Best Baitcasting Rod and Reel Combos Reviewed

From plastic worms to top-water frogs, much of bass fishing relies on “power” techniques that demand a heavy stiff rod and a reel that can wrench a monster out of thick cover without missing a beat. Tournament pros will have an arsenal of baitcasting rods and reels, each rigged for a specific technique, ready to […]
Reviewed by: Pete Danylewycz
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From plastic worms to top-water frogs, much of bass fishing relies on “power” techniques that demand a heavy stiff rod and a reel that can wrench a monster out of thick cover without missing a beat.

Tournament pros will have an arsenal of baitcasting rods and reels, each rigged for a specific technique, ready to go. 

That gets expensive fast, and while they get most - if not all - of their tackle from sponsors at no cost, you’ve got to shell out your hard-earned money for the same gear.

That’s where baitcasting combos come in.

They’re a moderately-priced way to maximize your cost-to-performance ratio - when they’re selected carefully. And they can allow you to have a few different technique options ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Below, you’ll find review of some of our favorite baitcaster combos, as well as a buying guide explaining why we made the choices we did:

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Best Baitcaster Combos Reviewed

Lew's Mach Pro Baitcast Combo

Maximum drag: 15 lbs.

Gear ratio: 7.5:1 (30” per turn)

Capacity: 50/110 (braid); 12/110 (mono)

Weight: ?

Bearings: 9 + 1

Length: 7’ 2”

Action/power: Medium-heavy/fast

Material: IM-8 graphite

Handle:Winn Dri-Tac polymer split grip

Guides: American Tackle Microwave Air guides

Line weight: 12 - 25 lb.

Lure size: ¼ - 1 oz.

Pieces: 1

Excellent rod and reel combos offer as few compromises as possible, and that’s certainly true of Lew’s Mach Pro Baitcast Combo.

Indeed, few anglers would mind reaching down to cast a Texas-rigged Brush Hog and find the Mach Pro in hand!

The reel on this stick is low profile and slick casting, fitting comfortably into your palm and enabling long, accurate casts. It’s every bit the equal of Shimano’s Tatula, and from the skeletonized aluminum crank to the graphite frame and side plates, this reel has been built for hard fights and long days on the water. It’s remarkably light, and you can really feel the smooth power its precision-cut, solid-brass gears deliver.

Wringing every foot of distance from a baitcasting reel demands a precise balance between your lure weight and the braking system, and this Lews employs a magnetic control system that’s easy to adjust and simple to fine-tune.

A hard hookset is essential with the techniques baitcasters are best for, and the clutch on this reel has your back. Expect it to engage the instant you start to pull: no lag, no sag, no problems.

The drag is consistently across a wide range of settings, with a maximum tension of 15 pounds allowing you to run very heavy braid when necessary.

Running a ratio of 7.5:1 that devours 30 inches of line per turn, you’ll be able to pitch and flip with the best of them, as well as ensure a tight line when you’ve hooked a monster at long range.

Lew’s pairs this excellent reel with a rod that’s no less worthy of praise.

The IM-8 graphite blank has the backbone we wish politicians would grow, providing hook-setting power, head-turning strength, and more than enough muscle to wrangle a big fish out of the thick stuff.

For its power, it’s very sensitive, no doubt due to the premium American Tackle Microwave Air guides that hold your line close to the blank, transmitting tell-tale vibration and alerting you to every bump, nudge, and engulfing suck.

The split grip handles are well-executed, providing plenty of territory for hooksets, fights, and large hands.

Lew’s Mach Pro Baitcast Combo isn’t just a food buy for the price: it’s better than anything you could put together separately for the same money. 

Pros:

  • Excellent cost-to-performance ratio
  • Outstanding reel
  • Very light reel that’s easy to palm
  • Precision-cut, solid-brass gears
  • Fast!
  • Excellent drag
  • Very sensitive rod
  • Plenty of hook-setting power
  • Great guides
  • Great handle

Cons: N/A

Abu Garcia Jordan Lee Low Profile Baitcast Combo - Best Budget Baitcasting Rod and Reel Combo

Abu Garcia 7’ Jordan Lee Fishing Rod and Reel Baitcast Combo, 5 +1 Ball Bearings with Lightweight Graphite Frame & Sideplates, Durable Construction,Yellow/Grey

Amazon 

Maximum drag: 18 lbs. 

Gear ratio: 6.4:1 (26” per turn)

Capacity: 12/145 (mono); 30/140 (braid)

Material: graphite

Weight: 7.3 oz.

Bearings: 5 + 1

Length: 7’
Material: graphite

Power/action: medium-heavy/fast

Lure size: ⅜ to 1 oz.
Line weight: 10 to 20 lbs.
Handle: split Winn Dri-Tac

Guides: 5 + 1 stainless steel

Pieces: 1

Abu Garcia’s Jordan Lee Low Profile Combo is the place to start for beginners, offering great performance at an unbelievable price. And whether you’re just getting started bass fishing or need to equip someone who is, this combo delivers far more bang for the buck than you’d expect.

The word on the water is that this reel is AG’s Silver Max dressed up with different decals, but we can’t be sure. If so, that’s simply excellent, as this is a well-respected baitcaster with proven tech.

What’s certain is that this light, palmable reel is easy to learn the ins and outs of casting with. Abu Garcia’s time-tested MagTrax braking system is simple to adjust to your lure weight, and it works really well to tame backlashes and birds nests, giving new anglers more confidence.

Abu Garcia uses a solid brass main gear in this reel that produces a final ratio of 6.4:1. It retrieves a modest 26 inches per turn, and it’s certainly not rivaling lightning for speed. But that’s fast enough for most applications, and it’ll get the job done pitching and flipping frogs or running Carolina-rigged worms over a hard bottom.

The drag system is excellent for the price, offering solid, smooth performance and the possibility of running heavy braid when you need it.

Unlike many affordable combos, Abu Garcia didn’t skimp on the rod with which it’s paired.

The 7-foot, medium-heavy, fast blank is strong and sensitive, offering excellent feel for worm fishing and real authority on the hookset. Chalk that up to high-quality graphite construction and attention to detail during the manufacturing process. Expect excellent hooksetting power, long casts, and the power to muscle a bass away from stumps and other hazards.

The split Winn Dri-Tac grips are attractive and effective, and to my eye, they’re real winners.

For budget-minded anglers as well as beginners, Abu Garcia’s Jordan Lee Low Profile Combo is an unbeatable buy.

Pros:

  • Awesome price!
  • Excellent, light-weight reel
  • Great braking system delivers good casting with minimal bird nests
  • Excellent drag
  • Solid brass main gear
  • Very smooth cranking
  • Sensitive, strong rod
  • Excellent handles

Cons:

  • At this price point, it can’t match the Mach Pro

KastKing Crixus Baitcasting Combo

KastKing Crixus Fishing Rod and Reel Combo, Baitcasting, 6ft 6in, Med Heavy, Right Handed,2pcs

Amazon 

Maximum drag: 17.64 lbs.

Gear ratio: 6.5:1 (24.2” per turn)

Capacity: (mono) 10/130, 12/110, 14/90

Material: nylon

Weight: 7.3 oz

Bearings: 5 + 1

Length: 7’
Material: IM6 graphite

Power/action: medium-heavy/fast

Lure size: ⅜ to ¾ oz.
Line weight: 10 to 17 lbs.
Handle: split Superpolymer

Guides: 8 + 1 stainless steel with Zirconium Oxide inserts

Pieces: 2

KastKing is committed to providing exciting performance at a boring price, and we’ve been favorably impressed by what they’ve had to offer over the years. Indeed, we’ve reviewed the Crixus baitcasting reel before, and liked what we saw.

The Crixus Combo was designed to give more expensive options a run for their money at a much more reasonable price point, so the question is “How does the Crixus combo stack up again the behest on our shortlist, as well as other bargain options like Abu Garcia’s Jordan Lee Low Profile?”

The Crixus is low profile and light enough to offer all-day comfort. It’s slightly heavier than the comparable Abu, but not so much that you’d notice.

This reel casts well, and the spool spins very freely. The magnetic braking system is effective as well, and I’d say that this is a good reel to use to master the basics of casting with a baitcaster.

You wouldn't expect a budget reel to use brass main and pinion gears, but the Crixus does, offering exceptional smoothness and plenty of torque. Unfortunately, those gears are pretty small, as is the spool, and the 6.5:1 gear ratio just can’t grab enough line to really impress us. With 24.2 inches of retrieve per turn, it falls behind the Abu’s 26 inches per turn, putting it solidly in the company of turtles rather than rabbits.

That’s not to say that it can’t get the job done, but it’s going to be harder to pitch and flip effectively, as the bass will have more time to wrap you up around something hard before you can drag them out into open water. 

The drag is a high point, however, and it releases smoothly and consistently, as well as offering a high maximum that allows you to run heavy braid for applications where it's necessary.

The downside is that the Crixus sports a very small spool, and not only does that hobble its speed, it reduces capacity remarkably. Where the Crixus provides room for 110 yards of 12-pound mono, the Abu holds 145 yards of the same line, about 31% greater capacity. 

That’s a huge difference, easily giving the Abu Garcia the edge.

The rod features a 7-foot, medium-heavy, IM6 graphite blank. It’s plenty sensitive, while also casting well and fighting hard. Its stainless steel guides provide zirconium oxide inserts, ensuring less friction and thus better line protection when the pressure’s on.

Overall, this is a capable combo, but it’s slightly more expensive than the Abu Garcia’s Jordan Lee Low Profile Combo while offering slightly worse performance.

Pros:

  • Good price!
  • Good, lightweight reel
  • Great braking system delivers good casting with minimal bird nests
  • Excellent drag
  • Solid brass main and pinion gear
  • Excellent cranking
  • Sensitive, strong rod
  • Good handles

Cons:

  • Slow retrieve
  • Low capacity

Daiwa Tatula CT/Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Carbonlite 2.0 Baitcast Combo - Best Baitcasting Rod and Reel Combo for Bass

Maximum drag: 13.2 lbs.

Gear ratio: 8.1:1 (34.5” per turn)

Capacity: (mono) 14/120, 16/100; (braid) 30/130, 40/100

Material: aluminum

Weight: 7.4 oz

Bearings: 7 + 1

Length: 7’
Material: graphite

Power/action: medium-heavy/fast

Lure size: ⅜ to 1 oz.
Line weight: 10 to 20 lbs.
Handle: split Winn

Daiwa’s Tatula CT is an awesome reel for any power application, and when paired with a sensitive, stiff rod, you’ve got a combination that‘s hard to beat.

Daiwa’s Tatula CT/Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Carbonlite 2.0 Baitcast Combo may be a mouthful, but in plain English, it’s an outstanding combo for everything from Carolina rigging Rage Tail Craws to pitching Fat Ikas into gaps in the lily pads.

The Tatula CT is light and palmable, and thanks to their high-tech T-wing levelwind and MAGFORCE-Z braking system, this reel’s spool spins up fast and slick, allowing very long casts with minimal friction from the levelwind.

On the water, you can expect very long, very consistent casts with minimal backlash. This makes the Tatula CT a blessing for anglers new to baitcasters, and few reels offer the flat learning curve that this one does.

The Tatula CT has a carbon fiber drag system that’s reliably smooth, allowing as much as 13.2 pounds of tension on your line. That should allow you to run braid as heavy as 40 pounds, and you’ll get about 100 yards of that on the spool.

That’s the kind of capacity that you want when you’ll be cutting and retying routinely.

Daiwa doesn’t say what material they use for the gears, but they don’t feel as smooth as brass would, so I’d guess they’re aluminum alloy.

We chose the 8.1:1 gear ratio, which delivers absolutely blazing speed. Expect 34.5 inches per turn, making this the fastest reel on our shortlist. 

For my money, that really sets this combo apart, as those big gears make the difference between a bass that has time to wrap me up and a bass that ends up on the scale at the end of the day.

This excellent reel is paired with a capable graphite rod that offers plenty of sensitivity, in part due to the Fuji FaZlite guides. These are excellent, mid-level guides that offer very hard aluminum oxide inserts to resist braid wear and provide maximum friction reduction.

You’ll find plenty of hooksetting power in this rod, and it’s certainly fight ready, with a generous Winn split grip to give you the territory you need to fight the bass of your life.

Overall, this is an excellent combo, and probably the best bass option on the market.

Pros:

  • Excellent cost-to-performance ratio
  • Outstanding reel
  • Very light reel that’s easy to palm
  • Extremely fast!
  • Excellent drag
  • Very sensitive rod
  • Plenty of hook-setting power
  • Great guides
  • Great handle

Cons: N/A

TackleDirect Silver Hook/Penn Squall Low Profile Baitcasting Combo - Best Inshore Baitcasting Rod and Reel Combo

Maximum drag: 20 lbs.

Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (34” per turn)

Capacity: (mono) 14/250, 20/175; (braid) 40/235, 50/200

Material: aluminum

Weight: 7.4 oz

Bearings: 7 + 1

Length: 7’
Material: graphite

Power/action: medium-heavy/mod-fast

Lure size: 3 - 6 oz.
Line weight: 15 to 30 lbs.
Handle: full cork with fighting butt

Much like the Daiwa Tatula Combo we reviewed above, TackleDirect’s Silver Hook/Penn Squall Low Profile Baitcasting Combo takes a well-respected reel and pairs it with an awesome rod. And if you’re looking for a low-profile combo to catch reds, small sharks, grouper, and other hard-fighting inshore species, look no further.

Penn’s Squall is a time-tested, low-profile reel. Its rigid aluminum body can take a bruising without giving an inch, and you won’t find its limits any time soon. 

It casts well, but keep in mind that it’s not a light-lure model: this is a reel designed to chunk heavy baits like cut mullet, crabs, and weighted shrimp. And like all baitcasting reels, it has limitations in the wind.

But inside that wheelhouse, it launches terminal tackle well, thanks to an excellent magnetic braking system.

The Squall comes equipped with the legendary HT-100 drag system, so named because testing revealed no wear after 100 miles of line where run through it. It’s smooth, consistent, and strong enough for 60-pound braid. And I seriously doubt there’s a better system out there on a low-profile saltwater reel, period.

Penn runs solid brass gears in the Squall, and you can really feel the strength and smoothness they deliver. With a gear ratio of 6.2:1, the Squall eats 34 inches of line per turn, more than enough to keep your line tight when you’re facing a small shark running straight at your boat.

This awesome reel is paired with a Tackle Direct Silver Hook rod, featuring a graphite blank that offers medium-heavy power and a moderately-fast action. Expect plenty of backbone for hard fights, and you’ll find that the long cork handles and fighting butt are going to come in handy when you tie into a bull red or fat grouper.

Obviously, this is not a finesse combo. Choose a different set up for specks, flounder, and bluefish, and take the Silver Hook/Squall Combo out when you need big baits and the power to pull monsters out from cover.

For inshore fishing, this is a very hard combo to match.

Pros:

  • Excellent cost-to-performance ratio
  • Outstanding reel
  • Very light reel that’s easy to palm
  • Very fast!
  • Legendary drag
  • Powerful rod that can really fight

Cons: N/A

Buying Guide: What We Look for in a Good Baitcasting Rod and Reel Combo

Price/performance ratio

To make our shortlist, each baitcasting combo was assessed for what it offered for each dollar you’d spend.

That doesn’t mean that every combo is expensive, and it certainly doesn’t mean they’re all cheap, either.

Instead, whether you opt for one of the budget combos on our shortlist, like the exceptional Abu Garcia Jordan Lee Low Profile Baitcast Combo, you’ll be pleased with the performance for the price you paid. On the other end of the spectrum, the Daiwa Tatula CT/Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Carbonlite 2.0 Baitcast Combo is a bit pricier, but for the money, it’s a steal.

And that’s the real trick with rod and reel combos: there are plenty to choose from, but few that deliver the goods.

You can be sure these do.

Reel quality

A combo is just that: a combination of reel and a rod that come as a unit. 

Typically, reel quality suffers when buying a combo, and we’ve assessed the offerings on our shortlist with a careful eye towards quality.

Body

The body of your reel needs to be stiff and light: stiff so that it can resist the forces of a hard fight and hold the spool and gears in place, light so that your hand and arm suffer less fatigue over the course of a busy morning.

Some of the reels on our shortlist sport aluminum bodies. For instance, the Penn Squall has an all-metal body that can whatever a 40-pound redfish can dish out without allowing the gears or spool to b e torqued out of place. That’s a necessity for inshore fishing, and the Squall has built a reputation for rock-solid performance.

By contrast, the Tatula CT and Abu Garcia Jordan Lee have bodies composed of graphite. Extremely lightweight and very stiff, these reels are built for bass, offering featherweight performance and the rigidity needed to muscle tournament winners.

Casting

Baitcasting reels need to cast well, though of course, they’re better with heavier lines and lures than spinning reels.

Better braking systems, slicker bearing for the spool, and high-tech leverwinds all contribute to less friction and thus longer casts. In this respect, the Tatula CT really stands out, and it’s probably the longest casting reel on any combo, at any price.

Gears

Gears are the guts of your reel, and the stronger and smoother they are, the better they’ll perform in a fight.

Generally, solid brass gears are superior to all other materials, offering greater smoothness and superior torque due to the perfect marriage of hardness and malleability of brass. But they add weight and cost.

As you’d expect, the Penn Squall sports brass gears, and its proven performance as a beast tamer demonstrates why this is the best choice for inshore angling.

And while Lew's Mach Pro Baitcast Combo didn’t take our top spot for bass fishing, it, too, uses precision-cut, solid brass gearing to deliver unmatched torque and smoothness. For hard fights, that’s something you’ll want.

The KastKing Crixus Baitcasting Combo may be a budget option, but it’s the third option on our list to run solid brass main and pinion gears.

The rest of the pack use either a combination of brass and aluminum or aluminum alloy gears to deliver torque to the spool.

Speed

Speed is never a bad thing with a baitcasting reel, and for applications like pitching and flipping, it’s positively essential.

But speed isn’t just a question of the gear ratio: those gears spin the spool, and the size of that spool can have a profound effect on the reel’s rate of retrieve. 

That’s why we list not only the gear ratio, but the inches per turn each reel can pick up.

The fastest reel on our shortlist is the Tatula CT, and that’s one of the reasons it made our top spot as a bass combo. And whether you need to keep a tight line or drag a bass out of cover before things can go wrong, its lightning-fast retrieve is just perfect.

Drag

Drag matters. 

A good drag protects your line from sudden shocks, preventing a momentary stress that can lead to a catastrophic failure. For that, it must release line smoothly across a wide range of 

settings, but especially up high where you’ll be running heavy braid.

The reels on the Lew's Mach Pro Baitcast Combo and the Daiwa Tatula CT/Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Carbonlite 2.0 Baitcast Combo sport excellent drags, and they’re both tournament ready.

In the salt, the Penn Squall dominates with its impressive HT-100 system. There is literally nothing better, as legions of anglers can attest.

It has a high maximum setting, allowing you to run heavy braid when necessary, and it provides unrivaled line protection with its smooth, consistent release. And when the heat’s on in a hard fight, it won’t let you down!

Capacity

More is always better when it comes to capacity, and this is a front on which the standouts on our shortlist shine.

It’s not a question of getting spooled with bass or inshore, but rather having the necessary line for long casts and cutting and retying without needing to respool mid-morning.

Rod quality

Plenty of combos offer cheap rods that you’d never purchase on their own; by contrast, our shortlist features nice sticks that offer lots of bang for the buck.

Power and action

Medium-heavy rods dominate our list, and for good reason.

The power techniques common to the tournament trail demand a stiff rod with lots of hook-setting power, as well as the muscle to drag heavy bass and turn heads.

Our picks also tend to have fast actions and sensitive tips, just what you need to detect the soft suck of a bass engulfing your craw.

Length

7-feet is a good middle ground for bass and inshore fishing, offering plenty of casting distance without sacrificing accuracy.

Guides

Guides play two roles: they prevent friction, and thus heat, from damaging your line during a fight, and they transmit vibration to the blank.

Good bass guides are relatively small and very, very slick and hard.

The guides on the Lew's Mach Pro Baitcast Combo, the Daiwa Tatula CT/Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Carbonlite 2.0 Baitcast Combo, and the KastKing Crixus Baitcasting Combo are excellent, providing a zirconium oxide inner ring to smooth the passage of line and resist wear from abrasive braid.

Handles

Long, comfortable handles are ideal for bass and inshore fishing, as they provide the space you need to fight big fish or cast a country mile, when needed.

Final Thoughts

While we can’t know your needs and budget, we’re pretty sure that one of the baitcasting rod and reel combos on our shortlist is going to be perfect for you.

And we hope that this article has helped you make the best choice for your next combo.

As always, we’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below!

About The Author
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. Whether he's casting a line in a quiet freshwater stream or battling a monster bass, fishing is his true passion.
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