Are you looking for the best rod and reel combo?
I tested 14 rod and reel combos and found the Penn Battle III Spinning Combo to be the overall winner for the best rod and reel combo.
A high-quality rod and reel can be the difference between an epic day and an epically frustrating day on the lake. The best rod and reel combo I found was the Penn Battle III Spinning Combo. There are so many combinations out there that it’s impossible to test them all, so for this review, I’ve stayed with the more recognizable brands at more affordable prices.
When I began fishing, I had a light action rod and reel combo from K-Mart. I abused that thing for two seasons before it finally broke. My brother got the same combo, and his lasted halfway through our first outing. That’s the difference between buying cheap and buying quality, durable products. I got lucky. He didn’t. We took his back, and the next one broke right away. He ended up buying a far better combo that, as far as I know, is still in his boat 40+ years later.
In this review and buyers guide, I have included spinning, baitcasting, flyfishing, and spincasting combos. Rod and reel combos have come a long way since I was a kid buying all my gear at K-Mart. Companies take the time to ensure a high-quality build, along with proper balance and weight. Choosing your gear is fine but be sure to check the balance of the rod and reel together. It can be off, making the overall handling and comfort feel wrong.
Let’s look at the top 14 best rod and reel combos:
- Penn Battle III Spinning Combo – Best Overall Spinning Combo
- Lew’s Mach 2 SLP Baitcaster Combo – Best Overall Baitcaster Combo
- Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Rod and Reel Combo – Best Budget Combo
- Zebco 33 Spincast Combo – Best for Kids
- Abu Garcia Black Max Baitcast Combo – Best Baitcaster for Beginner
- Penn Fierce Spinning Combo – Best Versatility
- Daiwa D-Wave Saltwater Fishing Combo – Best Budget Surf Fishing
- Abu Garcia Catfish Commando Combo – Best Big Fish Combo
- Penn Spinfisher VI Spinning Combo – Best Saltwater Big Fish Combo
- Pflueger President Spinning Combo – Best Ultra-Light Combo
- KastKing Crixus Spinning Combo – Best Beginner Bass Fishing
- Daiwa D-Shock Freshwater Combo – Best for Beginners and Youth
- Orvis Clearwater Fly Fishing Combo– Best Fly Rod Combo for Beginners
- Redington CROSSWATER Fly Fishing Combo – Best Budget Fly Rod
I’ve included two fly rods at the end of the list, though that doesn’t mean they are less quality than any other rod on the list. Let’s break down the list further.
Best Rod and Reel Combo’s Reviewed
Penn Battle III Spinning Combo
Price Range: $180 – $300
Length: 6’6” – 10’
Reel: Battle III
We all know Penn makes some incredible products, and the Penn Battle III Combo is their most popular option. Every few years, there is a new release that upgrades the Battle III to keep it up to date and operating smoothly.
The versatility of the Battle III Combo is why I chose this for the top of the list. You can use it in freshwater lakes one day and follow up with some surf fishing the next without too much hassle. The drag system is top-notch, and the rods are specially designed for specific reel sizes.
Depending on rod size, you can take this bottom fishing in a lake or deep-sea fishing. There are eight reel sizes available, and each will provide the perfect level of control over the fish as you reel in.
Lew’s Mach 2 SLP Baitcaster Combo
Price Range: $139 – $200
Length: 7’ – 7’3”
Reel: Lew’s Mach 2
Lew’s has created a fantastic all-around baitcaster combo with this setup. The reel has a solid one-piece graphite frame and a super smooth ten-bearing system: lightweight and super low profile (SLP), the reel pairs perfectly with the IM8 graphite rod. The inclusion of the lightweight reel and graphite rod makes the combo exceptionally light and comfortable for extended use.
Brakes are easy to set and super-adjustable, which makes it ideal for everyone from a beginner to a seasoned angler. If you’re looking for a go-to baitcaster combo, this should be high on your list.
Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Rod and Reel Combo
Price Range: $40 – $150
Length: 4’ – 7’6”
If you’re looking for a great all-around rod and reel combo that won’t break the bank, the Ugly Stik GX2 is calling your name. It comes in several lengths and has the legendary Ugly Stik durability built-in. The smaller, ultra-light rods are one piece and provide exceptional (for the price) sensitivity for panfish and trout.
The reel included with this combo is nothing to write home about, but it will do the job. There’s no need to invest in top-of-the-line gear if you’re a newer angler. It’s a Shakespeare spinning reel, made of a graphite body with three bearings. If you plan to use this for saltwater, you’ll want to upgrade the reel since it’s not sealed.
Zebco 33 Spincast
Price Range: $25 – $50
Length: 4’ – 6’
Reel: Zebco Spincast
The Zebco Spincast series is a great combo for those looking for reliability and ease of use. The 33 series provides both in abundance. It might be the best rod and reel combo for kids and beginning anglers alike.
The reel can be set up for both right – and – left-handed retrieval, which allows for ambidextrous usage. It’s a great combo and should not be overlooked.
Abu Garcia Black Max Baitcast Combo
Price Range: $69 – $129
Length: 6’6 – 7’
Reel: Abu Garcia Black Max
The Abu Garcia Black Max is a well-balanced baitcasting combo that makes casting easy for beginners and experts alike. I have a Black Max on hand as one of my pre-baited rods every time I go out. The combo is excellent. For the price, it meets every checkmark you need. Fully adjustable and sensitive brakes, a lightweight and compact body, and a durable Power Disk drag system make it worth the investment.
Penn Fierce Spinning Combo
Price Range: $85 – $150
Reel: Penn Fierce
If you’ve ever tackled a lingcod in the surf, you know you need strength. You know your rod needs some backbone, and your reel needs great drag. Penn knows this as well. That’s why they’ve come out with the Penn Fierce II and III combos. These setups will give you everything you need, from fishing a river to catching salmon out at sea.
A seven-foot rod paired with a reel that will match the power you need to tackle the game you are targeting. From trout in a lake to halibut in the ocean, this combo is the perfect setup for the angler looking for a premium package at an affordable price.
The quality of the rod and reel make this combo worth the entry price, and once you make your first cast, you’ll see why.
Daiwa D-Wave Saltwater Fishing Combo
Price Range: $90 – $150
Length: 7’ – 10’
Reel: D-Wave 3Bi
When you consider the entry point for most saltwater gear, this combo seems like a steal. It really is an excellent combo for anglers looking to get into saltwater fishing. A beginner combo should offer a low cost, smooth operation, and decent durability. This one covers all of that and more.
Surf fishing is the target of the D-Wave. The rod targets anything you might pull in from the shore, while the reel is strong enough to handle whatever wants to put up a fight against the drag. Give this combo a try, and you’ll find a new surf combo that won’t break the bank.
Abu Garcia Catfish Commando Combo
Price Range: $100 -$130
Reel: Abu Garcia Commando
The Catfish Commando Combo is explicitly created to deal with that huge cat you’ve been hearing stories of for years. You want to be the one to bring it in, and this is the combo to do it. Trophy cats are landed regularly with this combo, so you know it’s up to the challenge.
The rod is built for strength and durability. It won’t let you down mid-fight against that trophy blue you’ve been battling for ten minutes. The reel is made to keep you in the fight and will hold enough heavy line to keep you from being spooled. It also has a wind level system that keeps your line twist-free, which in itself is an excellent find in this price range.
Penn Spinfisher VI Spinning Combo
Price Range: $175 – $450
Length: 6’ – 10’
Reel: Spinfisher VI
Penn has shown up on this list a few times already. There’s a very good reason for that. They make premium gear that will last several seasons. The Penn Spinfisher VI Spinning Combo is all the proof you need.
The combo comes in several lengths and strengths. On the lighter end, you can target medium-sized fish like bass, while on the heavier side, you can target monsters like grouper and sharks.
The entry price on this combo is a bit higher than most others on this list. However, the exceptional quality, durability, and ease of use will win over those who commit. Since there are seven sizes available, anglers can pick the exact combo to meet their needs.
The reels have a high waterproof rating, so they are super popular amongst saltwater guides.
Pflueger President Spinning Combo
Price Range: $90 – $165
Length: 6’ – 7’
The President Spinning Combo brings together the best in durability and sensitivity. Head into the mountains and test it out on wild brook trout in a small pond. It’s the perfect combo for ultra-light fishing.
The reel is extremely durable, making it perfect for hiking trips. The handle is made of aircraft-grade aluminum. The drag system is sealed, so there’s no concern about debris getting in there and messing things up.
The rod is ultra-sensitive. That allows you to feel every nibble from even the shyest trout. Overall, this combo is sure to become a staple on every excursion you take.
KastKing Crixus Spinning Combo
Price Range: $70 – $120
Length: 5’6” – 7’
Reel: Crixus Spinning
The KastKing brand is known for its quality fishing line. It also makes a great line of rods and reels. The Crixus spinning combo is a well-balanced, light to medium-heavy action setup that is perfect for targeting everything from crappie to catfish.
The rod is an IM6 graphite blank with enough backbone in the medium-heavy size to bring in big fish without giving up sensitivity.
The Crixus spinning reel is a carbon infused with an aluminum spool. It offers a great drag system that makes it very much worth the money. The medium-heavy action rod combo is the perfect setup for bass fishing. If you’re just starting out, give this one a try.
Daiwa D-Shock Freshwater Combo
Price Range: $30 – $40
Length: 5’ – 7’
Reel: D-Shock Freshwater
The D-Shock Freshwater Combo is an excellent choice for beginner anglers. The entry price is very low, but the fact that it’s a Daiwa means it is going to be much higher quality than comparatively priced combos.
The rod is made of IM6 graphite, meaning it’s pretty sensitive and durable. The reel doesn’t look like much at first glance, as it is only a single ball bearing. Look beyond that to see that it offers the Daiwa Digigear Drive System and an ABS aluminum spool. You’re not going to find reels at this price point with those features.
Orvis Clearwater Combo
Price Range: $350 – $450
Length: 8’ – 9’
Reel: Clearwater IV
The Orvis Clearwater is a fantastic fly rod. It will provide all you need in terms of durability and sensitivity. From high mountain streams with a 3wt to battling bonefish in the Florida flats with a 9wt, the Clearwater family of rods covers everything you need.
The entry price is higher than some of the other brands, but that difference gives you a combo that you can use for years to come. It’s not going to let you down.
Smooth casting, outstanding balance, and a 25-year warranty make the price point well worth it. If you’re looking for a great combo, this is it.
Redington CROSSWATER Fly Fishing Combo
Price Range: $149 – $200
Length: 7’6” – 9’
Reel: CROSSWATER reel
The Redington CROSSWATER is a great introductory combo. This setup might be the best rod and reel combo for beginners. It’s available from 4wt to 9wt and in lengths of 7’6”, 8’6”, and 9’. The reel comes pre-spooled with line and has a carrying tube.
It’s a 4-piece rod, making it easy to store and travel with. The 9wt is your go-to if you want a trophy tarpon. The 4wt, 5wt, and 6wt are perfect for trout and panfish, while the 8wt is your Alaskan Salmon rod.
Rod and reel combos are available in several styles. You’ll want to experiment a bit to see what feels the best for your needs. Typically, the progression goes from using a spin caster to a spinning reel. Beyond the spinning reel, more advanced anglers move on to baitcasters. Let’s dig a little deeper into the main combo types: Spinning, Baitcasting, and Flyfishing.
Spinning Rod and Reel Combos
The most common and versatile is the spinning combo. Spinning reels are easy to use, versatile, and can be used to target a wide variety of fish.
Spinning reels often come with more than one spool. When this is the case, it gives the angler the flexibility to put one line weight on a spool and another on the other spool, making it possible to change up in the middle of the trip. That’s not easily done with a baitcaster. You’d have to use separate reels.
Spinning combos can use mono, fluorocarbon, or braided line. Check the spool to see if it’s braid-ready. If not, tie a few feet of mono onto the spool, then add the braid. That will ensure the braid doesn’t slip.
Another pro for spinning combos is their ability to cast lightweight lures. A small, light lure is difficult to cast with a baitcaster and can lead to a backlash.
Baitcaster Rod and Reel Combos
Baitcasters aren’t ideal for the beginner angler. They take practice and patience to use and learn. When you first start fishing, you need to focus on fishing, not learning a technically complex reel.
Experienced anglers looking to up their game move from spinning gear to baitcasters. Baitcasters allow far more control over the lure. The spool of a baitcaster spins freely, which enables the angler to control the speed and distance the lure travels. A baitcaster is also far more accurate. You can toss a jig right into the exact spot underneath that cover or dock you’d never be able to do with a spinning rod.
With that said, the first time you pick up a baitcaster, you’re bound to have a steep learning curve. Since the spool free spins, the line can end up going faster than the lure. This ends in tragedy. The horrible “birds’ nest.” I’ve gotten them so bad that I’ve just given up and cut the line off my reel. It’s been years since then, but it could happen on my next bass trip.
I don’t mean to deter you from getting a baitcaster. I love mine and would recommend them to anyone who is ready to tackle them.
Fly Rod and Reel Combo
Fly fishing is the perfect way to spend some time on a beautiful mountain stream. It’s also a great way to drive yourself crazy if you don’t know what you’re doing. Start out with a quality rod and reel combo and ask as many questions as you can. If you feel like you’re starting to annoy the guys at the fly shop, you’re on the right track.
There is a big learning curve to learn about fly fishing. Everything from dry flies to wet flies and what lines do what needs to be decided before you head out. For instance, a small mountain stream isn’t the best place to take a 9’ 8wt rod with a sinking line. That’s a big game setup.
Small creeks are better targeted with a 3wt or 4wt. A good universal rod for most trout fishing is an 8’6” 4wt or 5wt. More aggressive fish like bass and pike are more in the 6wt – 7wt range. Sinking line is great for lakes and deep rivers where you need to get the fly down deep. WF line means weight forward. That makes casting easier. WF floating line is ideal for smaller creeks and for dry flies.
Overall, the best rod and reel combo is the one that is going to work best for you. You will be OK with a spinning rod and reel combo if you target crappie with a jig. Baitcasters are perfect for those that are experienced anglers looking to up their game.
The beginner angler might think that affordability is the most critical factor. The best rod and reel combo for beginners isn’t based on what’s cheap or most expensive. Durability and versatility are equally important, as the beginning angler doesn’t have multiple rods for different situations.
Try out some of the combos in this list, and you’re sure to find something that works well for your needs.
For more resources on selecting your next fishing reel check out the pages below: