7 Best Saltwater Rod And Reel Combos Reviewed

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Best Saltwater Rod And Reel Combos

Bonjour fellow angler, welcome to my review of the best saltwater rod and reel combos!

Saltwater fishing calls for much tougher rods and reels than freshwater fishing. Without some seriously heavy-duty fishing gear, you’ll soon find yourself with a rust-covered rod and reel. That’s why durability is the most important quality of saltwater tackle. This doesn’t mean you can neglect the other aspects though. Strength and smoothness are also a must, along with some nice-to-haves like comfort and lightness.

Finding a rod and a reel that fits all those conditions is no mean feat. The good news is that you can spare yourself the trouble of finding a rod and a reel separately, and instead get a rod and reel combo. Rod and reel combos are also usually cheaper than buying a rod and reel on their own. And of course, by getting a rod and reel combo, you won’t have to worry that your reel won’t fit your rod.

Even as a seasoned angler of 21 years now, it still took me 49 hours along with my team to go through every rod and reel combo on the market. After all that, we narrowed the various saltwater rod and reel combos to just seven of the best ones.

In the interest of time, the best inshore combo and offshore combo are the Penn Fierce III Combo and the Penn Battle III Combo. For those who don’t have time to read through our reviews, those are the two best combos you can get your hands on. They’re for inshore and offshore fishing respectively. Both these saltwater combos have plenty of muscle for big game fish, are smooth to operate, and most importantly, are extraordinarily sturdy.

Don’t worry if neither of those combos was your cup of tea though. That’s why there are five other saltwater fishing combos for you to pick from. Whether you’re looking for something cheaper, more portable, or that just casts farther, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s begin!

The 7 Best Saltwater Rod And Reel Combos

Before we get started, note that for the Ugly Stik, Sougayilang and Plusinno combos, I had to estimate some of their specs.

For all three combos, the maximum drag wasn’t shown on the side or stated on the product page. As such, I had to fish with a few different lines and then form a rough estimate from there.

For the Sougayilang combo, I also had to estimate the power the same way, because it wasn’t stated anywhere.

I usually don’t like unclear products, but I made an exception for these three combos because they’re exceptional combos.

Now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s begin!

Best Inshore

1. Penn Fierce III Combo

  • Power: Ranges from Medium Light to Medium Heavy
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Handle Material: EVA Foam
  • Ball Bearings: 4+1
  • Max Drag Weight: 10-25 pounds

First up is the Penn Fierce III Combo. With its hardy construction, remarkable strength, and excellent smoothness, you can count on the Penn Fierce III Combo to get the job done every time, even in the most extreme conditions.

First off, you must be wondering what exactly makes this rod and reel combo so tough.

Well, for starters, it’s got a full metal body and sideplates. The metal used is aluminum. Aluminum reacts with oxygen to form a layer of aluminum oxide that protects it from corrosion. As such, aluminum is one of the most corrosion-resistant materials around. With this corrosion resistance, and given how robust aluminum is, it’s no wonder this combo is so hardy.

But that’s not all.

The Penn Fierce III Combo is also equipped with stainless steel guides and ball bearings. Similar to aluminum, the chromium in stainless steel will react with oxygen to form a protective layer. This makes stainless steel also highly corrosion-resistant. Add that to the fact that stainless steel is one of the hardest and strongest steels available and you’ve got one of the most durable materials for guides and ball bearings.

Combining the full metal body and sideplate and the stainless steel guides and bearings, the result is a rugged rod and reel combo that will be your faithful saltwater fishing companion for years to come.

Strength-wise, with medium heavy power and 25 pounds of drag, you can confidently go after the largest inshore fishes. You can also snag some big offshore fish, but you won’t be able to reel in the biggest ones. That’s why this is the best inshore combo.

Smoothness-wise, 4+1 bearings is a little on the low side. However, with Penn’s top-notch stainless steel ball bearings, you’ll still be getting excellent smoothness.

Some other nice features this saltwater combo has are a comfortable EVA handle and incredible sensitivity. The EVA handle even has finger grooves for a comfortable but super secure grip. And the extra fast action will allow you to feel the bites of the tiniest fish.

Perhaps the only area that Penn could have improved on was the packaging. Although this saltwater fishing combo came to me undamaged, the box was thin. Were I to order this same combo a few more times, I’m fairly sure that one of them would sustain some minor damages during shipping.

Having said that, in the event that your Penn Fierce III Combo reaches you damaged, Penn will cover your return shipping costs. You can also request for replacement parts, so don’t worry too much about the thin box.

All in all, the Penn Fierce III Combo may not be perfect, but it excels in every aspect and is very wallet-friendly. If you’re looking for a high-quality saltwater rod and reel combo for inshore fishing that won’t break the bank, look no further.

Best Offshore

2. Penn Battle III Spinning Fishing Combo

  • Power: Ranges from Light to Heavy
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Handle Material: Cork/EVA Foam/EVA Foam + Rubber Shrink Tubing
  • Ball Bearings: 5+1
  • Max Drag Weight: 9-30 pounds

If you liked the Penn Fierce III Combo, but wish it was smoother and strong enough for monster offshore fishes, you’re in luck. The Penn Battle III Combo is essentially a smoother and more powerful Penn Fierce III Combo.

Like the Penn Fierce III Combo, this combo also incorporates an aluminum body and sideplates and stainless steel guides and bearings. These translate to the same level of durability, which means this combo will still be in good condition even 10 years down the line.

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Other than the toughness though, the Penn Battle III Combo beats the Penn Fierce III Combo in every way.

As a glance at the specs would tell you, this saltwater combo boasts a fishing rod with heavy power and a spinning reel that can produce up to 30 pounds of drag. With this much power, you’ll be able to stare down even the largest offshore fishes.

This also has one more ball bearing. It may not sound like a lot, but it will give you a 20% smoother reel.

And as for the rod handle, you’ll be spoilt for choice. You can take your pick from cork, EVA foam, and even a mix of EVA foam and rubber shrink tubing.

All things considered, this spinning reel combo beats the Penn Fierce III Combo hands down. Not only does it possess enough strength to handle offshore giants, but it’s also smoother and has a wider selection of rod handles. For saltwater anglers planning to take on the biggest fishes in the ocean, there’s no better rod and reel combo than this.

Best For Surf Fishing

3. Ugly Stik Bigwater Fishing Rod Combo

  • Power: Medium Heavy
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Handle Material: EVA Foam
  • Ball Bearings: 1+1
  • Max Drag Weight: 22 pounds

Long and sturdy, the Ugly Stik Bigwater Combo is the best saltwater rod and reel combo there is for surf fishing.

For durability, you’ll have an aluminum spool and stainless steel guides. On top of that, Ugly Stik rods are known for being unbreakable thanks to Ugly Stik’s Ugly Tech Construction. This combo is built with that same construction that gives countless Ugly Stik rods around the world their invincibility. Needless to say, this combo is virtually indestructible.

For comfort, there’s also an EVA grip for a comfortable but secure grip.

For strength, you’ll have medium heavy power and up to 22 pounds of stopping power. This will enable you to target big fish, although the biggest ones will be off-limits.

The thing is, you won’t need that much power anyway because you won’t be able to reach that far. Measuring 9 feet, the Ugly Stik Bigwater rod is able to cast past the breaking surf and reach the big game fish. But to reach the trophy fish far out in the surf, you’ll need your fishing pole to be at least 10 feet long. As such, with this fishing rod, you’ll only have access to the large fish (not largest), which you’ll be well-prepared for.

The only flaw this saltwater fishing combo has is its bearing count. With only 1+1 ball bearings, don’t expect smooth operation. I’m guessing the ball bearings are high-quality though because the reel felt more like 3+1 bearings. Nevertheless, 3+1 is still little by any standards.

I’d say Ugly Stik definitely could have built this spinning reel combo with more ball bearings, but there’s no denying its sturdiness, strength, and comfort. Besides, the 7-year warranty does sort of make up for the low bearing count. Overall, it’s still the best rod and reel combo we could find for catching fish in the surf.

Best Bigwater Alternative

4. Okuma Tundra Surf Spinning Combo

  • Power: Ranges from Medium to Medium Heavy
  • Guides: Ceramic
  • Handle Material: EVA Foam
  • Ball Bearings: 1
  • Max Drag Weight: 22 pounds

Cheap but still able to cast far, this is a great alternative to the Bigwater. Designed for surf fishing, the Okuma Tundra Surf Combo comes in every length you could need, from 8 feet all the way to 12 feet.

This rod and reel combo incorporates a corrosion-resistant graphite spool and ceramic guides. While graphite isn’t as robust as aluminum, corrosion-resistant graphite is still impressively long-lasting. In addition, ceramic is completely corrosion-proof. With the graphite spool and ceramic guides, you’ll have a durable combo that can weather the elements.

With medium heavy power and a 22-pound max drag, this saltwater combo also packs quite a punch.

Unfortunately, like the Bigwater, this spinning reel is severely lacking in ball bearings. In fact, it literally only has one ball bearing. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too choppy for one ball bearing. It’s not the best, but could certainly be worse.

To sum it up, this rod and reel combo won’t be able to take as much abuse and isn’t as smooth as the past three combos. If you have the means, you should definitely get the Bigwater for fishing in the surf. But for saltwater anglers trying to keep costs down, this is the best saltwater rod and reel combo for surf fishing.

Best For Beginners

5. Penn Pursuit III Spinning Combo

  • Power: Ranges from Medium Light to Medium Heavy
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Handle Material: EVA Foam
  • Ball Bearings: 4+1
  • Max Drag Weight: 12-20 pounds

This next rod and reel combo fares relatively well in all areas. The Penn Pursuit III Combo doesn’t have amazing specs like the higher-end combos, but doesn’t drop the bar in any area like the Okuma Tundra does either. It’s basically an all-around combo that delivers on all fronts.

The corrosion-resistant graphite body, coupled with the stainless steel guides, translates to a heavy-duty rod and reel.

Then, with medium heavy power, 20 pounds of drag, and extra fast action, the entire range of inshore fish is available to you, along with the big fish offshore.

You’ll also be glad to hear that with 4+1 bearings, this spinning reel is nowhere near as disappointing as the previous two.

Finally, the EVA handle will provide a firm but comfy grip.

In short, the Penn Pursuit III Combo does pretty well in every aspect. It doesn’t measure up to the higher-end combos, but isn’t as expensive either. Beginner anglers looking for an affordable high-quality combo to start saltwater fishing, this could just be what you’re looking for.

Best Portability

6. Sougayilang Saltwater Rod And Reel Combo Kit

  • Power: Medium Heavy
  • Guides: Porcelain
  • Handle Material: EVA Foam
  • Ball Bearings: 13+1
  • Max Drag Weight: 21 pounds

Up next is the most portable saltwater rod and reel combo out there – the Sougayilang Combo Kit.

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By now, you should be familiar with what to look for in a saltwater rod and reel combo, such as the power, drag, etc. As such, I’ll only be highlighting the noteworthy qualities from here on. This way, you won’t need to hear me repeat the same stuff over and over again.

Right off the bat, you’ll notice that this spinning reel has an unbelievable amount of bearings. Outfitted with 13+1 bearings, this fishing reel has one of the highest bearing counts on the market.

Here’s the thing though. The bearings are only of decent quality, so it felt more like a 7+1 bearings fishing reel. No doubt that’s still outstanding, but just don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll be getting a silky smooth reel.

In terms of portability, measuring just 16.1 inches when collapsed, this fishing rod is unmatched in portability. It can easily fit in your suitcase, backpack, and just about anywhere you need it to.

Saltwater fishermen on the hunt for a portable saltwater combo to bring on their travels, you could do a lot worse than the Sougayilang Combo.

Best Budget

7. Plusinno Fishing Rod And Reel Combo

  • Power: Medium
  • Guides: Aluminum Oxide
  • Handle Material: EVA Foam
  • Ball Bearings: 12+1
  • Max Drag Weight: 22 pounds

Last on the list is the cheapest functional saltwater rod and reel combo available – the Plusinno Combo.

At first glance, you might be wondering why its price is so low, what with 12+1 bearings and an aluminum spool.

The thing is, same as with the Sougayilang Combo, its ball bearings are only of average quality. It feels more like 5+1 bearings than 12+1.

I’ve also heard tales from my fishing buddies about how this combo needs a ton of maintenance to stay rust-free.

Furthermore, the most this fishing rod can come up with is medium power.

Even so, this is still the cheapest rod and reel combo that can withstand saltwater corrosion. We set out to find the most affordable combo that could still survive saltwater fishing and this was it.

What To Look For In A Saltwater Rod And Reel Combo

At this point, you’ve (hopefully) found your dream saltwater rod and reel combo.

This section will go into detail each factor we considered when creating this list. This way, you’ll know we’re not trying to pull a fast one on you.

Power

Rod power is measured by the amount of force needed to bend a fishing rod. The greater the force needed, the stiffer the fishing rod and heavier its power is.

The different fishing rod powers are ultra light, light, medium light, medium, medium heavy, heavy, and extra heavy.

Naturally, the larger your target fish, the heavier your rod’s power has to be. The size of the fishes in your waters will depend on where you’re fishing.

Saltwater fishing can be split into inshore and offshore fishing. The main difference between inshore and offshore fishing is depth.

Inshore fishing is done either from shore on a boat in shallow waters. Offshore fishing is always done on boat and the waters have to be at least 30 metres deep for it to be considered offshore fishing.

Inshore fishes are on average smaller than offshore fishes. As such, you won’t need more than a medium power saltwater fishing rod for inshore fishing.

Offshore fishes will require stronger rods as the fishes are bigger. I’d recommend nothing less than a medium heavy saltwater fishing rod. In fact, a heavy rod would be best, and if you have access, by all means, go for an extra heavy rod.

Action

Rod action is measured by how high up your rod bends when pressure is applied to the tip. The higher up it bends, the faster the action and the more sensitive your fishing rod.

The different rod actions are slow, moderate, moderate fast, fast, and extra fast.

Since inshore fishes are smaller, you’ll need a faster action rod to feel their bites. I like to play it safe so I always use a fast action saltwater fishing rod for inshore fishing. That said, moderate fast action will suffice for all but the tiniest inshore fishes.

For offshore fishing, you can afford to use less sensitive rods. I’d say moderate and even slow action saltwater rods will be fine, though I would stick with the moderate action rod.

Blank Material

Rod blanks are typically made of carbon fiber, aka graphite, fiberglass, or composite.

Carbon fiber is the most expensive material because it’s the lightest and most sensitive. However, it’s also the weakest.

Fiberglass is the most robust, but also the heaviest and least responsive.

Composite is a blend of carbon fiber and fiberglass. Composite blanks offer the best of both worlds. They’re light, sensitive, and hardy at the same time. The catch is that composite won’t be as light or sensitive as pure carbon fiber. It also won’t be as robust as pure fiberglass. Instead, it’ll be in the middle in all three areas.

Out of the three, frankly, neither is better. You’ll see fiberglass rods that are weaker than graphite ones. You’ll also see fiberglass rods that are lighter than graphite ones. The point is, the specifications of a rod matter more than its material.

That’s why we didn’t bother listing the blank material. Instead, we listed the more important specs like the rod’s power.

Length

Rod length matters because the longer your fishing rod, the more casting distance you’ll have. However, longer rods will also be heavier so it’s not advisable to get a longer fishing rod than you need.

The thing is, you won’t need to cast very far unless you’re going surf fishing. For both inshore and offshore fishing, the optimal length is 6-8 ft.

For surf casting, you’ll want a fishing rod that’s at least 8 feet long. The further out into the surf you want to cast, the longer your fishing rod will need to be. To reach the largest fishes far out in the surf, your rod length may need to go up to 12 feet. As such, the range of lengths for surf fishing rods is 8-12 ft.

Handle

Unlike blank material, the choice of your handle is critical for saltwater fishing. Your handle will be a huge deciding factor in your rod’s ruggedness.

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The three materials you’ll see on most rod handles are cork, EVA foam, and rubber shrink tubing.

Cork is a type of wood. It’s fairly durable and able to weather elements. It also provides quite a firm and comfortable grip.

EVA handles are the most comfortable and give you a pretty secure grip. However, with frequent saltwater soaking, EVA foam will wear out in no time.

Rubber shrink tubing provides the most secure grips and can endure saltwater environments.

All three materials will give you quite a secure grip even when wet. But given that EVA handles won’t last very long in saltwater conditions, they’re not ideal for saltwater.

Still, EVA foam is a very common handle material and will be hard to avoid. You shouldn’t discount a fishing rod just because of its handle. Instead, you can get a rubber grip wrap and wrap it around the EVA handle.

Spinning VS Baitcasting

Spinning and baitcasting tackle both have their pros and cons. Here’s how they fare in saltwater conditions.

Spinning rods and spinning reels are more compatible with lighter lines and lures. They’re also much easier to use than baitcasting gear.

On the other hand, more often than not, you’ll see baitcasting gear being used by experienced anglers. This is because they take much more skill to use. However, they work better with heavier lines and lures. You also get far better casting accuracy.

Between the two, I prefer spinning tackle for saltwater applications. This is because you don’t need the accuracy that comes with baitcasting rods and baitcasting reels.

Furthermore, even experienced anglers will still find spinning rods and spinning reels easier to use. Plus, spinning gear is more compatible with light tackle, but still works well with heavier tackle.

Drag System

You’ll find the biggest fishes in the world in saltwater. Unless you want to pass up a record catch, you’ll need a powerful drag that’s able to wrestle the monsters to shore.

The general rule of thumb with drag is to set it to 1/3 or 1/4 of your fishing line pound test. For example, if you’re using a 48-pound fishing line, your drag should be set to 12 or 16 pounds.

For inshore fishing, you’ll want a reel that can produce at least 17.5 pounds of stopping power.

For offshore fishing, to play it safe, you should go for no less than 30 pounds of drag.

Ball Bearings

Ball bearings reduce friction and keep a fishing reel spinning smoothly.

A good bearing count is 5+1. Each bearing after 5+1 only increases smoothness by a bit and new anglers might not even be able to tell the difference.

Of course, the more the better, though as the number of bearings increases, so does the price.

Gear Ratio

Gear ratio is the number of rounds your spool spins for every turn of the handle. So a gear ratio of 5.6:1 would mean your spool will rotate 5.6 rounds for each spin of the handle.

In general, 4:1 is considered slow and 6:1 is considered fast.

When deciding on the gear ratio, you have to consider the lures in your tackle box. If your lure has to be retrieved fast, your gear ratio will have to be higher, and vice versa for slower lures.

I’d go with a 5:1 ratio because then you’ll be able to fish both slow and fast lures. Nonetheless, if most of the lures in your tackle box are slow, you can get a 4:1 gear ratio. The same goes for if most of the lures in your tackle box are fast.

Durability

Your fishing rod and reel will be put to the test in saltwater environments. To make sure they can rise up to the challenge, their parts must be durable and corrosion-resistant.

For rods, other than the handle, another key component is the guides. Your guides should be either metal, ceramic, or porcelain. Ceramic and porcelain are completely corrosion-proof, and most metals are resistant to corrosion. Just stick with these and you’ll be safe.

Having said that, certain metals are more corrosion-resistant than others. This includes titanium and aluminum oxide.

Also, I’d advise you to get metal guides where possible. They may not be completely impervious to rust like porcelain and ceramic, but they’re able to take more abuse.

For the reel’s bearings, you’ll also want corrosion-resistant materials like stainless steel and ceramic.

Aside from that, it would be best if your spool, drag system, and bearing system are shielded or sealed. This will reduce their contact with debris and saltwater and extend your reel’s lifespan.

Weight

No matter what your style of fishing, obviously, lighter is always better.

Even so, unless you’re fishing for 8 hours straight, a few extra ounces won’t make a huge difference. A fishing rod and reel should get extra points for being light, but lightness shouldn’t be a huge factor when choosing a saltwater rod and reel combo.

My Verdict

Saltwater fishing will require much more rugged rods and reels than freshwater fishing. Choose wisely. Otherwise, your new rod and reel combo may soon become just another hunk of scrap metal.

To save you from such a harrowing experience, we compiled the best saltwater rod and reel combos here for you. We’ve also labelled each one by what they’re best for.

If you still can’t make up your mind though, you’ll need to consider whether you’re inshore or offshore fishing, which we’ve covered in the “Power” section of our buying guide. If you’re inshore fishing, I’d recommend the Penn Fierce III Combo. For offshore fishing, I’d recommend the Penn Battle III Combo.

Both combos have more than enough strength for huge fish, are smooth in operation, and are extremely durable. You can’t go wrong with either of them.

Alternatively, you may also have decided that you want to create your own rod and reel combination. If that’s the case, here are the best saltwater fishing rods. And here are the best saltwater spinning reels to go with them.

With that, best of luck on your fishing adventures!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>