The best rods and reels for bass fishing are the ones that fit the conditions. In golf, you use a driver on the tee, irons on the fairway and a putter on the green because they work best. Fishing is the same. Although some fishing rigs can cover most situations, you'll be at your best with an outfit that specifically fits the conditions you are fishing.
Spinning gear can be used in a greater number of bass fishing situations since the advent of braided and super-thin monofilament lines. Spinning rods and reels, which have always been advantageous for light-line and clear water fishing, now can effectively handle heavier lines that are needed in the brush piles that bass frequent.
Spinning gear excels with small crankbaits, lightly weighted plastics and other finesse techniques. It does not backlash as often as bait-casting gear, is easy to cast, can be used handily by beginners, and is excellent for skipping lures under obstructions like docks, where bass hide in shade. Start with a rod about 6 feet long. Medium-priced reels provide good quality, enough power to handle large bass and, with proper care, they last a long time. Daiwa, G. Loomis, Quantum and Shimano are among the companies that make very good spinning gear that is appropriate for bass fishing.
Bait-casting gear excels with heavier lines of 12-lb.-test or higher, with heavy or large lures, with short casts, and in areas of heavy cover that provide bass with food and shelter. The retail store Cabela's says bait-casting's configuration, with the reel above the seat handle, helps you maintain control of the rod during casting and when fighting fish like bass, which can dive or jump in a blink. Line flows off the reel more evenly than with spinning gear.
The term "action" describes the flexibility in a rod. A fast-action rod will have a quick, springy tip for quick hooksets, yet will also provide a split-second delay that allows a bass to draw in a top-water lure. A slow rod will have an even bend throughout its length, which is advantageous with spinner baits. Graphite and fiberglass are the most common materials used. Graphite provides more flexibility and fighting power. A long handle provides more leverage and two-handed casting. A pistol grip may fit your hand better, but can be tiring over a day's casting.
Start with a 6- or 6 1/2-foot rod and a medium-priced reel. The components inside the reel affect price, and the move from low-priced reels to medium-priced ones is a good value choice for bass gear. Quality gear comes from All-Star, G. Loomis, Quantum, Berkley, Falcon, Daiwa and Shimano.
Fly Rods and Reels
The fly-fishing rod is more important than the reel. Rods are designed to cast a certain weight of line. They are rated from 1, the lightest, to 14, the heaviest. Cabela's recommends a 5- to 8-weight rod for smallmouth bass and a 6- to 9-weight rod for largemouth. For windy conditions or long casts, select a rod on the heavier end of that scale. Look for a starting rod about 9 feet long unless you will be fishing on small creeks. Slow- to medium-action rods are more forgiving of casting mistakes than fast-action rods. If you are a fly-fishing beginner, spend a little more money on the rod rather than on the reel.