Outdoor Journal: Choosing the right combo of rods, reels

This week, in Part 2 of rod and reel choices, we’ll look at which ones to buy, and yes, you’ll need

This week, in Part 2 of rod and reel choices, we’ll look at which ones to buy, and yes, you’ll need more than one to put more fish in the boat and/or on the dinner table.


This is definitely the most ver­satile combo for all anglers, especially those who are occasional fisherman. One of the biggest advantages of the spinning combo is distance, espec­ially important for those who fish from shore. The comb also allows casting smaller and lighter lures/baits.

Serious bass/tournament anglers can easily skip a wacky worm underneath low-hanging trees and docks, something nearly impossible with a baitcaster. To do this, skip, kneel down on one knee in your boat, hold the rod parallel to the water and skip the wacky worm under the trees/docks.

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Click here for Part 1 of Rods and Reels.

Let’s review rod and reel combos best for bigger freshwater, fish like bass and northern pike, and methods of catching them. One of my favorites is flipping, and to do it right requires a 71⁄2-foot telescoping flipping (baitcasting) rod. It can be done with a spinning rod, but I do not recommend it. The baitcasting reel, which should be high speed, should be spooled with at least 30-pound-test monofilament or braided line. The reason for such heavy equipment is the heavy cover you’ll be fishing in. Matted weeds, lily pads, water chestnuts and sunken trees is where you’ll find bass. This technique is unique. It requires no more than 20-25 feet of line, which means you’ll be fishing very close to the boat.

I was a bit skeptical when I read about it many years ago, but when I had the opportunity to be the press observer in pro angler Denny Brauer’s boat in the 1998 Bassmaster Classic on High Rock Lake in North Carolina, I quickly changed my mind after spending about eight hours watching him do nothing but flipping. All he did was flip a four- to five-inch tube bait under docks and into brush piles and hook bass no more than 10 feet from the boat. Did it work? He won the Classic and had a seven-pound lunker.

Since then, I never go out on the water without at least one flipping outfit. I use a three-eighths-ounce jighead tipped with a Bass Pro Shops Magnum Flippin Tube or twin tail frog trailer.

There’s another method I learned from a very good friend, the late Frank Jeske, that works best with a flipping rod and a reel spooled with 40- to 50-pound test Fire Line. His flipping rig consisted of a one-ounce bell sinker at the end of the line and about 8-10 inches above it, a 3/0 Eagle Claw Kahle hook with a six-inch worm rigged wacky style. With this setup Frank was always the man to beat in any bass tournament he fished. He would fish this setup in sunken weed beds and in literally any type of cover.

It’s a great set up for windy days and fishing water chestnut patches on Lake Champlain. He taught me his “punch pad” method in which he tossed the heavy weighted wacky-worm rig up high and let it “punch” through the weeds. Don’t laugh, it works.


This is another type of casting that can be done with both spinning and baitcasting combos. The ideal rod is a 61⁄2 foot, medium-heavy action model. Line sizes can vary from 12- to 15-pound test. This technique can be used with any of the plastic baits. Begin by peeling off about three feet of line, grasp the bait with your hand, press the line release/open the bale, and using a pendulum-like motion pitch the lure to your target. After a little practice, you’ll be surprised at how accurate pitching can become, and you will be dropping that wacky worm quietly into those little weed pockets.


Recently, the plastic frogs, rats, mice and other creature bait lures have become quite popular fish getters, both for bass and pike, but usually when a pike grabs a rubber frog being hopped across weeds and pads, it’s the last time you’ll see that $5 lure.

But frogging is probably the most exciting type of freshwater fishing there is. Because you’re fishing some of the hardest and nastiest cover in the lake/river, it requires heavy equipment to not only hook a fish, but also to get them out after they are hooked. To get them on and out, the best combo is a heavy-action 61⁄2- to seven-foot rod with a high-speed baitcasting reel spooled with no less than 30-pound-test line. This baitcasting outfit will winch them out much easier than a spinning outfit. And don’t forget, count to three before setting the hook on that big fish that just exploded on your froggie.

One more tip on frogging: It’s a good idea to keep a second heavy-action casting outfit with a pegged, Texas-rigged worm nearby. If a bass misses, toss that worm right into the hole it just left in the cover. Many times, the fish is still in the vicinity and will hit that sinking worm.

Speaking of pike, both spinning and baitcasting outfits will work, as long as they’re medium-heavy action rods and reels spooled with 20-pound-test or heavier monofilament or braid, but be sure that you always use a wire leader to avoid being cut off by their sharp teeth and or gill plates.

All the lures, spinner baits, spoons and plugs will work for pike, but nothing beats the real thing — live bait. If you use live bait, consider reels with bait walker and audible alarms. This extra feature is a switch on the side of the reel that after you cast your live bait and bobber out, will hold the line on the spool. However, unlike the regular spool lock, this one allows the fish to pick up and move off with your bait and lets the line go out slowly while it makes a clicking noise, alerting the angler. Pick up the rod, let the fish run a bit, reel to take up the slack, click off the bait walker and set the hook hard on your trophy.

Remember, you can use three rods while fishing, so why not toss an artificial lure around while waiting for the alarm to go off? Another choice is taking a snooze.


This is another exciting way to fish with either type of combo. My preference for the smaller lures like the Pop-R, Chugbug or Lucky Craft Sammy is a fast-tipped spinning rod and reel, spooled with 10-pound-test monofilament. This outfit will allow you to twitch and move these baits along the surface, and when that strike occurs, do that three-count again before setting the hook. It’s easy to say, but hard to do.


This is another technique I learned with a Bassmaster pro angler qualifier as his press angler. David Fritts was and still is a crankbaiting master who also is a member of the millionaire’s club of professional bass anglers. I filled my notebook fishing with him that day on Lake Logan Martin in the 1997 Bassmaster Classic, where he finished sixth, and all he used was crankbaits. What I noticed on the first fish he caught that morning was what I called a “wimpy” rod that he was using and I asked him why. “Less fish lost,” was his reply.

His recommendation was a six- to 61⁄2-foot, medium soft-action baitcasting rod, and he does not use a high-speed baitcasting reel. In fact, that day he had a 4.7:1 ratio reel spooled with 10-pound-test line. This theory, and from his success it’s hard to dispute, is that setting the crankbait hooks and fighting the fish with a stiff rod and too fast a reel can cause lost fish. That day, I watched him calmly play and land 20 bass at least with that wimpy rod, and he never lost one of them.


This is a bass fishing technique that started in the late 1980s in California on the clear, deep and busy lakes there. Actually, it’s a downsizing of equipment and lures fished in all depths of water, but primarily in deep water. I believe the best finesse rod and reel is a spinning combo. The length will vary from six foot to seven foot, and it’s lightweight.

I recently tried a friend’s new seven-foot medium-fast action Bionic Blade XPS spinning rod. It’s made of lightweight IM8 graphite which, along with the two-piece, soft touch reel seat, gives the fisherman sens­itivity to feel the lightest bite, and at $64, it’s really reasonable.

The matching spinning reel should again be high-speed and able to handle six- to eight-pound-test monofilament line. Many veteran finesse anglers are using fluorocarbon line. Baits are also downsized, and there are many choices that include flat-top jigs and a large variety of plastic baits. I’ve also have had good luck with a four-inch Stik-O-Bait, fished wacky style. This bait works on the Lake George and Great Sacandaga Lake smallmouth bass populations. If they’re not biting in the shallows, I move to deeper water off the marked shoals and points and give them a little wacky worm to chew on.

Good luck and remember, you can also use another rod and reel.

Categories: -Sports-

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