How to pair a fishing rod and reel

Oregon Fishing Trips
October 30, 2020
2020 Columbia River Fishing Report
December 21, 2020


If you’re new to fishing, the first challenge you need to master is choosing the right gear to get the best results out on the water. 


And while many different kinds of fishing tackle are not always 100% essential, there are two fundamental gear items that you can’t go without: a fishing rod and reel.


So one of the big issues that every beginner faces is this: what type of fishing rod and reel should I buy, and how do I pair them correctly?


Let’s break this challenge down into two main parts:


  • Choosing the best type of fishing reel and rod as a beginner
  • Matching your rod and reel to make sure they are balanced with each other


Let’s discuss each of these topics separately.


Should you use a spinning or casting reel?

Many things can be said about which type of fishing reel is best to choose for different types of fishing (for more details on the different types of reels, and which one is best for which purpose, click here).


Briefly, there are three main types of fishing reels to choose from as a beginner: spinning reels, spincast reels, and baitcasting reels. 


They each have their own pros and cons, but if you’re a beginner, by far the best reel type to choose is a spinning reel. The reason for this is that this reel type is a lot easier to use, which means you’ll have more fun on your first fishing trips, since you can spend your time catching fish, instead of struggling with your gear.


The second reason why spinning reels are so great for beginners is because they can be used for many different kinds of fishing, ranging from ice fishing to offshore boat fishing. So if you get a spinning reel for your first fishing trip, you can be sure that it will work for the type of fishing that you have in mind.


But in case you’re planning to get into bass fishing, it can be very tempting to get a baitcasting reel as a beginner, since this is what most of the bass pros use, and it looks so impressive when they cast their bait with absolute accuracy on every cast.


But if you choose to go this route, you can expect to spend the first several fishing trips just learning how to use your gear, and probably won’t get much actual fishing done. Indeed, most beginners end up with a huge birds nest the first time they try out a baitcaster.


Matching a rod and reel to get the best results

Once you have decided on the type of fishing rod and reel you want to get, the next step is to choose the right size, and to match them with each other. When it comes to size, aim for a medium size as a beginner. Very lightweight or very heavy reel and rod sizes are harder to fish with, so it’s best to start with a medium size model.


Let’s say you choose to go with a medium sized spinning reel, in the 2500 or 3000 size range. So how should you choose a rod that pairs with this reel?


There are two main ways to do this:


  • Matching the line rating of the rod and reel
  • Attaching the rod to the reel, to determine if they match in terms of weight and balance


The first of these methods is easier, and can be done as long as you know the rod and reel specs, which means you can match a rod and reel even if you order them online.


To match a rod and reel by their line rating, first look at the spool of the spinning reel that you want to buy. Every spinning reel is engraved with its line capacity on the spool. This number refers to the amount of line it can hold if filled with the recommended pound test line strength. And if you’re buying the reel online, this number is usually given in the product specs.


Once you have the recommended line strength of the reel, you can then choose a rod with the same recommended line strength. Similar to fishing reels, every fishing rod has a number engraved on it, which is usually found close to the handle. This number always includes the recommended line strength that should be used with the rod.


If you’re matching a rod and reel by their line rating, make sure that you’re comparing the same type of fishing line (in other words, compare braid with braid, or monofilament with monofilament). You really don’t want to match line ratings for different types of lines, as you’ll get very different values that way.


Incidentally, you can also use the line rating of the rod to match it with the drag value of your reel.


Matching a rod and reel by balancing them in your hand

The second method to match a rod and reel requires attaching them to each other, and then balancing them in your hand. When you do this, you’ll notice right away if the reel is too heavy or too light for the rod, or if the balance feels right or wrong.


Obviously, you need to be able to get your hands on the rod and reel before you buy them in order to do this, which means you can only do it in a tackle shop.


Finally, you can also combine both methods, by choosing reels and rods that are already broadly matched based on their line rating, and then getting more granular by holding each combination in your hand, to see which one feels best to you.

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