Here are our top picks for species-specific tackle combos that are great performance and great value.
ROD: ST. CROIX TRIUMPH TRAVEL SPINNING ROD TRS56ULF4
REEL: SHIMANO NASCI 1000
The four-piece Triumph rod, with its travel case, is compact—great for packing in and out of remote trout haunts. Pair it with Shimano’s NASCI1000 and you have a formidable team, up to any trout task, including throwing the lightest inline spinners.
(Rod: $120; reel: $100)
**ROD: **BASS PRO SHOPS CRAPPIE MAXX CMA1066MLS
REEL: BASS PRO SHOPS CRAPPIE MAXX CMA 1000
The BPS Crappie Maxx combo is a lightweight pair that proved perfectly matched for going head-to-head with big slabs. The 6-foot rod has enough tip to cast light baits and sufficient butt to drag large crappies out of thick brush.
*(Combo: $40) *
ROD: G. LOOMIS E6X 782-2 WUR 6’6″
REEL: SHIMANO STRADIC C14+ 2500 HG
This Loomis two-piece rod offers a supple tip for detecting timid strikes, while the Stradic reel manages line as well as any spinner on the market. Its smooth drag swiftly tamed hard-charging fish. The combo made our wish list despite the sticker price.
(Rod: $190; reel: $230)
ROD: LEW’S ISD3 SUPER DUTY 3 7’11”
REEL: LEW’s SUPER DUTY SPEED SPOOL
This top-flight pairing seems eager to take on the meanest of muskies. In our test, the 7-foot 11-inch rod easily threw hefty baits, while the Super Duty Speed Spool’s massive drag proved more than capable of breaking big fish.
(Rod: $180; reel: $200)
ROD: ZEBCO BIG CAT XT BCKTS 802B 8′
REEL: ZEBCO BIG CAT XT
If your game is chasing monster blue and flathead cats, then consider the Zebco Big Cat combo. Together, the stout 8-foot rod and 60-series reel are beefy enough to handle large lines, big baits, and super-sized catfish.