By: Shaye Baker
Picking out the right fishing gear can be quite the daunting task these days. There are dozens upon dozens of rod companies out there now. On top of that, each rod company typically makes multiple rod series and then inside each series of rods there are often 10- or 12- different actions. So, you quite literally have thousands of options when it comes to picking out a rod.
When you mix in all the reel, line and bait choices you wind up with countless combinations. Literally countless. Even if you were stubborn enough to try to count them, by the time it would take you to get to the end, there would already be hundreds of other products that had come out. The bass fishing gear market is in a constant state of explosion and expansion.
Today, we’re going to simplify the rod search. Here are three versatile rods that you can use to fish 85% of the techniques out there at least adequately well.
7’ Medium Heavy Casting
This is the gold standard in versatility. You can fish nearly anything on a 7’ medium heavy casting rod. Granted, there are technique specific rods that would do a slightly better job with certain techniques, like cranking for instance. If I’m going to tie on a Strike King 10XD, for example, I’m not saying the 7’ medium heavy can handle that. But anything from a squarebill to a 17- foot diver you can make do pretty good with this rod.
There are things like punching thick mats that you’ll need to get a technique specific rod for, but the 7’ medium heavy will work for about half of the techniques you would employ. You can use it to fish all these baits and more adequately: shaky head, Texas rig, lipless crank, topwater, crankbait, ChatterBait, buzzbait, spinnerbait, wakebait, swimbait and scrounger.
To turn the most versatile rod into the most versatile combo, I like to go with the most versatile reel, a 7:1 gear ratio baitcaster. A reel in the 7:1 range is the perfect partner for a 7’ casting rod because it is equally as functional. You can slow your retriever a little or speed it up a little and get to where you need to be to get the right action out of dozens of baits. This combo also works really well with fluoro, braid and monofilament lines, adding to its vast capabilities. And when picking your lines for this setup, 12 to 15 pound test works well for the mono and fluoro and no more than 30- pound test for the braid.
7’ Heavy Casting
I was torn here between the 7’ heavy and the 7’ 3” medium heavy as my second recommendation. The 7’ heavy won out for one particular reason: power fishing. Having a slightly stiffer rod over a slightly longer rod fills in the gaps for a lot more techniques.
For instance, the 7’ heavy action rod makes a nice frog rod. And it’s great for light flipping around sparse and open cover. It gives you a little more backbone for offshore fishing with a big jig or Texas rig worm. It’s also a great rod for a swim jig if you’re working it around some pretty thick cover. It’s not as versatile as a 7’ medium heavy, but it does a great job of picking up the baton and covering a specific segment where the 7’ medium heavy would just simply be insufficient.
I like to again stay in the 7:1 ratio with this rod to keep it as versatile as possible. But if I were going to have a different reel paired with it just to give my overall arsenal a little more versatility, I’d speed it up some to an 8:1 gear ratio reel. These are pretty sweet for flipping and frogging. And as for line, you’re good to hang around the 15- to 20- pound range with fluoro, using 17- pound test most of the time. And I feel pretty comfortable with 40- to 50- pound braid with this rod.
6’ 9” Medium Spinning Rod
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned I’d cover three rods that could handle about 85% of your fishing needs. The 7’ medium heavy caught the bulk of the workload at 50%. Then I’d say the 7’ heavy splits the other 35% down the middle with a 6’ 9” medium action spinning rod with each taking on roughly 17.5% of the overall workload.
A 6’ 9” medium action spinning rod serves as an adequate tool for dozens of finesse techniques, but you can fish two of the most important ones really well with it— a dropshot and a Ned rig. It’s this rod’s efficiency with these two techniques that kept me from recommending a slightly longer or stiffer spinning rod that would be better suited for other bass fishing techniques.
If I’m going to put a spinning rod in my group of only three rods, it’s got to be one that handle a dropshot and Ned rig well. Simply because those are two of the most effective and versatile finesse techniques out there right now. But you can also adequately fish spybaits, small hair jigs, spoons, Damiki rigs, Neko rigs, wacky rigs and more with this rod as well. I typically have a 15- pound braided mainline tied to something in the 6- to 12- pound range for my fluoro leader rigged up on a 2500 size reel to make this setup be as versatile as possible.
Having these three rod combos handy, you’ll be well equipped for the majority of what’s out there.