The Best Fishing Rods: Options for Every Angler

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Whether you're just getting started with fishing or are a seasoned angler, using the right fishing gear can make you a better fisherman. And a central piece to your fishing toolkit is your rod. There are many considerations when selecting the best fishing rods including action, weight, sensitivity, and more. It’s also good to know what species you'll be chasing as fish vary by location (even places as close as California and Idaho).

While specific characteristics vary among fishing rods, in general you want a rod that’s relatively lightweight so you won't tire on all-day trips. It’s also best to have a rod that’s durable enough to survive travel, and most importantly, sensitive so you can feel the slightest nibble.

Choosing the best fishing rod can be a daunting task, but there's a tool for every job. We’ve reeled in a selection of top-rated rods that’ll help you be more effective in the water.

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The Best Fishing Rods - Our Top Picks

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What to Look for When Shopping for Fishing Rods

Modern fishing rods can be made out of fiberglass, graphite, a combination of the two, or even more exotic materials like carbon fiber. These materials yield various powers, actions, and lengths to give anglers a wealth of designs that are suitable for tackling the burliest tuna in the ocean down to tiny trout that inhabit mountain streams.

Before diving in, know that some people—and even companies—use these terms interchangeably, especially "power" and "action." These words describe key features of the way a rod behaves when you cast a lure or fight a fish. However, there's no reason to get bogged down in the minutiae because we've added helpful suggestions based on fish species and bait type:

Power or Action

A rod's power is the way it bends under load, like when you have a fish hooked. The power greatly affects the leverage you have on a fish, but also the ease with which you can manipulate and cast a lure. In general, rod powers run from extra heavy to ultralight.

  • Extra heavy rods are best suited for targeting big fish or casting heavy baits and lures. Think saltwater fish like halibut, drum, and stripers or big freshwater fish like sturgeon, steelhead, and lake trout.
  • Heavy rods are a good option for inshore saltwater species or casting heavy lures for catfish, bass, freshwater stripers, and hybrid bass.
  • Medium-heavy is considered the Goldilocks action. It's not too stiff and not too limber. Medium-heavy rods have strength for large fish but are also adept at casting lighter lures. These are great rods for bass and walleye, two of the most popular gamefish.
  • Medium rods excel when casting lures with treble hooks, or multi-pointed hooks. They have more give and will not pull a bait free of a fish's mouth as easily as a heavier rod might. Consider medium when trolling. This power type and below are considered slower action rods because they have more bend and give.
  • Light rods are ideal for smaller fish and baits. These rods are best when targeting trout, crappie, bream, and bass.
  • Ultralight rods are best suited to casting tiny baits. Think stream trout and using bread to catch bluegill around docks.

Speed

Rods range in speed from extra fast to slow. Extra fast rods are great for fishing baits like plastic worms and jigs where reacting quickly to a fish's bite is key to hooking it. Most fast and extra fast rods are medium-heavy or heavy action. Fast rods are slightly more forgiving than extra fast varieties. In general, most fishers do better with a fast action over extra fast.

Moderate rods are those that are better for casting moving baits where more "give" is required. If you're retrieving a swimming bait and a fish swipes at it, you want the rod to give a little so that the hook(s) have a chance to find home. Many moderate rods are medium-heavy or medium action.

The most forgiving rods are slow ones. They also afford you the least leverage. Slow rods are useful when you need to put a big load on them for a long cast or are fishing right under your feet, say under a dock. These generally range from medium to ultralight action.

Length

The length of a fishing rod is dictated by the species of fish you're targeting as well as the technique and baits you're using. Longer rods are great for flinging lures a long way, like in surf fishing. Shorter rods give you more leverage when a big fish is close by, as in tuna fishing. But, these are unusual cases with very specific gear. The majority of fishing is done with rods from six to nine inches.

Best Overall Fishing Rod - PLUSINNO Carbon Fiber Fishing Rod

PLUSINNO Carbon Fiber Fishing Rod

SPECS

  • Material: Carbon fiber mixed with fiberglass
  • Fishing technique: Casting crankbaits, swimbaits, jigs, spinnerbaits
  • Number of pieces: 6 (6'), 7 (6'10"), 8 (7'10"), 9 (8'8")
  • Length: 6'-8'8"
  • Speed: Medium/moderate
  • Action: Medium
  • Reel: Yes
  • Key features: Aluminum oxide line guide inserts greatly reduce wear on line when casting or fighting fish; stainless steel reel inserts fight corrosion; matched reel included

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PLUSINNO's Carbon Fiber Fishing Rod ranked as the best overall fishing rod because it features high-quality materials, is available in a variety of lengths to suit most every angler, comes with a custom-matched reel, and breaks down for easy travel and stowing. With so many features, this combo is hard to beat. We like how this rod's composite construction features carbon fiber that keeps the weight down and transmits bites more readily while fiberglass offers a dose of strength and durability. Stainless steel line guides ensure the line comes off the reel smoothly, adding distance to casts.

A big plus is the double lock ring system that keeps the reel securely fastened. The reel features a 5.2:1 retrieve ratio that's ideal for casting and retrieving a wealth of baits. Internally, it features ball bearings for buttery smooth reeling and a drag system that's designed to bring fish in quickly. Simply unscrewing the handle off the reel makes the PLUSINNO Carbon Fiber Fishing Rod perfect for both right-and left-handed anglers.

PROS

  • Custom-matched reel comes standard
  • High-quality components work in both fresh and saltwater
  • Telescoping design makes storage easy both at home and on the go
  • Huge value
  • Lots of versatility with range of lengths

CONS

  • Doesn't come with line
  • No EVA foam around reel seat, reduces grip on rod

BUY: PLUSINNO Carbon Fiber Fishing Rod

Best Fly-Fishing Rod - St. Croix Mojo Bass Fly Rod

St. Croix Mojo Bass

SPECS

  • Material: Graphite
  • Fishing technique: Fly-fishing for trout, bass, perch, or other freshwater species
  • Number of pieces: 2
  • Length: 7'11"
  • Speed: Fast
  • Action: Moderate/Medium
  • Reel: Not included
  • Key features: Premium graphite construction; superior cork grip; excellent balance; lightweight two-piece design; 5-year warranty

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St. Croix has been in the rod business for more than 70 years and has made a name in the fly-fishing world thanks to its high-quality, reliable designs. The company's Mojo lineup incorporates many of these same materials and processes and at a more affordable price point. The action of this St. Croix Mojo Bass fly rod is ideal for rivers, lakes, and larger streams. It's very lightweight at less than four ounces, and is ideal for an eight-pound line. High-end Kigan Master Hand 3D stripper guides (the two nearest the grip) with aluminum oxide inserts work with Sea Guide PVD-coated snake guides (the rest of the guides) for effortless casting.

We also like how the reel seat is designed for maximum security under load, so your reel won't move when bringing in a big fish. Graphite construction ensures top sensitivity to detect the most subtle of bites, and helps deliver powerful hooksets to ensure positive hookups.

PROS

  • Premium graphite construction
  • Excellent sensitivity for the price
  • Included cloth rod sack
  • High-end guides for excellent casting
  • Expertly tuned action for wide variety of applications

CONS

  • Color might not be for everyone
  • Only 1 length available

BUY: St. Croix Mojo Bass Fly-Fishing Rod

Best Travel Fishing Rod - Kastking Blackhawk II Travel Rod

KastKing Blackhawk II Travel Fishing Rod

SPECS

  • Material: Carbon and fiberglass
  • Fishing technique: Any! Freshwater, saltwater, with either fast- or slow-moving baits
  • Number of pieces: 9, 10, or 11
  • Length: 6'6"-8'
  • Speed: Moderate-fast to fast
  • Action: Medium-to-heavy
  • Reel: Not included
  • Key features: Tailored actions and lengths to different environments; more line guides for smoother casting; more options than many travel rods; split EVA foam grips

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KastKing uses advanced build processes to make this travel fishing rod behave more like a one-piece rod. In other words, it's more sensitive and lightweight, and has a more robust action than many multi-piece, telescopic rods. Many travel fishing rods are chopped-up versions of full-size rods and lack the sensitivity and feel of the original product. But the KastKing Blackhawk II Travel Rod was designed as a travel rod from the start with features that deliver an experience on par with that of one-piece offerings.

The majority of the sections are made of carbon for lightweight while the tip section is fiberglass for durability and give when fighting a fish. Both fixed and "floating" line guides offer greater sensitivity and casting distance with smooth, highly polished inserts to combat line wear.

PROS

  • Huge selection of actions and lengths
  • Advanced construction gives superior feel and durability
  • EVA foam split grips
  • Freshwater- and saltwater-specific models
  • Fast and secure deployment and retraction

CONS

  • No reel
  • Plastic reel seat lock mechanism

BUY: KastKing Blackhawk II Travel Fishing Rod

Best Fishing Rod for Small Fish - Ugly Stik Elite

Ugly Stik Elite Fishing Rod

SPECS

  • Material: Fiberglass/graphite composite
  • Fishing technique: Small, delicate baits for targeting tiny trophies
  • Number of pieces: 1 or 2, model-dependant
  • Length: 5'-7'
  • Speed: Moderate to moderate-fast
  • Action: Medium to medium-heavy
  • Reel: Not included
  • Key features: Legendary Ugly Stik ruggedness; handsome design with full cork handle; wide range of actions for a variety of species; one- or two-piece models

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Ugly Stik's claim to fame is bomb-proof durability and maximum versatility. The Elite models take that rugged strength and refine it with enhanced sensitivity and a classy full cork handle that elevates the design while still honoring its "ugly" heritage. If you’re looking to target smaller species, we think you’ll appreciate the more enhanced feel and direct connection with this lure. Smaller lures require more sensitivity, which the Ugly Stik Elite delivers on.

The Ugly Stik Elite lineup features 35-percent more graphite, which is lighter and more sensitive than fiberglass, permitting a greater feel for what's on the end of your line. True to its heritage, however, the Elite boasts a nearly indestructible design.

PROS

  • Unmatched durability
  • Graphite composite construction for enhanced sensitivity and reduced weight
  • Proven reel seat design
  • Full cork handle for all-day comfort
  • One-piece guide inserts will not pop out or fray line

CONS

  • Actions might be more "limber" than comparative rods
  • Not as lightweight as similar models

BUY: Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod

Best Fishing Rod for Big Fish - Fiblink Carbon Fishing Rod, 80-120 lb. Bent Butt

Fiblink Carbon Fishing Rod

SPECS

  • Material: Fiberglass/carbon composite
  • Fishing technique: Saltwater fishing with big jigs or live bait targeting offshore species
  • Number of pieces: 2
  • Length: 5'6"
  • Speed: Fast
  • Action: Extra heavy
  • Reel: Not included
  • Key features: Beefy, bent-butt design that's ideal for rod holders and fighting belts; roller guides ensure smooth line flow through the rod for reduced drag on big fish; all-aluminum reel attachment for strength; two-piece design breaks down for easy storage

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Whether you captain your own offshore vessel or are hopping on a charter, the Fiblink Carbon Fishing Rod in the 80-120 pound class might be right for you. Offshore saltwater fishing requires some specialized tackle, and rods are no exception. Burly construction with fiberglass, carbon, aluminum and stainless steel make the Fiblink Carbon Fishing 80-120 lb. rod the best fishing rod for big fish. By big, think 100+ pounds like tuna, dorado, saltwater stripers, sharks, and even big bottom-dwellers like grouper. The "80-120 lb." designation is a suggestion for the line size/weight that works best with this model: Its "broom handle" stiffness demands such a stout line.

From the rear, an all aluminum butt sits perfectly in a fighting belt when you're hooked up. The bent design gives you greater leverage on fish and works together with stainless steel roller guides to reduce line friction and keep you in the battle. The machined aluminum and stainless steel hardware ensure a long life in harsh, corrosive saltwater environments, but you'll still want to rinse down your gear after every trip. The top or front part of the rod is reinforced fiberglass for superior strength. But we especially like how the tip features extra sensitivity. This helps you detect subtle bites as well as offers "give" to ensure the hook finds home and doesn't pull free of a fish's mouth.

PROS

  • Super stout construction for taking on the meanest fish in the ocean
  • Stainless steel roller guides
  • Notched butt for use with fighting belts
  • Twin reel lock rings for maximum strength and security

CONS

  • Somewhat unforgiving super stiff action
  • 2-piece design not ideal for trolling applications

BUY: Fiblink Carbon Fishing Rod, 80-120 lb. Bent Butt

Best Budget Fishing Rod - PLUSINNO Elite Hunter 7' Fishing Rod

PLUSINNO Elite Hunter 7FT Fishing Rod

SPECS

  • Material: Graphite/carbon composite
  • Fishing technique: All-arounder ideal for worms, jigs, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits
  • Number of pieces: 2
  • Length: 7'
  • Speed: Fast
  • Action: Medium to medium-heavy
  • Reel: Not included
  • Key features: Cork & EVA foam handles for comfortable grip; ceramic guide inserts; carbon matrix blank; pistol grip with reinforced reel seat

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Fishing gear doesn’t have to cost a fortune. PLUSINNO's 7' Elite Hunter is a feature-rich, multitasking workhorse that's offered at a great price point, making it the most budget-friendly fishing rod. The 7-foot model is available in both casting and spinning configuration in addition to a host of actions and speeds, making it a versatile lineup. The Elite Hunter features many features found in rods with much bigger price tags such as a carbon matrix blank, SiC (silicon carbide) guide inserts for slippery smooth casting and retrieving, both EVA foam and cork grip sections, and an ergonomic pistol grip mated to a reinforced reel seat.

This is the kind of rod that's most like traditional carbon/graphite rods used by professionals. A medium-heavy action with a 7-foot length represents a great blend of castability, sensitivity, and durability. This combo is suitable for a wide range of baits and species, so you don't need to carry a half-dozen rods with you when you go fishing. The 7-foot length is also great for making long casts from the bank and gives good leverage for setting the hook when a fish bites.

PROS

  • Versatile design and action
  • Quality components and construction
  • Ergonomic handle with cork & EVA foam grip sections
  • SiC guides for effortless casting and retrieves

CONS

  • 2-piece design not for everyone
  • Action could be too stiff for smaller baits and fish

BUY: PLUSINNO Elite Hunter 7' Fishing Rod

Best Fishing Rod for Beginners - Zebco 202 Spincast Fishing Rod

Zebco 202 Spincast Fishing Rod

SPECS

  • Material: Fiberglass
  • Fishing technique: Many uses for many freshwater species (baits included!)
  • Number of pieces: 2
  • Length: 5' 6"
  • Speed: Moderate
  • Action: Medium
  • Reel: Spincast Zebco 202 reel included
  • Key features: Classic, proven design; easy casting and retrieving; durable construction; versatile action is good for many species and fisheries

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When you’re first getting started in fishing, your rod can make or break your initial experience. For a frustration-free experience, we recommend the Zebco 202 Spincast. This brand has accounted for many first casts and first fish caught, which is why it's the easy choice for the best fishing rod for beginners. It's simple, intuitive push-button design makes casting and retrieving a breeze regardless of what kind of bait you're throwing. Speaking of baits, this kit comes with a proven 27-piece lure assortment that appeals to many of the most popular freshwater game species so you can get fishing fast. The two-piece design is great for packing away on camping trips, stashing in a backpack, or simply storing at home.

This combo features an all-fiberglass rod that's capped with an EVA foam handle for added comfort. A spincast is also the best fishing reel for beginners because it features a single large button for simple and reliable casting. Simply push and hold the button, then release it as you "throw" or cast the lure in an overhead slinging motion. After the lure touches down, turn the crank to engage the reel and begin your retrieve.

PROS

  • Comes pre-spooled with 10-lb. line
  • Ultimate ease of use
  • Durable fiberglass construction
  • Included 27-piece tackle kit
  • Superb value

CONS

  • Slow retrieve speed
  • Not the most sensitive rod

BUY: Zebco 202 Spincast Fishing Rod

FAQs About Fishing Rods


What are the three types of fishing rods?

Nearly every fishing rod can be categorized as belonging to one of three types: spinning, casting, or fly. Spinning rods are by far the most prevalent because of their versatility and their ease of use. Spinning rods can be used in fresh or saltwater and depending on their action, can be used to cast small, lightweight lures (light or ultralight) or heavy baits (heavy or extra heavy). Spinning rods are most easily identified by the open-faced reel that "hangs" on the bottom of the rod.

Casting rods use a "baitcasting" reel that is great for precision casting and gives you more leverage than a spinning reel, but they can be more difficult to use. They require advanced manipulation of the line spool with your thumb, but when mastered, they're the go-to for many anglers.

Fly-fishing rods are made for use with flies, or tiny baits that mimic bugs and small forage fish. Fly rods are long and limber and made to sling long sections of line because the flies are often so small that they won't cast on a regular spinning or baitcasting reel.

What size fishing rod should I get?

For the most popular freshwater game fish, you can't go wrong with a rod from 6 foot to 7-foot-6 in a medium or medium-heavy action. This allows you to cast and retrieve a wide range of baits and lures while offering a great degree of sensitivity and strength for setting the hook and playing the fish.

The size of fishing rod you want is largely predicated on what species of fish you're after. Big saltwater fish require an equally stout rod whereas trout, bluegill, bass, and walleye fishing rods are more limber and sensitive.

How much does the best fishing rod cost?

Fishing rods are true to the old saw, "you get what you pay for." Yes, some are a better value than others, but in general, good quality fishing rods begin at $75 and can run you nearly $1,000. Diminishing returns are also at play with fishing rods. Most anglers won't notice the difference between $250 and $500 sticks, so start with something that's within your budget.

Which is better: a one-piece or two-piece fishing rod?

A one-piece fishing rod offers better sensitivity and strength while two-piece models are easier to stow and pack for travel. But today's components and construction have narrowed the gap and many two-piece rods are now very sensitive. It really comes down to your personal preferences when choosing the best fishing rod for you.

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