A price range would help some with recommendations. I've really enjoyed my Lew's tournament casting reel & Falcon Bucoo rod. Thats about a $250 combo. I got an Abu Orra spinning reel & Lews rod for Christmas. Great looking and great feeling to me for about $200, but still waiting to be unleashed on "real fishing". I'm spending most of my fishing time wearing out some really cheap spincasting gear going to and from a little pond - kid fishing.
You didn't specify a price range but I'll assume you are in the less than $100 category.
Baitcast reels: BPS Pro Qualifier
Lower end Lew's
Lower end ABU's
If you are willing to bump over $100 the Diawa Tatula and Shimano Curado I are at about $150. Both great reels. Honestly, unless there is a sale you arent' going to find a better reel for the money than the Pro Qualifier for $99.
Spinning reels: I don't use spinning gear for reeling in high drag lures like cranks. If you are looking to drag worms, work a poper, flukes, senkos, etc. then then I would buy the cheapest reel you can find that has a aluminum frame with as large a diameter spool as possible and a high quality drag. The large diameter spool reduces line twist and the aluminum frame makes a more rigid reel. I also will hold the rotor and wiggle the handle. I cannot stand a spinning reel with a sloppy handle. Finally, hold the handle and rock the rotor. If there is more than just a bit of play the reel will wear out and feel sloppy with a little hard use. For me I have more Daiwa spinning reels that I like than any other brand. Quantum also makes a fine reel.
Rods: There are several BPS rods that I use and like very much: Crankin' Stick, Bionic Blade, and Extreme. All are in the $70-100 range.
Other brands that will have good rods in the range: St. Croix, Shimano, ABU, Daiwa, and so on.
My recommendation is to pick the length and action you want then go and shake a few. You find something that meets you price point, desired action, and comfort. This is much more effective than somebody else trying to tell you exactly what rod to buy.
Finally, I recommend you spend as much as you are comfortable with and buy the best quality you can afford. This is particularly true in the baitcasters.
Assuming you are just starting out bass fishing, heres what I would get.
1. 7ft MH fast rod, paired with 6:1 or 7:1 baitcast reel and 14 lb test line. A good rod for fishing soft plastics, jigs and could be used with heavier topwater baits, spinnerbaits and buzzbaits.
2. 6-6 or 7 ft M action with 5:1 baitcast reel, 10 or 12 lb test this rod would be a good all around choice for treble hook lures like crankbaits, topwater and jerkbaits.
3. and 4. 6-6 and 7 ft MH paired with a 2500 or 4000 spinning reel and 8-10 lb test, these rods are good for shakeyheads, senkos and weightless plastics.
Most of the rods I fish are custom built but on the shelf I have always liked Falcons and St Croix. All of my spinning rods are St. Croix Premiers with Shimano Sahara reels. For baitcast reels I fish Shimano Curados and have 1 Citica. They are all great reels and have held up well to the abuse I put them through (140 days a year of heat, freezing temps, rain and getting beat around in a boat).
Neil hit it right...I would add a couple thoughts to his...
Basically, for baits that use an upright rod presentation a longer and more stout rod is good. The larger the hook, the heavier action the rod should be to drive the hook home.
For presentations that require the rod to be pointed toward the water, use a rod that is short enough that you can pretty much extend your arms and be comfortable working the baits back to you. Too long a rod here will cause you to get tired of scrunching (did he really say that?????) your arms and shoulders up to keep the tip out of the water.
Long rods give more leverage on hook sets, make for longer casts and help in fighting fish. Shorter rods help give more accuracy to casting.
As for BPS rods and reels, that will depend on your budget, as mentioned already. The big advantage to BPS gear is that you get a no hassle, one year warranty on them.
For bait casters, ask about any combos that include the Carbonlite rods. These will have a BPS Carbonlite reel or an AbuGarcia Revo. Those are some of the best combos BPS sells.
For the spinning rods, go with the Carbonlite rods paired with the Shimano Sahara reels. Awesome set up! You could also go with the Carbonlite reels on this, too. Again, the Tourney Special can be a great choice for smaller budgets.
For the budget minded, Bionic Blade combos or Tourney Special combos are pretty good for the money.
I have found that the matched combos from BPS are OK set-ups especially for starters, and for the most part priced well below your price limits. That said there are better set-ups out there but it is going to be harder to pick from all of the options. Which Pro Shop are going to? There is usually a knowledgeable person staffing the rods and reels area, that may be able to help you "feel" out your choices. If you look at the outfits fielded by this group at a Meet and Greet you will find that there are as many different set-ups as there are people there, and all of them are working for their owners.
Several people on the site work in tackle retail, but Lewisfishing is the only BPS (Charlotte) one that I know. Maybe you should ask for PM's from tackle shop staffers unless your set on going BPS. Scott Hobbs is one of the great staff at EZ bait and tackle (Goldsboro). ncstatefisher was at Dicks (Raleigh) but I think he has changed jobs. If you could meet up with a ncangler when they were working you could get realtime advice and while they help you figure out exactly what your looking for.
X2 Darrell - Think Gremlinsrus is still working @ a Dick's in the Raleigh area too.
Neil laid out some good recommendations especially if you're going to primarily target largemouth. I'd suggest adding a 7' ML spinning outfit(if you don't already have one) with a 1500 -2000 reel loaded with 8# braid. Still plenty of oomph to land a big fish but light enough to flick a crappie jig or beetlespin if you decide to chase panfish. (My ML rigs have landed plenty of 6lb+ fish including drum, speckled trout and several striper over 24" as well as countless white bass, crappie & bream)
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