Updated Aug 22, 2022 4:29 AM
Reliable baitcaster combos can make casting all day efficient and enjoyable. Baitcasting reels are known for accurate, long casts and quick follow-up casts. But if you’re new to fishing with a baitcaster, it can be hard to find a good reel that is easy to set up. Certain reels can be more prone to backlashing, and for a new angler, this can be frustrating. A quality combo can help familiarize yourself with how a baitcaster works while not breaking the bank. Once you feel comfortable with casting a baitcaster you can step up to higher-end reels for better performance. They are great setups for bass fishing, saltwater, and everything in between. A good baitcasting combo should have a smooth reel, a well-balanced rod, and be easy to set up for beginners. Here are a few baitcasting combos that I recommend from first-hand experience. They are user-friendly and ready for any fishing situation you throw at them.
Things to Consider Before Buying
Baitcasting combos come in every color and size imaginable but finding the ones that are worth the money can be difficult. Many companies offer reasonably priced combos with flashy colors that aren’t worth your time or money. They look cool but when it comes down to performance, it just isn’t there. Despite that, there are plenty of good combos on the market that can make a big difference in cutting down the learning curve of using a baitcaster. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind.
For baitcasting reels, there are two kinds of brakes that control how the line comes off the reel. Understanding how these brakes work is important when buying a baitcasting combo. Traditional spinning reels work because the line jumps off the spool when you cast, while baitcasters rotate the spool causing the line to leave the reel. To avoid backlashes you need to properly set the brakes to prevent the spool from over-rotating which will result in a backlash. Beginners need to pay attention to the kind of brakes on the reel. The two kinds are magnetic brakes and centrifugal brakes, with magnetic brakes being the most common. A magnetic brake is essentially a dial on the side of the reel that controls how far the magnet is from the spool, the closer it is the more resistance it applies. Centrifugal brakes work with brake pads that you can turn on and off to control the amount of pressure on the spool. If you are new to baitcasting combos, look for reels with just a magnetic brake to familiarize yourself with casting while not overcomplicating things.
Left-Handed or Right-Handed Reel
You might think this is pretty self-explanatory, but it is not always the case. Conventional thinking is right-handed anglers have more dexterity in their right hand so they should use their right hand to retrieve baits. In theory, this would allow you to burn a lure back in case you miss a fish for quick repeat casts. However, many right-handed anglers, myself included, prefer a left-handed baitcasting reel. After years of fishing spinning reels, I found it difficult to switch to reeling with my right hand and casting with my left. I recommend going to a local sporting goods store and testing both types of reels to decide what feels right for you instead of going with traditional thinking.
A common question anglers have when buying a new reel is how many bearings does it have? The bearings support the internal gear system of a reel and the right bearings improve the longevity and feel of the reel. However, more bearings do not always mean a better reel. Rather, the quality of bearings is more critical to constructing a stronger reel. High-quality bearings made of stainless steel or ceramic can make a big difference from their cheaper counterparts. Make sure to take a look at how many and what kind of bearings the reel has and it will help you determine if they are worth buying.
Rod selection is crucial for finding the best combos. Unfortunately, many companies pair great reels with subpar rods. Before you buy the combo, do some research on what rod is paired with the reel. Is it a rod already established in the company’s lineup or is it made specifically for the combo? I’ve noticed combos that have established rod models paired with a reel are usually the best bet. These rods have already been put through the paces and make great combos. Another consideration is the rod action. Generally, medium action or medium-heavy action rods are a good start to do handle most things. Look for rods marked with M for medium or MH for medium-heavy since some companies will abbreviate.
The most important part about buying a combo is finding one that feels right in your hands. Rods and reels vary widely in weight and companies don’t always do a great job of pairing them together. Going to a store to feel various combos can help you narrow down which is best. A well-balanced combo should balance close to where the reel sits on the rod. This will make casting all day more enjoyable with less strain on your wrist.
- Reel Drag: 15lbs
- Reel Bearings: 9+1 bearings
- Rod Specs: 7’2” MH
Why it Made the Cut?
This setup combines the best of Lew’s engineering with a smooth and reliable reel paired with a rod strong enough for any bass.
- Balanced perfectly
- Easy to tune
- Sensitive and powerful
- Styling may not be for everyone
Lew’s has built itself a name in the bass fishing world synonymous with high-quality reels. Some of the best baitcasting reels on the market come from Lew’s and the trickle-down technology is immediately apparent in the Lew’s Mach Pro Baitcast Combo. The reel itself is rock solid with 9+1 bearings, making for a buttery smooth feel. It features a simple magnetic brake system that is easy to adjust with numbers marking where you set it. This is great if you drop it or bump it on accident. Simply move it back exactly where it was without any guesswork.
Another great feature is the line capacity. The spool can fit over a hundred yards of 12lb fluorocarbon and even more braid. When you’re new to baitcasting setups, having a versatile reel is crucial, and this combo allows you to fish a wide variety of lines for different techniques. Most combos come with a 7-foot rod but this Lew’s baitcaster combo features a 7’2″ medium-heavy rod. The slightly longer rod makes it easy to fish a multitude of techniques. I find the longer rod makes it easy to pitch jigs or flip mats for bass with the extra reach. The combo also features modern yellow accents on the reel and rod that immediately catch the eye.
Best Baitcaster Combo for Bass
Abu Garcia Revo X/Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier Baitcast Rod and Reel Combo
Bass Pro Shop
- Reel Drag: 18lbs
- Reel Bearings: 7+1 bearings
- Rod Specs: 6’6” MH, 7’0” M, 7’0” MH, and 7’6” MH
Why it Made the Cut?
Super smooth and built to last, this combo combines the best Abu Garcia and Bass Pro Shops has to offer.
- Offered in several gear ratios
- Wide variety of rod offerings
- Can be tricky choosing the right one for beginners
For beginners and experienced anglers alike, finding a combo with a quality rod and reel can be tough. Most companies make great reels but pair them with mediocre rods prone to breaking. Bass Pro Shops has fixed this with the Abu Garcia Revo X/Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier Baitcast Rod and Reel Combo. This combo solves the problem with one of Bass Pro Shops’ famed rod models, the Pro Qualifier. Unlike other combos, the Pro Qualifier series of rods come in a wide variety of lengths and actions. Shorter rods like the 6’6″ models are great for moving baits like jerkbaits while the longer 7’6” model is a great flipping stick. If you are just getting started you can’t go wrong with the 7’ MH. It’s the workhorse of the lineup and can fish any technique effectively. This also gives tournament anglers the ability to buy one combo in multiple rod lengths and not have to worry about fiddling with different reels. Consistency helps keep you fishing instead of messing with gear which puts more fish in the boat.
It was a bold move pairing their rod with an Abu Garcia reel, but it seems to have paid off with a well-balanced and easy casting combo. The Revo X is a staple in the Abu Garcia lineup and is on its fourth iteration, improving each time. I’ve owned one for a couple of years and it still works flawlessly even after several unfortunate drops. Casting is easy with a simple magnetic brake system and a great tensioning knob with audible clicks at each stop. This makes it easy to make micro-adjustments to get the most out of your casts.
- Reel Drag: 18lbs
- Reel Bearings: 6 bearings
- Rod Specs: 6’9” ML, 6’7” M, and 7’1” M
Why it Made the Cut?
An affordable saltwater combo that combines a traditional baitcaster style with corrosion resistance.
- Corrosion-free frame
- Cork grips
- Tangle-free guides
- The heaviest rod action is medium
Finding a baitcasting rod, let alone a reel at an affordable price, is nearly impossible for saltwater anglers. Rather than risking your freshwater gear in the salt, the 13 Fishing Origin TX/ Fate Green combo is a solid option that doesn’t break the bank. It can be hard to keep salt out of the reel with so many moving parts. The frame is corrosion-free so you don’t have to worry about rust. In addition, the reel has 18lbs of max drag and a large capacity spool to stop long runs. Baitcasters accel at inshore fishing, throwing lures close to docks or mangrove edges where accuracy is key. Paired with the Fate Green rods, there are multiple options for different scenarios. All of the tapers are tournament tested and proven to be able to cast accurately while maintaining enough backbone to fight powerful fish. I like the 7’1” medium rod. The extra rod length allows for the long casts common in saltwater fishing while still being accurate. At a reasonable price point for most anglers, the 13 Fishing Origin TX/ Fate Green combo is a great option to break into the saltwater fishing world.
- Reel Drag: 17.6 lbs
- Reel Bearings: 7+1 Stainless steel bearings
- Rod Specs: 6’0” M, 6’6” MH, 7’0” MH
Why it Made the Cut?
An easy-to-use combo that is great for long accurate casts and a two-piece rod for easy traveling.
- Two-piece rod for travel
- Multiple rod offerings
- Easy to set up
- Reel only offered in 6.5:1 gear ratio
Historically, beginner baitcasters had a cheap price point but were impossible to use. You couldn’t cast very far and backlashing was all too common. Luckily, many companies have found a way to make quality combos to get people started. The Kastking Crixus Fishing Combo is one of the best baitcasting combos available to beginners. The reel is over-engineered with a carbon-infused frame and 7+1 bearings resulting in a super smooth product. It comes with a magnetic drag system that is easy to set and adjust. When first starting, turn the brake on halfway and start casting. From that point, you can turn it up or down to prevent backlashes while getting the maximum cast distance. This combo shines with the two-piece rod design. It features the Power Transition System to make a two-piece rod feel as close to a one-piece rod as possible. For beginners, the ability to break down a rod and travel makes getting on the water incredibly easy. It’s offered in multiple rod configurations but the most versatile for bass fishing is the 7-foot medium-heavy setup. Pair it with 15lb mono and you can learn to cast quickly without backlashes. Once you mastered that, 30lb braid with a leader is perfect for all-around use.
- Reel Drag: 15lbs
- Reel Bearings: 4+1 bearings
- Rod Specs: 6’6” Medium
Why it Made the Cut?
The best budget combo while still maintaining a high-quality reel and rod to last years of fishing.
- Quality at a budget price
- Easy to set up
- Oversized reel knobs
- Only offered in right-handed models
Budget baitcasters are a touchy subject. They might save you some money upfront but will later leave you wishing you spent the extra cash on a better combo. The Abu Garcia Max X Baitcast Combo is an exception. The reel itself has 5 bearings which result in a smooth reel. I’ve used several budget reels with one or two bearings that feel shaky in the hand and are not worth the money. In addition, the magnetic braking system is straightforward to set up for beginners. The rod is a two-piece graphite design that is easy to break down and travel with. For a two-piece rod, it is very sensitive and has no problem detecting light bites while finesse fishing. My first baitcaster ever was an Abu Garcia combo that I still have today. With the advances in baitcaster technology, this combo is sure to withstand the test of time even on a budget.
I was 10 years old when I got my first baitcaster combo. I remember casting on the lawn for hours trying to figure out how to use it. Since then, I’ve owned plenty of combos and even more reels and know what to look for. Luckily, for you, baitcaster technology has come so far that most combos will hold their own and are easy to use. No matter your budget, there are plenty of quality options on the market. I took the time to find some of the best combos out there at different price points and put them to the test. I based my selections on the following criteria:
- Price: How much does it cost and is it worth the price?
- Braking system: What kind of braking system is there and how easy is it to use?
- Usability: Can a new angler quickly learn how to use it?
- Rod length: What length rods are offered and what actions do they come in?
- Quality: What components are the rod and reel made of?
Q: How much does a baitcaster combo cost?
Baitcasting combos vary widely in prices from premium setups costing hundreds to budget options as little as $50. A good starting point for a quality combo is between $100 and $150. These combos offer great reels and rods while not breaking the bank. Most companies have a rod in this price point so if you’re loyal to a particular brand there’s an option for you. It can also help to test the combos in person to feel how smooth the reel is and test the rod action.
Q: What is the easiest baitcaster to cast?
The easiest baitcasters to cast are the new digital chip reels or DC reels. These reels work on a microchip in the reel that will correct the speed of the spool to prevent backlashing. You can cast any weight lure and the reel will adjust to it automatically. Unfortunately, these reels come with a price tag and the cheapest DC reels are just under $200. For budget-minded anglers, baitcasting reels with a simple magnetic braking system are easy to adjust and are a great option for new anglers.
Q: Can a beginner use a baitcaster?
Baitcasting reels are surprisingly easy to learn to use even for beginners. The best way to learn is to spool a reel with either 15lb or 20lb mono and practice casting a weight on the front lawn. Turning the braking system all the way up and setting the tension knob so the weight begins to slowly fall on free spool will prevent backlashes. As you get more comfortable casting, begin to back the brake off and start practicing casting longer distances until you are comfortable to go fishing.
Q: What is the best baitcaster for heavy lures?
Baitcasters for heavy lures are designed with larger spools and bigger internal gears to withstand the weight while casting. Reels such as the Shimano Tranx or the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast are great options. Both reels are made to throw heavy lures like musky baits while still maintaining a low profile like traditional baitcasters.
Learning to use a baitcaster can improve your fishing drastically. They are great for accurate and long casts and to throw a wide variety of lures. If you miss a fish and need to quickly recast, hit the release button and you’re good to go. The new baitcaster combos give everyone access to this style of fishing at a wide variety of price points. Look for combos that don’t sacrifice quality in the reel or the rod. There are plenty of options out there that pair high-quality rods and reels together for a discounted price than if you bought them separately. If you’ve never used one before, look for reels with magnetic braking systems to lessen the learning curve. No matter what you decide, it never hurts to see the combo in person to make sure you’ll be confident using it on the water.