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Fishing Gear

5 Great New Baitcasting Combos for 2016

by Game & Fish Staff   |  March 7th, 2016 0

If you need a good rod-and-reel combo that won’t cost you more than $150, and you want to throw jigs, jerkbaits, and lighter spinnerbaits, this is your year.

Manufacturers came out with a number of baitcasting combos priced to move. The rigs we tested won’t satisfy a hardcore tournament angler who fishes every day and demands perfection. But, we have to admit, many showed versatility, quality and very cool features.

Here are five great-new baitcasting combos for 2016 that won’t break your budget.

Quantum Baitcasting Combo

Quantum | Team KVD

Length: 6-9
Reel Ratio: 7.3:1
Action: Medium Heavy
Lure Weight: 1/4-3/8
MSRP: $99

Quantum has come out with a whole new line of rod-reel combos called TeamKVD. The series offers budget-conscious anglers a total of 10 combos: seven baitcasting and three spinning. We tested the 6-foot, 9-inch medium-heavy rod with a TeamKVD 7.3:1 reel. The reel is light, fast, and palms very nicely. The 8-ball-bearing reel is smooth.

Casting was easy and accurate with the aluminum spool and external magnet controls. I found the rod had a medium-fast action and it was good for spinnerbaits, topwaters and Texas-rigged worms, if, for some reason, you were limited to one or two rods. While not the most sensitive rod, it was pretty good considering the price of $99. —JG

What We Liked: The reel is compact and fit comfortably into my hand.

What We’d Change: Increase graphite content for more rod sensitivity.

Lew's Baitcasting Combo

Lew’s | Mach 1 Speed Spool

Length: 6-10
Reel Ratio: 7.1:1
Action: Medium Heavy
Lure Weight: 3/8-3/4
MSRP: $150

The Mach 1 won “Best of Show Combo” at ICAST. Impressive. But how would this $150 combo actually perform when it was off the shelf and out on the water? Impressive. It’s a versatile stick with a substantial reel. The 6-foot-, 10-inch IM8 graphic rod has a fast taper, which makes it a decent worm or jig rod.

It’s not the most sensitive rod out there, but allowed us to feel rocks and structure in 20 feet with mono. The reel feels good with a 10-bearing system. The frame and sideplates are graphite. The drag ran smooth. The tensioner knob was easy to adjust and let me find that casting sweet spot quickly. —Tim Carini

What We Liked: Both rod and reel feel like they are built to last, although only time will tell.

What We’d Change: The tip of the rod is a bit spongy, which likely detracts from sensitivity.

Abu Garcia Baitcasting Combo

Abu Garcia | Pro Max Low Profile 

Length: 6-6
Reel Ratio: 7.1:1
Action: Medium
Lure Weight: 1/4-5/8
MSRP: $79

This combo will give you a lot of what you’re looking for in a medium-action, budget-friendly rod-and-reel tandem. While the reel doesn’t carry the Revo name, you’re still getting the quality Abu Garcia components and performance. The Pro Max reel, with its 7.1:1 gear ratio, is a good option for scenarios where a high-speed retrieve is effective. The 6-foot, 6-inch version is stout for a medium-action rod and not as whippy as other $100 combo rods. It performed well as a jerkbait rod on smallmouths as well as a light-duty jig and worm outfit for largemouths. —Todd Ceisner

What We Liked: The braking system and drag control are exceptional for a budget-level combo.

What We’d Change: Put EVA knobs on the reel handles.

Berkley Baitcasting Combo

Berkley | Lightning Rod

Length: 7
Reel Ratio: 6.4:1
Action: Medium
Lure Weight: 1/4-5/8
MSRP: $69

As you know, Lightning Rods have been around for years. You probably have a few in your rod locker or garage. But this year Berkley decided to make a combo out of their baitcasting reel and 7-foot graphite rod. The rod’s action is called Medium; it has a very slow tip but good backbone. We threw jigs up to 5/8 ounce, and the more moderate reel ratio of 6.2:1 let us cast crankbaits with confidence.

After using 8- and 10-bearing reels, you will definitely feel more of a grind when turning a reel with just five bearings. But it’s a very compact reel that’s hard to beat for the money. —JG

What We Liked: It’s a compact reel with a great price.

What We’d Change: We’d like to see a lot less plastic and more aluminum and graphite on the reel.

Fenwick Baitcasting Combo

Fenwick-Pflueger | Nighthawk LP CBO 

Length: 7
Reel Ratio: 6.4:1
Action: Medium Heavy
Lure Weight: 1/4-1
MSRP: $99

The Fenwick/Pflueger Nighthawk LP combo is among the most versatile rod-reel duos. The curb appeal on this combo gets high marks in my book. I like the combination of EVA foam and TAC composite cork, which stays solid even if the handle becomes wet. The Pflueger reel is smooth, powerful and sized for all-day use. This combo will cover your bases on many fronts. That’s saying something for a 7-foot medium-heavy casting rod. It easily launched crankbaits, spinnerbaits, vibrating jigs and traditional jigs and handled light pitching and flipping duties. —Todd Ceisner

What We Liked: It handled several different styles of baits and techniques with ease.

What We’d Change: Move the hook keeper to eliminate tangling issues when casting.

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