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Best Rod And Reel Combo For Redfish And Speckled Trout

Written by: Pete D
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Red drum and speckled trout are fished so often on the same trip that it almost always makes sense to pack tackle that can handle them both. And for anglers who want to hit the water quickly, nothing makes more sense than a combo.

But the right combo can be hard to find, and there aren’t as many great rod and reel pairings as you’d like. 

But if you’re in the market for a red and speck combo, we’ve done the hard work for you. Below, you’ll find reviews of some of the best combos on the market, as well as a complete buying guide to let you know what to look for:

Related: 

Best Rod And Reel Combo For Redfish And Speckled Trout Reviewed

Penn Pursuit IV Combo - Best Combo for Reds and Specks

PENN Pursuit IV Spinning Reel and Fishing Rod Combo

Amazon 

Maximum drag: 12 lbs.
Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (35” RPT)
Capacity: 8/200, 10/165, 12/120
Material: aluminum
Weight: 11.8 oz.
Bearings: 4 + 1
Length: 7’
Action/power: medium-light/fast
Material: N/A
Handle: continuous EVA foam
Guides: 7 + 1 Penn Dura-Guides
Line weight: 8 - 15 lbs.
Lure size: ⅛ - ¾ oz.
Pieces: 1

Penn is one of the most trusted names in the salt, and their Pursuit IV combo is a great choice for specks and reds, especially given the awesome HT-100 drag system incorporated into the reel.

My choice would be the 7-foot, medium-light rod. And while tilted a tad toward specks by the lighter power, the graphite composite blank can hold its own with big, bad fish. Of course, it’s also super sensitive, allowing you to detect light strikes.

It loads really well with lures as light as ⅛-ounce while still being rated for 8- to 15-pound test. That’s really saying something about its quality, and this is a hard rod to beat on a combo.

Penn’s Dura-Guides work well, especially when you’re running light lines, and with 8-pound test, you’re going to win fights you might not with other rods on our list.

Chalk that up in no small part to the awesome Penn Pursuit IV reel. This rod wears a 3000, backed by the incredible HT-100 drag. With a maximum of 12 pounds, expect smooth performance at all settings as well as fight-winning performance. 

Seriously, this is an excellent drag system at any price.

Penn runs a 6.2:1 gear ratio in this reel, and in combination with a reasonably capacious spool, it delivers 35 inches per turn, matching any other reel on our shortlist for speed.

About the only weakness this combo offers is light hookset power, a problem I remedy with circle hooks.

I’d pay a lot more for this combo than it costs, and you should grab one while you can!

Pros:

  • Inexpensive!
  • Sensitive, strong blank that fights way above its power rating
  • Great casting
  • Awesome reel
  • Awesome drag
  • Very smooth
  • Very fast!
  • Good capacity

Cons:

  • Light hooksets for reds

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 - Toughest Combo for Reds and Specks

Ugly Stik USSP602M30CB Shakespeare USSP602M/30CBO GX2 Spinning Fishing Reel and Rod Combo, 6 Feet, Medium Power

Amazon 

Maximum drag: N/A
Gear ratio: 5.5:1
Capacity: 4/190, 6/140, 8/110
Material: N/A
Weight: N/A
Bearings: 3 + 1
Length: 6’
Material: graphite/fiberglass composite
Power/action: medium/fast
Lure size: ⅛ to ⅝ oz.
Line weight: 6 to 15 lbs.
Handle: continuous EVA foam
Guides: 5 + 1 Ugly Tuff stainless steel
Pieces: 2

Shakespeare’s Ugly Stik may be as tough as they come, but its fiberglass blank lacks the sensitivity red and speck anglers demand. It can also be a little hard to set a single hook with a lot of line out, making it an acceptable but less than ideal choice for this application.

Enter the GX2, a graphite/fiberglass composite that’s as tough as nails while still offering great sensitivity. 

Is it going to provide the feel of full graphite?

No, but a whack or two on a pier aren’t going to crack it, and it’ll fight bigger fish than it should. The 6-foot medium is a great rod for tackling mean reds, and it’s still sensitive enough for specks. 

Rated for lures as light as ⅛-ounce, it loads and casts well. 

Shakespeare’s Ugly Tuff guides may be nothing more than polished stainless steel, but I’ve sawed at the stripper guide with 6-pound mono. If that’s your choice for specks, have no fear, this rod will do its part to protect your line in a fight.

Shakespeare’s not advertising the specifications of the reel they pair with the GX2, and they surely would if they were proud of it.

The drag works well, providing acceptable performance in the 3- to 4-pound range. But cranking it up high or low probably isn’t the best idea. It might work well enough, but there’s no reason to put it to the test in the real world.

Spool capacity is OK, offering line at a heavy enough weight for specks, though it’s a bit small for reds. My recommendation would be to switch to 20-pound braid for that and run a shock leader of strong mono.

Overall, this is a capable, never-say-die combo that offers a great rod with an acceptable reel. Given that the reel is practically free, I’d say give it a try!

Pros:

  • Inexpensive!
  • Strong, ultra-durable blank
  • Loads and casts well
  • Sensitive enough for specks
  • Excellent guides

Cons:

  • Reel quality is just OK

KastKing Centron Combo

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

Amazon 

Maximum drag: 13 lbs. 
Gear ratio: 5.2:1 (25.2” RPT)
Capacity: 8/330, 10/270 
Material: graphite
Weight: 9.1 oz.
Bearings: 9 + 1
Length: 7’
Material: IM6 graphite
Power/action: medium/moderate fast
Lure size: ¼ to ⅝ oz.
Line weight: 8 to 14 lbs.
Handle: split EVA foam
Guides: 7 + 1 stainless steel 
Pieces: 2

KastKing knows what anglers need, and they’re aware that not everyone can drop a few hundred bucks on a rod and turn around and pay the same amount for a reel. And if you’re anything like me, you hate it when less money in your pocket means you need to skimp on performance.

The good news is that the KastKing Centron Combo is a solid choice that won’t break the bank. What it will do is allow you to enjoy a day on the water catching reds and specks!

KastKing offers a 7-foot, medium-power blank made from graphite. It’s not as sensitive as some of the competition, but it offers backbone to spare. When you do tie into a bull red, this rod is ready for the fight, and it works plenty fine for specks as long as you stick to lures ¼-ounce or heavier.

Anything lighter than that won’t load this blank well, and casting will suffer. But with proper weights, it casts well, delivering plenty of distance and precision.

The guides on the Centron are well-spaced and numerous, distributing weight and stress along the entire length of the blank. That allows it to punch above its weight when you need it to, and as long as you don’t damage this rod, it’ll pull hard.

The Centron 3000 is a fine reel to pair with this capable rod, and it offers plenty of drag for reds. You’ll also find great capacity, allowing you to run 12-pound mono in sufficient lengths for a day’s fishing.

With 8-pound test spooled on, you’ll find that lighter drag settings work well, delivering reliably smooth performance.

Overall, this is an excellent combo rod for red drum and speckled bass, delivering great performance at a very reasonable price.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive!
  • Sensitive, strong graphite blank
  • Good reel
  • Excellent drag
  • Great capacity

Cons:

  • Slightly too heavy to be an ideal speck rod, but still a great combo

Cadence CC4 Spinning Combo

Cadence CC4 Spinning Combo Lightweight with 24-Ton 2-Piece Graphite Rod Strong Carbon Composite Frame & Side Plates Ergonomic EVA Handle Knob Reel & Rod Combo(CC4-3000-70M)

Amazon 

Maximum drag: 14 lbs. 
Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (35” RPT)
Capacity: 8/180, 10/150, 12/110
Material: N/A
Weight: 8.5 oz.
Bearings: 7 + 1
Length: 7’
Action/power: medium/fast
Material: carbon fiber
Handle: split EVA foam
Guides: stainless steel with SIC inserts
Line weight: N/A
Lure size: N/A
Pieces: 2

Cadence is well known for making affordable, excellent reels like the CS4 series, and when they pair a 3000-size with a great medium rod, they deliver exciting performance at a bargain price.

This 7-foot, medium-power blank has a strong carbon fiber blank at its heart. It offers backbone to spare, and you’ll find real power starting about ¼ of the way from the tip. It’s also plenty sensitive, and you’ll feel your lure work, sense the ripples on a sandy bottom, and detect every hesitant strike from picky speckled trout.

The blank loads and casts well, and the stainless steel guides feature smooth SiC inserts that really get the job done with 8-pound mono.

The blank loads well with ¼-ounce and heavier lures, and casting is great as long as you mind this limit.

Cadence pairs this rod with a CS4, and there’s a lot to like about this reel.

The drag is smooth throughout its range, working well even as you crank it up near its maximum or down near its minimum. You won’t feel any sudden stops and starts, and it's reliably smooth.

The spool on the CS4 is a tad on the small size, but capacity is acceptable. Cadence packs a 6.2:1 gear ratio into this reel, delivering 35 inches per turn even with the smallish spool. That’s quick - far quicker than the Shakespeare or KastKing - and if you’ve ever battled a red that was working to get some slack, you know why that matters.

I think this is a great combo, offering a better reel than most with a rod that’s nothing to sneeze at itself.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive!
  • Sensitive, strong blank
  • Excellent reel
  • Excellent drag
  • Very smooth
  • Very fast!

Cons:

  • Capacity is on the small size for a 3000-size reel
  • The rod is a touch heavy for specks

Lew's Mach Smash Spinning Combo

Lew's Mach Smash 30 Spin 7'-1 Medium Spinning Combo, Red

Amazon 

Maximum drag: 17 lbs.
Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (32” RPT)
Capacity: 10/145
Material: N/A
Weight: 9.1 oz.
Bearings: 7 + 1
Length: 7’
Action/power: medium/moderate-fast
Material: graphite
Handle: split EVA foam
Guides: stainless steel
Line weight: N/A
Lure size: N/A
Pieces: 1

Lew’s Mach Smash does what every combo should: deliver a great rod paired with an excellent reel. That sounds pretty simple, but to hit an affordable price point and offer fantastic performance isn’t easy at all.

The Mach Smash starts with a sensitive graphite blank that offers plenty of backbone for bull reds and the meanest specks out there. It’s certainly stiffer than the Penn, and I’d say it’s on par with the Cadence. That makes it about perfect for the larger of these two species, but maybe not quite as sensitive as you’d like when the speckled trout get careful about what they’re biting.

Don’t expect this rod to load well with light lures; stick to ¼-ounce or heavier, and it’ll cast just fine. 

Its guides are pretty standard polished stainless steel, and as Lew’s demonstrates, when made well, this simple design just plain works.

The Mach Smash reel is a very good choice to pair with this rod, offering some great features.

Its maximum drag setting is a whopping 17 pounds, offering plenty to work with and some very heavy braided line choices, should you like them. I wouldn’t go over 12 pounds of drag, given the graphite blank, or you’ll risk cracking and catastrophic failure.

If you want massive drag settings and unbreakable strength, the Ugly Stik GX2 is for you!

The drag is smooth and well-constructed, but the spool is a bit small for the reel’s size, offering underwhelming capacity.

That, combined with a 6.2:1 gear ratio, leaves it trailing our top picks like the Penn in terms of speed.

Lew’s does use precision-cut brass gears in this reel, and you can feel the smooth durability and fight-winning torque this choice offers. On this front, I’d say it’s almost as good as the Penn Pursuit IV, but not quite.

Nevertheless, this is a surprising pick that’s really left an impression on us. If you can tolerate a little less sensitivity to get a lot more backbone, this combo is a very good choice for reds and specks.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive!
  • Sensitive, strong blank
  • Excellent reel
  • Excellent drag
  • Smooth

Cons:

  • Capacity is on the small size for a 3000-size reel
  • The rod is a touch heavy for specks

Buying Guide: What to Look for in a Combo for Specks and Reds

Spinning tackle is your best bet

I know plenty of anglers who live for inshore fishing, and the vast majority prefer spinning tackle. 

Wind is a constant, and nothing outcasts a spinning reel when the gusts catch your line and lure. That’s not to say that you can’t use baitcasting tackle for reds and specks - I’ve done it, as have legions of other fishermen.

But for most people, most of the time, spinning tackle is the way to go, especially with lighter lines under 10-pound mono diameter.

Blanks, power, and sensitivity

Speckled trout and red drum aren’t a lot alike, other than their affinity for shrimp and small fish!

But they’re frequently fished in the same trip, and it’s pretty common in my experience to switch to specks if the reds aren’t biting. Moreover, it’s not uncommon - given their preferred habitat - for you to hook a red while fishing for specks and vice versa.

Specks and reds share the same waters and diets.

The problem is that specks run from about 19 to 25 inches, weighing in at about 3 pounds. By contrast, mature reds measure 28 to 33 inches, topping the scales at 6 to 8 pounds. 

Ideally, you’d fish specks with a light to medium-light rod and reds with a medium to medium-heavy rod. But a light rod won’t have enough backbone for a big red, and a medium-heavy rod won’t have sufficient sensitivity for specks.

When you tie into a bull red, get ready to fight!

The answer is to find a “heavy” medium-light or a “light” medium rod. You want a line rating of between 4 and 14 pounds and lure weights between ¼-ounce and 5/8 -ounce. 

Your rod should have a fast action, providing a sensitive tip for techniques like swim baits or working the bottom with soft plastics.

Typically, the best option for a speck and red rod is a blank made from graphite, offering superb sensitivity and strength. They’ll land well and cast as far as you need while providing outstanding feel and more than enough backbone, as long as you do your job with the drag.

Keep in mind that graphite blanks are relatively delicate. If you choose to run heavy braid, never set the drag for more than the line rating of the rod. Cranking that drag up higher than that can cause the rod to break, and that’s just a question of user error.

Line and lure ratings

Specks can be fished with line as light as 4-pound test, but big red drum may demand 12-pound test or more. That’s not too much to ask from a good rod, an excellent reel, and the right line.

Guides

You’ll need awesome guides to protect light lines, and especially if you're set up for specks, but hook a red, you’ll be in for a real fight!

Typically, it’s good advice to stick to the midpoint of your rod’s line rating, meaning that a stick rated for 4- to 10-pound test is probably best with 6- or 8-pound mono. And while not exactly fragile, 6-pound test isn’t steel cable.

Even just a bit of heat can melt right through it, and it’s your rod’s guides that prevent this failure. Smooth guides reduce friction and heat, protecting your line during a fight and distributing its stress along the length of the blank.

Casting, fighting, and length

Inshore fishing usually demands a combination of long and accurate casts. 7-foot rods are a good compromise, offering both solid distance and admirable precision.

Specks may not test your rod to its limits; bull reds will.

They’re also long enough to really create a parabolic arc during a hard fight, distributing stress across their entire length. That “spring” action can allow a high-quality light-medium rod to wrangle a bigger fish than you might expect, especially if it’s wearing top-notch guides and a good reel with a proper drag setting.

Handles

Whether you prefer cork or EVA foam, a long handle with plenty of room for casting and fighting is essential.

Every rod on our list delivers that in spades.

Capacity

Capacity is directly related to spool size, and the larger the pool, the more line it can accommodate. To compare apples to apples, we’ve tried to review reels with as similar spool sizes as we can.

We generally recommend a 3000-size reel for reds and specks, but of course, those numbers are relatively arbitrary and vary from maker to maker. You can also go smaller to decrease weight or run a larger reel to fit more line if you think you really need it.

Keep in mind, though, that it’s rare to nearly impossible to be spooled by a red or speck. That’s just not going to happen with the size reel we’re recommending.

But you may need to cut and re-tie quite a bit if you’re fishing around rocks, pilings, or oyster shells, and more line is almost always a good thing.

Speed

Speed matters.

When a fish runs back toward your boat, you need to keep your line tight to maintain pressure on the hook. Slack can allow the fish to dislodge it, and a tight line is critical to ensure the red or speck you hook makes it into your net.

Speed is a function of two things: spool size and gear ratio.

As you turn the handle, you’ll spin the gear that connects it to the spool. Gear ratios measure how many turns of the spool one turn of the crank produces.

Thus, a gear ratio of 6.2:1 means that one turn of the handle spins the spool 6.2 times.

Obviously, faster gear ratios and larger spools create more speed, allowing you to keep a tight line with a big, fast fish on the hook.

And while you don’t need blazing speed, I like 30+ inches per turn on reds and specks just to be sure.

Drag

Drag is critical to protect your line and rod and from the stress of a hard fight.

The function of the drag system on your reel is to release line at a given weight, allowing the fish to strip line from your spool under constant, smooth pressure. Not only does this make the red or speck work harder, but it also prevents your line, knot, and rod from feeling the full stress of the fight.

An ideal drag system produces a very smooth release with no sudden starts or stops that could cause a sudden, dramatic increase in stress.

You want to set your drag to no more than ⅓ of the test strength of your line.

Weight

Weight may not seem like a big deal until you’ve been fishing all day.

But after your first couple hundred casts, you'll really notice every ounce!

Light is always good, but keep in mind that some components, like gears, need to be made from metal rather than featherweight - but weak - plastic. That can add ounces, but the durability and power are worth it.

Final Thoughts

Frankly, any of the rods on our shortlist will crush both reds and specks, standing up to the meanest 30-inch red drum out there while still casting light(ish) lures for specks.

But some anglers prefer a medium-light rod, others shy away from graphite, and still others worry about hooksets with anything less than a medium-powered graphite blank. And we can’t tell you which combo is the right choice for your needs and budget.

That said, two combos really stand out to us.

If you’ve had a graphite blank break on you, or you like to run heavier braid with a relatively heavy drag, Shakespeare’s Ugly Stik GX2 might be the best pick for you. Trading just a touch of sensitivity for unbreakable durability, this is the rod you want in your hand if you’re a little rough on your tackle or are pushing it beyond its reasonable limits.

Our favorite combo on this list is the medium-light Penn Pursuit IV. Whatever it sacrifices in stiffness, it more than makes up for in fight, and you’ll have the sensitivity and casting you want with specks, no question. The Pursuit IV reel is simply amazing, too, and the combination is an incredible choice for any fish under 20 pounds.

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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