When you’re just starting out, fishing seems like an easy enough hobby to pick up. You don’t need a ton of equipment, and the one thing you need the most of all is completely free (patience). Even so, it’s possible to shell out money on flimsy fishing equipment that ends up being more burdensome than useful, so when I decided it was time to buy my own fishing rods, I became a man on a mission. I scoured reviews on forums and blogs, cross-referencing recommendations to find the most vetted fishing rods before buying my own. Then I reached out to kayak-fishing expert John Labissiere of the Brooklyn Kayak Company to get his recommendations (and also to vet the rods on my list).
I came away with a list of ten expert-approved fishing rods that I can heartily recommend to anyone, from those just starting out all the way up to a semi-professional. Note that many of these come at different lengths and may include options with or without lines and lures, so look carefully before purchasing.
Best affordable fishing rod for most people
This rod from Plusinno is great for two major reasons: It’s low-cost, and it folds down small for incredibly easy storage. When extended to its full length (the rod comes in several sizes, for the record), it’s suitable for use on the pier, kayak fishing, and even trolling for midsize saltwater fish. While you wouldn’t use this rod for long-distance casting off the shore, it’s a fine choice for just about all other non-fly-fishing uses, and is a great choice for travel, too, as when collapsed fully, the rod measures about a foot and a half in length.
Best fishing rod for intermediate fishers
When it comes to a fishing rod that isn’t wildly expensive for someone with some fishing experience, Labissiere said: “For the price, this is a great combo. I have fished with it in both freshwater and saltwater and it performs well. The rod is great for the price and the reel is average, if you are looking for a decent, reasonably priced combo, this is a good way to go.” And I’ll add that it’s a great rod for going after those peak-popularity species like trout, bass, and pike.
Best fishing rod for advanced fishers
If you’re committed to fishing but not quite ready to spend in the hundreds of dollars, then the Pflueger Trion is a great choice for your last semi-amateur rod-and-reel combo. Labissiere said: “Pflueger reels are smooth and powerful, rather than so jerky you lose the fish. This combo is my workhorse, and I just keep going back to it because it works.” Available in lengths spanning from five feet to seven feet, it’s also short enough to use on the banks or if you’re wading without your bait resting on the river bottom or lake bed.
Best affordable game-fish rod
Whether you’re after trout, bass, or walleye in the river or you’re angling for flounder or redfish off the pier or just offshore, the Cadence Fishing CC6 is a great advanced-level fishing pole and reel that will give you the edge. It has moderate to fast action, so the tip will bend and let you know the second you have a bite, but most of the rod will hold firm, letting you fight with as much zeal as needed to reel in a prized catch. The graphite rod takes plenty of abuse while the combination cork and EVA foam grips are lightweight and comfortable.
Best fly-fishing rod for beginners
Fly-fishing is not easy, something I can tell you from personal experience. In fact, many people who think they will love fly-fishing end up frustrated by the sport and give it up after a few tries. If you think you might fall into that category, don’t overspend on gear. The Crystal River C/CTFK1 rod-and-reel combo is a great choice for entry-level fly-fishing hardware because the rod is well-balanced and gives good flex and control, and the reel is sufficient for learning and easily replaced later if you stick with the new hobby.
Best fly-fishing rod for intermediate fishers
So it turns out you enjoy fly-fishing. Time to upgrade your gear and fill out your kit. The (rather) complete package you get when you order a fly-fishing rod from Piscifun includes a reel, line, a line-cutting tool, nine flies, and more. Extending out to nine feet, this slow-action rod (that means the whole rod bends, basically speaking) is ideal for smaller varieties of river fish like trout. The flexible pole and the light weight of the rod and reel together allow for plenty of control and for hours of fishing without fatigue.
Best fly-fishing rod for advanced fishers
This rod-and-reel combo will feel right at home in the hands of an experienced fisherman, and the fact that said reel comes preloaded saves you time when you want to get a fly in the water fast. The shaft is made from graphite and breaks down into four pieces for convenience, and when assembled, the rod is lightweight and sensitive, transferring motion to your hands so you’re in tune with the fish, and giving you maximum control. While more than suitable for use by experienced fly fishermen, there’s really no reason a beginner couldn’t use it — it’s just a bit more expensive than the newcomer might look for.
Best fishing rod for kids who are beginners
The budding angler in your family deserves genuine fishing gear, not some toy trying to pass itself off as a real rod and reel. That said, kids do tend to break and/or lose things, and they’re also notorious for changing their interests, so don’t spend an arm and a leg on a kid’s fishing reel at the outset of their fishing career. The IEBIYO rod-and-reel combo is affordable, relatively effective, and the telescoping rod folds down small when it’s not in use, so the new hobby need not encroach on your home’s storage space much. An ergonomic grip is comfortable for single-handed use by smaller hands, while the reel is smooth and easy to turn once the youngster gets a bite.
Best fishing rod for kids with intermediate skills
Remember how my fishing buddy said that Ugly Stik was a great choice for mid-level rods in terms of price and quality? Same goes for kids’ rods, too. Their GX2 Youth rod-and-reel combo is 100 percent genuine fishing gear; it’s just a bit smaller than an adult-size rod. The narrow grips fit smaller hands, while the lightweight rod and reel are ideal for smaller bodies. As for performance, the reel spins smoothly and can handle a moderate test line, while the graphite-and-fiberglass-combo body flexes well for good sensitivity.
Best deep-sea fishing rod
If you’re headed out into the deep waters of the open ocean, the Great Lakes, or a major bay, then you need a seriously strong fishing rod aboard the boat with you. Labissiere called the “Penn Squall combo a monster killer.” He added: “The smooth action, along with sturdy rod for heavy action, is unsurpassed. Its backbone and reel drag power help get in sharks and other large species with no hesitation. I wasn’t worried for a second that my rod would snap, even on my biggest catch.”
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