Selecting the Ultimate Spinning Rod & Reel Combo

Today, fishermen have an array of gear to consider before heading to water’s edge. It is amazing to see how manufacturers have continued to enhance equipment each year. In the early 1980s I was fishing with a bulky, grinding spinning reel, but today, smooth casting reels have become the norm.

When considering purchasing a new rod and reel, there is a predominant difference between high quality tackle built for hardcore fishermen and substandard gear. Furthermore, for those fishing river environments, that requires its own special attributes, and demands gear that can withstand the tough environment. Many of us have used rods that make better whipping sticks and had reels with bearings that grind. This type of gear makes it tough to feel bites and is hard to use. On the other hand, there are some wonderful products that make fishing more enjoyable. Great gear augments a skilled angler.

The difference in great fishing rods
Fishing different types of water changes the type of rod that is needed. However, fishing in a river system requires a rod with enough backbone for pulling larger fish, while providing the sensitivity for subtle bites. Let’s discuss rod sensitivity—what is needed and what is not. The more sensitive rods are developed from graphite. Graphite rods that are built with higher rating of graphite modulus are lighter and more sensitive. The high level of modulus also means the rod can take less abuse. Sensitivity comes with a tradeoff; so finding the right balance for you, as a fisherman, is necessary.

Often, rods will be rated by the IM or the modulus within the rod. The higher the number, the higher the quality of rod produced. A few common standards are IM6, IM7, IM8, etc. Some manufacturers use the IM standards, while others are rate by the modulus. Unfortunately, manufactures do not have a standard for what qualifies in each category. So an IM8 can vary from one company to another.

High-modulus graphite is used to increase sensitivity in a fisherman’s hand. When looking for a rod, I am searching for a rod that provides the most amount of feeling transferred into my hand. Walleye fishing the river is a jigging game and the more feeling transferred through the rod, the better opportunity for feeling the bite. A one-piece rod is the way to go. They carry feeling through the rod much better, which means improved sensitivity. Only when space is a determining factor do I consider trading performance for space with a two-piece rod.

Match your gear with the type of fishing you plan on doing. This equates to adding backbone into your river fishing rod. I like a challenge; therefore, overpowering a walleye is no fun for me. Adding the right amount of backbone allows the fisherman to fight the current, the walleye, and successfully stay clear of other fishermen.

On many occasions, a medium action rod is the best option. It provides the strength to pull in a large walleye, while also dealing with the toughest currents. As the waters drop below normal river levels and the season grinds on, a medium-light action rod is a better choice. Under these lower water conditions, the medium-light action allows a finesse technique that brings on more fish.

In tune with sensitivity comes the action and sensitivity of your rod tip. Feeling each rock the sinker hits, and when a finicky walleye bites on your lure, makes all the difference. For these occasions, walleye fishermen prefer a fast-action tip. This allows an angler to cast jigs easily, while feeling the lightest tap. Line guides are another consideration. Look for aluminum oxide or better guides. These types of guides will handle all lines, including the tougher braided line.

It is only after spending countless days on the river that an angler learns to appreciate a well-crafted handle. The handle of a rod is what makes or breaks the deal. A longer handled rod can be laid along the arm helping to pull against a heavy fish. And if necessary the butt of the handle can be dropped into the waistline for added strength. This is something simple, but after many hours of fishing, it can relieve a worn down arm. For me, the strength is in the handle.

Nothing beats a high quality fishing rod to feel every rock, bump and bite. I buy the best rod that I can afford. As I have grown as a fisherman, my rod selection increased to the IM8 or high-end modulus with 64 million modulus or higher.

The reel deal
When I am considering spinning reels it is all about smoothness. Good reels are smooth and last a long time. Smooth reels are often determined by the number of ball bearings they contain inside. The more quality bearings in a reel will prevent it from wobbling. Tight fitting bearings, internal gears, and external casing make a solid reel with no play in the components. There is a considerable difference between a spinning reel with only a few ball bearings, to those with ten. A quality reel will house eight to ten ball bearings making it stable and allowing perfect performance.

The river can be harsh on a spinning reel. The dirty water and constant drag can harm the internal components. The higher end reels with a high ball bearing count will last much longer than those with fewer ball bearings. The drag systems that consistently perform best are front drags. They provide constant pressure and can be adjusted easily. Rear drag systems are easier to access but often do not perform as well.

To best set hooks, no backwards play in the reel is necessary. Any backward motion will cause lost opportunities. These are anti-reverse handles. Although it is nice to have the reel always stop at the top of the reel, it will cause more problems in the long run. As the bail spins backwards to stop at the top it slams the gear, which is very hard on the spinning reel.

Not a lot is discussed about gear ratio, but this helps in the type of fishing you prefer. Common ratios are 4:1, 5:1 and 6:1. A 4:1 gear ratio means the reel will spin four times for every one turn of the handle. 4:1 are considered slow retrievers while 6:1 are for faster retrieves. This helps a fisherman who needs the reel to match his fishing style.

Lastly, match the reel’s weight and size to the rod selected. This means that your lighter gear for late-season fishing would be different than the heavier gear during higher water conditions. Make sure the reel holds the proper amount of line. Then make sure everything is balanced. After putting together the reel and rod, I am looking for a balanced combo. If I hold the combo up with one finger in front of the reel, I want it balancing. This makes fishing all day easier.

Is there a rod or reel that woks above all others? If you ask a dozen avid fishermen you will likely get a dozen different answers. Everyone has his or her own personal preference. I have used dozens of different fishing rods and reels over the years. There is not a magic spinning rod that will make fish jump onto your line. However, I stick with products that I know and have grown to trust. That is not to say there isn’t something better. Some products are simply out of your price range, so it doesn’t matter how well it works. As I have upgraded equipment, I can honestly say it has helped me catch and keep more fish. High quality equipment is proven to make fishermen more successful.