There is a wide variety of freshwater fish species and there are fishing methods and equipment for each of them. Understanding the general attributes will give you the information you need to choose the best freshwater fishing rods and configuration for your fishing plans.
Best Five Freshwater Fishing Rods
1. UglyStik GX2 — Best All Around Rod and Reel Combo
This is a one-piece rod and reel combo. It comes in configurations from Ultralight to Medium-Heavy and in lengths from 4’8” to 7’0”. The combo includes a Shakespeare spinning rod. This combo in a 6’0” or 6’6” Medium configuration will work well for fishing for all but the largest freshwater species.
This combo is a very good choice for younger anglers and for beginners. Experienced anglers who have not used spinning equipment previously will find learning the spinning techniques easy to master with this combo. That is made of very durable composite material and will withstand a reasonable amount of stress without breaking or being damaged.
This spinning setup is ideal for most small to medium-sized freshwater fish. It will work well for bass, trout, smaller catfish, and all types of panfish.
This combo is a great out-of-the-box and straight to the lake setup. The toughness and durability of Ugly Stik and Shakespeare products make this combo suitable for experienced anglers as well as beginners.
- UglyStik GX2 comes with a quality Shakespeare spinning reel attached and ready to go.
- UglyStik GX2 offers durability combined with sensitivity and very good action.
- The reel is not as durable as the rod (although you may want to try out other spinning reels with the rod anyway).
- This is a one-piece rod and does not travel as well as a two piece rod.
2. Sougayilang Fishing Combos — Best Travel Freshwater Telescopic Fishing Rod
This combo comes in a fully contained travel case and includes a spinning reel, line, and some lures and other accessories. The Sougayilang is a telescoping carbon and fiberglass composite design and uses ceramic ring guide inserts.
This kit is best suited for smaller species and smaller waters. Segmented rods do not withstand stress and tension as well as one or two piece rods, and you would want to focus on fish weighing five pounds or less with this combo.
For casual use on camping trips or when a good fishing opportunity presents itself on the road, this kit works well. Within the limitations presented by telescoping rods, this combo comes with high-quality material construction and design.
This combo is highly portable and makes an excellent choice for the trunk of your car and quick fishing stops. The Sougayilang is also a fine choice for camping or backpacking when space is at a premium. When portability is the primary concern, this combo will fill the bill.
- This combo will stow away for travel in very compact spaces.
- With proper maintenance, the carrying case will protect the rod and other equipment very well when stored or transported.
- Telescoping rods do not offer the normal action and sensitivity of one or two piece rods.
- The reel seating on this combo is not as well fitted as should be expected on a manufacturer’s combo.
3. Wakeman Charter Series Fly Fishing Kit with Carry Bag — Best Fly Travel Combo
This kit includes a collapsible 97” fly rod that packs in an included carry bag when disassembled. The Wakeman is made of fiberglass material and is strong and durable while remaining lightweight for travel.
The tradeoff for portability is in overall reduction in whip and flex of the rod when casting. The kit includes a serviceable fly reel and 45 feet of fly line.
This combo will work for any freshwater fly fishing and will handle fish up to about five or six pounds without problems. Because of the flex of the Wakeman resulting from multipiece construction, it makes for a good casting training rod in the backyard between fishing trips.
This combo kit makes for a nice travel package when camping or backpacking in fly fishing country. The Wakeman might not be the first choice of a long-experienced fly caster, but for beginners and anglers looking for travel ease, it gets the job done nicely. This is a good fly casting training kit.
- This travel kit is great for hiking to hard to reach fly fishing waters.
- This is a good choice for beginning fly casters.
- The segmented rod is not as flexible and whippy as one piece fly rods.
- The included reel and line might not be your first choice for those pieces of equipment.
4. Abu Garcia Vengeance — Best Heavier Action Rod
The Abu Garcia Vengeance comes in powers from Medium to Heavy in lengths from 6’6” to 7’6”. It is made from graphite material and has stainless steel line guides with titanium oxide inserts. It includes ergonomic and comfortable EVA split foam handles. The long butt handle on the Abu Garcia Vengeance makes it very useful with rod holders when trolling or fishing with multiple lines.
The Abu is well suited for species up to 8 to 10 pounds, including the largest bass. It is well suited for anglers familiar with baitcasting reels and tackle. It casts accurately at both long and short distance with heavier tackle.
Graphite construction means great sensitivity and feel, but it also means the Abu is more likely to break if abused or stressed. The line guides and inserts are high quality and preserve line and enhance line sensitivity.
This is fantastic equipment for bass fishing and for other larger species. It has solid and sturdy one-piece construction from high-quality graphite material. It has very highly rated sensitivity and feel.
- It has superior action and flexes for a heavier weight rod.
- It works very well with baitcasting reels and heavier tackle.
- It would not be your first choice for fishing for smaller species.
- This is a graphite rod and requires careful use to avoid breakage or damage.
5. Eagle Claw — Best Freshwater Fly Rod For Beginners
The Eagle Claw is designed for outstanding fly line casting. It has light power and high-quality aluminum oxide line guides. The whip and action of the Eagle Claw make for effective casting of a wide variety of fly line and fly weights.
The handle of the Eagle Claw is comfortable cork, and the reel seat is made from light and durable aluminum and cherry.
The fiberglass construction of the Eagle Claw is highly rated by customers for durability and strength. The Eagle Claw can be used for training youngsters and beginners without concern for damage to the rod.
This fiberglass construction keeps its weight very light. The design provides very good balance and casting load with either light or heavy fly line.
This is a very good traditional fly rod providing superior fly line casting. The fiberglass blank is strong and will provide years of reliable service. The wood and cork construction around the handle and reel seat are very comfortable and provide a very classic look.
- It provides exceptional casting and is a very good rod for practice and training.
- It has excellent feel and sensitivity while being a very good casting rod.
- This is not as portable.
Freshwater Fishing Rod Shopping Guide
There are as many different freshwater fish and fishing techniques across North America as there are different kinds of equipment available. In this guide, we will review and discuss several the best freshwater fishing rods that will span the many different freshwater fishing methods you might want to try.
Freshwater species are fished for in every type of waterway and terrain found across the continent. Lakes and ponds, rivers, and reservoirs all are prime locations for fishing from boats, shores, docks, and piers. Freshwater fish vary in size from bream and crappie to largemouth and smallmouth bass up to sturgeon and catfish. Depending on the species you are after, baits and lures vary from live baits to large lures and spinners to small fly lures.
Your fishing experience begins with choosing the right equipment for the kind of fishing you want to try. Some tackle is very versatile while others are very specialized. We will look at some of each type and evaluate which type you might use for the best results. The rod you choose should be designed to work seamlessly with the reel, line, tackle, and other equipment you will select. A properly matched kit can be a great choice for starting out and learning freshwater fishing skills associated with the fish you are going after. More specialized rods might be appropriate for some techniques and species.
It’s designed to be used with spinning reels and tackle. Spinning reels attach to the underside of the rod just ahead of the handle. The line guides also run along the underneath and are graduated in size along the blank to collect the line properly from around the outer edges of the reel. Spinning rods are usually designed for repeated casting and line management. Spinning configurations are excellent choices for almost all smaller freshwater game fish. Anglers who are comfortable with repeated casting techniques and bait control methods such as jigging are likely to choose spinning rods and reels.
It’s made of fiberglass, graphite, carbon and composite materials. However, these rods are designed to have the reel attached to the top side of the blank. Baitcasting reels are designed to handle larger bait and tackle weights than spinning reels for longer range casting and for catching larger freshwater fish species. The line guides are along the top of the rod, which also helps in fighting and landing larger fish without as much risk of rod damage or line breakage.
Casting rods are great choices for larger freshwater species and also work well for trolling and still fishing methods.
It’s designed to handle the smallest and lightest lures, where the casting weight comes almost all from the thicker fly fishing line. To work with the whipping motion of the fly line to place the fly lure in the right spot, fly tackle are extremely thin and flexible. Those are made from fiberglass, carbon, or composites. Fly rods are highly specialized and used for species like trout, salmon, and panfish. These tackle are all about placing a fly lure in the right spot on top of the water and are not essential to controlling or landing the fish once hooked. Fly rods are longer than common freshwater rods and are designed for advanced whipping action and casting accuracy. Becoming adept at using a fly rod requires practice and regular training.
It usually involves two major attributes:
- Casting distance and accuracy.
- Line and fish control.
Longer rods generally allow for longer and more accurate casting at longer distances, while shorter one allows for more lure and line control at shorter distances and around obstacles like trees and brush. Shorter rods also generally allow for more control of fish that have been hooked until they are landed.
For most freshwater fishing, and certainly, for most beginners, a compromise on length is a great choice. Most rods in the 6’0” to 7’0” range are suitable for almost any type of freshwater fishing. Fishing where especially longer casting is needed might call for a longer rod. Fishing in tighter quarters or around brush and structure is better suited by a shorter rod.
It is also commonly referred to as its weight. Power is rated by manufacturers from H (Heavy), MH (Medium Heavy), M (Medium), ML (Medium Light), L (Light), to UL (Ultralight). A power describes how much force the rod can withstand before it begins to flex and bend. The tradeoff between lower and higher power is generally between sensitivity and strength, so the size and type of fish you are after determines which power rod is best.
More experienced anglers will go with the lightest power they feel comfortable using for a given species, as lighter power provides greater sensitivity and more enjoyable fights in landing fish. Beginners might want to tend towards a slightly higher power until they are comfortable managing larger fish on their line.
An action rating describes the overall flex of a rod when a fish is on the line and putting weight on the rod. Rods are usually rated by manufacturers as slow, medium, medium-fast, and fast. Faster actions allow more flex mostly along the tip end, while slower actions flex along the entire rod length. Generally speaking, slower actions are better for larger fish and faster actions are better for smaller fish. Faster action also is better suited for longer casting and handling heavier tackle and lures. Medium action is a suitable compromise for most types of freshwater fishing.
Freshwater fishing rods are made from a wide variety of modern materials. The nature and quality of a rod’s blank (the body of the rod) material often is the largest factor determining the price of the rod.
Most modern freshwater tackle is made from fiberglass, graphite, carbon, or a composite of different materials. Fiberglass is affordable and durable, but not as sensitive as other materials. Graphite rods offer outstanding action and sensitivity, but are not as long-lasting and are much easier to break. Carbon and composite materials provide for excellent combinations of sensitivity, strength, and durability.
It’s usually made from cork, EVA foam, or composite material. All of these materials are suitable for freshwater fishing, and personal comfort and usability should determine your choice. Cork is a fine choice for both beginners and advanced anglers, as it is durable and comfortable over a long day of fishing.
Longer handles are better for fishing that requires long distance casting and for larger fish. The longer handle length provides greater leverage in controlling and landing bigger fish. Shorter handles allow for greater rod manipulation with smaller lures and in areas were shorter casting is needed. Many baitcasting rods have pistol grips, which can make for a very comfortable and accurate casting motion.
Longer handles also make using rod holders much easier. Holders are used when you will have multiple lines out or if you just want to have your hands free for a moment when fishing.
The rod is the most important part of your setup. It is the part that is responsible for the cast. The reel’s job is simply to hold the line before casting and to retrieve it back. If you going to skimp on one of the two, we would say skimp on the reel and get a good rod.
Graphite rods are more expensive than other options. They are sensitive when fish strike and are able to support a lot of weight. Graphite rods have an extra fast action. That being said, although graphite is strong under a steady load, it is also brittle and may be more prone to break as opposed to fiberglass.
Graphite rods can detect ultra-sensitive bites. Graphite rods make hook setting easier. They are more powerful than fiberglass rods on the lift and are less likely to snap when put under heavy strain or under a sudden load.
Selecting the right rod for your freshwater fishing based on these attributes and the type of fishing you have in mind will put you on track to the right setup for a wide variety of freshwater fishing. We hope this guide has been helpful and we would enjoy your comments below.