Over the last decade, the fishing industry has experienced explosive technological growth. Today’s bass fishermen electronically see under docks in vivid, three-­dimensional detail. Pro ­anglers pre-fish tournaments on screens from their cockpit seats, practically eliminating the need to wet a line.

rods and reels in the boat
Rods and reels ready for testing Nathaniel Welch

When it comes to science-driven enhancements, tackle makers are hustling to stay in step with the competition. Rod designers manipulate carbon on a supramolecular scale, and their work lets us cast farther and with greater accuracy than ever before. Advancements in metallurgy and materials science have produced substances from which smoother, quieter fishing reel gear trains and drags have been created.

Such changes aren’t just for show. These products are all lighter and more ergonomic, which means we can fish longer with less fatigue.

For 2015, rod and reel manufacturers have once again eclipsed the previous year’s innovations. Here’s our take on the best of what’s new.

The Best Spinning and Baitcasting Reels

The Best Spinning and Baitcasting Rods

Balance on a Budget: Rod and Reel Pairings

5 Innovations, Most Improved, and Boutique Tackle

Pet Peeves, a Dream Reel, and the Meaning of Rod Ratings

testing reels
Hands-on approach to testing. Nathaniel Welch

How We Test
Behind the scenes at the proving grounds of the newest fishing gear

Like baseball’s postseason and pumpkin-flavored everything, the Outdoor Life Tackle Test has become a rite of October. Once again last fall we ventured south to Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras, Louisiana, to pit the latest rods and reels against the redfish that swim in the marshes at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Some 42 rods and reels made up our largest field in recent memory.

Gear Editor John Taranto with a big Louisiana redfish. Nathaniel Welch

Over the course of several days, all of our testers—OL editors and CFA guides alike—spent quality time with each piece of tackle and then drew upon that on-the-water experience to make informed scores in 10 different categories. The average of each tester’s scores in each category, plus a cumulative overall score, are reflected here.

As always, the rods and reels that finished with the highest overall scores were deemed our Editor’s Choices, while the tackle with the top Value scores took home the Great Buy awards.

The test team working a group of redfish. Nathaniel Welch