Updated Aug 22, 2022 5:00 AM
Beginner fishing rods should check several boxes in order to make the grade and find their way into your next outdoor adventure. Built for casting bait or lures to fish, with ruggedness and value in mind, the best beginner fishing rod should be balanced, durable, and deliver ease of use while still being budget friendly. Whether your fishing adventures lead you to fly fishing for trout along a beautiful mountain stream, casting lures to hard fighting largemouth bass, delivering ultra light baits to panfish, or working the tide in coastal waters, choosing the right beginning angler rod is a key component to your success. Let’s take a look at the top picks for the best beginner fishing rods in 2021.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Beginner Rod for Fishing
The style of fishing, the species you target, and the waters you intend to fish in are all critical considerations to make sure the rod you choose will fit the activity you’re planning.
Fishing rods can be constructed from a wide variety of materials. Some examples of the most popular rod materials include: fiberglass, graphite, and carbon fiber. The material a fishing rod is made from has a direct effect on several factors, such as action, weight, balance, durability rod, strength, and cost.
Look to fiberglass rods for durability and entry-level pricing. They tend to be more limber and load up well when fighting fish. Unfortunately, fiberglass rods come in on the heavier side. Carbon-fiber rods really shine when it comes to tip sensitivity and saving weight for long days of casting. Carbon rods do, however, have a higher price point. Graphite rods are rigid with super fast action and great tip feel. The rigid spine of graphite rods makes them ideal for making long casts. One down side for graphite is the materials brittle nature making it more susceptible to breaking.
Rod-length consideration is based on multiple aspects of your fishing plans. As a general rule, longer rods make longer casts. Shorter rods on the other hand can be a lot of fun especially in an ultra-light action. Some rod-length extremes exist when it comes to specific fishing techniques. Super short rods—24 inches and shorter—work well when casting out isn’t performed. Examples of fishing techniques for super short rods include fishing vertically from a dock or ice fishing. Longer rods, ranging from 8 feet all the way out to 14-plus feet, work well for making long casts into the surf from a beach. Long rods are also common for crappie and panfish anglers reaching out to drop lures straight down onto fish hiding in underwater structures.
Fishing Rod and Reel Matchup
Keep in mind when searching for a new fishing rod, ultimately you’re going to need a reel. If you plan to try your hand at using a spinning reel, look for a rod with a reel seat and rod guides designed for a spinning reel. Are you contemplating using a casting reel with your new rod purchase? Make sure your rod has a reel seat and rod guides designed to match with a casting reel. Fly fishing rods are generally all designed to fit the common form and function that fly fishing reels share when it comes to the rod and the rod’s reel seat.
The Best Beginner Fishing Rods
Best Beginner Fishing Rod Overall: Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod
Why It Made the Cut
My pick for the best beginner fishing rod overall is the Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod by Shakespeare. Constructed with 35 percent more graphite than their GX2 Ugly Stik, the Ugly Stik Elite is lighter in the hand, offers better sensitivity, and has a faster action than their already famously durable Ugly Stik lineup.
The hybrid rod blank is finished off with simple one piece, stainless steel guides ensuring many seasons of worry free fishing. I chose the Ugly Stik Elite rod setup for spincast fishing, making this pick not only my best all around rod for beginners, but my pick for the best spinning rod for beginners as well.
Shakespeare’s Ugly Stik lineup wouldn’t be complete without their famous Ugly Stik rod and reel combination offerings. My pick for the best beginner rod is no different, and the Ugly Stik Elite rod can be purchased in a combo setup for any angler that’s in the market. Pairing my best beginner fishing rod with a fishing reel made to match the rod’s action, feel, and fish-fighting strength is perfect, making the Ugly Stik Elite Combo my best fishing rod and reel combo for 2021.
I’ve been fishing with Ugly Stik fishing rods for over 30 years. For the price point, they are impossible to beat in durability, sensitivity, and ease of use. I really like the natural cork grip on the Ugly Stik Elite, it feels good in the hand, even when wet. In my experience, a spinning rod and reel combo is the king of versatility, and the stainless hardware on the Ugly Stik Elite even makes it salt water friendly.
- Great value
- Fiberglass and graphite blend produces a strong and sensitive rod
- Price point on this rod is tough to beat for the value
- Multiple lengths, actions, and weights are available
- The rod is heavy
- Shakespeare warrants the rod rod, but not no repair parts are available
The Ugly Stik Elite in the spinning rod configuration is a terrific pick for both beginners and seasoned anglers looking for a versatile and reliable all around fishing rod on a budget. The hybrid fiberglass and graphite construction brings both the strength and sensitivity of a glass rod paired with the sensitivity and lightweight feel of the graphite rod. My personal pick from the Ugly Stik Elite line is:
- Six foot rod length for combined castability and ease of portability
- Medium power rod blank backbone for strength enough to fight bigger fish while not sacrificing feel for panfish and trout angling
- Fast action to detect the lightest taps, and produce solid hooksets
Pair your rod with a medium action spinning reel loaded with monofilament or fluorocarbon line anywhere from 4-pound test all the way up to 12-pound test for fish species ranging from panfish to channel cats. You can even spool on 50-pound braided line for hook straightening strength in crappie brush piles, or pitching spoons in the surf.
Best Beginner Casting Rod: Duckett Fishing Silverado Casting Rod
Why it Made the Cut
As the best beginner casting rod the Duckett Fishing Silverado Casting Rod is built to be an everyday beginner’s casting rod with the feel of a pro-level tournament rod, while still keeping the price point low. Duckett constructs the Silverado utilizing a premium Sensi-Touch graphite blank with a Halo-Sanded finish for a rod that is ultralight in the hand while maintaining strength and responsiveness.
The Silverado Casting rod features an external carbon wrap and fiber scrim reinforcement through the entire rod blank for increased strength and durability. For the beginning bass fisherman looking to level up the game and try their hand at a casting rod, Duckett’s Silverado Casting rod doubles up as my best bass fishing rod for beginners pick as well.
Making long casts on wind driven points screams bass angling. It doesn’t matter if the water along those points is stocked with largemouth, white bass, striped bass, or even hybrid wipers—a casting rod is in order. Maybe you dream of flipping and pitching a pig and jig to behemoth bass or bouncing Texas or Carolina rigged worms off the bottom—a casting rod will fit the bill. A sturdy casting rod that’s lightweight, yet strong, is the perfect tool for this popular type of fishing.
Recently I spent an afternoon hucking white spinner baits on long casts along rocky drop offs for largemouth and smallmouth bass in a beautiful, clear-water Ozark lake. My Duckett Silverado casting rod was up to the task, and after hours of casting heavy baits, my arms and shoulders were ready for more. This beginner friendly rod performed above expectation, and easily punches above its weight in budget for the class.
- Cast-friendly tip and backbone separation
- Premium carbon rod construction couples strength with weight savings
- True split reel seat provides maximum feel and vibration transmission
- Great value
- Light weight for long days of casting
- Quality construction and materials for a superior rod
- Great variety of action and length options to choose from
- Carbon fiber can be brittle if pinched
- Casting rods can be difficult for beginners to use
Duckett’s Silverado Casting Rod is a budget and beginner friendly carbon fiber casting rod. Constructed with weight, dexterity, and versatility in mind, the Silverado is ideal for long casts, flipping, or pitching. With a variety of rod lengths, weights, and actions available, there’s a rod for any application. The Sensi-Touch sanded carbon blank is balanced and paired with 316 stainless steel guides with hard chrome inserts. My personal pick from the Silverado Casting Rod line is:
- Seven foot rod length for making long casts
- Medium power for balance and feel
- Moderate action for forgiveness when setting the hook and fighting big fish
Pair your casting rod with a smooth spooling casting reel with an ergonomic feel, and carbon fiber one piece frame for added strength without sacrificing weight. Spool up with a medium weight 6- to 12-pound mono for throwing heavy lures like spinner baits or hard bodies. Consider fluorocarbon for clear bodies of water and finesse presentations of plastics like craws or lizards. Step up to sturdy 20-pound braid for pitching baits to feeding bass in the heavy cover.
Best Beginner Fly Rod: Orvis Encounter Fly Rod Outfit
Why it Made the Cut
Orvis’s Encounter Outfit made its way with me to the Big Thompson Canyon in Colorado casting to brook and rainbow trout just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. Among golden aspens with bull elk bugling down the canyon, my Orvis Encounter rod and reel combo worked Adams dry flies past slack water to fish lying in wait, flawlessly. The rod’s medium action provided castability, and strength, with plenty of finesse. The Encounter combo reel was surprisingly smooth for a plastic composite fly fishing reel and performed well making it the best beginner fly rod. The Orvis setup stripped line in swift water, delivered short and long casts, and fought fish with plenty of backbone.
- Sold as a combo with fly reel, line, and travel case
- Available in a range of rod lengths and weights for various fishing scenarios
- Four-piece rod is ideal for storage and travel
- Quality craftsmanship that is made in America
- Comes with a great reel, backing, fly line, and a travel case
- Several rod length and weight options are available
- Price is on the high end for a beginner rod
- Drag system isn’t sealed
- Included weight-forward line is not a premium line
The Encounter Outfit package from Orvis is a fantastic starter pack for any beginning fly fishing angler. Orvis has packed the entry-level Encounter rod with a matched reel, fly line and backing, and even a travel case into the outfit. Built for packability and versatility, the Encounter is designed to be a medium-action rod with just the right amount of flex for some casting forgiveness. The graphite rod is well suited to powerful casts delivering streamers, as well as precision placement of dry flies. My personal pick from the Encounter Fly Rod selection is:
- 8’6” Rod length for both strong casts and precision deliveries
- 5 weight fly rod for the trout streams and farm ponds
- Paired with 6-pound tippet material, the rod and reel combination is ready to fish
Best Fishing Rod for Kids: Zebco 33 Spincast Combo
Why it Made the Cut
Kids can be tough on gear, and fishing rods and reels are no exception. With durability and economy in mind, this year’s best fishing rod for kids is the Zebco 33 Spincast Combo. The Zebco 33 line has been a mainstay for beginning anglers for generations. Made to be durable and easy to use at a bargain price point, the Zebco 33 Spincast Combo is an ideal setup for kids.
The Zebco 33 rod and reel combinations have long been a tradition for generations of anglers making their first cast. From panfish to trout, largemouth bass to catfish, a Zebco 33 combo will get the job done. The sturdy 6-foot-long fiberglass rod comes in a little on the heavy side, but for the money you can’t beat its durability.
- Spincast push button reel design is perfect for young anglers
- Durability and castable
- Pre-spooled reel with 10-pound monofilament
- A well-built rod and reel combination that’s reliable
- Great value
- Simple design for beginners
- Some sensitivity is sacrificed for durability
- 10-pound test is on the heavy side for most beginner anglers
- 6-foot rod may be a little long for the youngest anglers
The Zebco 33 combo fishing rod and reel is an ideal entry level fishing rod and reel, especially for kids. The 6-foot long, medium-action, fiberglass rod is built tough. A comfortable EVA foam handle grip is sturdy enough to fight fish, yet small enough to fit a young angler’s hand. Zebco’s famous 33 reel completes the package, spooled with 10-pound line. Designed with metal gears, stainless steel reel covers, reversible right/left retrieve, adjustable drag, and even a bait alert, the 33 line of reels is perfect for kids learning to fish.
My personal experience with Zebco 33 rod and reel combos goes back decades to some of my first days as a fisherman. I started out rigging nightcrawlers on bait holder hooks under a float some 30-plus years ago. Tied to the line on my Zebco 33 combo, many bluegill, bass, and crappie were added to my stringer.
My pursuit for the best beginner fishing rods for 2021 began with, well, the beginning angler in mind. As an avid angler over many decades I look back over my many lessons learned, not only when it comes to fishing techniques, but just as importantly, the fishing equipment. Over years of casting a line in any number and type of waters—including high-mountain lakes, oceans, rivers, reservoirs, and farm ponds—my fishing equipment has become tuned for performance, simplicity, durability, and value.
Through endless trial and error, I’ve settled on a number of factors that are critical for angling equipment no matter what species you’re casting to. These qualities are important for both seasoned and beginning anglers, and they set the stage for choosing the winning rods for 2021.
- Quality and Durability: Fishing equipment should be made from quality materials utilizing construction techniques that pay attention to detail. The combination of quality material and detailed construction results in quality products that will last for years.
- Ease of Use: Enjoying your time on the water is critically important. Choose fishing equipment that is easy for you to use and adds to your enjoyment without complicating things.
- Effectiveness: Consider the task at hand and choose the most effective tool for the job. An effective fishing rod will do several things: Present the bait or lure, detect the bite, set the hook, and fight the fish. You want a rod that’ll be effective on all of those tasks.
- Budget: Investing in a hobby or a lifestyle is always a critical consideration. It’s important to choose fishing equipment that will provide the quality and effectiveness you need to match your budget. While bargains can be found, consider investments in quality fishing equipment to be long term with some general care and maintenance.
Q: Do good fishing rods really make a difference?
Absolutely. While sticker price is not always an indicator of a “good” fishing rod, choosing a quality rod will make a difference in your fishing experience. The rod, rod grip, and reel are what transfer all of the feel of fishing to your hands. A superior rod will not only help you feel the fish, but also feel your lure and line as well.
Q: Are expensive fishing rods worth the money?
That depends. Anglers with a larger budget may not see a higher priced rod as expensive. Just as some drivers opt to pay more for a sports car while others choose to drive a sedan, choosing the right rod for your budget and style of fishing is a personal choice.
Q: How much is a decent fishing rod?
The best fishing rod option that’s effective in many situations and scenarios is arguably a spinning rod. Spinning rods that make the grade for most “general” angling can be had for $50.
Final Thoughts on Beginner Fishing Rods
While it has been said that the best fishing rod is the one you have with you when the fish are biting, I believe it is also relevant and important to consider the best tool for the job at hand. When it comes to choosing the best fishing rod for a beginning angler, the toughness and sensitivity paired with budget pricing of a fiberglass spinning rod is tough to beat.