May 31, 2023
By Dr. Todd A. Kuhn
The Game & Fish Tackle Test team put these new spinning rods and reels up against Florida largemouth bass at Bienville Outdoors (Read Tackle Test baitcasting reviews here). Here's how each rod and reel performed.
SPINNING RODS & REELS
THE WINNERS: SPINNING RODS
Editor's Choice: Temple Fork Outfitters Resolve Bass
For years Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) has been quietly making fantastic fly rods for legions of fans. The new Resolve line of bass rods—both casting and spinning—is going to increase TFO’s fan base in the bass world very soon.
When you first handle the Resolve spinning rod, you will immediately notice how visually unremarkable it is. However, your first cast will find you ignoring the Resolve’s clever disguise. The blank is laid up using Toray carbon fiber, arguably the best in the rod-building business. The 7-foot-1-inch rod is complemented with Seaguide’s SS316 stainless-steel, single-foot guides with silicon nitride inserts. The tangle-free guide design slicks up line flow while minimizing wind knots.
What makes this 4.1-ounce rod such a great performer isn’t immediately obvious. The rod is rated medium-light with what we would call an extra-fast tip. Most of that crispness is in the top 10 inches. It is in this abbreviated section of the blank where all the juice gets squeezed. Rated for baits down to 1/8 ounce (and up to 1/2 ounce), the Resolve loads fluently with light lures. When throwing baits at the high end of the range, the tip section flattens, loading the blank deeper and efficiently managing the heavier offerings. On the cast, energy is transferred with no perceivable chatter or unwanted vibration—just a sensation of fluidity.
The reel seat is a Seaguide Soft Touch, with the blank exposed on both the bottom and the sides. AAA-grade cork is incorporated into the foregrip and lower split-grip portion. An aft-mounted lure keeper lets users get on the blank with their rod hand’s index finger for monitoring finesse baits without interference.
We felt the foregrip would be a skosh more ergonomic with a gentle taper to the blank, but that didn’t keep us from appreciating the rod’s performance. The Resolve carries a full lifetime warranty against defects. ($279.95; tforods.com)
- Bottom Line: The Resolve is one of the best-engineered rods we have tested.
Great Buy: 13 Fishing Meta
13 Fishing burst onto the bass scene several years ago with a funny name and some sensational, forward-thinking rod and reel offerings. The most notable rods on its roster have been higher-end models, until now. This year, 13 Fishing introduces its Meta lineup, a collaboration between the company and pro angler Gerald Swindle.
The Meta line is billed as a performance rod series that is incredibly rugged. Our 7-foot-1-inch Meta spinning rod had a medium power with an extra-fast taper. Finding a budget-priced spinning rod that floats in hand is tough. Low-end models are invariably built with less-than-desirable components and possess actions better suited to supporting barbed wire. Despite its price, the Meta is as nicely balanced a spinning rod as you’ll find.
The Japanese PVG 36-ton blank is radially wrapped, which ensures a rugged construct. At that tonnage, the blank offers reasonable sensitivity without brittleness. There is ample flexure near the tip with good backbone at the butt section. The Meta is rated for 6- to 12-pound-test lines and 3/16- to 5/8-ounce lures, and we found it especially qualified for light-lining applications, such as drop-shotting, shaky-heading or Ned-rigging. With its lively tip, this 13 Fishing spinner is limber enough to make it difficult for fish to spit baits.
The Evolve custom reel seat and split EVA grip are brawny and capable of withstanding abuse. An open-ended hook keeper, mounted near the butt, is convenient for stowing baits without having to unhook them (think Texas-rigged worms). Stainless steel, all-black, single-footed guides are lashed neatly with generous wraps and finished with a liberal slathering of resin.
Although we’d love to see some blank exposure on the reel seat (especially on a rod that’s rated for light lines), the Meta is still a very nice package. A 5-year warranty rounds out this well-priced and wonderfully balanced spinner. ($149.99; 13fishing.com)
- Bottom Line: This is a formidable spinning rod that easily handles light-lining chores at a reasonable price.
THE WINNERS: SPINNING REELS
Editor’s Choice: Abu Garcia Revo Rocket RKT
The first time you pick up and turn the striking, fire-engine-red Revo Rocket, you will be shocked. The spool arbor spins so fast you can hear and feel the air whirling around it. Gobbling up an insane 42 inches of line per turn, the second-generation Rocket spinner has a blistering 7.6:1 gear ratio. For most anglers, the obvious question is, “Do I really need all that speed?” Our answer is a resounding “yes.”
With this much speed, you can blaze baits through dead water, and send another cast out quickly to schooling fish. This adds more casts per outing, more time in productive water and potentially more fish in the tournament bag. The Rocket is also the perfect tool for sniping deep bass located on forward-facing sonar. Send a bait down to the onscreen blip; if the bass doesn’t react, scorch it back to the boat and fire off a new presentation to another candidate fish.
The all-machined-aluminum chassis is incredibly stout, as is the entire build. The lack of molded, polymer parts is noticeable, translating to a nearly bulletproof reel. The styling on the new Rocket is taken from Abu’s high-end Zenon spinning reel, the two being almost mirror images of each other, with minor cosmetic differences.
The build includes a 10-bearing complex, machined handle and paddle-style grip. We appreciated the new grip, which replaces previous laser-cut EVA knobs. At 7.3 ounces, the Rocket has some heft, but that’s the tradeoff for the build.
The drag is controlled by an oversized knob that is easily located during the fight. On the downside, this speed demon does not have a reverse lever, which may be a detraction for those who like to tame frisky fish with back reeling. ($199.95; abugarcia.com)
- Bottom Line: The aptly named Rocket boasts a blazing retrieve speed that will help you make more casts and ultimately catch more fish.
Great Buy: Lew's Custom Lite CL200
The Custom Lite is billed as the lightest premium spinning reel from Lew’s to date. We found it to be light in not only weight, but also price. The reel’s lack of mass is due, in part, to the carbon frame and rotor.
The onboard set of 11 stainless-steel bearings (10+1) manages turning chores precisely. Also noticeable is how well the reel balances when spun up—no small feat for a reel weighing 6.6 ounces.
The carbon-disc drag system and titanium-coated line roller pay line out smoothly and assist in keeping big fish fastened on skinny lines and light-gauge wire hooks. A reversible CNC-machined handle with an ergonomically contoured, laser-cut EVA knob (which is serviceable, though we’d love to see Lew’s famous paddle grip added to the Custom Lite) helps apply cranking power. A 6.2:1 gear box retrieves a respectable 32 inches per turn. A rubberized, textured insert on the spool makes spooling line a cinch. This feature helps you get braid on the spool very tightly for slip-free performance.
We feel the Custom Lite is a niche reel designed for anglers who opt for the lightest combos possible. When matched with a lightweight spinning rod, the pairing is a veritable finessing tool. Today in the faddy world of bass fishing, the name of the game is “finesse” when the bite or conditions turn tough. The Custom Lite excels at managing morsel-size baits like Ned rigs, drop shots, tubes, weightless stick-style worms and shaky heads when combing waters for tight-lipped fish. With a large payload of 160 yards of 8-pound-test line, the reel is at home fishing deep structure on long lines. ($159.99; lews.com)
- Bottom Line: This helium-light, economically priced performer has all the bells and whistles for finesse fishing.
THE FIELD: SPINNING RODS
- Abu Garcia John Cox General Purpose Pro Series: Abu’s John Cox General Purpose rod features a 36-ton graphite blank, making it particularly nimble with fantastic balance. Like other Abu offerings, the blank features the 3M 200 Powerlux resin system, adding to the rod’s performance. Much of the rod’s balance comes from the long, 14 3/4-inch spilt grip, which moves the center of gravity rearward. A cut-out reel seat and EVA foregrip add comfort. Titanium guides and a 3-year warranty round out this rod. ($199.95; abugarcia.com)
- Ark Essence: The 7-foot-1-inch Essence has a medium power, though it fishes heavier. The top third of the blank loads great with lighter baits. Designed for 6- to 12-pound-test lines, the Ark excelled with a variety of offerings. For those who like to throw jerkbaits on spinning gear, this rod is the ticket. The full-length, AAA-cork grip is very nice and tapers thinly in the mid-section with a large butt for fatigue-free, all-day fishing sessions. ($179.99; arkrods.com)
- Cashion Element Multi-Purpose: The American-made Element Multi-Purpose, with a proprietary pre-preg carbon fiber and epoxy formulation, was designed for a variety of techniques. Our test rod was rated for 3/16- to 5/8-ounce lures and 8- to 12-pound-test line, making it a good fit for most spinning tactics. Nine single-foot, large-diameter guides with ceramic inserts offer the ability to throw a variety of line types. An open, drop-shot-style hook hanger is standard. ($129.95; cashionrods.com)
- Daiwa Tatula XT: Like its casting counterpart, which earned our “Great Buy” award, the Tatula spinning rod is a sensational value. We feel the blank is as tough as you’ll find, yet it retains the sensitivity of rods priced much higher. Its braided carbon-fiber construction accounts for the rod’s robustness and reduces unwanted blank twisting. An aft-mounted reel seat and comfortable palm swell are among the praiseworthy ergonomic touches. ($99.99; daiwa.us)
- Fenwick Elite Bass: The Elite Bass spinning rod is a mid-priced offering with a lot to like. The 3M Powerlux 200 resin system solidifies the blank while improving overall sensitivity. Our medium-power rod will be a good choice for generalists looking for a single spinning rod that will perform well in numerous applications. These include Texas-rigged plastics (6-inch, optimally), small swimbaits (3- to 4-inch) and larger jerkbaits. A limited lifetime warranty is included. ($169.95; purefishing.com/fenwick)
- Halo HFX Series: The HFX series from Halo features top-of-the-line Japanese Toray carbon. The big, 7-foot-6-inch spin stick is rated for 6- to 14-pound-test lines. The added length makes it a solid option for anglers who like throwing jerkbaits into the next ZIP code on spinning gear. The HFX enables anglers to search with jerkbaits or fish light-line techniques, like Ned rigs and shaky heads, on small-diameter clear lines and single hooks. The rod’s medium action and extra-fast tip keeps fish buttoned. ($149.99; americanbaitworks.com)
- Lew’s American Hero Tier 1: The American Hero Tier 1 is built on a 50-ton, high-modulus blank and is very light due to the thin-wall design. A unique hooded reel seat with rounded interface surfaces presents a seamless hold. At 7 feet 2 inches, the Tier 1 excels at covering water. A very large EVA butt is nice when bombing long casts with search baits. Once fish are found, the rod is quite capable of slowing down for precision tactics. ($129.99; lews.com)
- Lew’s Team Lew’s Elite Series: The top-of-the-line Elite spinning rod from Lew’s showcases tremendous design prowess. The Winn Dri-Tac-covered reel seat, which envelops the reel stem and base, is crazy comfortable and places the hand directly over the reel for exceptional balance. A “vibration ring” on the handle transfers ticks, taps and other sensations directly from the blank to the palm. An exceptionally thin, nimble blank will excel at managing light lures down to 3/16 ounce. ($349.99; lews.com)
- Megabass Destroyer P5 F3.1/2-611XS Addermine: This rod is an exceptional piece of engineering mastery. At 6 feet 11 inches with an extra-fast action, the Addermine possesses a just-right length and action for managing dainty baits. Rated down to 5-pound test, this spinner will paint light finesse baits with unparalleled precision. Lightly rigged drop shots, Ned rigs and wacky-rigged stick-style worms will all dance with joy. ($475; megabassusa.com)
- Shimano Expride: Shimano cross-stitches carbon fiber on the outer shell of its Expride blank to offer multi-directional support. A monocoque handle gives anglers superior feel and connection to the reel-seat complex. Our 7-foot-2-inch test rod, with a fabulous cork grip, is perfect for any bass application requiring a rigid butt section and a wispy tip. The Expride will excel with weighted soft plastics like 6- to 7-inch stick worms, as well as swimbaits and jerkbaits to 3/4 ounce. ($279.99; fish.shimano.com)
- Shimano SLX: Like its casting counterpart, the SLX spinning rod utilizes a cross-woven carbon-fiber blank layup that adds rigidity and prevents unwanted torsional flexure (twist). The SLX is rated for 10- to 40-pound Power Pro braid (Shimano’s branded braid), and 8- to 15-pound monofilament lines. We really like the simplicity of this rod, with its impressive balance and quality of construction, especially given the price. The no-fuss rod has a great reel seat and quality components. ($99.99; fish.shimano.com)
- St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass: The list of features on the Legend Tournament spinning rod reads like a who’s who of premium components. This American-made rod is designed to stand the test of time under the roughest on-the-water conditions. A proprietary resin-carbon combination makes the Legend both tough and sensitive. The full-cork foregrip was the best in the field and will be appreciated by those who use a hand-forward grip. An impressive 15-year transferable warranty is included. ($320; stcroixrods.com)
THE FIELD: SPINNING REELS
- 13 Fishing Axum 3.0: The Axum 3.0 has plenty of features to like, such as a nearly bulletproof gear box that incorporates a brass pinion. The rotor is sealed, keeping sand and salt out of the reel and prolonging its life. A corrosion-proof sleeve bearing, plus eight saltwater-rated bearings, are onboard. A ceramic line roller smooths retrieves and drag payout. For those looking for a crossover reel equally capable in both fresh water and the salt, the Axum is a solid option. ($155; 13fishing.com)
- Abu Garcia Revo SX: The Revo SX has a hefty design built for the long haul, with a stiff, all-aluminum frame and a brawny rotor and spool complex. The redesigned handle knob is as comfortable as any we’ve fished. The narrow frame and tall spool balance well, with the reel starting up without any perceived centrifugal vibration. Nine bearings and an oversized main gearing system turn tightly. The drag adjusts way down, helping anglers keep fish latched when finessing. ($169.95; abugarcia.com)
- Denali Fission Pro: A premium rod builder, Denali dips its toe into the reel market for the first time with the Fission, which offers some high-end features at a very reasonable price. A 7+1 bearing set supports the inner workings of the reel while a CNC-machined, fold-down handle with an EVA knob turns the assembly. A payload of 207 yards of 10-pound-test means the Denali is suited for long-lining techniques such as deep-water drop-shotting. ($99.99; denalifishing.com)
- Daiwa Procyon MQ: The Procyon MQ, with its one-piece, composite monocoque body, is an engineering marvel. The entire chassis, stem, gear box and rotor spindle are a single unit, resulting in a reel that is considerably lighter than its aluminum counterparts. The rotor generates minimal startup inertia, resulting in a noticeably smooth feel. A large T-handle provides a sizeable grab. Further demonstrating Daiwa’s engineering aptitude, the drag automatically adds pressure during the hookset, then returns to your preset adjustment for the fight. ($179.99; daiwa.us)
- Googan Squad 2500 Gold Series: The Gold Series is Googan Squad’s top-of-the-line spinning reel. A set of forged main gears turn on an 8+1 bearing complex. The carbon-infused frame is stout. The Gold Series holds plenty of line for almost any application (175 yards of 8-pound mono), and the large-diameter spool allows for longer casts while reducing maddening wind knots. A CNC-machined handle is equipped with a nicely contoured, rubberized knob. ($129.99; googansquad.com)
- Googan Squad 2500 Green Series: This reel’s distinct green accents make it easily recognizable in a crowded field. The 6.2:1-geared 2500 wraps 34 inches of line per handle turn. A 12-pound drag with carbon discs offers plenty of power and has a wide friction range. A 6+1 bearing set keeps internal tolerances tight while a rubberized line tie simplifies spool-filling chores. ($99.99; googansquad.com)
- Lew’s American Hero Tier 1: It may be value priced, but the American Hero Tier 1 is also a feature-packed reel. Aside from its attractive finish, the reel has a whopping 11 bearings and easily the best drag we’ve found on a spinner in this price range. The prominent drag knob is easy to find during operation. A combat grip, which is Lew’s iconic paddle with raised stippling, has just enough tack for hot and wet days alike. ($99.99; lews.com)
- Pflueger Patriarch: It is evident Pflueger engineers were focused on weight when redesigning the Patriarch. A magnesium frame and carbon rotor shave ounces off the assembly, as does the carbon handle and cork grip. CNC-machined gears and a titanium drive shaft are tough, and an 11-bearing set keeps the reel rotating in quiet harmony. The spool is specifically designed to maximize superline casting efficiency. ($199.99; purefishing.com)
- Shimano Miravel 2500HG: The reasonably priced Miravel offers some of the top-end features found on Shimano’s priciest spinning offerings. The carbon-infused body shifts the reel’s center of gravity forward. By doing so, the subsequent rod-reel combo balances more neutrally, resulting in a pronounced decrease in angler fatigue. The Miravel starts up from a dead stop with just a wisp of pressure due to a premium gear train, bearing set and lightweight rotor. This is indicative of an excellent design and quality components. ($129.99; fish.shimano.com)
HOW WE TESTED
The methodology used in our evaluation.
The Game & Fish Tackle Test utilizes a comprehensive scoring system to evaluate each rod and reel. Scores are tallied after each day on the water. Once the numbers are crunched (and after some heated debates), winners in each category are crowned. Evaluation categories include Design, Ergonomics, Fishability, Construction, Aesthetics and Price/Value. All testers score each piece of gear from 60 to 100 in each category. The Editor’s Choice award is bestowed upon the rods and reels with the best overall scores in each category, while the Great Buy award goes to those products that represent the greatest value.