Best Spinning Rods – 2019 Buying Guide and Reviews

Talk to any experienced angler, and you’ll quickly realize that the right rod plays a huge role in their success. In fact, a good rod, quality line, an excellent reel, and the right lures are nearly as important as raw skill and know-how.

But there’s an old adage about lures that applies to rods as well: most are made to catch fishermen rather than fish. Between marketing hype, professional endorsements, and too many options to evaluate fairly, choosing the best spinning rod for your needs can be a real headache.

We’d like to help by providing you the knowledge you need to assess what’s right for you. Below, you’ll find an in-depth guide to rod selection, as well as reviews of some of our favorites.

Quick glance at the best spinning rods available today:

Ultralight Spinning Rods

Light-Power Spinning Rods

Medium-Power Spinning Rods

Heavy-Power Spinning Rods

Best Ultralight Spinning Rods

St. Croix Premier PS60ULF

Length: 6’
Material: graphite
Power/action: ultralight/fast
Lure size: 1/32 oz. to 3/16 oz.
Line weight: 2 to 6 #
Handle: 12.25” split cork/spinning
Guide material: 6 + 1 Fuji aluminum oxide
Piece: 1

St. Croix’s rods are quickly outstripping their premium competition, including the trusted Fenwick name. That’s not because Fenwick’s rods aren’t excellent–they are–but rather because St. Croix just keeps getting better and better. If you’ve got the money to spend, this is probably the best ultralight rod on the market.

The Premier ultralight features a fast action, and as a combination, it provides the sensitivity you want with the cushioned hookset you need for fish like crappie. Strong, supple, well-balanced, and light, this rod is everything you’re looking for. Whether you’re angling for bass, perch, or trout, this rod can handle them all with no worries–and your line will break long before the Premier does.

The premium-quality aluminum oxide guides will pamper your line. In our view, these are among the best available. Casting is outstanding with this rod as well, as long as you generally respect the lure and line weight recommendations.

Quality cork furnishes this rod’s long handle, and you’ll find plenty of room for even the biggest hands to cast comfortably. If you prefer split handles, and some anglers do, you might look to the Fenwick as the most capable alternative.

Ultralight rods are typically inexpensive, but not in this case. And if you’re willing to pay for an awesome rod, the St. Croix is very hard to match. For my money, I’d say that this rod edges out premium competition like the G. Loomis by virtue of the fast action, but that’s largely a matter of personal preference.

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Excellent casting
  • Quality handles
  • Awesome guides

Cons:

  • Expensive

Cadence Fishing CR5 562S-ULMF

Cadence Fishing CR5 Spinning Rods | 30 Ton Carbon | Fuji Reel Seat | Stainless Steel Guides with SiC Inserts | CR5-562S-ULMF
Amazon 

Length: 5’6”
Material: graphite
Power/action: ultralight/moderate-fast
Lure size: 1/32 to 1/8 oz..
Line weight: 2 to 6 #
Handle: 12” cork and EVA foam/spinning
Guides: 5 + 1stainless steel with SiC inserts
Pieces: 2

Cadence Fishing offers serious rods at bargain prices, and if you’re looking for a dedicated panfish rod, this is a great choice. Our favorite is the 5’6” with a moderate-fast action.

Due to a combination of length, action, and power, this CR5 will provide excellent, accurate casting. And like other short rods, this would be among my first choices for trout fishing on a small stream.

I think that the moderate-fast action is strong enough to turn bigger fish in a bad fight while still offering the use of very light lines under high stress. This rod will flex along much of its length, absorbing force that would otherwise simply be transferred to your line.

This CR5 ultralight is very strong, and catching largemouth or walleye up to the line’s limit should be no problem. While maybe not the best rod for controlling a real brute, I’d be happy to have one on the end of this rod!

Guide quality is excellent, and the handle is of premium quality and just the right length.

Overall, this is a strong contender for our top spot and a fantastic rod for panfish.

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Quality handle
  • Great guides
  • Soft hooksets are pretty much guaranteed
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • ???

Fenwick Elite Tech River Runner ERR69UL-FS-2

Fenwick Elite Tech River Runner Spin
Amazon 

Length: 6’ 9”
Material: graphite
Power/action: ultralight/fast
Lure size: 1/32 oz. to 3/16 oz.
Line weight: 2 to 6 #
Handle: split cork/spinning
Guide material: 8 + 1 titanium

Fenwick’s rods are legendary, and if you pick one up, you’ll know why. Among the most expensive of the ultralight options we’ve reviewed, you can be sure that you’re getting premium quality for your money.

The River Runner ultralight features a fast action, and I prefer this in an ultralight as it gives me more control during a fight. I also find that this combination of power, action, and length works well for everything from bluegill to bass.

Unsurprisingly, this Fenwick casts like a dream and is plenty strong to boot. Big perch and small walleye won’t have a chance, and I’d trust this rod with a pretty impressive largemouth.

In short, you should feel confident putting it to the test with pretty much anything that takes your lure!

Its titanium guides are about as good as they come; expect no trouble here.

If you’re a fan of split handles and high-end cork, the Fenwick has you covered. It also offers a unique rod seat design that encloses the mechanism, yielding a continuous cork grip. That’s a nice touch, and we really like that feature.

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Excellent casting
  • Quality handles
  • Great guides

Cons:

  • Expensive

Best Light-Power Spinning Rods

St. Croix Premier PS66LF

Length: 6’6”
Material: graphite
Power/action: light/fast
Lure size: 1/16 to 5/16 oz.
Line weight: 4 to 8 #
Handle: cork
Guides: 7 + 1 Fuji stainless steel with aluminum oxide inserts
Pieces: 1 or 2

You’ll see plenty of St. Croix rods on our shortlist, and if you’ve ever fished with one, you’ll know why. Quickly surpassing the quality of their competitors, these rods are often the best bang for the buck. And even though the blank is rated as light, from perch to walleye, bass to blues, it’ll handle them all.

In the Premier series, we really like the 6’ 6”. I find this rod to be quite well-balanced, very sensitive, and plenty strong for smaller species. It’s not a great worm rod, obviously, and with a light blank, don’t expect to turn a big bass on a dime.

But that said, if I were going to have a one rod arsenal, this is the rod I’d pick.

For instance, it’s short enough to cast into the thick stuff, but it has enough backbone and length to launch a 5/16 ounce lure a country mile. And while you’re going to see that blank bend on big bass, hungry walleye, or angry striper, it’ll do its job admirably if you do yours.

With eight–that’s right, eight–Fuji stainless and aluminum oxide guides, line failure during a fight won’t happen because of friction. In my view, that makes it a tougher rod than many similar competitors, as it can handle a bit more fight that similar rods with less awesome guides.

As you’d expect, this rod’s long, continuous handle is clad in premium cork. If you’re a fan of split grips, however, you might want to look elsewhere.

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Excellent casting
  • Quality handle
  • Awesome guides
  • A great all-arounder for smaller species

Cons:

  • Expensive

Fenwick Eagle EA66L-MS-2

Fenwick Eagle Spinning
Amazon 

Length: 6’6”
Material: graphite
Power/action: light/fast
Lure size: 1/16 to ⅜ oz.
Line weight: 2 to 8 #
Handle: cork
Guides: 6 + 1 stainless steel
Pieces: 2

If you need another lesson in why Fenwick’s rods are revered by anglers, this light action model has a lot to teach you. From cork that looks and feels too nice for anything less than a custom, to an awesome blank, you get a ton of rod for the money.

At 6’ 6”, this model has the reach you need for long casts, whether that’s chasing trout at a distance or casting tiny spinners to skittish smallmouth. At this length, I think you can get the most from the Fenwick’s excellent blank, and from largemouth to bluegill, it’ll get the job done.

Capable of casting the very lightest lines, this rod almost edges out ultralights in my arsenal, and if you find yourself chasing the little guys most of the time, you’d be hard pressed to find a better rod for trout, crappie, and perch.

Impeccably balanced, strong, and sensitive: these are great ways to describe this rod. And while it does give up something in guide quality and number to the comparable St. Croix, the Fenwick’s cork handle is a thing of beauty.

Long and well-contoured, you’ll find a grip you like, as well as plenty of real estate for a nasty fight.

At this price point, there’s probably not a better rod available.

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Excellent casting
  • Awesome handle
  • Good guides
  • A great all-arounder for smaller species
  • Great price!

Cons:

  • Its guides give up a bit to the St. Croix’s Fujis

G. Loomis Classic Trout and Panfish SR842-2 IMX

Classic Trout Spinning, SR842-2 IMX
Amazon 

Length: 7’
Material: graphite
Power/action: light/fast
Lure size: 1/16 to 5/16 oz.
Line weight: 4 to 8 #
Handle: cork
Guides: 6 + 1 Fuji Alconite
Pieces: 2

Loomis’s rods are legendary, and from top-notch blanks to silky-smooth guides, every aspect of their performance is as good as they come. Of course, that kind of quality comes at a price, and these are among the most expensive rods we review. Try one in your hand for a few minutes, and you’ll get a lot more comfortable with that!

We really like the 7’ graphite Classic. It’s long enough to cast forever while still being accurate enough to nail crappie in tight spots. And for trout on tight streams, I don’t find the length unduly cumbersome, especially for a rod that’s not dedicated to that task.

As you’d expect from premium graphite, the blank is sensitive, and you won’t be missing any light strikes. It’s also plenty strong, especially with those extra inches helping it bend to take weight, and while I’d fish this rod for smallies without hesitation, anything but a monster largemouth really shouldn’t be a problem with the right reel and line.

Line and lure weights are what you’d expect from a light rod.

The G. Loomis Classic features seven Fuji Alconite guides that provide high-end performance. For the price, I’d like to see one more guide.

Loomis had to cut corners somewhere, and to my eye, they looked for savings on the handle. This rod’s cork is not my favorite, and I think it lacks length and beauty in comparison to the much, much less expensive Fenwick. That’s a preference on my part, however, and your mileage may vary.

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Excellent casting
  • Good handle
  • Excellent guides
  • A great all-arounder for smaller species

Cons:

  • Its handle isn’t as nice as the Fenwick
  • Expensive!

Best Medium-Power Spinning Rods

Ugly Stik Elite USESP702M

Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod 7' - Medium - 2pc
Amazon 

Length: 7’
Material: fiberglass/graphite composite
Power/action: medium/medium
Lure size: 1/4 to 5/8 oz.
Line weight: 6 to 14 #
Handle: cork
Guides: 7 + 1 stainless steel
Pieces: 2

Ugly Stik usually fashions rods that place function over style, and they’ve become legendary for their bomb-proof toughness. If you’ve ever snapped a rod tip doing something stupid, you immediately see the appeal of a durable Stik!

As its name suggests, the Elite series is a step up from the Ugly Stik’s other offerings, offering quite a bit more graphite in the predominantly fiberglass blank. That reduces weight considerably, and adds a bit of stiffness to the otherwise pliant fiberglass. As far as action is concerned, I’d probably place this rod at medium.

At seven feet, you’ll find plenty of rod for long casts, and plenty of backbone for big fish. In fact, I’d feel pretty confident with this rod on everything from bull reds to pike without worrying about the rod. That’s saying something, especially for the price.

Sensitivity is excellent, as well, and I have no complaints about the blank whatsoever.

I’m not thrilled with the stainless guides, though there are plenty of them. The absence of SiC is a nod to keeping costs low, but for the beating my line will take during a fight with big red or angry pike, I want some high-tech material to protect it. In fact, I’ve heard from other anglers who use braided line that the guides can wear very quickly–something to consider if that sounds like you!

The handle is excellent; long, properly contoured, and comfortable. It’s confidence-inspiring when you see your slip float disappear in a salt marsh, and you know you’ll have plenty of real estate for working a big fish into your boat.

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Excellent casting
  • Excellent handle
  • A great all-arounder for larger fish
  • Priced right!

Cons:

  • Guide quality is iffy

Redbone Hurricane Inshore RDB-761MS

Redbone 7' Medium Inshore Spinning RDB-701MS Rod 1 pc/8-17Lb
Amazon 

Length: 7’6”
Material: graphite
Power/action: medium/fast
Lure size: 3/8 to 3/4 oz.
Line weight: 8 to 17 #
Handle: cork
Guides: 8 + 1 Fuji New Concept
Pieces: 1

The Redbone Hurricane series is designed for saltwater, but they’re just as much at home on lakes, ponds, and rivers. Designed to hook and land some really bad boys, this is the rod I’d want if I were chasing reds, tuna, shark, muskie, pike, lake trout or anything of that size.

Plenty of professional guides hand these rods to their customers, and more than a few use them themselves. That’s an incredible testament to the quality you get for the money, and it’s simply amazing that these rods don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Blank quality is excellent, combining sensitivity and strength. This relatively long rod casts to the next county (or parish!), and it’s backbone really begins to strut its stuff about a third of the way toward the handle. You’ll find plenty there to help you muscle a brute from cover, turn a runner, and set your hook.

Nine Fuji aluminum oxide guides keep your line intact in even the worst fights. They’re up to some serious work, so don’t be afraid to put them to the test.

Its long, one-piece handle is made from cork, and there’s plenty of space for big hands and nasty fights.

I doubt you’ll find a better rod for the price–indeed, for any price!

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Excellent casting
  • Excellent handle
  • Awesome guides
  • A great all-arounder for larger fish
  • Priced right!

Cons:

  • ???

St. Croix Mojo Inshore MIS76MF

St Croix Mojo Inshore Spinning Rods, MIS76MF
Amazon 

Length: 7’6”
Material: graphite
Power/action: medium/fast
Lure size: 3/8 to 3/4 oz.
Line weight: 8 to 17 #
Handle: split cork
Guides: 8 + 1 aluminum oxide

Another rod designed for the salt, the St. Croix Mojo Inshore is more than capable of tackling everything from tuna to stripers. But it’s no less able when facing lake trout and pike, and I wouldn’t hesitate to grab this rod for a trip to the Great Lakes, Florida, or the Lake of the Woods.

St. Croix builds their rods to a very high standard, and that’s evident in the quality of every component.

The blank is light, strong, and sensitive, and while it may just be my imagination, I swear that it outcasts pretty much anything else of similar length, power, and action. That’s great for wide-open fishing, where this rod is at it’s best. You’ll also find it’s plenty ready to fight!

Expect premium guides, too, and plenty of them. No worries here about quality, and you can count on them when the pressure’s on. If you’ve got quality line, set your drag properly, and do your part, you can expect to land some really big fish without testing this rod to its limits.

The split cork handle on the Mojo is a love it or leave it affair, but there’s no doubting the premium materials and attention to detail.

Overall, this is an awesome rod!

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Excellent casting
  • Excellent handle
  • Awesome guides
  • A great all-arounder for larger fish
  • Priced right!

Cons:

  • ???

Best Heavy-Power Spinning Rods

Heavy rods are usually paired with a bait casting reel, but there are a few notable exceptions.

Redbone Hurricane Inshore RDB-701HS

Redbone 7' 6' Heavy Inshore Spinning RDB-761HS Rod 1 pc/15-30Lb
Amazon 

Length: 7’6”
Material: graphite
Power/action: heavy/fast
Lure size: 1 to 2 oz.
Line weight: 15 to 30 #
Handle: cork
Guides: 8 + 1 Fuji New Concept
Pieces: 1

Like the Redbone Hurricane we reviewed above, this rod is intended for inshore fishing, but that wouldn’t stop me from tackling everything from lake trout to muskie with it. Built for strength, it’d be my choice for shark, tuna, and anything else that a lesser rod just might not handle. Of course, the limiting factor will be the spinning reel you mate with this rod, but it’s good to know there’s an option if you want one.

As we mentioned, plenty of professional guides hand these rods to their customers, and more than a few use them themselves. That’s an incredible testament to the quality you get for the money, and it’s simply amazing that these rods don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Blank quality is excellent, and your arms will give before the backbone does. It has a sensitive, fast action, too, something that’s essential when you’re fishing deep.

Nine Fuji aluminum oxide guides keep your line intact in even the worst fights. Just as with the medium rod, they’re up to some serious work, so don’t be afraid to put them to the test.

Its long, one-piece handle is made from cork, and there’s plenty of space for big hands and nasty fights.

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Excellent casting
  • Excellent handle
  • Awesome guides
  • A great all-arounder for monster fish
  • Priced right!

Cons:

  • ???

St. Croix Mojo Inshore MIS76HF

St Croix Mojo Inshore Spinning Rod, MIS76HF
Amazon 

Length: 7’6”
Material: graphite/fiberglass composite
Power/action: heavy/fast
Lure size: ¾ to 2 oz.
Line weight: 15 to 30 #
Handle: split cork
Guides: 8 + 1 aluminum oxide

Just as with the medium St. Croix Mojo Inshore, expect a salty rod that’s perfect for freshwater monsters. And whether the Mojo is superior to the Redbone is less a question of quality than handle preference.

As we stated above, St. Croix builds their rods to a very high standard, and that’s evident in the quality of every component.

The blank is strong and sensitive, as it should be for fishing deep, and the added fiberglass increases weight, but also improves durability. I doubt there’s a tougher spinning rod available, and I wouldn’t hesitate to push this rod to the limits of the spinning reel it’s paired with.

Expect premium guides–and plenty of them. If you use quality line and set your drag properly, this rod will handle some pretty big fish without being pushed to its limit.

The 21-inch split cork handle on this Mojo is a love it or leave it affair, but there’s no doubting the premium materials and attention to detail. All that length provides the leverage you’ll need if you tie into a marlin or swordfish–helping you win the fight of your life!

Overall, this is an excellent rod!

Pros:

  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Excellent casting
  • Excellent handle
  • Awesome guides
  • A great all-arounder for larger fish
  • Priced right!

Cons:

  • ???

What We Consider When Selecting a Spinning Rod

Choosing the right rod for you involves asking yourself a few basic questions.

  • How large are the fish you’re after?
  • What techniques will you be using?
  • How critical is a sharp hookset?
  • How far will you need to cast?
  • How accurately will you need to cast?

Answers to these questions can tell you a lot about which action, power, and length will be best for you.

We’ll be focusing on “general purpose” rods rather than technique or species-specific models, so some excellent rod companies like B’n’M and Dobyns won’t be featured in our reviews.

Action

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.

Generally speaking, a rod with a fast action will offer greater sensitivity at the tip, helping you detect strikes more easily. And generally speaking, a rod with a slow action will provide more cushion on the hookset.

But fast isn’t better than slow; nor is slow better than fast.

Instead, you really want to match your rod’s action to the technique you intend to use.

A good pitching rod will have a moderately fast action, bending near the tip. By contrast, a good drop shot rod will begin to bend much closer to the handle.

And of course hookset is dramatically affected by power: the faster the rod, the better the set. When you’re worm fishing with a single hook, you’ll quickly notice the difference between a slow and fast rod, but on the other hand, if you’re running crankbaits with sharp treble hooks, a slower rod gives the fish just an instant more to engulf your lure.

And what’s true for America’s most popular game fish is generally true for other species. When you’re fishing a single hook, faster is the better choice. But when you need a touch more time for the fish to engage, or you’re throwing a treble-hooked lure, slower can often be better.

describing power and action

Power

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.

Ultralight tells you pretty much everything you need to know: the blank’s power is ultra-light, meaning that it will bend under modest loads. Even with a fast action, a two-pound fish is going to bend your rod into a parabolic arc.

Now, you might be thinking that ultralight means “weak.” Nothing could be further from the truth, as this gentleman’s bass demonstrates:

Ultralight and light aren’t synonyms for weak, buy heavy does mean very, very strong.

Indeed, as you increase power, moving up the scale from light, to medium, to heavy, you increase the stiffness and strength of the blank. Bigger fish demand a heavier rod, but much as with action, you want to match the rod to what you’re fishing.

Heavy power rods are designed for the largest, meanest fish out there: lake trout, shark, monster pike, huge muskie–that sort of thing. Medium power rods, by contrast, offer a stiff backbone for excellent hooksets and work really well on species like redfish, tuna, large bass, and pike.

They’d be a terrible choice for crappie or bluegill!

For the most part, an answer to the question, “What species am I after?” will tell you which power to select.

Length

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.

If you know you’ll be standing off a shallow and need to cast quite a distance to reach the fish, a longer rod might be the best choice. This is also true for surf fishing, for instance.

But if you’re casting into heavy cover and need to place your lure just where it needs to be, short will be deadly.

I usually fish with a rod that’s six-and-a-half feet long, and that’s probably the best length to start with if you’re unsure of your specific needs.

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.

Guides

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.

A good rule of thumb is one guide per foot–plus one.

Material

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.

  • Graphite is strong, stiff, and ultra-light. Due to its high stiffness, it’s also quite sensitive, and it makes a great, durable choice for a rod.
  • Fiberglass is heavier than graphite and usually less expensive. It’s not quite as sensitive or as stiff, but it can be incredibly strong, earning it a place in your angling arsenal. Especially when you’re fighting above the weight of your rod, a bit of fiberglass in the blank is a welcome addition.
  • Carbon fiber is the stiffest, strongest, lightest, and most expensive material used for rod blanks. Its performance is unparalleled, but so is its price!

Handle

Much about which handle to choose is a personal decision, and what’s comfortable to me may be misery for you. Generally, there are two primary handle materials: cork and EVA foam.

  • Cork is warmer and more attractive, but less forgiving of rough treatment.
  • EVA foam is softer and cooler to the touch, and it’s pretty tough stuff.

Final Thoughts

That’s a lot to digest, but think through what we’ve had to say.

What should be clear is that there’s no one “best” rod. Instead, there are better and worse choices for the species you’re after, the techniques you’ll use, and the lures you’ll be throwing.

And even when these questions are settled, personal preference matters. Pick a few rods that satisfy your basic needs, and then see which one feels best in your hand.

My favorite rod is just that–my favorite.

That said, we’ll try to be even-handed in our reviews, noting where any merit or issue is a matter of preference.

Final Thoughts

The right rod for you might not be the right rod for someone else, and what and how you fish is the best way to narrow your choices. But if you’re a spinning tackle angler, it’s good to know that from ultralight to heavy, rod manufacturers have you covered.

We’ve stayed away from technique and species-specific rods here, so you won’t find crappie rods like the excellent B’n’M, bass rods like the awesome Dobyns, or trolling rods like those from Shimano. The products we review are all “general purpose” tools, allowing you to get the most use from a single purchase.

We hope this buying guide has helped you gear-up for your next adventure, and we’d love to hear from you!

Please leave a comment below.

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