They’re cute, they’re themed, and they attract a little kid’s eye, but are those Barbie, Disney, or Snoopy fishing rod and reel combos the best thing to use in introducing a youngster to the wonders of fishing? Are any of these worthy of being named the best beginner baitcaster combo?
The answer is no. They’re priced to entice mom and dad, more likely grandma and grandpa or uncle, into buying the cheap little plastic rod and reel sets. It’s cut to see your two or four-year-old granddaughter holding a Shrek or Little Mermaid-themed rod and reel at the edge of a small pond.
The problem is that the cuteness wears off long after the reel has seized up, and the rod is splintered.
These combos always come in spincast varieties, since they’re inexpensive to produce and easy to use. They’re almost always made of lightweight plastic, and even the best ones don’t last very long.
They’re not nearly as cute, but a good entry-level rod and reel combo doesn’t cost much. Plus, they’ll last a long time while teaching the rudimentary basics of casting, reeling, setting the hook, and simply enjoying a lifetime sport for these youngsters.
What is the Best Beginner Baitcast Combo?
The winner is, okay, no drum roll on this one, The Blue Max Low Profile Baitcast Reel and Fishing Rod Combo by Abu Garcia.
When you hear the name Abu Garcia you recognize quality fishing rods and reels. This combination is moderately priced, a little higher than some we will review below, but a little lower than others.
The important consideration is that it meets the criteria listed above as well or is better than the competition. When combined into one product, the Blue Max takes the prize.
Here are our top 6 picks for the best beginner baitcaster combo. For detailed reviews, keep scrolling!
Take a one-piece medium-heavy graphite rod and attach a good quality baitcast reel to it and you’ve got what you’re looking for.
Lightweight with a pair of aluminum ball-bearings and one single anti-reverse roller bearing, this reel isn’t fancy, but it delivers the performance a beginner needs to perfect the craft of fishing.
Why Buy Combination Rod and Reels?
The answer is convenience. You might buy a Daiwa or Shakespeare rod and reel combo in a spinning or baitcasting design for yourself. For a beginner, buying a two-part product specifically designed for the two parts to work well with each other has taken a lot of guesswork out of the consumer question.
You know a KastKing reel will fit perfectly with a KastKing rod, but you might not be so sure if you mix brand names.
A rod and reel combo by the same manufacturers ensures they’ll work together. Even if you have a reel made by one and a rod made by another, if they’re packaged together by a major marketing firm, someone has done the guesswork, research, or just physically picked up the two products and tried them out together, finding they mesh and offer a good product at a reasonable price.
What You Should Look for in Finding the Best Beginner Baitcaster Combo?
So far we’ve called them rod and reel combos. There are four types of reels, spinning, baitcast, spincast, and fly fishing styles.
For beginners, you can discard the fly-fishing reel and the spinning reel; they require two hands, coordinate effort and are too much for young or inexperienced hands to master on the first try.
That leaves spincast and baitcasting reels.
Until recently, the spincast reel was the way to go. It was almost bulletproof, push the button, toss the line and turn the crank, that was it.
The older baitcast reels tended to snarl easily, with a lot of frustration and backlash. The backlash that took the joy out of fishing and required a more skilled, experienced angler to unsnarl for you.
That has changed. Modern baitcast reels don’t backlash like they once did.
Those nightmare stories from your grandfather when he was learning to fish in the 1960s and 70s sound terrible; they were. Much of the joy of fishing came with the adjoining, not-so-joyful sound of line wrapping around itself on a poor cast baitcast reel.
The present-day reels rarely snarl as intricately as they once did, and if they do, they’re minor in comparison to the bird’s nest mess that was once baitcast fishing.
Here are the basic components to consider in a baitcast reel. The first, as is always cost. You don’t want to spend a fortune on an introductory reel. Another consideration is the ease of use. Is there a durable, functional release mechanism that will last for several years?
Also, think about the line capacity, the length of the rod, the number of ball bearings in the reel, is the handle ambidextrous. Can you cast with a single hand, even a tiny little pre-school age child’s hand?
Does it cast well? What is the gear ratio of the reel? What are the rod specifications? Is it flexible, rigid, or somewhere in between? What is the power rating of the rod?
Perhaps most important of all, how, where, and what are you going fishing for with this rod and reel combo?
Take all these factors together, and you’ll find an ideal rod and reel for the best beginner baitcaster combo.
How Were the Best Beginner Baitcast Combos Determined?
Using the criteria we mentioned above, we came up with a scoring system that determined the best combinations for a novice angler.
Price, performance, and durability were the three general factors.
You don’t want to spend a fortune on a rod and reel combo, but you don’t want a cheap pair of rod and reel that limits performance, frustrates the user, and gives an unsatisfactory result to save a few bucks either.
Performance is measured in casting distance, smoothness of retrieval, freedom from backlash, and the meshing of the rod and reel together into a solid functioning unit.
Durability is the time the combination will hold together, delivering top performance. This could become a family treasure, the rod and reel that each child starts on before progressing to bigger, better, and more functional combinations as they grow up.
Pay attention to all these varied components, and you’ll find the right combination to start any novice angler onto the path of the greatest outdoor activity anyone can find.
Best Beginner Baitcaster Combo’s Reviewed
1. Abu Garcia Blue Max Low Profile Baitcast Reel and Fishing Rod Combo
Take a one-piece medium-heavy graphite rod and attach a good quality baitcast reel to it and you’ve got what you’re looking for. Find that combination in products made by legendary producer Abu Garcia and you’ve found a fishing treasure.
You can select two-piece rods to use in a combo for beginning anglers, but that complicates the issue with one more moving (or not supposed to move) part. A one-piece rod is preferable for beginning anglers.
The reel has a 6.4:1 ratio, providing a quick 29 inch per crank retrieval rate. A fast retrieval rate is important when bass fishing where rapidly moving crank or buzz baits mimic the frantic swimming of frogs or rodents over water with predatory largemouth bass waiting for the chance at a free meal.
Reel handle position is important, and this combo is limited to right-handed orientation, making it a good choice for most beginners but not the best if the novice is left-handed.
The reel comes pre-spooled with 145-yards of 12-pound test monofilament line, but you can use braided line in sizes from 10 to 30-pound test, or monofilament in 10 to 20-pound test sizes.
The medium-heavy rod ensures good casting distance while retaining sensitivity.
When teaching a beginner the basics of fishing, you don’t just want to throw out a bait and crank in a few fish. This combination provides enough flexibility to teach bait presentation, jigging, and alternating speed in lure retrieval and hook setting when they feel a strike.
The combination is rated for lures width between three-eighths and three-quarters of an ounce.
The reel offers a MagTrax braking system and a Power Disk drag system. It contains four ball bearings and one roller bearing. It won’t be the smoothest reel on the water with just five ball bearings, but that is enough to get the novice angler introduced to the basics of fishing.
An ergonomic handle design, star wheel drag, and composite handle and grips round out the features of this solid combination.
2. KastKing Crixus Fishing Rod and Reel Combo, Baitcasting Combo
Versatility is the hallmark of the Crixus series rod and reel combo from KastKing. This company is known for producing a wide variety of rods and reels.
They’ve combined a couple of their favorite models in this combination.
Using popular two-piece graphite rods, they offer nine different rods in 5.5, 6, 6.5, and 7-foot lengths. These three sizes are further refined with choices of medium-light, medium, and medium-heavy power.
A golf-style, super polymer handle adds comfort, durability, and exceptional gripping power to the rod.
The reel features seven stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing. This design delivers smooth casts, great retrieves and eliminates many of the annoying knotted snarls of backlash common to other baitcasting reels.
These are 2000 and 3000 sized reels that are large enough for a variety of angling adventures without heavy overall weight, making them ideal for a young user.
The reels are offered in 5.2:1 or 6.5:1 gear ratios. Get the lower ratio for most fishing applications, but if you’re after bass, get the higher 6.5:1 reel. It’s not as fast as professional bass baitcasting reels but is close enough to get action for the beginning angler with crankbaits, plastic worms, or poppers.
The reels are available in right or left-handed configurations and are specifically designed by KastKing to interface perfectly with their rods.
Line weights vary with the reel and rod combo you select, but begin at a four-pound test and extend to 17-pounds.
Lure weight ranges are large as well, with the smaller, shorter combos working well with lures weighing between one-sixteenth and three-eighths of an ounce and the largest combos recommended for lures in the three-eighth to a three-quarter ounce.
The Crixus Combo is the best value for a quality rod and reel from KastKing.
3. Penn Squall Lever Drag Combo
Conventional assumptions are that every beginning angler needs to start on a small pond or nearby stream, maybe even in a well-stocked pond at a municipal park, but what if you live on the coast and your older, or more experienced angling friends are saltwater enthusiasts?
Northern Maine, around the Florida Keys to the tip of Texas, offers thousands of miles of coastal fishing opportunities. Start on the Aleutian Peninsula on the Pacific Coast, then head south along the Canadian coast to the tip of Baja California, and you have an equally wonderful area to fish.
Beginning saltwater anglers require a bit more expensive equipment than those who do start on the local farm pond or in the city park.
When it comes to saltwater fishing, Penn doesn’t have much competition.
A good rod and reel combo from Penn is going to cost substantially more than lower-quality reels and rods designed for freshwater use only.
Penn realizes the future is in the hands of young anglers and has created the Squall Lever Drag Combo in response to demands for a lower-priced rod and reel that are already configured for a novice user.
Saltwater presents all kinds of challenges, the worst of which is the corrosive effect of salt, sun, and sand. These three abrasive elements will quickly destroy a standard freshwater reel and weaken a rod over a few months, ruining your equipment.
The Squall Lever Drag Combo comes with Penn’s renowned aluminum, stainless steel, and graphite construction. The reel is forged and machined from these corrosive-resistant materials and designed to keep salt, water, and sand out of the inner works of the reel.
Six stainless-steel ball bearings, a single stainless steel roller bearing, and stainless steel pinion gears make these reels as indestructible as a saltwater reel can be.
With a maximum drag of 30 pounds, it has the power to battle big game fish with the smooth action Penn is renowned for.
A silent double-dog, the anti-reverse system helps in setting the hook and reducing backlash.
The size 50 reel comes with a 6.5-foot medium-heavy power graphite rod. The 60 size has a 6-foot, heavy-power graphite rod. Both rods are one-piece styles.
Everyone quickly learns to cast, and retrieve and gradually gains accuracy with time and practice on the water.
A skill that is often ignored is how to set and use the drag on a reel to wear down large, powerful fish.
The Lever Drag feature of this reel focuses the angler on the utility of the drag to its utmost. Teach a novice to use the drag, and they won’t lose nearly as much fish as those who don’t understand the technology.
4. Ugly Stik GX2 Baitcast Combo
The reel is important, but sometimes with a beginning angler, the best gift you can give them is an unbreakable rod. Ugly Stik remains the leader in rod designs that seem to defy the laws of physics.
Unless you slam a truck door on the very tip of these rods, Ugly Stik rods don’t snap.
This combo comes with a 6.5-foot Ugly Stik as the focal point; the reel isn’t that great but is functional.
A single stainless steel ball-bearing keeps the reel action lively but far from smooth. The low profile design fits well with the Ugly Stik.
The reel comes pre-spooled with a 12-pound monofilament line, but this can be easily removed, and the reel will handle braided lines up to a 50-pound test.
5. Shakespeare Alpha Medium 6′ Low Profile Fishing Rod and Bait Cast Reel
Shakespeare enters the competition in the number five position with an inexpensive combo that provides good action at a very reasonable price.
The two-piece rod is easy to assemble, has lightweight EVA grips for comfort on long days on the water, and is built of durable tubular glass blanks for a responsive touch.
The reel comes pre-spooled with an eight-pound monofilament line but is easily convertible to higher quality, more powerful braided line.
The reel is Shakespeare Agility. Lightweight with a pair of aluminum ball bearings and one single anti-reverse roller bearing, this reel isn’t fancy, but it delivers the performance a beginner needs to perfect the craft of fishing.
It offers an adjustable magnetic cast control, a graphite star drag setting, and an aluminum handle with synthetic slip-resistant knobs.
The Agility weighs only 6.4 ounces, has a 6.2:1 gear ratio, and comes wound with a monofilament line. It works well with light and middle-weight braided lines too.
While the rod is exceptional, the reel barely makes the cut.
6. Berkley Big Game Baitcast Combo
Our final combination rod and reel is made by Berkeley a leader in both freshwater and saltwater angling.
You can a couple of choices in a rod. The first is a single-piece rod 6.5 feet in length. The second is slightly longer at 7 feet and comes in an upper and lower section. There are times when space is tight or the covering brush is so thick that a one-piece rod is difficult to maneuver. That’s where the two-piece style rod has an advantage.
The reel is a versatile 30-size.
It is made with six ball bearings and one roller bearing for smooth operation.
The lightweight graphite body and rotor withstand corrosion well, and the machined aluminum spool is light but strong and able to hold a substantial amount of line.
A slow oscillation feature spools you line evenly as it lays the line on top of itself on retrieves.
A slow 5.1:1 gear ratio makes this a good jigging and trolling reel, but you’ll need to look elsewhere if you’re a bass angler.
An 18-pound maximum drag, used with either a medium-power one-piece rod or a medium-heavy power two-piece rod, provides all the power and sensitivity you could ask for in a combination rod and reel.
There are a lot of rods and even more reels on the market today. When you begin to mix rods and reels for specific purposes, the combinations can seem endless.
High-end manufacturers have taken the guesswork out of selecting the correct reel to go with the correct rod for beginning baitcasting fishermen.
As you progress in the sport, you’ll learn what you like and don’t like in a rod and what you prefer in a baitcasting reel.
When you’re a novice, you want to get on the water, cast well, retrieve well and avoid snags, snarls, wind knots, and backlash. At the end of the day, it is all about catching fish, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran.
The best beginner baitcaster combos evaluated here are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fishing hardware.
The reviews offer advice you can follow, along with the features that make these rods and reels in coordination with each other the best on the market.
Price will always be a consideration in any fishing venture.
If you have unlimited funds, a high-end, expensive reel, matched with a high-end expensive rod won’t catch more fish, but it should last longer, cast longer, and be free of problems you might find with rods and reels in the discounted price range.
The things to remember when choosing the best beginner baitcaster combo are price, durability, corrosion resistance, line capacity, the number of ball bearings in the design, the reel seat, and the style of grip.
The grip and the reel handle are the interfaces between you and the act of fishing. You provide the power, and the rod and reel convert that energy hopefully into an enticing delivery of live bait and artificial lure so you can catch more fish.
Get a beginner started correctly, fishing the right way with the basic skills needed for a lifelong pastime, and you’ve done a good job in purchasing the right rod and reel combo.
For more guidance on choosing your next rod and reel, check out our pages below to find what you are looking for: