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Your First Rod & Reel

Some of my non-fishing friends often ask me what rod & reel setup they should buy for the one time of year they fish. This is hardly a straight forward question. It’s like asking a golfer to pick one club. Although this is tough for me I do think I have a good first setup. The basis for my setup is generally for bass and walleye.

Rod Selection

I recommend a spinning rod for the once a year fisherman. The reels are easier to use and tend to be cheaper. There are essentially three main characteristics to consider when picking a rod: length, power and action.

  • Length (6′ to 6½’) – I recommend a rod that is approximately 6 – 6 ½ feet in length. The main reason for this is because it will usually fit in a car. This may sound strange but if you were to pick up a 7′ plus rod you may start having issues transporting. As it relates to a 1 or 2 (easier storage) piece that is personal preference. I also feel that beginers have trouble with shorter rods (5′) as it’s harder to set the hook. The longer rod makes the line travel longer setting the hook than a shorter rod.
  • Power (Medium Heavy) – This is a somewhat subjective measurement of the backbone of the rod. I recommend “medium heavy”. This is so you can rip bass out of weeds and cast or troll crankbaits.
  • Action (Fast) – Action describes the sensitivity at the tip of the rod. Another slightly subjective measurement. The faster the action the more sensitive the tip. I recommend a fast action rod. Most rods that have a power of medium heavy often have a fast action so this works out well. I think this helps in jig fishing for walleye (but not optimal). On the other hand, you cannot do monster hook sets as you’ll likely miss that walleye. Just a firm sweep will do.

You can find many $20-$30 rods with these characteristics. If I had to recommend a  brand it would be the Shakespeare’s Ugly Stick. They are known for their durability and yes they are ugly as rods go. The downside is I am not sure they tell you the action of the rod, just the power.

Reel Selection

Because we’ve picked a spinning rod we need a spinning reel. I would look for a 2500 model Shimano. The 2500 will hold plenty of line and is a good general reel. You should be able to pick one up for around $20. I would not get hung up about bearings. Half of them are marketing as there is a general feeling that the more ball bearings the better. That’s not to say that ball bearings are bad you’d just have to do some research.

Line Selection

This is where I differ from most recommendations as I would go with a super line. Mono and Fluorocarbon are just fine, but I think they are harder to deal with for the novice. They are harder to spool, can unspool from the line and are a bear to untangle. Super lines, on a spinning reel, are much easier to deal with and last much much longer from my experience.  I recommend anywhere from 15lb to 20lb and make sure its a braided line, not a fan of fused lines. Super lines have a smaller diameter per pound test then monofilament or fluorocarbon. Because of this you can get a stronger line without it being bulky.


To conclude, this rig should cost approximately $50 and will be decent for the novice fisherman. Another benefit is if you do decide to get into fishing this setup will be a nice 2nd or 3rd rod (or 12th rod 😉 ).

My next post will be around your first lures. Again, the basis will likely be bass and walleye.

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