7 Best Baitcaster Combos in 2020 – Compared & Reviewed

Every fisherman worth their salt knows that the choice of rod and reel largely determine the overall fishing experience. A bad rod/reel combo can ruin even the most perfectly planned fishing trip and make it hard to land even the simplest catches. If you are an angler looking to take your fishing game to the next level, then you need to take a serious look at some best baitcaster combos. While spinning combos are usually the go-to options for newbie fishers, baitcasting rigs are a bit more advanced and require some more finesse.

Baitcasting rigs, as the name implies, are great for effortless casting and are a bit heftier than spinning reels, which opens up the option for thicker lines and larger catches. Baitcasting rigs can help you wear down those bigger fish with less effort.

There are a lot of best baitcasting combos out there which can make the decision difficult. That is why we put together this list of the top 7 best baitcaster combos for your viewing pleasure. These rigs have been chosen and ranked based on their overall quality, casting performance, and overall durability and strength.

Best Baitcaster Combo – Comparison

PictureProduct NameGear RatioFeaturesPrice
Abu Garcia Black Max6:4.1Medium HeavyCheck Latest Price
Shakespeare Ugly Stik6.2:1Medium HeavyCheck Latest Price
Sougayilang Baitcasting  7.0:13 x fishing luresCheck Latest Price
KastKing Cadet6.3:1Medium ActionCheck Latest Price
Lew American HeroAluminum bowed handleCheck Latest Price
Ugly Stik GX25.2:16’6 inch RodCheck Latest Price
Tailored Tackle 6.3:1Heavy Fast ActionCheck Latest Price

 

7 Best Baitcaster Combos for Casting Like a Pro

1. Abu Garcia Black Max Baitcasting Combo

    First up is the Abu Garcia Black Max Baitcasting Combo. The Black Max is designed with the Abu Garcia leading engineering and is compact and lightweight. The rod is made from a graphite composite rod and a graphite reel seat and reel cover. The Black Max is a bit on the longer side at over 6’6” so it has fast action and great sensitivity. Graphite is very durable and flexible too.

    The reel has a 1-piece frame and a 4+1 ball bearing construction. Baitcasting reels are usually a bit thicker and stout than other kinds of reels and this is true here too. The 1-piece design is a nice touch as fewer moving parts means that there are fewer chances for something to break.

    The Black Max also has Abu Gardica’s trademark power disk drag system that reduces drag weight and ensures smooth drag performance. The ceramic plates are very smooth and don’t suffer from grooving like a lot of drag mechanisms do. It has a Magtrax brake system and a matched aluminum spool.

    As far as performance goes, the Black Max casts like a rocket and has virtually 0 backlashes. You can set the manual break to open for casting then switch it back with a flick of your thumb when you need to reel. The grips are comfy and tactile, even when your hands get wet.

    Overall, the Black Max is a good baitcasting reel to keep in your arsenal, it is simple enough that a beginner can learn on it but it also has some nice features that more experienced fisher will like. It’s not too finicky when setting the lure and the external brakes are responsive and allow for quick adjustments, great for when you need quick reaction times.

    Lastly, this bait caster rod/reel combo is very affordable. It performs like a $100+ rod but costs a fraction of that price. The only downside that we could find is that the gears are prone to loud clicking when turning the handle. The handle on the reels is also somewhat small and might be hard to grip if you have larger hands.

    What We Like:

    • Sturdy graphite rod and reel case
    • Magtrax breaking system
    • Heavy-duty reel is tough
    • Minimal catching and backlash
    • Power disks system reduces drag weight and gives smooth drag
    • Machined aluminum spool

    What We Didn’t Like:

    • A bit bulky reel
    • Rod is not amazing quality
    • Gears make loud clicking when turning handle

    2. Shakespeare Ugly Stik Elite Baitcasting Combo

      Shakespear is back at it again with the Ugly Stik, this time in one of the best baitcaster combo models. The new Ugly Stik Elite Baitcaster Combo is Shakespeare’s take on a baitcasting rig. The new Ugly Stik also comes in a spinning reel model that we have covered elsewhere, so we are going to focus on the baitcasting model here.

      First things first, the Ugly Stik is made from a durable yet lightweight fiberglass/graphite combo. The new Ugly Stik design upped the graphite ratio to 35% so it’s now lighter than ever while still retaining its characteristic durability. The Ugly Stik features stainless steel guides with corrosion-resistant ring inserts and a high-quality cork handle. Cork makes a great material for baitcasting rod handles as it does not dampen vibrations as much as something like EVA.

      The Ugly Stick baitcasting combo reel has a 2+1 ball bearing system, not amazing but not exactly bad either. The reel does have Shakespeare’s signature anti-reverse ball bearings so lines don’t get tangled when you cast. The drag system is rated at 12 lbs which is a bit low for a baitcasting reel but is still in the functional territory. To be completely honest, the included reel is nothing special, but it works well enough and is reasonable given the price of the set.

      The Ugly Stik also has Shakespear’s Ugly Stik Clear Tip which allows for high sensitivity and response. Unfortunately, the tips of the Ugly Stik have a bad tendency to snap and there are some noticeable quality control issues with the manufacturer.

      Despite these negatives, the Ugly Stik Elite Baitcasting combo is a perfectly competent baitcasting combo that will perform well and won’t burn a big hole in your wallet. It has good construction, is versatile, and is easy to set up and use. The line also comes pre-rolled on the spool which is great if you want to take it out the box and immediately start fishing.

      What We Like:

      • Affordable rod/reel combo
      • Competent performance
      • Highly durable and fiberglass rod
      • Ugly Stik clear tip is very sensitive
      • Durable cork handle
      • Anti-reverse switch

      What We Didn’t Like:

      • The reel is nothing special
      • Tip has tendency to snap
      • Low drag weight for a baitcasting rod

      3. Sougayilang Baitcasting Combo Fishing Kit

        What is better than a fishing rod/reel combo? How about a rod/reel combo that also comes with everything else you need to get started fishing? The Sougayilang Baitcasting Combo Fishing Kit comes not only with a competent rod and reel but also a full set of lures, tackle, hooks, and convenient carrying case.

        Let’s start with the rod. The included fishing rod comes in 11 different lengths ranging from 5’9” to 7’9”. That’s quite a range of lengths so make sure you are getting something that is comfortable to use with your height. The rod itself is made from high-strength graphite and features a sturdy graphite reel seat. Cast aluminum guides keep the line straight and prevent any tangles when casting.

        The reel has a 7.0:1 gear ratio and is reinforced with CNC machined brass gears. These gears are not molded but precision cut from one piece so they fit and work together more faithfully. The baitcasting reel has a strong drag system and impressive durability. This newest model has a variable line capacity and can handle up to 180m of 0.235mm line. It is a medium action rod and reel and is suited for catching mid-size fish like bass, trout and salmon, and fishing in freshwater or saltwater.

        The Sougayilang combo is also designed with portability in mind. It has a telescopic design and collapses in on itself for storage and transportation. When collapsed, it measures just over 16” long so it can fit in your backpack or in the backseat of your car.

        Lastly, the Sougayilang combo comes with a heavy-duty nylon carrying case and a full set of tackle, lures, and hooks to get you started. The included lure and hook kit is nothing amazing in itself but it’s a great addition to an already good product.

        Overall, this fishing kit comes with a solid baitcasting rig and some extra goodies to spice up the deal. It’s probably not professional quality, but it’s a decent travel rod to keep on you for impromptu fishing trips.

        What We Like:

        • Comes with carrying case and tackle set
        • Telescopic design
        • Cork handle is durable and tough
        • Precision cut gears
        • High gear ratio
        • Ceramic guide inserts
        • State of the art magnetic brake system

        What We Didn’t Like:

        • Quality control issues
        • Gears make a cranking sound
        • The reel can cause backlash

        4. KastKing Cadet Baitcasting Combo

          Sitting at 4th is this baitcasting combo from KastKing. The Cadet is their take on a budget baitcasting combo and has some great features that make it an excellent entry-level rod. In short, this rod and reel combo is geared towards the casual fisher and has high durability, and easy to use the reel, and a comfy split handle design.

          The rod is made from a high-impact carbon fiber/graphite composite material with a durable graphite reel seat. The KastKing features stainless steel O-ring guides and comes in 2 lengths, 6”6’ medium power and 7’0” medium power with fast action.

          The included reel has a 5+1 ball bearing construction with a dedicated roller bearing and a 7-magnet braking system. The magnet braking system allows for easy casting and reduced friction. It has a relatively high gear ratio of 6.1:1 which is a decent ratio for reeling in those larger catches. Fortunately, the gears on the stock reel seem to be good quality and don’t make a grinding sound, a common problem with a lot of budget baitcasting reels.

          In terms of performance, the KastKing has smooth operation and makes casting easy. The gear system works smoothly and casting seems to not cause any backlashes. The magnetic braking system is pretty decent, but it’s not as good as some other magnet-designed brakes out there. The reel is a good deal lighter than you would expect from just looking at it but it still feels solid and not flimsy.

          We also liked the split handle though the bottom handle is a bit small. The split handle is a great idea in theory as it reduces the total weight of the handle but it needs to be done correctly. It also has a Saf-T keeper hook but we would have appreciated a simple ring hook better.

          Overall, the Cadet baitcasting combo rod from KastKing is a competent baitcasting rod that is good to learn on. It has a good mixture of ease of use, durability, and simplicity that make it a great entry-level rod.

          What We Like:

          • Very light and durable
          • Great entry-level rod
          • Carbon fiber/graphite construction
          • Decent casting action
          • Good balance and sturdy nylon reel seat
          • Ceramic line guides
          • Graphite reel frame

          What We Didn’t Like:

          • Not incredibly high quality
          • Some quality control issues
          • Hook holder would be better if it were a ring
          • Rubber handle knobs on reel are small

          5. Lew American Hero Baitcasting Combo

            Sitting at fifth is the Lew American Hero Baitcasting Combo. This best baitcaster combo is a powerful addition to a fisherman’s arsenal and is a high-quality purchase. The Lews American rod is made from a one-piece composite graphite material with graphite side plates. This graphite construction gives it a durable body with the right amount of flex for medium power fishing.

            The Lews American features stainless steel guidelines with zirconia ring inserts and a removable palming side plate. We especially appreciate how tough this rod is. You’d be hard-pressed to find something it can’t handle.

            The included baitcasting reel is made from anodized aluminum and features a cast aluminum spool. The reel has a sturdy brass main gear and crankshaft. The spool also features a tension-adjustment knob so you can adjust the rate of the free reel when casting.

            The reel also has a 5+1 bearing system with dedicated roller bearing and a dedicated reverse bearing. A magnetic control system allows you to adjust the level of drag and offers up to 10 lbs of power. The entire set is very affordable so you can purchase it without burning a huge hole in your wallet.

            In terms of performance, the Lews American performs exceedingly well. While still in the budget range, it’s on the higher end of the price spectrum. With that extra price comes higher quality and performance. Casts are effortless and the anti-reverse bearing prevents tangling when casting and reeling.

            The gears of the reel are quiet and don’t produce any clicking sound and they are precisely fit so there are no backlashes. The reel weighs just over 7 oz. so it’s not the lightest reel out there, but it is sturdy and the graphite frame won’t bend under pressure.

            The Lews American comes in two sizes: a medium and a medium-heavy rod. The medium-heavy rod has very sensitive action and is perfect for reeling in those larger specimens. In total, there are 9 guides which is a bit more than the average number.

            Lastly is the handle. The Lews American features a durable EVA handle in a split grip style. The grip is tactile and does not get slippery when wet. Overall, the Lews American is a good mid-tier baitcasting rod that will last you for years.

            What We Like:

            • Excellent construction
            • Fast action and lightweight
            • Very powerful reel
            • Study brass gear and crankshaft
            • Minimal noise
            • Smooth cranking

            What We Didn’t Like:

            • Wire hook keeper is funky
            • Reel seat is pretty high

            6. Ugly Stik GX2 Baitcasting Combo

              Up next on our list is another one from Shakespeare, this one the Ugly Stik GX2. The Ugly Stik GX2 is a wonderful little baitcasting combo that has the trademark Ugly Stik build and durability. Like the Elite, the GX2 is made from a durable composite of graphite and fiberglass at the optimal ratio for strength and flexibility. The Ugly Stik clear tip allows for very high sensitivity so you can feel every strike with minimal effort.

              The Ugly Stik GX2 also features stainless steel guides with ceramic inserts. Ceramic is always our go-to material for inserts because it is smooth, durable, and won’t deform from pressure or heat. Some other common guide materials like aluminum oxide suffer from these problems.

              The included baitcasting reel is made from solid graphite and has a simple 1-piece design. We like one-piece constructions as they minimize the possibility of mechanical failure. It features a 2+1 ball bearing construction and is pre-loaded with a 12 lbs line. Double padded handles made from aluminum with rubberized tips are comfy to grasp and tactile so they won’t slip when wet.

              One thing we love about the Ugly Stik is how tough it is. Shakespeare really nailed it with the new graphite/fiberglass ratio and the rod is light, flexible, and extremely strong. The reel is made from the same high-quality graphite and is similarly durable. It will not bend under pressure which is good when trying to land large fish.

              Once again though, the Ugly Stik is not perfect. While the clear tip is very effective and sensitive, it is not incredibly durable and many users report it snapping under pressure. The included reel is decent enough but at the end of the day it’s nothing special. The handles are large enough to comfortably grasp and the reel action is smooth enough, though the low bearing count is apparent after using it for a few hours.

              Overall, the Ugly Stik GX2 is not a rod you would find in a professional lineup but its an extremely suitable for learning and makes a good backup baitcaster.

              What We Like:

              • Extremely durable and flexible
              • New graphite frame is more lightweight
              • Solid graphite reel
              • Come pre-rolled with line
              • Clear tip is sensitive and responsive
              • Great for learning how to baitcast

              What We Didn’t Like:

              • Tip can snap under pressure
              • Handle is a bit short
              • Only two guides

              7. Tailored Tackle Baitcasting Combo

                Last on our list but not least is this best baitcaster combo from Tailored Tackle. A solid mid-line baitcasting rod, this combo package comes with that added bonus of a baitcasting guide with tips and tricks to refine your casting technique. This combo rod/reel is designed specifically for bass fishing but serves equally well for most mid-species fish.

                Since it is designed for bass, it’s a bit longer than a standard baitcasting rod, sitting at just over 7’0” long. It has a medium-heavy action which means high sensitivity and relatively low flex. This heavy rod has good response and transmits ever strike cleanly and accurately. It’s made from a graphite composite and features stainless steel guides and inserts.

                The reel on the Tailored Tackle has a 6.3:1 gear ratio and a 7+1 ball bearing system. The bearing system is smooth and reflexive, providing a relatively fast retrieve and little to no backlash. The spool is designed with a simple pop off mechanism which makes it easy to re-spool, a nice feature for a baitcasting reel. Unfortunately, this design choice lends itself to some tangles and rats’ nests. You win some, you lose some.

                The reel also has a magnetic braking system. Magnetic braking systems are relatively standard in baitcasting reels so it’s not particularly surprising, but this reel has a max drag weight of 17.5 lbs, great for a medium-heavy rod.

                Overall, it’s a nice baitcaster that fits a niche for bass. The overarching design is solid and it’s made with some sturdy materials. The pop-off spool is a unique design choice despite its flaws and the reel has some serious cranking power with its high gear ratio. Moreover, it’s reasonably priced and has a great cost/value ratio.

                What We Like:

                • Simple and effective
                • Medium-heavy action perfect for baitcasting
                • 7+1 bearing system is smooth with no backlash
                • Pop-off spool
                • Powerful cranking action
                • High max drag weight
                • Comes with baitcasting guide book

                What We Didn’t Like:

                • Heavy
                • Handle is too long
                • Spool is prone to tangling

                Conclusions

                Baitcasting rods are a nice change of pace from the more common spinning rod. The extra power and smoother casting action lend themselves well to medium-species fishing in freshwater or saltwater. If you have never tried one before, or are looking for an upgrade from a spinning reel, then a solid baitcasting combo can be a wise investment on your part.

                Derek S. Webb
                 

                Derek Webb is a family man, outdoor enthusiast, and Editor-In-Chief at Outdoor On! He is a regular columnist in big media publication - writing from fishing to camping to various outdoor stuff.