25 Spinning and Baitcasting rods tested for 2016
This is the line of baitcasting and spinning rods we tested for 2016. You’ll find Editor’s Choice, a Great Buy, and Super Saver selections for both categories, as well as any additional reel charts we tested. In addition to the new flagship rods and reels, this year we asked manufacturers to also submit their most economical equipment for review in our new “Super Saver” category. Entries were blind tested side by side with top of the line rods and reels. You can find a preview of the test, including this year’s notable features and our testing methodology, here. You can find the 25 coils we tested here.
Editor’s Choice (1)
Note: 95.6 / $ 299 / fenwickfishing.com
Considered the highest strength-to-weight ratio rod in the Fenwick range, the World Class performed well across the board and was significantly more responsive than the others we tested. Quality components, like a Fuji reel seat, Fuji K stainless steel frame guides, and an A-grade marbled cork grip are standard. The latter is best in class, with a comfortable palm swell that telegraphs every shade of bait to the angler. Seven models with actions tailored to specific bass techniques are available, with a limited lifetime warranty.
Magnesium 2 (2)
Note: 94.1 / $ 169 / kistlerrods.com
▶ The Kistler Magnesium 2 is a breathtaking rod whose performance matches its aesthetics. Overall, the Mag 2 was one of the lightest sets we’ve ever tested, in part because of the raw carbon blank with no paint or clear varnish. The funky-textured Winn Grip offers unparalleled tactility, with a tacky feel when wet. It’s a treat to strangle and surprisingly resistant to rough use. The long split grip lets you master large-scale two-handed throws. The radial envelope blank perfectly transmits the topography of the bottom and the movement of the bait.
Note: 82/49 $ / shop.zebcobrands.com
The Quantum Equalizer is a $ 49 workhorse that’s also surprisingly responsive, in part because of its IM8 graphite blank, considered best in its class just a few years ago. Rated for a 6-14 pound test line (¹⁄₈ to ¾ ounce lures), our rod effortlessly cast light baits on its medium action while also excelling at lifting ¾ ounce heavier baits. Eight aluminum frame guides with aluminum oxide inserts handle both braids and clear lines. The full length cork handle is well designed for working light baits and building large rockfish. This windfall is worth a long look.
Note: 92.6 / $ 99 / lews.com
▶ We were immediately shocked by the lightness of the TP1 in the hand. Built on a thin-walled IM8 blank, the TP1 made long throwing sessions a fatigue-free delight.
Lew’s TP1 Baitcasting Rod through OutdoorLife Testers raved about the attractive yet functional color-matched Winn Grip on the grip and casting stock. And they were pleasantly surprised to find the American Tackle Company’s MicroWave guidance system (nine guides in total), which offered smooth casts, on a $ 99 rod. The beautiful, austere white rod is paired with a no-frills skeletonized graphite reel seat for excellent blank-to-bait sensitivity.
Tatula XT (5)
Note: 89.7 / $ 99 / daiwa.com
▶ The Tatula XT was one of the best balanced rods in the business, with all of its components working in harmony, resulting in excellent fishing. The radially wound blank has a sharp tip that is well suited to a variety of baits, from crankbaits to light spinnerbaits.
Attached to the giant redfish, the soft tip of the Daiwa proved to be more than a match, quickly tiring these broad-shouldered fish. We enjoyed the finish wrapping job on this $ 99 rod and the attention to detail, as evidenced by three machined winding controls.
spinning rods table
List of tested baitcasting rods: Fenwick World Class, Kistler Magnesium 2, Lew’s TP1, Loomis E6X, TFO GIS, St. Croix Legend Elite, Shimano Zodias, Daiwa Tatula, Abu Garcia Villain 2.0, Dobyns Fury Series, BPS Bionic Blade, Quantum Equalizer.
THE ROTATING RODS
Elite Legend (A)
Note: 95.9 / $ 399 / stcroixrods.com
▶ The premium rod juggernaut Sainte-Croix has been making premium fish fingers for decades. The Elite matches that stability and, as expected, is extraordinarily sensitive, mainly due to a blank, which features very high modulus SCVI graphite at the bottom. It is coated with two coats of slow-curing epoxy, providing a vibrant finish with protection from occasional bumps and bruises. The firm butt steered large fish through the slop, while a delicately tapered tip offered an uncompromising feel when watching out for finesse bait.
Premium components like Fuji Torzite solid titanium frame guides with ceramic inserts, a Fuji TVS reel seat and a premium one-piece cork grip adorn the Elite. This Holy Cross is expensive. However, a 15-year transferable warranty could soothe heartburn.
Note: 93/109 $ / dobynsrods.com
▶ Gary Dobyns has been making expensive, semi-custom bass fishing rods for years. The Fury is Dobyns’ first entry into the consumer rod market. It is big on value without compromising on quality. We pushed the Fury to its limits with a rockfish over 30 pounds. This stick worked admirably, without a whimper from the fisherman or the rod. He’s a difficult interpreter.
Built on a radially wound high modulus graphite blank, the Fury features strong one-footed guides to handle the line along the length of the blank while providing rugged flex capable of tiring even the most stubborn fish. The guides are anchored with Kevlar wraps and add to the overall waterproofness of this rod.
The premium cork handle works well, telegraphing bait and fish signals to the operator.
Note: 87.7 / $ 79 / no8tackle.com
▶ The Tackle Co. # 8 Rod line is packed with feature rich sticks, all at mall outlet prices. Blackout is perhaps the most intriguing. The combined 24/30 ton graphite blank has plenty of stock to avoid potential issues, while the twitchy tip shines to motivate shaky heads, drop shots or other small baits.
Tangle-free guides are proven to minimize knots of wind in less than ideal casting conditions. Their zirconia inserts worked perfectly, handling our salt soaked braid under the stress of the loaded redfish.
The through-hole reel seat allows users direct access to the rod, further improving the ability to feel passive baits and nudges. The oversized split grip increases leverage for long casts. A top-notch open hook guard makes lure storage easy.
Omen Black (D)
Note: 85.7 / 99 $ / 13fishing.com
▶ It can be argued that Japan makes some of the best rod blanks in the world, albeit at a price point inaccessible to the average fisherman. This is why it is surprising that the Omen Black is built on a Japanese 30 ton Toray carbon fiber blank, which is as sensitive as it is tough.
The Omen Black fished with the poise and ability of a $ 300 rod. For those with educated hands, the suitability of the blank quickly becomes evident as it throws without bulky bounce or thrill.
Quality components are standard, including Evolve Titanium Y-guides with zirconia inserts, which deliver uncompromising flex, improving your ability to fully load the rod and gain extra feet of casting distance. A premium cork grip with a rear mount reel seat keeps the nets out of your rod hand, allowing for a better buy.
fishing rod chart
Photographs by Nick Ferrari; Video by Jared Serigné