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

Written By
Published Apr 1, 2022 1:00 PM

Determining the best fishing rod is not as easy as it may seem. Every year new models and materials flood the market and anglers always have something to say. Some prefer cork grips and classic designs while others like flashy rods with modern materials. Regardless of personal preferences, it is difficult to find one rod that does it all. Fishing is often technique-specific, so anglers must choose rods that match their intended use. Whatever type of fish you pursue, the best rods will offer superior performance for that type of fishing. 

Materials, rod length, and action all go into building a fishing rod. Learning the different materials and their application is crucial to understanding when to use what rod. Fiberglass rods offer great durability and line protection while graphite rods offer superior power and casting distance. Now, pair the right material with the right rod design and you have a good idea of where to start. Shorter rods are accurate but lack casting distance while longer rods can cast long distances when precision isn’t a concern. Here are some of the best fishing rods that vary in materials and lengths for different applications.

Things to Consider Before Buying

Fishing rods are available in every size and color imaginable so finding the best is no easy task. Plenty of rods are designed to look good on the shelf and the simple wiggle test at the store won’t reveal much about their worth. Without time on the water, it is hard to tell which rods are worth your time and money. Here are a few things you can look for to find the best fishing rods.

Rod Components 

What goes into building a rod is a good indicator of how the rod will perform. I try to avoid rods with cheap components such as plastic reel seats, cheap guides, or foam grips. If the manufacturer skimped out on these basic parts then chances are the rod blank is lacking as well. Look closely at components and you can find what rods offer the most value for your money. 

Number of Pieces

The one or two-piece rod debate has been going on for decades. While one-piece rods offer superior sensitivity, they can be hard to transport. Luckily, modern two-piece rods still offer great sensitivity with the ease of breaking down when needed. Surf anglers with rods from 9 to 12 feet in length need a two- or three-piece rod to transport them around. Fly anglers also run into this problem and typically choose four-piece fly rods for convenience and storage. 

Rod Length

This varies with different techniques and can be tricky for anglers just starting out. In general, longer rods are great for casting long distances, while shorter rods are more accurate. Rods around 7 feet long are a good compromise of distance and accuracy. For small trout streams, anglers prefer rods between 5 and 6 feet to make accurate casts in tight areas. For surf fishermen, longer rods enable you to cast far to reach fish past the surf. 

Rod Power

Like rod length, rod power is technique dependent with many different options. Light power rods are great for casting small lures on the light line. For bass anglers, medium or medium-heavy powers work great for most applications. Medium rods offer sensitivity and flexibility which work great for moving baits like crankbaits or smaller finesse baits like finesse worms. If you find yourself fishing heavier lures like jigs, a medium-heavy rod is great for casting and setting the hook hard when you need to. Saltwater anglers may go for heavy power rods for larger fish like tarpon, striped bass, or large drum. 

Rod Action

Rod action is perhaps the most important part of rod selection. The rod’s action determines how the rod will cast and fish. Moderate or slower actions load throughout the rod and can help improve distance with heavier lures. For crankbaits and similar moving lures, a moderate action can also help hook fish. Fast action rods are great for making an accurate cast or punching through the wind. When a fish suddenly picks up a bait, fast action rods are great for quick and hard hook sets. Rod action typically mirrors rod power. Medium-heavy or heavy rods have fast actions while medium or light rods will have more moderate actions. 

Best Inshore: Star Rods Seagis Inshore Spinning Rod

Best Inshore Rod

Star Rods Seagis Inshore Spinning Rod Star Rods

Why it Made the Cut

This rod casts a mile while maintaining accuracy for any inshore scenario imaginable.

Key Features

  • Length: 7.5ft
  • Rod Power: Medium
  • Rod Action: Fast

Pros

  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Sensitive rod blank 
  • Fuji tangle-free guides

Cons

  • Medium action can be light against larger fish

Inshore fishing offers a variety of scenarios and challenges to anglers. One moment you may be casting across endless flats, while the next, you’re pitching mangroves for a wary fish. The Star Rods Seagis Inshore Spinning Rod is the best inshore rod to do it all. Built on a 7’6″ graphite blank with medium power this rod is extremely sensitive. The length of the blank gives the rod a fast action feel and increases casting distance. My favorite thing to do is fish topwater lures at first light and this rod has the backbone to throw them far and walk the dog back to the boat. The Seagis also excels at fishing live baits. For shrimp or other light baits, the medium power is great for making accurate casts, especially around structure. Pitching a bait under a dock or a tree is no easy task but the medium power is certainly more forgiving. Star Rods have made a name for itself making quality and affordable rods and the Seagis is no exception.

Best for Surf Fishing: Shimano Speedmaster

Best Surf Fishing Rod

Shimano Speedmaster SHIMANO

Why it Made the Cut

A streamlined and powerful rod great for mobile anglers looking for schooling fish.

Key Features

  • Length: 9ft
  • Rod Power: Medium 
  • Rod Action: Moderate Fast

Pros

  • Streamlined grip for added sensitivity
  • Two-piece for storage
  • Fuji K-Frame Guides

Cons

  • Plastic reel seat

The Shimano Speedmaster solves many issues with traditional surf fishing rods. Its streamlined and lightweight design is great for mobile anglers walking the beach in search of schooling fish. Unlike many surf rods, the butt of the rod is wrapped with a thin rubberized grip material to save weight. This close contact with the rod blank dramatically improves sensitivity and saves weight. This is crucial for detecting subtle bites especially when the surf is rough. At 9 feet long, the Speedmaster is the perfect length to carry all day without tiring. 

Ten- and twelve-foot rods can be great for distance, but they leave you sitting and waiting for fish to come to you. The moderate fast action and medium power is a good balance of power and casting distance. The rod loads towards the tip section and can throw lures up to 3 oz. My favorite thing to do is walk the beaches during the mullet run and throw big plugs around schools of baitfish. With Fuji Alconite guides, I can get right into the surf and not worry about salt corroding the guides.

Best Lew’s: David Fritts Perfect Crankbait Rod

Best Lew’s Fishing Rod

David Fritts Perfect Crankbait Rod Lew’s

Why it Made the Cut

A great specialty rod from Lew’s with a moderate action that throws crankbaits far and doesn’t miss a hook set.

Key Features

  • Length: 7 ft
  • Rod Power: Medium
  • Rod Action: Moderate

Pros

  • Graphite and fiberglass blend for sensitivity and durability
  • Great for distance casting
  • Stainless steel guides contribute to casting

Cons

  • Heavier than conventional rods

Lew’s is a household name in the world of bass anglers and for good reason. They have always built quality rods and reels with anglers in mind. One rod in particular sticks out, the David Fritts Perfect Crankbait Rod, a true specialty rod. Designed with fishing legend David Fritts, it is built on a graphite and fiberglass composite blank for sensitivity and rigidity. The fiberglass component contributes to the moderate action and is essential for crankbait fishing. The moderate action gives fish an extra second to bite down and take the bait. It also contributes to casting; the rod loads deeper into the butt section for a more powerful cast. Various components such as the stainless-steel guides contribute to getting those extra few feet out of your cast. I find the 7-foot model to be the perfect size for a variety of baits including jerkbaits and chatterbaits. While Lew’s makes plenty of great rods, the specialized nature and value of the David Fritts Perfect Crankbait rod set it apart from others.

Best for Saltwater: BUBBA Tidal Pro Spinning Rod

Best Saltwater Fishing Rod

BUBBA Tidal Pro Spinning Rod BUBBA

Why it Made the Cut

A great fast action rod that is powerful and accurate, it excels at fighting big fish.

Key Features

  • Length: 7’6”
  • Rod Power: Heavy
  • Rod Action: Fast

Pros

  • Nonslip Grip
  • 1-Piece Rod
  • Corrosion Resistant Guides

Cons

  • Grip scratches easily

Long known for their fillet knives, Bubba has entered the rod market with some well-thought-out designs. The new Tidal Pro Spinning Rod is one of the best rod lineups I’ve seen, combining the best aspects of saltwater and freshwater rod design. I immediately noticed the grip, a solid carbon fiber piece, similar to high-end bass rods, which dramatically improves sensitivity and feels great in the hand. Another crucial piece, the reel seat, is designed with larger fish in mind. It is double locking, which sinches down tight on the reel foot so nothing comes loose when a fish is peeling drag.

On the water is where this rod shines. The all-carbon design saves weight and is great for casting all day, especially with larger saltwater reels. The fast action handles large plugs and jig heads well while the heavy power has a solid backbone to fight larger fish. I take this rod offshore regularly and it’s great for targeting a specific fish when they are working up around the boat. I can make quick accurate casts and know that when I need strength, the rod has enough backbone to turn larger fish.

Best for Fly Fishing: Lamson Cobalt

Best Fly Rod

Lamson Cobalt Waterworks Lamson

Why it Made the Cut

Fun to fish in saltwater or freshwater. The fast action punches through wind and delivers accurate casts.

Key Features

  • Length: 9ft
  • Rod Power: 6wt
  • Rod Action: Ultra-Fast 

Pros

  • Extremely accurate
  • 4 pieces for easy breakdown
  • Lockdown reel seat

Cons

  • Pricey 

The Lamson Cobalt is the most well-rounded fly rod I have ever fished. It is built on an ultra-fast rod blank which is great for delivering accurate casts at long distances. The rod is surprisingly forgiving with a flex that extends to the mid-section of the rod. For anglers new to fly fishing, this is crucial so you can feel the rod load and time your cast right. My favorite rod in the lineup is the 9ft 6wt. It is the perfect weight to cast all day with no fatigue. Paired with an aggressive weight forward fly line, this rod excels in fresh and saltwater scenarios. Throwing streamers for big trout or bass is my go-to and this rod punches well over its weight. For saltwater anglers, I use this regularly to target spooky fish. You can cast far and land your line without sending fish fleeing for cover. When you do hook a sizeable fish, the proprietary reel seat keeps your reel locked in for long runs. The rod power extends throughout the blank and turning bigger fish is possible even on this light setup.

Methodology 

I have spent the last five years traveling the east coast for both work and pleasure. I’ve caught everything from giant Lake Erie smallmouth to Florida Keys tarpon. Along the way, I have fished every technique imaginable for just about any species. Speaking with guides, industry professionals, and my first-hand experience from time on the water I’ve recognized what to look for in the best fishing rods. A true sum of its parts, the best rods need quality components, a strong blank, and a well-designed action. When put together right, these three traits make accurate, reliable, and enjoyable rods to fish. Here are the criteria I based my selections on:

  • Length: What lengths are offered and how do these pair with different techniques?
  • Action: Does the rod have a slower or faster action?
  • Power: Does the rod have enough power to land the fish you are after?
  • Components: How durable is the reel seat, guides, and grip?
  • Rod Blank Materials: Is it graphite, fiberglass, or a composite, and how does that affect casting? 

FAQs

Q: What fishing rod is best for beginners?

For beginner anglers, it is important to find a rod that is easy to fish and budget-friendly. I recommend most people start with a spinning rod. These style rods are easy to cast, forgiving, and the reels are hard to backlash. For budget-minded anglers, the best fishing rods may actually be a combo. You get a rod and a reel matched perfectly while saving some money. The best spinning combos are a great place to start for easy-to-use setups that are ready to go.

Q: Are 2-piece fishing rods good?

Two-piece rods historically have a bad reputation as being flimsy rods prone to breaking or the tip section falling off. Luckily, modern rod technology has completely disproven this. The area where rod pieces connect is known as the ferrule. Modern materials have led to reinforced ferrules that are tough without compromising sensitivity. In addition, two-piece rods are super convenient when storage is an issue. If you choose a two-piece rod, make sure the sections are snug when connected. This helps get the most out of the rod, for rods that want to come apart ferrule wax will keep sections locked in and moisture out.

Q: What is the best action for spinning rods when fishing with crankbaits?

Crankbaits are best fished with moderate action rods that offer some give compared to faster models. This holds for spinning rods and a good moderate action rod can increase the number of fish you land. These slower action rods give fish more time to grab ahold of the lure before you set the hook. Not to mention the softer tips keep hooked fish from pulling trebles when they make a sudden run. Moderate action rods will also load throughout the rod blank, increasing your casting distance. A good 7ft moderate action spinning rod is a good bet for crankbait anglers.

Final Thoughts 

Choosing the best fishing rod is no easy task and is a very personal decision. Anglers always have their preferences when it comes to picking a rod. The best rods are made of high-quality components from the blank all the way to the guides. Good rods are easy to cast, accurate, and forgiving when you make a mistake. Most technique-specific rods are built after hours of research and development and are worthy of your time and money. Figure out what you need from a rod and base your selection on those needs. No matter what you choose feeling a rod in person is the only way to ensure it’s a quality rod.