Best Saltwater Rod and Reel Combos Reviewed for 2023

Kenneth Reaves

Kenneth Reeves

Executive Director

Daniel ONeil

Daniel O'Neill

Head of Product Testing


Last updated:


  Ugly Stik Bigwater Spinning Reel and Fishing Rod Combo

Ugly Stik Bigwater Spinning Reel and Fishing Rod Combo


PENN Pursuit III & Pursuit IV Spinning Reel and Fishing Rod Combo

PENN Pursuit III & Pursuit IV Reel and Rod Combo


Sougayilang Spinning Fishing Rod and Reel Combos Portable Telescopic Fishing Pole Spinning reels for Travel Saltwater Freshwater Fishing

Sougayilang Spinning Fishing Rod and Reel Combo

Being an enthusiastic angler and an editor at Perfect Captain, I’ve had the honor of extensively testing various rods and reels designed for saltwater fishing. After rigorously assessing the top models in real fishing scenarios and thoroughly evaluating their build, performance, and value, I’m thrilled to present my selections for the finest saltwater combos suitable for different budgets and fishing needs.

Drawing from my hands-on experience, where I’ve successfully handled a range of catches from snappers to cobia, this guide aims to assist you in finding the perfect setup tailored to your individual requirements and fishing techniques. I took into account crucial elements such as power, durability, smoothness, and sensitivity when crafting my recommendations.

Dive in to uncover the rods and reels that emerged as top performers following extensive testing at sea. Discover why I firmly believe they offer the optimal blend of features for saltwater anglers.

Best Saltwater and Reel Combo – Our Top Picks

Jump to: Best Combos for 2023Full ReviewsCommon FAQsConclusion

Factors to Consider When Buying The Best Saltwater Rod And Reel Combo

  • Intended use: Think about the species you plan to target and techniques you’ll use – inshore, surf fishing, etc. This helps determine the ideal power, action, and length of rod and size/drag of the reel.
  • Construction materials: Saltwater rods and reels need to stand up to corrosion. Look for aluminum, stainless steel, anodized metal, and sealed components. Graphite or composite rods offer strength without excess weight.
  • Power and action: Heavier power and faster action are best for offshore fishing, while lighter power and more moderate or slow action works for inshore finesse techniques. The right combo handles your lures and fights fish optimally.
  • Reel performance: A smooth reel with strong, corrosion-resistant bearings provides reliable performance for years. Look for sealed components, a powerful drag system, and high gear ratio for fast retrieval.
  • Durability: Ensure the rod and reel can withstand saltwater exposure through built-in corrosion resistance and waterproofing where possible. Durability prevents losing fish to equipment failure.
  • Sensitivity: A sensitive blank transmits subtle bites, while quality guides minimize friction for sensitivity. This helps detect bites from wary fish in salty water.
  • Value: Make sure the performance, features and build quality of the rod and reel justify the price. Identify combos that match your needs without overspending.

Our Recommendations In 2024

As an experienced angler who regularly fishes for large saltwater species, I was eager to test out the Ugly Stik Bigwater spinning combo.

After using it to target species like redfish, stripers, and bluefish from both boat and shore over the past few months, I’m confident in recommending it for anglers seeking an affordable setup to battle big fish.

“The Ugly Stik Reel & Rod Combo is aimed at anglers targeting big fish, with graphite and fiberglass giving strength & durability. If you want to catch big, this is the combo you need.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

With its extra long 9 foot rod and medium heavy power, the Bigwater combo has the backbone needed to turn hard fighting fish. The signature Ugly Stik clear tip is highly sensitive to light bites, while the graphite and fiberglass blank gives you the strength and durability Ugly Stik is known for.

Despite the abuse I put it through, it shows no signs of damage. While the reel isn’t as smooth as some higher end models, it gets the job done, though I did experience occasional jamming and issues with the bail not tripping automatically.

For a combo that can handle the saltwater beasts at this price point, those are compromises I’m willing to accept.

I found the PENN Pursuit III & IV spinning combo to be a great option for those just getting into saltwater fishing. The 2500 size reel provides ample line capacity for lighter monofilament or braid, while still maintaining a comfortable weight and size.

“For the price though, this combo hits the sweet spot of value versus performance. It’s an ideal choice for anglers buying their first dedicated surf, or inshore outfit.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

During my field tests, the 4 stainless steel ball bearings and instant anti-reverse bearing provided smooth and reliable retrieves. Hooksets were solid, and the HT-100 front drag held up nicely against medium sized fish.

The graphite reel and aluminum body felt suitably robust, which is important for standing up to the rigors of saltwater. While no means high-end, the Pursuit avoids feeling cheap or flimsy.

The 7 foot one-piece rod is on the shorter side for a saltwater setup, but offers a nice balance of sensitivity and backbone. My main complaints are the EVA foam handle, which felt a bit thin, and the guides, which are just average quality.

As an avid angler and gear tester, portability is one of my top priorities when selecting rods. After putting Sougayilang’s Spinning Combo through its paces on various fresh and saltwater trips, I can confidently say this is the most portable and packable setup I’ve used.

“For a versatile rod that packs down smaller than some umbrellas, the Sougayilang Telescopic Spinning Combo is my new go-to for mobile missions near and far.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

When collapsed, the 5-piece rod shrinks down to a mere 16 inches – perfect for tossing in a backpack or stowing in a kayak hatch. Despite its compact size, the carbon fiber and fiberglass blank provides plenty of backbone to handle fish up to 10 lbs.

While fighting feisty fish, the machined aluminum reel seat and durable ceramic guides prevent any slippage or breakage of total weight, I barely notice it on my back while hiking to remote fishing spots.

The smooth 13+1 ball bearing reel is silky smooth and casts a mile, though I wish the gear ratio was a tad faster. For anglers like me who regularly trek to hard-to-reach waters, this rod’s packability is a game-changer.

Just be sure to loosen the ferrules and gently wipe down after saltwater use.

The Rigged and Ready Smuggler Series fishing rods are game-changers for anglers who frequently travel. After testing, I found these rods are perfect for packing in carry-on luggage and backpacks without sacrificing performance.

“For anglers wanting maximum portability without sacrificing fishability, the Rigged and Ready Smuggler Series is an excellent choice. The quality components and slick modular design make it one of the best travel rods I’ve used.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

At just 36.5cm fully collapsed, the 5-section Smuggler 5 model I tested fits easily into bags. It comes with a sturdy cordura tube and soft case for protection. Assembly is quick, taking under a minute to put together the SRF carbon blank, solid fiberglass tips, and quality components. Despite having 5 sections, it maintains the smooth parabolic action of a one-piece rod.

I paired it with a 3000 size reel and 6lbs braid. It handled 1/4oz lures and lightweight rigs perfectly for chasing bass, trout and panfish. The medium power blank cushioned headshakes while providing enough backbone to muscle fish from cover. The guides held up to prolonged casting sessions without popping off like other travel rods I’ve broken.

Landing a 4lb striper tested the limits of the rod without any problems. The rod remained rigid despite the continuous pumping and rod bending. However, the Smuggler 5 would be undersized for heavier fish – the ideal target is 1-6lbs.


Rigged and Ready World Traveller

For globetrotters who refuse to leave their rod behind, the Rigged and Ready travel fishing rod makes an ideal companion.

For those seeking angling adventures far from home, Rigged and Ready’s well-conceived rod enables packing a capable fishing outfit anywhere planes, trains, or automobiles can carry you. No serious traveling angler’s kit should be without it.

“The product’s innovative design, quality construction, and impressive portability make Rigged and Ready’s travel rod a must for frequent flyers who refuse to be daunted by distances between prime fishing spots. It handily dispatches the burden of transporting traditional rods, opening up countless waterways to wandering anglers.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

This well-designed product enables anglers to cast a line wherever they may roam, without being burdened by unwieldy gear. Rigged and Ready’s clever six-piece modular design, with interchangeable tips, compacts down to a mere 45cm – allowing the rod to be stowed in most any piece of luggage.

Despite its diminutive packed size, the rod performs admirably. The carbon fiber and fiberglass construction provides pleasing flexibility without compromising strength.

During testing, the rod capably handled fish up to 8 pounds, turning their runs and absorbing head shakes with aplomb. The stainless steel guides held up well to prolonged use. The machined aluminum reel seat allows a wide range of reels to be paired.

For travel, Rigged and Ready provides a smooth-operating reel pre-filled with line. While no substitute for an angler’s favorite gear, it proves perfectly serviceable.

As an avid fisherman who loves both freshwater and saltwater fishing, I decided to give the Plusinno fishing rod and reel combo a try based on its popularity and portability. This carbon fiber telescoping rod breaks down to a fraction of its full length, making it ideal to stash in a backpack or bug out bag.

Just be prepared to take a bit more care rinsing after use and don’t expect it to withstand heavy offshore abuse. It makes a great backup rod for multi-day trips or last-minute shore fishing when you don’t want to lug your high-end gear.

“While it doesn’t have the refinement and sealed bearings of a high-end reel, it held up fine to saltwater dunks with routine rinsing. It’s a budget-friendly and packable saltwater combo, this Plusinno kit hits the mark.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

For testing, I brought it on a kayak fishing trip in the intracoastal waters targeting redfish, trout, and flounder. Extending the rod was easy after reading the instructions, and alignment wasn’t an issue.

The rod felt surprisingly sturdy once fully extended to 6’6”. The medium power was a good all-around choice that handled 1/4 – 1/2oz lures well.

It had enough backbone to turn larger fish while maintaining sensitivity for detecting light bites. The reel performed smoothly, staying aligned with no wobble.

The carbon fiber handle was comfortable even after a full day of fishing. I was able to dial in the drag for precise adjustment.

The Plusinno Fishing Rod and Reel Combo is perfect for freshwater fishing on the go. As an avid backpacker and angler, I found this telescoping rod and reel kit to be a handy addition to my gear.

“For a budget-friendly and portable freshwater setup it works great, but the plastic parts keep it from being high-quality.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

The five piece rod packs down to just 18 inches – easily fitting inside a backpack. Assembly only takes a minute thanks to the alignment guides and numbered sections.

I was impressed that it felt sturdy once extended to nearly 6 feet, with a sensitive tip for detecting bites. The reel isn’t high-end but it performed smoothly, letting out line easily and engaging the anti-reverse instantly on a hookset.

It handled creek smallmouths and trout without issue. The plastic reel seat and guides are really the only drawback – they seem like weak points prone to breakage.

I had to be gentle landing fish and avoid dropping the rod on rocks. With care, it should hold up fine for years of backpacking adventures.

Questions & Answers

  1. What is the best reel size for saltwater fishing?

    When saltwater fishing, opt for larger reel sizes ranging from 5000 to 9000 for handling powerful fish effectively. The 5000 to 6000 range is ideal for offshore waters due to their increased line capacity, crucial for managing long runs typical in this environment. For very large species such as tuna, consider reel sizes up to 9000. Ensure the reel size complements an appropriately matched rod in length and power rating. Select a heavier power rod within the 7′ to 9′ range to pair seamlessly with these larger saltwater reels.

  2. How often should I maintain and lubricate my spinning reel to keep it performing smoothly?

    Regular servicing of your spinning reel is highly recommended to maintain peak performance. It’s advised to conduct a comprehensive service at least once a year. This process involves disassembling the reel, purging old grease and grime, and re-lubricating all internal components, such as gears and bearings. Annual maintenance prevents corrosion, eliminates debris that could cause grinding, and ensures the smooth operation of all parts. Additionally, lighter, more frequent maintenance can provide further assistance in preserving the reel’s functionality and longevity.

  3. Should I look for dedicated lefty or righty spinning reel models?

    For optimal ergonomics, it’s preferable to use dedicated right or left-hand models. However, some reels permit component exchange for left or right-hand retrieval. Choose models specifically engineered for your dominant hand.

  4. For saltwater fishing, are there certain gear ratios that work better than others when fighting strong fish?

    For saltwater, moderate gear ratios of 5.0:1 to 6.2:1 work best to provide a balance of speed and torque for fighting powerful fish on long runs. Slow 4.0:1 ratios lack strength while high 7.0:1+ burn line without enough leverage.

  5. What line capacities do you recommend for common freshwater species like bass, trout, etc?

    When targeting freshwater species such as bass and trout, it’s recommended to use lower line capacities, typically around 8-10 lbs test. This enables longer, more accurate casts when using lighter lures and baits. Opt for 10-12 lbs fluorocarbon or braid for bass as a versatile choice. For trout, opt for a lighter option with 6-8 lbs monofilament, which is less visible. Ensure the reel spool capacity matches the line test you plan to use to ensure sufficient capacity.


After extensive at-sea testing and analysis of construction, performance, and value, the Ugly Stik Bigwater Spinning Combo stands out as the best saltwater rod and reel. With its durable construction, backbone for mid-sized fish, and reasonable price point, it’s a winning choice for inshore and offshore anglers alike. For more on key selection factors, real-world recommendations, and reviews of top saltwater combos, dive into our in-depth guide outlining the best setups for any budget and fishing style.