Fishing Rod and Reel Matrix

The product recommendations on our site are independently chosen by our editors. When you click through our links, we may earn a commission. 

Some parts of the country are fortunate to not really have an offseason for fishing. They have temperate climates for fishing year round, and as a result, they don’t spend much time tinkering with tackle when the weather is less than desirable.

For the rest of us, however, snow, wind chills, and uncooperative fish, keep most of us at bay in the winter months, and we can only do so much reorganizing of our tackle. One activity I’ve done the last couple of years, is to create a combo matrix in the off season. I realized I was buying a rod here and a reel there whenever I could afford it. I didn’t buy rods and reels based on techniques together.

Tell me if I’m the only one who does this, but I would buy a rod because something new came out and I wanted a new jig/worm rod. Then later I’d see a new reel I wanted and buy it. When I got the rod, I moved a good reel from a different rod over to the new rod. Then when I got the new reel I put it on the old rod, or flip flopped again.

What’s lost in there is matching your rods and reels to maximize both for technique and combo. Do you want a 7:1 reel on a crankbait rod? Do you want a 6-foot rod with a reel that would be great for flipping?

How to build your matrix spreadsheet

So this winter, I stripped all my reels of line, removed them from their rods and oiled and greased each one while also notating their speed, bearings, weight, etc in a spreadsheet. Then I cleaned my rod handles and notated their length, action and weight as well.

Then I began the exercise of mixing and matching. Some were done based on reel speed. Some were done based on profile of the reel, lightness of the rod and just matching two of one brand reel with two of one brand rod and aspects of that nature. This results in me having very well matched and balanced rods and reels together for proper applications. It also gives me a lot of options because as I join the combos in my spreadsheet, I note what techniques that rod would be good for. That gives me a good handle on what pound and type line to put on each.

I want high speed reels on contact baits like worms and jigs so I can quickly tighten the line on a bite for a good penetrating hookset. I want slow reels with good torque and rods with flex on crankbait and spinnerbait combos for flex and to give the fish a chance to eat the bait on a swiping strike.

Rod Description Length Power/Action Reel Description Line Technique for Combo
Tharp Series B-Hittay 7-foot MH / Mod Fast Team Lew’s Custom Pro 7.5:1 16-pound Chatterbait
Lew’s Custom Ledge 7-4 MH / Fast Team Lew’s Super Duty 6.5:1 15-pound Deep Swimbait
Megabass OrochiXX 6-10 M/Mod Fast Daiwa Steez 7.1:1 10-pound Jerkbait
Doomsday The47 7-8 Heavy/XF 13 Fishing Concept A 20-pound Hard Swimbait

Some of the examples

You can see in the table above some examples of what my spreadsheet looks like right now. I paired fast reels on my jerkbait rod and my chatterbait rod. I paired slower reels on my swimbait rods. I put more moderate action rods with my reaction baits and more fast or extra fast action rods with hooks I need to drive like swimbaits or jigs. And matched the lines accordingly.

I put my two lowest speed reels on my two main crankbait rods. However I realize now, I’d like to have a couple more low gear ratio reels for night time spinnerbaits and maybe swimbaits. So that identified where I’d like to have a little more torque and slower speeds. So instead of putting 7:1 reels on those rods, I opted for 6.4:1 reels for now until I get the exact combination I’m looking for.

Most anglers can’t afford to buy 10 rods and reels at one time and make all the combos at once. You buy one here and there as budget allows. Because of that, you end up with a hodge podge of brands, actions and lengths for combos. For those of you in a similar boat, I find a little planning allows me to maximize and make what I have work for my fishing throughout various times of the year.

Anyone else mix and match in the offseason?