Choosing the right equipment doesn’t have to be that complicated. I will give you as much information on the three basic setups I think will give you a good start without costing you a fortune. I would suggest going with two bait casters and one spinning rig. In the past I would recommend going to a dedicated sporting goods store to get what you need, but now most retail stores are carrying a good selection of quality rods and reels. In my area, Walmart is now carrying brands like Diawa, Abu Garcia, Falcon, Wright and McGill and Quantum.
The first setup is a 6”6” Med Heavy graphite bait cast rod paired with a high speed bait cast reel, like a 7 to 1 ratio. This is a good all around rod that can be used for fishing worms, jigs, senkos, spinnerbaits, Carolina rigs and even jerkbaits. There are a couple of options you can choose on a rod. Some anglers prefer a solid handle, while others want the split grip which reduces the overall weight of the rod. Both are great choices and it basically comes down to personal preference and what feels good in your hand. The graphite component rod gives you the feel you need to detect a strike and feel your lure moving through cover. I chose a high speed reel for this set up which will give you the ability to take up more line per each turn of the reel handle which is an advantage when fighting a fish. It also will allow you to move the bait more quickly and burn a spinnerbait with little effort.
The second setup would be a 6’6” or 7’ medium fiberglass bait cast rod with a low to medium speed bait cast reel (6.4 to 1 or 5.2 to 1 ratio). This is a setup to fish both lipped (deep or shallow) and lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits. The fiberglass is preferred by most anglers due to the fact the glass component rod allows the fish to inhale your lure without you actually feeling the strike. When fishing crankbaits, this is very important by not allowing you to pull the bait out of the fish’s mouth before you get a solid hook up. The second thing a fiberglass rod does, it has a lot more flex that will actually assist in keeping treble hooks buried and not ripping them out when fighting the fish. The third trait of a fiberglass rod which is also important, the whippy action allows you to cast the bait a mile. The further you cast a crankbait, the longer the bait will stay in the depth it is designed to run. The low to medium ratio reel with allow you to fish crankbaits, especially deep divers, with much less effort and allows them to get down to their running depth quicker and stay in the strike zone longer. This combination will allow you to fish crankbaits and even spinnerbaits with less effort, keep the bait in the “strike zone” longer and increasing your landing to loss ratio.
The third combo I would suggest is a 6’6” or 7’ medium heavy graphite spinning rod and spinning reel. This setup will allow you to fish lighter weight baits and drop shot rigs using lighter line. I personally like this set up when I’m fishing deep clear water with lighter line. It is just a lot easier to throw a 1/8 ounce tube on 6 lb line with a spinning combo than a traditional bait caster.
If you have these three combos with you when you head to the lake or river, you should be set up to tackle any lure or technique you will need to have a successful day on the water. Today, a lot of manufacturers have made this easy for you, they have quality rod/reel combos already put together and ready to go. Most companies also have several choices for the novice, intermediate or professional angler. When you go shopping, pick up several rods and see how they feel in your hand. Buy what feels good and what you can afford. When it comes to reels, look at how many ball bearings they have (the more, the better) and gear ratios. Again, put it in your hand, and if you can, put the reel on the rod. It all comes down to feel and price. There are many different companies that produce quality stuff with very little differences, do your research, look at reviews on line, put them in your hand and buy the best equipment you can afford.