Rods and Reels

Rod and reel maintenance, selection and general information

What are the key things for a beginner to keep in mind when buying a new rod and reel combo?

Start with balance. A rod and reel combo should be balanced near the reel. If the tip of the rod falls towards the ground when you are holding it, you don't have a balanced outfit. Same goes if the butt of the rod is too heavy and falls back from the reel. Look for a rod with lots of graphite for strength and sensitivity. This rod will be light as well. A good graphite rod allows you to "feel" the bite, therefore, your catch ratio increases. Too heavy of a rod will not allow you to feel the bite. Now add a reel that will complement the balance of the rod. If you are looking for an everyday combo go with a 6-foot-6-inch medium to medium/heavy action rod with an 8- to 10-pound line reel.

Do more bearings in a reel mean it's better quality?

Not necessarily, it all depends on the quality of the bearings. The more "quality" bearings there are in a reel, the smoother it is, and therefore the better it is. Some reels come with several bearings, but they end up being of equal or lesser-value because it lacks the quality. The best quality bearings are usually stainless steel and anti-rust.

How do I cast with a baitcast reel without getting it tangled?

First make sure the spool is set at the right tension. The line should fall slowly instead of fast, and may need adjusting when switching to different lures. When casting, use your thumb to stop the spool from spinning before it hits the water. This prevents back lash or bird's nest. The bird's nest is due to the spool still letting out line after the lure has slowed down. The line tension loosens and comes back to the reel making a "nest." Knowing when to apply pressure with the thumb is the key to success for baitcast reels.

What size rod and reel is best for walleye?

If you are jigging for walleye you will want a 6.6- to 7-foot medium action rod with a fast tip and a 2500 reel. This will allow you to present your bait naturally but still be able to have a great hook set. When trolling, it is best to have a 7-foot rod and 4000 series reel.

What size rod and reel is best for pike?

6.6- to 7-foot medium heavy rod with an extra fast tip. A 2500 series reel works well enough.

I want to try using a baitcasting rod and reel. Should I get an inexpensive combo to learn with and upgrade later if I like it, or should I spend the money now?

The best thing you can do is buy the best you can afford first, rather than go cheap on a "practice" baitcast combo - it'll only save you money in the long run. Buying a sub quality reel will not only have you looking for a new one in short order, it will frustrate you and slow down the learning process as well as the enjoyment of handling a baitcasting reel, which is often when people give up on it all together. Instead, look at purchasing a medium to higher end reel to learn on. If the quality is good than you will still be using that reel several seasons down the road and even after you have broadened your collection. A decent reel will start at around the $150 mark and for $200 - $250 you can have a reel for a lifetime. Better reels have better bearings that make them smoother, better gears to make them more durable and most importantly better overall engineering that involves VBS (Variable Braking System), better drags systems and lighter and tougher frame materials.

What are the most important things to consider when buying a new rod?

The type of rod revolves around what you intend to do with it: for example, whether you'll be using bottom contact baits like grubs, jigs, or soft plastics or horizontal running lures like crankbaits, spinnerbaits, or buzzbaits. Next you'll need to know what power rod to purchase. The rule of thumb is the bigger the fish you plan to catch, or the heavier the cover or line, you'll need a heavier rod. Use the line and lure ratings on the rod to help with your decision. Next is the rod action. Bottom contact baits require a fast or extra-fast rod action which gives you better hook sets and sensitivity when holding the rod in the 9-11 position. Conversely, horizontal running baits require a medium or moderate action to allow the fish to get a better hold of the constantly moving bait.

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