Updated Jun 25, 2022 11:24 AM
A spinning rod and reel may well be the most versatile fishing rod and reel type in existence. Spinning rods can toss tiny panfish spoons that weigh an eighth of an ounce, striped bass surfcasting rigs that weigh half a pound, and everything in between. They’re also easy to learn how to use, easy to maintain, and are available in a wide variety of price ranges. With so many choices available, it can be difficult and even overwhelming to decide what is the best spinning rod for you. We’ll lay out the basics of a good fishing rod, and recommend some excellent models.
Features to Look for in the Best Spinning Rods
Spinning rods blanks are constructed of a variety of materials. The most common of those are graphite and fiberglass. Fiberglass rods tend to be the most forgiving, resisting damage from on the water mishaps or car door contact. But they are also less sensitive than rods built on graphite blanks. Graphite, also known as carbon fiber, is more responsive than fiberglass. The quick-rebounding qualities give graphite rods a faster action, and more fish-fighting power. They also tend to be lighter than fiberglass models.
Number of Guides
Good rods have the proper number of line guides. Guides keep line straight on the rod, which enables longer and more accurate casts. They distribute the weight and pressure of the fish you’re fighting more evenly. The rule of thumb is to have at least one guide for every foot of rod length, not counting the tip, and manufacturers of good rods won’t skimp.
Most guides have inserts or rings that provide a very smooth surface for the line in order to prevent friction and chafing during casts and retrieves. Lightweight, super-smooth materials like silicon carbide (usually called SiC) and Alconite (a type of ceramic) provide protection from abrasion, especially from braided line. High-end rods often have guides made of titanium, which weighs much less than stainless steel guides, and some guides, like REC Recoil guides, don’t even need an insert. Single-foot guides are thought to have less impact on the rod’s flex and give you a lighter, more sensitive rod. Double-footed guides are sturdier and more likely to be found on baitcasting rods.
Spinning rod handles come in the traditional full style, with cork or foam above and below the reel seat all the way down to the butt; and the split style, with cork or foam near the reel seat and the butt but a segment of bare rod blank in between. Advocates of the split style maintain their rods are lighter because there’s less handle material, while full-handle fans like having the option of holding the rod at different positions. With freshwater rods, the choice is at least partly aesthetic; the weight of the missing handle material is negligible. Many spinning rods made for saltwater surf casting have handles consisting of cork tape wrapped directly onto the blank. They’re light and sensitive, but some anglers prefer a thicker handle made of cork, Hypalon, or EVA foam for long fights with strong fish.
Some anglers think that the best fishing rod is one piece, with no sections to put together. The reason is that ferrules (the connections between rod segments) cause “flat spots” that spoil the rod’s flex, inhibiting sensitivity and casting distance. But many experienced anglers point out that today’s two-piece rod is a vast improvement over the metal-ferruled fiberglass rods of old. They’re also much easier to transport and store, and less prone to accidental breakage in a door or tailgate. And, your choices of reel, line, and lure, and your own abilities, are much more important considerations than rod sections. Multi-section travel rods, which fit in a suitcase, are somewhat inferior when it comes to rod action and performance, but if the alternative is to not fish at all—well, that’s not really an alternative, is it?
The Best Spinning Rods on the Market:
This is a strong but sensitive and lightweight one-piece spinning rod. It has eight titanium alloy guides and a soft-touch Fuji reel seat. Constructed of carbon fiber with Abu Garcia’s Powerlux resin, it has an extra-fast action for crisp, accurate casts, and plenty of hook-setting and fish-fighting backbone. Rated for 8- to 14-pound test monofilament, the rod is designed to cast lures from 3/16 to 5/8-ounce, accommodating a range of terminal tackle choices. That makes it a great all-around rod for largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleyes, pickerel, and perch.
The split handles are cork and EVA foam, and the finger grooved lower handle is a nice touch that lends itself to two-handed casts. Zirconium inserts on the guides are lightweight for a nicely balanced rod, but will stand up to abrasion from braided lines.
- Length: 6’8”, one piece
- Line Rating: 8-14 lb. test monofilament
- Lure Rating: 3/16-5/8 ounce
- Guides: 8 Titanium alloy with zirconium inserts
- Handle: Split, cork with EVA foam
Best Medium Light: St. Croix Premier PS66MLF2 6’6” Medium Light Power
Best Medium Light Spinning Rod
This model is part of the St. Croix Premier line, a high-quality carbon fiber rod with a 5-year warranty. The handle is comfortable full-size cork, and there’s a hook-keeper, which is always a convenience. The rod is fitted with Kigan Master Hand 3D single-foot guides with slim, strong aluminum-oxide rings. Spooled up with 4 to 10-pound line, it can toss everything from light spinners to chunky jigs with a fast, tip-flex action. That makes it suited to chasing panfish, trout and bass, and its two-piece design will fit in the trunk of the smallest car. You cannot go wrong with a St. Croix rod, and if the specs of the PS66MLF2 aren’t quite right, there are 37 other spinning rods in the line to choose from.
- Length: 6’6”, two-piece
- Line Rating: 4-10 lb. test monofilament
- Lure Rating: 1/8-1/2 oz.
- Guides: Kigan Master Hand single-foot, aluminum oxide
- Handle: Full, premium cork
Best for Saltwater: Okuma Rockaway 11 foot Medium Power
Okuma’s moderately priced surf rods have become popular with anglers casting to game fish from beaches. This model of the Rockaway series will stand up to striped bass, bluefish, redfish, and other coastal species. At 11’ long and rated for lures from 3/4- to 3 ounces, the rod has the range to get into the deeper water beyond the breaking waves, and can be spooled with 10- to 20-pound test monofilament, which allows you to customize the line strength to wherever you’re fishing. EVA foam segments behind and in front of the reel seat provide comfortable grips for working a pencil popper, the handle is shrink-wrapped and textured for a secure hold even when it’s cold and wet, and the rod has a rounded butt you can dig into your hip when you really need to rear back on a strong fish. XQ series angled Sea Guide 316-Stainless steel frames with Zirconium inserts offer a slick pathway for both braid and mono.
- Length: 11’, two-piece
- Line Rating: 10-20 lb. test monofilament
- Lure Rating: ¾-3 ounce
- Guides: 6 XQ series angled Sea Guide 316-Stainless steel frames with zirconium inserts
- Handle: EVA rear and fore grips with rounded butt
Best for Trout: Fenwick Eagle 6’ Light Power
Best Light Trout Spinning Rod
From rushing mountain streams to high-elevation ponds to cold reservoirs, this versatile rod will toss the spinners and spoons that trout can’t resist—and makes for a good panfish or light bass rod, too. Its graphite blank is rated as moderate action by the manufacturer, but casts crisply and feels balanced. The handle is full-size cork and the six single-foot guides are stainless steel with aluminum oxide ceramic inserts. At 6 feet, the Eagle is long enough to cast the kinds of distances typically required in lake or reservoir fishing, but still short enough to maneuver around overhanging trees and streamside brush.
- Length: 6’, two-piece
- Line rating: 2-8 lb. test monofilament
- Lure Rating: 1/16-3/8 oz.
- Guides: 6 Stainless steel with aluminum oxide inserts
- Handle: Full, cork
Best Budget: Ugly Stik GX2 7’ Medium Power
Best Budget Spinning Rod
Composite graphite/fiberglass blank, stealthy matte finish, comfortable EVA handle – there’s plenty to like about this rod beyond its price. The Ugly Stik brand has been around for a long time and has developed a reputation for durability. The GX2 line includes 10 spinning rods from ultralight to heavy; this 7’, two-piece model has a medium power rating, handles 6 to 15-pound test line, and is suited to a wide range of lures, including crankbaits, swimbaits, spinnerbaits, and even finesse rigs (though extreme sensitivity is not one of the rod’s selling points.) The one-piece Ugly Tuff guides eliminate insert pop-outs and should resist line abrasion for years. It’s a great all-around rod for pond and lake fishing.
- Length: 7’ two-piece
- Line rating: 6-15 lb.
- Lure rating: 1/8-5/8 oz.
- Guides: Six one-piece stainless steel
- Handle: Full, EVA foam
Q: Is a one-piece rod better than a two-piece?
These days, a one piece rod is not tremendously better than a two-piece rod, though some serious anglers will disagree. New two-piece rods fit together much more streamlined fashion than they did years ago, because modern rod materials don’t need metal ferrules to attach pieces together. Today’s two-piece rods are sensitive and supple enough to accommodate most anglers’ casting and catching. While there probably will be a small flat spot in the flex of the rod, many anglers won’t notice it when fishing.
Q: What is the best all-around spinning rod?
The best all-around spinning rod for most bass fishing would be a medium heavy spinning rod, rated for 6 to 15-pound test and 1/8 to ½ ounce lures. This rod will have the power to cast bass lures, play large bass and pull fish out of heavy cover, but can also toss small, lightweight lures and baits for small bass, trout and panfish.
The best all-around spinning rod for all fishing is difficult to pinpoint because they come in many different sizes and can be used to catch a wide variety of fish species. An ultralight trout rod, for example, would not work for surf fishing.
Q: Who makes a good spinning rod?
Good spinning rods are made by many manufacturers, but a few brands have become recognized over the years for producing excellent rods. St. Croix rods are held in high esteem. Abu Garcia and Fenwick are historic brands used by generations of anglers. In the saltwater realm, Okuma has developed a strong following among budget-conscious anglers.
Before you buy, make doubly sure the rod is right not just for the species that you’ll be fishing for, but for what you’ll be casting with it. Casting a garden worm on a hook with only a very small split shot attached for weight requires a light power rod and light line. It’s difficult and frustrating to try to cast that rig with a heavy power bass rod spooled with 14-pound test line. You’ll need to cast strenuously, which will tear the worm (or any soft bait) off of the hook. When in doubt, buy two rods. And make sure you get one of the best spinning reels and line, too.