Picking out a rod and reel for the various types of fishing techniques and fish species can be daunting, even for those of us who have years of fishing experience under out belt. The challenge for novice anglers is even greater. There are thousands of different reel and rod options and millions of combinations of the two.
A combo is simply the full package of a rod and reel that can be purchased together and is often a great option for new anglers or those looking for a good deal. Another important quality of rod and reel combos are that the manufacturers often provide these combos with a significant discount.
In this article, we will look at several different rod and reel combos that are available for a wide range of fishing techniques that we feel offer some of the best prices for their performance. We will also discuss what is important to look at and research when searching for a rod and reel combo.
|#1||TFO NXT Large||5|
|#2||Zebco Ready Tackle||4|
|#3||Abu Garcia Silver Max||3.3|
|#5||Penn Battle II||3.5|
What to Look for in a Rod and Reel Combo
What you should pay attention to:
- Gear Ratio
Obviously, there are several common types of reels available. You have a baitcaster, which is great for using heavier lures and lines and being able to cast at longer distances and is great for bass to larger game fish.
Spinning reels are easier to learn and become proficient with and are great finesse tackle fishing.
Spincast reels are great for kids just learning the sport and fly fishing gear is in a whole different realm of fishing.
In our experience, quality graphite and aluminum are the best materials.
Graphite is much lighter while aluminum provides a much more rugged and corrosion resistant reel.
For the most part, these are the two main materials that you will find on fishing reels, and it’s because they work.
A reel’s drag is one of the most important systems and should be given a lot of thought when picking out a combo. Drag is what allows you to slow and tire a fish out making it easier to put in the boat.
The first quality of a drag system is going to be the max amount of pressure that it can put out. This number is going to be relative to the type of fish that you have in mind to catch.
Besides the total amount of drag that a reel can dish out, the consistency of the pressure, as well as the low start up inertia of the drag, is important for any reel used for any species.
Ball bearings are an extremely important aspect to a reel as they provide key structural support to the gear system and keep the reel running smoothly.
Without quality bearings, the gear system will not be near as efficient, and your ability to land fish quickly becomes a chore.
More bearings do not always mean a better reel. You should be more concerned with quality, and often, the more expensive reels are going to have more quality bearings.
For the first few outings, even cheap bearings will not make much of a difference in performance, but over time you will see a steep decline in a reel’s performance.
The gear ratio tells you how many revolutions of the spool you get from a single turn of the reel’s handle.
As an example, a gear ratio of 6.2:1 tells you that the spool goes through 6.2 revolutions every time the handle is turned. The higher the gear ratio, the faster you can bring in line off the water and back onto the spool, which means you can land fish with less effort.
The type of material that the rod is made from can impact the rod’s performance characteristics.
The most common materials that fishing rods are constructed from are a graphite composite or a type of fiberglass.
Graphite gives you a lighter rod that is extremely sensitive, and if manufactured well, they can have strong backbones. Fiberglass rods are stronger and can take more pressure without breaking, but you sacrifice sensitivity.
The length of the rod is going to play a large role in how the rod performs, especially when it comes to casting.
Longer rods, especially when a little stiffer, are going to give you a lot more distance on your cast, but you often lose accuracy at shorter distances.
Shorter rods are more accurate but have a more difficult time gaining distance. Shorter rods might also be more effective in tighter areas where you might not have as much room to cast.
The action of a rod refers to where the rod bends when pressure is applied. These are usually labeled with terms such as slow, moderate, and fast with countless intermediates.
Moderate action rods are a probably the most versatile rods that can cover a wide range of fishing applications and if you’re buying a combo, might be the best option.
The power of a rod refers to the amount of pressure that it takes to cause the rod to bend.
Rod powers are often labeled with terms such as ultralight, light, medium, and heavy with intermediate levels.
The heavier the power, the less sensitive the rod, but they are better suited for larger and more aggressive fish.
Best Rod and Reel Combos
|#1||TFO NXT Large||5|
|#2||Zebco Ready Tackle||4|
|#3||Abu Garcia Silver Max||3.3|
|#5||Penn Battle II||3.5|
TFO NXT Fly Fishing Outfit
We like this combo as our choice for the best fly rod combo for several reasons.
As we mentioned earlier, combos are great for those looking to get into the sport but don’t quite have the knowledge base yet to pair up a rod and reel together.
Maybe more so than normal spinning and casting applications, fly fishing, and the gear can be even more technical.
There are three different models of this combo available. There are a 4/5wt 8’6″, 5/6wt 9′, and an 8/9wt 9′ rod combo available. Each come with an NXT reel that is able is sized and spooled with the proper weight forward fly line. All models also come in a 4piece set which makes this an excellent option for traveling.
All models have beautiful forest green blanks, and high-quality cork handles. The largest model uses a full wells grip design with a small fighting but. The real seat features a graphite insert and a single uplocking mechanism that holds the NXT reel securely.
The TFO NXT fly rod is the perfect action and power for those looking to learn the ins and outs of fly fishing. All of the models are medium fast action with a moderate power rating. This is a rod that is much easier for beginners to learn casting on and is also versatile enough for small to larger fly presentations.
The casting and accuracy of these rods are way above the price range. You might have some issues reaching out to 60+ feet with the 4/5wt, and the short range accuracy is suspect with the 8/9wt model, but besides these two extremes you will be pleased with how this combo handles.
The NXT reel is a large arbor aluminum cast reel that uses a disc drag system. The drag is adjustable and is more than enough to easily handle trout on the smaller model and larger freshwater fish on the largest.
- Great action and power for versatile fly fishing
- Overall good performance
- Selection of weights
- Quality cork handle
- Comes with carrying case
- Reel comes spooled with weight forward floating line
- Travel friendly
- Not the best drag on the NXT reel
- Reel can get dinged up easily
This is a fantastic combo for freshwater fly fishing. It is affordable and set up so that beginners will be able to fish, but it also has performance qualities that make it an excellent choice for more experienced anglers that are looking for a backup rod and reel or a travel set.
Zebco Ready Tackle Spincast Combo
Spincast rods are the easiest type of reels to learn casting and fishing with.
They are not at the top of any category, but if you’re buying a combo for a child with little to no fishing experience, this type of combo is ideal.
Zebco is one of the world leaders when it comes to spincast rods, and this Ready Tackle Spincast Kit provides quality at an extremely affordable price.
This combo also comes with a tackle kit that includes bobbers, hooks, and other accessories needed for a day on the water.
The rod is a two piece set and has a length of 5′ 6″. It can be considered medium power, but it doesn’t make much of a difference as this is going to be used mainly by younger children going after panfish. It does feature a nice and comfortable EVA foam grip, and the reel seat holds the reel in well.
The reel is a simple spincaster with a push-button spool release. It has a gear ratio of 2.6:1 so it is best served with some live bait and a bobber, which is all a young angler needs. The spool can hold a decent amount of 6-14lb test line.
- Easy to handle by children
- Low maintenance reel
- Comfortable grip
- Durable rod
- Only for kids learning to fish
It’s a simple and durable rod that will serve its purpose of being able to be handled by a younger child, and it will easily handle smaller panfish and even some small bass and small catfish.
Abu Garcia Silver Max
There are three models of this combo that are available.
Two of the models use a 6’6″ moderate fast action and medium power graphite rod with the reel being either a right or left-handed orientation.
The third model uses a 7′ fast action and medium heavy power graphite rod with a right handed oriented reel. The two rod options let you have an option for a little more specificity between the rod and the type of fishing that you have in mind.
All rods uses stainless steel single foot guides and an EVA foam handle grip.
The Silver Max reel is extremely lightweight with the graphite frame and side plates, but it is rugged enough most bass that you might hook into on the lake and be able to work efficiently. It is a low profile reel that fits comfortably in your palm, and the double winged reel handle sits well out of the way for easy use.
The PowerDisk Drag System used on the Silver Max reels can generate 15lbs of max drag pressure.
Some might think this is a low number, but 15lbs is more than enough for most freshwater species. The real pro to this drag system is the smoothness at start up and the fine incremental changes that can be made to the amount of drag throughout its range.
This reel uses a magnetic breaking system that is consistent through the cast, and when used properly with the spool tension and lure size it greatly reduces the chances for backlash.
This reel feels great in your hands, and it has excellent casting and retrieval speeds. It will be able to throw heavier lures, and we have had no problem tossing out 1oz lures.
All reels in the three combo options have a 6.4:1 gear ratio. It’s nothing spectacular regarding speed, but it’s more than enough to work most bass lures effectively.
- Plenty of combo options
- Light and ergonomic reel
- Sensitive graphite rod
- Smooth drag and sensitive adjustments
- Comfortable EVA handle
- Durable reel
- Low max drag
- Graphite body not great under duress
This is a reel that has been designed from the gears, bearings, to the aluminum spool to last for a long time. Not only will you be able to use this reel for countless trips, but the Silver Max is going to deliver optimal performance time and time again.
Pflueger President Spinning Combo
The IM-8 graphite rod is a perfect pairing with this spinning reel. There are several combos available with the different rod lengths, and we think that overall, Pflueger does a tremendous job at pairing the properly sized reel with rod lengths and power settings to give you the perfect rig for whatever fishing situation you have in mind.
The rod has fantastic sensitivity and is also available in several power settings from ultralight to medium power.
With the largest combo model, you can even use up to 1oz lures effectively, which is often difficult with most freshwater spinning outfits.
You are also going to enjoy the split grip handle that is made from high-quality cork. The reel seat uses a single downlocking steel hood that keeps the President Reel locked in securely.
The President reel also offers a lot of excellent performance qualities. These reels are made from high-quality graphite along with an aluminum spool, handle, and bail. These are extremely lightweight reels, but they are still able to hang with larger fish and still show excellent performance.
All reel sizes available have a 5.2:1 gear ratio, which is around average for most spinning reels and has line retrieval rates ranging between 20.7-30.2″.
We also like the smooth multi-drag system that uses stainless steel and oiled felt washers to dish out between 6-12lbs of max drag. For freshwater fishing, this max drag along with the smooth and consistent performance is enough to put the brakes on fish.
You might find the retrieval to be a little jerky when trying to handle those monster fish you get lucky, or maybe its skill, to hook into now and then. You can still get the fish in, but there are some bumps along the way.
- Excellent reel and rod balance
- High-quality graphite rod
- Various rod power options
- Fantastic drag system on the reel
- Smooth reel performance
- Very affordable price
- Can feel jerky when working larger fish
Overall, the Pflueger President Spinning Combo is a terrific freshwater spinning outfit that gives you a lot of model options to chase trout to salmon and everything in between. It offers excellent casting performance, and with nine quality ball bearings, it gives a wonderfully smooth feel even when working fish.
PENN Battle II Combo
For chasing larger fish species, our pick for a rod and reel combo is the PENN Battle II combo.
There are nine different versions of this combo, but for chasing after the trophy fish, we recommend five larger models available.
The graphite rods in these combos that we recommend for larger game, the 5000 and larger models, come in a variety of lengths, actions, and rod power settings.
The rod lengths range from 7-10’ in length. There are medium fast to fast action models with medium to heavy power ratings giving you a lot of options and the ability to pick a rod and reel setup that matches well with the type of fishing you have in mind.
For the larger combo models, which we would recommend for trophy fish, the handles are an EVA foam split grip handle style that is comfortable and will maintain a grip under adverse conditions.
The rod also features an excellent reel seat that has two aluminum hoods and uplocking mechanism that keeps your Battle II reel locked in securely giving you added sensitivity to hits as well as the confidence that your reel is going to remain in place when working those wall hangers.
The full metal body and side plates of these reels make them excellent for standing up to the abuse of large fish and being able to maintain form for the gear and bearing (5 stainless steel) to be able to perform at top levels and speeds.
The HT-100 drag system also allows for these reels to dish out 25-30lbs of maximum drag pressure. The drag is smooth, but it seems a little jumpy when trying to fine tune the pressure.
Line retrieval rates for these reels fall between 36 and 44” which is a great range for getting in line as efficiently as possible when working large fish. The gear ratios for all, the five models we have been discussing, have a gear ratio of 5.6:1 which is fantastic for larger spinning reels. The largest model is quite a bit lower at 3.3:1, but it offers some serious cranking power.
These reels are built to be tough and which means they are a little on the heavy end, but PENN has paired them with the correct rod lengths, so casting never feels very tiring. The reels work as intended and give a smooth performance under duress. The oversized handle knob also aids in fighting aggressive fish.
- Large selection of models available
- Very usable EVA split grips
- Secure reel seats
- Superior durability
- Great retrieval speeds for the power
- High-quality graphite rods
- Not fully sealed body
- Not the best drag adjustment
While the larger models are capable of taking on saltwater game as well, these reels are not fully sealed, so prolonged exposed or dunking into the ocean is not advised.
With each of our choices being for a completely different niche of fishing, it is extremely difficult and makes a decision on what the best combo is. Obviously, that answer is going to change based on what type of fishing that you have in mind.
Regardless, there is one combo that we are particularly pleased with and think it is an overall fantastic option for any angler out there. It is the Abu Garcia Silver Max.
This combo is excellent for a wide range of fishing techniques with the various models that are available. The quality graphite rods are both sensitive and contain enough backbone to put some lift on larger fish. They are also easy to maneuver and maintain hold of with the EVA handle grips and trigger design. The low profile Silver Max reel has all the qualities of a high-performing baitcasting reel.
We hope that this article has outlined the benefits of going with a rod and reel combo and adequately described some important aspects of both the rod and the reel that you should be aware of. We also hope that you take advantage of the five rod and reel combo options that we provided.
Some other helpful resources: