The Setup – Ideal Rod/Reel/Line Combos For All Presentations

The Setup – Ideal Rod/Reel/Line Combos For All Presentations

The following article is sponsored by Mystery Tackle Box



A PGA golfer wouldn’t show up to the course and play a whole round with a nine iron, and you shouldn’t show up to the lake with one rod for all your presentations. Different lures require different rod/reel setups to be most effective, and having the wrong setup can dramatically affect both the number of bites you get – and how frequently you get them to the boat.


To help, we chatted with some of the top tour-level pros in the game, and put together The Mystery Tackle Box beginner’s guide for selecting the right rod, reel, and line for various presentations.


Lipless crankbaits

Lipless Crankbaits

Rod: Typical lipless cranking includes covering water on vast flats, submergent grass beds, and stump fields. For that reason, the ideal lipless crankbait rod should be long to maximize cast distance, and powerful enough to bury hooks at distance and get a big fish turned toward the boat. Look for a casting rod in the 7’2” to 7’6” inch range, with a medium-heavy or heavy power with a fast tip. 


Reel: Lipless cranking is all about the reaction strike, and you’ll typically be cranking them pretty quickly. For that reason you should save your arms some fatigue and choose a high-speed reel with a gear ratio between 7.1:1 and 8.5:1.


Line: In open areas or around sparse cover, most pros choose 15-17 pound co-polymer or fluorocarbon for their lipless cranking duties. Braided line can also be a good choice when ripping lipless cranks through thicker grass, although braid can cause more fish to shake the bait due to its lack of stretch.


Spinnerbaits (around cover)


Rod: Winding a spinnerbait around cover is as classic as it comes in bass fishing, and although you won’t find many anglers today using the short 5 foot long pistol grip rods that were so common in the 1980’s, the ideal spinnerbait rod for close quarters should still be shorter than many other techniques. Most top anglers opt for a medium or medium-heavy power rod between 6’ and 7’ long with a moderate fast taper.


Reel: The ideal reel for close quarter’s spinnerbait fishing is something in a moderate gear ratio, like 6.1:1 or 6.4:1. You want to be able to fish it efficiently, but still be able to slow it down to a crawl over stumps, logs, and laydowns.


Line: Because you’re fishing around cover like wood, docks, and vegetation, the ideal line for spinnerbaits around cover is heavy 17 to 22 pound monofilament, co-polymer, or fluorocarbon.


Swim Jigs

Swim Jigs

Rod: The hottest technique on both tours, swimming a jig has effectively changed the way many anglers catch shallow water bass. Because the most common jig swimming areas feature heavy vegetation or wood, it’s important to choose a rod up to the task. Opt for a 7’ to 7’6” medium-heavy to heavy power, fast action baitcasting rod. Choose a rod too light, and you’ll risk losing fish.


Reel: Swim jig experts usually use a heavy duty baitcaster in a moderate fast gear ratio – something between 6.1: and 7.1:1.


Line: Around heavy vegetation and wood, most anglers swim jigs on braided line in 40-65 pound test. In more open water or clear water scenarios though, it’s common to switch to heavy 17-20 pound fluorocarbon.


Vibrating Jigs

Vibrating jigs

Rod: Like a lipless crank or spinnerbait, the vibrating jig is an excellent presentation for covering water and searching for big bites. Not coincidentally, the same rods that work for lipless cranks will also perform well for vibrating jigs. Think something in the 7’2” to 7’6” range, with a medium-heavy to heavy power and a moderate-fast tip – you want to have a little flex to let the fish load up.


Reel: Unlike a lipless cranking reel, the best reel for vibrating jigs should have a lower gear ratio. They work best when worked slow enough to really vibrate, and as such look for a reel in the 6.1:1 – 7.1:1 range.


Line: Although they can be worked effectively on both braid and fluorocarbon, most top pros rely on fluorocarbon for vibrating jigs, typically between 15 and 20 pound test, depending on the amount of cover and the size of the fish being targeted.




Rod: One of the best cold-water baits around, jerkbaits have a deadly darting, erratic motion when twitched and paused. In order to accurately and precisely impart said action, the right jerkbait rod is a necessity. Because the rod is twitched down toward the water’s surface, most pros opt for a shorter jerkbait rod, something in the 6’ to 7’ range, with a medium power and a moderate-fast tip. As tempting as it is to use a super-fast tip because it’s so responsive on the jerk, remember that bass often slap at jerkbaits and get hooked in weird places. If you have too fast an action, you’ll lose many of these fish. For smaller jerkbaits, don’t be afraid to try a spinning model in the 6’6” to 7’ range, with a medium power and fast action.


Reel: For baitcasting tackle, much of the damage is done on the pause, so gear ratio isn’t as critical as it is with other techniques. Something in the mid-range (6.1:1 – 7.1:1) will work fine. Do pay attention to the drag though, as jerkbaits are commonly fished on light line, and the reel should have a smooth drag to accommodate hard running bass.


Line: Depending on the water, most top anglers choose line between 8 and 12 pound fluorocarbon for their jerkbait fishing. Lighter line will create a deeper dive and more erratic action, and heavier line will bring the bait up and dull the action.


Carolina Rigs

Carolina Rigs

Rod: Structure fishing involves making long casts across deep water points, humps, rock bars, shell beds, and anything else that may be hanging out on the bottom. The Carolina rig is one of the all-time best presentations for effectively combing said structure. Because Carolina rig bites often occur in deep water and at the end of long casts, it’s important to have enough length to bury the hook at distance, while keeping the sensitivity high enough to feel the line go “mushy” which is often all you get. For that reason, most pros use a medium heavy to heavy power, fast action rod between 7 foot 2 inches and 7 foot 8 inches for their C-rigging duties.


Reel: Carolina rigging is really just slow dragging, but because fish are often moving when you set the hook, it’s important to have a reel with enough speed to catch up to a bass that’s swimming toward the boat. For that reason, the Mystery Tackle Box team recommends a high-speed reel with a gear ratio between 7.1:1 and 8.5:1.


Line: Although some anglers use braided mainline and a fluorocarbon leader, most of the pros we talked to opt for a fluorocarbon mainline between 15 and 20 pound test for Carolina rigging, and a 2-4 foot leader of 12-15 pound fluorocarbon at the business end. Fluorocarbon offers lower stretch, and has the abrasion resistance to hold up when being drug over rocks and shells.


Square Bill Cranks

Square Bill Cranks

Rod: Square bills are one of the fastest growing segments of the hard bait industry. The reason for that is simple – they flat our catch fish. The ideal square bill rod will be short enough to cast around targets accurately, have a parabolic (slow) enough flex to keep big fish buttoned up, and strong enough to not let the fish control the fight. Look for a medium heavy to heavy power, moderate action baitcasting rod between 6 foot 6 inches and 7 foot.


Reel: The water conditions and season play a huge role in how you retrieve a square bill. In colder water, you often slowly work it around cover, whereas in the summer pros often burn them as fast as they can to trigger reaction strikes. To cover all the bases, use a reel with a mid-level gear ratio between 6:1 and 7:1.


Line: Because of the treble hooks, fluorocarbon and monofilament get the nod here. Go with something heavy enough to survive the beating a square bill will take as it’s worked through grass, stumps, or docks. 14-20 pound line is a good place to start.


Shakey Head

Shakey Head

Rod: What used to be called the “jigworm” is now called the shakey head and can be found in just about every serious bass chaser’s arsenal. Shakey heads normally require spinning tackle, and the ideal rod should be a medium power, fast action model between 6 foot 6 inches and 7 foot 2 inches long. Go shorter around close cover and docks and longer in deep open water.


Reel: A quality spinning reel in the 2500 or 3000 size will work fine, but ensure it has a good drag as this is generally a light line technique.


Line: With the shakey head, anglers can really pick their poison. This presentation can be effectively fished with straight mono or fluorocarbon – usually 8 or 10 pound test, or it can be fished with braid. When using braid, most pros opt for 15 to 20 pound test, with a 4 to 8 foot leader of light fluorocarbon.




Rod: The buzzbait has been around a while, and it’s just as effective now as it was back in its heyday. That may actually be an understatement, as there are so many other topwater options available these days, that many bass just haven’t seen a buzzbait in a while. For throwing a buzzbait, the ideal rod should provide the ability to make long casts and have the strength to wrestle a big one into the boat. For most uses, a medium-heavy power, fast action baitcasting rod in the 7 foot range. If you’re fishing a buzzbait around heavy cover, thick grass, or are in a place that produces exceptionally large fish – upsize to a heavy power model.


Reel: The ideal retrieve speed for a buzzbait is fast enough to keep it up on the surface, but slow enough that the bass get a good look at the bait. To save you some fatigue, it helps to use a reel with at least a 7.1:1 gear ratio.


Line: Buzzbaits are another category in which our pro respondents issued mixed returns. Those pros that are at home on open water lakes with clear water generally relied upon monofilament in 17-20 pound strength. Those at home on river systems and around grass opted for braid in the 40 – 65 pound range, so pick your poison.

Before you head out on the water, you’ll want to be sure you have the proper equipment. You’ll find the performance of your baits are usually in line with having the proper equipment. Not only will having the proper rod/reel/line combo increase the bite, but it will also help you to pull every bite back to the boat, into the net, and onto your Instagram. Heavy action for power presentations, and lighter action for finesse is a general rule of thumb, and one that should be followed as closely as possible. Follow these tips when setting up your rig before you wet a line, and you’ll see a dramatic increase in your success!

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