Spinning rods are often people's introduction to fishing. They're easy to use and offer great flexibility so you can try different types of fishing. As you become more experienced, you'll find there's a wide variety to be able to fine-tune your choice to the type of fishing you like best.
Our buying guide will help you pick the right spinning rod for your skills. We've added a few recommendations to underscore price and performance options. Our favorite is widely recognized as one of the finest rods on the market.
Considerations when choosing spinning rods
How to choose a spinning rod
The four key aspects of a spinning rod are length, action, power, and material.
Length varies from 4'6" to 8'6". Length choice is often dictated by specific styles of fishing. 6' and 7' are good all-around choices and the best for beginners.
Action may be heavy (also called extra fast), medium heavy (fast), medium (moderate), or light (slow). A heavy rod is stiffer and bends from about halfway up. It's use for big baits, large fish, and difficult conditions -- water with weeds or obstructions. As the action gets lighter, the rod bends closer to the tip, which is what you need for casting light baits. It also gives more sensitivity and thus better hook setting.
Power describes the rod's resistance to bending. It runs from ultra light -- a very flexible rod -- though light, medium, medium heavy, and heavy, to ultra heavy -- a very stiff rod. A combination of action and power create a vast selection of rod behaviors, allowing experienced anglers to make precise choices. Beginners usually benefit from medium to light options for both action and power.
Materials used are fiberglass, carbon fiber, or graphite.
Other spinning rod features
Manufacturers of quality spinning rods provide a host of other information to help you choose the right model. Recommended line strength gives you a good idea of the size of fish the rod is targeting. The same goes for lure weight. Some rods offer different length handles, which is largely a matter of personal choice.
Reel seats are all fairly similar. It's important that they lock positively so there's no chance of your reel becoming detached. Line guides need to be smooth and durable since some fishing line is quite abrasive. Aluminum oxide is common, while others use stainless steel. A few have ceramic inserts -- titanium carbide or silicon carbide (SiC) -- which are considered best because of their very low friction and high wear resistance.
Fiberglass rods are the cheapest, and can be as little as $20. Carbon fiber is lighter, but not as durable, and many anglers don't like the feel. As a result, it's not commonly used for spinning rods. Fiberglass and graphite composite rods are popular, combining light weight with moderate cost. They run from $35 to $60. Graphite rods are light, very strong, and offer great sensitivity, but it's an expensive material. Rods can easily top $100 and might be twice that.
Q. Can I use a spinning rod for float fishing?
A. You can. Spinning rods offer great versatility and are easy to use, so you can try many different techniques. Eventually, you might want to buy a specialist float rod which tends to be longer.
Q. Can I use a baitcaster reel on a spinning rod?
A. It's physically possible, but not recommended. You should always pair rod and reel types together. Using a bait casting reel on a spinning rod is likely to lead to lots of backlash and tangles.
Spinning rods we recommend
Best of the best: St Croix Premier Spinning Rod
Our take: Beautifully made with length, weight, and action alternatives to suit the most demanding angler.
What we like: Superb quality throughout with components chosen for strength and durability. Tremendous range of options. Very light with superb sensitivity. Excellent cork handle.
What we dislike: Not much. Pricey. Rare instances of faulty reel seats.
Best bang for your buck: Entsport E Series Spinning Rod
Our take: Budget model for the occasional angler or those just discovering the joys of fishing.
What we like: Versatile, lightweight, with a good range of actions. Secure reel seating. Well put-together for the price. Neat hook keeper. Nice rod bag provided.
What we dislike: 7' only. Inconsistent manufacture means carbon can be fragile.
Choice 3: Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Road
Our take: Excellent mid-range model for those taking their fishing beyond the beginner level.
What we like: Made by Shakespeare, a firm with vast experience. Good choice of sizes. Tough fiberglass and graphite construction. Good feel. Lovely cork handle. Seven year warranty.
What we dislike: Braided line can score the guides. Occasional quality control issues.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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