Best Fishing Rods & Reels – 2021 Guide

Geoff Stadnyk in Rods on

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It’s always tempting when coming up with a “best of” list, to go for the premium quality, high ticket items. Sure, these are usually the best, when it comes to quality and performance, but they are seldom the best value. This is especially true when it comes to fishing rods. The best fishing rods are not necessarily the most expensive fishing rods.

So for the purpose of this post, we are trying to steer away from rods that cost several thousand dollars, and instead, try and highlight the best fishing rods that provide a good balance between price, quality and functionality.

The Best Fly Fishing Rod

1This is a really tough category. Fly fishing has always, for some reason, been a facet of the sport where the tackle seems to cost so much more. A typical high end fly rod could cost $5,000 or more. Yet a top end spinning rod is only going to be ¼ of this price. Same materials, same manufacturing process, but widely different pricing.

For this reason we are going to give two separate rods in this category, one at a higher price and one at a lower.

Hardy Zenith Fly Fishing Rod

best-fishing-rods_01At a little over $1,000 this is not a cheap fishing rod, but for a fly fishing rod, it’s actually pretty reasonable. With this rod, you are buying in to the famous Hardy brand name, the top fly fishing brand in the world.

This is a long rod, it come in four sections, and is over 15 feet in length when assembled. This means that as fly fishing rods go, you won’t be using this on your local creek or narrow river. This is a powerful, long casting Stillwater fly fishing rod.

It uses the Hardy patented Sintrix rod construction methods, to produce a lightweight rod, which is up to 60% stronger than similar rods from other manufacturers. This is a pretty major thing when we are talking about taking big Salmon or even Bass on the fly.

Redington Vapen Red PowerGrip Handle Fly Rod

best-fishing-rods_02Now that we have got the Hardy fly rod out of the way, it’s time to get a little more sensible. We are going to look at the sub $500 price tag, suitable for beginners to fly fishing. We have chosen the Redington, at just $350 for this.

It’s a great fly fishing rod, but traditional it is not. It flies in the face of tradition, and brings bang up to date rod technology to the fly fisherman.  This is an all-purpose fly fishing rod that uses the Redington PowerGrip feature to deliver a tough, powerful fly fishing rod that gets the job done. It’s not going to impress your snobbish Hardy owning neighbor, that is until he sees the way it can handle fish. Then he might just look twice.

The Best Spinning Rod

Again, another tough category, simply because spinning/lure fishing is such a diverse branch of the sport. So we had to do some winnowing through choices, to come up with what we think is the best overall spinning rod for us

St. Croix Legend Inshore Spinning Rod

best-fishing-rods_03First off, let’s just say that this is a diverse category, and when choosing this rod we looked at quality and versatility. So this rod was chosen because for freshwater lure fishing, it really can do everything. It’s built on a fairly short 7’ 6” blank, so casting those big lures way out in to large waters is not going to be as easy as with a 10” plus lure rod. However, it has plenty of power, so you won’t fall much short of the mark of a longer rod when casting weighty lures.

This is a graphite rod, which uses the St. Croix patented Advanced Reinforcing Technology (ART) to provide stiffness and power, at a much lighter weight than a pure carbon blank. Overall, a great additional to any rod bag.

The Best Trolling Rod

OK, this is probably the hardest category of all to choose. The best fishing rod for trolling can cost more than $10,000 for serious sport fishermen and charter captains. We really want to stay out of that price range, but still present a rod that can get the job done.

Blue Marlin Tournament Edition

best-fishing-rods_04No flash at all with these rods form Blue Marlin. No cutting edge technology, no clever use of materials, just pure grunt, plain and simple power delivered the old fashioned way, heavy building. But here is the kicker, if you want a powerful trolling rod that can handle the very largest fish, and you don’t want to pay thousands of dollars, this is the way to do it.

This rod comes with two separate butt sections, a straight one and a bent one, so it will fit most boat usage, from trolling straight off the back to running a shotgun rig off the upper deck. If you need a no fuss, plain and simple trolling rod, then this is a great choice.

The Best Specimen Rod

An interesting category this, as to find the right product, we had to step outside of the more mainstream American products. By specimen rod, we mean a rod that can be used for a variety of species, such as catfish, carp, pike, zander and barbell. We actually settled on a pure carp rod, but one that can still tackle all of these other species well.

Daiwa Black Widow Carp 2 parts

best-fishing-rods_05In the UK, the Black Widow from Daiwa has almost legendary status. For years it has been the top selling 12” carp rod. It is also entirely capable of taking on similar large specimen species. It is available in the USA as well, although it is nowhere near as well-known.

This is a 12” carbon composite blank, with a 4 ½ lb test curve and a full action from tip to butt. It has the usual Daiwa quality, and it simply exudes power. This is the reason it has been so popular. Either casting a 1oz weight 90 yards or more, or playing large carp and catfish of over 40lb, this rod can pour on the power in a very impressive fashion. When we tell you it costs less than $100, then you need to ask yourself why you don’t own one? This is a classic fishing rod, arguably one of the best fishing rods every built, and worthy of space in everybody’s rod bag, even if you don’t get to use it very often.

Geoff Stadnyk

Geoff started fishing as a child in the gorgeous lakes of Mammoth, while on family vacations. His fishing experience includes the use of fly rod and reel. Guided trips along the Madison and Gallatin rivers in Montana, the Frying Pan and Animus in Colorado, and the Deschutes river in Oregon have all paid off and helped make Geoff the angler and writer that he is today.