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Fishing rod and reel combos are a convenient way to get out on the water quicker. While you can always pair a rod and reel together on your own, trying to find the right setup can be overwhelming and confusing. There are endless rod and reel options and getting a good match can be a tricky task.

Luckily, rod and reel combos come in a wide variety of setups, from trout spinning reels to baitcasting rods. I’ve been fishing for more than a decade and have used some great combos and some not-so-great ones. What I’ve learned is that a good setup should be well balanced, able to withstand some abuse, and, if it’s important to you, budget-friendly.

Below, we’ve narrowed down the best fishing rod and reel combos we’ve tested over the years from top brands like Penn, Lew’s, and Pflueger, whether you’re into fly fishing or chasing catfish.

The Best Rod and Reel Combos

Fishing rod and reel combos laying on truck tailgate
We’ve tested almost every style of combo out there to find the best for each purpose. (Photo/Alice Jones Webb)

Best Overall: Pflueger President Spinning Combo

Best Overall

Specs

  • Reel Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
  • Max Drag Lb: 10 lbs of drag
  • Rod Length: 4 feet 8 inches to 7 feet
  • Rod Power: Ultralight, light, medium light, medium
  • Weight: 14.11 ounces

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 for Saltwater: Daiwa BG Inshore Spinning Combo

Best Saltwater

Specs

  • Reel Gear Ratio: 5.6:1 and 5.7:1
  • Max Drag Lb: 13.2, 15.4, and 17.6
  • Rod Length: 7 feet
  • Rod Power: Medium light, medium, medium heavy

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 of saltwater reels and rods 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 for Surf Fishing: Penn Battle III Spinning Combo

Best Surf Fishing

Specs

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

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. The best surf fishing reels and rods 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 for Baitcasting: Lew’s Speed Spool LFS Baitcast Combo

Best Baitcasting

Specs

  • Reel Gear Ratio: 7.5:1
  • Max Drag Lb: 15
  • Rod Length: 7 feet
  • Rod Power: Medium heavy

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 baitcaster combo can be. Pairing a good baitcasting 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 Outfit

Best Fly Fishing

Specs

  • Reel Gear Ratio: 1:1
  • Max Drag Lb: 5
  • Rod Length: 8 feet 6 inches, 9 feet, 10 feet

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 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. The Clearwater even took home the best value award in our fly rod test.

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.

Best Spinning

Specs

  • Reel Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Max Drag Lb: 14
  • Rod Length: 6 feet 10 inches, 7 feet, 7 feet 2 inches
  • Rod Power: Medium light, medium

Pros

  • Smooth drag
  • High-end guides
  • Comfortable grips
  • Great rod sensitivity

Cons

  • Pricey

Although the price tag on Lew’s Mach Jacked Spinning Combo isn’t exactly high-end, the performance is about as close as you’ll get in a prepackaged setup. It is lightweight, super sensitive, and has an extremely smooth drag system. The combo is available in three largemouth–focused tournament-level lengths and actions that work nicely whether you’re a casual weekend bass angler or a serious competitor.  

The rod features high-end guides and ergonomic custom Winn Ultra grips. The reel has a premium 10-bearing system and a lightweight C40 carbon rotor with a one-piece bail. It casts like an absolute dream. 

Best Catfish

Specs

  • Reel Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Max Drag Lb: 12
  • Rod Length: 6 feet 6 inches
  • Rod Power: Medium

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Sturdy construction
  • Perfect for catfishing

Cons

  • Heavy

I grew up fishing Ugly Stik combos, and they continue to be affordable crowd-pleasers some forty years later. The brand’s GX2 combos offer more refinement and better performance than the combos of my youth. However, that same fabulous fiberglass and graphite, nearly indestructible construction is still there. These babies are ultra-durable with enough sensitivity to keep the fun in reeling in good-sized channel cats. The GX2 combo will work for some bass-fishing applications, but catfishing is where this thing really shines. 

The rod features sturdy stainless steel guides and a durable reel, so this is one that can ride around in the bed of your truck without worries. And since it is incredibly well-priced, you won’t cry too many tears if it walks off while you’re parked at the local gas station. 

Best Crappie: B’n’M Poles 75 Series Combo

Best Crappie

Specs

  • Reel Gear Ratio: 4.9:1
  • Max Drag Lb: 10
  • Rod Length: 7 feet 6 inches
  • Rod Power: Medium

Pros

  • Versatile 
  • Affordable
  • Comfortable cork handle
  • Action perfect for panfish

Cons

  • Only available as a one-piece rod

With this combo, you can do almost anything—cast deep, dip shallow water, shoot under docks, pitch to submerged cover, you name it. Made from high-modulus graphite, the one-piece rod offers great sensitivity and action without sacrificing durability. It is well-balanced and outfitted with gold alloy guides and a genuine Portuguese cork knob handle. 

B’n’M rounds out the combo with their 75 Reel, a 7+1 BB reel with a 4.9:1 gear ratio.  The reel also has a reversible handle for right- or left-hand retrieve. All in all an excellent setup that lets you catch crappie right out of the box. 

How We Tested Fishing Rod and Reel Combos

Over the past decade, we’ve fished for just about anything that can swim. This journey has taken us to countless places and has involved pretty much every fishing technique under the sun. With that kind of experience under our belts, we understand the basic criteria for finding a solid rod and reel combo. 

Female angler casting fishing rod and reel combo
I’ve used my share of rod and reel combos over the years. (Photo/Alice Jones Webb)

Before we hit the water, we narrowed down the options to create a list of rigs we wanted to test. We based our selection on the following criteria:

  • Durability: Will the combo withstand harsh conditions and abuse?
  • Weight: How heavy is it, and does the weight affect 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?

Once we had the shortlist, we hit the water to see how these rod and reel combos perform for real-world fishing. 

How to Pick a Rod and Reel Combo

For beginner anglers, a fishing rod combo is a perfect setup 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. 

Type of Fish

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.

Size

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.

Freshwater vs. Saltwater

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.

Price

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.

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.

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 fishing rod and reel combo you choose will be by your side along your journey.

Why Trust Us

For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.