The Best Beginner Fishing Rods of 2023

Spend less time overanalyzing your options and catch more fish with these rods
Tester fishes from a kayak inshore.

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Buying a beginner fishing rod can be challenging. If you don’t know different techniques, or understand their demands, and don’t understand your personal preferences for components and actions, it’s easy to buy the wrong rod. And that can result in less accuracy, more fatigue and fewer fish. 

Fortunately, companies are making an increasing number of really good rods across all price points. There are also bargains among budget rods, including some sticks that outperform ones that cost significantly more. Here are some of the best beginner fishing rods for bass and panfish.

How We Chose the Best Bass Rods for Beginners

In order to find the best bass rods for beginners,I fished a wide variety of rods, trying to keep tight budgets and versatility at the forefront of our search. I wanted rods that someone wouldn’t outgrow quickly, and which could serve as a “forever” tool, but also one that that would cover unforeseen opportunities and needs. I took them to rivers and lakes, bouncing them through waves and using the tips to dislodge snagged lures, the better to ensure their versatility. Except in cases where I knew I needed a specialized tool—like for swimbaits or flipping—I focused on “in-betweeners” that would do a lot of things reasonably well.

Best Fishing Rods for Beginners: Reviews & Recommendations

Best All-Around Spinning: Falcon BuCoo SR Spinning 7-foot Medium

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Key Features

  • 7-foot medium action
  • ¼- to ¾-ounce lures
  • EVA split grip handle
  • Fuji guides

Pros

  • Exposed reel seat maximizes sensitivity
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Low profile guides improve casting distance
  • Versatile for a wide range of finesse techniques

Cons

  • May not handle ultralight lures well
A nice striper caught on the Falcon.

I’ve been fishing several rods—both spinning and baitcasting—from the BuCoo lineup for several years, and each one opens a window to new techniques. This model, however, is by far the most versatile spinning rod. I’ve used it for wacky worms, dropshotting, and small crankbaits. I often find myself reaching for it. It’s great for skipping docks and then extracting the fish that live beneath them. This all-around rod gets the nod over several that cost three times as much or more, and the 7-foot length is perfect for both younger, shorter anglers, and taller ones alike. It also has a matching reel that won’t tire you out.

Best All-Around Baitcasting: Dobyns Colt 7-foot Medium Heavy

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Key Features

  • 7-foot medium heavy
  • High modulus graphite
  • 1/4-1 ounce lures
  • Hypalon split grip

Pros

  • Extreme value
  • Sensitive high modulus graphite 
  • Handles wide range of lures and lure sizes
  • Powerful
  • Relatively inexpensive

Cons

  • Fairly stiff for some moving baits

This all-around go-getter may be the best bargain in the baitcasting world. I used it to pitch a jig and worm into heavy cover for light biters, yet it could also handle a lipless crankbait or spinnerbait at a faster clip without pulling the bait away from the fish. Anglers who need a softer rod can buy the CB version, which is made for crankbaits, but I found this one to be excellent with mid-sized to larger square bills. The Dobyns Colt can make a versatile angler out of someone just starting.

Best Baitcasting Combo: Abu Garcia Vengeance Casting Combo

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Key Features

  • 7-foot medium heavy rod
  • Split grip handle
  • 3/8-1-ounce lures
  • 6.4:1 gear ratio 

Pros

  • Handles a wide range of common power fishing lures
  • Sensitive graphite construction
  • Graphite-framed reel
  • Versatile and tournament ready

Cons

  • Only available in one retrieve speed

Baitcasting combos can be intimidating for beginners, but this is a tournament-ready combo at a bargain price. The rod and reel are perfectly matched, with top-notch features like titanium oxide inserts in the guides and five bearings in the reel. They won’t handle your lightest baitcasting-oriented lures, but they will excel with both bottom bouncers like worms, jigs and Carolina Rigs, as well as faster moving options. Frankly, this is a combo that anyone, at any level could experience success with. It’ll handle a beating better than most, even if you’re taking it from bank to boat to kayak.

Read Next: Best Baitcaster Combos

Best Spinning Combo: Lew’s Mach Crush Spinning Combo

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Key Features

  • 7-foot medium-fast rod
  • Winn-grip handle
  • 11 bearing reel
  • 6.2:1 gear ratio

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Plenty of features

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive than other budget combos

Lew’s offers more inexpensive combos that are quite good, but this is a refined combination of two pieces of machinery at a reasonable price. You’ll be glad you paid the modest difference. In fact, if you know that you like fishing in general—not just bass fishing—this might be a great place to start. It works well on trout, panfish, pike, and even light saltwater species. Some anglers are lukewarm on the Winn Grip rod handles, but I find that they work as advertised, maintaining a hold when things otherwise get slippery. The addition of that same material on the reel handle knob is a nice touch. It’s also amazing that a reel at this price has 11 bearings. But Lew’s has packed a ton of features into it, including a lubing system that keeps it performing at top levels even with heavy use.

Best Swimbait Rod: Daiwa DX Swimbait Casting Rod

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Key Features

  • 8-foot heavy
  • IM7 graphite blank
  • 2-to 8-ounce lures
  • Full cork handle

Pros

  • Length and taper allow for extra long casts
  • Fuji reel seats hold reel firmly in place
  • Fuji Aluminum Oxide guides won’t suffer under braid, fluorocarbon, or mono
  • Durable

Cons

  • May not be applicable to many beginning anglers’ lure preferences

This is a quick and relatively inexpensive way to begin using big baits. It will handle monster glide baits, swimbaits, and wake baits with ease and casting accuracy, and has just the right action to get those fish to the boat once hooked. It’s not the lightest swimbait rod out there, or the most sensitive, but it’s remarkable for both attributes when you consider the price tag. It also has Fuji guides and a Fuji reel seat. While it’s inapplicable to many more general techniques, it can be used for some other things, like throwing an Alabama Rig.

Read Next: Best Swimbait Rods

Best Flipping Stick: Fenwick HMG 7 foot 6 inch, Heavy

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet 6 inches
  • Extra fast action
  • Heavy power
  • 24-ton high modulus graphite
  • High quality multi-material split grip handle

Pros

  • Extremely comfortable handle
  • Titanium guides with zirconium inserts stand up to braided line
  • Lighter than most rods of nearly 8 feet

Cons

  • Newer anglers may have trouble getting used to a rod this long

Beginning anglers looking to get serious about bass fishing in a hurry—especially in grass-laden states with big bass like Florida, Louisiana, and Texas—are going to need to learn to quietly put their lures in a spot the size of a coffee cup and then quickly set the hook and power out their quarry. It doesn’t come naturally to most people, and can’t be achieved with lighter rods. There’s simply too much stress. Therefore a flipping stick may not be your first purchase, but the need will come along sooner or later. Fenwick produced the first dedicated flipping sticks 50 years ago, and they’re still at it today, building that heritage into this reasonably-priced product. Eventually, you might want something a little bit lighter or a little bit more expensive, but frankly it won’t be necessary. This is good enough for any level of bass fishing.

Best for Panfish: Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod

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Key Features

  • Ugly Tech graphite composite blank 
  • Exposed blank reel seat
  • Ugly Tuff 1-piece stainless steel guides
  • Premium cork grip
  • Clear fiberglass tip for extra strength

Pros

  • Solid reel seat and comfortable, sensitive grips
  • 1-piece guides eliminate insert pop-outs
  • Graphite-glass composite offers a nice compromise between blank sensitivity and durability

Cons

  • Tip section lacks the precision of solid graphite for casting and fine-tuned lure retrieves.

If your goal is to find a rod that will cast, perform and withstand a bit of maltreatment, Ugly Stik’s Elites are great little panfish sticks. Reasonably light in weight, Elite rods offer a fine combination of power and sensitivity, with comfortable cork grips and cushioned stainless-steel hoods. This isn’t necessarily premium crappie rod, but its consistent performance might convince you its value far exceeds its price tag.

An excellent option for an entry level or young angler—or as a backup rod for impromptu excursions to the local crappie pond— Ugly Stik’s Elite Spinning Rods prove that performance isn’t solely a function of price. While these aren’t the most precise or sensitive rods available, they do perform better than a few rods I’ve fished that cost twice as much. 

Available in twelve spinning rod models, five of them fit crappie applications. A 5-, 6-1/2- and 7-foot ultralight are each rated for 2- to 6-pound test line and lure weights down to 1/32-ounce. My favorite in the line is a 7-foot medium light power (USEP701ML), a sweet stick for slip-float fishing. —Cory Schmidt

Read more about the best crappie rods in Schmidt’s full review.

Beginner Fishing Rods: Things to Consider Before Buying

Species

Anglers fishing primarily for smallmouths with light line on the Great Lakes need very different tools than someone plying heavy cover with big baits for Florida strain largemouths. Find out the primary species, and prevalent techniques, in the waters where you’ll be fishing, and buy accordingly.

Cost

Your first rod probably won’t be your last rod, or your only rod, or your favorite rod. It doesn’t make sense to splurge and strain your budget on something that may be replaced in short order, or supplemented with technique-specific tools. At the same time, if you buy a bargain basement rod with subpar components, you’re likely to miss or lose fish.

Utility

When starting out with one or two rods, they’ll need to cover more than just a narrow niche purpose. A spinning rod might need to handle a wealth of finesse techniques, while a baitcasting rod should be a compromise between presentations requiring sensitivity and those requiring a little bit more forgiveness. There’s not necessarily a perfect option, but by splitting the difference it’s possible to be very good at a wide range of applications.

Length

Over the years, rod lengths have consistently skewed longer. The 5-foot 6-inch pistol grips of the ‘70s gave way to 7-footers. Length usually provides more leverage and more casting distance, but it’s also a matter of feel. Younger or shorter anglers might do better with something below the industry standard, or may gradually need to move up to the longer cranking and flipping sticks.

Final Thoughts on the Best Beginner Fishing Rods

It’s a golden age for rod connoisseurs and beginners alike, with plenty of choices for every taste and need. That can also lead to paralysis by overanalysis. The truth is that many of today’s lower and mid-priced rods, like those listed above, have features that were only found in the top-of-the-line models a generation ago. Find a spinning rod and a baitcasting rod that are in the middle of the lineup, in a common length and action. Don’t let the hyper-specialized pros fool you – one rod can handle a variety of situations remarkably well.

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Pete Robbins

Fishing Writer

Pete Robbins is one of Outdoor Life’s fishing tackle specialists and angling travel experts. He has written extensively about the bass tournament scene for nearly two decades. Recently, he’s expanded beyond that niche to include adventure travel and bluewater angling.

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