The Best Fishing Rods and Reels for Your Waters



Fishing is a great sport. It is something that unites everyone, everywhere, as it is one of the few sports that nearly everyone has tried at some point. Modern sport fishing has been ongoing for decades. Every year, new gear hits the markets, but it all holds up over the years. For example, legendary manufacturer Abu Garcia is celebrating 100 years of being in business. If you’ve got any older gear from them, you know it still works great and probably has a lifetime of fish stories to go along with it. With the plethora of amazing fishable water across North America, how do you know what rod and reel will work for where you’re going, and what type of fishing you are doing? We consulted with a panel of experts assembled by Pure Fishing to find out what are the best rods and reels for your waters.

1. Abu Garcia REVO X – Editor’s All-Around Pick

For big-water bass fishing, it’s hard to beat this reel

Being a MidWesterner, it’s hard not to take a look at the Great Lakes as an ideal fishing location. I’ve caught everything from monster salmon, to panfish while enjoying my time on one of the five lakes, and have extremely fond memories of catching some huge bass on Lake Michigan. It was no surprise to me to see it listed as one of the top 100 lakes for fishing by Abu Garcia. I agree with one of their picks for the lake, too. The Abu Garcia Revo X spinning reel is an outstanding big-water reel for bass fishing, as well as other species like walleye. The reel works well with all types of line thanks to the Rocket line management system. You really do get less line twist, which lets me control the presentation of everything from jigs to spinnerbaits. It has 6 HPCR bearings, plus 1 roller bearing for a smooth action.

Tip: I like to bounce a jig tipped with a minnow, or some GULP! bait off the rock heads of piers along the Michigan lakeshore for smallmouth action you cannot beat. You need a reel like this one that lets the feeling of the line come to you.

Pros/Designed to handle all line types with no twist

Cons/None that I have found yet

Bottom Line/A near-perfect all around spinning reel for the price

2. Abu Garcia Veritas Spinning Rod

A perfect match for the Revo X spinning reel!

If you’re fishing for bass, you want a rod that has the backbone for strong hook sets and big action. If you’re chasing walleyes, you must have a sensitive reel that can transfer those soft “hits” when the fish mouths the bait. A great spinning rod, and one that matches perfectly with the Revo X reel, is the Vertitas. This rod features Abu Garcia’s 30 ton graphite blank that improves break strength by 22% and tip strength by a full 33% over other similar spinning rods. The rod has Titanium alloy guides with Zirconium inserts that work to decrease friction with the line for better casting. Simply put it’s a great Rod that provides the strength and sensitivity you want for bass, walleye, and other game fish.

Tip: I like to use rod sleeves, especially for my one-piece rods, to keep them from tangling and possibly damaging the guides.

Pros/Sensitive and tough for multiple species fishing

Cons/Limited sizes

Bottom Line/A great spinning rod for any water

3. Abu Garcia C3 Reel – Big Fish Crank

Going after big fish, you need a proper winch!

This is a reel that is near and dear to my heart. It doesn’t matter if you’re pulling in monster stripers, massive catfish, or – my favorite – Kenia River King Salmon, you want an Abu Garcia C3 reel. I have personally caught and released some absolute stunning Kenai kings with one, including the one hanging on my wall. These reels flat-out crank in the big ones. And the best part is, they do it again and again and again. Want proof? Ask the fishing guides, the ones who buy all their own gear, which reels they use to catch big fish. Odds are better than good it’s a C3. These tough reels have a 2 ball-bearing drive with a roller bearing. The gears are brass for long life and the reel comes with Abu’s Carbon Matrix drag for fighting power. There are even special editions for Catfish, Stripers and carp, although I’m partial to the original silver salmon slayer.

Tip: I prefer to turn my wrist as I cast for a little added control.  It helps me reduce the chances of a backlash when using heavier lures/bait rigs.

Pros/Perfect for bringing in BIG fish

Cons/At 2+1, it isn’t the smoothest, but I don’t mind

Bottom Line/The best big-fish reel we’ve used.

4. Fenwick HMX Salmon Steelhead Casting Rod

Sensitive and tough for big fish

I remember the first king salmon I caught on a Fenwick rod. We were floating through a hole and I latched onto a decent feeling fish, but when I got my hooks back to the boat, it wasn’t a fish, but a Fenwick rod. I grabbed the rod and realized that there was a really GOOD fish on the other end of the line. The rod was amazing, with a great feel for everything the fish was doing. I could feel every subtle head shake and bump, yet there was plenty of backbone to bring the fish to the surface.The latest HMX rod utilizes blanks of a proprietary blend of carbon fiber, with true fast tapers. Stainless steel Sea Guide SS316 sloped guides with Zirconium inserts keep line friction and overall weight to a minimum. Fuji reel seats clamp down solidly on reels. The handle on the Fenwick HMX Salmon/Steelhead Casting Rod features strategically placed TAC on cork for maximum comfort and control in all weather.

Tip: With a big-fish rod, I like to take it out and try to work something along the bottom and the rocks, so I get a feel for what non-fish bumps feel like. With a rod as sensitive as the Fenwick, it’ll help you not miss a strike when it comes.

Pros/Great sensitivity and backbone

Cons/Have a firm grip when fishing for big fish, lest you lose your rod

Bottom Line/A truly great salmon/steelhead rod

5. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Rod Combo

Legendary toughness and all-around winner

My first real fishing rod was an Ugly Stik. I had it and used it right up until my wife slammed the garage door on it. If you’re looking for a do-it-all rod for fishing everywhere, you want an Ugly Stik. What makes this rod and reel combo so prefect is how versatile it is. You can use it to catch fish just about anywhere. You get a 3+1 ball-bearing reel with an aluminum body that it matched to a 6-foot GX-2 rod. These rods are a blend of graphite and fiberglass. The graphite gives you the sensitivity, while the fiberglass gives you serious strength.

Tip: I like to carry one in the truck for those times when I see some water that needs fishing.

Pros/A balanced combo with a great rod and reel

Cons/The rods aren’t as indestructible as the original, but are more sensitive

Bottom Line/For the money, one of the best combos going

6. Abu Garcia REVO Ike

Designed to catch fish

My Daughter loves the Abu Garcia Revo Ike reel because it’s pretty. I love it because it is buttery smooth and helps me catch fish – lots of fish. Designed with champion angler Mike Iconelli, the Revo Ike baitcaster has 10+1 ball bearings, brass gearing and an amazing drag system that puts you in charge of the fight. I started out just using it for bass fishing, but have found that I like it for pike and walleye as well. It comes in either a 6.1:, or an 8.0:1 gear ratio, so you can have the perfect reel for tossing soft plastics, or buzzing topwater baits.

Tip: I like pitching Powerbait ribbed worms next to structures like docks or fallen trees.

Pros/Crazy smooth reel and great drag system

Cons/So smooth you can get a bad backlash if you’re not careful

Bottom Line/One of the best low-profile baitcasters on the market

Picking the perfect rod and reel

The biggest thing that can impact your rod and reel combination is balance. Yeah, the features of the rod and reel have to work together, but if there is no balance, it’s all going to feel very off. Spinning reels have to be big enough to handle the amount of line needed for the job, so a longer, heavier action rod needs a bigger reel because you’ll be spooling up heavier line. The same goes for baitcasting rod and reel combos.

For bigger fish species, the round, level wind casting reels really do work best. It creates a direct line for the fight between you and the fish.

Take your time and do your research to see what you think will be the best rod and reel combo for your adventures. It will make your fishing more productive and fun.

The best fishing rod and reel for everything

There is no  single-best rod and reel for catching ever species of fish in North America. There are just too many variables and sizes of fish. However, if you wanted a rod to catch a lot of fish, you can’t go wrong with a 6.5 foot spinning rod that breaks into two pieces and a good spinning reel. The first two items in the above list are about as good as it gets. With that combination, you can catch panfish, bass, walleye, pike, trout, catfish and smaller salmon species like sockeye.

If you wanted a simple set of fishing rods and reels to cover all the bases, I’d pick a smaller, light spinning setup for panfish and trout, the spinning rig mentioned above, and a larger, heavier rod and baitcast reel, like an Abu Garcia C3 for bigger fish species like catfish, salmon, carp and stripers.

Now, I’m not saying to limit yourself to just three rods. You’ll undoubtedly need more. Lots more. That’s what I always tell my wife when she asks. I need that new rod… Really!

Where can I catch a bass?

Bass can be found in waters throughout lakes and ponds across the lower 48 states and parts of Canada. They are the most plentiful gamefish species.

How can I tell if my rod and reel are balanced?

I always like to hold the rod on my finger just above the reel. You’re seriously trying to see how well it will balance on your finger. It’s the best place to start to see if you have the right combination.

About the Author

Derrek Sigler has been a professional outdoor writer for more than two decades since earning his Master’s Degree in creative writing with a thesis about fishing humor. But if you ask anyone that knows him, he’s been telling fishin’ stories since he was old enough to hold a pole. He has written for Cabela’s and served as editorial director for Gun Digest books. Over the years, he has also written for Petersen’s Hunting, North American Whitetail Magazine, Wildfowl, Grand View Media, and has worked with Bass Pro Shops, Hard Core Brands and Bone Collector. Successful Farming had him write for their magazine and he has appeared on their TV show to discuss hunting and ATVs on multiple occasions. He writes about the things he loves – hunting, fishing, camping, trucks, ATVs, boating, snowmobiles and the outdoor lifestyle he enjoys with his family in their home state of Michigan and more as they adventure around North America.

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