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Although there is no guarantee that the fish will be biting when you head out to the lake or river, at least you can feel confident that your pole will help. They can vary by what type of fishing you are searching for, your level of expertise, as well as if you are looking for a portable rod. However, rods can also differ by action, length and line weight. The action is the how much the rod bends when you have a fish on the line; the length is how long the rod is, which depends on how heavy a fish you are working with; and the power or line strength describes how strong the rod will be compared to the weight of the fish. If the line strength is five to 10 pounds, that means that the rod and line will be able to fight against a five- to 10-pound fish, securely and supportively.
Need help picking out the best rod for you? Read on for the best fishing poles of this season for hooking bass, catfish and everything in between.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Pole (Rod Only)
Not only does the medium-heavy Ugly Stik GX2 by Shakespeare have a sleek, modern look for today’s fisherman, but it also has the capabilities anglers need when it comes to a sensitive rod that is perfect for whatever they are catching. The spinning rod is six feet, six inches long and made from graphite and fiberglass in a one-piece construction. It is strong, durable and will stay comfortable in your grip with an EVA handle. This rod is ideal for both beginners and experts looking for a sturdy, reliable and versatile option. The line weight is eight to 20 pounds.
Best Ultralight: Daiwa Minispin Ultralight Spinning Reel and Rod
The Daiwa Minispin Reel and Rod Combo is made for anglers who are traveling and want to be ready at the first sight of water. The mini-reel is ultralight with one ball bearing and a line twist-reducing feature. It breaks down into five pieces to fit into a compact hardshell case with various built-in tackle compartments. Load it up, stick it under your car seat and you are ready to go whenever the fish are biting—the case measures 14 x 8 x 3 inches and weighs just under one pound. The line weight is two to six pounds, perfect for panfish or trout.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod (Rod Only)
For a lighter rod, chose the Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod that is classified as an ultralight rod made from graphite. The handle will keep your hands happy all day with a full cork grip and the guides are stainless steel for durability. The light models have a line weight of fpir to 10 pounds; the ultralight models have a line weight of two to six pounds. Sizes come in four feet, six inches; five feet; seven feet; or seven feet, six inches for ultralight models. Light models come in five feet, six inches; six feet, six inches; and seven feet. All sizes, except the four feet, six-inch model, are constructed with two pieces.
Best Budget: PLUSINNO Spin Rod and Reel Combos
Made for the beginner, the PLUSINNO Spin Rod and Reel Full Combo comes with a rod, reel, six lures, six hooks, four sinkers and the other accessories necessary for a good day on the water. The telescopic fishing pole is flexible and comfortable with an EVA grip. It has medium power in the carbon and fiberglass rod, which provides a long-lasting, durable experience.
Best for Bass: Denali Rods Attax Heavy Spinning One Piece Rod (Rod Only)
The Denali Rods Attax Heavy Spinning One Piece is a seven-foot pole made with top technology and construction for the expert fisherman wanting to snag the best bass. The rod is sensitive and lightweight, yet still strong with a graphite inlay, and the grip has added cushion for increased comfort. The line weight is 15 to 25 pounds.
Best for Catfish: KastKing New KastKat Catfish Rods
These wallet-friendly poles are designed specifically for catfish fishing, with an emphasis on larger catches. The S-glass the pole’s made from is exceptionally durable — enough to take a beating from a flailing fish — and has great lifting power to get your prize up onto the boat (the recommended line weight is 40 to 80 pounds). The stainless-steel double-foot guides are also built to withstand a thrashing, as are the reinforced nylon reel seats, which can hold the reel of your choice in place. We also love the cross-wrapped EVA handles that keep the rod tight in slippery conditions or wet hands without straining hand muscles or demanding too much from one’s grip.
Users say that the poles are great for both fresh- and salt-water fishing. Plus, the poles are finished off with neon orange strike tips, so you can easily tell when something’s latched on. Each rod comes with KastKing’s “Total Peace of Mind” warranty, so you can make your purchase with confidence.
Best for Fly Fishing: Tailwater Outfitters Toccoa Fly Rod (Rod Only)
Head to the river with this rod and you are sure to stay blister-free all day. The nine-foot Tailwater Outfitters Toccoa Fly Rod has a cork handle for accuracy and comfort, and the graphite construction means its durable and lightweight. It’s easy to break down and reassemble the four-piece rod, which comes with a four-compartment rod tube for easy traveling. The fast-action rod (perfect for long casts) comes in a three- and five-weight option that's best for trout, as well as an eight-weight option for salmon, large rainbow trout or bonefish.
Best Telescoping: Eagle Claw Pack-It Telescopic Spinning Rod (Rod Only)
Pack this five-foot, six-inch spinning rod by Eagle Claw right into your pack for easy use on the trail or at the campsite. The durable telescoping rod is made from fiberglass, so it will stay safe even in precarious conditions. The comfortable handle is made from EVA foam and folds up for easy transportation. The line weight is four to 10 pounds, ideal for bass fishing or fresh water fishing.
Need to invest in fishing line now? Learn more and read reviews about the best fishing lines.