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Published Mar 4, 2022 10:21 AM

Fishing rod and reel combos are a great way to get started. So, if you’re looking for an excuse to get out of the house and into the outdoors, pick out a good combo and you’re ready to go. But for those who have never been fishing, walking into a sporting goods store to find the right setup can be overwhelming and confusing. There are endless rod and reel options and pairing the two together can be a tricky task. Luckily, fishing rod and reel combos are a great way for new anglers to get on the water and start catching fish. Combos are balanced well and come in a wide variety of setups to cover anything from trout to redfish. Experienced anglers like to pick their rods and reels to fit their fishing style but a combo is a perfect way to get started. 

Any good rod and reel combo should be well balanced, able to withstand some abuse, and budget-friendly. Here is a list of fishing rod and reel recommendations and some tips for choosing one that fits you best.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Fishing Rod and Reel Combo

For beginner anglers, a fishing rod combo can be a great solution to get started. A quality combo will last years, and the rod and reel are paired to match so they feel balanced and comfortable in your hand. Not to mention, buying a combo is budget-friendly so you have some leftover cash to pick out tackle to hit the water ready. Knowing the target species, size of the rod and reel, where you’ll be fishing, and what your budget looks like are all good starting points. 

What do you plan on fishing for?

Figuring out what fish you will be targeting is the first step in finding the right combo. Not all combos are the same. If you go off of looks alone you might be under-gunned when it comes time to fish. Targeting bigger fish like salmon requires large reels that are capable of holding up to blistering runs and a rod that’s delicate enough to protect light lines. Understanding what you’re up against can help narrow your choice to a few good options that are well suited for years to come.

Is size an issue?

As great as a one-piece rod is, not all anglers have the space to store a 7ft or longer rod, and traveling with them can be another story in itself. If space is an issue then look for combos with rods that break down in multiple pieces. A two-piece rod is a great compromise between sensitivity and convenience, they pack down relatively small and can travel in just about any car. When space is a serious issue, several combos come in travel options that break down into 4 to 6 pieces depending on the setup. I prefer these styles if I am flying somewhere to fish or require something small enough to stuff in a backpack.

Are you looking for freshwater or saltwater setups?

There is a significant difference between saltwater and freshwater combos. While you can take a saltwater combo in freshwater, doing the reverse can be hard on your gear. Freshwater setups are great at what they are designed for, but they cannot stand up to the abuse of saltwater fishing. The salt gets into reels and eats away at the gears and internal components causing them to rust and jam up. Saltwater reels are designed to stand up to the abuse, and some even come with fully sealed drags to keep saltwater out, even if completely submerged. Look closely at the combo you end up going with and make sure it’s ready for the conditions you plan to fish in and it will last much longer.

What is your budget?

Anglers just getting started may be hesitant to spend hundreds on their first setup. Luckily for beginners, there are plenty of great setups at a budget-friendly price. Most major companies offer solid rod and reel setups that have a lot of features similar to their high-end models. Another advantage to buying combos is you often save a lot of money. Many companies offer combos for a significant discount compared to buying the same rod and reel separately.

Best Fishing Rod and Reel Combo: Pflueger President Spinning Combo

Best Fishing Rod and Reel Combo

Pflueger President Spinning Combo Dicks Sporting Goods

Key Features:

  • Reel Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
  • Max Drag Lb: 10lbs of Drag
  • Rod Length: 4’ 8”- 7’

Why it Made the Cut?

A great combo for beginners offering affordability and durability in a well-balanced setup and available in a wide range of sizes for all kinds of fishing.

Pros:

  • Wide range of sizes
  • Well balanced and comfortable to fish
  • Super smooth reel

Cons:

  • Not built for saltwater

The Pflueger President Spinning Combo is the best fishing rod and reel combo for anyone getting started, but by no means is it just for beginners. The President reel has gained legendary status as one of Pflueger’s best spinning reels and rightfully so. The reel itself offers a great drag system that is super smooth with low start-up inertia. This is crucial when battling large fish that take long runs, as low start-up inertia means the drag engages immediately to prevent the line from breaking. Paired with an IM-8 Graphite rod that is super sensitive, the combo can detect even the most subtle takes. It’s offered in rod lengths from 4′ 8″ to 7′, the shorter rods are designed to cast smaller lures with ease, perfect for trout or panfish. The 7′ combo is my preferred all-around rod and reel; it’s a great setup for bass fishing and even better if you’re not quite sure what you want to fish for. When I think of the Pflueger President combo, utility and durability come to mind at a price point that can’t be beaten.

Best Saltwater Combo: Daiwa BG Saltwater Combo

Best Salt Water Combo

Daiwa BG Saltwater Combo Bass Pro Shop

Key Features:

  • Reel Gear Ratio: 
    • BG 2500- BG 3000: 5.6:1
    • BG 4000- BG 6500: 5.7:1
  • Max Drag Lb:
    • BG 2500: 13.2lbs
    • BG 3000: 15.4lbs
    • BG 4000: 17.6lbs
    • BG 4500-BG 5000: 22lbs
    • BG 6500: 33lbs
  • Rod Length: 7 feet- 10 feet

Why it Made the Cut?

A bulletproof saltwater combo for beginners and experienced anglers alike that is built to withstand the harshest conditions.

Pros:

  • Powerful drag system
  • Aluminum guides
  • Offered in a wide range of sizes

Cons:

  • The reel is somewhat heavy

New anglers can find saltwater fishing intimidating with countless options on the market that can cost an arm and a leg. The Daiwa Saltwater BG Combo solves this issue with a bulletproof combo at a budget-friendly price. I have fished Daiwa BG reels religiously the last couple of seasons and have nothing but good things to say. Just from holding one, you know it’s built to last. With a durable aluminum construction to prevent corrosion and oversized gears, the reel will last years to come. I’ve fought plenty of large snook and tarpon, and the reel performs the same as it did day one. 

It’s offered in several configurations to cover all sorts of fishing situations but the best all-around combo is the 7-foot medium rod with a Daiwa BG 3000. The reel has 15.4lbs of drag which is more than enough to stop even large fish and, unlike most 3000 sized reels, is slightly oversized. This allows you to add extra line for hot fish that take long runs. The 7-foot medium action rod is super accurate and sensitive enough to place casts in hard-to-reach places. Cork grips on the rod add a nice touch that is typically only seen on higher-end rods these days. Pair it with 30lb braid and the BG combo is ready for just about any saltwater fish you’ll encounter.

Best Surf Fishing Rod and Reel Combo: Penn Battle III Combo

Best Surf Fishing Rod and Reel Combo

Penn Battle III Combo Dicks Sporting Goods

Key Features:

  • Reel Gear Ratio: 5.6:1 
  • Max Drag Lb: 25lbs 
  • Rod Length: 9 feet

Why it Made the Cut?

The Penn Battle III Combo lives up to the Penn Fishing name with a reel built to withstand harsh conditions and a rod balanced to launch baits well into the surf. 

Pros:

  • Carbon Fiber Drag System
  • One Piece Guides
  • Available in travel models

Cons:

  • Reel not fully sealed

The Penn Battle III Combo is a workhorse in the Penn lineup and is made to hold up to the brutal conditions of surf fishing. If you want to know what a setup is made of, bring it to the beach for a day and you’ll quickly find out its worth. Good surf fishing setups can cost hundreds of dollars and even then, can still succumb to sand and salt in no time. The Penn Battle reels are overbuilt to withstand the harshest days in the salt with carbon fiber drag systems that won’t corrode even if fully submerged. While the reel is great the rod is even more impressive. A lot of combos will pair a nice reel with a lackluster rod which can be problematic for any surf fisherman. The Penn Battle Rod has a sleek taper to it and is super comfortable in the hand, balancing perfectly with the reel. I’ve found the more comfortable a rod feels the further you can cast it and this is no exception. Last year during the mullet run I put the Penn Battle combo through its paces with zero failures. The 6000 size reels have 25lbs of drag to stop giants and the rod allowed me to reach those hard-to-reach fish hanging past the breakers.  

Best Baitcasting Combo: Lew’s Speed Spool LFS Baitcast Combo

Best Baitcasting Combo

Lew’s Speed Spool LFS Baitcast Combo Dicks Sporting Goods

Key Features:

  • Reel Gear Ratio: 7.5:1
  • Max Drag Lb: 15lbs of drag 
  • Rod Length: 7 feet

Why it Made the Cut?

Lew’s answered the problem of an entry-level baitcasting combo with this option that is both super accurate and easy to use. 

Pros:

  • 10 bearing reel for smooth casting
  • Patented no foul hook keeper
  • Offered in left-handed and right-handed retrieves

Cons:

  • Only offered in one-piece rods

Anyone looking to get into bass fishing knows how intimidating a baitcasting setup can be. Pairing a rod with a reel can be tricky if you never used one, and casting it can be even trickier. The Lew’s Speed Spool LFS Baitcast Combo is a premium setup at an entry-level price that’s easy to fish. Baitcasting reels rely on bearings to make smooth and accurate casts while avoiding backlashes. Generally speaking, the more bearings a reel has the better they cast and the Speed Spool LFS has 10 premium bearings. For those new to baitcasting reels, set the tension knob so the bait barely falls when you free spool it, turn the side brake halfway, and you’re good to start casting. 

I’ve been thoroughly impressed with this combo, and it performs just as well as several of my high-end baitcasting setups. The 7-foot medium-heavy rod throws just about any lure a bass would eat. I pitch jigs, throw crankbaits, and frogfish with this setup and have had no problems. While more advanced techniques might call for specific rods, this is a great all-around rod and the medium-heavy action has enough backbone to horse big fish out of thick vegetation. 

Recently, I took this setup frog fishing for snakeheads in Florida. Working a frog close to the bank an 8lb snakehead crushed my bait. After several stressful moments and a few choice words, I was able to flip the snakehead out of the water and onto land. In all essence snakeheads are bass on steroids, so the fact this combo held up to a fish of this caliber means any bass won’t stand a chance. If you’ve never fished a baitcaster, spooling it with 15lb monofilament is a good start as it’s much more forgiving and harder to backlash, but when you are ready, 30lb braided line is what you want.

Best for Fly Fishing: Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Boxed Outfit

Best for Fly Fishing

Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Boxed Outfit Bass Pro Shop

Key Features:

  • Reel Gear Ratio: 1:1
  • Max Drag Lb: 5lbs
  • Rod Length: 9 feet

Why it Made the Cut?

The Orvis Company has broken the wheel with a great reel, even better rod, and a 25-year warranty to get people started fly fishing and keep them fly fishing.

Pros:

  • Well balance rod for the money
  • Comes with a fly line and backing
  • 4-piece rod for easy storage

Cons:

  • Fishes better with a nicer fly line

For years, the fly fishing community has come across as prestigious and stuck up, but thanks to a big change in culture, it’s more accessible than ever. Many companies, including Orvis, have finally started to build quality gear tailored to anglers entering the sport. The Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Boxed Outfit is the first combo that I’ve laid my hands on that truly holds its own against premium setups. Orvis has put significant time into the Clearwater lineup and the trickle-down technology is immediately apparent. Built with quality components, including premium cork and guides, the Clearwater is easy to make accurate and long casts with. 

For those starting, the 9-foot, 5 weight combo is a perfect all-around trout rod that transfers well into warm water fishing for bass and panfish. In the past, many combos have had mediocre reels, built more to hold the fly line than to fight fish. The Clearwater reel is far from that. It’s a die-cast reel meaning it is poured in a mold to save money compared to fully machined aluminum reels. What sets this reel apart is the components that go into it; the drag components are very similar to those used in Orvis’s higher-end reels. The result is a smooth reel with low start-up inertia at a budget price. 

When it comes to casting, the rod is fast action but still forgiving and is super helpful for beginners learning to cast. Roll casting and overhead casting come natural, and if you’ve never cast a fly rod before, a half-hour on the front lawn can take you a long way. Above all, the rod is protected by Orvis’s legendary no-questions-asked 25-year warranty so you can fish in confidence knowing you’ll be taken care of no matter what happens.

Methodology

Over the past decade, I’ve fished for just about anything that can swim. This journey has taken me to countless places involving any technique imaginable. I’ve started from scratch numerous times learning new techniques and recognizing the importance of a good combo. They can cut down the learning curve and get you on the water sooner. Not to mention, a combo allows you to try it before you dive headfirst into a new endeavor. Finding combos that work for the fishing you plan to do, don’t break the bank, and last years to come can be tricky. I scoured through countless combos and rigorously tested the hidden gems to get to the bottom of which setups are worth your time and money. I based my selection on the following criteria:

  • Durability: Will the combo be able to withstand harsh conditions and abuse?
  • Weight: How heavy is it, and does it affect the performance?
  • Size: Does the rod break down at all, and can you travel with it?
  • Drag: How many pounds of drag does the reel have?
  • Gear Ratio: What is the handle crank to spool turn ratio?
  • Components: What materials are the rod and reel made of, and how does that translate to longevity?
  • Value: Is it budget-friendly for new anglers?

FAQs

Q: How much do rod and reel combos cost?

Fishing rod and reel combos can vary a lot in price, but there is no need to spend a fortune to get started. A good price point to start is between $80-$150. At this price point, you can find a combo for just about any kind of fishing you want to do. Look for quality components like good guides, cork handles, and aluminum reels. This can help you narrow down your options and get the most out of your dollar.

Q: How do you choose a rod and reel?

Choosing a rod and reel is the hardest part of getting started, but making your decision based on what you want to catch is the best way to go. Think about what species you will be fishing for and you can find a rod and reel combo that works best. This makes your time on the water much more enjoyable. Instead of fighting with your gear, you can focus on what’s important and catch fish.

Q: What type of rod and reel do most beginner anglers use?

Most beginner anglers use spinning rods and reels, as they are the easiest to learn and work for a wide variety of scenarios. A good spinning setup takes a few minutes to sufficiently learn and you’re ready to start fishing. With practice, they can be surprisingly accurate and can throw a wide variety of lures. The best part about spinning setups is even as your skills develop the combo will hold its own and keep up with your demands.

Q: How do I know what size reel to buy?

The best way to buy the right size reel is to think about what fish you’ll be going after. Generally speaking, smaller reels are meant for smaller fish whereas bigger reels are made for bigger fish. A 1500 or 2000 size reel is great for trout and small panfish, while bass anglers prefer a 3000 or 4000 size reel. Remember, all reels vary slightly in size between models and manufacturers. I recommend holding the reel in person before you buy it, so you know it’s the right size.

Final Thoughts

Even the best anglers started somewhere, and chances are, it was with a combo. They are affordable, ready to go, and can do everything their more expensive counterparts can. But, choosing the right one for you is not always easy. Remember to think about how you plan to use it, what you want to catch, and what your experience level is. My top picks cover a wide variety of angling techniques and situations to get everyone started no matter what swims in your backyard. So do some research and think about what kind of fishing you hope to do, and the combo you choose will be by your side along your fishing journey.

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