3 Best Baitcaster Rod and Reel Combos For Kayak Fishing

Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts. Today we are going to take a look at my 3 best baitcaster rod and reel combos for kayak fishing in 2021. Having been as ‘egg beater’ man my whole life, I have never really spent a lot of time fishing with these reel types however as one of my buddies has recently added one to his kayak fishing repertoire, it is about time I started to investigate them a little more.

You see when we go kayak fishing we often chase a larger species called a Mangrove Jack. These are a hard fighting fish that, as the name suggests, live amongst the mangroves found within our local waterway. John bought a baitcaster reel for this purpose as they are able to be cast more accurately and can handle heavier line specs – both of which are needed when chasing these fish.

Now, as he didn’t have one of these reel types already, it also meant that he needed a new rod as well (they are not interchangeable) hence I have started here by looking at baitcaster rod and reel combo options rather than individual pieces – although I will cover these in future posts I am sure.

So, let’s see if the below can get you started on the right track in terms of a good baitcaster rod and reel combo for the kayak…

My 3 recommended baitcaster rod and reel combos for kayak fishing

I will review these in more detail below but if you just want to get moving without all the carry on, my 3 are listed here for your convenience:

 Rod and Reel ComboPriceGet it
baitcaster rod and reel combo kayak - option 1Sougayilang Baitcasting Fishing Rod with Reel Combo$CURRENT PRICE
baitcaster rod and reel combo kayak - option 2KastKing Crixus Fishing Rod and Reel Combo$$CURRENT PRICE
baitcaster rod and reel combo kayak - option 3Lew’s Mach Crush SLP Baitcast Combo$$$CURRENT PRICE

What should you be looking for?

One of the things I love about fishing is that everyone has an opinion and what works for some will not work for others. John loves his baitcaster setup and says he will never go back (to a spinning reel). And on the other side of the baitcaster vs spinning reel argument is Steve. He hates them and will not touch them – too many tangles he recons.

So, for the sake of those who like to do their research, or have an interest in baitcasters, I will give you a quick run through below on what to think about when looking for a good combo option for the kayak. Some of this will determine your purchase and the rest is just an outline in case you have some personal preferences.

I will run through it all in terms of both the rod and the reel so we know what to look for however in most cases, the matching of each is usually done for you as part of the combo package. Let’s check it out anyway…

Location

I am starting with the location as it can definitely have an effect on the type of fishing rod and reel combos that you could choose and will determine your answers to many of the variants I have listed below – especially when we are dealing with baitcasters.

In my opinion, spinning reels are definitely easier to use and work very well on a kayak however as mentioned above, baitcasters tend to be more accurate when casting. They are also able to handle larger fish than spinners too so location will definitely have an influence on their use.

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Some location considerations include:

  • Holes: If there are any holes that you like to fish into then greater accuracy may be required.
  • Rocks and other obstacles: Will you want to cast into them or over them? Baitcasters can generally cast a little further than spinners so again, this may be worth a look if longer casting is required.
  • Current: Is there a strong tidal current running? If so, larger line and tackle may be needed.
  • Wind: Windy waters are harder to cast in for obvious reasons.
  • Mangroves etc.: As discussed, casting here will require accuracy.

There is more to this but from a general point of view, if you are constantly fishing in an area where you either need accuracy or are chasing larger species then a baitcaster may serve you well. That said, I think that the lighter the setup you can get for a kayak the better, which in general may lead you to a baitcaster on that advantage alone. We will discuss this in greater detail below but to get started let’s just discuss our rod needs first…

baitcaster rod and reel combo kayak - catching fish on baitcaster

Rods

I haven’t actually mentioned this as yet but one major aspect of a baitcaster reel is that it sits on top of the rod rather than underneath. This does mean that if you are looking to convert to one of the these from a spinner reel then, unless you already have one, you are also going to need a ‘casting’ rod as well. I will run through the details of these now…

Composition

In general, the only real difference between casting and spinning rods is that the reel is seated on the top instead of underneath. In terms of composition however, there is not a lot of difference. Both types these days are made from one of three main materials, Fiberglass, Graphite and Carbon Fibre with qualities as follows:

  • Fiberglass – Very strong and durable with very little maintenance required (rinse off after fishing is generally all that is needed).
  • Graphite – Graphite rods are generally more rigid with higher power ratings (see below) however tend to have greater sensitivity than their fiberglass cousins.
  • Glass Tip – Glass Tips orHybrid’ rods are made from a combination of graphite and fiberglass. These are designed to give the best of both worlds with extra strength of the graphite rod added to the sensitivity of the glass tip.
  • Carbon Fibre – This is a newer compound in fishing rods being more rigid than the fiberglass/ composite rods but also lighter. These types are becoming more and more popular for all levels of experience due to their toughness and versatility.

In the past, most tended to go for a fiberglass rod due to their durability, low maintenance requirements and favourable prices however the cost of a good carbon fibre rod has definitely reduced in recent times as well. Casting rods are also generally designed to be lighter in weight than their spinning cousins.

Length

When it comes to a kayak fishing rod, it is definitely not a case of the longer the better. Long rods can be used on a kayak for sure – in fact some prefer them if in the ocean or if they want to ‘jig’ a lure or cast a longer distance – however I always find them cumbersome and they can make it difficult to get a fish off the hook once you catch one. Shorter rods also provide for greater accuracy which can be helpful if you are fishing amongst trees, mangroves or other hazards.

So, depending on your location and casting requirements, I recommend that you can choose from the following lengths:

  • 5 – 6 foot – Use when dropping directly below the kayak or precision of casting is needed. Not great for longer casting but can generally handle heavier sinker weights etc.
  • 6 – 7 foot – These are a good middle of the road rod – especially if you only take the one or want to use it on a river bank as well. These allow for longer casting whilst maintaining accuracy.
  • 7 – 8 foot – You are getting to the absolute end of length suitability here but these can work well if you are going to be drifting or trolling with a lure or need that extra casting distance. You could also look at this length if you wanted to use it for surf fishing as well.

Power

There are plenty of technical terms for the power settings of a fishing rod but in simple language, I have always known the power rating as a measure of how ‘bendy’ it is. Light power rods bend with little force and heavy need a lot of pressure to bend. So, in short:

  • Light – very bendy – even whippy – will bend a lot with even the smallest fish. I like these in the kayak however for beginners it is easy to get the bottom confused with bites.
  • Medium – needs a bit more pressure to bend – In general, this is a good measure for a kayak fishing rod and my suggestion for all round use.
  • Heavy – takes a lot to make it bend – I would recommend these for a kayak in areas where the current is quite strong or you want to use particularly heavy sinkers etc.

There is also a measurement that some rods have in regards to what they call Action or Speed. This is determined by where the rod bends. Fast action bends from the top third whereas slow rods bend down towards the reel. For general use, I would go moderate or medium, unless to have a need to cast a long way or are chasing larger fish, then maybe edge towards a faster rod as they allow for heavier lures/rigs.

Handle/Grip

This has nothing to do with the art of catching fish rather than the comfort of it. Some common options include:

  • Hard foam – sort of like a very hard version of a pool noodle.
  • EVA – Soft Rubbery stuff.
  • Cork.
  • Rubber Shrink Tube – soft and extremely durable.

I like the Rubber shrink tube or EVA handles myself as they are comfortable and will last well in saltwater conditions. Cork is great if you want a light rod and a common choice for casting rods. I have also seen a few with golf club type grips made of superpolymer rubber in my recent research too.

Split/one piece

When it comes to fishing rods, whether you have a full piece or a split piece (where the rod pulls apart into two or more pieces) is, in my opinion, a matter of circumstance… I have used both and if I am being brutally honest, I really don’t see enough of a difference when it comes to catching fish.

Ask yourself how you are going to transport the rod to your preferred fishing spot? If you are dragging it on your kayak and trolley or have a rod holder on your SUV etc., then a full piece will be fine. If you need to put it in the boot or back seat of the car, then go the two piece. And for those traveling, you may even want to look at a telescopic or 4 piece setups as an alternative option.

Reels

And now for the reels. I have discussed spinning reels in more detail in my post on kayak fishing reels for beginners. Below we will discuss the ins and outs of baitcaster reels…

baitcaster rod and reel combo kayak - kayak fisherman with baitcaster

Baitcaster Reels

Often referred to as a spincast reel as well, these are upside down models where the reel sits on top of, rather than underneath, the rod. Functionality can vary from the simple beginner models where the cover or closed face keeps all of the essential parts of the reel protected to the more complicated ones where casting speed etc. can be adjusted dependent upon the environment.

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Baitcaster reels are usually described as being good for the more experienced angler who can manage the braking settings at each use. However, the base models here can be good for beginners as they simply press down on the thumb button on the back to cast the line. In my experience however, these do tend to tangle or ‘birds nest’ a little more than their spinning cousins.

Note: in this post and within my recommendations below, I am discussing the low profile baitcaster reels as they are most suitable for a kayak. Round baitcaster reels are the larger models that are predominately used on boats and for big game fishing.

Casting

Baitcasters release their line via the main spool which, once released by the press of a button or lever, rotates at high speed to let the line out. The line runs in a straight line which increases distance and accuracy as it is effectively unwound directly from the spool.

Composition

Baitcaster reels are mostly made from the same materials as the spinners – a corrosion-resistant metal, carbon fiber and/or aluminum body with variations of the following:

  • Bearings – as with spinning reels, bearings are utilised within the reel for smooth casting and retrieval. .
  • Rotation – Winding rotation ratios are also evident in baitcaster reels. This is usually set up to 6 or 7:1.
  • Drag – The drag of a baitcaster is one of its real advantages over a spinning reel in that they can be set with greater sensitivity and are generally a lot stronger as well. This is why many who chase really big fish use a baitcaster over a spinning reel.
  • Casing: Again, this is the part of the reel that contains the springs, levers, gear cogs etc. that make much of the stuff above work. As with the spinner, make sure any you purchase have everything included encased for ease of use and maintenance.

Brakes

Ok, so one of the main issues that many have with baitcaster reels is that they tangle much easier when the line is being cast. This is due to a phenomenon called ‘backlash’. Put simply, this is when the spool turns faster than the lure/sinker can pull the line out during casting and the line tangles.

In early models, the spool was slowed by placing your thumb onto the spool as it wound out and this took some practice. In modern reels however, this is managed via the implementation of brakes. There are a number of variations here including:

  • Centrifugal Brakes: During the first part of the cast, the rod sends the weight (lure or sinker) out in a slingshot motion. Centrifugal brakes use gravity to adjust the spool speed to ensure it spins at the same rate as the cast. In this case, the brakes extend from the center of the spool running along a shelf in the centre of the reel to slow if down. These can be adjusted but in most reels, this is not a simple task.
  • Magnetic Brakes: Magnetic brakes are another way of controlling spool speed with easier adjustment via a small dial on the side of the unit. As the dial is turned, magnets move closer or further away from the side of the spool – the closer they are, the more they can slow the spool. These work the same as the centrifugal brakes in that they are mainly designed to work during that first ‘whip’ of the cast and release once the spool slows over the casting duration.
  • Spool Tension Adjustment: Most baitcaster reels also come with a spool tension adjustment. This is designed for use at the end of the cast when the lure or sinker hits the water (as opposed to centrifugal and magnetic brakes which operate in the first part of the cast). In simple terms, the tension adjustment stops the spool shaft at the same time that the tackle hits the water meaning excess line is not released.

None of this of course is to say that you can’t still use your thumb if that suits – or you have set your brakes or tension adjustment incorrectly – but these tools can definitely make the use of these reels much more enjoyable.

Spool Size

Spool size is what determines just how much line you can put onto your reel. As baitcasters can generally handle heavier line than spinners, and can cast further, the more line you can fit onto the spool the better. Baitcaster reel spool size is usually categorised as the length of line that can be loaded by line size.

For example, the reel may be specified as capable of loading “150 yards at 15lbs mono capacity – or 15/150” (slightly longer for braid). Some manufacturers will also stipulate maximum and minimum line weight limits as well.

Spools are usually made from high strength aluminium or stainless steel.

Other Influences

Unlike the spinning reel, there are not as many other influences to consider with a baitcaster. The handle and weight are obviously still an issue and some do also come with a line holder. However, the handles are not as easily interchangeable as the other option although anti reverse settings can often be better managed on baitcasters as well.

What do I use?

As mentioned above, I have not ventured into the world of baitcasters for the kayak as yet. I have however included below the specifications for the combo that John purchased as he has found it extremely effective for the kayak. I have also seen him catch quite a few on it too so I am guessing it works… haha.

Anyway, here are its specs:

Rod

  • Length: 6ft
  • Power: Medium/fast
  • Composition: Carbon Fiber
  • Handle: EVA

Reel

  • Spool Size: Not sure
  • Bearings: 9+1
  • Ratio: 7.0:1
  • Composition: Aluminum
  • Drag: Star drag on side
  • Brakes: Magnetic – 6 x magnets

John’s feedback was that it took him a little to get used to casting it – especially in terms of accuracy however the weight and rod length have worked perfectly for him. The only issue he has with it is that it is not real good for trolling with a lure behind the kayak – he says it seems to ‘catch’ but not sure why.

My three recommendations broken down

So based on the information above, and my own experience, I recommend the following for beginners:

1.Sougayilang Baitcasting Fishing Rod with Reel Combo

I have chosen this first combo based on the fact that it is the best I have seen for the budget minded beginner or casual fisher. There are different length options for the rod and the reel is good for those who want to fish a few locations without having to change equipment. It is a good, solid and durable product that is light to hold with specifications as follows:

Rod

  • Length: 5.9 – 6.9ft (I would recommend sticking to the 5.9ft range if only using in a kayak)
  • Power: Medium/fast
  • Composition: 4 piece high density carbon fiber mixed with fiberglass
  • Handle: High-grade rubber cork

Reel

  • Spool Size: 10/230 12/190 14/150
  • Bearings: 9+1
  • Ratio: 7.0:1
  • Composition: Aluminum
  • Drag: Star drag on side
  • Brakes: Magnetic – 5 x magnets

Other advantages include:

  • Lightweight composition – (approx 13oz total).
  • Stainless steel guides with ceramic o-rings
  • Anti-corrosion zinc-alloy drive gear

Why have I chosen it?

This is a good little all round use rod and reel combo for a good price. I like the lightweight design for a kayak with good anti-corrosion build for saltwater use. It will take a good range of line strength (10 – 14 lb) and should be able to handle both light and heavy sinker weight if the conditions require it.


2. KastKing Crixus Fishing Rod and Reel Combo

This next option is a great one for those looking to use their setup in more than one location with spec capabilities to handle most environments. It is also a good one for someone wanting to do a little more fishing and hence want something that will do the job with great durability and usability. It is also not as expensive as some of the other graphite/carbon fiber models on the market with specs including:

Rod

  • Length: 6.0 – 7ft (again, I would recommend sticking to the 6ft range if only using in a kayak)
  • Power: Medium/fast
  • Composition: 2 piece IM6 Graphite
  • Handle: “Golf Style” superpolymer handle

Reel

  • Spool Size: 8 – 17lb (length not stipulated)
  • Bearings: 7+1
  • Ratio: 6.5:1
  • Composition: Carbon infused aluminum – Aluminum spool
  • Drag: Carbon plated star drag on side
  • Brakes: Magnetic – 8 x magnets

Other advantages include:

  • Stainless steel guides with Zirconium Oxide o-rings
  • Suitable for salt and freshwater
  • Handle can be adjusted to left and right-hand use

Why have I chosen it?

This one is very close to the perfect baitcaster rod and reel for kayak fishing and the one I would choose here. I like the rod specifications and as a combo it would handle most kayak conditions including where accuracy or some heavier weights are needed. And for those who venture a little further it would also handle some lighter ocean fishing exploits with ease as well. My only concern here is around the lack of line length capabilities mentioned however if you are looking to jig some lures, then this one may suit that better anyway.


3. Lew’s Mach Crush SLP Baitcast Combo

The third combo I have chosen is a little more expensive but for the kayak fisherman with experience in using baitcasters, it comes with all of the extra setting requirements that make it a great all round option. The rod is maybe a little longer than I would like for a kayak at 7’3″ however its reel quality and carbon fiber blank make it well worth a look for those who wish to drop to the bottom all the whilst maintaining the ability to cast a little further. It would not look out of place in an ocean or deep sea fishing environment as well. Its specs include:

Rod

  • Length: 7ft 3 inches
  • Power: Medium/fast
  • Composition: 1 piece IM8 graphite
  • Handle: Polymer Dri-Tac split-grip
  • Reel: 12/110
  • Bearings: 9+1
  • Ratio: 7.5:1
  • Composition: Graphite frame and spool
  • Drag: Carbon Star drag on side
  • Brakes: Externally-adjustable dual cast control magnetic brake + 4 individually disengage-able disk-mounted internal brake shoes that operate on centrifugal force

Other advantages include:

  • Double-shielded stainless steel bearings
  • Zero Reverse anti-reverse
  • Quick release side plate lock lever, zirconia line guide and an external lube port

Why have I chosen it?

This rod is a great one for those who looking for a little quality over price or for those who like ultimate control of brakes and settings. The graphite build and specifications make it suitable for all types of kayak fishing both on and off shore whether using bait or lures. The reel is extremely versatile able to handle pretty much anything that can be thrown at it. My only concern here is the lower line length capacity compared to some others however the added cast setting capabilities should be able to counteract this.

Conclusion

And there it is – my 3 best baitcaster rod and reel combos for kayak fishing in 2021. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences with them.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time

Have fun

Paul

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