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Tackle Test 2021: Best New Spinning Rods Reviewed

We field-tested 14 spinning rods too find the best in our annual fishing gear reviews.

Tackle Test 2021: Best New Spinning Rods Reviewed

Tackle Testers fished finesse baits on a variety of waters in central Florida to evaluate rod and reel performance in the annual Tackle Test. (Photo by Brian Carlson)

Last winter, the Game & Fish Tackle Test Team hit eight bass-fishing waters in Florida to evaluate the best in new spinning gear.

Days of testing, followed by weeks of in-depth analysis, provided valuable insight into this year’s lineup of best spinning rods. The following report details what we learned and highlights some of the best new spinning gear available.

Here's what our team concluded about the 14 spinning rods tested.

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The Tackle Test team also tested baitcasting rods and baitcasting reels, and their findings were detailed in the April issue of Game & Fish Magazine. (Photo by Brian Carlson)

Tackle Test 2021: Best New Spinning Rods

Editor’s Choice: MEGABASS DESTROYER WIND BUSTER

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Although the Megabass Destroyer Wind Buster weighs just 3.63 ounces, it still has plenty of backbone to coerce fish from cover. (Photo by Brian Carlson)

The Megabass Destroyer Wind Buster was wildly popular with all of the testers. At 7 feet, 2 inches, the blank tapers aggressively from the butt section to the tip. The result is a finesse spinning rod capable of animating small baits with the first few inches of blank, while still mustering enough muscle for fishing in the slop.


Due in part to its lively tip, the blank's medium-fast taper loads effortlessly. On the cast, it uncoils crisply with no perceivable shudder or chatter. This absence of unwanted vibration is testament to the efficient transfer of loaded energy from the blank to the bait. The rod's split grip is short by industry standards (12 3/8 inches); however, this abbreviated design allows more blank extension in front of the angler, where the added leverage helps motivate extra-long casts with feathery baits.


Weighing just 3.63 ounces, the Destroyer is sinfully light. Anglers might expect the rod to be unruly, but it’s not. The handle, with its slightly raised dorsal palm swell melts into the hand, offering a biomechanical advantage when working baits and when driving aggressive hooksets home. ($475; megabassusa.com)

  • Bottom Line: A lively and powerful blank gives the Destroyer remarkable feel and balance exceeding those of any other spinning rod we tested, and the fit of its components is superb.

Great Buy: FAVORITE DEFENDER

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At $99, the Favorite Defender offers the sensitivity of rods costing much more. Testers also liked its long, split-grip cork handle. (Photo by Brian Carlson)

Once in a great while a rod is introduced with that just-right combination of balance, fishability and value—a rod that offers the performance of a top-shelf model at a very affordable price. The Favorite Defender is one such rod.

Favorite builds the Defender on a multi-directional IM24T carbon blank that provides outstanding sensitivity. Torsional rigidity is achieved through the blank’s varying carbon-fiber angularity, which limits twisting around its longitudinal axis on the cast or when aggressively jolted during a hard, off-center hookset.

The 7-foot-1-inch blank is sized perfectly for delivering long casts. The long, beefy split-grip cork handle is impeccably tapered and capable of managing large lures like jerkbaits. Attention to design detail and build quality can be seen in the rod’s butt with its oh-so-pleasing ergonomic profile. In addition to providing a great grab for long casts, we found the split grip also nestles nicely against the forearm for extra power when setting the hook. The rod balances beautifully in hand, deftly fishing a variety of bait shapes and sizes.




We loved throwing small soft plastics, such as stick-style baits, tubes and even drop-shot worms, on the Defender. The "In God We Trust" red, white and blue motif makes this rod stand out and easy to find in any pile of sticks on a boat’s bow. ($99; favoriteusa.com)

  • Bottom Line: The Favorite Defender will become an angler’s go-to spinner as it performs flawlessly with any number of baits at an incredibly great price.

HOW WE TESTED

The Game & Fish Tackle Test utilized a comprehensive scoring system to evaluate each rod and reel across numerous criteria. Scores are tallied after each day on the water. Once all the numbers are crunched (and after some heated debate), winners in each category are crowned. The Editor’s Choice award is bestowed upon the product in each category with the best overall score, while the Great Buy goes to the products that represent the greatest value.

Test rods were equipped with Abu Garcia Revo X (REVO2X20) spinning reels with a 6.2:1 retrieve ratio for an apples-to-apples comparison. Test reels were paired with multiple rods having various actions for an across-the-board evaluation. Reels were fished with both braided line (Berkley x9) and fluorocarbon (Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon).


TACKLE TEST SCORECARD

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Tackle Test 2021 Spinning Rods

HOW THEY WERE SCORED

Products are scored from 60 to 100 in 10 categories. Those scores are then averaged for a maximum potential overall score of 100.

  • CONTROLS: The efficiency and ease of operation of mechanical features.
  • DURABILITY: Products receive a median score of 80 unless they fail during testing.
  • APPLICABILITY: The degree to which a product is representative of its intended purpose.
  • ERGONOMICS: The efficiency and comfort of the product’s man-to-machine interfaces.
  • FISHABILITY: How well the product performs under real-world conditions.
  • BUILD MATERIALS: The overall quality of the materials and components used in the product.
  • CONSTRUCTION: The overall fit-and-finish and build quality.
  • AESTHETICS: The degree to which the product is appealing to the eye.
  • INNOVATION: The degree to which the product goes above and beyond the "norm" and offers innovative design and/or mechanical features. Products receive a median score of 80 unless they are outstanding or deficient in this category.
  • VALUE: The perceived value of the product with regard to its price.

OTHER RODS TESTED


Abu Garcia Veritas PLX

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Abu Garcia Veritas

The Veritas PLX is destined to make waves in the bass circles. This rod fishes like a much more expensive model—sans the price tag. The PLX features 3M Powerlux 100 resin, which is considerably lighter than competitive resins. The PLX’s 30-ton graphite blank is both very sensitive and strong. The ergonomics on this rod were the best in the field, with a fashionable white EVA grip that fuses with the user’s hand.

$99 | purefishing.com

Academy H2O EXPRESS Tac-40

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Academy H2O EXPRESS

The Tac-40 is Academy’s top-of-the-line store-brand spinning rod. The 6-foot-10-inch rod has a medium-light action rating and a fast taper. Most of the rod’s action is in the first 8 inches of tip, and it has a rigid butt section with a 13-inch split grip. The shorter overall length and great tip make the Tac-40 a natural for flicking small baits around structure like stick-ups or docks. The rod is rated for 8- to 17-pound-test lines; however, we felt that it performed best when fished with 8- to 12-pound-test monofilament or fluorocarbon, while easily accommodating 20-pound braid.

$129 | academy.com

Daiwa Tatula Elite

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Daiwa Tatula Elite

This is a true signature-series rod designed by bass tour pro Takahiro Omori. The distinct silver rod is an ergonomic treat with its sculpted split handle and rounded palm swell. The bias graphite blank, a technology Daiwa engineers perfected, all but eliminates blank twist. Rated for 6- to 14-pound-test lines, the Tatula Elite is best suited for dainty baits and presentations.

$179 | daiwa.com

Dobyns Kaden Series

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Dobyns Kaden Series

The Kaden is loaded with value-added components like a high-modulus blank, Fuji reel seat, Sea Guide XO guides, Kevlar guide wraps and a Portugal cork handle. At 7 feet 1 inch, the Kaden fishes more like a 7-foot-3-inch spinning rod. It launches extra-long casts while remaining responsive and handling deftly. We liked the touch of extra backbone in the butt section, which gives this rod its generalist feel.

$169 | dobynsrods.com

Favorite Balance

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Favorite Balance

With a distinct orange handle, the Balance rod is another econo-performer from Favorite. The blank uses two different carbons, 24 ton and 30 ton. The blend offers both strength and sensitivity. The Balance, appropriately enough, balances well in hand, and will be at home for most finessing as well as some brisk middleweight jerkbaiting action.

$89 | favoriteusa.com

Fenwick Eagle

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Fenwick Eagle

The Eagle, at a very reasonable $69, impressed us with its can-do attitude. Fenwick has been making great rods for decades, and the Eagle is destined to find its way into plenty of boats. The 7-foot Eagle is a generalist, able to throw a wide variety of baits with confidence. The quality cork handle is a surprise on a rod priced this competitively, as is the 5-year limited warranty.

$69 | purefishing.com

Halo KSII Elite

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Halo KSII Elite

The KSII Elite is a relatively short stick, taping just 6 feet 10 inches. While only 2 inches shorter than other models, those couple inches change the character of the rod completely. This spinner is made for fishing finesse baits in close quarters without sacrificing leverage. The KSII is the ticket for skipping soft plastics around stick-ups, or for fishing shaky-heads and other finesse presentations that lend themselves to a shorter spinning rod.

$169 | americanbaitworks.com

Halo XDIII Pro

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Halo XDIII Pro

The medium-heavy XDIII Pro has a rugged build and a smartly tapered grip. The EVA handle has six cork-like insert rings, which help provide great purchase. With a stout butt section for a spinner, the XDIII Pro excels at working power baits like Texas-rigged worms.

$99 | americanbaitworks.com

Impulse Gen 2

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Impulse Gen 2

Impulse rods are made in Magnolia, Texas, incorporating high-modulus Toray graphite in their blank lay-ups. Sea Guide tangle-free guides in 316 stainless steel and a Sea Guide Alien reel seat are used in the build. The Impulse Gen 2 is light at just 3.7 ounces, yet it has plenty of power with its medium rating. The blank responded well to a variety of baits, showing favor for those in the 1/8- to 1/4-ounce range. It will excel for those who throw weightless worms and flukes on light lines.

$239 | impulserods.com

Jenko DCVR High Roller

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Jenko DCVR High Roller

At 7 feet 2 inches, the High Roller carries a medium, moderate-fast rating. The rod’s action is centered in its first 19 inches of tip, with the blank being slender along its length. This design makes the High Roller a top choice for light, weightless plastics, as it is capable of throwing them without breaking a sweat. The rod has a relatively short handle (12 1/4 inches) for a long spinner, which puts the majority of the working blank length out front, where it can be used to leverage unruly fish from underwater terrain.

$199 | jenkofishing.com

Quantum Accurist

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Quantum Accurist

The Accurist is rated as a moderate-action, medium-power model and billed as a shaky-head or drop-shot rod. Suited for lines down to 4-pound test, it is a good choice for anglers who like to go really light when clear water or pressured fish demand presentations with an extra measure of finesse. Testers agreed the Accurist performed best with lures in the 1/8- to 3/8-ounce range.

$99 | quantumfishing.com

St. Croix Legend Extreme

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St. Croix Legend Extreme

The American-made Legend Extreme is loaded with many of St. Croix’s proprietary technologies, which makes it a fantastic fishing tool. Look no further than the handle, and you’ll see the company’s level of rod engineering prowess. The one-piece unit is coated with a material that provides a great grip, while repelling water, dirt and fish slime. With an incredibly sensitive blank, this spinner excels at fishing finesse baits. The Legend Extreme was the costliest rod we’ve ever tested, but it’s the ideal solution to a light bite.

$629 | stcroixrods.com

THE TACKLE TEST TEAM

  • Dr. Todd A. Kuhn is Game & Fish’s South region editor. He holds a Ph.D. in environmental engineering and has 18 U.S. patents for outdoor gear. He’s been fishing for more than 50 years.
  • Capt. Jamie Harris, a fishing tackle gearhead in the truest sense, has been fishing for more than 40 years and guiding for 20 years. He is considered a master of Florida’s St. John’s River and Mosquito Lagoon.
  • Ken Duke is a regular contributor to Game & Fish and is the managing editor of Fishing Tackle Retailer. He has authored several books on bass fishing, and his work has appeared in more than 50 publications.
  • Lee Sisson is a living legend in the bass fishing world. Working with Bagley Bait Company in the 1970s and ’80s, he created the first deep-diving crankbaits. Sisson qualified for and fished a season on the Bassmaster Elite Series at the age of 62.

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