Matching Rods and Reels for Bass Fishing

Photo © Ken Schultz

If you've fished much you have probably had a bad experience with a rod and reel that did not match each other, or you have tried to use a rod and reel that just wasn't suitable for the kind of fishing you were doing. Not every reel is compatible with every rod, and no one fishing outfit can be used for all kinds of fishing or every fishing circumstance.

How to Match Rod and Reel

If you intend to cast with very light lures, for example, you need a small spinning reel and a light-action rod. Put a small spinning reel on a heavy rod and it will not work properly. You'll find it very difficult to cast, and you'll probably break your line and lose fish because the rod and reel don't match. The same thing goes for a heavy reel and light rod. It will work but not as well as a matched outfit.

Here's another example. If you're flipping heavy jigs into hydrilla mats, you're going to need a very stout rod, preferably a baitcasting model, plus a strong reel that is equipped with 65-pound-test (or heavier) microfilament line. Any other outfit will keep you from catching as many fish as you might otherwise because you won't be able to work the lure properly or to wrestle bass out of thick cover. So you'll definitely not be able to fish as efficiently.

For casting with small crankbaits, a fast-action medium rod is good. You need a light tip to cast the lure better, but some backbone for fighting and controlling the fish. The reel should match and be able to handle 8- to 12-pound-test line, which is a good range for use with these lures. However, if you're casting large, deep-diving crankbaits, you need a long rod and a baitcasting reel with a low gear ratio and strong gears, so you can retrieve these hard-pulling lures.

Plastic worm fishing can vary a lot, so you have to match your rod, reel, and line to the type of cover being fished and to the weight of sinker you're using. If you're using a ¼-ounce sinker with a 6-inch worm and fishing rocks, you need a lighter outfit than if you're throwing a 1-ounce sinker on a Carolina rig. The same goes for jigs. I often use a 3/16-ounce jig with a twin tail trailer and a 7-foot medium baitcasting rod with a light tip. The baitcasting reel is spooled with 10- to 12-pound-test fluorocarbon line. With the light line, you need a good drag system, but this outfit works well with this particular lure.

Spinnerbaits can be fished on a fairly heavy rod, but a light tip aids casting. You need a strong reel loaded with 14-pound or heavier line. Spinning tackle can be used, but the rod needs to have a lot of backbone; generally, a baitcasting outfit is more suitable for use with spinnerbaits. Bass often slam a spinnerbait hard so you need an outfit that will take the shock and allow you to control the fish.

Match your rod and reel to each other, and match the outfit to the kind of fishing you do to make it easier, more efficient, and more fun.

This article was edited and revised by our Freshwater Fishing expert, Ken Schultz.