3 Best Rod and Reel Combos For Kayak Fishing

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Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts. Today, for those looking to get themselves setup for some kayak fishing, I have had a good look around and come up with my 3 best rod and reel combos for kayak fishing in 2021. Kayak fishing is a lot of fun and something that I enjoy doing as often as I can. That said, setting yourself up with a good rod and reel combo from the beginning can definitely give you a better chance of actually catching fish rather than drifting aimlessly around with nothing to show for it – although that is not a horrible way to spend the day either I will say – haha.

My 3 best 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
kayak rod and reel combos - option 1Ugly Stik GX2 Fishing Rod and Spinning Reel Combo$CURRENT PRICE
kayak rod and reel combos - option 2Cadence CC5 Spinning Combo$$CURRENT PRICE
kayak rod and reel combos - option 3EatMyTackle Dolphin Dominator Saltwater Spinning Rod and Reel Combo$$$CURRENT PRICE

What should you be looking for?

Now, when it comes to fishing – everyone has an opinion and what works for some will not work for others. I have a friend who uses a certain type of soft plastic lure when we fish for Flathead and catches plenty. I use the same lure and catch nada! So I of course have my own opinions and know what has worked well for me in the past and what has not.

I purchased my first rod and reel combo to fish off of a jetty and love it. I have used it in the kayak as well but find it just a little long (it is 7.5ft) and have since bought both combos and individual pieces based on my needs. However, for those looking to get started, or just want a good solid setup that will work in most areas, a combo will definitely get it done for you – and usually at a better price.

So, for the sake of those who like to do their research, I will give you a quick run through below on what to think about when looking for a good rod and reel combo 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…

kayak rod and reel combos - stripe 1

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. If you are going to be fishing in a particular waterway more often than others then take that into consideration as you read on. Otherwise, if you are planning to try a number of different areas, I will try and outline middle of the range options for you as well.

Some location considerations include:

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  • Holes: If there are any holes that you like to fish into then that will reduce casting requirements.
  • Rocks and other obstacles: Will you want to cast into them our over them?
  • Current: Is there a strong tidal current running? If so, larger tackle may be needed.
  • Wind: Windy waters are harder to cast in for obvious reasons.
  • Mangroves etc.: Casting here will require accuracy.

There is more to this but from a general point of view, being in a kayak tends to reduce casting length by default. However, if this a requirement then you may need a larger rod and a reel with a line capacity to accommodate a heavier sinker. That said, I personally like a lighter setup in a kayak so I would be only looking at larger rod and reel specifications if absolutely necessary. If not, then a middle of the range setup (as per my recommendations) may work best here to account for most environmental factors.

Rods

First we will look at the rod side of things – To keep this post from getting out of hand length wise I have tried to keep things brief here. However if you are after more information you can check out my post covering kayak fishing rods for closed waters.

Composition

In general, fishing rods 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.

kayak rod and reel combos - stripe 3

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 – 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 some 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. My tip here… make sure it is a ‘whippy’ one (see Power section below). 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 only 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, then maybe edge towards a fast rod as they allow for heavier 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 (probably more relevant to estuary rods or for use in a kayak etc. but if you are planning one to use in both locations then something to think about).

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.

Reels

And now for the reels. Again, I have included a lot more information in my post on kayak fishing reels for beginners so here are the basics to consider for your combo…

kayak rod and reel combos - stripe 4

Types

There are two main types to look at here – mainly as they are the main two that come in combo form (and we are not looking at surf or boat reels here either):

  • Spinning Reel – Also known as ‘open face’ reels or ‘eggbeaters’, these reel types wind the line onto a front spool which is held on by a ‘bail’. Line is wound in via a handle on the side which is ratioed to bring the line in faster than the handle is turned.
  • Baitcaster – Often referred to as a spincast reel as well, these are upside down models where the reel sits on top of 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. Harder to use but popular with friends of mine who find they can cast a bit more accurately with these.

As I mentioned in my other post, in terms of a good kayak fishing combo that will work in a good number of environments, you could do a lot worse than the simple spinner reel. They are easy to use without a lot of maintenance and can be purchased over a good number of line strength specification ranges as well.

Composition

In general, spinning reels suitable for a kayak are made from a corrosion-resistant metal, carbon fiber and/or aluminum body with variations of the following:

  • Bearings – As with a car wheel, the spinning mechanisms inside a spinning fishing reel generally incorporate ball bearings for smoother operation. From my experience, most come with between 3 and 10 and I was always told that the more you can get for the price, the better.
  • Rotation – One advantage of a spinning fishing reel is the winding rotation. This is usually set anywhere for 3:1 up to 6 or 7:1 (often listed as 6.0:1 etc.) This simply means that for every time the user turns the handle a full rotation, the spool holding the line has actually turned 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 times meaning less winding for faster line retrieval.
  • Drag – The drag of a fishing reel is its ability to release a little bit of line when a fish strikes or is being pulled in. This is in place to reduce the chances of a bigger fish snapping the line as it fights. As with anything, the more you pay for a reel, the better the drag system should be however regardless, if the reel you are looking at doesn’t have a drag system on it – put it down.
  • Casing: This is the part of the reel that contains the springs, levers, gear cogs etc. that make much of the stuff above work. For a basic combo, avoid any reel that doesn’t have this all housed in a sealed, waterproof casing. These are low maintenance and the components will not rust.

Line capacity

In this section, we will actually discuss two elements: spool size and line capacity. This is because the size of the spool generally determines the strength of the line that you can load into it. The problem we face here is that manufacturers don’t use a common specification when it comes to their reel capacities.

There is however a simple way to work this all out which via the first number. You see a fishing reel may be rated as a ’20’ or a ‘2000’. If this is the case, the ‘2’ is the common denominator and what you match the line to (this is not an exact science but it works for me). So, then all you need to do is match the line kilogram/pound strength to the spool.

To make this easier, I have whipped up a little table below (I have not included all sizes here but you can see that generally, the lower suggested mono line weight matches the first number of the reel size):

Reel SizeSuggested MonoSuggested BraidSuggested Rod Length*
10 or 10001- 2 kg/2 – 4 lb4 – 8 lb6-7 ft (line rating 1-4kg)
20 or 20002- 3 kg/4 – 6 lb5 – 10 lb6-7 ft (line rating 2-5kg)
25 or 25002.5- 4 kg/5 – 8 lb5 – 12 lb6-7 ft (line rating 2-5kg)
40 or 40004- 6 kg/8 – 12 lb8 – 20 lb8-10 ft (line rating 3-10kg)
60 or 60006- 8 kg/12 – 16 lb12 – 30 lb8-10 ft (line rating 4-10kg)

At the end of the day, if there is a possibility of a big fish attaching itself to the end of your line, or the need to add a heavier sinker if the current is strong, I would recommend anything that starts with a 5 or 6. That said, I tend to think that on a kayak, a 3000 – 4000 reel and light line will work very well too.

Other Influences

There are some other areas to consider as well when looking at a kayak fishing reel. These don’t effect the outcomes as much as the above however they are worth considering:

  • Handle – Most are plastic but make sure it fits comfortably in your hand – some come with large handles which is definitely a matter of personal preference too.
  • Weight – Trust me, if you are fishing in a kayak, then the lighter the reel, the better.
  • Anti reverse switch – These are usually found in the underbelly of the reel and simply put, will stop the reel going backwards. Some like to reel in reverse to let line out slowly but don’t want this to happen with the rod is in a holder.
  • Line holder – This is the little tab on the side of the reel housing that holds the end of the fishing line if it is not rigged up. These are not often thought of when a reel is purchased but something that is really missed if it is not there.
  • Interchangeable winder – There are not many that don’t do this these days however this is the ability to swap the winder handle around to allow for left or right-handed use.
kayak rod and reel combos - stripe 2

What do I use?

So, I purchased my rod and reel combo for the kayak about 18 months ago. Where we fish where there can be stronger currents but I generally don’t have to cast too far so I actually just wanted a middle of the range option that I could use from the bank as well. I don’t use it if I am casting onto the mangroves as Mangrove Jack need some solid gear to land(that is for another post) so accuracy is really not too big of a deal for me.

Hence, for general use I wanted something that would handle the current but still be light enough to use in a kayak with either a lure or bait. Here are its specs:

Rod

  • Made from: Fiberglass
  • Length: 6.4ft
  • Power: Medium
  • Action: Moderate/fast
  • Composition: One piece
  • Handle: EVA

Reel

  • Size: 3000
  • Bearings: 5 + 1
  • Ratio: 5.1:1
  • Composition: Stainless Steel, Aluminum and plastic handle
  • Drag: front of spool – 8kg (I think)
  • Anti-reverse switch: – yes

To be honest, I actually chose this combo as the rod was what I was after and the reel seemed ok. The rod is short and easy to work with in a kayak and sensitive enough to feel it when the fish nibble at the bait. It can also handle a bit of heavier weight if the current gets a little strong as it tends to do at about 3 quarter tide.

The reel however has turned out to be a bonus. It is not the highest of quality but the specs are absolutely perfect for the kayak (funny what you can find out by accident hey!). I generally use it with a lighter line but have loaded heavier braid on it from time to time as well. I have a couple of newer reels around the 3000 mark as well and I have to say that they have been the perfect size for the kayak and river/estuary bank as well.

My three recommendations broken down

So based on the information above, and my own experience, I recommend the following combos for general kayak fishing use:

1. Ugly Stik GX2 Fishing Rod and Spinning 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: 4.8 – 7ft (I would recommend sticking to the 5 – 6ft range)
  • Power: Medium light to medium
  • Composition: 2 piece graphite/fiberglass build
  • Handle: EVA

Reel

  • Size: 2000 – 6000
  • Bearings: 4
  • Ratio: 5.5:1
  • Composition: Aluminum
  • Drag: On front of spool – triple disk system
  • Anti reverse switch: yes
  • Line holder: yes
  • Interchangeable winder: Yes

Other advantages include:

  • Lightweight composition.
  • Stainless Steel Guides w/O-Rings
  • Sensitive clear tip

Why have I chosen it?

This is a good little all round use rod and reel combo for a good price. I like the lighter power rating which makes it great for beginners or those who wish to drift with live baits in the kayak as well. It will take a good range of line strength (4 – 8 lb) and should be able to handle both light and heavy sinker weight if the conditions require it.


2. Cadence CC5 Spinning Combo

This next option is maybe a little longer than I would like at 7ft however its ultra lightweight graphite and carbon composite build with a great reel size make it a good option for those who want a rod to use in more than one location. It is also a good one for someone wanting to do a little more fishing and hence wants something that will do the job with great durability and usability. It is also not at expensive as some of the other graphite/carbon fiber models on the market with specs including:

Rod

  • Length: 7 ft (you might be able to get 6’6″ models as well)
  • Power: Medium (fast action)
  • Composition: 2 piece graphite
  • Handle: EVA

Reel

  • Size: 3000
  • Bearings: 8+1
  • Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Composition: Carbon composite
  • Drag: Carbon fiber – front of spool – max 19lb
  • Anti reverse switch: yes
  • Line holder: yes
  • Interchangeable winder: Yes

Other advantages include:

  • Lightweight stainless steel guides: 8 + Tip
  • Suitable for salt and freshwater

Why have I chosen it?

This one is very close to the perfect rod 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 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. As mentioned, my only concern here is around the length however if you are looking to jig some lures, then this one may suit that better anyway.


3. EatMyTackle Dolphin Dominator Saltwater Spinning Rod and Reel Combo

The third combo I have chosen is a little more expensive but for the enthusiastic kayak fisherman, it is almost the perfect rod. It again comes in at that 7ft length 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 a deep sea fishing environment as well. Its specs include:

Rod

  • Length: 7ft
  • Power: Medium
  • Composition: 1 piece carbon fiber
  • Handle: Cork and EVA

Reel

  • Size: 4000
  • Bearings: 5+1
  • Ratio: 4.9:1
  • Composition: Aluminum
  • Drag: On front of spool – carbon fiber – 44lb
  • Anti reverse switch: yes
  • Line holder: yes
  • Interchangeable winder: Yes

Other advantages include:

  • 8 guides with ceramic inserts
  • High line capacity range
  • Able to handle larger catches

Why have I chosen it?

This rod is a great one for those who looking for a little quality over price. The carbon 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 and again, able to handle pretty much anything that can be thrown at it. It will cast a little further than most others whilst maintaining sensitivity when the fish nibbles. My only concern here are the lack of reviews found online as it appears that this brand is relatively new on the scene (please correct me below if I am wrong)

 

Conclusion

And there it is – my 3 best 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

3 Best Rod and Reel Combos For Kayak Fishing - Pinterest
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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing hobbyists who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to fishing.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome fishing gear that will give you the best chance of catching a fish for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Paul

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