Since the sport’s early beginnings in 19th century working-class America, there have been a lot of developments surrounding the question over the best fishing rod for bass. Gone are the days of sustenance anglers using hand line and live bait. Today’s bass fishermen have a lot more available to them with ultralight weight materials that are also incredibly strong.
Thanks to becoming one of the world’s top recreational fishing sports, the bass fishing industry has undergone something of a remarkable evolution in terms of rod technology. From thousands of lures to the different types of handles, understanding all the rod-related gear out there—and what might specifically be good for you—has become something of a task in itself. Fortunately, we’ve spent years in the sport and are here to simplify it.
We’re going to break down the key features and specifications that every bass fishermen should be looking for, including important aspects like length, handle type, tackle techniques, and fishing location. We’ll also look at what the professionals say about these topics, both in terms of their own set-up and that of the enthusiastic hobbyist.
We will then delve further into the market to test what’s out there. We’ll look at some of the highest-rated rods, consider all the pros and cons, and help you find the model that’s perfect for you.
Baitcasting vs Spinning
First things first:
- What is your level of experience?
This is perhaps the biggest question you should ask yourself before settling on a new rod. A well-seasoned bass fishermen’s requirements will differ from a beginner’s.
In general, a beginner is going to want a spinning rod. As your experience level increases to the intermediate level, baitcasting rods will become an option. Once you reach expert level, it typically becomes filling in any gaps in your current equipment.
Spinning rods come in many different shapes and sizes but are mainly categorized by the spinning reel and guides being located on the bottom side of the rod. The consequence of the guide location is that the rod will bend according to the power of the bite as the pressure is applied only to the guides (the loops that the fishing line pass through).
Spinning reels are usually best for beginners as the line has less tendency to tangle while casting and being reeled in at faster speeds. As their name suggests, these rod use spinning reels where the bail is flipped back and forth according to the stage of the cast. A set-up like this eliminates the threat of the line coming off the spool but also has its limits in terms of feel and control.
A baitcasting rod has its reel and guides located on the top side. This guide orientation gives more pulling power as the line pushes down on the guides instead of pulling the guides away.
Baitcasting rods are slightly more difficult to master but often the go-to choice of competitive fishermen. This is because the casting setup makes for smoother and longer casts where the line rolls more naturally off the spool.
If you’ve never cast a baitcasting rod before, be prepared to practice and to deal with the inevitable “birds nest” as a baitcasting reel takes a lot of practice to cast properly and consistently.
Choosing between each rod type really depends on how competent a bass angler you are and how important the issue of added feel and control is. Baitcasting rods generally do that job more effectively, but come at a cost of a steeper learning curve.
In short, beginners are best suited to spinning rods and baitcasters are better for the experts. Intermediates, on the other hand, can go either way. It mainly depends on preference.
Rod length plays an important part in casting, handling bait, and landing fish.
Generally speaking; the more length a rod has, the longer its capability to cast. This is important in enabling you to catapult bait out far without spooking fish by being up close. Longer rods also help in moving more line – making it easier to handle fish moving into deeper water.
That said, longer rods don’t automatically equal better rods. Depending on where you do the majority of your fishing, in shallower waters, for example, shorter rods can be more effective in moving bait. They’re much easier to cast accurately too.
It is easier to drop a lure in a tight spot with a shorter rod (especially those with a good degree of bend or ‘taper’), meaning you’re less likely to scare fish away. In larger areas of water where you plan on moving around, this offers quite an advantage.
To get a sense of what’s long and what’s short, understand that rod length is relative to your own height. That means it’s easier for taller people to handle longer rods.
The fishing rods for bass will likely range from 6-12 feet, although competitive bass anglers, as dictated by Bassmaster Tournament rules, use anything up to 10 feet. Newcomers are usually best advised to use rods between 6-7 feet. These shorter rods are compact enough to help ease people into the technicalities of casting, reeling, and retrieving.
Almost all modern handles are considered “straight grips”, which as you might have guessed, means they are straight.
Bass fishing fans that have read about the history of the sport might have come across Dee Thomas’ successful adoption of ‘flippin’ that started in mid-70’s BASS tournaments. The technique, which keeps bait low to the surface (enabling effective targeting of fish in shallow heavy water), is largely responsible for handles shifting from pistol to straight grip styles.
During this period, the importance of having a solid rod and handle unison really gained traction too. Field and Stream puts this transition down mainly to the fact that pistol grips make use of a single hand while arguing that modern rods, where the rod’s blank runs through the hand, take a much less physical toll.
Missouri pro Denny Brauer advises rod buyers not to have too long of a handle and instead find a rod handle that “fits you best.”
In terms of materials, handles are mostly cork or foam (EVA). These differ in a couple of ways.
- Natural material – layer of internal bark of a specific oak species
- Light and buoyant
- Impermeable – does not absorb liquids like rain
- Elastic – easily malleable making for greater comfort
- Less slippery when wet
- Heavier and more prone to deterioration and cracking
- Can feel colder to the hands in harsh conditions
- More difficult to keep clean
- Light and strong polymer
- Crack and abrasion resistant
- Deteriorates less slowly and maintains shape easily
- More effective in damping vibration
- Less sensitive
- Permeable – absorbs liquid (making for a stickier grip)
After materials you’ll also see rod handles listed as either ‘split-grip’ ( 3-piece handles) or ‘full grip’ (single piece). These differ in a few ways.
A split grip has its grip broken into two pieces, with one piece being located at the butt end of the rod and the second piece being located just below the reel.
- Increased sensitivity (according to pro Kevin VanDam)
- Lower overall weight
- More adjustable and easier to customize
- Exposes more of the rod
A single grip rod is one piece that extends from near the end of the butt end up to just before the reel.
- Small difference in weight
- Prevents fingers resting on the rod
- Considered an ‘older’ technology
- Few professionals adopt single grip rods
Aside from these main staples, new technology, like Winn’s non-slip polymer handle grips, are also becoming more popular among today’s bass professionals. While more expensive, they are said to make a big difference in grip with handles having greater ‘stick’ when wet.
Graphite is generally the material of choice when it comes to bass fishing rods. Its crucial property is how remarkably light-weight it is, especially when compared to its strength.
Weight is a crucial factor when it comes to improving your fishing. The lighter the rod, the greater the sensitivity. Every strike and bump becomes that much more amplified, helping you out in tough conditions and really improving your chances of landing bass in a rough patch of weather.
Bassmaster Classic Champion Chris Lane is a big proponent of graphite rods, usually taking several light rods on both training and competitive matches. Durability is the key quality he cites that graphite-based rods possess.
Another option besides graphite, although not too far of a diversion, is composite rods. These are made up of both graphite and fiberglass, combining the former materials’ lightweight advantages with the soft-tip feel of glass.
Composites are usually the favorites of crankbait enthusiasts. Well-suited for quick-reacting fish and robust enough to match the most erratic jerk and twitch.
Number of Pieces
Since many bass fishing rod manufacturers switched from 2-piece to single-piece designs, there has been a bit of debate among anglers as to whether this compromises performance. The sales point is obvious: a 1-piece is never going to fall apart during a cast. But is that reason enough to overlook a great multi-piece rod?
Most pros use the most up-to-date gear provided by their sponsors. That means that they mostly use single-piece rods. This doesn’t mean, however, that someone can’t do well with an old four-piece. The truth is that performance depends on a whole host of factors.
The best thing about single-piece rods is the slight edge they give in stability and sensitivity. Multi-piece rods have advantages in that they are much easier to transport and store, however. This can make a huge amount of difference if your garage or vehicle is cramped for space. Definitely consider this if you have a smaller car. Squeezing a 7’-6” single piece rod into a Honda Civic can be quite a challenge.
Flexibility and stiffness are the two main characteristics of a rod’s action. Action focuses on the blank and where along the rod the flex is likely to be greatest. It’s also the biggest contributing factor to a rod’s cast length.
Options considered “extra fast” will have the lowest amount of bending with the upper tip being the only part of the rod that curves. Rods of this type are most often used in heavy cover where a lot of pressure is necessary in order to reel in a bass.
Fast-action rods provide both power and flexibility, with a bend of about 25 to 30 percent between the tip and medium section of the rod. These are ideal for use with spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, and soft sticks. Moderate or slow-action rods are recommended for people who prefer using live bait where finesse and a light line comes into play. These rods flex nearer to the butt or handle.
Outdoor Life notes that experienced fishermen tend to prefer rods with more pronounced parabolic action (greater bending from tip to butt), citing pro Mike Iaconelli’s theory that “stiffer rods (low action) pull the bait away from a fish before the hooks stick.” Trends in bass fishing rod action tend to deviate away from the moderate or slow end of the scale given the sport’s dependence on speed, power, and control.
Rod power refers to the degree of the flex and how much power needs to be exerted on the rod in order for it to flex. This is important for driving the hook into the fish. Buyers can more clearly understand this feature by thinking or asking about a rods’ overall strength.
The best rods for bass have power ratings between medium and extra heavy, depending on the situation and lure weight.
Heavy power rods are better able to handle heavy weight lures, which is helpful when fishing for larger bass in unfamiliar or deeper waters. Light power rods do the opposite, casting lighter lures a lot more easily but having less stability when it comes to landing heavier fish.
Some fishing rod manufacturers use color coding systems when it comes to classifying rod power. It’s also usually considered the third most important feature after deciding on length and action first.
Rod guides (sometimes also referred to as eyelets) are the part of the rod that guides the line from the reel along to the tip of the rod. As previously mentioned, their location on the rod also distinguishes its type (baitcasting or spinning). Guides are usually metallic with titanium or ceramic inserts.
Guides are located at specific intervals along the blank and are the only part of the rod responsible for supporting the line as you reel in fish. All the force a fish will put on the rod will need to be transferred through the guides in order for it to get back into the rod and reel. That’s why they are such a critical piece of the rod must be robust and durable enough to handle strong fish.
Understanding what type of guides you need can get a little complicated. Some guides can be titanium nitride coated while others might only use metallic frames.
Any wear and tear on guides typically occurs at the rod’s tip, but it tends to be minimal. The pros advise investing in a strong blank and tip first before worrying about guides.
Some bass fishermen opt for micro guides. These are smaller sized guides that reduce line slap and distribute stress more evenly along the rod. Pros like Aaron Martin like these because they make for a “tighter line with less bounce.”
Lightweight guides transmit line vibrations to the rod and ultimately the angler’s hands. The smoother the surface, the less friction that will be generated. Increased rod sensitivity is another advantage that high-quality guides offer.
Besides fishing gear, knowing where you’ll be fishing is just as important. Is the majority of your fishing done in ponds from a dock or in a large lake from a boat? That’s surely going to factor in gear investment. The same can be said for rivers, streams, and tidal pools, too.
With location come issues like season, cover, structure, and environmental influences, too. Temperatures of the water, as well as the time of year, can play a big part in deciding where to fish. Terrain can make or break a rod and heavy forage can cause nightmares if you’re fishing on one too light.
As for locations, there are five main categories that you’ll likely be fishing in. Each has features that could influence the type of tackle you use and, in turn, a potential rod purchase.
Stream fishing is hugely popular all over North America and parts of South Africa and is often the place most bass fishermen fall in love with the sport. Small streams can show how bass behave better than anywhere else. They are also easily accessible.
Fishing streams are likely to require lighter and shorter gear as control and precision is paramount. Strength and rod power isn’t likely to be too much of an issue here due to gentler water currents.
A hybrid of both lake and river, currents in tidal fisheries are generated by tides coming in and out. This means water levels can vary depending on both season and time of day. Bass anglers fish tidal fisheries mostly with the tide, especially in funnel areas where bass come in to feed.
Due to the pull of the water here, gear should be durable and strong rather than super light. Tidal fisheries fished by boat might require a more portable multi-piece rod rather than a single-piece.
Understanding that bass go with current breaks to stalk their prey is crucial in river fishing.
For people unfamiliar with fast moving water it could better to start somewhere more middle of the road to test out a range of styles of fishing as well as different types of lures.
Pros like Mike Gerry, on the other hand, love river fishing and always take baitcasting rods out on these types of waters.
Ponds can drastically vary in size, but most fishing here is done from the shore or a dock. Ponds are excellent places to test new lures as the conditions are more forgiving than rivers or streams where current and foliage can cause snags and tangles. For that reason, these are typically fished with spinning rods, but can make for a great place to get used to a new baitcaster.
Bass fishing on lakes is very season-dependent. Fish orientate themselves in different parts of the water in winter, favoring humps, flats, and deeper areas. Whereas spring sees them move into shallower water.
Tournament angler and guide Wayne Ek is a fan of learning a new lake first before thinking about gear and tackle. That means walking the territory, eyeing up the terrain, maybe studying google earth and identifying potential difficult casting spots.
That way you’ll get a better idea of what’s more suitable out of a baitcasting (more control) or spinning rod (fewer places to snag) out on the lake.
Tackle Type and Techniques
Lures provide something for the bass to bite on. They also influence style and technique where scenarios, like fishing the surface or throwing a lure deep in matted grass, can call for very different approaches.
Having a preference –whether it’s a crankbait, topwater, jig, or jerkbait—might help you get the best fishing rod for bass as it can help determine your requirements more precisely. Medium-heavy rods, according to some experts, go better with jigs that mimic crawfish. Slow-action rods, on the other hand, are the usual domain of crankbait fans.
Due to the sheer range of lures on the market, it pays to read more about them. Generally speaking, however, it’s safe to say that seasoned anglers will have a sizeable collection (despite crankbaits’ huge popularity). Swimbaits, spinnerbaitsspinnerbaits, spoons, and soft plastics are hardly a rarity in tackle boxes across the world.
For newcomers who perhaps haven’t settled on a particular category of lure, versatility is likely the key feature when looking for a rod. Fortunately, most modern designs should be able to handle any type, but it’s definitely worth thinking about the aforementioned features when matching lures with rods.
Line Type and Weight
Fishing line breaks and losing a great catch can be avoided by the “right pound test” (strength). Bass fishermen often use 8- to 12-pound line but are known to drop down based on where and when they fish. As a general rule, the strength of line should match the size (weight) of prospective fish. The rod you buy (and its relative strength) should also make that a consideration.
In terms of matching line with rod, most manufacturers have recommended line weights. Staying within those guidelines makes sense, but then there’s also the added consideration of what type of line you should use. Braided fishing lines are favored by many pros who tend to opt for split-grip spinning rods.
Robert Robbins, for example, uses 12- pound braided line with a spinning rod because it enables him to carry a lighter lure while retaining a longer cast. 30- to 40-pound braid is the general recommendation for baitcasters preferring jigs and topwaters given their heavier weight.
Besides braided, other pros opt for fluorocarbon. The lighter reflection and refraction of these lines allow higher pound tests with little compromise on visibility. Fluorocarbon also has other benefits in increased sensitivity and abrasion resistance (so perfect for long baitcasting rods), but is often more expensive.
The third most common choice of line is monofilament. Often used with shallow crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and big swimbaits, this was the most common line choice among both baitcasting and spinning rod using pros before innovation in braided and fluorocarbon moved them ahead.
The heavier the line you use, the more rod power you’re likely to need. The type of line is simply more of a preference. It shouldn’t factor in a potential rod purchase.
Best Bass Fishing Rods
Armed with that breakdown on the types of things you might want to be looking for, let’s dive into some of the market’s best options when it comes to the best bass fishing rods. Here are five that strike a good balance.
This speed stick series includes a one-piece design known for being lightweight, strong, and sensitive due to its premium IM8 graphite blanks. Lew’s TP1 series also claims to eliminate wind knots and improve casting distance and accuracy because of its American Tackle Microwave Guide system. The system’s first guide acts like a tiny funnel, ensuring the line passes through the rest of the rod’s small diameter guides, reducing its overall friction. At 7’3” in length, the TP1 is another medium-heavy rod with moderate action and is also well suited to cranking.
- Reliable backbone on a very lightweight rod, which means it’s very consistent in pulling large bass out of the water
- Nice parabolic curve that’s versatile to work not only with crankbaits, but also with a wide range of lures including swimbaits and jigs
- Comfortable split-grip Dri-Tac handles by Winn Grip, which are great because they don’t get slippery even in heavy rain
- One-piece design lacks the portability of other two-piece models meaning they might be less suitable for transport
- Hook keeper placement makes it a bit tricky to keep hold of hooks or ensure the line is kept in when not cast out
- Microwave guide system means even the guide closest to the reel is very small which could be a disadvantage if you want to use a leader (ensuring you’d need to tie a very small knot)
KastKing’s carbon fiber rods range in size between 6’7” and 7’1” and have actions ranging from medium to heavy. Both the one-piece and two-piece designs are constructed with 24-ton carbon matrix KastFlex technology which is great because of its promise of durability, strength, power, and accuracy. They also include Fuji O-ring guides and an additional tip (medium and medium-heavy or medium with medium-light power), which effectively acts as a separate rod.
- Two-piece connection is smooth and stable which is great alongside the added portability
- Good backbone-to-tip ratio useful for weightless stick baits without limiting cast length
- 7’4” Heavy is well-suited for flipping and landing heavy fish while the shorter medium offers a lot of versatility with different lures out on the lakes
- No micro-guides but smaller than average-size guides
- Not as great a level of sensitivity as other rods on the market, but fair for the price point
- Rod tips can be slightly susceptible in the case of snagged lures which means you might need to take a little extra care in unfamiliar locations or unpredictable conditions
This two-piece 7’ baitcasting rod, like the KastKing, also comes with two tips; medium and medium-heavy. Light in weight, the Entsport Camo is another 24-ton carbon fiber design with a high-density EVA split handle and 6+1 corrosion resistant guides that have ceramic inserts. Entsport sells this as a ‘classic bass fishing rod that continues their tradition of superior sensitivity with strength.
- Medium top-heavy works great for chatter and spinnerbaits, while medium-light is well suited for plastic jerkbaits flung under docks
- Very comfortable EVA foam grip with a reel seat that has very little flex or torque
- Quick and easy to change the rod action which is important when testing a variety of lures and weights
- Inexpensive rod that is well-suited to the casual or novice bass fishermen
- Pieces don’t connect as smoothly as other brands with the lower ends of the tips failing to slide all the way down into the lower part of the rod
- Two-piece design lacks the sensitivity of more robust one-piece rods and the lack of finger grips on its backside might make it difficult to handle
- Fast tip might contribute to the design failing to meet expectations in terms of rod action
St. Croix’s one and two-piece Premier range are considered some of the best spinning rods on the market. Built with graphite blanks and aluminum-oxide guides, the Premier also has Fuji TCS reel seats and full cork handles. Designed and handcrafted in Park Falls, U.S.A, this St. Croix model also has a slow cure finish and solid strength, which is great for heightened hooking-power.
- Extreme sensitivity is great for casting weighted lures out far and feeling the full force of a bass fight
- Solid performance with ultra-light lures and a smooth parabolic curve
- Aesthetically beautiful with the Premium-grade cork handle, SCII graphite blank, and frosted silver hooded reel seat
- Light power, fast action 2-piece that’s perfect for bass fishing but versatile enough to also handle panfish and even trout
- Higher price tag since St. Croix designs are well-known for their premium quality and hand-made designs
- Could be a problem with the reel seat nut with some reports of it loosening up following repeated casts (although rare)
- No baitcasting designs in this range
This two-piece composite baitcasting rod has a fast action and medium-heavy power. A specially designed tip with added sensitivity is also good because it helps you improve your catch rates and better time your hook set.
Piscifun’s Torrent is designed to feel like a one-piece thanks to its spigot joint design. Technique-wise, it is targeted at topwater, jerkbait, and spinnerbait anglers.
- Great rod for novices because of its versatility with medium and medium-heavy designs
- Entry level price but good durability, which means it’s likely to prove a strong long-term investment
- Well-suited for use with 15lb braid lines because of its strong composite construction
- Comes with a Velcro strap carrying case, making it easy to pack up and travel with
- Flimsy tip that tends to bounce around which could make using crankbaits quite difficult
- Two-piece joint where sections fit together is very close to a guide which could cause breakage when put together or taken down