When you’re shopping for a fishing rod you might be overwhelmed by the options. And there are so many price points for each. But do you really need the expensive ones?
Like most things the answer is – it depends. Do you want a fishing rod just to test out fishing for a day on the lake or do you want a professional grade rod that lets you cast farther, feel every little thing, and is lightweight and comfortable?
You can buy a fishing rod for as low as $40 and still get great use out of it and catch fish. If you want something nicer and plan on fishing as hobby, you’ll want to upgrade to around the $100 range. If you plan on becoming a professional though – those rods are upwards of $300.
So lets start with the basic options and what you’ll get, then move on to why fishing rods become more expensive and what features they offer. I’ll also give my personal recommendation of rods that are the best bang for the buck at each price range.
The basic and cheapest fishing rod
You actually can purchase a fishing rod that will catch fish and never break for $40. My favorite in particular is the Ugly Stik GX2 which I caught all of my first fish on.
The reason these rods are so cheap is that they are made with sub-par materials. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will break or degrade, my Ugly Stik is still almost as good as new after 20 years of fishing with it.
But you won’t get maximum casting distance with them as the eyelets are often slightly rough and have large holes which makes line rattle around during casts, limiting distance.
You also are much less likely to feel bites as the material used in the rods are cheap and not made for sensitivity. Generally, the more graphite a rod has, the more sensitive it is. Cheap rods have little graphite, whereas more expensive have more. The Ugly Stik I mentioned has a combination of graphite and fiberglass which makes it extremely durable, but less sensitive.
You’ll also find these rods are usually a little heavier and uncomfortable to use for long periods of time. This again comes down to the materials used – as they don’t go all out for high-grade lightweight materials or design ergonomically. The price reflects that.
But can you catch a fish with a basic rod? Absolutely. I still do it all the time. So if you just want to buy something to catch fish with and not worry about developing fishing as a hobby – just buy an Ugly Stik GX2 at whatever length feels comfortable for you. 6 feet is always a good option.
Do remember that you need a fishing reel as well as fishing line if you don’t already have those available. So if you need a reel and pole, make sure you’re buying a combo which includes both. This option from Bass Pro is only $50
Fishing rods for the hobbyist
Maybe you’ve used the basic rods and want to upgrade or you feel like you want to make fishing a hobby. Then you’re in line for what I consider a performance grade rod. These average about $100 and are basically all that I personally own.
These rods will do everything your basic rod will do and then more. They generally have more eyelets and are smoothly coated allowing for longer casting distances. They also are made with more graphite and other upgraded materials which allows for much better sensitivity so that you can feel almost everything under the water. And, if you get the right one, they are very lightweight and comfortable for extended periods of use.
I personally would recommend the St. Croix Triumph series of fishing rods or the Fenwick HMG series. These are both excellently priced options that have great durability, sensitivity, and are extremely lightweight and comfortable for their price. They’ll give you much more than the basic series of rods like the Ugly Stiks have to offer and even compete with some of the features you’ll get in $200 rods.
Again, these need reels to combine with but I recommend not going with whatever combo is available and instead researching what type of reel you really want to buy. Once you’re upgrading above your basic rod, you’ll be saving money and getting something much better suited for you if you buy the reel and rod individually in most cases.
But if you find the reel and rod combo you want together, there could always be potential savings as well. This combo includes the Fenwick HMG with a Pflueger Supreme which are both $100 individually. But together, you can get them $180 and save $20 for line and lures.
If you want to learn more about selecting the right line for you rod, read this article.
The best rods you can buy
Maybe you’re ready to just jump right in and get the best rod available? You’re going to be spending a pretty penny for these professional grade rods but they are the best thing to have if you take your fishing seriously.
Essentially they will have everything the performance grade rod offers but even better. They are made with the most optimal materials which give you the greatest sensitivity imaginable. You will quite literally feel every little twig in the water and the slightest of bites. You can cast them a mile. They’ll almost never break if you treat them well and you can use them all day long and not have any complaints. They are so lightweight, comfortable, and balanced.
My recommendation for this grade of rod is the G. Loomis E6X series of rods. For my money, G. Loomis has the greatest rods on the market right now and they’re actually priced very reasonably. You’ll be paying just north of $200 for a rod that is competing with ones in the $300 range. It’s the best fishing rod I have ever used and if I could afford it, would be the only thing on my boat.
Once you get to this grade of rod, combos are not typically offered. If you’re spending this much on a rod you probably want the ability to hand choose the reel to match and I recommend that you do. Testing a reel in person is almost a necessity when you’re looking at this level of rod.
You should know have the knowledge to know how much you should be spending on a fishing rod. I, like most fisherman, started with a cheap Ugly Stik combo and caught hundreds of fish. As I got older, got some cash, and decided I wanted to take fishing more seriously I upgraded to performance rods and tried lots of brands. I think of them all, Fenwick and St. Croix are the best for the money. But if you’re ready to even go above that and get professional grade – try the G. Loomis rods. They are still the best on the market in my opinion considering their price tag.