The 4 Best Fishing Rods of 2024

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Video best fishing rods and reels

Great for Small Fish

Ugly Stik Elite

Length Tested: 5′ | Casting Weight: 1/32-1/4 oz

If you need a well-built, lightweight fishing rod that’s easy to tote to your favorite fishing hole, look no further than the Ugly Stik Elite. Don’t let its small size fool you. It’s perfectly strong and has impressive fighting power, which was proven on several occasions when we hauled in fish that were seemingly too big for this rod. This Ugly Stik was also versatile enough for different fishing styles, whether it be dropping a hook with a worm on it or just casting with a lure. It was also one of the best when it came to balancing, sitting comfortably in our hands all day long.

Although the upsides were plentiful, there were a few downsides to consider. This rod is on the small side, so the casting distance takes a hit. This is to be expected due to the rod’s size, but it’s still something to think about if most of your fishing involves casting. It also has a fairly short handle, which made two-handed use a little more difficult. Overall, this rod was a pleasure to use. So, if you need a small rod that can handle the rigors of everyday fishing, you might want to give the Ugly Stik Elite a try.

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Why You Should Trust Us

Our testing grounds were June Lake, California, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the California coast, where our lead tester fished from both shorelines and boats to determine how each rod performed in different environments. Dozens of fish were hooked in the process of testing these rods, helping us decipher key performance differences between each product. Each fishing rod was taken out into the field to gain impressions about the features, as well as the versatility and portability. Professional anglers were also consulted, and their feedback was taken into consideration. We then put each rod up against the others to figure out where each one ranked in the test. The rankings and recommendations found in this review were informed by our in-depth comparisons and field testing.

Kit Smith, our lead reviewer, has been fishing for most of his life. He grew up fishing for salmon and halibut in the San Francisco Bay and the nearby Pacific Ocean. He also spent time fishing streams and lakes in Bear Valley, a small mountain town in the Central Sierras, where his family had a cabin. Later, he continued perfecting his angling craft in Colorado, where he attended college.

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Analysis and Test Results

During testing, we measured each rod on five metrics: Balance/Feel, Features, Portability, Construction, and Versatility. We lay out each below and highlight some top performers in each area.

Value

As the old adage goes: When you buy cheap, you buy twice. Case in point here is the KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic. Its glass tip broke after a few uses, and we had to order another one. We didn’t have any problems with the second rod, so we’ll chalk it up to getting a lemon. Overall, we ended up really enjoying this rod for its versatility, portability, and exceptional balance. The real stand-out for its great price-to-performance ratio is the PLUSINNO Two-Piece Spinning Rod, which is ultra-affordable and surprised us with its great functionality on the water. The Daiwa Megaforce Tele Spin is a bit pricier, but overall, it’s a well-constructed, highly portable rod with great casting capabilities that is a good value we think most fishermen would be happy with.

Balance & Feel

A rod’s balance is a crucial component to consider. It not only helps with casting, but it also makes fishing a whole lot more comfortable. If the balance is off, the weight of the rod will be shifted to the rod tip or handle, and you’ll notice it. Feel is also an important metric here. Feel comes down to the sensitivity of the rod. If a rod has a great feel, you can sense the smallest bites and the action of a lure in the water.

While telescoping rods don’t traditionally provide great balance and feel, the Daiwa Megaforce Telescopic was an exception. It was extremely comfortable to fish with and let us sense every little movement in the water.

As far as the most well-balanced and sensitive rod goes, the St. Croix Triumph Travel and the Ugly Stik Elite were neck and neck. While the St. Croix Triumph Travel is the most balanced and sensitive fishing rod we tested, letting you feel everything that was happening underwater, the Ugly Stik was right there with it. It helped us feel the tiniest nibbles and set the hook like a pro.

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Features

This metric is sometimes overlooked when considering a fishing rod. Sure, you can get the job done without all the bells and whistles, but smart features can make the experience even better. What kind of features are we talking about? Things like a cork grip, hook holder, and oversize guides. But having a lot of features doesn’t automatically make it a winner here. They have to be features that really work and add to the fishing experience. This category’s standout is the PLUSINNO Two-Piece Spinning, with an abundance of useful features. A couple of our favorites? The oversize ceramic guides helped guide the line smoothly for long casts, and the double locking structure on the reel seat held the reel tightly in place and never loosed up, even after bumpy boat rides.

With our favorite handle, the Cadence Fishing CR5 Spinning Rod also proved strong in this metric. Some of these rods have foam handles, but this one features a premium cork handle that fits perfectly in hand and makes all-day fishing comfort a reality. The High Altitude Lightweight Telescopic packed plenty of features, too. We especially liked the hook keeper that lets you store your hook while moving between fishing holes.

Portability

This is a crucial metric if you plan on traveling with your rod. Of course, it’s hard to beat a telescoping rod for portability, but some of the two-piece rods we tested were quite easy to take apart and put back together. The Cadence Fishing CR5 was one of these, and it made transporting a breeze.

One of the most portable rods we tested was the High Altitude Lightweight Telescopic. It was one of the lightest and easiest to transport of our test fleet. But many of the other telescoping rods were just as portable, including the Daiwa Megaforce Telescopic and the KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic. If portability is important to you, we suggest trying out one of these rods.

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Construction

While this isn’t the most exciting metric, it does make a big difference in how well a rod works. Depending on the material, you can get more sensitivity, strength, and fighting power. On top of that, the construction may be what determines if a rod lasts ten days or ten years.

There were a few standouts in this metric. The Daiwa Megaforce Telescopic was clearly built to last among the telescopic poles. Its carbon fiber construction combines strength and sensitivity to pick up little nibbles on our bait.

The true king of construction, though, is the St. Croix Triumph Travel. Built with a unique graphite fiber, this rod provided incredible sensitivity and fighting power. Of course, that quality doesn’t come cheap — it also comes with a high price tag.

Versatility

Another important metric to consider is versatility. And in this category, not all rods are created equal. Some are specifically made for fishing off the bottom of a lake, while others are made just for casting in saltwater environments.

The KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic is a clear winner here. With its equally great performance in both fresh and saltwater, exceptional casting distance and sensitivity, and impressive fighting power, it can handle everything from small trout to large sea bass.

In comparison, while it’s built with quality in mind, the Ugly Stik Elite is really only made for freshwater fishing. Its fast action and light power design were clear indications of this. With that said, its versatility score took a hit.

Conclusion

Selecting the right fishing rod puts the odds more in your favor. Your personal fishing style is an important consideration. Do you plan to spend most of your days dropping a line off a boat, or will you be casting from the shoreline more often? Whatever it is, there’s a rod here designed just for you. We hope this article has been helpful in selecting a new rod. So, plan that next fishing trip, get out there, and snag that trophy fish.