If you’re just starting out fishing… congratulations! It’s likely that you’re opening the door to a lifetime of unique sights, places, experiences and friendships that you would otherwise never have had. You may also be coming to understand the truly massive range of equipment out there at your disposal? We’ve written this section to try to reduce some of the noise and point you in the right direction. We’ll be discussing what fishing rods beginners should avoid, what rods we recommend and what, in our view, are some of the best beginner fishing rods on the market.
One thing you probably want to avoid when you’re starting any new sport or pastime, is spending too much money before you know whether or not it’s something you’re going to continue doing. Most people wouldn’t buy a sailing boat before they were pretty sure they would be sailing it for years to come, and the same should be true of fishing tackle. What’s more, there are so many different types of fishing – each with its own specific rods, reels and accessories – that you could easily find yourself spending a lot of money, very quickly, only to realise that you actually preferred another kind of fishing, for which you needed an altogether different selection of tackle.
What fishing rods should a beginner avoid?
Well, let’s start with what is NOT the best fishing rod for a beginner. For starters, let’s rule out fly fishing. Any kind of angling that takes weeks, months or even years simply to master the art of casting is probably not a great place for beginners to kick off their new hobby. Don’t get me wrong – fly fishing is one of the most rewarding types of angling there is, but it can also be one of the most frustrating. So, no fly fishing rods.
While we’re at it, we should also rule out anything that might require owning multiple rods, reels and expensive accessories. So let’s rule out deep sea fishing or heavy trolling tackle. The reality is that, to fish for marlin, big tuna or any other large pelagic or “big game” species, you need a large boat, knowledgeable captain and hardy crew. If this is the kind of fishing for you, don’t buy any rods – save your money, jump on a plain to somewhere hot and beautiful, and charter yourself a boat. Nearly all charter boats (perhaps all of them!) will have their own tackle onboard, meaning you simply borrow someone else’s. Not only will that save you from spending your own money, it will also give you a chance to test a bunch of tackle before making a purchase of your own. So no big game rods either.
What other rods should beginner anglers avoid? The simplest thing to do is to rule out anything remotely extreme. We’ve rule out the extremely difficult – fly fishing; we’ve also ruled out the extremely expensive and heavy-duty. Let’s go to the other end of the spectrum and rule out the extremely lightweight. Match fishing, or coarse fishing as it could be called in the UK, entails catching as many fish as possible, amounting to a larger weight than the cumulative catches of all the other anglers you’re fishing against. It can be fairly extreme – long days, no breaks, no size limit (big or small) – the aim is to do whatever it takes to catch more than the other guys. To do so, match fishermen will often use extremely light tackle, long poles, fine lines and tiny hooks. Their tackle boxes are often overflowing with weird and wonderful contraptions – anything to give them the edge. This is not the domain of the starter angler.
Recommended fishing rods for beginners
The answer, in our opinion, is to go middle-of-the-road. You want the Chris Rea of the fishing tackle world – something easygoing, flexible and versatile, without being extreme, too niche or too expensive. So what rods fall into that category? We think you should buy a medium-weight, medium length, medium power casting rod – approximately 7.5 feet in length. The ideal beginner’s rod will suit many different styles of fishing – spinning from the lake shore, jigging from a boat, casting in a river, trolling from a kayak – without being overly focussed on any one application. It can be used with a fixed spool reel, which is probably the most beginner-friendly type of reel, but could also fit a multiplier if the situation required it. Between our team we have owned many rods that have doubled up in exactly this way – rods that have caught salmon, pike, trout, bass, barracuda, jacks, cod, pollock and walleye – not all in the same session, of course, but who cares. Beginners need a rod that will serve them in multiple situations – something they can pack in a bag and take with them just in case there’s a chance of some fish. For smaller fish, it’ll be a bit heavy, but it won’t be TOO heavy to be effective. For larger fish, it will be a bit light, but if you’re patient and get a bit of luck, you can land even a monster fish on a relatively lightweight rod.
And that leads me onto my second point, which I think many beginner anglers might not consider: travel. If you’re only just starting out, it’s unlikely that you’ll be making dedicated trips to far flung corners of the nation in pursuit of fish, and even less likely that you’ll be fishing overseas. But there’s a good chance you will be going somewhere on holiday this year and there’s an equally good chance that, where you’re going, there will be some fish to catch. Our suggestion is that you purchase a rod that you can travel with – and, based on our experience, depending on your travel companions (i.e. the better half!) you may want a rod you can pack without anyone noticing!
So let’s summarise: we’re looking for a medium-weight, medium-length, 4-piece casting rod, under $75, that can be fished in freshwater or saltwater and which can be used for spinning, trolling, jigging or bait fishing. Here’s our shortlist:
Of course there are plenty of other rods out there that would be fine for beginners, but we think that any of the following would be reliable, easily transported and versatile enough for plenty of different fishing situations:
Option 1: 7-and-a-half-foot Santiam Graphite Spinning Rod
At less than $100 this 4-piece graphite rod appears to represent excellent value. Graphite is usually a feature of high-end rods, which makes you wonder how these guys manage it?! The rod fits right into our target size and weight and should be suitable for catching fish of anything from a couple of pounds right up to a large salmon, pike, bass or jack. If you hook something massive… take your time!
Option 2: Okuma Citrix 3-Piece Travel Rod
There’s something about this rod – perhaps it’s because it looks great, I’m not sure – but whatever it is, we included it, despite it being 3-piece and not 4-piece. Although they call it a lightweight travel rod, the reviews suggest it’s actually a little heavier than that. For us, that’s good news – we don’t want a lightweight bait casting rod here, as that’s a little too specialised. We’re looking for something a bit stiffer and stronger, so it can be used as an all-rounder. This is a great rod to get you started and, being a rod that’s used by many experienced anglers, will last you for years.
As one of the reviewers reports, this rod has caught fish all over the world and has caught dorado, amberjacks, snook, mackerel, kingfish, sea trout, striped bass, bonefish, lady fish, snapper and bass to 40 inches and more. It’s a very versatile rod, not least because it comes with two separate tips – one stiffer and one more sensitive. This is an excellent choice for any beginner, as it can be used in so many different situations. Highly recommended.
Finally, if you’re a beginner – welcome to the sport! Fishing has given millions of people endless hours of fun, enjoyment and entertainment, not to mention getting them off the sofa and into the great outdoors. It’s a pastime that can last you well into old age and we’re excited to have you with us. Tight lines!