Spinning Rods, Reels and Equipment

For freshwater trout fishing, there really are only two camps of fishing – Fly fishing and Spinner fishing. If you are new to Trout fishing, I would recommend getting some experience with a spinner setup before trying fly fishing. In general, fly fishing is the more expensive approach and requires more practice to be considered even passable. Get a taste for trout and trout fishing with a spinner bait combo for a season and then start working on your fly fishing technique.

Spinning Rods

The first thing you need to choose is a good quality rod. Most spinning rods designed for trout are 6-7 feet long. You don’t need to go and spend a lot of money either; a good, entry level, rod will only set you back twenty to thirty dollars.

You’ll want to make sure the rod breaks down into at least 2 pieces and that the eyelets are all aligned and look like they are in good shape. (The eyelets can be fragile and can be accidentally damaged by others that have looked at the rod before you.)

From there, you will want to test the “action” of the rod. This is how it feels and is a very subjective evaluation. To test the action, hold the rod parallel to the ground in front of you and give it a quick shake. Note the amount that the tip of the rod bends. You will want to try this on a number of different rods. The subjectivity of feel comes into play but the general rule is you want the tip to bend some, but not too much from just that little shake.

If you are worried, you can hold the rod vertically and GENTLY pull on the tip, simulating about 10 pounds of force and see how much the tip bends. Again, you want it to bend, this is good. You just don’t want it to bend too much. The ideal rod bends enough to tell you that you have a fish on without giving you too many false positives due to waves AND doesn’t bend too much when there is a fish on.

This is a tall order, but there are many rods out there that achieve all these characteristics. Most rods you can buy now-days are made of graphite which means they are engineered to meet these differing demands well, but there is still that “feel” element that does take some time to learn.

Spinning Reels

Picking a reel is, thankfully, not as subjective. You can typically find out what you need to know about the reel on the package or on a product label. The first thing to look for is whether the reel uses bearings and how many. The more bearings you have the smoother the action, or ease of reeling. More bearings mean more costly parts, but you can still find a good balance in the $30-$40 dollar range.

The next thing to look at is the drag. Have you ever done a double take when reading that someone caught a 20lb fish on line rated at 6 lbs? The drag has quite a bit to do with that. You want to make sure the drag is easily set and adjusted while using the reel. The idea is to have the drag slow down the fish and tire it out rather than just using brute strength of the line to reel it in, which if it’s a 20lb fish and 6lb line won’t work at all!

The last thing to look at is the design of the reel. My friend is a burly guy, with big hands, so a tiny compact reel is the LAST thing he is going to want. You want to make sure it is comfortable and you can operate the drag easily. Most reels have handles that can be switched from side to side but it is good to make sure that this is true if that is a feature you need.

The final thing to look for is line capacity. A smaller spool will hold less line and anytime you up the thickness of the line, it will affect the amount of line you can hold. As a rule, you want to make sure your spool can hold at least 90 feet of 6 to 8 lb test line.

There are three different types of spinning reels. Each has its pros and cons and all have a place in trout fishing.

Closed Spinning Reels

Closed spinning reels, or spin casters, enclose the line and have a push button to allow for the cast. They are designed to make it incredibly difficult to get a “bird’s nest” or a massive tangle in your line. (It can still happen though!) Due to these designed elements, these are a great choice for children. They will maximize both you and your child’s fishing time. The downside is due to their design there is more drag on the line while casting. Therefore, casting distances are shorter than a comparable open spinning reel.

Open Spinning Reels

These are the most common that you will see while fishing for trout. They are very flexible on line weight, typically being able to easily accommodate anywhere from 2lb test up to 8 or 10lb test line, a perfect range for most trout. Typically these reels will last quite a long time and learning to cast one of these is only a step up from the closed spinning reel. “Birds nests” do happen occasionally but only if you truly mess up a cast or forget to close the bail after you cast.


Typically seen more in bass fishing that trout fishing, baitcasters offer enough advantages that some people choose them for some of their trout fishing as well. When used properly, casts are more accurately placed on the water and can greater casting distances can be achieved. That said, the spool spins while the line pulls off the reel and you have to use your thumb to modulate this spin speed. If you don’t modulate the reel speed right, you end up with a “birdsnest” very quickly. These types of reels also do not accommodate lighter line, typically working better with 10lb test or higher line.

Rod and reel purchasing tip:

Many times, you can buy entry-level rod and reel combos. I recommend checking the action of the rod as well as the reel quality and comfort before going with one of these combos. Sometimes, they are a great deal but other times they simply are too cheap to be even reliable for one season.

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