OK, so you flip through all of the magazines and books, browse the internet, and watch the countless thousands of hours of fishing shows and highlight reels hoping for some guidance in picking out the right tools for the job. We’ve all done it at one time or another, and if you’re like me, you’ve wasted lots of time and more money than you want to admit to doing it. Here’s a quick guide to hopefully weed through some of the confusion, and allow you to make an educated decision when it comes to matching your rods, reels,and line.
First and foremost, keep everything in balance. Start everything with your rod in mind. If a rod is rated for 3/8 – 3/4 ounce lures, throwing a 1-1/2 ounce football jig is likely not the best option. Match your reels, line and bait selection to your rod. Second, stay within your comfort zone. This not only means your price comfort range, but your user comfort range. Just because KVD fishes with Quantum rods and reels that go for $400+ doesn’t mean you can or need to. There are some very good reels that go for $100, and matched with a rod that goes for $100, provide a very good, reasonably priced combo for fishing at most every level. Don’t like baitcasters? that’s fine – spinning equipment can and has been used successfully for every technique you could think of, and if you want to make that transition to baitcasters, do some research and decide which reel would best suit your comfort and experience level. Jump in a little at a time – start out with one combo, then as you become more comfortable, add more combos to your arsenal. Personally, I use Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier reels matched to Abu Garcia Veritas rods. Both are very reasonably priced, and from what I’ve found through experience, both perform as well or better than outfits costing two-to-three times as much (I have to add that I am not sponsored by or affiliated with either company; I have just found through trial-and-error and experience that these are very good, reliable, well-performing products).
OK, the nitty gritty. I fish in tournaments at the local club level, BASS Federation Nation events, and other regional events. I have twelve specific combos, with some wiggle-room for different line sizes for different situations. Not everyone needs this many combos, and some people may feel this is not enough. But like I said, after much trial-and-error and on-the-water experience, I’ve narrowed my toolbox down to these twelve combos. I’ll start by saying that I fish all of my treble hook lures on medium to medium-heavy action, moderate cranking rods, and all of my single hook lures on medium-heavy fast action rods, with one exception, and that exception being drop-shotting. I use fluorocarbon line for most everything, with a few exceptions for monofilament and braid. I use Spiderwire line for all of my applications, again not because I’m sponsored, but because it’s good line. Remember, braid is tough and cuts through vegetation, monofilament has some stretch and floats, and fluorocarbon has no stretch, sinks, and is extremely sensitive.
Here are my guidelines for the combos that I’ve come to depend on:
Combo #1 (A) 7′ Medium Moderate 5.2:1 Reel 10lb. Fluorocarbon
I use this combo exclusively for suspending jerkbaits
I’m not worried about fishing in really heavy cover, so I can get away with lighter line, which also helps with the action of the lure.
The slower reel ensures I fish the lures slowly, as designed.
Combo #2 (B) 7′ Medium Moderate 5.2:1 Reel 12lb. Fluorocarbon
I use this combo for small-to-medium crankbaits (down to about 12′)
I wouldn’t go any heavier than 12lb. line, as it will affect the diving depth of the crankbaits.
Combo #3 (C) 7’6″ Medium-Heavy Moderate 5.2:1 Reel 12lb. Fluorocarbon
I use this combo for medium-to-large deeper crankbaits (deeper than 14′)
The longer rod enables me to make longer cast, and the heavier rod action is a necessity with the bigger, deep-diving crankbaits
Combo #4 (D) 7′ Medium-Heavy Moderate 6.4:1 Reel 14lb. Fluorocarbon
I use this combo for lipless crankbaits and square-bill crankbaits
I’m usually fishing these lures around heavier cover, so the heavier rod action and heavier line let me do that without fear of being underpowered.
Combo #5 (E) 7′ Medium Moderate 6.4:1 Reel 12lb. Monofilament
I use this combo for topwaters and floating minnows
I’m not usually fishing treble hook topwaters around heavy cover, so I don’t need heavier line. If you do, then up your line to 14lb. or 17lb.
Combo #6 (F) 7′ Medium-Heavy Fast 7.1:1 Reel 14lb. Monofilament
I use this combo for spinnerbaits and buzzbaits
Experiment with line size – you may find you need to go with heavier line depending on the cover you’re fishing in. The monofilament line absorbs the shock of the hook sets, while giving you the backbone to wrestle a fish out of cover.
Combo #7 (G) 7′ Medium-Heavy Fast 6.4:1 Reel 14lb. Fluorocarbon
I use this combo for soft plastics, swim jigs and jigs up to 3/8 ounce
Experiment with line size; you may find you need heavier line depending on the cover you’re fishing in.
Combo #8 (H) 7’3″ Medium-Heavy Fast 7.1:1 Reel 17lb. Fluorocarbon
I use this combo primarily for pitchin’ & flippin’
The faster reels allows me to take up more line quicker, letting me fish faster and get fish out of the cover quicker.
Combo #9 (I) 7’6″ Medium-Heavy Fast 7.1:1 Reel 17lb. Fluorocarbon
I use this combo for Carolina rigs and larger jigs (up to 1 ounce)
Again, with the faster reel I can take up a lot of line quickly, and the longer rod allows me to launch these lures long-distance to cover more water.
Combo #10 (J) 7’3″ Medium-Heavy Fast 7.1:1 Reel 50lb. Braid
I use this combo for frogs and larger single hook topwaters
Experiment with line size based on the cover you’re fishing, and the faster reel lets me get the fish out of the cover more quickly, reducing the chances of getting wrapped in the weeds.
Combo #11 (K) 7′ Medium Fast Spinning Size 20 Reel 8lb. Fluorocarbon
I use this combo exclusively for drop-shotting
The medium action rod allows me to give subtle action to the lure, while allowing the rod to absorb the shock of the hook set and fight. Remember, drop-shotting usually calls for small, light-wire hooks, so I don’t want to overpower the fish and pull the hook out during a fight.
Combo #12 (L) 7′ Medium-Heavy Fast Spinning Size 20 Reel 10lb. Fluorocarbon
I use this combo for tubes and shakey heads
These lures have a single hook, usually heavier wire, and the heavier rod action is necessary for getting a good solid hook set.
As a closing, I can’t stress enough the importance of staying organized. I keep every combo in a Rod Glove when not in use or when being stored (whether on the boat or in the closet for the winter). Rod Gloves are a cheap investment, they protect the rod & guides from damage, and they help prevent tangling or twisting of lines when rods are stored together. You can even use different color Rod Gloves for different combos to help keep things organized. I label all of my rods (A, B, C, etc.) and have a laminated card inside the lid of my rod locker with the corresponding rod and technique. Maybe this is Type A or a little overboard, but I can always tell you which rod I’m using, and know exactly which rod to grab without confusion and guessing.
Whatever you choose for combos, and however you choose to organize them, remember to do something that works for you. Don’t buy a combo because you saw KVD or Ike with it, buy a combo because it’s something that you can afford and fish with efficiently. Keep it simple, and focus on putting more fish in the livewell.
Jason A. Bean