The best fishing rods usually end up being the ones you use the most because they feel right and have the most application. Each angler chooses a rod a little different based on their fishing preferences, budget, size, age, etc. So one rod never fits everyone and fortunately we have nearly an unlimited supply of fishing rod options out there.
But there are certain things that will make one rod better than another. Often it boils down to materials and processes in the rod build. But it can also come down to brand, length, action, and even price. I have felt really good after purchasing a $300 fishing rod and really bad after purchasing a $99 rod. So a low or high price doesn’t always indicate value.
So let us quickly rundown a few things we consider when evaluating what will be the best fishing rod.
What matters in a good fishing rod
Obviously some materials are just better than others. Higher modular graphite, additional carbon fiber weaves, even the resin and clear coat can affect a rod’s performance, weight and balance. So higher quality materials to start generally yield a more sensitive rod with a more consistent action that won’t roll against its spline. I tend to like a middle of the road modulus for power techniques and a higher modulus material for more contact techniques.
This is the main determining factor for some folks, but I often advise if the best rod is a little above your budget, just wait a bit and save for the little bit better rod. In my experience, that little higher quality rod will last you a decade if you take care of it. So you are investing in long-term use. And we all want to enjoy our time on the water. Don’t settle for the absolute cheapest gear that is always causing you problems and aggravation on your personal time away from work and stress.
But don’t mistake this advice and believe I won’t grab a $79 rod if it feels like it’s well made and has good action and sensitivity. I have had some dynamite rods under $100 over the years. But typically speaking, I’m staying away from the $29 rods on Amazon.
Length can be personal but most of the time it’s functional. Now if you are doing something like say skipping a jig, then the length of the rod matters in that a rod that is too long for your height can make the technique and process a lot harder on you. That can lead to some long-term wear injuries like should and elbow tendonitis. So consider the technique when choosing your rod length.
I like a shorter rod for techniques where I am going to jerk the rod tip downward like a jerkbait or a topwater lure. So I often reach for a 6-foot, 10-inch rod instead of a 7-foot, 4-inch rod.
Same for throwing a big lure like a deep diving crankbait. I want a longer rod that loads the bait a lot better and gives me a lot more distance on a cast. And, conversely, you want a shorter rod when you are roll casting short casts into tight quarters
Action / Power
We went into depth on rod action and power in a previous article, but to briefly recap, match the rods action to the techniques you like to fish. I will give you a basic six-rod setup in the best rods section below to cover 90% of your fishing. But you want a little more backbone in rods you have to drive a single hook. And a little less in treble hook bait fishing rods. You want more action in a rod you have to work with your hand and arm and less action in a rod where you just straight reel your lure.
Brand is another one of those personal things, but it can also be a functional thing when it comes to fishing rods because some brands have long storied histories of making good rods — like G. Loomis for example. So you know you are going to get a good rod just starting with a trusted brand. Same could be said for any product you buy.
But some brands also just fit certain anglers style of fishing. Maybe you have a thundering hookset and you require a brand that makes really heavy duty blanks — like Falcon for example. Or maybe you enjoy the more finessey and ultra sensitive type rods and you might lean towards a boutique brand like Megabass.
So brand is always a consideration, but some new brands will really surprise you with their quality and lineups — like Ark and Sixgill for example.
Types of fishing rods
Really there are two main types of conventional rods which are spinning rods and casting rods. Then from there you have specialty rods like fly fishing rods, jigging rods similar to modern day cane poles, travel rods which can be multi-piece versions of the common spinning and casting rods and more.
Spinning rod setups fish with spinning reels. This setup has the reel underneath the rod so there is no need for a grip trigger. So it’s just a straight handle with a locking foregrip to hold the reel in place. A Tennessee handle has two guides that allow you to place a reel where you feel most comfortable on the handle, and then you tape the reel in place with electrical tape. But for the most part, spinning rods incorporate a standard stem-holding reel seat that locks in place with a screw-locking forenut or rear nut.
A casting rod is built with a trigger in the handle that is on the underside and the bait casting or spin cast reel sits on top of it. These rods are made to palm a baitcasting reel in your hand as you fish and the trigger is in place to keep your hand locked on and give you a little more leverage on a hookset. You push the thumb bar to let line out and cast. It takes some practice to learn to cast a baitcaster, but these types of setups have much wider applications because they can manage larger and various types of lines better than a spinning reel can. And you can build higher gear ratio reels with stronger drags generally speaking in baitcaster setups. You basically have a lot more options with baitcasting gear.
We have covered the best rods for crappie fishing already. And we intend to cover the best rods for walleye fishing and the best rods for catfishing. And eventually the best fly fishing rods. But considering largemouth bass is the most commonly chased freshwater game fish, and a good all-around bass rod can be used to fish for trout, crappie, catfish, walleye and more. This best fishing rod list will focus primarily around bass fishing.
Best Rods for Bass Fishing
About 9 years ago, I came up with the simple 6-rod and reel system for bass fishing. You can basically have six combos of rods and reels that would cover the larger majority of bass fishing and freshwater fishing techniques. I have revamped those original articles to come up with the best fishing rods for bass fishing today.
Best Spinnerbait / Chatterbait Rods
I think a good casting rod that can handle spinnerbaits, ChatterBaits and swim jigs is very handy rod for bass fishermen. I call it the “winding rod” because these are all baits that you just wind through cover shallow. So you need some finesse to direct your bait along a letdown or through some grass stalks, but you need some back bone to drive the hook.
A 6-foot, 10-inch rod is perfect for most anglers because you roll cast a lot with these baits to specific targets and lanes. If you bomb cast more with these baits where you fish, you might want a little more length on your rod.
This rod will match well with 15-17 pound fluorocarbon line or 30-40 pound braided line depending on what baits you will throw. It can also handle some light duty frog or heavier topwaters as well.
Some guys like a medium action rod for spinnerbaits and ChatterBaits but a medium heavy rod gives you more control of the fish in tight quarters and around obstructions like laydowns, stumps, dock posts, etc.
Best Spinnerbait rods we recommend:
- G.Loomis GCX Casting Rod 6’9″ Medium 812C SBR (Best Overall)
- Lew’s Custom Speed Stick Casting Rod 6’10” Medium
- Jenko DCVR Hustler Casting Rod 6’10” Med Hvy
- Ark Brandon Cobb Series Casting Rod 6’10” Med Hvy
- Daiwa Tatula Casting Rod 6’10” Med Hvy
- Abu Garcia Pro Casting Rod 6’10” Avena MH Spinnerbait
- Halo HFX Series Casting Rod 6’10” Medium
- Shimano Zodias Casting Rod 6’10” Med Hvy
Best Jig / Worm Rods
Every bass fisherman should own a sensitive and strong jig worm rod. This rod will have a good back bone with a little bit of tip action to accurately cast worms to cover or offshore targets. Most anglers will want a Medium Heavy power and a Fast action on this combo. A little more length will give you better casting and more ability to pick up line on a long cast to set a strong hook at distance.
A longer 7-foot to 7-foot, 4-inch rod usually suffices for this technique. Medium Heavy power gives you some flexibility with casting. If you want to step up to Heavy it won’t be as accurate casting but it could double as a flipping and pitching rod too.
A 12-pound to 17-pound line fluorocarbon line is best on this rod.
Best Jig Worm Rods we Recommend:
- G. Loomis NRX+ Casting Rod 7’1″ Med Hvy 853C JWR (Best Overall)
- Abu Garcia Veritas PLX TE Casting 7’3″ MH
- 13 Fishing Meta Casting Rod 7’3″ Med Hvy
- Ark Reinforcer Series Casting Rod 7’2″ Med Hvy
- Daiwa Tatula XT Casting Rod 7’1″ Med Hvy
- St. Croix Victory Casting Rod 7’1″ Med Hvy/Fast
- St. Croix Legend Tournament Cast Rod 7’1″ Med Hvy/Fast
Best Topwater / Jerkbait Rods
Anglers should place a lot of emphasis on a solid jerkbait / topwater rod. This is one rod where it pays to have it be higher quality. A lot of the other rods you are just holding in one place most of the day. Or you are just slowly lifting and lowering when you fish. But a good jerkbait rod needs to be very precise with its casting with hard to throw lures. And same with a topwater. And then you spend all day working the rod with lots of jerks and pauses. So a heavy rod or one that is out of balance can make for a long day of uncomfortable fishing.
This is another place where a shorter rod can help because you are constantly jerking the rod down towards the water all day. A longer rod can get problematic. A shorter rod will generally respond quicker and be lighter as a result.
A 6-foot, 6-inch to 6-foot, 10-inch rod fishes well for most anglers for jerkbaits and small topwaters. If you are going to throw bigger topwaters a little longer rod with a bit more backbone might be better.
This rod will generally have lighter line or smaller braid. Something like 10 to 12 pound fluorocarbon during jerkbait season works well, and a lighter 12-14 pound monofilament or 30 pound braid fits better for topwater season.
We already covered the best jerkbait rods in our other piece, but here is our quick rundown of some of our favorite topwater rods.
Best topwater rods we recommend:
- S.C Legend Tournament Cast Rod 6’8″ Med/X Fast (Best Overall Topwater)
- Shimano Expride B Cast Rod 6’10” Med Hvy
- G. Loomis IMX Pro Cast Rod 6’8″ Med Topwater 802 TWR
- Lew’s KVD IM8 Casting Rod 6’8″ Med Hvy
- 13 Fishing Meta Casting Rod 6’8″ Medium
- Abu Garcia Pro Rod Casting 7’4″ Lucas MH Topwater
- Daiwa Tatula Elite Casting Rod 7’4″ Med Hvy Howell
Best Crankbait Rods
Generally speaking, you will want a medium power rod with a moderate action to handle the wobble and pull of crankbaits with a lower gear-ratio reel paired with it. A 7-foot rod is a good starting place for an all-purpose crankbait rod. I will lean to a lighter medium light power and shorter rod for small shallow crankbaits and a longer medium to medium heavy power moderate action for bigger deep diving crankbaits. So a 7-foot medium is a good all-purpose middle of the road.
This rod will load when a fish sucks in the bait and give you a split second extra time for the bass to close their mouth and then load the rod to drive the hooks smoothly. You don’t have to set a hard whip crack hookset with these rods but rather just lean into the fish hard when it loads.
Normally this rod will have 10 to 12-pound fluorocarbon on it.
Best crankbait rods we recommend:
- Abu Garcia Winch Casting Rod 7′ Medium
- 13 Fishing Envy Black III Cranking Rod 7’4″ Cranking
- Ark Essence Series Casting Rod 7’4″ Med Hvy Composite
- Lew’s KVD Composite Cranking Cast Rod 7′ Medium
- St. Croix Mojo Bass Glass Cranking Rod 7’2″ Medium
- Halo HFX Series Cranking Rod 7′ Medium
Best Big Rods for Flipping / Swimbaits
A good flipping rod starts at 7-foot lengths and can go all the way to 8-foot lengths for flipping in grass. And a good swimbait rod starts at about 7-foot, 6-inch lengths and goes to 8 foot or longer lengths. I will say that most of of the time I am using a different rod for flipping than I am for throwing swimbaits.
But if you want to keep the budget to a minimum you can get by with a flipping rod that can handle 2 ounce baits. That works well for throwing baits like big soft swimbaits on Weighted Beast Hooks, or pre-rigged soft swimbaits as well as big swimbaits on lead heads like the Scottsboro Tackle swimbait on a 1-ounce head for fishing offshore.
And you can punch 1 ounce weights with small beaver baits through matted grass or pitch 3/8 ounce bullet weights with creature baits into bushes.
I like 20-25 pound fluorocarbon for flipping or a heavy braided line for flipping heavy grass. And I like a 20-pound fluorocarbon for bigger soft swimbaits and a 20-pound copolymer line for smaller hard swimbaits and glide baits.
Best Flipping Rods / Swimbait Rods we recommend:
- Sixgill Fenrir Series Flipping Stick
- Ark Invoker Pro Series Casting Rod 7’1″ Heavy
- Fitzgerald Stunner HD Casting Rod 7’3″ Heavy
- Lew’s Elite Series Casting Rod 7’4″ Heavy
- St. Croix Legend Tournament 7’3″ Hvy/X-Fast
- Daiwa Tatula XT Casting Rod 7’6″ Extra Hvy (Best dual purpose rod)
- Shimano Zodias Casting Rod 7’4″ Xtra Hvy Plus
- Jenko Fishing Savant Swimbait Rod 7’9″ Med Hvy/Fast
- Genesis III Casting Rod 8′ Swimbait Bailey Swim Heavy (Best Overall Swimbait)
- Leviathan Omega Swimbait Casting Rods
Best Spinning Rods for Finesse
The final rod every angler should have and maybe even start with when getting into bass fishing is a good spinning rod and reel combo that can handle lighter finesse techniques like Ned rigs, Neko rigs, drop shots, wacky rigs, spy baits, small swimbaits and even cranking small finesse crankbaits like Shad Raps. And this rod can also catch crappie, walleye, panfish, catfish and more. So it’s a jack of all trades rod for freshwater fishing.
A medium power rod with a fast action with a 7-foot length gets the job done for most people. And a 10 to 20-pound braided line, with a fluorocarbon leader serves almost all the purposes well.
Best All-Around Spinning Rods we recommend:
- St. Croix Victory Spinning Rod 7’1″ Med-Fast
- Shimano Poison Adrena Spinning Rod 7′ Medium
- Sixgill Myakka Series 7’2” M F
- Shimano Expride B Spin Rods 7′ Medium
- Daiwa Tatula Elite AGS Spin Rod 7’1″ Med Ehrler
- Ark Invoker Pro Series Spinning Rod 7’1″ Medium
- MEGABASS Orochi XX Spinning Rod Whipsnake 6’11”
With these 6 rods you can cover almost all of the situations in bass fishing. You will have to change lines on some reels to use these rods for double duty throughout the different seasons. But these rods can also fish a lot of other lures we didn’t mention like blade baits, frogs, spoons, etc.
So you can do a lot with these 6 rods and obviously they way one angler fishes is different from another. So you may want 4 crankbait rods and now big swimbait rod. Or you might want all spinning rods and reels. This is just a guide to the most popular techniques and the best rods for each as well as some specific suggestions on the best rods we like in each of these categories that we have personal experience with.
Other Fishing Rod Questions and Answers
1 Piece vs 2 piece fishing rods?
Used to a one-piece rod was far superior to two-piece rod because you had issues with rigidity and the ferrels fraying and breaking over time. But today’s two-piece rods have improved greatly and most of my two-piece rods are just as good as my one-piece rods but with the added benefit of being able to travel with me in a car or plane a lot easier. But generally speaking, I opt for a 1-piece for most of my main core bass fishing rods for more durability and fluid performance throughout.
What length rod is best?
I think for bass fishing, a 7-foot rod is hard to beat. Bass are fast and vicious predators so they can move quickly to take a bait and introduce slack. A 7-foot rod can take up a lot of line and drive a solid hookset even at distance. Shorter rods can be a little more precise in tight quarters and a longer rod can get you a bit more distance, but 7 feet is a great place to rest for bass fishing rods.
What rod can catch the most different types of fish?
I think a 7-foot spinning rod in a medium or medium light power and fast action can double duty as a great bass rod, crappie rod, trout rod, bluegill rod, walleye rod and even catfish rod. I wouldn’t want to fight a 30-pound blue or flathead on it. But it will catch you plenty of channel cats. But a 7-foot medium spinning rod can do a lot. A medium light can throw lighter baits for panfish better and is what I use most of the time for crappie fishing.
I also am a big advocate of bait finesse system rods now which uses lighter casting rods and bait casting reels geared specifically to throw light baits. I have caught bass, crappie, bluegill, stripers, white bass, yellow bass, shell crackers, catfish, drum and yellow perch on my bait finesse setups. While your tackle is usually on the smaller side, it’s a fun way to catch a lot of different fish species on small tackle.
Hopefully this round-up will help give you some ideas on rods for various bass fishing applications.