The 13 Best Fishing Rod BrandsPublished on 05/11/2023 · 13 min readLooking for a new rod? Conventional Fishing Expert Danny Palmquist lays out his top 13 fishing rod brands that you can be confident in when making your purchase.
Photo by Alex Tokuda
As an Expert at Curated, I spend a lot of time talking about the ins and outs of fishing gear. I understand that the process of finding the right gear can be overwhelming. There are many reasons I steer someone to consider one brand over another. Below is an overview of many of the brands that I commonly recommend. Like with most things, the “best” fishing gear can be subjective, but these brands consistently produce gear that will allow anglers to engage with their passion for the outdoors for years to come. Hopefully, these brand highlights will help take the guesswork out of starting a new hobby or upgrading your current arsenal.
Commonly Recommended Best Fishing Rod Brands
Born in Svängsta, Sweden, Abu Garcia is one of the top brands to beat in the fishing industry. AB Urfabriken began as a factory that created watches. After World War II, the demand for finely crafted timepieces decreased significantly. The head of AB Urfabriken, Göte Borgström was an avid angler, and with his passion for fishing, he changed directions and went from designing watches to fishing reels. With his expertise in creating precisely tuned watches, the company had a great starting point for making fishing reels lightweight and durable while offering anglers smooth operation to increase their chances of landing the fish of a lifetime. The company name changed to ABU and, ultimately, Abu Garcia, and this iconic brand was formed.
One of Abu Garcia’s most successful series is the Ambassadeur round profile baitcasting reel. It has become the “go-to” reel option for anglers looking to target catfish because of its power, durability, and line capacity. Also useful for anglers who pursue large game fish like pike and musky, the Ambassadeur series is one of Abu Garcia’s most successful offerings. Regarding bass fishing, the Revo series of spinning and casting reels are an excellent option for beginners and intermediate-level anglers. Their Vendetta and Vengeance rods are one of the best available for budget-minded anglers.
Since the 1950s, Daiwa has been at the forefront of fishing innovation. As an avid angler and entrepreneur, Yoshio Matsui took his vision for creating better fishing gear and made it a reality when he became the founder and owner of Daiwa fishing reels. Since its humble beginnings in Japan, Daiwa has become a global superpower in the fishing industry and has designed products for saltwater and freshwater anglers.
After designing the first open-faced reel (what we now know as a spinning reel) in 1958, Daiwa has continued to create technologies that open up opportunities for anglers to catch more fish. One such technology put forth by the brand is Daiwa’s SV braking system. The brakes in an SV casting reel rely on an induction rotor that interacts with the magnetic brakes, offering dynamic braking pressure throughout the entire cast, similar to a DC (digitally controlled) braking system. Another important innovation from Daiwa is its one-piece monocoque (MQ) body used on some of its spinning reels. This unique frame allows them to house a bigger and more durable main gear in a smaller space, creating spinning reels that are lighter and more durable than ever.
It’s hard to talk about quality fishing gear without mentioning Dobyns. After hundreds of victories as a tournament angler, Gary Dobyns had a pretty good idea of the gear needed to succeed as an angler out on the water. After trying his hand at rod building, Dobyn’s Champion series was born. Being very particular and detail-oriented in rod design, Gary Dobyns has sought to find ways to manufacture his rods to exact specifications and offer anglers a consistently performing product.
Dobyns spinning and casting rods are geared mainly towards bass anglers but will also allow anglers of other species to succeed. For anglers who target smallmouth bass or walleye, the softer tips and slightly slower actions of the Dobyns Sierra series will allow anglers to keep aggressive fish pinned and won’t rip hooks out of their softer mouths. The Fury line makes an excellent choice for beginner/intermediate-level anglers, and the Dobyns Champion series is one of the best bass-focused fishing rods currently available.
As an international tackle company, Favorite Fishing makes products that empower anglers across the globe to catch more fish. As manufacturers of rods and reels alike, Favorite Fishing equips anglers across many disciplines with the gear they need. From trout and panfish to pike and saltwater species, Favorite Fishing has options that will fit any individual angler’s needs.
The White Bird series of fishing rods are perfect for budget-conscious bass anglers looking for a quality rod that won’t break the bank. Its simple design is sleek and stylish and pairs well with the most available reels. The Black Swan is a premium option that will be lightweight, sensitive, and appeal to more serious anglers. As far as reels are concerned, the Sirius spinning reel is an excellent all-around spinning reel at an affordable price.
Gary Loomis was a machinist by trade and a seasoned angler. He got his feet wet while working for the Lamiglas rod company before going off on his own and starting G. Loomis in 1982 in Woodland, Washington. Using the best materials and componentry available, G. Loomis designs and manufactures fishing rods that help serious anglers to hone in on perfect, technique-specific setups.
While the price tags on G. Loomis rods might be steep for some anglers, those dedicated to finding the best gear that money can buy will find many great options in G. Loomis’ catalog. For bass anglers, the G. Loomis NRX+ series offers finely tuned actions to deliver consistent results to anglers who rely on them. They are optimized to maintain strength while the blanks are flexing, but without excess carbon fiber or epoxy that adds weight and makes them less efficient. The IMX Pro Walleye Series is also a quality rod that will empower walleye anglers to improve their craft. The rod tips are soft enough not to rip hooks out the softer mouths of walleye, while the power section has more than enough backbone for solid hooksets.
Based in Taiwan, Okuma is a manufacturer of fishing rods that seeks to inspire anglers to get out in nature and improve their craft. Offering a wide range of options for nearly any situation that anglers might encounter, Okuma gives them the tools needed for success. In addition, Okuma is known for creating affordable fishing gear that performs above its price point.
For anglers on a budget, the Okuma Ceymar spinning reel is versatile and won’t break the bank. For carp, the LS Baitfeeder Spinning Reel will allow fish to run with the bait in their mouth before engaging the reel and setting the hook. For offshore anglers, the Makaira Big Game rod offers a hefty backbone and roller guide system to allow anglers to manage the biggest and most aggressive fish in the ocean.
At just 25 years old, Otto Henze left Germany and came to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to work as a machinist with Ocean City Reels. From there, he went off on his own to pursue his dream and create one of the most iconic companies for making saltwater fishing gear. In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, many Americans turned to fish to feed their families. Penn had a handful of affordable saltwater reels that were up to the task as Penn grew in popularity. In 1936, Penn released the Senator, a hefty conventional reel catered to offshore anglers. The Senator sold for just $25, which made deep-sea fishing more accessible and catapulted Penn into the brand we know and love today.
For beginners and intermediate-level anglers, the Penn Battle III is an excellent spinning rod/reel combo that will allow anglers to land nearly any species that lives in the ocean. From there, the Spinfisher is a sealed spinning reel to make it uniquely corrosion-resistant and durable even with heavy use in saltwater. The Senator is still available for both inshore and offshore fishing situations, and Penn Squall makes a versatile and affordable level wind reel for a variety of saltwater fishing applications.
One of the fastest-growing rod brands, Phenix prides itself on making high-quality fishing rods with impeccable quality control for discriminating anglers from various disciplines. Whether you are targeting offshore tarpon, throwing a bladed jig for bass, or pulling trout from small streams, Phenix makes a situation-specific rod that will enable anglers to perfect their approach. Phenix stands out amongst the crows because they own their factory, which allows them to make rods in smaller batches and experiment with carbon fiber types and formulas for epoxies and resins, which allows them to manufacture rods to exact specifications.
Inspired by high-quality fly rods, the Phenix Elixir series of ultralight spinning rods are perfect for anglers who focus on catching trout and panfish with light lures and light lines. For bass anglers, the Phenix Feather series uses high-quality carbon fiber paired with their proprietary Nanoresin formula to create one of the lightest and most sensitive rods at its price point. Finally, for those who prefer offshore fishing for some of the largest fish found in the ocean, the Titan line will enable anglers to effectively present their bait and fight big, aggressive back to the boat.
One of the most widely available brands, Shakespeare makes fishing gear easily accessible to every angler. Especially for beginners, Shakespeare makes it easy to get out on the water while on a budget and start catching fish. In 1896, William Shakespeare Jr. patented the level wind reel. The level wind fishing reel allowed the line to lay evenly on the spool as it was retrieved. The following year, The Shakespeare Company began in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Eventually, Shakespeare would go on to produce the first fiberglass fishing rods!
Along with the famous Ugly Stick, Shakespeare currently makes a wide variety of spinning combos aimed at beginners and younger anglers.
In 1921, Shozoburu Shimano set out to start a company to create parts for bicycles. Starting out in Sakai City, Japan, “Shimano Iron Works” made hubs and derailleurs for bicycles. In 1969, Shimano looked to expand to the U.S. market and began designing fishing reels. The first fishing reel series that Shimano created was the DUX spinning reel. It included a variable gear ratio, a unique concept that put Shimano on the map as a tackle company. Shimano’s unique approach to cold-forging metals has produced lightweight and rigid materials, allowing them to create durable products that are easy for anglers to manage during a long day out on the water. In a relatively brief period of around 50 years, Shimano has consistently re-defined the industry standard for creating quality fishing gear.
One of Shimano’s current most popular pieces of gear is the Shimano Vanford spinning reel, and for a good reason. It utilizes Shimano’s cold forging process to create a lightweight yet rigid frame, making it the perfect choice for anglers looking to offer finesse fishing presentations. Shimano is also pioneering the way for digitally controlled braking systems. The Shimano SLX DC is a casting reel with a braking system requiring minimal adjustment from anglers so they can spend more time fishing than dialing in their gear. Another notable option from Shimano for bait finesse system (BFS) anglers is the Curado BFS. Casting reels are notoriously difficult to use with lightweight, finesse fishing applications. The Curado BFS allows anglers to fish lighter tackle like a drop shot or ned rig while using a baitcasting setup.
In 1948, St. Croix made history by creating the first multi-section bamboo fishing pole, allowing anglers to transport their rods much more easily. From there, they have branched from making fiberglass rods for salmon and steelhead to some of the lightest and most sensitive rods for big game fish. Based in Wisconsin, St. Croix has been in the business for 70 years and has made a name for itself in the fishing industry.
St. Croix makes rods suitable for catching virtually anything that swims in the water. Their trout series is a great choice for ultralight anglers, whether they’re looking to fish a rooster tail in a small creek or drifting a mealworm under a float in a faster current. The Mojo Bass series has built a great reputation amongst anglers, and the Mojo Glass series is especially suited for crankbaits and other lures, including treble hooks. Finally, the most discriminating saltwater anglers will find the balance, action, and sensitivity of the Legend Xtreme Inshore series to be one of the most premium rods on the market.
Most known for their fly fishing gear, Temple Fork Outfitters offers conventional anglers an assortment of fishing rods tailored towards many different techniques, species, and bodies of water. TFO prides itself on creating quality rods that serve a purpose rather than following trends. While their rods are also aesthetically pleasing, Temple Fork Outfitters’ offerings are designed to be serious fish-catching tools that will hold up against the elements and heavy use without any unnecessary gimmicks or “frills.”
TFO has created rods for fresh or saltwater anglers in both spinning and casting models. They also offer trolling rod options for anglers who prefer fishing from their boats. The trout and panfish series is built around an ultralight blank with plenty of backbone but with a super soft tip, making it an excellent choice for micro jigs and drop shots. The Professional Walleye series is especially versatile and includes both spinning and casting options, and the new Resolve Bass series offers anglers exceptional balance, sensitivity, and durability.
Patented by James Monroe Lindler and Michael Taras Romanyszyn in 1976, the Ugly Stik was a powerful fishing rod that revolutionized the fishing industry. In the 1960s, rod manufacturers were clamoring to find ways to incorporate graphite into their fishing rod lineups. Graphite is lightweight and sensitive but is also very expensive compared to fiberglass, which made up the bulk of fishing rods at the time. The Ugly Stik starts off with a spiral wound graphite covered with translucent fiberglass threads. What the Ugly Stik lacked in its appearance was made up for in this innovative rod's strength, weight, and sensitivity.
The Ugly Stik has come a long way in appearance and the technology used to create the rods. As a result, there are variations of the rod capable of performing nearly any technique or for nearly any species anglers might encounter. The Ugly Stik GX2 still utilizes the graphite core and surrounding fiberglass threads, while newer variations include options made purely from graphite. A subsidiary of the Shakespeare fishing company, Ugly Stik rods are affordable and widely available wherever fishing gear is sold.
Well, there you have it! Hopefully, this list will point you in the right direction on your fishing journey. Check out the Expert Journal here on Curated for more Fishing content.