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Best Fishing & Reel Combo for Beginners in 2024

7 min read
Jun 18, 2024 3:58:09 PM

Fishing is a delicate art with quite the learning curve to mastering it so we want to cover the basics. 

We've talked about the rods that fishing retailers should stock up on this year, but we also want to give a primer that you could share to retailer customers that might just be starting out. 

So let's start with the essentials. 

What to Consider

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Your experienced fishermen customers know their setup by heart; they can give you a full breakdown of their equipment from rod-length and weight to reel-action and price points. That’s because they know the waters well. Over countless fishing trips, they’ve learned that a perfect combo depends on where they cast and what they hope to reel in.

But things aren’t so matter-of-fact for beginners, so there’s a couple of things they'll want to know and consider before making a choice.

Reel Type

The main two options are spinning reels and baitcasting reels. Spinning reels are perfect for beginners. They’re easy to use and offer good casting control, making them ideal for perfecting casts and targeting a variety of fish. Baitcasting reels cast further and more precisely, so they’re good for larger fish, but the free-moving spool requires practice to avoid tangles. For customers just starting out, have them stick with the spinning reel for a while before they gradually move on.

Rod Length and Power

Rod length is a trade-off between casting distance and control. Shorter rods, ideal for smaller bodies of water or areas with dense cover (think flipping under docks or casting around lily pads), sacrifice some casting distance for precision and maneuverability. Longer rods excel at covering open water, reaching distant fish with ease. However, their added length can make them a bit challenging to control.

Power, on the other hand, refers to the backbone of the rod; its strength and ability to handle weight. Light power rods are intended for smaller fish and lightweight lures, which makes them great for beginners looking for a fun, responsive fishing experience. Medium power options are your safest bet. They can handle a variety of fish and lure weights which makes them a good all-round choice, flexible enough for a fun fight, strong enough for a decent catch. Heavy power rods are intended for large fish and strong currents. They provide the strength needed to reel in big catches but can be more challenging for beginners to manage due to their stiffness and the increased physical effort.

Material

Your customers want their rods to be dependable and comfortable, so consider their material. Fiberglass ones are flexible, affordable and durable which makes them great for beginners. However they tend to be heavier and provide less feedback. Graphite rods, on the other hand, are lightweight, sensitive and deliver unmatched casting performance. Bear in mind they don’t come cheap and damage easily if mishandled, making them a more suitable choice for experienced anglers. Composite rods are a strong middle ground, optimal for beginners focused on fishing and not gear preservation; affordable and durable, they offer a well-rounded experience in strength, flexibility, and sensitivity. 

Budget

Rod and reel combos range from budget-friendly to top-of-the-line. When starting out, your customers should prioritize a functional setup over flashy features. They should focus on reliable options that are forgiving to newcomers and let them get to know the basics of casting a line, feeling the bites and landing their first catch. 

Top Picks for 2024

New customers wanting to get into fishing might feel out of depth when they enter your tackle shop with the amount of choices available. To make it easy to offer some recommendations, we’ve prepared a short list of the top picks for beginner fishing rod and reel combos. This selection prioritizes functionality, affordability and versatility.

Best Overall: Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod

For a well-rounded beginner experience, look no further. This budget-friendly option is impressively durable and sensitive, comes in various lengths, actions and weights, so it caters to different fishing capabilities, styles and targets. A fiberglass and graphite composite makes it strong and lightweight, while the natural grip ensures a comfortable hold. This versatile rod performs well in freshwater and saltwater environments, allowing you to explore various techniques. Paired with a medium action spinning reel and appropriate line weight, the Ugly Stik Elite is a top pick for both beginners and seasoned anglers seeking a reliable all-around rod.

Best Budget-Friendly Option: Shay Bird Combo

The Shay Bird combo is the way to go for a budget-minded angler and here’s why. It combines a quality rod with a smooth 6-bearing reel, offering great performance at an affordable price. Weighing only 8 ounces, the Shay Bird combo is comfortable to use for extended fishing trips and there’s no need to worry about control or performance: it’s available in 3 lengths (6'6" to 7'3") and moderate to medium-heavy power options, making it versatile for different fishing styles.

Best for Specific Species: Lew's Mach Crush Spinning Combo

A compelling choice for bass and trout anglers who want more than a bare-bones setup, Lew’s boasts a versatile 7-foot, medium-fast action rod with a Winn grip handle for a secure hold in wet conditions, all dough some may still want more security with a rod holder. The reel boasts an impressive 11 bearings and a 6.2:1 gear ratio for smooth operation, plus a unique lubing system that keeps it performing flawlessly even after heavy use. 

Setting Up Your Beginner Fishing Rod & Reel Combo

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While most store-bought fishing combos come pre-assembled and ready to hit the water, some might require a quick set up at home. You can share this guide to your customers to let them feel assured they could complete that setup at home. 

Spooling the Reel

Fishing lines degrade over time, so spooling a fresh one is key to the performance of your fishing reel. First, you’ll want to refer to your rod and reel’s recommendations for the appropriate line weight and type (monofilament, fluorocarbon, braid, wire…). Find the wire arm that controls line flow and open it completely. Secure the end of your fishing line to the spool with a loop knot. Close the bail arm and wind the line onto the spool in even layers. Stop spooling when the line reaches the recommended fill level or just below the spool's lip.

Attaching the Rod & Reel

Find the designated area near the bottom handle where the reel connects, called the reel seat. This spot will have a cutout or grooves that match the shape of your reel's foot. Slide the foot of the reel onto the reel seat, ensuring everything aligns perfectly with the guides (the rings along the rod) for smooth line flow. Locate the reel seat screw and tighten it firmly with your fingers or a coin, but don't go overboard. A snug fit that allows the reel to pivot slightly is ideal, creating a secure connection without restricting its movement. 

Essential Fishing Gear for Beginners

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The rod and reel are the building blocks of angling, so mastering them should be a priority before moving to more complex gear. However, for those looking to enhance their experience without overwhelming themselves, a few other pieces of equipment can help out. These are completely optional top-ups that will introduce them to different fishing techniques and increase their odds of landing that first catch.

Line

The fishing line and hook are the only points of contact between you and the fish, so it’s important to factor them into your strategy. Think of it like tailoring your tools to a specific challenge: clear waters demand a line that blends in (fluorocarbon), while in murky conditions, high visibility aids bite detection (monofilament). Consider how quickly you need your bait to sink and what type of fish you are targeting. Your line should match the size and fight of your target fish, so be sure to learn as much as you can before heading out.

Hooks

Hooks aren't one-size-fits-all. They come in various sizes and shapes, each designed to catch specific fish. Smaller hooks with larger numbers are ideal for smaller fish, while bigger hooks with smaller numbers tackle heavyweight fighters. J-hooks are a versatile choice for beginners, but there are also circle hooks for responsible fishing and offset shank hooks for weedless presentations. Material matters too, with steel being common and bronze or nickel-plated options for saltwater environments. A dull hook snags easily, so remember to keep your hooks sharp.

Remember that choosing the right lure is as important as choosing the hook.

Sinkers & Bobbers

Bobbers, or floats, are buoyant objects attached to the fishing line to suspend bait at a desired depth and indicate when a fish bites. Fixed bobbers are meant for shallow waters, while slip bobbers can adjust to various depths, making them ideal for deeper waters. When a fish bites, the bobber moves, providing a visual cue and making it easier for beginners to detect bites.

Sinkers are weights attached to the fishing line to help the bait sink to a desired depth and keep it there. They maintain the bait's position, especially in deeper waters or fast currents. Split shot sinkers are small and easy to attach, making them ideal for beginners. Other types, such as egg, bullet, and bank sinkers, are designed for specific techniques and conditions.

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