Best New Bass Rods & Reels

We've put this year's new spinning and bait-casting rods and reels through one mean test-drive, narrowing the field to the 10 best rods and 10 best reels. These picks are aimed at bass fishing, but many of the models would work brilliantly to all kinds of species, from catfish to northern pike. CLICK 'NEXT' TO START THE GALLERYDennis Welsh
The following are the TOP 5 Bait-Cast Reels. CLICK 'NEXT' TO VIEW IMAGES AND DETAILSOutdoor Life Online Editor
CABELA'S PRODIGY Compact design and the capacity to hold 140 yards of 12-pound-test mono enables this round reel to comfortably handle all freshwater and light saltwater fishing. It has dual cast control consisting of a four-pin centrifugal system and an externally adjustable magnetic control that takes over as the spool slows. Together, they'll keep you free of overruns. Drag washers are carbon-fiber to handle long, hot fish runs. Gear ratio is 5.8:1, and there are four stainless-steel ball bearings plus the roller bearing. Weight is 9.7 ounces. PRICE: $100 CONTACT: cabelas.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Really comfortable and good looking. A very good price. Awesome distance caster. Nice mid-range retrieve ratio on this reel. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price: Very GoodJohn Dillon / Macomber Inc. (all following rods and reels)
DAIWA MEGAFORCE MF100TSH Unique to this low-profile reel is the Twitchin' Bar, which lets you give subtle movement to a jig or plastic lure. It also allows you to instantly zip up 7 inches of slack line. The reel has magnetic cast control, holds 150 yards of 12-pound-test mono, has a fast 7.1:1 retrieve ratio and runs on five stainless-steel ball bearings and two roller bearings. It weighs 9.4 ounces and can apply 8.8 pounds of drag pressure. A locking bayonet-mount side-plate lets you pop out the spool for quick changes. PRICE: $60 CONTACT: daiwa.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Super value. Casts more easily and farther than many higher-priced reels. Twitchin' Bar could be considered gimmicky, but it works. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Very Good Design: Very Good Price: ExcellentOutdoor Life Online Editor
PFLUEGER PATRIARCH 71WLP Pflueger positioned this new low-profile reel at the top of its line. With a lightweight aluminum frame, side-plate, handle and spool, it weighs only 8.4 ounces. The side-plates and line guides are titanium-plated for reduced line friction and strength. Ten stainless-steel ball bearings and one roller bearing ensure smooth cranking. Backlash is controlled with both centrifugal internal and magnetic external braking. With a 7.1:1 retrieve, you can quickly wrap up the 130 yards of 14-pound-test mono it holds. PRICE: $200 CONTACT: pfluegerfishing.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Strongly made and very good looking. Makes me pitch like a pro. This reel runs with the "big fish." Wide arbor accommodates my thumb. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price: Very GoodOutdoor Life Online Editor
QUANTUM BURST 670CX Anytime you find a well-made reel that's easy to use, loaded with features and costs under $100, you've found a steal. The Burst's graphite-composite frame, six stainless-steel bearings and 7.1:1 retrieve ratio are all elements you'd expect to find on a higher-priced reel. Making it even sweeter is the easy-to-use external, magnetic DynaMag system, which allows you to adjust the spool tension to reduce backlash. PRICE: $70 CONTACT: quantumfishing.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Really smooth reel for low cost. Comfortable, nice ergonomic thumb bar rest. A lot of reel for the money. Copper-color finish is well done. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Very Good Design: Very Good Price: Excellent 2008 GREAT BUYOutdoor Life Online Editor
SHIMANO CORE 100MGFV This bait-caster will have you pitching ultralight lures like a pro. The new spool design lets you throw baits as small as 1/8 ounce- something that only the best casters could previously accomplish. The Instagage thumb bar engages the gears without touching the handle- a great feature for flipping. Magnesium frame and side-plates keep the Core to 6.7 ounces, while five bearings and a 7.0:1 retrieve ratio make the cranking smooth and blazing fast. PRICE: $380 CONTACT: shimanofishing.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: A super-accurate distance caster. Dynamite looks. Tough to backlash. A bit pricey. Great in close quarters. Nice big handle paddles. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price: Very Good 2008 EDITOR'S CHOICEOutdoor Life Online Editor
The following are the TOP 5 Spinning Reels. CLICK 'NEXT' TO VIEW IMAGES AND DETAILSOutdoor Life Online Editor
ABU-GARCIA CARDINAL 704LX Considered midsize in the new Cardinal 700 series, the 704 holds 210 yards of 10-pound-test mono. It has a 5.1:1 retrieve ratio and is an ideal multi-species reel in freshwater- it can even handle light saltwater applications. The frame, side-plates and overbuilt rotor are aluminum for durability. The seven bearings are stainless steel, as is the main shaft and other hardware. The line roller is large for the size of the reel, resulting in reliable spooling. PRICE: $110 CONTACT: abugarcia.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Good drag and tough bail. A luxurious handle. Simple and very user-friendly. One solid performer. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price: ExcellentOutdoor Life Online Editor
BASS PRO SHOPS JOHNNY MORRIS SIGNATURE 2000 This double-award-winning spinning reel is built for finesse presentations, like shaky-head worming and drop-shotting. The large-diameter spool allows for longer casts and decreased line memory with monofilament- two key things when finesse fishing. Also, the tolerances are tight; there's no play in the handle and the bail snaps securely into place. With 10 stainless-steel bearings, it ventures into territory reserved for high-priced reels, but for a fraction of the cost. PRICE: $100 CONTACT: basspro.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Great for 6-8-pound-test applications. Line memory's never an issue. Awesome buy for this kind of quality. Mid-range 5.1:1 retrieve ratio is nice. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price: Excellent **2008 GREAT BUY 2008 EDITOR'S CHOICE**Outdoor Life Online Editor
DAIWA ADVANTAGE-A TDA 2500 A multi-technique, multi-species reel for freshwater and light saltwater. The body is die-cast aluminum alloy and the frame cover is aluminum, which keeps this versatile reel at 10.2 ounces. A machined-aluminum spool and digitally aligned gears allow for smooth, long-distance casting. With a six-bearing system, a 4.7:1 retrieve ratio and a sealed, waterproof drag, the reel will bring fighting lunkers to bay. The capacity is 140 yards of 10-pound-test mono, and all the reels in the Advantage series come with a spare spool. PRICE: $140 CONTACT: daiwa.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Super-smooth gearing. Everything is great, but the handle knob should be rubberized. Excellent drag features. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price: Very GoodOutdoor Life Online Editor
QUANTUM TOUR EDITION TE30 PTI-A This series of reels, which the maker calls the best it has produced, features high-end polymer/stainless-steel bearings- the same technology used in aircraft turbines. The reel holds 160 yards of 8-pound-test mono, has a 5.2:1 retrieve ratio and weighs 12.8 ounces. The tolerances on this reel are tight; the bail-closing trip snaps shut faster than on almost any other model. Additionally, the magnetic bail has an opening 30 degrees larger than the norm, which decreases line slap and increases casting distance. PRICE: $240 CONTACT: quantumfishing.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: A wonderfully smooth drag. Nice line-management system. Flashy good looks. Seems a little pricey versus others in the test. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Very Good Design: Very Good Price: Very GoodOutdoor Life Online Editor
SHIMANO STRADIC MGFB ST2500MGFB With a drag that boasts 15 pounds of stopping power, this reel can handle any freshwater assignment. The new cold-forged aluminum drive gear reduces weight and increases strength and durability, and should give new-reel smoothness for years. The magnesium frame and side-plates are extra-light and tough, and are coated for use in saltwater. A new line-management system reduces slack-line presentation problems. It has a capacity of 120 yards of 10-pound-test mono and a retrieve of 6:1. PRICE: $230 CONTACT: shimanofishing.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Startlingly smooth. Low-twist line management works well. Beautifully made. Nice components all around. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Very Good Design: Very Good Price: Very GoodOutdoor Life Online Editor
The following are the TOP 5 Bait-Cast Rods. CLICK 'NEXT' TO VIEW IMAGES AND DETAILSOutdoor Life Online Editor
AMERICAN RODSMITHS H3 TITANIUM ULTRA H3TU-SB This rod is expressly designed for spinner-baits with a 6-foot 8-inch blank rated for 12-20-pound-test and .25-.75-ounce lures. It's constructed of high-modulus graphite with embedded titanium fibers, making it strong and extremely light. Adorning the blank are Recoil nickel-titanium guides, which can be bent back into position should one get flattened. At the tip is a new carbide guide that's electronically fused into place. It's angled at 45 degrees to reduce line friction when you're casting and fighting big bass. PRICE: $290 CONTACT: americanrodsmiths.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Could use for light worming. Great performance. My favorite of the rods. Loads of distance power. Love the grip.Outdoor Life Online Editor
**CABELA'S MAGTOUCH MGTC 70SB ** Cabela's sleek new rod garnered both our Editor's Choice and Great Buy awards based on its attractive price and stunning performance. The innovative cork-less handle, which is made of graphite and glass, is surprisingly comfortable, easy to grip when wet and amazingly sensitive. At 7 feet long, this medium-heavy-action rod will throw heavy spinnerbaits, crankbaits and spoons with incredible accuracy over long distances. An all-around winner. PRICE: $100 CONTACT: cabelas.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Very cool handle. Unbelievable cast distance. Great value. Comfortable, innovative and sensitive. A small butt bulb would make it perfect. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price: Excellent **2008 GREAT BUY 2008 EDITOR'S CHOICE**Outdoor Life Online Editor
**G.LOOMIS SWIMBAIT SWBR956C-6 POWER ** Here's another heavyweight stick you can add to Loomis' swimbait rod lineup. If you want a heavy-power rod for throwing big, plastic, bottom-bouncing lures, as well as trout swimbaits like the Huddy Deluxe and wooden wake baits like the MS Slammer, this is it. The rod is 7 feet 11 inches and is rated for 25-45-pound-test lines and lures 3-8 ounces. The softer tip loads the lighter 8-9-inch baits well when casting to distant targets. With plenty of backbone, you'll be able to manipulate even double-digit bass. PRICE: $245 CONTACT: gloomis.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Accuracy in spades. Seems a better performer than the smaller Loomis swimbait rod. Would make a great muskie rod. Awesome styling. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price: Very GoodOutdoor Life Online Editor
KISTLER BIG SWIMBAIT SPECIAL KBS 80 This rod has been more than a year in development, and Kistler is proud of the way it turned out. Designed for 1-5-ounce swimbaits, the KBS has a moderate overall action with a sensitive tip, but the rod's heavy power rating enables it to load well and throw big lures with authority. The 14-inch handle allows anglers to really sling lures a long way over a full day without fatigue. Made of IM7 graphite, the 8-foot rod is strong and sensitive while being rated for 15-30-pound-test line. PRICE: $180 CONTACT: kistlerrods.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Wonderfully light. Great guides. Works with heavier baits than rated. You can even "walk the dog" with it. Good value. Nice guide wraps. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price: ExcellentOutdoor Life Online Editor
ST. CROIX TEASER LTBC 70MF The Teaser model we tested in St. Croix's redesigned Legend Tournament Bass series is aimed at fishing soft-plastics with subtle presentations, but would work well with buzzbaits and topwaters. The rod is 7 feet and rated for 10-17-pound-test line and 1/4-5/8-ounce lures. Its fast tip transitions into a medium-power blank. The blank construction eliminates weak spots for a consistently smooth flex with greater sensitivity. PRICE: $220 CONTACT: stcroixrods.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Very pretty, fast-action rod. Nimble. Excellent cast accuracy at short to medium ranges. A bit parabolic. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price: Very GoodOutdoor Life Online Editor
The following are the TOP 5 Spinning Rods. CLICK 'NEXT' TO VIEW IMAGES AND DETAILSOutdoor Life Online Editor
AMERICAN RODSMITHS H3 TITANIUM ULTRA H3TU-MS70 If you're looking for a hot drop-shot rod, or one that can handle the finesse tactic of shaky-head worming, this one really shines. The 7-foot, high-modulus graphite blank is extremely light, and because the blank is embedded with titanium fibers, it's also strong. The 14-inch exposed-blank handle lets you feel every subtle nibble during these light-line presentations. Among the accessories are nickel-titanium Recoil guides that you can easily bend back into position should they become compressed. PRICE: $290 CONTACT: americanrodsmiths.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Performs like a dream. Super-strong. Great all-around clear-water, soft-plastics rod. No-insert tip can really save hassles FINAL SCORES: Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price: Very GoodOutdoor Life Online Editor
BASS PRO SHOPS JOHNNY MORRIS ELITE JME710MS A perfect rod for deepwater-finesse techniques, the longer 7-foot 10-inch length gives you an advantage in casting distance and hook-setting. The "slit carbon powerwall" blank construction starts with a super-high graphite core and adds an additional wrap of carbon cloth on the butt section for extra strength and sensitivity. Flexible Recoil guides, a scaled-down reel seat in direct contact with the blank and premium-grade cork on the handle round out the details on this solid rod. PRICE: $200 CONTACT: basspro.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Very well balanced. Priced for its quality. Great comfort butt. Fast transition to power section. Not quite as accurate as some. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Very Good Design: Very Good Price: Very GoodOutdoor Life Online Editor
DAIWA PROCYON PCN 601MFS This year's Great Buy award winner is an ideal multi-purpose rod for an angler on a budget. Made of IM7 graphite, which is fairly durable yet light and sensitive, the Procyon can handle a multitude of presentations for a variety of freshwater species. Daiwa keeps the cost down by adorning the blanks with standard Fuji reel seats and guides. For the price, you can fill your rod locker with a half-dozen models at the same cost as one rod from some other companies. PRICE: $50 CONTACT: daiwa.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: A pleasant surprise to cast. Sluggish medium action/power, it's best suited to the lighter side of its range. A far- and accurate-casting rod. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Very Good Design: Very Good Price: Excellent 2008 BEST BUYOutdoor Life Online Editor
FENWICK ELITE TECH SKIPPIN' SPECIAL The 5-foot 10-inch length of this purpose-driven rod allows you to skip lures into tight spaces easily. A special blank construction makes it easy to accurately rocket lures beneath docks and other cover. Rated as a medium-power rod with an extra-fast tip, this stick is one of 20 spinning and bait-casting models with blank materials, reel seats, guides and actions tailored perfectly for 12 specific fishing techniques. PRICE: $200 CONTACT: fenwickfishing.com> TESTERS' COMMENTS: Foregrip shape is efficient and comfortable. Allows terrific control. Best backbone of skipping rods tested. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price: Very GoodOutdoor Life Online Editor
ST. CROIX SKIPPIN' LTBA 10MXF Among St. Croix's redesigned Legend Tournament Bass rods, this 5-foot 10-inch entry stands out for its low-trajectory casts with tubes, grubs and worms- impressive performance that earned it our Editor's Choice award. Work it under docks, overhanging trees and bushes for shore-bound lunkers. Rated for 8-12-pound-test line and 3/16-5/8-ounce lures, this skippin' stick has a blank that increases rod strength and sensitivity while maintaining a perfect, powerful flex throughout its length. PRICE: $210 CONTACT: stcroixrods.com TESTERS' COMMENTS: Great rod for working tight cover. All the right components, but I'd like to see Recoil guides. Technique-specific to a T. Plenty of beef. FINAL SCORES: Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price: Very Good 2008 EDITOR'S CHOICEOutdoor Life Online Editor