Bass fishing demands an almost bewildering range of techniques--and the tackle to match. That’s why it’s easy to find dedicated anglers who pack dozens of rods in their boats.
But for most of us, spending thousands on rods isn’t in the cards, and especially if you’re new to chasing largemouth bass, you probably need one versatile stick to start. Later, you can branch-out into technique-specific options, but for now, you need one exceptional rod that can do most things well.
What should you look for in a good all-arounder?
That’s a tough question, and we’re here to help you answer it. Below, you’ll find a thorough discussion of what to look for, as well as reviews of some of our favorite bass rods.
Quick glance at the best bass fishing rods on the market today:
Table of Contents (clickable)
Handle: Split cork/Hypalon butt
Guides: 10 + tip/Zero Tangle Kigan with SiC inserts
Lure size: ¼ - 1 ounce
Line weight: 10 - 17 lb.
Dobyns is a name known to pretty much every bass angler, and their rods are trusted tools that have proven their effectiveness season after season and tournament after tournament. It’s no surprise that a Dobyns rod made our shortlist, and the 703C is an impressive addition to our reviews.
7’ long, the 703C offers both sensitivity and strength from its graphite blank. In fact, this rod is sufficiently powerful and sensitive at the tip that it’s simply fantastic with worms, jigs, spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, and topwater lures. Plenty of folks throw crankbaits with this rod, too, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it for that application. With plenty of stiffness provided by its high-modulus blank, you’ll get the power you need for good hooksets when fishing senkos, worms, and other soft plastics, too.
Casting is excellent, as you’d expect, and this rod’s small guides really help in this respect.
One thing to note about the awesome 703C is that, though it’s rated for heavy lures and line, it can still throw ¼ ounce jigs! That tells you a lot about tip sensitivity and blank quality, and it helps to explain why we chose this rod as a great all-arounder.
11 Kigan guides with silicone carbide inserts will keep your line cool and fray-free. If this is your first quality rod, you’ll soon realize that you’re getting fewer break-offs in hard fights.
The 703C sports a split handle, with high-grade cork to the fore and Hypalon--a synthetic rubber--to the rear. It’s a nice design, well-executed by Dobyns.
Material: Carbon fiber
Handle: split EVA foam
Guides: 7 + tip/Stainless steel and SiC inserts
Lure size: ¼ - ¾ ounce
Line weight: 12 - 20 lb.
As John Crews observes, a good medium-priced rod can compete favorably with much more expensive options. That’s certainly true for the Cadence CR7, and though you’ll note where a few corners have been cut to keep costs down, this is truly a high-performance rod at a bargain price.
Let’s start with a simple fact: the Cadence CR7 series of rods offers features that you’d expect at a much higher price point. For instance, rather than graphite, these rods use a carbon fiber blank, and all-in-all, you can count us as impressed by the components the CR7 offers!
We recommend the 7’ multi-purpose rod as a great place to start if you’re looking for an all-arounder. It offers a medium-heavy blank with plenty of backbone to play large fish and a tip that’s sensitive enough for good lure action and excellent strike detection. While probably not quite as versatile as the Dobyns, I wouldn’t hesitate to pitch soft plastics, run a crankbait, or work topwater poppers with this rod.
Obviously, some compromises were made to keep costs down, and two areas that you’ll notice this are the guides and handle.
The CR7 runs stainless guides with silicon carbide inserts. These are a fine choice, but not a top-notch competitor for more expensive rods. There are also only eight of them, and we’d really like to see a few more, but for the money, that’s not realistic.
The CR7’s handle features well-designed split EVA foam. Don’t expect anything fancy or flashy here, but it’s sufficiently comfortable that you should have no complaints.
Overall, where this rod really struts its stuff is blank quality.
Handle: split EVA foam
Guides: 9/Fuji aluminum oxide
Lure size: ¼ - 1 ounce
Line weight: 10 - 20 lb.
If you fish, you know the Daiwa name, and their Tatula XT series rods are serious additions to your fishing arsenal that won’t break the bank.
Our favorite all-arounder in the Tatula series is the 7’3” medium-heavy with a fast action. Like the Dobyns 703C, this is a versatile rod that offers top-notch performance for a variety of techniques. The tip is admirably sensitive, and from jigging to topwater, it will help you get the most life-like action from your lures.
Strike detection is excellent as well.
The Tatula series features a graphite blank that’s both stiff and light-weight, an ideal combination. There’s more than enough backbone here for muscling bass out of cover, and hooksets with senkos or other soft plastics are excellent.
Guide quality is great, just as you’d expect from Fuji components. They’re plenty small, improving casting and feel. But like the St. Croix, we’d like to see an extra guide or two.
The Tatula XT series offers a comfortable split EVA foam handle that’s hard-working and plenty tough.
As an all-arounder for freshwater fishing, this rod makes a lot of sense.
Handle: split Dri-Tac handles by Winn Grip
Guides: 8 + tip/American Tackle Microwave Guides
Lure size: ¼ - ⅞ ounces
Line weight: 12 - 25 lb.
Lew’s Speed Stick, like the Cadence CR7, offers a lot of rod for the money. In fact, it just might offer the best price-to-performance ratio of any of the products on our list. From the excellent handles to the fantastic blank, we’re impressed by what it brings to the table, and we’re confident that you will be, too.
We recommend the 7’ medium-heavy rod. It’s got the strength to control a big bass in a fight, the backbone to guarantee a solid hookset, and a sensitive tip that’ll help you work your lures like a pro. While probably not as good as the best on our list, for a rod that’s roughly half the price, you won’t hear us complain!
The nine American Tackle “Microwave” guides are admirably slick. They’re small enough to increase casting distance, but we’d like to see one or two more. At this price point, though, that’s really more of a quibble than a complaint.
The Speed Stick’s handle really stands out. Whatever Winn’s proprietary Dri-Tac is made from, it’s comfortable, grippy, and attractive. The split design is well done on this rod, and you can expect all-day comfort no matter how large or small your hands.
Handle: split cork
Guides: 8 + tip/Kigan Master Hand 3D guides with aluminum oxide inserts
Lure size: ⅜ - ¾ ounces
Line weight: 12 - 20 lb.
St. Croix, like Dobyns, is a perennial favorite of our rod reviews. That’s a testament to their consistent high-quality and amazing attention to detail. But it’s also because St. Croix seems to actually work some “mojo” on this line’s blanks, a feeling you’ll share the first time you fish one.
The 7’ Mojo is a fantastic all-arounder. Its high-modulus graphite blank is strong and stiff, as you’d expect, but still very capable with lures at the bottom end of (and perhaps even a bit below) its recommended weights. It’s also amazingly sensitive for a medium-heavy rod, probably edging out the Dobyns on this front.
Jigs, soft plastics, topwater--I’d throw them all with this rod!
Sporting nine Kigan Master guides, your line’s in excellent hands as these are among the only real competitors with Fuji in terms of quality--and it’s worth noting that Dobyns uses them as well. They’re also very small, improving casting. Overall, we’d still probably give the edge to the 703C here for its extra guide.
The Mojo features a premium cork split grip that’s well-designed and executed. If split cork is your thing, this might be the best choice for you.
There’s simply no question that baitcasting tackle dominates bass fishing. Indeed, it’s vanishingly rare to see a serious bass angler with a spinning set-up in hand.
No doubt some of that lopsided victory for baitcasters has to do with television and YouTube; we fish what we see the pros using, and the pros have been running baitcasters for decades. But there are good reasons they’ve chosen these fishing tools, and those reasons are worth discussing.
Let’s take a close look at why baitcasting tackle is generally superior for bass fishing.
Check out our guide for the best bass baitcasting reels!
Heavy line - This is probably the strongest reason behind the baitcaster’s wide-spread adoption among bass anglers. Spinning reels struggle when lines climb above 10- to 12-pound test. Whether that’s because line starts to slip off the spool or because it retains too much memory with fluorocarbon main line, casting suffers.
By contrast, baitcasters love heavy test, and the in-line spooling really cuts down on memory issues.
Control - In all but the windiest conditions, a baitcasting reel provides greater casting control. Because the spool spins freely--with only your thumb as a brake--experienced bass anglers can cast more accurately and with greater finesse with baitcasting reels. And once your thumb has been educated in the mysteries of the casting reel, it can help you detect bites, too.
Drag - Baitcasting reels offer superior drag systems. Simply put, the star-shaped knob allows for greater drag, more precise settings, and improved smoothness over even the best spinning reels.
Gear ratio - For running buzz baits and other fast-moving presentations, the high gear ratios available on baitcasters just can’t be beat.
Stouter rods - While not an iron-clad rule, baitcasting rods generally offer more backbone, making them ideal for single-hook applications like worms and other soft plastics.
Baitcasters aren’t in every sense superior, and it’s worth considering where they fall short, too.
Ease-of-use - Spinning reels are simple to use, and there’s a bit of a learning curve with baitcasters. Until you develop some serious thumb mojo, expect bird’s nests!
Light line - Below 10-pound line (or it’s diameter equivalent), spinning reels are going to outperform baitcasters, hands-down. That’s the sweet spot of their design--what they’re intended to do.
Light lures - In contrast to the fixed spool on a spinning reel, baitcasting designs feature a spool that spins to release and retrieve line. The higher the quality, the more frictionless that spool’s movement will be, but physics doesn’t like to be cheated.
As a result, irrespective of the number of bearings, the viscosity of the lubrication, or the materials involved, that spool will generate friction. With very light lures in the range of 1/32 of an ounce, this will noticeably affect casting. That’s why the vast majority of ultralight and light rods wear a spinning reel.
Braid - Counterintuitively, baitcasting reels have a braid problem, especially in small diameters. Even when running superlines that are as fat as 10-pound mono, a hard hookset, wicked fight, or firm snag can bury that first spool-wrap of braid, causing a bird’s nest on the next cast.
Wind - Baitcasting spools spin freely, in contrast to the spinning reel’s fixed spool. And when casting a light lure into the wind, that can lead to problems. As the lure meets resistance in the air, it’ll slow down, but the spool is still spinning vigorously.
And what happens when line is coming off the spool faster than the lure is moving? That’s right--real trouble!
After assessing the pros and cons, it’s clear why most bass anglers choose baitcasting tackle.
You’ll often want to run relatively heavy line, especially if you expect to pull large females from heavy cover, stop an end-run around a stump or tree, or just to have the added security of knowing that a real brute can’t break your line. That, plus the superior drag and control, goes a long way toward explaining this choice.
Just be sure that you aren’t burying your braid deep in the spool on hooksets, and spend the time you need to master your thumb mojo. Once you get your skills dialed-in, a baitcasting reel is hard to beat!
For true finesse presentations in spring, or in high wind, a spinning set-up will work well. But as a general-duty bass rod, we’d recommend giving this tackle a pass.
Keeping in mind the variety of techniques used in bass fishing, it’s hard to have just one rod that’s a master of them all. Indeed, what makes a good worm rod is pretty much the opposite of what you want for crankbaits, and so what we’re looking for in this article is really a “jack of all trades.”
As such, a specialized rod for any given technique will probably outperform our choices, though any rod on our list can get most jobs done well.
In a general-purpose bass rod, I recommend medium-heavy, fast action blanks. That’s a versatile combination that should allow you to cast weightless soft plastics as well as heavy crankbaits. When paired with a high-speed reel, it’ll cover virtually any situation you find yourself in on the water.
A rod’s action describes where along its length it will begin to bend under load. Fast action rods are stiff for most of their length, bending near the tip. By contrast, slow action rods begin to give closer to the handle and reel seat, curving over a much greater percentage of their length.
Excellent bass rods feature blanks that are tailored to a technique, enticing serious bass anglers towards an arsenal of rods. That’s not just the lure of more tackle: what makes an awesome rod for pitching just isn’t going to work well for drop-shotting.
But most of us aren’t willing--or able--to drop thousands of dollars on an army of rods. And if you’re going to buy one good bass rod that’ll need to serve you in as many situations as possible, I recommend a relatively fast action more in the neighborhood of pitching and crankbaiting than drop-shotting.
Chances are you already own a spinning set-up, and if you do, you can probably use it for drop shot rigs and swimbaits. For these applications, a slower action and lighter power aren’t going to hamper your technique.
That’s one reason, but the most powerful is that pitching is arguably the dominant technique in bass angling. Often paired with an enticing soft bait, it has proven its effectiveness with everything from cane poles to G. Loomis rods.
You’ll want that fast action to feel the “suck” when a bass swallows your lure, and a fast tip will let you pitch that worm on target every time.
Power describes how much force is required to bend a rod. Together with its action, a rod’s power tells you a lot about how it will perform. All other things being equal, a stiffer blank will increase the power of your hookset and allow for longer casts.
Dedicated bass rods tend to be on the heavy end. With stiffer, more powerful blanks, they provide more control in a fight. If you’ve been fishing panfish, that may not sound like a big deal, but watching a big bass run toward stumps and trees or begin to wrap line around a piling can be simply heart-stopping. You want to be able to turn that big lady, and for that, you need a stout blank.
But more power combined with a fast action has another huge benefit: hookset certainty. Especially when pitching works and other soft plastics, you’ll be working a single hook. And with 20, 30, or even perhaps 40 feet of line between you and your terminal tackle, you need to have a stiff rod to really drive that hook home (and low-stretch braid).
For a general-purpose bass rod, I recommend a medium-heavy power.
Generally speaking, the longer a rod is, the further you can cast with it, but the less precise those casts will be. Shorter rods are deadly accurate, but casting distance will suffer.
For a general-purpose bass rod, I’d start looking at lengths of about 7 feet. That’ll give you plenty of length for casting without sacrificing the accuracy you need for pitching.
A rod will almost always have designated line and lure weights marked near the reel seat. And while you can exceed these bounds, performance will often suffer.
The rods we review cluster around the 10- to 20-pound mark for line tests and the ¼ to 1-ounce range for lures.
Guide quality is a critical aspect of a good rod, and merely adequate guides will lose you more fish than dull hooks and cheap line combined.
As you fight fish on your line, the guides take that strain, dividing it by their number (roughly). As they do, the friction between the line and the guide material can get intense, and unless those guides are made of the highest quality materials and are really designed to perform, they’ll wear your line, compromising even the strongest braids.
The best way to test guide quality is also demonstrated below. Just try sawing the line you use against a large guide. If the line breaks quickly, that’s a sign that you should give that rod a pass.
video demonstrating how fragile line really is and how quality guides can be tested
Generally speaking, more is better. An increase in guide count means that each one takes less strain, creating less friction at any one point.
And a good rule of thumb is one guide per foot--plus one.
John Crews, a pro from Bassmaster, prefers micro guides. As he explains, “They give you more feel and a little more casting distance because they funnel the casting energy in more of a straight line.”
We agree, and the rods we review are fitted with small guides for just that reason.
Modern fishing rods can be made from a variety of materials, including carbon fiber, graphite, and fiberglass. Some feature composite construction, using more than one material in the blank that provides their backbone.
For a general-purpose bass rod, I recommend high-modulus graphite or carbon fiber. They provide the stiffness and sensitivity you’ll need for soft plastics.
Much about which handle to choose is a personal decision, and what’s comfortable to me might be misery for you. Generally, there are two primary handle materials: cork and EVA foam.
Bass fishing can get expensive quickly, and it’s tempting to throw serious money after a good rod. But the truth is that more money can often buy you diminishing returns.
Maybe you’ve heard the old maxim that “enough is as good as a feast.” That’s just as true for rods as it is for anything else. A good rod is significantly better than a bad one, but an awesome rod often isn’t appreciably better than a good one.
As Crews says, “There’s a world of difference between a cheap rod and a medium priced rod. Almost anyone can tell that difference. There’s less difference between a medium priced rod and a high priced rod, and it takes a highly experienced angler to find that difference. Very few anglers need a super expensive rod. The medium price range is where most anglers will get their best value. Frankly, that’s what I use in the Bassmaster Elite Series.”
We’ll keep this in mind as we compose our list of rods, aiming for the middle-ground where you’ll get the most bang for your hard-earned buck.
Every rod on this list is a solid choice, and you’d be well-served by any of them. But in our experience, the Dobyns 703C really stands out, and if you talk to serious bass anglers, you’ll find many of them agree.
Dobyns doesn’t cut corners, and the quality of their Fury series is exactly what you’re looking for in a bass arsenal of one! A stiff, sensitive blank is the heart of the 703C, allowing you to cast and fish a wide range of lures. While not ideal for crankbaits or drop-shotting, I’d still run this rod through its paces with either, and for soft plastics, topwater, chatterbaits, and spinners, I doubt you’ll find a better option.
Guide quality is awesome, as is casting performance. And to top it all off, you get an excellent handle that provides all-day comfort.
What’s not to like about that?
The St. Croix Mojo is a tough competitor, however, offering an astoundingly sensitive blank with plenty of backbone for turning monsters and setting hooks. Some may even prefer the action and balance of this rod to the 703C, and we’re happy to admit that with the exception of the heavier weights the Dobyns can handle, these rods are pretty much neck-and-neck.
For more budget-minded anglers, the Lew's Tournament Performance TP1 Speed Stick deserves a close look. It delivers high-end performance at a remarkable price-point, and it’s well worth what you’ll pay for it.
As always, we’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below