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The Best Fishing Rods for Inshore Angling

The catch of the day isn't far off with these capable, well-engineered spinning rods.

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Imagine, just for a moment, that you're standing on the edge of a quiet and serene lake. It's the early morning; there's no one else around, and for a brief moment in time, it's just you, the trees, the water and the silently swimming fish. If you've come prepared with the right supplies, there's no better time to cast a line and fish for a while.

Fishing is one of the many outdoor pursuits that walks the line between hobby and sport, but whatever your intent, at its core fishing is still a communion with the natural world and a chance to return to a sense of connection and purpose. If you're at all curious about the endeavor, one of the first tasks you'll want to tackle is finding the right rod. In this guide, I'll focus on freshwater spinning rods: as a beginning or intermediate angler, you may not yet have access to chartering an off-shore boat or casting into the deep seas, but almost everyone can find a nearby lake and take a spin at the sport, so freshwater spinning rods will be your best bet if you're just starting out.

What is a spinning rod? Are there different types?

A spinning rod is typically thought of as the most popular type of fishing rod, and are beginner-friendly thanks to its ability to cast long lines with light lures, its affordability and its ease of set-up and use.

What factors should you consider when buying a fishing rod?

Length, action and price are the primary factors to consider when purchasing your fishing rod. Spinning rods come in three popular materials: graphite, glass and composite. Although there are many available lengths, a 7-foot pole is generally considered a good middle-ground option for most freshwater fishing. Action describes how much of the rod will bend when you put pressure on the tip — aka, when you hook a fish. For most beginners, a medium or medium-heavy fast action is recommended: medium or medium-heavy rods will bend in the top half of the rod, and provide more casting distance and decent hooksetting power.

If you're just getting into angling, it may be a benefit to look into warranties on your rods: your equipment will inevitably get banged up, and it's worth having a protection plan in place, just in case.

How to care for a spinning rod and reel

This guide focuses on freshwater rods, but I would like to quickly make a note regarding saltwater fishing: if you do take up the hobby, know that nothing is worse for rods and reels than having salt water on them. Always rinse yours off after a day on the water — you can even take them into the shower with you if need be.

In regards to freshwater rods, there are a few key rules for rod maintenance and care: don’t stick them in the sand or on the ground, and don’t trap them in any doors. When cleaning your rod, first set the drag tight. Next, mist or spray the rod with a light amount of water. Wipe the rod down with a soapy cloth or sponge, and rinse it again with water. Finally, shake off any excess water and allow the rod to air dry. When you're ready to store the rod, loosen the drag. This prevents moisture build-up and preserves the material.

How to store your rod

Rods may be able to handle extreme forces during angling, but they are fragile instruments and should be treated with care. Most rods come with a coating that protects them from damage — if you scratch them, the whole rod is compromised.

Store your rod vertically off the ground, preferably inside. The line will break down faster than anything else, so keeping it, and the rest of your rod and reel, protected from the elements should be your number one priority. Rod socks for transportation and storage will also help keep dirt and grime at bay. If you've got the space, I recommend installing a rack or mount hangers to keep rods securely fixed to the wall. Store your rod away from extreme heat or moisture, and if you're hanging it up for the season, make sure to loosen the drag: it helps avoid snapped lines.

Abu Garcia Vendetta Spinning Rod

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Best Overall Rod
Abu Garcia Vendetta Spinning Rod
$89.95

  • Lightweight and flexible

  • Not as light as some of the more premium rods

If you’re looking for a quality-driven, dependable rod that straddles the line between affordability and premium construction, look no further than Abu Garcia’s Vendetta Spinning Rod. Constructed with a blend of 30-ton graphite paired with Intracarbon multidirectional carbon fiber, the Vendetta was built to withstand heavy loads, while maintaining a light base weight.

The Vendetta’s carbon fiber reel seat and stainless steel guides with Zirconium inserts round out the durably-made, long-lasting rod; available in multiple lengths, powers, actions and line ratings, the Vendetta will work for the intermediate and advanced angler, while also appealing to beginners inspired by quality and performance.

  • Materials: Graphite and carbon fiber rod, EVA handles, stainless steel guides
  • Weight: 0.66 pounds
  • Available lengths: 6’3” - 7’4”

    Daiwa Steez AGS Bass Rod

    BEST SPLURGE SPINNING ROD
    Daiwa Steez AGS Bass Rod
    $553.91

    • Handling and balance are superior to every other rod on the list

    • Price is prohibitive for beginners or casual anglers

    Bass fishers, take note of Daiwa’s spinning rod: Yes, it’s pricey, with a starting price of $550, but the hefty price tag is well worth it right off the bat: the Steez AGS Bass Rod weighs 40 percent less than traditional guides, thanks to its solid carbon fiber frame, imbued with Daiwa’s Nanoplus technology, which assures an even distribution of resin and carbon throughout the blank. This results in a high-performance combination of power and sensitivity from every angle. The Steez AGS Bass Rod also has a carbon fiber reel seat that’s high in both strength and sensitivity, and low in weight.

    The Steez AGS Bass Rod is available in three spinning models (and 10 casting models) to cover a wide range of applications. Each rod comes equipped with the brand’s fully adjustable Daiwa Hook Keeper and a protective rod sock, so you can feel confident in protecting your rod on the go.

    • Materials: Carbon fiber rod; cork split-grip handles
    • Weight: 3.7 ounces
    • Available lengths: 7’1” - 7’6”

      Cadence Essence Spinning Rod

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      Best Budget Rod
      Cadence Essence Spinning Rod
      $48.99

      • Great action and price for beginning anglers

      • Lacks the bells and whistles of more premium rods

      The Essence Fishing Rod is lightweight and sensitive — the 24-ton carbon rod features stainless-steel guides and SIC inserts which provide reliable casting performance and long-term durability.

      Cadence’s popular spinning rod comes in a variety of lengths and actions, and at less than $60, will appeal to a wide variety of anglers, most notably beginners looking for options that will perform well on water and have a light impact on their wallet. Reviews of the Cadence Essence overwhelmingly mention the comfort of the rod in hand, as well as the protective quality of the packaging.

      • Materials: 24-ton graphite, stainless steel inserts, cork and EVA handles
      • Weight: 1.69 pounds
      • Available Lengths: 5’6” - 7”

        Ugly Stik Carbon Inshore

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        BEST FOR FRESH AND SALTWATER FISHING
        Ugly Stik Carbon Inshore
        amazon.com
        $169.99

        • Easy to clean and care for
        • Lightweight and ergonomic

        • Pricey

        If you're at all familiar with fishing, you'll know the name Ugly Stik: the brand is known for reliable, well-functioning rods that work in a variety of angling environments. If you're planning on fishing inshore (any fishing that takes place in waters roughly 30 meters deep or less) this rod can handle whatever you throw its way.

        Ugly Stik made a few notable upgrades to this rod, most noticeably in its weight: the new Carbon Inshore is 30 percent lighter than its predecessor and uses 100 percent 24-ton graphite for a lightweight and well-balanced feel. The moment I took the Carbon Inshore out of its box, I was struck by its minimal weight and aesthetic. The cork grip is comfortable for long and short durations, and I feel comfortable using the rod knowing there's an included 7-year warranty. If you're in the market for a do-it-all rod that houses advanced tech in an approachable package and price point, this option from Ugly Stik is for you.

        • Materials: 24-ton graphite, stainless steel guides, cork handle
        • Weight: 10 ounces
        • Available lengths: 6'6" - 7'

          St Croix Victory Spinning Rod

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          BEST AMERICAN-MADE ROD
          St Croix Victory Spinning Rod
          $200.00
          $168.00 (16% off)

          • Product and customer service are top-notch

          • New handle is on the short side for some anglers

          St. Croix is known for making luxe fishing rods in its Park Falls, Wisconsin factory (although it should be mentioned that the brand has expanded to an additional factory in Fresnillo, Mexico), and the brand has built a loyal fan base on its premise of delivering hand-crafted, quality rods that don't break the bank.

          The Victory Spinning Rod line is one of the brand's most popular, with 25 models to choose from, each backed by an included, transferrable 15-year warranty. The Victory 7'1", Medium Heavy, Fast model retails at just under two hundred bucks and features a hybrid carbon fiber SCIII+ blank matched with St. Croix's Fortified Resin System (FRS) technology, which cuts weight and adds strength. The rod is highly sensitive, and the split-grip handles are comfortable without adding additional bulk. The Flex-Coat slow cure finish on the guides and single coat slow cure sealer on the blank protect and maintain your rod.

          • Materials: Carbon fiber, fortified resin, cork grip
          • Weight: 3.8 ounces
          • Available lengths: 6'8" - 7'10"

            Fenwick Elite Bass Spinning Rod

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            Best Splurge Bass Rod
            Fenwick Elite Bass Spinning Rod
            $169.95

            • High strength-to-weight ratio

            • May be too niche for some beginners

            Bass, by any estimation, are the most sought-after freshwater fish in North America. If you're going to compete with thousands of other anglers out there for the most popular fish in the country, you'll need a rod you can count on.

            Fenwick's Elite Bass Rod Series uses a blend of carbon fiber and resin in the blank to produce an unmatched strength-to-weight ratio and combines it with ergonomic reel seats and cork for a lightweight and comfortable angling experience. The titanium guides and zirconium inserts mix durability and decreased weight, and the rod comes in a variety of lengths and actions.

            • Materials: Graphite, carbon fiber, titanium, cork
            • Weight: 5 ounces
            • Available Lengths: 6'9" - 7'
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