5 Best Bass Fishing Rods – What Makes a Great One?

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Best Bass Fishing Rod

There is no doubt that the black bass species, both small and largemouth, are the most sought after freshwater fish species in the U.S. Thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars are spent on the finest possible gear, boats, lures, and gadgets to give anglers a better chance catching more. But, in the end, the most important piece of gear will always be the rod.

More than just the ability to haul a fish in, your bass rod will also affect how accurate you cast, how you play your lure, your ability to detect a bite, and the all-important hook set. Getting the right rod will do more for your bass fishing success than any other single piece of gear.

There are many companies, large and small, who have great reputations for producing great rods. The price varies significantly but so does the quality. If you are after a great bass rod, the first thing you need to do is understand what makes a bass rod a good one.

For more detailed and complete product reviews on benefits and features, keep reading.

What Makes the Best Bass Fishing Rod

Few fishermen pay enough attention to the traits of a rod when selecting it. This can be a huge mistake that can lead to broken rods and broken line. This is especially true when looking at the rods action and power. Taking the time to understand these rod characteristics should be first on the list.

1. Action

A rod’s action only refers to how much of the rod flexes when pressure is applied to it. Though you can get rods in actions from Extra Fast to Slow, for bass we are only worried about Extra Fast and Fast. Other rod actions are not usually considered appropriate for bass fishing.

Extra Fast rods only bend at the top of the rod while Fast rods will bind in about the top 25% of the rod. The slower you get, the more of the rod bends. This determines a few things about how that rod fishes like how the power is applied, the firmness of the hook set, and the all-important rod sensitivity.

For bass, your rod will rarely need to bend double like a slower rod. You won’t be pulling them up from deep under the boat. Instead, most of your fight will be pulling toward the boat from a distance. It is more important to be able to apply force linear to the surface, especially if you are fishing weeds or other obstructions.

You will also want a rod that is very sensitive. Bass are notorious for spitting out baits they don’t like. Detecting a bite early before they have a chance to get rid of it will at least give you a shot at more bass. A rod that has more movement at the tip will also help you get a strong hook set. If you are using larger lures, this is a very desirable feature.

2. Power

The power of the rod has nothing to do with the action, at least not in how the action works. Power is simply how much pressure it takes to bend the rod. This can be Ultra-Light all the way up to Extra-Extra-Heavy. For bass anything other than Ultra-Light is appropriate.

It is important to realize that rod power is related to the rods purpose. A heavy saltwater rod will not be the same as a heavy bass rod. You need to pick a rod with your intended use before you look at power. If you don’t know the intended use, use line weight as a guide.

Picking a rod power can be quite a challenge since there are no hard and fast rules. The best guideline is that lower power rods use lighter, more invisible line which is good for clear, open water. Heavy rods are more appropriate for pulling big fish out of thick cover. What rod power works for you in this regard will depend on where and how you fish for bass.

Always be cautious to stay within the recommended line weights for your rod. These line weights are recommended based on the rods strength as well as its power. Getting a rod too powerful for you line will break a lot of line while getting too heavy a line can and will break your rod.

If you are unsure on what rod power to go with, a Medium-Heavy or Heavy are probably the overall most popular choices.

3. Casting & Spinning Rods

While this choice should be an easy one it should be noted that they are different and work in different ways with different traits. You do not want to put a baitcaster on a spinning rod or vice-versa. If you are looking at rods without knowing what reel you will be using, here is a simple primer.

Baitcasters can cast heavier baits and often cast farther than other rods types. They are generally higher on the power scale and use heavier line.

Spinning rods are usually a lower power rod but with the same action. They are nimble and more accurate for close quarter fishing. They use a lighter line and cast lighter lures.

4. Line Weight

Very frequently people drastically overcompensate with heavy lines. It does not take a heavy line for bass fishing and many times you will get more bites on lighter line that is harder to see. The power of your rod and recommended line weights should be the first place you turn to pick the correct line weight.

Spinning rods will use lighter line, usually starting around 4 pound and going up to around 10. A few will go as high as 14 or 16 pounds but that is really pushing the heavy end of what you will need from a line. Many large bass have been caught on 4-pound line but generally, something in the 6 or 8 range is a better option. If you fish around obstruction, you could go a little higher.

Casting rods use much heavier line as a general rule. On the low end, you can expect to see at least 8 or 10-pound line and it may go as high as the mid-20s or 30s. It is unlikely that you will ever need anything in the 20-pound range for a bass but some baitcasting reels perform better with heavier line. A good general starting place is around the mid-teens.

5. Lure Weight

There isn’t a lot to say about lure weights. If you know what you like to fish and what is successful in your area, you are ahead of the game on picking the right rod. A little research will show you what all the most popular lures weight. After that its just matching up numbers. There are bass rods that excel at throwing very light 1/8 ounce lures while some will through lures up to 6 or 7 ounces.

6. Takedown Rods

A lot of stock is put into a rods ability to be taken down with many seasoned anglers insisting that a one-piece rod is far superior to a rod that separates into pieces. While it is true that the performance characteristics of a one-piece rod are marginally better, they are not the be-all-end-all of rods.

More important is how you plan to transport your rod. It is hard to fit a 7-foot bass rod in a compact car and you won’t catch any fish with your rod at home. If your lifestyle is more suited to a takedown rod, they work just fine. Remember, you are using a fast or extra fast rod so the truly important part of the rod is less than the first 25%.

Now that we have a reasonable idea of what we are looking at where rods are concerned, let’s look at some premium examples of the rods on the market. While many are the top dollar rods, it may surprise you to see how many budget-friendly rods are truly exceptionally good for getting bass to the boat.

5 Best Bass Fishing Rods for 2020

1. G. Loomis GLX Bass Spinning Rods – Best Overall Spinning Rod

Loomis has been regarded as one of the world’s best rod manufacturers which is probably why you seem them on just about every pro tour. Though they were bought out by fishing giant Shimano in the 1990s and they have only gotten better. Of the many models they produce, the GLX series is often thought to be the pinnacle of performance.

Though they make the rod in both a spinning and casting model, though both are good at their specific job, the spinning model is a more versatile option. This rod is made of blended graphite that makes it 20% lighter than any previous GLX while making it stronger overall.

With a slimmed down handle and improved ergonomics and reel seat, this new GLX is one of the most sensitive rods on the market making it very easy to detect even the lightest bite. The cork has been slimmed down and tapered for perfect hand placement when it comes to casting control. This is one of the smoothest pulling, balanced and accurate rods out there.

The GLX Spinning rod comes in power from medium to medium-heavy, the more robust of which is probably best for bass. As for action, all of them are fast or extra fast and will work perfectly depending on your preferences. Line weight is similar but if you are looking for an overall great choice, stick with the 6’6” medium-heavy with line weights in the 8-15 range. This is a solid bass rod that will not let you down.

Pros

  • Casts far and smooth
  • Applies power evenly across rod
  • Versatile line and bait weight options

Cons

  • Costly
  • Graphite can be fragile

2. St. Croix Mojo Bass Casting Rod – Best Tournament Casting Rod

St. Croix titles themselves the best rods on earth and they are not far off. For years they have produced rods that have won championships and hauled in more bass than any other brand. If you check any hardcore bass fanatics tackle room, you are almost guaranteed to find one. While they don’t take first place here, the margin is very narrow.

A rod is only as good as its components and manufacturing and St. Croix nailed that down years ago. Using the most recent developments in graphite technology, their Legend series is more flexible, stronger, and more durable than any rod produced in years past. This is matched with corrosion-resistant hardware and a very durable cork handle to create a rod that could become an heirloom.

All St. Croix rods are U.S. made by some of the finest craftsmen making rods today. What they produce is a straight casting rod that loads perfectly and slings a bait as far as you could need it to go. With their Poly Curve technology, when the hook sets, the rod flexes perfectly to keep the pressure right where you need it. Though this rod alone won’t catch a bass you can be sure you won’t lose a bass because of this rod.

These rods start a little shy of 7 feet and go to almost 10 feet and come in actions from fast to extra fast. For power, they are all on the upper end from medium up to extra heavy. If you are after bass alone, a good choice is a rod in the 7 and a half foot range in medium heavy with a fast action. Something that can take line in the high teens to low 20s. There are a couple of models that will fit this profile.

Pros

  • One of the smoothest casting rods
  • Great selection of models
  • Durable for a graphite rod

Cons

  • Premium price

3. St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass Spinning Rod – Best Tournament Spinning Rod

Yes. this is another casting/spinning repeat but you should expect that when it comes to top of the line rods. They are often constructed much the same and the only deciding factor is often how a person likes to throw their line. I am a big spin fisherman but many prefer casting rods. This is every bit as good as the spinner but for those that prefer running a baitcaster.

Though the casting rods are made with the same SCIV graphite using the same Poly Curve technology, the casting rods seem to load a bit better. They seem to cast a little slicker but they need to if you want to get the best distance possible. Often casting reels are a little less forgiving than spinning reels so these slight differences are very welcome.

Available in a very short under 6-foot model all the way up to 8 and a half feet, these are shorter than most competitors rods. They also tend to run a little lighter on the power curve from medium-light to medium-heavy. The action is either fast or extra-fast.

A good solid bet is to go with a shorter 6’ 10” rod with medium power and an extra-fast action. These seem to cast better and can hold lighter lines up to about 12 pounds. Because of the rods added flex, you can keep a lot of pressure on a bass without risking your line.

Pros

  • Great short casting rod
  • Huge selection of models
  • Durable for a graphite rod

Cons

  • Premium price
  • Longer rods are fragile

4. Okuma Helios Casting Rod – Best Budget Casting Rod

Okuma fishing gear is near legendary in the fishing community and their Helios rods are just as well known. This has been their signature rod for years and though it has evolved, it has never lost its popularity. The rod today is much different than it was 10 years ago, it is better in every way.

While the materials and craftsmanship of Okuma rods is never in doubt, there is a difference in the way a mass production rod like the Helios are made than a premium rod. While it will still perform very well, it is not quite so refined. You will lose a little casting difference with the carbon fiber but you gain durability and you can get it at a lower price. All of the other components are identical to what is used on any of the higher dollar rods.

If you are looking to step up your fishing game from a cheap casting rod, this is an excellent place to start. You won’t have to break the bank to get a Helios and it will out fish any combo setup or store-brand rod by a huge margin. Once you have fished a rod like this you can never be satisfied with less.

Though there are some odd lengths that pop up from time to time, most Helios rods are either 7’ or 7’ 6” and are almost always fast action. Power ranges from medium to extra heavy and line weights can be anywhere from 8 to 30 pounds. In every iteration of the Helios, the longer rods fish better and a heavy action is probably the best. Most of these will take lines in the teens up to the mid-twenties.

Pros

  • Best affordable caster on the market
  • Strongcarbon fiber construction
  • Great value

Cons

  • Somewhat stiffer feel
  • Shorter rods cast a little rough

5. Shimano Curado Spinning Rod – Best Budget Spinning Rod

I am going to admit a little bias here but I have always been a fan of Shimano, especially for the price. But this loyalty was not easily won. In the price range, I will take a Shimano rod over any other brand out there. The same is not true of casting rods though. They just nailed what a spinning reel should be.

Material wise, there is nothing wrong with a Shimon Curado. They use carbon instead of graphite but are otherwise constructed of many of the same components used on premium rods. The cork on a Curado does tend to be a little softer but is still quite durable.

The resin also feels a little more flexible with an almost springy feel. It tends to bend back faster with a little more flip. With a little practice, you can get good distance and great accuracy with this reel. You may want to stick to the lower weights of acceptable lures if you want the very best performance.

Rods vary in length but are always near 7 feet, give or take a couple inches. You can get power in a medium-light to a medium-heavy and an action if either fast or extra-fast. This is a rod that excels at quick, shorter casts and tends to work best with a rod of medium power with an extra-fast action. This will always put you on a rod a little under 7 feet.

Pros

  • Great value spinning rod
  • Accurate caster
  • Very durable construction

Cons

  • Very limited model options
  • Rod flex is more than expected
  • Casting distance shorter

Bass Fishing Rod FAQs

Bass Fishing Rod FAQs

Should I go with casting or spinning as a new fisherman?

This is a debate that will rage across the internet for generations but from personal experience, I would start with a spinning setup. They are generally easier to fish and accuracy takes less practice. The equipment is simpler to operate and requires less maintenance. That said, you are going to want to step up to casting soon.

I am having trouble with the action/power issue. Can you explain them?

Think of it this way:  if you grab a pole by the very tip and start to bend it in a natural curve, the rod will start to bend at a certain point on the rod. The location where this bend is most pronounced will give you the action. Power is how much pressure it takes to bend that rod compared to rods that are similar in purpose.

Why use such a stiff (powerful) rod for bass?  People catch them on light fly-fishing gear after all.

Yes, people catch large bass on 5 and 6 weight fly rods that are very-fast action. The difference is where the fish are caught. Most fly fishermen catch their bass from the surface and rarely have to deal with dragging a fish out of obstruction. The angle that fly fishermen use and the length of the rod keeps them toward the surface. With conventional gear, you won’t be able to do the same thing. You need power to drag the angry fish out of the weeds or other mess it gets in to.

Conclusion

If you have yet to get a truly good bass rod, now is the time. I fished cheap rods for decades before investing in my first decent rod. The difference it made to catching fish was huge!  It wasn’t that it got more bites or even that it cast in a way that got me on top of the bass easier. It was the sensitivity of the rod and how quickly I could set the hook that made all the difference.

At some point, if you are serious about the sport, this is a leap you will have to make. Just remember that a good rod is an investment. Most of the best rods come with a great warranty and are much more durable than the cheap fiberglass rods sold at big box stores. With a little care, a good rod like those above will last a lifetime.

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Sammy Garrard

I am the Founder and Chief Editor of soutdoors.com and a prepper with over 15 years of experience. I’m excited to my knowledge and the things I learn while travelling in British Columbia, Canada where I live and around the world. Feel free to follow me on Twitter!

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