Spend an hour or two on a Saturday at any boat ramp in bass country, and you’ll likely see more than a few high-performance bass rigs with five or more rods strapped down on each side of the casting deck, plus at least a dozen others in the center locker.
Hey, nothing wrong with that, I say. More power to somebody who has the knowledge, skill and wherewithal to make good use of that many sticks. But because I like to make my truck payment each month, and eat every day, my arsenal is a bit more modest.
Truth is, any bass angler requires only about five rod-and-reel combos to accomplish anything he or she needs to do on the water. What’s more, none of them need be top-of-the-line models that live at the peak of the price gradient. When selecting gear, my advice has always been to buy the highest quality you can afford because it’s always best in the long run. At the same time, I’d skip the extreme light weight and sensitivity a $400 rod blank provides—if it helps keep fuel in the boat’s tank.
Here are five rod-and-reel combos that will fill any niche a bass angler encounters, and their price tags range from reasonable to a downright bargain.
1. Meat and Potatoes
A 7-foot, medium-heavy power stick, along with a 6.3:1 ratio reel, is the bass angler’s multi-tool. Whether it’s hopping a jig, rolling a spinnerbait, or making just about any presentation that calls for line in the 10- to 20-pound range, this rod will handle it.
And if you’re going to splurge a bit on a single combo in your collection, this is the one—because it’s the rod you’ll fish most of the time—on most days. Likewise, consider getting a second one, or at least put it on your gift wish-list. With a matching set, you can run braid on one and fluorocarbon or nylon on the other, or rig each with a different bait option so you can switch from one to the other without hesitation.
Though any number of rigs would do, the Cabela’s Tatula 100/Tournament ZX combo ($209.98) fits the bill nicely. It matches a Daiwa Tatula 100 reel with a rugged Cabela’s Tournament ZX series rod. The reel features the company’s exclusive T-Wing System, which allows line to escape the spool more freely for smoother, longer casts—something all anglers can appreciate. The HM64 graphite rod is gutsy and plenty sensitive, and is offered in several styles—some of which are application specific. In this case, I’d go with the 7-foot, 1-inch TZXC-71MH paired with the 6.3:1 100H reel. It’s billed as a Spinnerbait/Swim Jig combo, but will do much more.
2. Poppers, Buzzbaits and More
A good 6½- to 7-foot rod in medium to medium-heavy power is a great choice for twitching a popper or minnow-body stickbait, throwing a buzzbait, or working any type of topwater lure, really. It has enough backbone to control a fish that’s intent on escape, and with a medium-fast to fast action tip, it’ll make the lure move as it should.
Any angler looking to fill this gap in their rod box might want to consider either of the rigs in Abu Garcia’s new series of Black Max Casting Combos. Each pairs a compact Black Max reel with a rugged 24-ton graphite blank. The outfit has what bass anglers need—a solid and smooth drag system, external mag adjustment to make quick work of swapping lures, and a strong, lightweight blank with a split-grip, no-slip EVA handle. Plus, its $69.99 price tag makes it very wallet-friendly.
3. Crankin’ Stick
Anglers can find a number of specialized crankbait rods at the tackle shop, but for my money, a medium-heavy power blank with a moderately fast action matched with a solid reel, like Quantum’s Solo Baitcasting Combo, ($49.99 sale price!) will work well. Such a rig has the muscle to battle strong fish, and enough “give” to ensure a striking bass gets a mouthful of barbs.
The IM6 graphite blank in this particular outfit provides power and sensitivity, and while the reel isn’t loaded with bells and whistles, it’s a reliable tool with sturdy drag and brake systems that get the job done. And the sale price puts it high on the bang-for-your-buck scale.
4. Right for Flippin’
An angler can use just about any good medium-heavy to heavy baitcasting system to flip into brush, heavy submerged weed beds or matted vegetation, as long as the reel and the blank have enough muscle to haul a bass out of the slop.
Reach and control are the key elements here, and while some fishermen prefer a 6½-foot stick for this, others opt for 7 feet or longer. At 6 feet, 10 inches, Lew’s new Laser Carbon RZ Combo ($99.99) offers good middling ground, and a heavyweight punch. The IM6 graphite blank can go toe-to-toe in a close-quarters fight, while the reel’s Rulon drag cranks to 10-pounds of pressure and its zero-reverse clutch eliminates slop on the hookset.
Perhaps the Laser Carbon RZ’s most valuable asset is that it can serve as well for other applications, or make an excellent back-up, say if another rig gets stepped on or somehow winds up in the drink—both of which occur more frequently than anglers like to let on.
5. Finesse Fishing
Every bass angler’s arsenal should include one rock-solid spinning outfit, for fishing drop-shot rigs, shaky heads, jig worms and the like. But because dainty baits often catch big fish, the combo—especially the reel—has to have some might in its DNA.
The Orra2S30 reel in Abu Garcia’s new Orra S Spinning Combo ($109.99) has the pedigree. Its X-Craftic gearbox design, with C6 carbon, hold gears in alignment even under tremendous torque, while six stainless bearings, plus a roller bearing, ease friction under pressure. The reel is paired with a 24-ton graphite blank that’s lightweight, yet sturdy.
Bassin’ on a budget doesn’t mean an angler has to fill the rod box with junk. In fact, it doesn’t have to be filled at all. With five combos like these, you can face any bass fishing situation with confidence.
This article was produced in cooperation with Cabela’s.
Top image from Lew's Facebook; product images courtesy of Cabela's.