite is extremely sensitive
- Extra guides have low profile to prevent line slap
- Added length can be an issue when dropping straight down on fish under the boat
The Lithium is the bread-and-butter of the Denali brand for good reason. Aside from the straight up stunning look of the silver woven graphite in the butt of the rod, it just performs. The high modulus IM8+ graphite gives you a crisp feel, transmitting the lightest strikes to your hands like a shockwave. But the moderate fast action allows the bend of the rod to be further into the meat of the blank, so you can bury light wire hooks with a steady reeling hookset. The rod is listed as a medium heavy power but leans more toward the medium end of the spectrum to handle lighter jig heads and drop-shot weights. An impressive 14 stainless steel semi-micro guides are placed in perfect alignment. This all but eliminates line slap during the cast, which means longer and more accurate casts, even with diminutive lures. The combination of cork and high-grade EVA foam in the grip and butt cap complement the rod’s classy looks, but more importantly, it feels great in the hand.
The only drawback to this rod is that it’s a little long to drop straight down to fish directly under the boat. It was designed to cast the drop-shot away from the boat or bank, which is where it really excels. The Lithium is the most expensive rod in the lineup, but with its top-shelf performance and Denali’s limited lifetime warranty, it will be the last spinning rod you need to buy. (Unless you find yourself becoming a closet finesse fisherman.)
Best for Topwater/Jerkbaits: St. Croix Premier
Why It Made the Cut: This made in the U.S.A. workhorse keeps a topwater bait walking on the surface without the wearing down the wrists.
- Length: 6’ 6”
- Action: Fast
- Power: Medium
- Rating: 6-12 pound/test line; ¼-5/8 ounce lures
- Smooth, straight grip for comfort throughout the cast and retrieve
- Good length for working poppers and walking lures
- Versatile rod is suitable for both warm and cold-weather bassing
- A bit underpowered to run heavier topwater lures
This rod plays double duty, twitching a jerkbait in cold weather, then switching to keep a Zara Spook or other topwater lure moving once the weather has warmed. The 6’6” St. Croix Premier bucks the trend of long rods, but for good reason. Working a topwater with maximum action means quick snaps of the rod tip in a downward motion. If your rod is too long, you’re constantly slapping the surface of the water or holding the rod at an odd angle. Stepping down to medium power helps cast smaller popper-style lures and prop baits as well. The medium power also takes full advantage of St. Croix’s SCII graphite construction; a mid-modulus material that offers excellent sensitivity for jerkbaits but maintains a bit of flexibility to hold strong when a smallmouth takes that last ditch charge to shake free. And with eight guides along its length, it may seem like it lacks some contact points with the blank, but the spacing is done well and keeps the rod balanced for accurate casts.
The thing that sets the Premier apart, at least for me, is the simple, straight Portuguese cork grip. The full length of the grip allows easy two-handed casting to keep your arms from wearing down. Most manufacturers are leaning to more tapered grips in their rods, which have their own benefits. But for the seesaw action of a topwater or jerkbait, the straight grip gets the nod. And the straight grip style is easy to tip back and forth while walking the dog on a Zara Spook or snapping a jerkbait in a twitch-twich-pause cadence to catch prespawn bass. The only drawback to this particular model of the Premier lineup is that it does not handle large Whopper Plopper-style topwaters. However, there are plenty of other rods in the Premier lineup that fit that bill.
Best for Spinnerbaits: 13 Fishing Omen Black
Why It Made the Cut: With everyone reaching for the long rods, 13 Fishing still offers a solid rod that offers unmatched casting accuracy and a solid backbone to horse fish from cover.
- Length: 6’ 7”
- Action: Medium-heavy
- Power: Extra-fast
- Rating: 12-20 pound/test line; ⅜-1 ounce lures
- Superb casting accuracy at short distances
- Light weight for all day casting comfort
- Plenty of power at the rod tip to drive spinnerbaits home
- Shorter length shortens overall casting distance
- Precise construction does not lend itself well to rough handling
The Omen Black series from 13 Fishing put this company on the map with dozens of models touting extreme sensitivity and light weight, thanks to the use of 36-ton Toray graphite in their rod blanks. The shortest rod in this lineup stands out from the pack, as the ideal tool to sling a blade for bass in close-quarters and heavy cover. The length offers more accuracy for those of us who don’t stand over six feet tall. This comes at a sacrifice of overall casting distance when fishing more open water. But at the range folks typically work spinnerbaits through heavy cover, I saw no shortcomings. The extra fast action kept all the power right at the rod tip to drive the single hooks of spinnerbaits and swim jigs home and allowed me to immediately take control of the fight. Despite its shorter length, this Omen model still boasts 11 stainless steel guides with zirconia inserts to maintain enough line contact throughout the retrieve to feel the thrum of smaller willowleaf blades turning and distribute stress evenly through the blank when turning a bass’s head out of woody cover.
After two years of heavy use, I did have one Omen Black rod break on a hookset with what turned out to be a stump. But these rods come with a five-year warranty, which is extremely generous for the rod’s price range. Customer service with 13 Fishing was amazing, replacing my rod within two weeks of receiving the broken one for inspection. After speaking directly with 13 Fishing’s rod development staff, it was apparant they were genuinely interested in inspecting the issue to make even more improvements in the next generation of Omen Blacks. There have been two generations of rods since that one fluke, and I’m confident that as long as you don’t treat your rods like an Ugly Stik commercial, the Omen Black should provide many years of service without worry.
Best for Crankbaits: Lew’s KVD Composite Cranking Rod
Why It Made the Cut: This rod launches lures a country mile and performs under pressure.
- Length: 7’
- Action: Moderate
- Power: Medium
- Rating: 10-17 pound/test line; ¼-3/4 ounce lures
- EVA grip adds comfort for all day cranking
- Composite construction offers flex of fiberglass with lighter weight of graphite
- Hook keeper placement could be better
Fishing crankbaits requires long casts to enable the lure to dive to the right depth. Having this Lew’s KVD is like loading a catapult in your boat. The 7-foot length adds leverage to generate more casting energy, and the split-grip handle gives enough room to place both hands on the cast for more powerful casts. Instead of straight carbon graphite, Lew’s combines old-school fiberglass in the butt of the rod and blends it into a carbon graphite tip. The fiberglass has a slower, more forgiving flex to load up properly on the cast and retrieve, while the graphite delivers sensitivity where you need it. The composite construction creates a bulky midsection above the reel seat that may be distracting to some anglers. While she might look like a chunky monkey, the rod is still very light thanks to the graphite at the front of the blank.
The only drawback to this rod is in the hook keeper, which is placed behind the reel seat. This puts the crankbait along the rod’s handle when it is being stored, which could be an issue if you reach for the rod absentmindedly. I tend to hook the crankbait to the reel face, so it wasn’t an issue for me. But if we’re being nit-picky, this would be the one thing I’d look to fix.
How I Made My Picks
The choices in this article are based on more than 35 years of bass fishing experience and near-constant upgrading as new trends in rod manufacturing have become mainstays. Personal fishing experience with these rods, combined with in-depth conversations with rod manufacturers and rod-builders have informed my decisions about the top-qualities and features to look for in a rod. Additionally, each rod in this lineup was compared side-by-side to similar rod offerings by other manufacturers off the shelf and on the water. Final conclusions for these awards are based on the following criteria:
- Components: Even the best pastry chef can’t make melt-in-your-mouth cookies without good chocolate. Budget selections like the Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod are good for a beginner or a day when the fish will practically take the rod from your hands, but they lack the materials that provide the sensitivity to detect light strikes when the bass are moody.
- Build Quality: Top components don’t always translate to top performance. Each rod in this lineup was hand selected because of the attention to detail placed in fit and finish. Not only does this impact the looks of the rod, but also how comfortable the rod is throughout an entire day on the water.
- Proper Action for Technique: Sensitivity and handling in a rod comes down to how and where the rod blank bends. Heavy cover may necessitate a rod that takes complete control of the fight, but certain lures simply don’t perform on a broomstick. Each rod was selected based on the lure and presentation for which the angler is most likely to use it.
- Value for Everyday Angler: As the quality of components and fit-and-finish increase, so does the price. There is a point, however, where the return on investment is not going to be noticeable to the average angler. A $300 rod may be acceptable for an angler who fishes every day, but the weekend angler would be better served getting two or three rods at that level of expense.
Q: What bass fishing rods do the pros use?
Professional anglers tend to stick to one brand of rods, depending upon who sponsors them. But they’re not going to choose a rod that hinders their ability to perform. Some anglers may think that pro bass anglers have some secret stash of custom rods that aren’t available to the public, but that isn’t the case for most. Top rod manufacturers, such as St. Croix, Denali, G. Loomis, Daiwa, and Lew’s have many grades of rods to deliver performance at all price levels. The pros will pick from those same selections you can buy off the rack at your local tackle store.
Q: Are spinning rods good for bass fishing?
Spinning rods are not just good for bass fishing, they’re lifesavers when the fishing gets tough. Most bass anglers may have a love affair with baitcasting rods and reels, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a tournament angler who doesn’t have at least one spinning rod ready on the deck. Weightless worms, drop-shot rigs, Ned rigs and many other light lures that are known to fill a limit require the use of spinning gear.
Q: How do you rig a bass rod?
The rod is only one piece of the equation in bass fishing. To rig a bass rod, consider the reel, line, and most importantly, the lure that will be used. Light lures require lighter action rods, lighter line and spinning reels. Heavy lures will fare better on heavier line and baitcasting reels for better control and more power. Be sure to match line and lure to the rod’s ratings, which are listed at the base of the rod, to ensure top performance and prevent an uncomfortable day of fishing.
Every year new rods are developed to match up with the latest trend or technique developed to fool the fish. Instead of trying to keep up with every specialized approach with a different rod-and-reel outfit, invest in a few key rods that offer top performance in the techniques known to consistently put fish in the boat.