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Greater Sensitivity: The handle on the American Rodsmiths Worm & Jig casting rod has graphite contact bars in the cork so you’re always in touch with the blank. The reel seat also has a built-in hook keeper in the trigger extension.

Rear Drag Redux: The reinstated rear drag on the Abu Garcia Cardinal C3 features vast improvements, including a 12-washer stack and an audible drag adjustment for better precision. The knob is easy to reach and ergonomic.

Long-lasting Guides: The Batson stainless-steel guides on Kistler’s rods have deeply pressed frames that eliminate the durability problems common to some older designs.

Fewer Line Hang-ups: The Quantum PT Spinning reel features a better line retrieval system. The Rocket Roller, with its tapered stainless-steel sleeve, works with the Pocket Rotor to position the line on the roller every time, eliminating line hang-ups and improving line travel.

Tough Butts: On many rods, such as the St. Croix pictured here, you’ll see butt caps made of a composite of cork and EVA that is more durable than plain cork. It also tends to catch less on clothing.

Quick Retrieve: The Quantum TE1170PT bait-caster has a blistering 7:1 retrieve ratio that makes even 6:1 retrieve reels seem slow.

Flat Grips: The flat edges on the Quantum VanDam Signature casting rod provide a better grip when you’re booming out long casts with big lures.