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Updated Aug 1, 2022 11:24 AM

Savvy anglers know that spinning rods can handle the biggest fish around and throw the lightest lures while being both exceptionally sensitive and extremely powerful. They’re versatile tools with options for everything from pond bluegills to popping for giant trevally in the South Pacific. Of course one rod can’t do it all and there isn’t one best rod, there are rods that are the best for specific purposes. As I’ve started to consider my spinning tackle choices more carefully, I’ve not only caught more fish, but I’ve also had more fun doing it. 

Obviously, there’s a near-endless selection of spinning rods to choose from, and I can’t test them all. Since bass are America’s most popular gamefish, I focused this review on rods that were developed with bass in mind. While they’re bass leaning rods and targeted at the recovering bubba set, they can be applied to trout, walleye, crappie, inshore species, and even big game under the right circumstances. To prove their versatility I also tested the best spinning rods with the help of gear editor, Scott Einsmann, on a striped bass trip. 

Things to Consider Before Buying a Spinning Rod

The author casting for striped bass. Scott Einsmann

I’m a hardcore bass guy, but like many of my brethren, for a long time, I was heavily biased in favor of using baitcasting gear whenever possible. I’d buy budget spinning combos, expect them to handle all of their finesse applications, and then be disappointed when it somehow didn’t meet my lofty expectations. 

The first inkling that m.o. was counterproductive occurred when all-world angler Kevin VanDam caught a Lake Lewisville (Texas) record 11-pound largemouth on a shakey head. Subsequently, I started fishing for salmon, sailfish, and tuna and managed to subdue some true giants with silky smooth spinning reels and rods that matched them. Some of the best anglers in the world, in the most trying situations, use spinning tackle not because they have to, but rather because it’s the best option. 

There’s always been a great selection of spinning rods for inshore, panfish, and trout, but the bass rod market has just started to explode. The array has grown due to several factors:

  1. Widespread adoption of a continually-growing array of finesse tactics like dropshotting, shakey heads, and Neko rigging.
  2. The fact that most of our best fisheries are becoming increasingly pressured.
  3. Advanced braids (often used with a fluorocarbon leader) reduced line twist and increased the power inherent in presentations that still remained stealthy.

Whether you’re targeting shellcracker or yellowfin tuna here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re picking your next stick. 

Overall Length

Rod length is a distinctly personal choice, but in recent years the average length of bass spinning rods moved from the 6 foot 6 six inch range to 7 foot and above. A longer rod, built properly, will often provide greater casting distance and leverage on open water fish, but it may not do as well in tight spaces. Shorter rods are also usually better for making short, accurate casts around structure. 

Handle Length and Composition 

All of the rods I tested had split grip handles, some with no foregrips, which is a trend in spinning rods. It’s still possible to find some solid handles, but they don’t add much value while adding substantial weight. Just as important is finding a handle that provides the right amount of leverage and the perfect length for your hands. That may not always be the same thing. For example, when dropshotting, you may prefer something long to grab onto with two hands, while using the same handle to skip docks may end up tangling the rod butt in your shirt. The choice between EVA, cork, and various non-slip grips is also a matter of personal preference.

Rod Power, Action, and Taper

Remember that power and action are two very different things. Power is how much force it takes to bend the rod. Action is how the rod bends. For example a light power and fast action rod is very easy to bend, but it will mostly bend at the tip.  And as I learned from the Seth Feider Daiwa Tatula rod, not every medium-light or medium flexes in the same way. 

Also, consider the best fishing lines for bass you’ll be using with your set-up. Braid-to-fluorocarbon has less stretch than straight fluoro, which has less stretch than mono, and of course, braid alone has the least of all. That means that a rod that has the perfect hook setting power with mono might need to be replaced with something with more flex if you’re using braid—even if everything else remains constant.

Best Overall: St. Croix Victory VTS73MXF

St. Croix

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet 3 inches 
  • Power: Medium 
  • Action: Extra fast
  • Lure weight: 3/16 to 1/2 ounce 
  • Split grip cork and EVA handle

Why It Made the Cut

The Victory is a perfectly balanced and exceptionally sensitive rod performs like a high-end sports car.

Pros

  • “In-between” length operates well in close quarters and open water 
  • Remarkably sensitive
  • Made in the U.S.A.

Cons

  • Action may be too fast for some anglers using fast-moving lures

Product Description

Despite having similar lure weight recommendations as many of the other rods I tested, the St. Croix Victory seemed noticeably bulkier, so to be honest, I didn’t expect much. That’s why I was so surprised at how light it felt—demonstrating the importance of balance over just absolute weight. Everything about it is refined and purpose-driven, from the comfortable reel seat and handle components to the premium cork itself. I even liked the fact that it was neither 7 feet nor 7 foot 6 inches, but rather smack dab in the middle. If you’re only going to own one spinning rod (a reality that I caution against but nevertheless know is quite possible), this U.S.A.-made option is a great choice, capable of doing a lot of different things extremely well. I’d highly recommend it if you want to buy one really nice spinning rod or are limited to how many rods you can carry, like kayak anglers. Beyond being a do-all rod, the Victory is fantastic at my primary uses for a spinning rod, light plastic and finesse swimbaits. Furthermore, it comes at a mid range price for a top-of-the-line product, meaning that you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Buy This for Other Species If: You want to be able to cast aggressive lures all day without getting tired.

Best Budget: Falcon BuCoo SR BRS-4-17

Falcon

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet
  • Power: Medium 
  • Action: Moderate 
  • Lure weight: ¼ to 1/2 ounce 
  • Split grip EVA handle

Why It Made the Cut

Under a hundred bucks, but consistently performs like a much more expensive tool

Pros

  • Weight eliminated wherever possible
  • Fuji exposed blank reel seat for sensitivity
  • Budget-priced

Cons

  • Some anglers might not like moderate action for super-light line techniques

Product Description

Other than the distinctive gray handles, nothing cosmetic sets the Falcon BuCoo apart from its competitors, but I found myself seeking it out on multiple trips for bass and stripers. It was as sensitive as rods costing three and four times as much, and just “felt right” in hand. At times I paired it with a top-of-the-line spinning reel, and while they may have been mismatched in terms of price tags (this rod clocks in at under a hundred bucks), they nevertheless felt like they belonged together. Frankly, while other rods may handle a specific niche slightly better, I felt like this one could go toe-to-toe with the best of them. It could feel a tiny bait 30 feet down but also held up to big rampaging fish with an attitude.

A nice striper Einsmann caught on the Falcon.

Einsmann fished this rod as well and had this to say. “Being surprised is a good thing when you think a rod is a fantastic performer in the $200 price range and come to find out it costs under $100. The Falcon was a feather weight and sensitive enough that I could feel my jig tick the bottom. I caught my largest fish of the day on it and that eight pounder was tamed easily. It did help that we had a $400 Abu Zenon reel on the rod. I get it if you’re not willing to shell out that cash for a reel, I’m not either. I would suggest a Daiwa Fuego LT as an alternative.” 

Buy This for Other Species If: You want a rod that you won’t hesitate to test its mettle, but which still has to perform like one costing two or three times as much.

Best for Skipping Docks: Douglas XMatrix DXS 704F

Douglas

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet
  • Power: Medium
  • Action: Fast
  • Lure weight: ⅓ to 1 ounce 
  • Split grip EVA handle

Why It Made the Cut

Perfectly balanced for a wide range of lures, with the heft to extract big bass from heavy cover.

Pros

  • Easily handles heavier lures than much of the competition
  • Tangle-free tip top
  • Fuji Alconite guides with ceramic inserts to handle braid

Cons

  • May not be ideal for the lightest finesse lures

Product Description

Unless you’re magical with a baitcasting rod and reel, you’ll need spinning gear to skip lures under docks and then extract the big bass that lives there. Therein lies the conundrum—sometimes you’ll be skipping little lures, and you need the rod to load properly yet still be able to muscle a fish away from steel cables or barnacles. The Dobyns XMatrix splits that difference easily and comfortably. It’s still good for many other techniques, but as a committed and half-decent dock skipper, this is one rod I’ll plan to dedicate to that technique as much as possible. It comes with lots of smart innovations, like tip-top frames that are front welded to avoid wrapping with braid, which otherwise could cost you a fish or lead to a broken rod.

Buy This for Other Species If: You tend to fish around heavy cover and need muscle to extract fish that know exactly where to break you off.

Best for Neko Rigs and Wacky Rigs: Daiwa Tatula Elite AGS Seth Feider Signature Series Rod

Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet 6 inches
  • Power: Medium light
  • Action: Moderate 
  • Lure Weight: 3/16 to 1/2 ounce 
  • Split grip EVA handle

Why It Made the Cut

Provides substantial backbone and max sensitivity with unique blank taper

Pros

  • Distinctive silver coloration is hard to miss
  • Incredible power with for a rod this light
  • Unique reel seat

Cons

  • 7 feet 6 inch length may be unwieldy in tight quarters

Product Description

One of the distinctive traits that Einsmann noticed about the Tatula Elite right away—besides its futuristic silvery blank and components—was its unique taper. It’s what I’d call an “80/20,” with most of the flex coming in the upper 20 percent of the blank rather than spread more evenly over the rest of its length. Daiwa relied heavily upon the advice and counsel of reigning Elite Series Angler of the Year Seth Feider in building this stick, and he made it for hyper-specialized techniques like Neko rigging and hair jigs. The latter may apply primarily in waters near his Minnesota home, but the former works everywhere that bass swim. With the 7 foot 6 inch length you can bomb cast light baits a long distance and then drive home the hook regardless. With a Neko rig, that’s key, because it can be used shallow or deep, close or far, but attracts bigger than average fish no matter what.

Buy This for Other Species If: You need to make extra-long casts in open water, even against a headwind.

Best for Shaky Heads and Grubs: Dobyns Champion XP DC 702SF

Dobyns

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet
  • Action: Medium light action
  • Power: Fast 
  • Lure Weight: ⅛ to 1/2 ounce 
  • Split grip cork handle

Why It Made the Cut

Fast action rod can sling lures a country mile into the wind and still feel a fish breathe on them

Pros

  • Tangle-free Fuji K-Guides with Alconite inserts
  • Ultra-premium cork handles 
  • Covers multiple techniques with no drop off in quality

Cons

  • Anglers who prefer EVA may not like the cork handles

Product Description

Rodmaker Gary Dobyns may have left the spinning rod nirvana of California for the bubba country of Texas, but he’s true to his roots with the Champion XP spinning rod, a fast action, cork-handle rod. Even if a shakey head is your last resort, it’s necessary to have one in your “panic box,” and as VanDam found out at Lewisville it doesn’t discriminate against big fish. The west was the breeding ground not only for the hula grub, but also for darter heads and other fresh-from-Japan techniques, and the exceptional balance makes it feel lighter than its actual weight. 

Buy This for Other Species If: You need to feel the slightest breath of a fish against your lure in vertical presentations.

Best for Dropshotting: Abu Garcia Zenon ZENS-610-4

Key Features

  • Length: 6 feet 10 inches
  • Power: Medium light 
  • Action: Extra fast 
  • Carbon split-grip handle

Why It Made the Cut

Made to feel the lightest lures in vertical presentations, yet still have the muscle to bring big bronze to the net

Pros

  • Super-lightweight yet durable
  • Comfortable Fuji reel seat
  • Strong titanium alloy guides with nitride silicon inserts

Cons

  • Carbon rod handle may be slippery or feel odd in some hands

Product Description

If you’re not dropshotting, you’re missing out on fish. It’s that simple. Regardless of whether the depth requires a 1/16 ounce weight or a ½ ounce model, any spinning rod may do well at times, but few excel across the board. The Zenon spinning rod allowed me to keep a lure in place on shallow largemouths and mid-range smallmouths alike while simultaneously providing lifelike action. I’d also consider it a good choice for shakey heads. Some anglers may consider it too short at 6 feet 10 inches for techniques where you’re making long casts or need to pick up a lot of line in a hurry, but I found it to perform no differently than any of the seven-footers, and it was well-balanced in a manner that should appeal to fishermen and women of different heights.

Buy This for Other Species If: You never know what you’re going to target in a multi-species fishery, from walleye to pike to bass to crappie.

Best for Flukes and Small Swimbaits: Shimano Curado CDS70MA

Shimano

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet
  • Lure Weight: 3/16 to 1/2 ounce 
  • Power: Medium 
  • Action: Moderate 
  • Split grip EVA and carbon handles

Why It Made the Cut

Just enough give to let the bass take a moving bait, but still enough power to drive the hook home. 

Pros

  • Proprietary CI4+ reel seat
  • Diagonally-wrapped carbon tape increases blank strength
  • Fuji tangle-free K guides with Fazlite inserts

Cons

  • Dense EVA handle may feel odd at first

Product Description

Every time I get in one of the Bassmaster Elite Series pro’s boats in a clear water situation, and especially in smallmouth country, they seem to have a small jig head with a Keitech or Rage Swimmer on the back. It’s a limit-getting technique that also produced my personal best smallmouth last fall while fishing in Michigan with Shimano pro Keith Combs. The 7 foot, medium power, Curado is perfect for that technique. 

This rod gives you the ability to make long casts with light lures in windy conditions, but also just enough give so the bass can swallow the lure. That’s when the fun begins, as an airborne smallmouth can easily disgorge that hook, and this rod seems to keep them pegged. The specific form of EVA they use took some getting used to, but their proprietary reel seat is comfortable to fish all day. 

Buy This for Other Species If: You want just the right action to let a fish inhale a moving lure and then drive the hooks home.

Best Inshore: Shimano Teramar Southeast

Shimano

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet, 4 inches
  • Power: Medium
  • Action: Moderate fast
  • Line weight: 6 to 15 pounds
  • Lure weight: ¼ to 3/4 ounces
  • Cork grip

Why It Made the Cut

The Teramar Southeast casts light lures and bait with precision and can detect the slightest tap. 

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Lightweight
  • Well balanced
  • Quality components

Cons

  • Some anglers might prefer a split grip

Product Descriptions 

My summers are spent throwing small swimbaits around docks and oyster beds for redfish, stripers, and speckled trout. The rod I reach for that application is my 7-foot-4-inch Shimano Teramar with a medium power and moderate fast action. It’s perfect for slinging those light saltwater lures with distance and accuracy. I also like the rod when using a ½-ounce Tsunami Tog Treat tipped with shrimp. I can cast that jig around structure and feel the difference between the subtle taps of an interference fish and the more pronounced tap of a speckled trout. Once I register that bite, the rod has plenty of power to drive the hook home and the right amount of give to keep fish hooked during boat side surges. While I like the medium power for most inshore species, if you’re targeting sheepshead, you might want a heavy power to horse them away from structure.  

I currently have a 3000 size Daiwa BG on my Teramar, but it also balances well with a 2500 size spinning reel. With that combo you have an ideal inshore rod that will catch everything from stripers to Spanish mackerel. If you’re interested in more saltwater rods read our review on the best saltwater fishing rods. —Scott Einsmann

Best for Panfish: Lew’s Wally Marshall Speed Shooter

Lew’s

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet
  • Power: Medium light
  • Action: Fast
  • Line weight: 4 to 10 pounds
  • Lure weight: 1/16 to 1/4 ounces

Why It Made the Cut

From dock shooting to casting jigs this rod will do it all. 

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Well balanced
  • Accurate caster

Cons

  • Not the best for crankbaits

Product Description

Panfish rods are just as technique specific as bass rods, but the Wally Marshall Speed Shooter covers the gamut of the most popular ways to target panfish. The seven footer is perfect for casting jigs or float rigs, which is a favorite spring technique. The shorter lengths are better suited for dock shooting and casting around tight cover. But one thing all the rods have in common is that they are super sensitive for detecting light bites on slack line. The medium light power is also great for pulling fish away from the dock or wood cover. -Scott Einsmann

FAQs

Q: What size rod is best for spinning?

Historically rods in the 6 foot to 6 foot 6 inch range were favored, but in recent years 7-foot and above models have become more popular, especially in open water, because they often provide longer casting range.

Q: How much does a good spinning rod cost?

Most of the spinning rod options we’ve reviewed are in the $100 to $200 range, but there are a surprising number of excellent spinning rods in the sub-$100 range. Of course, by spending much more, it’s possible to get spinning rods that are lighter and arguably in some cases better.

Q: Do pro bass fishermen use spinning reels?

Most pro bass fishermen use spinning rods and reels for finesse techniques — typically anything under a quarter ounce which merits a main line or leader of less than 12 pound test breaking strength.

How I Evaluated Spinning Rods

The author testing one of the best spinning rods. Scott Einsmann

The great thing about most spinning rods aimed at the bass market is that they can be used for a wide range of fishing applications outside of the bass world. That extends from panfish to walleye to stripers to light saltwater use. It doesn’t mean that certain ones aren’t better for specific applications, but rather that you can get a sense of how light and how heavy they can go. Therefore, in addition to using some of these rods for Michigan smallmouth and others for heavy cover largemouth on home waters like the Potomac, Outdoor Life gear editor, Scott Einsmann, and I took them to the Roanoke River in North Carolina to tussle with some hefty stripers, too. Each rod was evaluated for its intended purpose and specialty with a wide range of lure types and weights.

On those fishing trips I evaluated each rod for the following characteristics:

  • Hook setting power
  • Sensitivity
  • Casting distance and accuracy
  • Balance and weight
  • Handle comfort

Final Thoughts

For years, whenever I’ve needed or craved a new spinning rod, I’ve invested in a mid-range stick semi-indiscriminately and hoped for the best. That’s led to a reasonable success rate, but the occasional preventable heartbreak, too. The rod you need to hook and land open water dropshot fish is often different from one made to extract a bruiser from under a gnarly dock.

Oddly enough, it was chasing big fish like yellowfin tuna with spinning gear that caused me to reevaluate my bass tackle choices. I saw how a properly-functioning drag and an ideally-tapered blank can improve lure presentations and maximize landings. That invigorated my spinning tackle choices, and led me to overhaul some of my tool kit.