The Best Fishing Rods for Beginners: Everything a New Angler Needs

While experienced anglers may chase the latest and greatest tackle, new anglers need a rod that maximizes the performance/price ratio.

They’ll often be a bit tougher on their gear as they learn the ropes, so durability matters. But they also appreciate tackle that allows them to experiment with different techniques, whether that’s various styles of casting or a wide array of lures and live bait.

After all, they can’t know what they like until they try it.

If you’ve decided to take up fishing or are thinking about a gift for someone who has, we’re here to help. Below, you'll find our recommendations and reviews for the best fishing rod for beginners, as well as a complete buying guide explaining how we chose the tackle we did:

Quick glance at the best beginner fishing rods:

Related: Best Fishing Rods Reviewed

Best Beginner Fishing Rods Reviewed

Ugly Stik Elite Spinning - Best Spinning Rod for Beginners

Shakespeare Ugly Stik 7’ Elite Spinning Rod, Two Piece Spinning Rod, 6-14lb Line Rating, Medium Rod Power, Fast Action, 1/4-5/8 oz. Lure Rating

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USESP501UL 5' ULTRA LIGHT MEDIUM FAST 2-6LB 1 1/32-1/4 6
USESP562L 5'6" LIGHT FAST 4-8LB 2 1/16-3/8 6
USESP602M 6' MEDIUM FAST 6-14LB 2 1/4-5/8 7
USESP601MH 6' MEDIUM HEAVY FAST 8-17LB 1 1/4-3/4 7
USESP661M 6'6" MEDIUM FAST 6-14LB 1 1/4-5/8 7
USESP661MH 6'6" MEDIUM HEAVY FAST 8-17LB 1 1/4-3/4 7
USESP662UL 6'6" ULTRA LIGHT MEDIUM FAST 2-6LB 2 1/32-1/8 7
USESP662M 6'6" MEDIUM EXTRA FAST 6-14LB 2 1/4-5/8 7
USESP701ML 7' MEDIUM LIGHT MEDIUM FAST 4-10LB 1 1/8-1/2 8
USESP701M 7' MEDIUM FAST 6-14LB 1 1/4-5/8 8
USESP701MH 7' MEDIUM HEAVY EXTRA FAST 8-17LB 1 1/4-3/4 8
USESP702UL 7' ULTRA LIGHT MEDIUM FAST 2-6LB 2 1/32-1/8 8
USESP702M 7' MEDIUM FAST 6-14LB 2 1/4-5/8 8
USESP761ML 7'6" MEDIUM LIGHT MEDIUM FAST 6-12LB 1 1/8-5/8 9

Material: carbon fiber/fiberglass composite
Guides: stainless steel
Handle: full cork

Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that despite being an experienced angler, I own and fish an Ugly Stik Elite spinning rod. 

That means something.

Ugly Stiks are well known for their nearly unbreakable durability, and they can take abuse that would destroy other rods. From a hard whack on a piling to a car window being closed on them, an Ugly Stik will survive common angling accidents without missing a beat.

That’s great, but is it a good rod - not just a tough one?

Yes!

What makes the Ugly Stik Elite a good choice for beginners isn’t just its durability; it’s also a great-casting, hard-fighting, versatile choice.

With lengths ranging from 5 feet to 7 feet, 6 inches, covering the spectrum of applications from rods designed for small fish to true monsters, there’s the right rod for a new angler in the Elite’s lineup.

Let’s get into the details a bit.

The Elite’s blank - the actual rod as opposed to its components - is manufactured from a combination of rigid, sensitive carbon fiber and flexible, tough fiberglass. The result is a rod that allows anglers to detect hesitant strikes while providing the strength they need in hard fights.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you take your light-power Elite into the salt and chase snook or redfish, but in a pinch, it can fight species that are well beyond what you’d expect. That amazing durability translates into one-rod versatility, especially when you’re discussing the medium-light and medium rods. 

They’ll serve ably when fishing for everything from catfish to bass, redfish to flounder, and walleye to perch.

That combination of carbon fiber and fiberglass also allows the rod to flex easily along its length, acting like a spring during a cast. Beginners will find the Ugly Stik Elite to be easy to cast with a variety of lure styles, especially anything wearing treble hooks, as well as live or cut bait.

Ugly Stik Elite Spinning rod tip

The clear tip of the Elite is surprisingly sensitive.

The components on a rod are just as important as the blank itself, and that’s especially true of the guides.

They need to do two things: protect your line from heat and abrasion during a fight, and distribute load across the length of the blank.

Ugly Stik’s Elite wears well-made, highly-polished stainless steel guides. And while they’re relatively humble in appearance and materials, they work like a charm on the water.

I’ve put those guides to the test many times, and I’ve never lost a fish because they didn’t do their part in the battle.

Ugly Stik Elite Spinning rod guides

The guides on my Elite are correctly oriented.

The reel seat is strong and easy to use, and it holds my reels securely even when they bounce around like mad as I cross choppy water in a speeding boat.

And while the Ugly Stik Elite won’t be competing in any beauty pageants, the long cork handles on these rods are quite nice, providing plenty of space for big hands, long casts, and demanding fights.

Ugly Stik Elite Spinning rod cork handle

In summary, if I had just one rod to pick for a beginner, I’d look very hard at the 7-foot medium Ugly Stik Elite. As a true jack of all trades, it truly maximizes the bang for your buck while providing excellent performance across a range of techniques and species.

Pros:

  • Extremely durable composite blank
  • Excellent range of lengths, powers, and actions
  • Good fit and finish
  • Excellent full cork handles
  • Great casting
  • Excellent backbone across the range

Cons:

  • Fiberglass composites aren’t going to be as sensitive as carbon fiber
  • Fiberglass composites aren’t going to provide super-sharp hooksets

For more spinning rod options check out our full guide: Best Spinning Rods Reviewed

Cadence CR67B Baitcasting Rod - Best Casting Rod for Beginners

Cadence CR7B Baitcasting Rods Fast Action Fishing Rods Super Lightweight Sensitive Portable Casting Rods 40 Ton Carbon Fuji Reel Seat Stainless Steel Guides with SiC Inserts Baitcast Rods

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CR7-661B-MF 6’6″ Medium Fast 8-17 lb ¼ - ⅝ oz Jerkbait
CR7-691B-MHF 6’9″ Medium Heavy Fast 12-20 lb ¼ - ¾ oz Top Water
CR7-701B-MF 7’0″ Medium Fast 8-17 lb ¼ - ⅝ oz Multi
CR7-701B-MHF 7’0″ Medium Heavy Fast 12-20lb ¼ - ¾ oz Multi
CR7-701B-MHM 7’0″ Medium Heavy Moderate 12-17 lb ⅜ - 1 oz Crankbait
CR7-701B-MM 7’0″ Medium Moderate 8-14 lb ¼ - ⅝ oz Crankbait
CR7-731B-HXF 7’3″ Heavy Extra Fast 12-25 lb ⅜ - 1 ½ oz Carolina Rig
CR7-731B-MHF 7’3″ Medium Heavy Fast 12-20 lb ¼ - ¾ oz Worm/Jig
CR7-741B-HF 7’4″ Heavy Fast 12-25 lb ⅜ - 1 ½ oz Frog
CR7-761B-HF 7’6″ Heavy Fast 12-25 lb ⅜ - 1 ½ oz Flipping & Pitching

Material: 40-ton graphite
Guides: stainless steel with SiC inserts
Handle: split EVA foam

When I’m chasing big, mean bass, I need a rod with the sensitivity to detect the soft suck as a fish inhales my worm, the rigidity to provide a hard hookset, and the backbone to fight a powerful fish out of thick cover.

That’s a tall order for an affordable rod, but the Cadence CR67B gets it done.

Cadence is well-known in the fishing industry for its commitment to excellent performance at a price point regular folks can live with, and the CR67B is a solid example of this philosophy.

And whether you’re working a treble-hooked crankbait that needs a softer hookset or dragging a fat worm across the bottom, there’s a good choice for a new angler in this lineup.

Cadence manufactures the blank on this casting rod from 40-ton graphite, a super-light, exceedingly rigid material that translates soft strikes and gentle nudges right to your hands. And when your fellow anglers start to feel fatigue from heavier rods, you’ll really appreciate every ounce the CR67B has shed.

In the crankbait- and jerkbait-specific models, they’ve softened the action to prevent you from ripping those sharp treble hooks plumb clear of a bass’s mouth, but on the models designed for soft plastics and frogs, you’ll find admirable hooksetting power that’s ideal for single hooked applications.

The CR67B casts well, too, launching appropriately-sized lures and worms into the strike zone from distances that won’t spook wary fish.

Cadence equips these rods with stainless steel guides that sport SiC inserts, providing superior performance to simple polished stainless steel as well as resisting the abrasive potential of heavy-weight braided fishing line.

The CR67B uses a Fuji reel seat that’s the standard in the industry, so no worries there. And the split EVA foam grips are comfortable and effective, completing a package that’s surprisingly low-priced.

Overall, Cadence really delivers with these rods, offering outstanding build quality and attention to detail. The result is a rod that feels far more premium than its reasonable cost would suggest.

For new anglers intent on bass fishing, there’s no better choice.

Pros:

  • Sensitive, light graphite blanks
  • Tuned actions for various techniques
  • Excellent casting
  • High-quality components
  • Exceptional attention to detail and build quality

Cons:

  • ???

For more casting rod options check out our full guide: Best Casting Rods Reviewed

Temple Fork Outfitters NXT Black Label - Best 5 wt. Fly Rod for Beginners

5 wt. 9'0' 4 pc. NXT Black Label Rod

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Material: ?
Length: 9’
Weight: 5 wt.
Action: medium-fast

Anglers who are just taking up fly fishing will find that mastering the cast is challenging. And while Euro-nymphing rods are all the rage, offering stiff actions that are ideal for tight-line technique, they’re a devil to cast when you’re just getting started.

Instead, novice fly anglers need a fly rod that provides excellent “feel,” helping them nail the timing of their casts.

Temple Fork Outfitters isn’t just another fly tackle company: they’re deeply invested in the sport. Backing education programs that teach novice anglers the ins and outs of fly fishing, their long-term experience with people who’ve never held a fly rod before really shines through in the NXT Black Label.

The NXT Black Label is “the gold standard for fly fishing schools and educational programs across the United States,” and it's been designed from the tip down to flatten the learning curve of casting.

5 wt. rods excel with smaller species like trout and panfish, and can stretch to manage bass if you fight them with finesse rather than brute strength.

The 5 wt. NXT Black Label sports a medium-fast blank that transmits plenty of feel to your hand. You'll really know when the rod loads on the back cast, making it easier to learn to time your casts. It drops flies on to the water with finesse, offering delicate presentations rather than unsubtle plops. And it loads deeply, allowing long casts even on breezy days.

In many cases, beginner’s gear is something you outgrow quickly. That’s simply not the case with Temple Fork Outfitter’s NXT Black Label. This rod casts so well and feels so good in hand that you’ll be delighted with it even as your skills mature.

If you're looking for a fly rod to begin your journey, you’ve found the place to start!

Pros: 

  • Affordable price!
  • An awesome rod for mastering basic fly-fishing techniques
  • Forgiving medium-fast action
  • Outstanding performance for the money
  • Casts well, even into the wind

Cons:

  • ???

For more 5wt fly rod options check out our full guide: Best 5 wt Fly Rods Reviewed

Temple Fork Outfitters NXT Black Label - Best 8 wt. Fly Rod for Beginners

8 wt. 9'0' 4 pc. NXT Black Label Kit

Amazon 

Material: ?
Length: 9’
Weight: 8 wt.
Action: medium-fast

Given our praise of the 5 wt. NXT Black Label, it should come as absolutely no surprise that we’re just as enthusiastic about Temple Fork Outfitters 8 wt. For new anglers chasing bass, pike, rainbow, steelhead, salmon, redfish, snook, striper, and similarly large, hard-fighting fish, this 8 wt. rod is hard to match.

At 9 feet, the 8 wt. features the same medium-fast action that helps beginners learn to cast, offering exceptional feel and sufficient forgiveness that your first fishing trip won’t end in frustration. 

As we noted above, TFO is deeply committed to fly fishing education, and the NXT Black Label is a rod that’s often used to teach fly fundamentals. Chalk that up to high-quality manufacture and an action that’s soft and forgiving while providing long casts.

What sets this rod apart from its 5 wt. counterpart is, of course, the power delivered by a thicker, stouter blank. And while you can definitely catch panfish or trout on an 8 wt., when you’re casting flies to redfish over a shallow flat or offering a streamer to a big rainbow trout, this rod will really come into its own.

Pros: 

  • Affordable price!
  • Forgiving medium-fast action
  • Outstanding performance for the money
  • Casts well, even into the wind

Cons:

  • ???

For more fly rod options check out our full guide: Best Fly Fishing Rods Reviewed

Buying Guide: How Did We Select These Rods, and What Should You Look For?

Price/performance ratio

Whether we’re discussing conventional tackle or fly rods, beginners should look for options that maximize bang for the buck. 

And while it’s true that expensive rods are typically very good, it’s generally a solid choice to hold off on the pricey options until you know exactly what you’re looking for.

That makes the rods on our shortlist today easy picks.

All the rods we’ve reviewed today wear reasonable price tags without sacrificing much in the way of performance. And while they’re not the tackle pros would choose for themselves - you’re not going to see the Cadence CR67B on the bass tournament trail, for instance - they’re all solid performers that feel and fish well above their price.

Durability

If you’re just getting started, chances are, you’ll do something to your rod that a more experienced angler has learned not to do - typically the hard way.

Just check out the legendary Bill Dance break his rods by closing the tailgate on them (1:47):

Grabbing the rod near the tip and applying stress, for example, to break a snag free, is a recipe for disaster. And hard knocks, slamming doors, and closing windows have claimed more than a few rods over the years.

If you’re accident prone, or just hard on your gear, consider durability carefully. And while nothing out there can match the Ugly Stiks on this front, the rods on our shortlist are pretty tough across the board.

Great casting

No matter what species you’re after, there’ll come a time when you need to make a long cast or cast into a stiff breeze. And when that moment arrives, you want a rod that can really get it done.

Both the Ugly Stik Elite and the Cadence CR67B are great-casting rods, and when paired with a lure that falls within the lure weight rating of their various models, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the distances you'll achieve.

But when our attention turns to fly fishing, the game really changes.

Mastering fly casting is nothing short of an art, and novices need a rod that’s both forgiving and easy to time. 

Quite simply, there’s no finer choice to learn with than the Temple Fork Outfitter’s NXT Black Label. Legions of fly anglers have cut their teeth on this rod in school, and its widespread use as a teaching tool should tell you everything you need to know.

Build and component quality

While spending a lot on a rod can virtually guarantee you top-end build quality and components, you need to select tackle with more reasonable price tags carefully.

The Ugly Stik Elite may wear humble guides, but I’ve tested them by sawing 6-pound mono against the “stripper” guide, the big one nearest the handle on a spinning rod. Try as I might, I couldn’t build up enough friction and line-destroying heat to get the mono to fail.

And while the guides may not line up perfectly on a new Stik, that makes almost zero real-world difference. 

When you first take a look at the Cadence CR67B, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything that isn’t executed perfectly. From the handle to the reel seat, the blank to the guides, fit and finish is excellent, as are the individual components.

Temple Fork Outfitters has built an enviable reputation for no-nonsense quality, and the NXT Black Label is well-built and solidly constructed.

While none of these rods are expensive, they’re proof that quality doesn’t necessarily demand an empty wallet.

Final Thoughts

Whether you intend one of the rods on our shortlist as a gift for a new angler, or want to pick one up for yourself, you’ll be well-pleased with any of the options we’ve reviewed.

If you want a hard-fishing, durable rod that can tackle breezy weather, it’s nearly impossible to beat the Ugly Stik Elite. One of the many models of this rod is going to get the job done, especially with treble-hooked lures or live bait rigged with circle hooks.

But if your heart is set on largemouth bass - and for many anglers, these fish haunt their dreams - the Cadence CR67B Baitcasting Rod is the better choice. The reason is simple: this rod is built with bass fishing in mind, while the Ugly Stik is the more capable all-arounder, at home in every other situation.

For novice fly anglers, one of the two Temple Fork Outfitter rods, either the 5 wt. or the 8 wt., will be just perfect. Choose the lighter of the two for smaller species, and the heavier for bigger, heavier fish.

Either way, you’ll really lessen the time between unboxing and competent casting with these rods.

We hope that this article has helped you make the right choice, and if you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear them!

Please leave a comment below, and we’ll be in touch.

About The Author
Pete Danylewycz
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.