The Essential 2021 Guide to the Best Bass Fishing Rod and Reel Combos


Out of all your tackle, the things that are working the most are your rod and reel. These two tools form the backbone of all your fishing.

So, it makes sense to get the best you can, right?

I will show you some great options and talk you through the features you must look for in the best bass fishing rod and reel combo.

I’ll even show you some that the pros use!

So, let’s jump straight in.

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Choosing Rod and Reel Combo for Bass Fishing (A Quick Guide)

In a rush?

No problem. Here are some things to consider when looking for a good rod and reel combo for bass fishing.

fisherman holding a largemouth bass

Rod Size

Listen up guys, size matters!

The best rods for bass fishing tend to be somewhere between 5 feet to 8 feet. Consider these the lower and upper limits, respectively.

Me?

I’d suggest 7 feet is an ideal optimum. You’ll get the distance in your casts without finding the rod too cumbersome.

Rod Action

Rod action allows you to cast farther. It also determines how much ‘muscle’ you have in your back pocket when fighting fish. It can also boil down to personal preference.

I’d opt for something medium to medium-fast. This is a great compromise between power and casting ability. However, if you like fishing smaller lures, fast is the way to go.

Rod Weight

If you are fishing for bass, you are going to be casting and retrieving all day long.

A few ounces here and there are going to take their toll.

For that reason, be sure to choose a bass fishing rod that is as light as possible.

Reel Type

You’ll find a few different types of reels. Some guys prefer a fixed spool reel. Others will opt for a baitcaster.

A fixed spool is really easy to manage for beginners and is less prone to overruns and tangles. For anyone more advanced, a bait caster gives you great control and allows you to fish much more efficiently.

Reel Size

For fixed spool reels, I find that 3000 sized reels give you the best features regarding the line holding capability and retrieve rate.

For those choosing a baitcasting reel, a 25 or 30 size reel will be plenty to fight trophy-sized fish without making your combo too bulky or heavy.

Retrieval Rate

I give details on what all the numbers mean regarding retrieval rate in my detailed buying guide below.

For now, what I will say is this…

Try and find a reel with the highest retrieval rate you can. This gives you options.

Top 7 Best Bass Fishing Rods and Reels 2021

Okay, I’ve shopped around, and based on the above, here are some really great performers…

Abu Garcia Jordan Lee Baitcast Combo

Abu Garcia Jordan Lee Baitcast Reel and Rod Combo

If you don’t know who Jordan Lee is, you should check him out.

Man, this guy lives my dream life. A professional bass angler? Heaven!

The Pros don’t assign their name to gear unless it works. This rod has the benefit of being professionally endorsed and made by one of the world’s leading fishing brands.

I like the way this rod looks. The yellow rubberized handle and short butt, along with the sleek-looking grey blank, are really eye-catching.

The performance matches the visuals. The rod is fast action, great for flicking out smaller, lighter lures, but with plenty of strength for hauling in those monster bass!

The reel is decent too. It boasts a 6.4:1 retrieval rate, giving you scope to retrieve as you wish. It has decent capacity. You should be able to fit about 140 yards of braid on there without too much trouble.

Anything else?

Yeah, the power disc drag system. This is great as it should result in less fish lost as you can fine-tune it to pay out line when you get a savage take or pull.

Pros

  • The rod is professionally endorsed.
  • It’s a nicely balanced setup.
  • I love the way it looks and feels.

Cons

  • Look, it’s a sweet setup. I think it’s really great value, and I’m not going to pick to find ‘faults’.

Takeaway

It’s not often I’m blown away by a rod and reel combo. I think this is a lovely setup, and for the money could be the best on my list. Abu Garcia seems to have knocked it out of the park. I’m impressed.

Lew's Mach Pro Baitcast Combo

Lew's Mach Pro Baitcast Combo

Speaking of high-quality bass fishing combos, this is another that is worthy of a look.

Okay, so it isn’t cheap, but you get what you pay for, as I always say.

And here’s the thing.

This is a premium setup. You’ll be able to fish a range of techniques, and chances are you won’t need another combo for years.

The rod is super sensitive and very powerful. It weighs next to nothing too! At 7’2″, it is right in the ballpark for what I consider optimum in terms of size.

But it isn’t just about the rod…

The reel is a thing of beauty. With a graphite frame and low-profile design, this bass fishing setup is sleek and stealthy. The internal gearing feels solid, with no give, knocking, or play. I particularly like the Rulon drag system. You can fine-tune it to perfection.

Pros

  • This is a premium bass fishing combo. Make no mistake.
  • Super lightweight all around.
  • Fast action and nice casting performance.

Cons

  • Some might find it a little steep. That said, you can go much higher in cost and not get much extra for the money…

Takeaway

I love finding quality gear like this. It makes my job so much easier. This rod and reel combo is a joy to use. If you don’t mind splashing out on the budget a little, it is well worth the extra.

Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Rod and Reel Combo

Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Rod and Reel Combo

Shakespeare has been producing budget fishing solutions for as long as I can remember.

But bear this in mind…

‘Budget’ doesn’t mean cheap when it comes to build quality. For a really affordable solution, this rod and reel combo fits the bill quite nicely. The Ugly Stik rods are famous the world over in all disciplines of fishing. And for a good reason. They are rock solid.

This rod is no exception.

If you want something affordable that is bulletproof, then this will be for you.

Unlike some of my other bass rod and reel combos, this setup features a fixed spool reel. It would be a great choice for beginners as they are straightforward to operate. It features some nice touches, like infinite anti-reverse, an oversized bail arm, and soft handle knobs.

But I need to be honest.

The rod is A1 in terms of quality. The reel, not so much. It would be great to start off with, but anyone with over a few sessions’ worth of experience will be looking for a new reel, so this negates some of the low cost.

Pros

  • The rod is rock solid and will handle fish of all sizes.
  • It’s a pretty lightweight setup.
  • I love how affordable this is.

Cons

  • The reel lets the combo down. It will work well enough but expect to upgrade at some point.

Takeaway

If you are just getting started in bass fishing and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars, this is a great place to start. As you advance, you’ll probably want something better. Still, for occasional use or as a backup, it’s a really good fishing combo.

Abu Garcia Pro Max Spinning Combo

You’ve already heard me raving about Abu Garcia.

I’ll put my money where my mouth is.

This is a slightly heavier rod if you are going after those bigger fish and casting heavier lures. The action is medium, and the accompanying reel is 3000 size which should be the heaviest you go for when bass fishing.

I love the molded polymer grip on the rod. It sits really nicely in hand. At 7′, it is a good length. One nice feature is the DPM finish on the butt section of the blank. It makes the rod look much more premium.

The action of this rod is medium. As a result, it isn’t going to be the most optimal for casting ultra-lightweight lures, but anything with a little weight or size should be good.

What really makes this combo stand out is the reel. The fixed spool design makes it a good choice for beginners. I love that although it is sizeable, the body and rotor are made of graphite which really helps to keep the weight down.

Pros

  • The reel elevates this bass fishing combo from good to great.
  • I like the molded grip.
  • Included hook keeper, perfect for lure fishing.

Cons

  • The only real downside is the action. Medium might not be to everyone’s tastes.

Takeaway

Considering this is priced as a budget setup, it performs just as well as some premium bass fishing setups. If you are fishing in either big water or going for big fish, then it would be an ideal choice. For a touch of light sport, I’d consider a lighter setup.

Cadence CC4 Spinning Combo

Cadence is a new name to the bass game.

Not that it matters… This combo is excellent for bass fishing.

Be smart and pick an ‘in between’ option… The 6’6″ medium-light with a 2000 reel will be absolutely ideal for 99% of situations. It will also give you a huge degree of flexibility in how you fish.

Digging into the details…

The rod is pretty durable. The 24-ton graphite blank, paired up with stainless steel line guides and inserts, should last a long while. Throw in a reel with a carbon composite frame, 7 ball bearings, and instant anti-reverse, and you are getting a great bass fishing combo for the money.

Speaking of the reel…

It features a machined aluminum spool that has plenty of line capacity. It also boasts a fearsome retrieve rate of 6.2:1!

One really nice touch with the rod is the ergonomic grip. If you are going to be holding something all day, you want it to be comfortable.

Pros

  • I really like the action in the 6’6″ rod. Moderate fast is where it is at!
  • The combo is really comfy to hold. It’s also pretty lightweight.
  • Quality construction and components.

Cons

  • Not much. Some might be put off by the lack of a brand name. But the fish don’t seem to care!

Takeaway

For a bass fishing combo that offers superior performance on a budget, this one is well worth a look. It fishes just as well as big-name brands.

One thing I really like about cadence is their company ethos. They have a real push to get the youth into fishing. Why not join them?

Quantum Reliance Spinning Reel and Rod

This rod is the largest on my list. It will be an ideal choice if you are fishing in areas where you need to cast a long way or deal with significant underwater obstructions like rocks or heavy weed beds.

When paired together, the rod and reel are a solid setup.

Here’s why…

The reel is fully sealed, making it maintenance-free. The fact that it has an aluminum body means that you won’t find a spot of corrosion either. As with all good quality bass reels, it features an anti-reverse clutch and a great line capacity (275 yards). It also features a carbon disc drag system, giving you plenty of stopping power.

The rod will comfortably cast any lure weighing over ½ an ounce. All the way up to 4 ounces. If you want to indulge in a spot of bait fishing, this could be a great choice!

Any downsides?

The handle is a little chunky for my liking and isn’t quite as ergonomic as some others on my list. The rod is also a little heavier too.

Still, it is a real eye-catching fishing combo. I particularly like the copper accents on the reel.

Pros

  • Great for heavy-duty bass fishing.
  • It can be used for bait and bottom fishing.
  • Cast a huge distance with the right weight.

Cons

  • It could be a little too heavy-duty for the vast majority of bass fishermen.
  • I wish it was just a little bit lighter.

Takeaway

There are times when I’d use this rod and times when I wouldn’t. For your average small pond or still water, I’d look at one of the other options. If you want a good all-rounder with plenty of backbone, it would be an excellent choice.

Bass Pro Shops Tourney Special Baitcast Combo

Bass Pro Shops Tourney Special Baitcast Combo

Sometimes, you are best just sticking with a tried and tested formula when choosing a bass fishing combo. If it offers great value too, then you are onto a winner.

This rod isn’t too fancy.

But here’s what it does offer.

Pretty much everything you’d find in a much more expensive setup.

The reel is a baitcaster but has some clever technology to make it easy to use.

Like what?

Smart cast anti-backlash technology prevents tangles and overruns. This is basically the name given to a centrifugal braking system. The faster the spool spins, the harder the brakes! It also features a durable graphite frame and forged aluminum spool.

What more do you want?

The rod is pretty decent too. Go for the medium option, and you’ll have a bass fishing combo to cover you 90% of the time. I really like the bright green finish on the blank. It’s fab in low light conditions when bass fishing at night.

It is also pretty lightweight and has all the extras I’m a fan of.

Such as?

A comfortable split EVA handle, a hook keeper, and a low-profile butt section.

Pros

  • For the money, a great bass fishing combo.
  • Pretty eye-catching looks more expensive than it is.
  • Lightweight and comfortable to use.

Cons

  • I wish they did this rod in medium-fast, and I would have said it was perfect.

Takeaway

Medium action isn’t for everyone, but this rod could be a really solid option if that’s what you want. Considering the price, the reel also offers excellent value. Bass fishing on a budget? You need to check this one out!

Bass Rod and Reel Combos (Complete Guide)

So, I’ve given you plenty of food for thought and some options… But which to pick.

I’m here to help.

Take a look at my buying guide, and you’ll see why I picked the above selections.

fisherman holding a large mouth bass

Rod Length

As I said at the start, 7′ is the perfect length when choosing a bass fishing combo.

Why?

First, it is really easy to store and transport. Most are two-piece rods. This means you only ever have to carry 3.5′ down to the swim. If you want even more compact than that, your best bet is to go for a travel rod; here are some fabulous suggestions. Or go super small with something telescopic

Second, as you’ll probably already know, bass country can get a little… overgrown. The last thing you need is to be manhandling a 13′ pole around trees and bushes.

Finally, it keeps the weight of the rod down. Bass rods are supposed to be handheld and really versatile. You are going to want to be pretty mobile. A light and short rod make this so much easier (especially if you carry more than one rod).

largemouth bass close up

Bass Rod Action

Action is something you are going to want to look at in detail. You’ll find that bass rods range from medium up to fast (with a sliding scale in between). Here are a few general rules to help you choose:

Medium Action Rods

Medium-action bass rods are less flexible. They are good if you are using bigger lures. As a result, you’ll also be expecting to catch bigger fish.

They are also good if you are fishing areas where you will need to pull your hook free of underwater weeds or snags. Or, as I like to call it, “pull bass from the grass”!

Fast Action Rods

These are the ideal choice if you are looking to fish smaller lures or want a lighter setup. They will still pull in decent-sized fish. They don’t fare quite as well when fishing bigger lures and heavy cover.

That said, if you pick a fast-action rod with a high-quality blank, you won’t need to worry about breaking it. They are really flexible.

If you are struggling to see the difference in actions, I know it can be frustrating. Here’s a quick and easy video guide that should show you which lures best work with which rod. Give it a watch, and then make your decision from there.

Extra Features

You know me.

I love the little extras…

Keep an eye out for the little things that elevate a standard rod. Here are the things I keep an eye out for:

  • Spilt grips
  • EVA foam handles
  • Low profile butts
  • Hook keepers
  • Stainless steel or non-stick line guides

The rod is only half the story. You need a good quality bass fishing reel too! Here’s what I go for.

Fixed Spool or Baitcaster

Ah, this is a hotly debated topic.

If you are brand new, go for a fixed spool setup. Trust me, it’s no fun standing on the bank trying to untangle a bird’s nest on your first cast.

Fixed spool reels are really low maintenance and are easy to use.

Baitcasters let you cast further and generally have a higher retrieval rate. The downside is that when they fail because the entire reel structure is internal, they can be a real pain to maintain.

fishing from boat in lake with spinning reel

Line Capacity

You aren’t going to need a huge amount of line capacity. My advice would be that anything that fits over 125 yards of line is good enough. I prefer to keep the weight down by picking a slightly smaller reel and sacrificing a little bit of capacity.

Oh…

And you’ll find that by loading less line, you’ll get fewer tangles too!

Drag

Drag is a biggie.

Here’s why.

It’s all that stands between you landing a fish or the line breaking. Look for reels with disc drag systems. They pay out line when the pressure gets too great but allow you a really good degree of control when battling something big.

Ideally, you want a reel that allows you to adjust the drag ‘on the fly’. For bait casters, look for a star drag system. For fixed spool reels, you want a disc system with frontal control. That way, you can apply just the right amount of pressure when you need it the most.

If you aren’t too sure how to set a drag or want a few tips, I’ve searched around. This short video is excellent. Check it out!

Reel Retrieval Rate

One area of confusion when buying a new reel is the retrieve rate.

I get it… that’s a lot of numbers.

Here’s a quick explanation of how reel ratios work.

You are going to see a series of three numbers, it looks a little like this:

“5.1:1” or “7.3:1”

But what does the above mean?

Essentially this is a description of how much line is brought in with each turn of the handle. More line per turn = a faster retrieval rate.

The first two numbers are how many times the spool rotates. The final number (normally a ‘1’) is how many turns of the handle it takes.

Look at the above two examples again.

The first string of numbers tells us that for each turn of the handle, the spool will turn 5.1 times. The second string of numbers tells us that for each turn of the handle, the spool will rotate 7.3 times.

In short…

Try and pick a reel whose first two numbers are high.

If ratios aren’t your strong point, don’t worry, I’ve found a guy who shows you a practical example. Have a quick watch of this and come back!

Ball Bearings

You’ll hear a lot of talk about ball bearings. Ball bearings are what keep your reel turning smoothly.

Contrary to what you might think, more ball bearings don’t necessarily mean that a reel is better.

Wait, what? Why?

Simply because the higher the quality of the ball bearings, the less you actually need. Cheaper reels often supplement poorer quality bearings by adding more to relieve some of the stress. If you can, try and choose a reel with as few ball bearings as possible. It is usually a sign of really good quality internal engineering if they have less.

FAQ

Why buy a bass rod and reel combo?

It’s all about balance. Manufacturers design both the reel and rod together, effectively doing the hard work for you. If you buy a bass rod and reel combo, you can be reasonably assured that your setup is balanced and designed to work together.

What is the best fishing rod and reel combo?

For Bass fishing? On my above list, I’d say that my go-to choice would be the Abu Garcia Jordan Lee Baitcast Combo. It looks good, casts well, and is super lightweight. For the money, it’s definitely one of my favorites.

If you were after something a little bit lower budget, the Cadence combo is also really nice.

What rod and reels do Pro bass fishermen use?

Whatever brand sponsors them and gives them free fishing tackle!

No, joking aside, you’ll find that pro bass fishermen tend to use branded names and tackle.

You’ll regularly see brands like Abu Garcia, Quantum, Gloomis, Daiwa, and St Croix. The good news is that they don’t have any special ‘tuned’ gear or ‘one-offs’… They use exactly the same stuff that you can buy off the shelf!

To be a pro bass fisherman isn’t about the gear. It is about commitment. It’s seriously hard work. Check this out.

What lures do Pro bass fishermen use?

Ha, now there’s a question! If you asked them, do you think they’d tell you the secrets to their success? If you were to open 100 different pro’s boxes, you’d find 100 different lures for bass fishing.

Here are the things that I’ve seen used most often:

  • Surface poppers
  • Rapala minnows
  • Soft plastics
  • Buzz baits

And many more… The fish decide what catches on the day, not the pros!

What is the best bass fishing rod and reel for beginners?

For beginners, I’d say that the best option would be something like the Cadence CC4 Spinning Combo. It has a great action, is relatively lightweight, doesn’t cost the earth, and has a pretty amazing fixed spool reel.

If you want to go down the bait caster route, a good choice could be the Bass Pro Shops Tourney Special Baitcast Combo… Okay, so it isn’t designer, but it has all of the good features I talked about above in my buying guide. Plus, if it ends up damaged or broken in inexperienced hands, it isn’t going to be the end of the world!

Summary

Choosing the best bass fishing rod and reel combo doesn’t need to be difficult.

Pick a lightweight rod with a nice action, and try and choose a combo where the reel is good quality.

In fact, I’d so focus on the reel more than the rod as that’s where the real pulling power lies.

If you want to see other great fishing combos, check out my articles about carp fishing and catfishing!

If you had an unlimited budget, what would be your perfect bass fishing setup? Let me know in the comments below!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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