The Best Trout Fishing Rods for the Money | 5 Budget Picks

If you love trout fishing but don’t want to break the bank, then this article is for you! Whether you are an experienced angler who is budget conscious or just starting out and don’t want to invest a ton yet – we have you covered.

Below are 5 high quality, low dollar fishing rods that are excellent choices for trout fishing. Order any of them from Bass Pro Shops and you’ll have a rod that can last a lifetime!

Fenwick HMG Spinning Rod

In almost every “budget” fishing rod list you are likely to find Fenwick rods. There is good reason for it – they make a great rod for half the price of a lot of competitors.

Don’t mistake them for being cheap though – a Fenwick HMG is still $99.99 at Bass Pro Shops. But for the money you’re getting a rod that will last you a lifetime. I held a Fenwick rod for 7 years before passing it on to a friend – it looked about as new as the day I bought it and worked just as well too.

Fenwick doesn’t just make tough rods – they also have great action and are very sensitive due to their construction. Handles are made of cork – highly regarded as the best material – and come with aftermarket Fuji guides which increase sensitivity and longevity. Out of all the rods on this list – they’re also the most lightweight. 

The only real con for Fenwick rods is they don’t look anything special – which may or may not be of interest to you. Personally I like my rod to catch fish, not look pretty. They also are one of the more expensive rods on this list so if you want a true entry-level, budget rod you might want to go somewhere else. 

  • Feels like a $200 rod
  • Upgraded materials
  • Durable and Sensitive
  • Still $100
  • Nothing special to look at
  • No extended warranty

Bass Pro Shops Micro Lite Rod

I tell most any “beginner” fisherman that if they want to start outfitting themselves with rods & reels that they should start with Bass Pro Shops branded equipment. So if you’re looking at trout specifically – you should be looking at the Bass Pro Shops Micro Lite Rod.

You won’t find any other rod that competes at this price point in my opinion with what Bass Pro Shops offers in this entry level rod. It features a graphite blank – one of the highest quality materials that you barely ever see below $80 bucks. It also features a cork handle and is specifically made for light line/lure applications – which you will need for trout fishing.

There are some cons here as to be expected with a rod that retails at $50. The guides are regular stainless steel so not extremely sensitive – though the graphite blank makes up for this a bit. The reel seat is also a little more flimsy that more durable models and may wear out over time. If you want a rod that lasts a lifetime – you’ll just have to spend more money. But if you want one to last a couple years, this is a perfect option.

  • Most bang for your buck
  • Graphite blank
  • Specifically for light lures
  • Stainless steel guides
  • Less sturdy materials
  • Not as sensitive as others

Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Rod

Another name you’ll need to familiarize yourself with if you’re looking at budget fishing rods is Ugly Stik. These are probably the most accessible fishing rods in the industry and you can find them at any Wal-mart, Bass Pro, sporting goods, or most local bait shops. 

This is because it’s a trusted name for offering a good solid construction at the lowest possible price point. They retail at $50 but can often be found for lower on sale. So if you’re going high on the budget in your bang for the buck rod, Ugly Stik is a good choice. They also are made with “Ugly Tech” construction which means it’s nearly unbreakable. I’ve had an Ugly Stik for 20 years that just keeps on ticking.

But when it comes to sensitivity and being lightweight or easy to use – this one falls at the bottom of the 5 I’ve listed. It’s usable, but you definitely will miss light bites and notice a significant difference when you hold it in your hand versus other rods mentioned. This is because it has pretty low-grade materials that are built for durability over sensitivity. 

If you want something that will hold up over time though – or are maybe taking a very novice fisherman who you just don’t want to break your rods, they’re really great for that. 

  • Will not break
  • Easy to find anywhere
  • Meant for beginners
  • Worst performance on this list
  • Heavy
  • Felt handle

Bass Pro Shops Panfish Elite Spinning Rod

I couldn’t not mention one of my favorite all-around Bass Pro Shop rods – the Panfish Elite series spinning rod. I know it says it’s for panfish – but I think you’ll find it is also great for trout.

It’s a few dollars more than the Micro Lite or Ugly Stik above, but I think the additional features make it a great contender if you have the money. It has an upgraded graphite blank which means it is much more sensitive – and has upgraded line guides as well! Almost every aspect from the guides to the reel seat feel premium like something you would get for $100 or more. 

One negative for me is that it comes with felt on the handle – which feels like the one material that really needs upgraded to match the rest of this rod. You’ll also pay a higher price for the “elite” spinning rod due to the other upgrades, though it does add a lot of features.

You also will be using a rod made for “panfish” which really only means it has a lightweight construction and light power. Which, in case you didn’t know, is the same thing you want for trout. So while you may see it as a detriment it’s not specifically for trout, I think it’s a benefit that it’s multi-species for whatever you may go fishing for. It’s definitely an option I would promote to any fisherman looking at smaller freshwater species.

  • Works for multiple species
  • Upgraded materials at a low price
  • Cheaper than other premium options
  • More expensive than “budget” rods
  • Meant for panfish
  • Felt grips

St. Croix Triumph Spinning Rod

Lastly I want to mention the St. Croix Triumph – a rod that has all of the features of high-level rods for a significantly lower price. It’s the most expensive of all rods on this list, but competes with rods $100 or so above it’s price. 

You’ll find this rod compares very evenly with the Fenwick HMG listed above. They have extremely lightweight, sensitive blanks but I think the Triumph comes out just ahead. The only downside when comparing it to the Fenwick is the Triumph does not have upgraded line guides which is a real shame. Had this rod had aftermarket guides, it would be far and away the best bang for buck option in my opinion.

But don’t let the guides distract you from what is otherwise a top-notch rod from St. Croix. They make some of the best rods in the business up to $500. While this rod can’t compete with those, you’ll find many of the design aesthetics remain even in their budget options. Plus, it comes with a 5 year warranty in case you’re worried about making an investment that you won’t get back if it breaks on your next fishing trip.

I prefer the Fenwick HMG just because it is slightly cheaper and has upgraded line guides – but many prefer the 5 year warranty and trusted brand that comes with the St. Croix Triumph. And honestly, both are great rods that I would be happy to fish with anytime. 

  • Trusted brand in the fishing industry
  • 5 year warranty
  • Upgraded materials
  • Most expensive option
  • Stainless steel guides
  • No special design

Things you want in a Trout Fishing Rod

Now you know which ones to buy – the questions are what specifications should you be looking for? Rods come in different actions, powers, lengths, etc. So let’s break it down for what is best in a trout rod.

Fishing Rod Length

Rod length is almost entirely a personal choice. The benefit you get with a longer rod is generally more sensitivity, an easier hookset, and greater casting distance. The benefit you get with a shorter rod is it’s easier to use in tight situations, better casting accuracy, and overall more control. Plus, it’s easier to fit in your vehicle!

So for trout, think about what type of fishing you’ll be doing. Are you wading in a stream with trees overhead? Go for something short to stay out of the trees. Are you on a big lake where you need to get to the middle? Then go with a longer rod. 

Rod Power

Unlike rod length, there is a best option for rod power with trout. You almost always want to be using “light” power rods with trout. This is because you’ll be using extremely light lures to fish for them and you need the flexibility of a light rod to throw them effectively. Also, trout fight hard but are not going to ever break a pole. Having a flexible rod that provides just light resistance helps you fight a trout without it spitting the lure like a stiff rod would.

Ultralight is often too flimsy for trout if you catch a nice one. And medium light or heavier can be too stiff. If you are fishing in a lake or river with a ton of vegetation – you may consider a medium light just to get through those things if a trout should hide in them. But aside from that – stick with a light power rod and you’ll be in great shape.

Rod Action

When you use a light power rod, you almost always have at least a fast action rod. This is because when you pair a light rod with anything lower than fast action, you get something resembling a wet noodle. It doesn’t have enough bite to really set a hook into the trout when it bites.

So go with any fast or even an extra fast rod and you’ll be set. Just know that the difference between fast and extra fast is how much of the rod that will bend before it provides resistance. Extra fast means immediate – which means you need to let a trout really take your lure before pulling. A fast for me is just the right mix of a little extra time to pull but enough to get great hooksets everytime.

Fishing Line

Pairing the rod with the right fishing line is also key for trout fishing. I have a whole article on how to pick the right fishing line for whatever type of fishing you may be doing. It’s linked here if you’re interested.

The short of it for trout fishing is you want to use clear line that is extremely lightweight. So go with a 4 lb. fluorocarbon like this great budget option and you’ll be set for a whole year of fishing.


Now you know what rod to buy, let’s see those fish! If you haven’t already follow us on Twitter and Pinterest and tag us in pictures of your favorite catches, ideas, or pics out on the water. We love to see what our readers are up to, and all the great fish they’re catching! GO FISHING OUTDOORS!

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