Which Rod and Reel Should I Buy? – Your First Fishing Rod & Reel

Posted by nick under Fishing Beginners Guide

The right equipment depends largely on what you intend to do with it. The right gear for catching small bluegill in a local pond won’t be right for fishing large sturgeon. If you know exactly the kind of fishing you want to do, then getting the right gear is a relatively simple matter:

  1. Find a local tackle shop you like.
  2. Go in and tell them what you want to fish and where.
  3. Buy their recommendation.

As an alternative, you can ask your fishing buddies what they they recommend. Or if you will be traveling somewhere to fish, you can call up an outfitter/or tackle shop in that area and ask them what a good setup would be.


What if you don’t know exactly what kind fish you will go after?

What if all you know is that you want to start fishing, and you want some good gear that will handle almost any freshwater situation? What do get then?

What you need is a good all-around outfit to get you started. This outfit should be fun to catch small fish with, yet have enough backbone to reel in the bigger ones as well. It won’t be perfect, but it will be pretty close.

Your First Fishing Outfit



  1. 6-foot to 7-foot, medium to medium-light action, 2-piece graphite rod.
  2. Medium to medium-light spinning reel filled with quality 8 pound test monofilament line (get a reel that comes with a spare spool).
  3. Line in 4#, and 6# test (fill the spare spool with the 6# test).
  4. Quality hooks in assorted sizes.
  5. Assorted ball-bearing swivels & snaps.
  6. Split Shot and a couple of egg sinkers.
  7. Pencil floats in assorted sizes.
  8. 3 spinners.
  9. Polarized sunglasses
  10. A tackle box or fishing vest.

If you’ve never put line on a reel before, let the clerk at the tackle shop do it for you. Trust me, about the spare spool. Sometimes, you’ll want to change out your line while on the water, and that spare spool makes it easy. A two piece rod will be more convenient to handle and transport than a one piece. The polarized sunglasses help you see through the glare of the water to spot fish and also protects your eyes from sharp hooks.

The Importance of A Balanced Outfit

It is very important that your outfit be balanced (the rod and reel are “matched” to hold the same size line.) A balanced outfit will allow all the individual parts to work to the maximum of their effectiveness and efficiency.


How will you know if you are a buying a balanced outfit?

If you buy a “combo” (rod and reel sold together as a package deal) from a reputable online outfitter or from a local tackle shop, you can be reasonably assured that the outfit is balanced. Combos are a good way to get a better price, compared to purchasing the rod and reel individually. But, if you buy your rod and reel separately you will need to read the specifications yourself to ensure that they are matched well.

How to Read Your Rod & Reel Specs

If you look at the butt end of the rod, near the handle, you will see some specifications printed on the rod. These printed specifications usually tell you the length of the rod, the rod’s action, and the range of line and lure size they are designed to cast. For the 8lb outfit I am recommending you’ll want a rod that ranges from 4 to 10 pounds or 6 to 12 pounds.


It will look something like this:

fishing rod specifications

As you can see, the rod above is 6 feet long, medium action, and rated for 6-12lb test. Some rods have more or less information. For instance the rod below also shows recommended lure weight size:

fishing rod specifications

Look for the specifications on the reel, as well. They will be printed on the box and sometimes on the reel. The reel should handle 8lbs in its midrange. This reel for example, is ideal (click to enlarge):

reel specifications

As you can see, the line capacity is printed right on the reel. It says the reel can hold 200 yards of 6lb test, 140 yards of 8lb test, and 120 yards of 10lb test. This is a great match to the rods shown above.


With an outfit like this, you should be able to handle a wide range of freshwater fishing situations, and a wide variety of fish.

Congratulations on your new fishing outfit!

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37 Responses to “Which Rod and Reel Should I Buy? – Your First Fishing Rod & Reel”

  1. Tommy Says:

    Very helpful mate, was slightly overwhelmed trying to shop for a rod today. Glad I read this first

  2. Quantum Fishing Qx24 2-Piece Medium Light Spin Fishing Rod Reviews | fishing tackle rods and reels, fishing tackle online, fishing equipment online Says:

    […] Quantum Fishing Qx24 2-Piece Medium Light Spin Fishing RodFishingrodsShimano Solora Ultra Light 2 Piece Spinning Rod (5-Feet 6-Inch)Fishing Tackle a Review: The Torrix TE Carp RodWhich Rod and Reel Should I Buy […]

  3. Antoine Saunders Says:

    This site really helped me out, i feel like i will be able to fish sooner than ever =D.

  4. Michael Escobar Says:

    I will be catching small Bass from what I’ve been told in Grapevine Lake in TX. Can you please help me pick out what I need?

  5. nick Says:

    Every fishing spot has its quirks; I’m o familiar with that lake, but it seems like a big one. Your best shot is to head to tackle shop near the lake and let them outfit you with what’s been working recently. They will have the most up to date information on what is working this time of year.

  6. Sunil Says:

    Thanks for the great info. I’m just getting started, and I’d like to get 4 rod and reel sets, for me and my kids. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on the hobby until I’m sure I like and have the time.

    What are your thoughts on buying a used equipment it looks like I can save a bunch of moans this way to get started.

  7. nick Says:

    Hi Sunil,

    Buying used equipment is a great way to save money, and not just for beginners. Just be sure to examine the equipment carefully for any damage, like cracks in the rod and smoothness of operation in the reels. If you find you and your kids enjoy fishing, and you later purchase more equipment, you’ll have plenty of extra rods to lend to your family’s friends when you introduce them to your exciting hobby!

  8. a Says:

    This website is great bb89eeb45708ec8b3ed27bf740fc5b26

  9. Jeff Says:

    Great site and very helpful write up. Thanks for postin. I’m in Gloucester until December. I’ve spear gun fished since I was a kid but I’ve only rod and reel fished a few times.

    All I’m looking to do is go to the local dock and fish on my days off. What rod, reel, hooks and bait do you think would get me going? Thanks in advance.

  10. anonymous Says:

    check out this site hope it helps


  11. josh Says:

    is kmart a good place to buy a rod i am a beginner

  12. Anjali Says:

    This was a super helpful website. I was trying to buy a new fishing rod for my husband on his first Fathers Day, for a surprise first fishing trip with our 9 month old. Using this site I was able to figure out what I needed to buy and what my husband already had. Thanks!!

  13. Al Says:

    I just recently purchased a 7″ Guide Series Classic Medium-light IM8 graphite spinning rod and paired it up with an Abu Garcia RevoS30. I felt confidant that this would be a good combo for all around bank fishing ( no boat) with spinner baits, soft plastics, craink baits- u name it, but after taking it out twice im not so sure. Its difficult to get the feel of the bait. Can’t feel if im fouling or have a good retrieve or if im getting any soft tags. Maybe i should take off the 12lb mono and put on 8 or 10 lb line and i’ll get more sensitivaty.. Any advise would be great.. Is this a good combo for bank fishing for walleye, northern, bass ect.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    This is gonna sound so stupid and I’m sorry but the pounds written, does that signify the weight of the fish the rod can catch? So if it’s a 6lbs test than bigger fish will break the line?

  15. John Says:

    No, that poundage refers to the “breaking strain” of the line. A 9 lb breaking strain line can, with care, actually play and bring in an 18 lb salmon, as long as you don’t lift the whole fish out of the water with it, but play it carefully, using suitable drag setting on your reel, then lift it from the water with a net or gaffe.

  16. Harry Says:

    awesome article. I have browsed through various websites but there is not much relevant information for beginners. but this article has given enough information for beginning. I tried everywhere to find the rod a beginner need but I was able to find the right information here. Thanks for all the relevant information that a beginner need.

  17. Harry Says:

    HI Nick! can you advise how we can check the amount of weight a rod can handle?
    You mentioned the lines with different strengths is there any way or marks mentioned on rod which which we can check if rod can handle bigger fish and what rod as a beginner I should use? Should I buy the one which can handle big fish so that on later stages I need not to change the rod or should I go for rod which can handle smaller fish. Please advise.

  18. nick Says:

    Hi Harry,

    If you’re a beginner I would go with the suggested rod I outlined here. The rod specs don’t tell you exactly how heavy a fish you can land with it, because that really depends on your skill. A lot of people really savor the challenge of landing heavy fish on lighter tackle. Landing a heavy fish in light tackle is a fun way to test your skill because the fish has a better chance of breaking free and snapping the line; you would have to set the drag looser and be patient to tire out the fish, only reel in when the fish is not running. While this is fun for the fisherman, it’s not very fun for the fish. I don’t recommend you use ultra light tackle on bigger fish unless you plan to eat the fish. The long fight can be too much for a fish, and it may not recover. So, even if you release it, it could die soon afterwards.

    If you stick with fishing for any length of time, you’ll find that you want more than one fishing rod. A good all around rod like the one I recommend here will work well in most situations, but you’ll want an ultra light outfit if you’re targeting delicate stream trout (for more sensitivity) or heavier tackle if your targeting monster sturgeon (that might otherwise break your rod).

    You’ll know when you need another rod.


  19. Andrew Says:

    I suggest a 6’6″ medium action ugly stik 2 piece rod and a shimano quickfire reel. Both are pretty inexpensive. The quickfire will help you learn to cast accurately because it flips the bail open for you and it only stops in the casting position when you backreel. For line I suggest 8# Berkley Ironsilk. It was just reintroduced this fall. It’s an awesome mono for beginners because it is very limp and abrasion resistant. I have used this setup for speckled trout & red drum in north carolina and for bass, bluegill, & saugeye here in Illinois. Great basic all around combo to start out with. For the spinners, I suggest 1/4oz Worden’s Rooster Tail inline spinners in white, black, & some form of chartreuse. I’ve caught at least 10 different species on these lures. If there are semi-aggressive fish around of any kind, you will catch them. Recently I caught a channel catfish, a bluegill, & a largemouth bass on three subsequent casts in the same area near some boat docks. Perfect lure for someone who just wants to catch something & doesn’t care what it is or how big.

  20. Andrew Says:

    I mentioned this in your Catch & Release post, but I would add it here too. Needlenose pliers and/or long forceps are a MUST for every angler. There are times when you need them to remove a deeply set hook.

  21. Andrew Says:

    Al (from June 21st)

    That combo should be fine for detecting bites. Getting the feel for light bites is the #1 most difficult thing to learn in fishing. I would say it’s even harder than learning to cast a baitcasting reel. There’s no real secret to it other than wear good sunglasses so you can see your line clearly in case it suddenly moves to the side. Also, if you feel something unnatural, go ahead & set the hook. With time you’ll get the hang of it.

    One tip I have heard but have been unable to try myself is to find super clear water where you can see the bottom (even a swimming pool if the owner will let you) and watch your lure as it goes into weeds, bounces off of rocks & trees, etc… pay attention to what each thing feels like until you know what normal things feel like. Then if you’re fishing and you feel something that doesn’t feel right, lay the wood!

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  23. Nige Says:

    Hi Nick,
    Thank you so much for this post. I have wanted to get into fishing my whole life, but, been too embarrassed to ask for help.

    I took your advice and haven’t looked back. I’m now teaching my little girls what I have learned.

    Incidentally, you are spot on about “knowing when you need a different Rod etc”, I have 3 now. 1 for river, 1 for beach and 1 for boat.

    Cheers again mate

  24. Harrell Says:

    Thanks for your post. Really awesome article, very detailed and practical for beginner.

    For beginners, all kinds of rods in the store really confused. Choosing a fishing rod is better to ask fisherman with full experience for help or take professional seller’s recommendation. Check here choosing different fishing rod for beginner in different fishing area: http://www.toponechoice.com/fishing-rod.html.

  25. jsnh Says:

    good tips, thanks

  26. Unnamed Says:

    I have fished with my cousins before but don’t know what rod they use. I want to know what rod would be good for a medium size lake?

  27. Louie Says:

    Personal favorites of mine are the Berkley Cherrywood HD 7′ fishing rod and the Penn Battle II reel. The Berkley rod elegantly combines strength and sensitivity, while being both lightweight and comfortable.

  28. Rae Says:


    Thanks so much for this article. As many others, I found it extremely helpful. I really want to try a spinning reel and your recommendation made me much more confident that I can get the hang of it. However, I’m perplexed about one thing…where does a person buy extra reel spools? That makes s lot of sense to me, especially on a single reel setup. I could even potentially see having two extras but it doesn’t appear obvious after a Google search where to obtain extras and if all major manufacturers offer them. I found one site that had Okuma Avenger extra spools but not any other company. Is this something that has to be purchased directly from the manufacturers themselves or should they be more easily available? I’m hoping not to have to invest a crazy amount in my reel setup as I’m just starting out, so hearing at what price point I could expect to be able to buy reels that would offer an additional spool (doesn’t have to come with the reel, just what I should expect from manufacturers to offer) would be extremely helpful. Could I expect to find additional spools for reels with the recommended Quickfire technology on some of Shimano’s offerings or is that too low end to find extra spools? I’d be so very grateful for any additional information you could share. Thank you again for your article!

  29. Khalid Says:


    I am looking for help to chose the best reel (spinning rell or casting reel with level wind and can hold more than 500yrd of line), rod and line for big fish 120lb +

    I am fishing from the beach and my throw around 50+ meter from the beach

    so i need a reel , rod and line which can handle big fish and the reel should take at least 500yrd+ line.

    Thanks and i apreciate it

  30. jose Says:

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    So we want to avail ourselves of opportunity establishing business relation with you.
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  31. Andrew Raj Says:

    Hi there..
    I am looking for a heavy duty fishing reel and rod…
    But i am not sure which one to choose or buy…
    Just a few days ago i went fishing with my friends in a pond where 10pounds++ fishes are in… but unfortunately my basic rod and reel couldnt take the preassure.. i want to buy a better rod… can someone help me.??

  32. Rikki Nash Says:

    My fiancé wants a fishing pole from the 50’s – 60’s all I know is it’s not fly fishing. We live in Utah and he has fished s lot in South Carolina. PLEASE HELP!

  33. Cody Says:

    Hey Nick, thanks for publishing this article about choosing a fishing rod. You mention some good points. If you are interested in reading more on the subject, you may enjoy this article at Foundry35. Thanks!


  34. Best Fishing Rods: A Review & Guide (2017 Update) - The Elite Drone Says:

    […] most important piece to remember when fishing rod shopping is that the rod and reel must be balanced, or matched. This means that both the rod and the reel can handle the same weight or size line. […]

  35. Joan Says:

    Great article! I’m partial to spinning reels myself. I find that its easier to deal with the line getting tangled, when the reel isn’t covered. Check out Best spinning reels to read some reviews of a couple different spinning reels.

  36. Micah Says:

    I’d highly recommend a spincast reel. Its the easiest type of role to get started with.

  37. Musky Says:

    Good general guide for rod and reels. Its very different based on the types of fish you go for though. Musky fishing is very different than pan fishing or ice fishing.

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