Have you ever been in the rod aisle at your favorite tackle shop and just feel completely overwhelmed by the amount of options? There are so many brands with different colors, sizes, and actions. It can be quite intimidating!
So if you don’t know where to start – this article is for you. I’m going to break down the best rod brands that you should be looking at in each price point. Then, with a brand in mind, you can start looking at the specific rods in their lineup that are best for you. So to help, I’ll include the pros and cons of each brand as well as what type of angler I would recommend them to.
To give you a sneak preview, here are the fishing rod brands that I recommend you buy from cheapest to most expensive –
But to learn the real differences between each, as well as a few other honorable mentions (including my favorite under the radar brand), keep reading!
Bass Pro Shops Graphite Series
There is one name synonymous with fishing gear and apparel – Bass Pro Shops. So including them on this list seems like a no-brainer.
But frankly they have many series of rods that I can’t recommend, so instead I’m going to not outright recommend all Bass Pro Shops rods but just the Graphite Series of them.
Coming in at just $35 when not on sale, (wait for a sale if you can) you aren’t going to find a rod that offers better performance with such a minimal investment. The only manufacturer that comes close is Ugly Stik, and side by side there is no comparison between the two in my estimation. The BPS Graphite comes out on top.
Why? Not only is the BPS Graphite $5 to $10 cheaper, but it offers a full cork grip which is much more comfortable in the hands than felt. And on a hot day, you don’t want sweaty hands on felt. Cork is the preferred option for almost all anglers.
Plus, it’s a full graphite rod which means it offers extra sensitivity. This helps with feeling bite detection as well as anything on the bottom of the water as you work your lures. Throw in the limited warranty you’ll receive if it breaks (which it shouldn’t) and you have a great all around rod for just $35!
But of course at that price, you’re going to have some limitations.
The biggest of these is that there are only 6 guides on most models when similar sized fishing rods come with 7 or 8. Also, the guides are noticeably larger. This leads to inaccurate casts and worst of all, many knots when making multiple casts. So should you buy this rod, you’ll need to check your line every few casts to prevent any looping.
It also comes with a blue rod blank which some people don’t love. It’s completely an aesthetic decision. I personally have several bright white rods that I find sharp as well as a lime green one. The fish don’t really care about your rod color but maybe you do.
Finally, the options are slightly limited and some customers have reported rod breakage being an issue. I’ve personally used one for many years for carp and catfish (which can get pretty large) and haven’t had it snap. If you use it correctly – I don’t believe it will be an issue. The warranty should cover any accidental breakage as well.
- Very budget-friendly
- Full cork grips for comfortable handling
- Graphite blank for bite detection and sensitivity
- Comes with limited warranty if purchased from Bass Pro Shops
- Only available in fast action
- Blue rod blank may be off putting
- Some reports of rod snapping
- Guides are spaced far apart and too large
You Should Buy If –
You have a limited budget and just want a good all around rod that will serve its purpose without any frills, and you don’t mind getting out the occasional knot.
90% of the time when someone asks me for a rod recommendation, I’m going to tell them to look at Fenwick rods.
In my experience, few rod companies offer the performance of a Fenwick rod at their price, with options ranging from $80 to $100 depending on the specific rod you’re looking at.
They advertise carbon fiber blank construction on their rods, which I have always found to be extremely lightweight and sensitive. The rod blank itself competes with rods $50 above them in terms of bite and bottom detection – one of the most important facets of a good fishing pole.
In addition, you have a great amount of options when picking your Fenwick rod, with two series the HMG and HMX. Both come in spinning and casting options, with moderate to fast action, and light to heavy powers. You maybe could want some more rod length options, but really most people like something between 6 and 7 feet which they offer.
In addition, they offer ice fishing, salmon/steelhead, walleye, and inshore fishing rods as well within their lineups. They even have fly rods should that be your preferred method of fishing. So they are likely to have the rod that will meet your needs.
Their handles are made of cork, are very comfortable and securely hold reels which means no reel slipping while fighting a fish. Fishermen have also been recommending them for decades – which lets you know that they have lasted the test of time.
But speaking of time, the Fenwick rods do show their age in design. If you’re looking for something that flashes or looks great while on the water – you should look elsewhere. The Fenwick poles don’t catch the eye at all even if they offer great performance,
They also don’t come with split grip options which you see with some competitors at this price point. Split grips are slightly more comfortable if casting often and provide overall lighter weight. This is ultimately a personal preference, but I tend to enjoy a split grip a little more.
Finally, if you look at the Bass Pro reviews you’ll see many complaints of rods breaking. Personally, I have only broken one of their rods and it was my own fault. So while I don’t believe it’s a major issue, it is something that several reviews had noted.
- Time-tested durability and popularity
- Maybe the best bang for your buck option
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Several options and rod types
- Some reports of rod breakage
- Does not include split grip options
- Nothing fancy to look at
- No high-end options
You Should Buy If –
You are serious about fishing but also serious about keeping to a budget. There is nothing fancy or over the top about Fenwick rods but they’re a time tested performance rod even an advanced angler will be happy using.
Now we are getting into the brands that might make a fellow angler’s eyes get big when you pull it out of your rod arsenal. Some brands are just known to be top of the line for all types of fishing poles – and one of them is St. Croix.
I mentioned that Fenwick has a good variety of rods for your needs – but they don’t even come close when compared to St. Croix. A simple search at Bass Pro will show you that they have over 45 different types of St. Croix rods available for purchase. Take a look at this article if you need to figure out which rod is right for your technique of choice.
So the biggest benefit I find in St. Croix is they have the right rod for your setup. Panfish, trout, walleye, saltwater, freshwater – you name it, they make a rod that is made specifically for it. Even for your basic, run of the mill freshwater rod they have multiple series targeted at entry level fisherman to professional.
They have a good range of price options too, which is a huge benefit if you want to stick with one brand but grow into expensive rods over time. The Triumph series of rods compares to Fenwick in performance, and comes in just a bit higher in price ranging from $90 to $110. But if you grow into their top of the line Legend series, you’ll be paying a pretty penny at $390.
But don’t worry about needing those high end options too much – while there are some features you won’t get in their budget lines they are still great for everyday performance. The Triumph comes with a carbon blank, stainless steel guides, cork handles, and a five year warranty. So you won’t have to worry about breaking your rod and being out of $100.
As you increase your budget, you’ll find that rods become even more lightweight and sensitive. Their Avid series, for example, starts around $150 and upgrades the carbon rod blank to graphite – known to be more sensitive and lightweight, among other smaller upgrades. One noticeable benefit is also a 15 year transferable warranty compared to the 5 year on the Triumph.
So if St. Croix is so great, why would you possibly want to go with another rod brand?
One of the biggest downsides of St. Croix is that they offer a premium feel and performance, but not always a premium look. If you’re spending over $100 on a rod, you probably want something that really looks good that you can show off. St. Croix rods are very basic in design for the most part and don’t have a ton of great looking options unless you go to their high-end options.
And that’s another issue with St. Croix – they have so many different options that finding the unique differences between all their lines is confusing. Some share the same rod blanks, reel seats, or cork handles. So knowing exactly what you’re paying for and finding the right rod for you can be a little tricky.
You’ll definitely have to go in store and hold them all to find what feels best – and go away from what is on the product label. Then compare prices after for what you want to spend.
Finally, they can be a tad overpriced in my opinion for the performance you receive. If you put a Triumph and Fenwick HMG side by side, you might have a hard time choosing. But then you look at the price tag and see the St. Croix is $20 more expensive – the answer becomes a little clearer.
But part of what you get with that additional cost is a reputable brand with a great customer service reputation. And you definitely won’t be disappointed with their performance, even if you spend a little extra to get it.
- Reputable brand with great customer service
- Tons of rod options
- Have a series for every budget
- Great performance
- Maybe too many options
- Nothing special to look at
You Should Buy If –
You are a serious fisherman who wants to keep a similar brand and feel amongst all your rods and you do various different kinds of fishing.
On to the biggest and best of fishing rods – G. Loomis. This is one of those brands that will really make head turns if you pull it out on your next fishing trip.
That’s because G. Loomis makes the best all around fishing rods of any company in the game today. Bass, trout, panfish, steelhead, saltwater, and every other fish species you may be targeting has a G. Loomis rod. And chances are it’s one of the best you could be using as well.
When you pick up a G. Loomis rod, I’ll guarantee you won’t have felt anything quite like it. They are incredibly lightweight and well balanced in the hand, have very comfortable grips, and their sensitivity is unmatched in the industry. This is due to the extremely high quality materials used in their products, particularly the rod blanks which is the most important part of the fishing rod.
In my opinion, they are also some of the sleekest looking rods you can purchase. While they don’t have bright colors or fancy design – they have a classic look with just enough flare to make them really eye-catching. Most anglers seem to agree as well.
So if G. Loomis is the best of the best, what could possibly be wrong?
Well, unsurprisingly, these rods are expensive. The lowest end model (and one that I recommend, based on price) is the E6X which comes in at $220. If you want the true top of the line options, you’ll be well over $500.
And some anglers have reported concerns with their lower end (if you can call $200 rods low end) models. Including less quality in the guides and reel seat, with small nicks developing which can harm fishing line over time or cause inaccurate casting.
But as you go higher quality, you will pay up to double the cost for minimal gains in sensitivity compared to the lower models. So is it worth $200 extra dollars just to have slightly better guides and little more sensitivity? That’s a question for you to decide.
Ultimately, G. Loomis makes the best fishing rods you can buy in my opinion. Check out their website to learn more about what makes them an amazing company. But if you want them, you’re going to have to pay for them. And a whole arsenal could put you back a few thousand dollars.
- Top of the line performance
- Extremely lightweight and sensitive
- Classic, sleek designs
- A great variety for all types of fishing
- Not the most unique appearance
You Should Buy If –
You want the best fishing rod you can buy and money is not a concern for you.
You aren’t going to go wrong with the four fishing brands listed above – but below are some quick honorable mentions in case you want something a little different.
Another very trusted name throughout fishing is Shimano, and they offer a good variety of rods that hit different price points. I would consider them particularly if you’re looking for saltwater rods and have a budget around $100. They’re a great bang for your buck option in that field.
This is a newer company to the fishing rod game but they’re really making a wave. They offer great bang for the buck options as well, with the Defy Black rod coming in around $70 but competing with rods in the $100 range. This is my under the radar brand that you should definitely be keeping an eye out for. They’re usually hard to find, but another budget friendly option if you don’t quite have the $100 for Fenwick or St. Croix.
Finally, there is Duckett fishing which really only is worth noting because their rods are so eye-catching. They offer colors from bright white to deep blue that really make them noticeable amongst their competitors. But, they are generally a bit more expensive than some competitors I’ve mentioned while not offering any additional performance. So I only recommend going with a Duckett rod if you want some eye candy to look at when you aren’t catching fish.
Fishing rods are the most expensive part of fishing, so it’s natural that you want to get the best one possible. But you also don’t always want to break the bank. With the information above, you have all the knowledge you need to know which brand you should be looking at next time you go to your local Bass Pro Shops.
But maybe you have a brand you’re considering that I didn’t mention. Or maybe you have found a brand you really love that I didn’t highlight. Then leave it below for me to look at! I’m always happy to research and try out new rods.
Also if you’re looking for rods, consider checking out this article where I go into all 8 different types of rods and which one you should buy!