The Best Spinning Rods of 2018 – Complete Buyer’s Guide

What does it take to choose the best spinning rod for fishing? With a dazzling array on the market, it can be easy to become intimidated by the selection.

Prepare yourself with a little bit of knowledge and selecting the best spinning rod for your fishing needs becomes a simple process. 

In this article, we're going to take a look at some of the best spinning rods on the market. Here, we'll be outlining what makes them stand out and why they're some of our favorite models. 

Best Spinning Rods Comparison Chart

Product

Our Rating

Price

​UglyStik GX2 Spinning Rod

Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Rod

​Daiwa Mini System Minispin Ultralight Spinning Reel and Rod Combo in Hard Carry Case

Daiwa Mini System Minispin Ultralight Spinning Reel and Rod Combo in Hard Carry Case

​Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod

Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod 6' - Medium - 2pc

​Shimano FXS 2 Piece Spinning Rod

Shimano FX SPINNING, Graphite Freshwater Spinning Fishing Rod, 5'0' Ultra Light, 2-Piece

​SHIMANO Solora 2 Piece Spinning Rod

Shimano Solora 2 Piece Spinning Rod (5-Feet 6-Inch, Medium)

Choosing the Best Spinning Rods

It may seem like there is so much to consider when buying a spinning rod. Looking down the aisle of your local sporting goods store, you may be greeted by a dizzying array of vertically oriented poles. How are you supposed to select one from the matrix?

If you are looking for a spinning rod, there are only a few factors that really come into play in proper rod performance. Let's take a look at what you should consider when selecting your best spinning rod.

Rod Power 

The rod weight, or “power”, is the backbone of your spinning rod’s strength and fighting ability. It refers to pulling strength of your rod and correlates to the amount of bend per unit weight.

A heavier weight rod will be able to pull more weight and bend less. A lightweight rod will not be able to pull nearly as much weight and will have a lot of flex.

Spinning rods are available in a variety of weights including, ultralight, light, medium, and heavy. Some combinations of weights exist in-between.

The big idea with rod weights is “the bigger the fish the bigger the rod”. A larger fish is going to be heavier and have more power to fight, thus requiring a larger stiff rod to battle it.

Action

How does a rod bend? Does the whole thing bend? Just the tip of the rod? Well, all of these are variable depending on the listed “action” of the rod. The action refers to how much of the rod is engineered to bend.

Rods are generally sold in a range and combination of three actions; slow, moderate, and fast. The faster action rods bend only near the tip. On the contrary, a slow action rod bends throughout the entire length of the rod.

The action you choose will once again depend on your intended target fish and lure sizes. A faster action rod is better for heavy lures, while a slow action is necessary to throw ultralight lures. By finding a balanced relationship between rod weight and rod action, you can fully dial in your setup.

Length

Lastly, you ought to consider the length of the rod for your specific needs. Spinning rod lengths are available from two-foot length up to even 12+ feet.

You should decide on a length depending on the type of fishing you plan on doing. Think about whether you will casting from a boat versus beach casting, heavy lures into the surf versus ice fishing, etc. The fish species you intend to target also comes into play.

Generally speaking, longer rods are going to be able to cast further, hence the reason they are preferred for surf casting.

Shorter rods, on the other hand, will offer better accuracy due to their more limited casting distance. A shorter rod may also come in handy if you plan on casting near any brush or structure.

Remember though, that rod weight and action may have more influence on a rod’s casting and fishing ability.

Types of Fishing Rods

With near infinite options on the spinning rod market, how do you nail it down to one? Well, let's lay out a few combinations and discuss what they could be useful for. This may help you in making your final determination.

Lightweight

Moderate/Slow Action 7-Foot Rod - This is what I would consider a good general setup for smaller bodied fish.

With something like this, I would likely be targeting: trout, panfish, smaller bass, etc. If you intend to catch slightly larger fish, go ahead and bump up to a slightly heavier weight rod, like a Medium-Light.

Heavyweight

Fast Action 8-Foot Rod- This would be the setup I would grab if I were looking to cast big lures for large, predatory fish.

If I were going to be casting heavy spoons for pike and musky or jigging for saltwater fish this is the type of setup I would gravitate towards.

Medium Weight

Moderate Action 10-Foot rod - This is a setup combination designed to cast moderate weights for longer distances. If I was fishing off the shore for catfish, this is a setup I would consider.

The medium weight should be able to hand a variety of lures and baits, and the moderate action would offer good hooksets and flexible fighting ability.

The extended length will be the final factor in its ability to launch bait and lures longer distances. Additionally, I would also consider a rod like this to use when casting lures for steelhead or salmon.

That should give you an idea of putting together different combinations. As you can see, there are near infinite varieties of combinations you could potentially put together. The idea of this is to be able to dial in your setup to cater to your specific needs.

Quick Take - The Best Spinning Rods

Review of the Best Spinning Rods

Now we’re going to switch gears and take a look at some of the best spinning rods. We’ve handpicked these models and can’t wait to explain why they are some of our favorites. Let’s get started!

1. UglyStik GX2 Spinning Rod  

Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Rod

The next generation of Ugly Stik is the GX2 series of spinning rods. The intent of this series is to step into modern performance while maintaining the tradition and strength that Ugly Stiks are known for.

The GX2 rod features a specially engineered fiberglass and graphite construction for performance and improved sensitivity.

At the tip end of this rod is the featured Clear Tip design. This assists anglers in visually detecting even the lightest of strikes. On the butt-end of this rod are durable and lightweight EVA foam grips.

Buyers are offered a wide variety of choices in rod configuration. Both one, two, and even four piece rods are available in a large variety of weights and lengths.

Anglers can buy long to short, ultralight to heavy, and just about every combination of weight and length in-between.

To match the durability of rod construction, the GX2 series features ultra-durable and corrosion-resistant stainless steel guides to accommodate a wide variety of fishing lines.

Pros

  • Wide Variety of Options
  • Affordable Value
  • Maintains Ugly Stik Durability
  • Comment Check
    Modern Performance Spinning Rod

Cons

  • Some May Prefer Traditional Cork Grips over EVA Foam on this Rod

Bottom Line

The Ugly Stik GX rods offer anglers performance, increased feel, and appealing cosmetics for a more modern look in a spinning rod. The redesigned and higher performing GX2 series is still designed for the budget-minded angler, something Ugly Stik has always been known for. Looking to replace grandpa’s old Ugly Stik? This is a rod I’m sure even he would like to see in the modern age. Be sure to check this one out a little bit closer.

2. Daiwa Mini System Minispin Ultralight Spinning Reel and Rod Combo in Hard Carry Case 

Daiwa Mini System Minispin Ultralight Spinning Reel and Rod Combo in Hard Carry Case

Ultra-compact and built for anglers on the move, the Daiwa MiniSpin combo is the perfect break-down spinning rod to throw in the truck, backpack, or boat hatch.

This ultralight to lightweight setup features a 4.5-foot rod that breaks down into five pieces which all fit conveniently in the rugged hard case.

Being a lightweight rod, it is best suited for line in the two to six-pound test range.

The reel is also built with lightweight fishing in mind. Being small and light itself, the reel features a ball bearing drive, multi-disc drag, and a quick retrieve gear ratio of 5.1:1.

I really like this kit for the convenient hard carrying case to store your rod setup and a few bits of tackle.

Pros

  • Budget-Minded
  • Includes Spinning Reel
  • Includes Compact Hard Carrying Case
  • Comment Check
    Ultra-Compact Breakdown Rod

Cons

  • Breakdown Convenience May Sacrifice Performance

Bottom Line

The compact breakdown convenience and hard carrying case are what make this setup shine. It may not be the highest performing spinning rod rig out there, however, for those looking for an ultra-compact rod that can stay well protected, this is one of few of its kind.

For that “just in case” lightweight rod or even a fishing rod to take backpacking, here is your rig. I can assure you that I have one in my arsenal.

3. Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod  

Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod 6' - Medium - 2pc

Ugly Stik is the name in fishing rods when it comes to durability. The newly redesigned Elite series has been reinforced with 35% more graphite to lighten the rod, while still retaining legendary strength and durability.

This six-foot long, one-piece rod eliminates any weakness or risk of inserts coming out mid-battle.

Buyers have the choice of this rod in a variety of weights from ultralight to medium-heavy and lengths in a range from 4.5-feet to 7.5-feet. You can find just about any combination to meet your specific fishing needs.

The graphite and fiberglass rod offers unsurpassed performance for anglers of all skill levels. The end of the rod features a Clear Tip design to help you in detecting even those faint nibbles.

Cork handles complete the rod, giving it a classic look and a padded reel seat and hood to ensure rock solid mounting of your reel.

Pros

  • Quality Construction
  • Ugly Stik Durability
  • Variety of Weights and Lengths

Cons

  • Slightly Spendier than Others on the List

Bottom Line

Most people have heard of Ugly Stik and there is a reason why. They have made groundbreaking innovations in fishing poles and continue to be synonymous with durability.

Although this rod is slightly spendier than others that made the list, you are certainly getting a lot for the cost. For those wanting the next step up in spinning rod performance and durability, check out the Ugly Stik Elite.

4. Shimano FXS 2 Piece Spinning Rod 

Shimano FX SPINNING, Graphite Freshwater Spinning Fishing Rod, 5'0' Ultra Light, 2-Piece

The FXS spinning rod by Shimano features a convenient two-piece breakdown design and is designed for wide versatility in fish species and angler experience.

The durable aero glass rod blank can be purchased in a variety of weights and lengths. From a five-foot ultralight rig, all the way to a seven-foot medium-heavy rig, you can find the rod for your specific needs.

This rod has a black EVA foam handle and well-built reel seat to ensure a tight fit. The intent of the FXS was a diverse rod that would handle everything from freshwater to saltwater and a variety of angler experience levels. For a budget price, this one is hard to beat.

Pros

  • Budget-Minded
  • Variety of Sizes Available
  • Designed for All Skill Levels

Cons

  • May Lack Performance of Higher End Rods

Bottom Line

If comparing cost to value, the FXS is hard to beat. If you don’t feel like investing $100s into a rod that may end up breaking in the bottom of your boat, here is your rod.

You won’t be afraid to tackle a variety of fish with this one. It should be able to handle just about anything you can catch with it. The Shimano FXS two-piece rod is a safe bet to hit the water with.

5. SHIMANO Solora 2 Piece Spinning Rod 

Shimano Solora 2 Piece Spinning Rod (5-Feet 6-Inch, Medium)

This two-piece rod by Shimano offers the convenience of a more packable rod while retaining strength and durability with an aero glass rod blank.

The aluminum black oxide guides ensure smooth surfaces for your fishing line and retain durability in the long run.

Buyers have a smaller variety of choices between medium-light and medium-heavy weights and lengths between 5.5 and 7-feet long. The handle features a classic cork body design and secure reel seats.

Multiple reviewers have reported this rod being slightly stiffer than listed. It might be best to step down in power size if you were initially considering purchasing this rod.

With that said, this rod reportedly performs well other than that.

Pros

  • Two-Piece Design
  • Budget-Minded Value

Cons

  • Limited Weights and Lengths
  • May Lack Performance and Durability of Higher End Rods

Bottom Line

For those looking for a spinning rod on a budget, this Shimano is not a bad call. The two-piece breakdown design makes it a much more convenient rod for transport and storage.

At this price point, you can expect to sacrifice some performance and durability over higher end rods. However, for the price, this rod is a solid bet to get you on the water.

Conclusion

Feeling prepared now? With a little bit of knowledge, buying a spinning rod to fit your needs should be an easy task.

Consider what type of fishing you will be doing and what kind of fish you intend to target. With that determination set, you can go about selecting a proper weight, action, and length to match your needs.

You can put together a versatile rig or even a highly specialized rig for target specific anglers. Taking a few options into consideration, you should have no problem selecting a proper rod for yourself. The only problem now? With so many great options, you are always going to want another rod.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.