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Best Rod and Reel Combos for Kayak Fishing: The Best Picks or 2024

Rod and reel combos have always offered a lot of convenience. Paired by the manufacturer, they’ll work well together, and they almost always offer a good middle ground between price and performance. 

That takes the guesswork out of buying your rod and reel, and for plenty of kayak anglers, that's a deal too good to pass up!

If you’re in the market for a rod and reel combo, though, keep in mind that with the good, there’s a lot of bad, too. Some options are just plain junk; others are superb.

If you want a solid, dependable rod and reel combo that’ll put (and keep!) a smile on your face, we’re here to help. Below, you’ll find reviews of some of our favorites, as well as a complete buying guide to get you up to speed quickly.

Quick glance at the best rod and reel combos for kayak fishing:


Best Rod and Reel Combos For Kayak Fishing Reviewed

Abu Garcia Zata Spinning Reel and Fishing Rod Combo

YAMAHA P125 88-Key Weighted Action Digital Piano with Power Supply and Sustain Pedal, Black


Size 30 Zata Spinning Reel

Drag: 14 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 6.2:1

Line capacity: 225/6, 175/8, 140/10

Bearings: 10 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 8.5 oz.

Length: 7’

Material: graphite

Power/action: medium/fast

Lure size: ¼ - ⅝ oz.

Line weight: 6 - 12 lbs.

Handle: split rubber

Guide material: stainless steel

Abu Garcia is a name that’s more than well-respected in the fishing world. Known primarily for their awesome lineup of baitcasting reels, they’ve staked out a mid-market price point with their excellent spinning rod and reel combo.

At the heart of the Zata combo, you’ll find an excellent size 30 spinning reel with all the bells and whistles experienced anglers are looking for.

The drag system is refined and smooth, and it uses carbon fiber discs to create the friction that releases line like the whole reel has been packed in butter. With a 14-pound maximum, this medium-sized reel would be as much at home in a salt marsh or flat as it would be on your local lake or river, and everything from bass to specks need to be afraid.

Abu Garcia doesn’t report a retrieval speed, but the Zata 30 runs a 6.2:1 gear ratio and a reasonably sized spool. My guess is that this reel is plenty fast for anything the drag can handle.

Casting is great, too, and whether you’re looking for distance or wind-bucking precision, this reel delivers.

It’s paired with a 7-foot rod sporting a graphite blank. Offering medium power and a fast action, it’s an excellent choice for finesse techniques like Nekos or weightless Senkos, drop shots, and Jika rigs. 

Sensitivity is just what you’d expect from quality graphite, and you’ll find plenty of backbone in this rod as it starts to bend.

Intended for mono line weights of 6 to 12 pounds, this rod is a great choice as an all-arounder inshore, too, and I’d hammer everything from reds to croaker with this rod and reel combo.

The guides are highly polished stainless steel, and they do a good job pampering your line.

In a break from tradition, Abu Garcia arms the Zata rod with rubber rather than EVA foam grips. Whether you like that or not is subjective, but there’s no question that it’s tough - and non-slip.

There’s no way to call this combo a “budget” choice, but for kayak fishermen who want an uncompromising take on the traditional spinning combo, Abu Garcia’s Zata is the way to go.


  • Higher quality than most combos
  • Excellent drag system
  • Great casting
  • Very good capacity
  • Very good blank
  • Nice guides
  • Good combo for all around inshore use
  • Good combo for finesse bass fishing applications


  • Expensive for a combo
  • Rubber grips may leave some anglers cold

Abu Garcia Zata Baitcast Low Profile Reel and Fishing Rod Combo - Best Baitcasting Combo for Kayak Fishing

Abu Garcia Zata Baitcast Low Profile Reel and Fishing Rod Combo, 7' - Medium Heavy - 1pc Green


Drag: 20 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 7.1:1 (29” per turn)

Line capacity: 135/10, 110/12, 95/14

Bearings: 10 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 7.5 oz.

Length: 7’

Material: graphite

Power/action: medium-heavy/fast

Lure size: ⅜ - 1 oz.

Line weight: 12 - 20 lbs.

Handle: rubber

Guide material: stainless steel

Abu Garcia’s Zata combo is also available in a baitcasting version, and as an all-around bass rod or inshore rod, it’s an excellent choice for many of the same reasons that we recommend the spinning alternative.

Abu Garcia’s low-profile baitcasting reel has a small, palmable body that just disappears into your hand. That’s great for long days on the water, and this little devil really performs!

The drag is as smooth as fresh paint and with a max of 20 pounds, allows you to run heavy braid. Now, keep in mind that this is a tiny reel with an equally diminutive spool: it’s just not going to set any records for capacity. But with that in mind, it more than gets the job done.

Gearing is high - very high. Abu Garcia packs a 7.1:1 ratio into the guts of this reel, making up for the small spool and allowing fast retrieval. That’s a detail I really like, and for fishing reds or snook inshore, those numbers really pay off.

Casting is good, too, with a magnetic braking system that works well to tame backlash-causing overrun.

That said, if I were working in windy conditions, I’d probably reach for its spinning brother.

This reel is paired with a medium-heavy power 7’ graphite blank that offers fantastic sensitivity and plenty of backbone. Great for hooksets with a single hook, whether you’re working a Texas-rigged worm or a fat shrimp under a popping cork, this rod gets it done.

Expect stainless steel guides that do the job they’re designed for and an overmolded rubber handle that provides comfortable, non slip grip.

If you’re a kayak angler looking for a baitcasting combo, this is definitely the choice to beat.


  • Higher quality than most combos
  • Excellent drag system
  • Great casting
  • Very good blank
  • Nice guides
  • Good combo for all-around inshore use
  • Good combo for worm-fishing bass


  • Expensive for a combo
  • Capacity isn’t great in this small reel

KastKing Centron Spinning Combo - Best Budget Kayak Fishing Combo

KastKing Centron Spinning Combos,6ft Medium-Split Handle,2000 Reel


Size-3000 reel

Drag: 13 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.2:1 

Line capacity: 8/330, 10/270

Bearings: 9 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 9.5 oz.

Length: 7’

Material: graphite

Power/action: medium/mod. fast

Lure size: ¼ - ⅝ oz.

Line weight: 8 - 14 lbs.

Handle: split EVA foam

Guide material: stainless steel with inserts

KastKing’s approach has been to offer products that punch well above their price point, targeting budget-conscious anglers who demand performance they can afford.

For kayak anglers who don’t want to take out a second mortgage to get a good rod and reel, the Centron spinning combo is a good choice, covering a wide range of reel sizes paired with matching rods.

The best all-arounder in their lineup is the 3000 series reel paired with a 7-foot rod, though you can also choose reels ranging from 2000 up to 5000 if that’s a better fit for you.

The 3000 size reel sports a good drag that provides consistent release up to a 13-pound maximum. While not rivaling the likes of Shimano, I really can’t complain about its performance at all: it works and works well.

The spool on the Centron is capacious, and you’ll find space for loads of 8- and 10-pound test. If you switch to braid, you’ll need to change your line out before you run out - but be aware that you’ll want to use some mono backing as braid is likely to slip.

KastKing runs a gear ratio of 5.2:1 in this reel but declines to report retrieval rates. Given the spool size, however, I bet it’s plenty quick on paper, and on the water, you won’t have problems keeping up with anything from largemouth to reds.

The 7-foot, medium-power rod sports a moderately fast action, making it ideal for treble-hooked lures. I’d probably skip worm fishing with this rod unless I was using a finesse technique.

In the salt, you'll find hooksets are reliable with single hooks, and this combo is a great inshore option for kayak anglers chasing specks, reds, snook, and the like. I’d size down for flounder and smaller species, reaching for the 2000 size reel and the 6’ 6” rod.

The graphite blanks of these rods are strong, providing plenty of backbone. They’re sensitive, too, but the tips can be fragile, especially if they get a whack or two on a pier, piling, or gunwale.

Overall, these rod and reel combos are a great option if you don’t have a ton to spend, and they’ll have you covered pretty much no matter what you’re fishing.


  • Excellent drag system
  • Awesome capacity
  • Plenty fast
  • Nice blank
  • Nice guides
  • Good combos for all-around inshore use
  • Good combos for all-around freshwater use


  • The graphite tips can be fragile, especially after an impact

Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Combo - Most Durable Kayak Fishing Combo

Ugly Stik USSP602M30CB Shakespeare USSP602M/30CBO GX2 Spinning Fishing Reel and Rod Combo, 30 Size Reel - 6' - Medium - 2pc


Size-30 Reel

Drag: 10 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.2:1 

Line capacity: 190/4, 140/6, 110/8

Bearings: 3 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 6.2 oz.

Length: 6’

Material: fiberglass/graphite composite

Power/action: medium/mod. fast

Lure size: ⅛ - ⅝ oz.

Line weight: 6 - 15 lbs.

Handle: EVA foam

Guide material: stainless steel

Shakespeare’s Ugly Stik line of rods have a bomb-proof reputation for no-nonsense quality and unbeatable durability, and I’ve found this to be true (I own and fish several Stiks).

For anglers who want affordable performance and tend to be tough on their gear, the Ugly Stik is very hard to beat. It’s also a great choice as an all-arounder because it can handle fights that might break less durable rods.

The size 30 reel that Shakespeare supplies performs well. The drag system uses old-school oiled felt, which, while not modern tech, more than gets the job done. Expect reliably consistent and smooth release up to the 10-pound maximum.

Capacity is adequate with this reel for the line sizes it’s designed for, and switching to braid with some mono backing can extend your reach considerably. This is far from a deal-breaker for trout, panfish of all kinds, and smallmouth and largemouth, as well as croaker, flounder, blues, and even reds.

The reel is probably a little small for general inshore fishing, but frankly, the rod is more than up to the challenge.

Its 6-foot blank is made from a proprietary blend of fiberglass and graphite. “Tough” doesn’t even begin to describe the end product, and I’ve seen the rods survive everything from monster fish to automatic truck windows. They’ll take anything you can throw at them, no question about it!

The backbone on this blank will start to really show its mettle about halfway to the handle, at which point you’ve got more than enough oomph to fight anything your line and drag can hold.

Sensitivity is good, too, though the action on these rods lends itself more to treble hooks than hard single hook hooksets. That wouldn’t stop me in the salt or when using a circle or octopus hook!

Finally, the stainless guides on these rods are very well made, and they work well to cushion your line and prevent hot spots and failure.

Overall, the Centron offers the better reel, while Shakespear provides the better rod.


  • Great price!
  • Good drag system
  • Acceptable capacity
  • Very durable blank
  • Excellent guides
  • Nice sensitivity


  • ???

Zebco 33 Spincast and Triggerspin Rod and Reel Combo - Best Combo for New Kayak Anglers

Zebco 33 Spinning Reel and Fishing Rod Combo, 6-Foot 2-Piece Fiberglass Fishing Pole, Comfortable EVA Rod Handle, Size 30 Reel, Built-in Bite Alert, Stainless Steel Cover, Quickset Anti-Reverse


Drag: ???

Gear ratio: 4.1:1 (23” per turn)

Line capacity: 120/10

Bearings: 1 roller bearing

Weight: 9.3 oz.

Length: 6’

Material: fiberglass

Power/action: medium/mod. fast

Lure size: ⅛ - ¾ oz.

Line weight: 6 - 14 lbs.

Handle: EVA foam

Guide material: stainless steel

Zebco has probably introduced more anglers to the sport than any other company in the world, and the famous 33 was - and is - as common on the water as a pair of sunglasses or a cold beverage.

Zebco’s line of 33 combos, available in micro sizes as well, are well-suited for novice kayak anglers. Easy to cast and simple to use, they’re a frustration-free way to learn the sport.

The 33 spincasting reel uses a simple dial drag that’s easy to adjust, and while it’s not going to win any head-to-head competitions with Shimano, it’ll get the job done, protecting your line from sudden shocks.

Capacity is pretty good on this reel’s internal spool, offering usable lengths of 8-, 10-, or 12-pound mono. It comes stocked with 10-pound Cajun, but I’d recommend stripping that off and starting fresh with some quality Stren.

All-metal gears drive a ratio of 4.1:1, and with a reasonable spool size, you pick up 23 inches of line per turn. 

Would I chase reds with that?

Well, no. But this rod and reel combo isn’t really aimed at the inshore market. Think “summer pond,” and you’re right where the folks at Zebco are at.

The rod supplied with this reel sports a fiberglass blank that’s got more than enough muscle for the panfish and bass it'll be used on, and I can guarantee that it’s won fights with plenty of eating-size catfish, too.

Sensitive enough for you to detect a hesitant bite, it casts well in conjunction with the reel.

For kayak anglers who spend more time with a paddle than a rod and reel or who’re just getting started fishing, the Zebco 33 combo is a great buy.


  • Great price!
  • Good drag system
  • Acceptable capacity
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to cast


  • Not competitive with the performance of higher-end combos

Penn Battle II 4000 Spinning Combo - Best Inshore Kayak Fishing Combo

PENN BTLII4000701M Battle II 4000 Spinning Reel Combo, Inshore, 7 Feet, Medium Power


Drag: 15 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (37” per turn)

Line capacity: 270/8, 220/10, 165/12

Bearings: 5 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 12.8 oz.

Length: 7’

Material: graphite composite

Power/action: medium/extra-fast

Lure size: 1/32 oz. to 3/16 oz.

Line weight: 10 - 17 lbs.

Handle: continuous cork

Guide material: stainless steel with aluminum oxide inserts

Penn dominates the salt, and their Battle II reel is simply outstanding for inshore fishing. When paired with a good rod, as in the case of this combo, kayak anglers can get their hands on first-rate gear for a lot less money than you’d expect.

For roughly the cost of a 4000-series Battle II alone, Penn delivers a combo!

You read that right.

Let’s start with a reel that’s easy to love.

Penn equips the Battle II with an HT-100 carbon fiber drag system that’s almost impossible to beat. Not only is it smooth and reliable, but in long fights, the heat created by friction will loosen the drag slightly on long runs, protecting your line just a bit more exactly when you’d want it to.

This is real-world, proven tech that works wonders on big fish.

Capacity is excellent, and it only gets better if you switch to braid. The superline-ready spool can really pack on the yards then, and you won’t be left hanging at the end of a long run.

Casting is uniformly trouble-free, even in gusting winds.

The Battle II runs strong metal gears in a 6.2:1 ratio. Combined with a big spool, it picks up 37 inches of line per turn, allowing you to outpace anything you can hook other than another boat.

There’s torque to spare in those teeth, and for reds, snook, specks, stripers, and the like, the fight will definitely go your way.

This awesome reel is paired with a 7-foot, graphite composite rod that has plenty of backbone for strong fights. Stiff and durable, it can take a beating, and the feel and action are just right for spoons and treble-hooked lures. It’s stiff enough for hooksets on live bait, too.

The long, cork handle provides plenty of territory during a struggle, and you’ll be well served by the aluminum oxide inserts in stainless guides.

Overall, this is probably the best combo for inshore fishing on the market, and for the price, it’s a steal!


  • Great price!
  • Excellent drag system
  • Excellent capacity
  • Great casting in the wind
  • Very nice blank - tough and sensitive
  • Excellent handle


  • ???

What to Look for in a Kayak Fishing Rod and Reel Combo

Which reel type is right for you?

There are several different types of reels on the market, and each has advantages and disadvantages that you need to understand.

Underspin and spincasting reels 

Identical tech, the only meaningful difference between these reels is the rods they’re designed to be paired with. Spincasters ride above the rod, thus necessitating casting tackle. By contrast, underspin reels ride below the rod and are designed for spinning tackle.

spincast reel underspin reel

We recommend underspin reels because the spinning rods they’re designed for are better for casting light lures and lines than casting rods. And while there are exceptions to this, you’ll be better served with an underspin reel when you go to select a matching rod.

The advantages of an underspin reel are easy to understand.

Because the line and spool are shielded, they’re less subject to the wind. And rather than manually opening and closing the bail to cast and retrieve, you simply depress a lever with your forefinger, releasing to cast and turn the crank to start retrieving.

That simplicity makes these reels easy to use, and their ideal for novice or occasional anglers who don’t want or need more complicated setups.

One disadvantage of these reels is that they’re not typically built to the same standards as other designs, making liberal use of plastic gears and cheaper drag materials. That’s not always true, however, and we’ve reviewed some awesome underspin reels before.

But there’s a challenge no underspin reel can overcome. The shroud that hides the spool creates friction as line leaves it, decreasing casting distance. This isn’t really as big a deal, and especially for anglers struggling with basic technique, the advantages far outweigh any issues with casting distance.

Spinning reels

Spinning reels use a fixed spool around which a bail turns, winding and unwinding line.

It’s an excellent system for casting light lines and lures, and it works remarkably well in the wind. It’s also relatively easy to operate and available in sizes that allow you to catch anything from trout to tarpon.

spinning reel spool

At their best with lines of less than 10-pound mono diameter, the only true disadvantage of spinning reels is that the friction created as line passes over the lip of the fixed spool starts to cause problems when you step up to heavier-diameter lines.

You can switch to a thinner line - braid - and watch these problems disappear.

But as lines and lures get heavier, baitcasting reels will generally outcast spinning reels and often sport more effective drag systems for fighting really big fish.

Baitcasting reels

Baitcaster reels are designed with a free-spinning spool that works wonders with heavier lines, and they can cast into the next county with anything over about ½ ounce in weight.

The spool is freed to cast by depressing a thumb button and then releasing it in time with the cast. 

Technique is essential: not only must the braking system that slows the spool be set properly for the weight of your terminal tackle, but you also need to stop the spinning (or slow it down) before your lure hits the water.

If you overrun it, your line will reward you with an awesome tangle!

tangled baitcasting reel

This can also happen in any condition that slows your terminal tackle while the spool is still spinning freely, for instance when the wind starts gusting.

The skill to cast baitcasters takes time to develop, and practice definitely makes perfect.

That free-spinning spool, even when made by the best manufacturers, develops too much friction to cast light lines and light lures. Below about 10-pound mono, and below roughly ½-ounce weights, most anglers cast further and with more accuracy using a spinning reel.

As you can see, the right choice for you depends on your level of experience, your skill, and the lines and lures you plan to cast.


Whichever reel style you choose, its drag system is perhaps the most important component.

A drag does two things.

First, it softens the sudden shocks that happen when a fish surges, changes direction, or jumps. When set to roughly 1/3rd the test strength of your line, it will release smoothly, providing a cushion that can prevent your line from breaking.

Second, it makes a fish work harder for the line it takes in a long fight, helping to tire large species like tarpon so that you can work them back toward your kayak.

Drag systems work by applying direct pressure to the spool, creating friction. Of course, friction generates heat and wear, and the latest drag tech uses carbon fiber disks because they can take the extreme conditions that a long, hard fight creates.

Older tech like oiled felt still works well, however, and on smaller reels is perfectly adequate albeit, not as long-lasting.

The important thing to look for in a drag system is smooth, reliable release across a range of settings. You don’t want any sudden starts and stops, just steady, constant release.


Capacity is a function of spool size, and the measurements on our shortlist are given in yards of mono. 

Greater capacity is typically only won by increasing a reel’s size and weight, and thus, more isn’t always better. But generally, capacity matters because you’ll need plenty of line for casting, as well as excess for cutting as you re-tie throughout the day.

For larger species, capacity matters for fights, too.

You won’t just reel a tarpon in. Instead, you’ll need to fight it with your drag, reel, and rod, winning line when you can and watching the fish take line when you can’t.

If you get spooled, angling talk for running out of line, it’s game over!


Reels run gears in their guts that provide torque and spin the spool or bail, allowing you to retrieve line.

Quality gears are designed to generate lots of power and take quite a bit of force with deforming or losing teeth. They’re also typically made from materials that resist corrosion.

A gear ratio measures how many turns of the spool (or bail) one turn of the handle creates. Thus, a gear ratio of 3.5:1 means that each turn of the crank turns the spool 3.5 times.

All other things being equal, which they are most certainly not, a faster gear ratio allows you to pick up more line, more quickly.

That matters when you're fighting a fast fish that can run back toward you. If the fish can outrun your reel, it will create slack in your line, giving it a better chance of throwing your hook.

It’s easy to see, then, why some species demand fast reels.

But reel speed is a product of more than gearing, and larger spools and bails pick up more line per turn than smaller alternatives. Gearing works with spool or bail size to generate a real-world reliable metric of speed: inches per turn.

That number, which we report for every reel on our shortlist, is an apples-to-apples comparison that tells you how fast a reel really is.


In some situations, long casts are essential. For instance, if you’re working a shallow spawning bed and need to stay back to avoid spooking the fish.

But in many instances, absolute casting distance isn’t important for anything more than bragging rights.

A good friend of mine once told me that if you wait for perfect weather, you won’t be fishing much - and over the course of my career as an angler, that’s turned out to be absolutely true.

Wind is an omnipresent reality on the water, and many anglers value a reel that casts well in gusts just as much - maybe even more - than one that can cast into the next lake.


A rod’s action describes where on the blank you’ll begin to feel its backbone, that is, where along its length, it really starts to become stiff.

For instance, a fast action rod will remain stiff though most of its length, usually bending about a fifth to a third from the end. By contrast, a slow action rod will bend along most of its length, forming a long arc that begins very near the handle.


Power is a measure of how much force it takes to begin to bend a rod. Whereas action tells you where it will bend, power tells you how much it will bend under a given load.

Power and action together describe how a blank behaves. Fast action, heavy rods take a lot of strain to bend, and most of their length will remain straight. On the other hand, a medium action, heavy rod will take the same weight, but it’ll start bending nearer the handle. You can keep combining action and power terms--running through all the possible combinations--and in each case, you’ll have a good sense of what a rod with those descriptions will do.

This matters for determining how a rod will behave in a fight as well as how it will load and cast.

Blank Material

The rods on our shortlist are composed of one of two common rod materials:

  • Graphite - is generally lighter, less durable, and more expensive than fiberglass. It’s very stiff and sensitive and allows large, heavy rods to maintain a good feel. Many rods are now made from graphite, ranging from whip-like ultralights to heavy bass rods.
  • Fiberglass/graphite composites - some rods combine a graphite or carbon fiber core with a fiberglass wrapping, using both materials to draw out the advantages they offer. Ideally, the result is a rod that’s strong and sensitive, that loads well, and that’s tough as nails.


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.

Inshore angling features plenty of long casts, and the rods tend to be a bit longer than comparable freshwater models.

7’ to 7’6” rods are great all-rounders for inshore anglers, and you’ll find this length in the hands of the majority of fishermen you’ll run into.

Line and Lure Weight

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 suffer.

Unsurprisingly, these weights vary with the rod’s power and action, telling you what will cast and fish best with that particular blank.


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 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 to give that rod a pass.

video demonstrating how fragile line really is and how quality guides can be tested

Generally speaking, more is better as an increase in guide count means that each one takes less strain, creating less friction at any one point. 

Final Thoughts

The rod and reel combos on our shortlist have kayak anglers covered wherever they fish and whatever they’re chasing.

But choosing the right rod is something only you can do, as it must meet your needs and match your budget.

We hope that this article has helped you choose your next combo, and as always, we’d love to hear from you!

Please leave a comment or question below.

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.