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How To Set Up a Spinning Rod: A Step-By-Step Guide

Last Updated: January 5th, 2021
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If you’re brand-spanking new to angling, you may have no idea where to get started.

You’ve got your hands on your first rod and reel, a spool of fishing line, and a handful of lures, hooks, and slip floats. But beyond that, you’re at a loss.

Or maybe you haven’t pulled the trigger on a rod and reel yet, unsure of what you need.

Don’t worry - we’ve got you covered!

Keep reading, and we’ll take you step by step through the process of setting up your new rod.

Getting Started: Selecting the Right Rod and Reel

For most new anglers, spinning tackle is the best place to start.

how to set up a spinning rod

Light spinning tackle is ideal for species like crappie.

Easy to use and capable of taking a wide range of species, a good spinning rod and reel are hard to beat, especially in the wind.

We’ve talked about choosing a quality spinning reel before, and you should definitely take a close look at this article:

Best Spinning Reels to Cover All Your Bases: Our Favorite Ultralight, Light, and Medium Reels Reviewed

We’ve also reviewed some of our favorite spinning rods, and this article is essential reading for new fishermen:

Best Spinning Rods – Buying Guide and Reviews

catching trout using spinning tackle

Brook trout on light spinning tackle? Absolutely!

The upshot?

For an absolutely new angler, I’d probably recommend a light action spinning rod like the 6’6” St. Croix Premier. A truly high-quality piece of tackle, this rod has the sensitivity and feel you need for species like bluegill, crappie, perch, and trout while offering the backbone and strength necessary for everything from flounder to speckled trout--as well as the ever-popular small- and largemouth bass.

catch flounder using light spinning tackle

Light spinning tackle is a fantastic choice for flounder.

While not ideal for larger species like pike or muskie, and while certainly not the best bass rod, it can get the job done across a wide range of species that you’re likely to fish.

If the St. Croix is out of your price range, take a look at the more than capable Ugly Stik Elite from Shakespeare. The light action model is just 5’6” long, but it gets the job done with surprising sensitivity and plenty of backbone for small fish. It’s also bomb-proof tough: Ugly Stiks are legendary for their durability.

speckled trout caught using spinning rod

Nice speckled trout like this are no match for light spinning tackle!

I’d pair either one with a Cadence CS8 spinning reel in the 2000 size and never look back! You’ll have plenty of line should a fish start to run, a great drag to help you fight them, and season after season of durability.

Setting Up Your New Rod

You’ve got your new rod unboxed and found that it probably comes in two pieces. Not all rods do, and if your rod is a single piece, you can skip this part.

The section of your rod that allows it to mate is called the “ferrule,” and it consists of a “male” and “female” side. As you’d expect from these names, the male fits inside the female.

fishing rod male female ferrule

Step 1

Taking each section in hand, carefully slide the male into the female section, gently rotating them together. 

Don’t use as much force as you can!

This is a friction fit, and you only need to use enough pressure to seat the two ends to the full depth of the female side.

Step 2

Rotate the ferrules until the guides are lined-up.

match up guides on fishing rod

Your guides may not line up perfectly, but that’s not a real issue. Just get them basically in line by twisting the two sections of rod until they align.

Step 3

Locate the reel seat on the underside of the rod. It will be on the same side as the guides.

Twisting counter-clockwise (left to loosen), open the reel seat completely.

Attaching Your New Reel

Step 4

Slide the reel foot into the fixed side of the reel seat. Which end moves will vary with your rod.

spinning reels

Step 5

Slowly tighten the moving end of the real seat, turning it clockwise (right to tighten) until hand-tight.

Don’t try to over-tighten the reel seat! Hand-tight is enough!

At this point, you should have your reel attached to your rod, looking pretty much like this:

reel seat on spinning rod

This reel seat tightens from the back, so you slide the reel foot into the top of the seat first.

Selecting the Best Line for Your New Spinning Rod and Reel

Selecting the right line isn’t as complicated as you might think, but there are quite a few myths and misunderstandings out there.

We recommend taking a close look at our article on the subject:

Best Fishing Line For Spinning Tackle

It’s essential that you match the test strength (or diameter) of your line to your rod and reel. Carefully look at the side of the rod near the handle--you’ll find recommended line and lure weights printed there. Also, check the materials that came with your new reel; they’ll list the recommended line weights, too.

spinning rod recommended line and lure weight

Rods will typically have their recommended line and lure weights printed clearly on the blank.

Your new light tackle is almost certainly rated for 6- to 8-pound monofilament, and we like either option in Stren Original.

We’ve fished with this line a lot, as have legions of other anglers, and it’s as good as they come for the kinds of fishing you’ll do with your new tackle. It casts well, offers unparalleled abrasion resistance, and knots securely. 

stren original for spinning rods

Setting Up Your New Spinning Reel

Setting up your new reel takes a few minutes, and for an in-depth guide, you should check out our article:

How To Set Up a Spinning Reel: A Step-By-Step Guide

Essentially, you’ll be opening the bail, securing your line to the spool, and winding line onto your reel. At the end of the process, you’ll want to set your drag properly, giving you every advantage in a hard fight.

Final Thoughts

At this point, you’re almost ready to tie-on a hook or lure, set up a slip float if you’re using one, and hit the water. Before you do, we recommend a few tips to get you started:

Fishing Tips For Beginners: The Ultimate Guide For New Anglers

There, we cover everything from basic fishing etiquette to how to measure a fish to ensure you meet the legal limits. We also offer a few carefully chosen knot tutorials--a topic no angler can afford to overlook.

We hope this guide has helped you set up your new rod, and if it has, we’d love to hear from you!

Please leave a comment below.

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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