Browsing through the fishing gear section of any online store, or walking through the fishing aisle at a sporting goods store can be both exciting and intimidating. On the one hand, there are all these rods, reels, terminal tackle, different kinds of fishing line, fish finders, and accessories. Each one seems more interesting than the last. On the other hand, there are so many options that a beginner angler might find it hard to decide what to pick.
When checking out gear, one thing you may notice is that there are rods and reels that are sold separately, and ones that come in combos. So which should you choose? As you might expect, the answer is not that simple.
Can you pair any rod and reel together?
For starters, you can’t just pair any two random rods and reels and expect to be successful. There has to be a good balance between the two for the pair to be comfortable to hold, easy to cast, and help you catch the fish you want. Pick a bad pair and you can expect to have trouble detecting bites, reeling in, or spending time dealing with annoying tangles (a.k.a. backlash or bird’s nest). That’s why it’s essential for you to have a rod and reel that perfectly matches each other.
Combo or separate?
You have the option of choosing to buy a rod and reel separately, or as a combo that a manufacturer has put together.
If you’re just starting out, it’s best to go with a combo. This saves you the trouble of picking a rod and reel pair that feels balanced and comfortable to use. It’s also the more budget-friendly option. You’ll find a lot of pretty solid rod and reel combos for under $100, and while you can’t expect them to be top-of-the-line, they’ll certainly get the job done.
Here are a few ones available in the market, for example:
What kind of fishing do you want to do?
You also need to think about what kind of fishing you want to do. Are you looking for a combo that can be used for different kinds of fishing? Or do you want one that is made for saltwater fishing, freshwater fishing, baitcasting, fly fishing, drift fishing, surf fishing, trolling, or ice fishing? Some setups are marked with their intended use, which makes it less likely that you'll buy the wrong one.
When choosing a general purpose combo or one for freshwater or saltwater, one thing to keep in mind is that salt is tough on gear. Saltwater can literally eat away at the rod and reel, especially if it gets into the small spaces. Saltwater rods and reels are also made to be more durable and bigger, since saltwater fish are usually larger and more aggressive. Most of them have a special coating that keeps saltwater from making them rust. Some anglers would suggest to use a different rod and reel when fishing in freshwater and a different one when fishing in saltwater.
Can you use a saltwater rod and reel combo in freshwater, and vice versa?
But if you only have one general-purpose rod and reel, there's no reason you can't use it in both freshwater and saltwater. Just make sure to rinse it well if you use it in saltwater. If you don't get all the saltwater out, your gear won't last as long.
So, rod and reel sets are very convenient, useful, easy to use, and affordable. They are a good choice, especially for anglers who are just starting out. All you have to do is to wind the line and add the tackle of your choice. But there will come a time when you have your own preferences, like a certain rod length, gear ratio, weight, size, drag, components, composition, etc. When that happens, you know it’s time to consider buying rods and reels separately to match your needs. Until then, a rod and reel combo will be a good choice to get you started. Go get fishing!
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