Gear Reviews: 6 Killer Rod-and-Reel Combos

Gear Reviews: 6 Killer Rod-and-Reel Combos

We tested 51 rods and reels for our three-issue series that reviewed new gear in the salt marshes of Louisiana. (Photo by Ron Sinfelt)

We pick the best combinations for different fishing styles.

It’s one thing to check out a rod at a tackle store or to look at a reel online. But it’s nearly impossible to check out how any individual rod would interact with any particular reel. Well, we do that for you.

Here, we’ve assembled six perfectly complemented combos — those promising to help you in your quest to catch more fish. Our research was conducted over three days on the water, and many hours of debate back on shore, while testing more than 50 of the latest rods and reels in various combinations.

We found a few pairings really stood out and wanted to share our results with you. Next time you are looking to gear up for a very specific technique, look to these combos to give you want you need to get the job done.

Best Worm & Jig Combo

KillerCombos

Daiwa All-Around Rod $189 | Shimano Curado DC Baitcasting Reel $249

Slithering a worm through a maze of timber or ticking a jig down a rip-rap bank require an odd pairing of both finesse and pure power. Daiwa’s All-Around rod has ample backbone to manage the heavy lines often used when fishing worms or jigs in dense cover. Conversely, it has the sensitivity to monitor those baits for subtle strikes.


Worms and jigs are thrown into a variety of covers, ranging from thick to thin. Multiple casting techniques are often used during a single fishing session, whether overhanding, underhanding, skipping, flipping or pitching.


Shimano’s Curado DC, equipped with an electronic cast control, is the perfect partner to the Daiwa All-Around.


The electronic cast control system keeps casts backlash-free, a must when quickly moving from one casting technique to another.

Highlights


Reel


  • Digital Control Braking System
  • Incredibly comfortable paddle handle
  • Super low-profile design

Rod

  • 1/4- to 1-ounce lure weight rated
  • Cork handle provides increased sensitivity
Bottom Line: This combo’s ability to manage a wide variety of soft plastics and jigs as well as switching competently between presentation techniques makes it uniquely qualified to handle your worm and jig chores.

Best Finesse Combo

KillerCombos

Doomsday ‘The 47’ Spinning Rod $139 | Daiwa Tatula Spinning Reel $189

The ability to downsize baits and slow down presentations to a creep is key to coaxing fish that have turned tight-lipped. A quality spinning rod and reel combo is a must for anglers looking to catch fish that refuse the usual suspects.

When finessing, infinite smoothness is required so you can hyper-focus on what the bait is doing — not the reel’s grind. Daiwa’s Tatula is amply smooth for monitoring tiny baits on a silky turn.

The 6.2:1 Daiwa is both fast and feathery light. When combined with the remarkably agile Doomsday Tackle Company “The 47,” the user can concentrate on their bait without fussing with a distracting heavy combo.

Highlights

Reel

  • 8/240 and 10/210
  • 6.2:1 gear ratio
  • 6.2 ounces
  • One-piece CNC machined handle

Rod

  • 30/40 Ton Japanese Toray carbon fiber blank mix

Bottom Line: This combo’s light line rating and nimble demeanor manages morsel-sized baits with surgical precision.

Best Search-Bait Combo

KillerCombos

Abu Garcia Revo Rocket Casting Reel $299 | Kistler Z-Bone Baitcasting Rod $520

Covering water quickly with search baits is fundamental to locating cooperative bass. The ability to make more casts and keep the bait in the strike zone longer often leads to more fish.

The Revo Rocket, with its blistering 10.1:1 retrieve ratio, lashed to the incredibly sensitive Kistler Z-Bone, manages search baits better than any other combo we’ve thrown.

The Revo/Z-Bone fishes lipless crankbaits, small/medium swimbaits, spinnerbaits and stickbaits confidently. The 7-foot, 3-inch North Fork blank loads efficiently and fires long casts for exploring large areas of aggregate water.

The Rocket manages any type of line, whether braids, superlines or clear lines — making it an ideal companion to a vast array baits.

Highlights

Reel

  • Blistering 10.1:1 gear ratio
  • 41 inches per turn (IPT)
  • Power stack carbon matrix drag system

Rod

  • Premium Portuguese Cork Grade “A”
  • North Fork Composite LMX X-Ray Carbon Blank

Bottom Line: The Revo/Z-Bone fishes search baits with unparalleled efficiency. It powers through unproductive water quickly and facilitates locating of willing fish.

Abu Garcia & Shimano Helped Us Control Variables

In the past two issues, we evaluated 51 of the latest and greatest rods and reels, then shared our picks for our “Editor’s Choice” and “Great Buy.” In March, we covered baitcasting gear, in April, spinning gear. Now, we share our picks for the best paired combos.

We reached out to two industry giants, Abu Garcia and Shimano, to supply control rods and reels for our testing. These companies’ commitment to quality-control and consistency let us get to know our 29 test rods and 22 test reels intimately. By having Abu Veritas casting rods (VTSC70-5) and Veritas spinning rods (VT-SS70-5) on hand, we were able to mount test reels to the control rods and isolate the reels’ features, and attributes. With Shimano’s Sedona 2500 spinning reel (SE2500HGFI) and Citica 200 casting reel (CI200I), we evaluated rods objectively.— John Geiger

Small Swimbait/Spinnerbait Combo
KillerCombos

Academy Mettle Casting Reel $79 | Academy H2O Xpress Ethos Nano Rod $99

Swimbaits have become very popular of late — and for good reason. They’re versatile and capable of catching fish under any number of water and weather conditions.

Spinnerbaits remain a mainstream bass bait, one almost all fisherman throw on any given day.

Academy Sports + Outdoors Xpress H20 Mettle HD is a value-priced reel ($79) capable of managing these often heavy baits. When matched with its Academy storebranded H2O Xpress Ethos Nano rod, deftly throws both swimbaits and spinnerbaits.

The tip has enough flex to manage smaller-diameter hooks on small swimbaits, yet has a great butt section to drill large-gauge spinnerbait hooks deep.

Highlights

Reel

  • Simplistic design eliminates fussing with reel
  • Casting control by internal centrifugal brake
  • One-piece internal all aluminum frame

Rod

  • One-piece IM8 graphite blank with Nano Resin technology
  • Winn Grip split-grip Dri-Tac handle
  • Rubber coated reel seat

Bottom Line: Great small- to medium-sized swimbait and spinnerbait combo at a great price.

Small Crankbait Combo

KillerCombos

St. Croix Legend Glass Spinning Rod $239 | Okuma Epixor EPXT30 Spinning Reel $69

Bass fishermen love their spinning rods, in fact, some use them exclusively. Our St. Croix Legend Glass and Okuma spinning combo offers a first for spin enthusiasts — the ability to fish light-to-medium crankbaits and other light-wire gauge hook baits, like creatures and tubes, without compromise.

A linear glass rod blank loads nicely with light lures on the cast. The limber glass blank flicks them without a hint of sweat, while its gentle flexure keeps big fish buttoned on razor thin lines and skinny-gauge hooks.

The EPXT30’s 5:1 gear ratio has the cranking torque to fish crankbaits. The 17-pound max drag offers a slippery pay-out, keeping fish pinned while an eight- bearing setup keeps the cranking smooth.

Highlights

Reel

  • Slow oscillation spool for laying braid nicely
  • 17 pounds of drag for powering fish from slop
  • 5:1 gear ratio offers plenty of power

Rod

  • Advanced glass blank loads efficiently with micro lures
  • Split grip allows for two-handed casts

Bottom Line: Recommended for any spinning-rod fan looking for a combo to throw light crankbaits, tubes or creatures.

Best All-Around Combo

KillerCombos

BPS Johnny Morris Platinum Signature Baitcasting Combo $329

Every fisherman needs an all-around combo, one capable of fishing any number of techniques with confidence. The BPS Johnny Morris Platinum Signature combo, available in a variety of lengths, is a great option for any number of bass baits and techniques. We paired the 7-foot, 4-inch with its 11-bearing, 6.8:1 retrieve ratio. That combo will capably fish spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, crankbaits (lipped and lipless), frogs, worms and jigs, and small to medium swimbaits.

The rod length also allows it to double dip as a light flipping stick, when in a pinch. The reel, at 6.8:1, falls somewhere in the middle of retrieve ratios. It has plenty of power to work bulky baits and is fast enough to work search baits.

Highlights

Reel

  • Solid machined aluminum sideplate
  • Double anodized spool for corrosion control
  • Externally adjustable dual casting controls

Rod

  • Lure weight rated for 3/8- to 1-ounce
  • Non-slip Winn Grip
  • Exposed blank reel seat with soft touch coating

Bottom Line: For a long-rod combo, it is very maneuverable with a fantastic balance. For anyone searching for a great all-around baitcasting combo, give this BPS combo a test drive.

Looking Back

We tested 51 rods and reels for this article and for two other articles that appeared in recent issues.

MARCH 2019

“Baitcaster Showdown”: We tested out rods and reels and picked an Editor’s Choice for rod (Kistler Z Bone) and reel (Revo Rocket), plus a Great Buy rod (Denali Fission) and reel (Academy Mettle HD).

APRIL 2019

“The Spin Doctors”: We evaluated spinning gear in April. Doomsday’s “The 47” rod and Daiwa’s Tatula reel won Editor’s Choice, while Dobyn’s Colt Series rod and the Cadence CS10 reel won Great Buy.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

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