Selecting Rods and Reels
By Bill Wilcox
There are several tools for a tournament angler to use to help take top honors at the final weigh-in. The "backbone" that's in our arsenal is the rod and reel. There are countless combinations at our disposal. Rod and reel companies are continuously flooding us with new and better products. Gone are the days when one combo would work for everything. While it would be nice to have 20 different combos to choose from, you can actually get by with six basic sets that will let you make the proper presentation you need to make.
Tournament anglers will likely be better off purchasing five or six quality rigs rather than using the same amount of money to buy 12 rigs. Not all rods and reels are created equal. The saying, "You get what you pay for." applies to these combos as well. You don't need to go broke buying equipment to do well. I won't name brands, but in reels a good quality one will cost between $120 to $150. I've tried the cheaper route before and believe me, it's not worth it. When it comes to rods there seems to be an unlimitless amount of choices. The best rule of thumb here is you're not going to find the quality you need in a discount store. The best rods will be found in top-notch tackle stores that carry a wider variety of quality merchandise. Even a high quality rod costs just so much to build and you won't find one for less than $75.00, but it also doesn't have to cost $400 either. It's been my experience that you can purchase a top quality rod for $100 to $150 dollars. And it just makes sense to purchase something that will do the job better and last longer than to go with cheap ones that won't do either very well.
The first combo you need is a worm rod. You have a lot of choices here. With worm fishing, a rod with excellent sensitivity is very important. The most important characteristics are a fairly soft tip for casting accuracy and a stiff backbone for hook setting. Another feature you also should look for is trigger-style handle. Get at least a 6-foot 8-inch, or even 7-footer. This rod combo can also be used for Carolina rigging.
The next combo you should have laying on your front deck is a spinnerbait rod. Here you want a rod six feet long, trigger-style but with a shorter handle than your worm rod. You also want a soft tip for maximum accuracy. This rig usually requires pinpoint casting to specific targets and shorter casts. This rod can also double for topwater lures, soft jerkbaits, Spooks, and buzzbaits. Use a high speed 6.1 gear ratio reel.
Your number three rod and reel combo should be a spinning rod. You'll need this for finesse fishing and light-line situations. You should use a 6-foot medium action graphite rod. This one is for drop-shot rigs, casting grubs, or any skipping situation you run into.
Your choice for combos number four and five will be crankbait rods. This is one area where I feel you'll definitely need more than one. Both rods should be made of fiberglass. One should be 6-foot, 8 inches long, and the other should be a 7-footer. You won't find many pros that will opt for graphite over fiberglass in a cranking rod. I definitely feel that you'll lose less bass with glass rather than the graphite. Everyone knows that especially in the spring, a lipless crankbait is hard to beat and with a 7-foot rod and a high speed reel you'll have the perfect combo. With the 6- foot 8-inch rod I'll use a 3.8:1 reel. What this does is allow you to work deep-diving crankbaits correctly. The lower ratio gears will allow your cranks to reach the desired depth easier. You'll also want relatively long handles on your rods so that you can make long casts.
Your sixth, and final, combo should be a flipping rig. You could use your worm rod to double for this. But given the big-fish potential that the flipping technique gives you a 7-foot, 6-inch heavy action is what you need to go with. Here your reel choice will be one of personal preference. I don't want a reel with a flipping switch, but that is personal choice. I've taught myself over the years to flip left handed so my hand is on my reel.
If you will use these guidelines for rod and reel combinations, it won't cost you thousands of dollars but instead just hundreds. Too many anglers use mismatched sets that are not suited for their intended purpose.
I hope this helps get you to the winner's circle.
Good luck and God Bless.
Bill Wilcox is sponsored by Ranger Boats, Yamaha Outboards, MCMC, BG Products, Pro Rule, Johnson Fiberglass, Brown's Automotive, Continental Batteries, Kistler Rods, Swamp Hog Lures, Strike King Lures, and Fun-n-Sun Sports Center.