The Best Baitcaster Combos of 2018 – Top Rod & Reel For The Money

If you are an angler looking to up your fishing game, you need to take a serious look at upgrading to a baitcasting rig. While spinning reels are a great option for new anglers that are trying to learn the ropes, a baitcast combo will allow you to cast more accurately, wear the fish down faster, and have the option to use heavier line for those fish that like to fight.

Moving up to a baitcast combo can be difficult with all the options, manufacturers, and style options that flood the internet. To help guide you through the troubled waters, I’ve put together this guide to track down the best baitcaster combos currently available on the market. 

10 Best Baitcaster Combos - Comparisons

The 10 Best Baitcaster Combos

1. Lew's Fishing Laser MG Baitcast Combo

Precision, speed, and quality are the words I think of when looking at the Lew’s Laser MG combo. The reel is a quick and comfortable graphite-bodied marvel that even features a palm side plate that is easy to remove so you can access the spool for maintenance or applying a different line. The adjustable 15-pound drag system has a large star adjustment wheel right next to the handle that allows you to adjust on-the-fly to make sure you are getting the best drag for the fish you are reeling in.

The zero-reverse one-way clutch bearing has 8 stainless steel double-shielded ball bearings that are of the highest quality for consistent performance. For casting, the MG Laser has an adjustable magnetic brake system to help you make sure you get the best cast, while minimizing the chances of backlash.

The rod is a single-piece IM6 graphite with a great strength to weight ratio. The blank has stainless steel line guides that are tough and corrosion resistant. Rounding out the bottom is a split grip EVA foam handle that feels comfortable in the hands without sacrificing grip power. 

What we liked

  • Rod has good action and sensitivity
  • Great for crankbaits and swimbaits
  • Good for experienced spinners looking to transition
  • Performance on par with higher-end combos

What we didn't like

  • Takes some time to set up the rig

2. Abu Garcia Black Max Combo

Abu Garcia’s Black Max Combo pieces together a 7-foot, single-piece, medium heavy rod and a low-profile baitcast reel for a combination that will surely give you the advantage you need to wrestle in your catch.

The rod of the Black Max is made from lightweight graphite that allows it to have the strength and flexibility to fight the biggest fish, while still maintaining enough sensitivity to pick up the soft bites and keep them from stealing your bait.

The Black Max reel is a low-profile baitcast that complements the rod’s strength and sensitivity with a Power Drag system designed to put even the toughest fish through its paces. You are given the benefit of further, more accurate casting thanks to the MagTrax brake system that applies consistent pressure on your line. The retrieve is a 4+1 ball bearing and roller bearing configuration with a machined aluminum spool for a lightweight but strong performance.

What we liked

  • Great baitcast combo for beginners
  • Reliable and smooth reel
  • Good distance and consistent casting
  • Reel mounts close to rod for increased control

What we didn't like

  • Reel is much higher quality than rod
  • Retrieve occasionally sticks

3. Abu Garcia Silver Max Combo

The Silver Max combo is designed to give you the best opportunity to land the fish that has taken your lure. The reel has a 5+1 ball bearing and roller bearing setup that offers you consistent and smooth operation, and an almost seamless feel while reeling the fish in. The drag is controlled by Abu Garcia’s Power Disk System for a mirror smooth feel throughout the entire drag range.

The rod of the Silver Max combo is made from 24-ton graphite, which makes for a strong rod that is sensitive to vibration along its entire length. This also means that the Silver Max rod provides great action while maintaining a light and comfortable feel. The result is a rod you can feel confident using, and you won’t feel fatigue from handling the rod even after a full day of battling. 

What we liked

  • One-handed operation
  • Great for beginner baitcasters
  • Rod is lightweight yet strong
  • Reel provides good casting with minimal backlashing

What we didn't like

  • Reel handle may come loose with frequent use

4. Shakespeare Ugly Stik Elite Baitcast Combo

Shakespeare Ugly Stik Elite Baitcast Combo

Shakespeare’s Ugly Stik is one of those names in fishing that are synonymous with quality and angling success. The Elite series is made with more graphite than other Ugly Stik models to provide a strong rod body with lighter weight. The rod has single-piece stainless steel guides for long-lasting and reliable line performance. The tip of this baitcaster uses Shakespeare’s clear tip design to provide a strong yet sensitive tip that will allow you to pick up on the slightest of bites.

The reel is a pretty basic 2-ball bearing retrieve with a machined aluminum spool and has a one-way clutch with anti-reverse braking to help prevent backlash and bird nesting. The drag and braking are adjustable to match your style, bait, and skill level.

What we liked

  • Rod is strong, but still sensitive enough to detect light nibblers
  • Great combo for going after bass
  • Good option for transitioning between spinning and baitcast
  • Comfortable for long fishing days

What we didn't like

  • Pole is a little stiff
  • Cork grip can get slippery

5. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Baitcast Combo

Just because it is called the Ugly Stik it doesn’t mean it can’t be pretty. Shakespeare designed the GX2 Baitcast combo to represent the new generation of Ugly Stik combos. The new rods combine the reliability and performance of the Ugly Stik name with modern materials that make this rod and reel combo lighter, stronger, and better-balanced.

The GX2 reel is nothing too spectacular but it still has enough features to compliment the solid rod. The reel has a single bearing that offers smooth enough action for a comfortable cast and retrieve, and it even comes pre-spooled with a 12-pound line. The GX2 reel has a graphite frame, aluminum double handle paddle, and an adjustable magnetic braking system for precision casting.

What we liked

  • Butter zone stiffness
  • Responsive rod with great sensitivity
  • Good casting control
  • Easy rod to learn baitcasting

What we didn't like

  • Reel isn’t the best, you are really paying for the rod
  • Line guide favors the right side

6. Lew’s American Hero Baitcasting Rod and Reel Combo

With a name like “American Hero” you would expect to have a rod that can crash through a sea of the toughest enemies and come up with little more than some heavy breathing. In truth, the American Hero line of rods and reels is designed to give back to veterans that have served in the armed forces—a portion of the price of each rod sold goes to support veterans.

Lew’s American Hero baitcasting combo uses a graphite composite body that indeed makes it look and act a little like a superhero—the graphite has the flexibility needed to wear down the most stubborn of fish without breaking, while remaining sensitive enough to make sure the tentative bites of shy fish don’t slip your attention.

The American Hero reel is a 5-bearing setup that uses the same graphite composite material in the body to make sure your reel doesn’t add uncomfortable weight to the combo. The spool is made of anodized aluminum and has an adjustable drag and brake system to give you customized control over your cast and retrieve. 

What we liked

  • Can be used for fresh and salt water
  • Durable and reliable
  • Rod is extremely light and sensitive

What we didn't like

  • Lack of starter holes makes spooling a challenge

7. Berkley Big Game Baitcast Combo

Berkley’s Big Game baitcaster made it on our list with its 5.1:1 gear ratio that is right in the ideal zone for crankbait fishing. This reel may only have a single stainless-steel bearing, but it still has a smooth cast and retrieve that makes this budget reel feel less budget and more performance.

The rod is a medium power with a 6’6” length and a fiberglass blank that isn’t as flexible as some of the higher-priced graphite rods. This combo is definitely a solid choice for the occasional angler that doesn’t want to invest too much in learning how to use a baitcast combo.

What we liked

  • Strong rod is capable of handling big fish
  • Durable rod blank
  • Combo suitable for a wide variety of species
  • Comes pre-spooled 

What we didn't like

  • Not as flexible or sensitive as other rods

8. Berkley Lightning Rod LowPro CastCombo

Lightning is quick, powerful, and impressive, and the Berkley Lightning Rod combo meets this reputation with its tip held high. You can look at the Lightning rod as the upgrade from the Big Game rod in terms of flexibility and sensitivity—the rod blank is made from composite graphite that gives it a lighter feel that is great for long fishing days, and its flexibility and sensitivity give you the fighting edge to snag your trophy.

Using a 4 bearing + 1 roller bearing system gives you smooth control on both cast and retrieve, plus the included star drag control makes the fish work harder than you. The soft touch EVA foam reel handles rub your hand the right way as you smoothly reel in every cast, every time.

What we liked

  • Versatile rod for multiple species and waters
  • Strong, consistent casting
  • Good sensitivity and blank strength

What we didn't like

  • Line guides have wider spacing than similar rods
  • Reel seat wears quickly

9. Sougayilang Spinning Baitcasting Combo

While the name may be difficult to pronounce, the Sougayilang Baitcasting Combo delivers solid performance in a carbon fiber body. The medium light power and fast action of the Sougayilang are worth taking a look at and giving a cast into the water. The light feel helps to reduce the fatigue from battling fish with this rod on your next weekend trip.

The reel on the Sougayilang features a magnetic brake for controlled casting and 12 pounds of drag force to make the fish fight as you reel that slippery puppy in. The combo is available with either a 7:1 rotation ratio with a 9+1 bearing ratio for quick reeling, or you can get it with a 6.3:1 rotation ratio with a 10+1 bearings for a slower and more controlled retrieve.

What we liked

  • Smooth and controlled casting
  • Comes with an extra rod tip, in case you get excited and break one
  • Lightweight and strong rod

What we didn't like

  • Reel is not forgiving of bad casts and will tangle the line
  • Comes with two tips for a reason 

10. Zebco ATAC Baticast Combo

The Zebco ATAC makes its mark with a unique handle design that puts the reel seat up higher and has a molded grip that fits the shape of your fingers. Below that grip, the rod butt extends further than other rods to give you space and torque as you rest it against your hip—I can only imagine that this design is to help reduce fatigue in your arms. The rod is a medium action graphite rod that is ideal for picking up the sneaky nibblers and has the power and flexibility to reel in the tougher fighters.

The reel uses a 6.3:1 ratio that is good for using crankbaits and going after bass. The medium retrieval speed of the 6.3:1 ratio gives the hook enough pull to set without yanking it out of the fish’s mouth. You also benefit from the continuous anti-reverse and magnetic cast control that help keep the line from backlashing and becoming tangled.

What we liked

  • Good quality budget combo
  • Smooth 6.3:1 rotation ratio
  • Strong rod grip
  • Comes pre-spooled with a 12-pound line

What we didn't like

  • Not as reliable as higher-end rods

Combo Criteria 

When you are searching for a baitcasting combo either as a replacement or new adventure, here are a couple of things to look out for.

Gear Ratio 

The gear ratio tells you how many times the spool rotates with each turn of the handle—on this list, the rods were between 5.3-7 and 1, which is a medium to fast rotation for baitcast reels. 

It is important that you know your baits and game and match the gear ratio to your style of fishing and the catch you are after. In general, slower ratios are good for crankbaits, while faster ratios are better for spinner baits and fast-action lures.

Comfort 

The rod grips and reel handles have some of the biggest impact on your fishing—if your hands aren’t comfortable cranking the reel or gripping the rod, you may find yourself losing fish because your hands will tire and cramp up.

David Valle
 

I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable fishing experience. I deliver more than fishing gear guides, and motivate people to hit the water!

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