What is the best fishing pole for beginners? This question can be answered accurately enough in a sentence or two.
On the other hand, this question does merit a more lengthy exposé, worthy of a book. Indeed, books have been written on the subject.
In many respects, identifying an appropriate beginner’s fishing rod calls in to play a hefty discussion about angling fundamentals – i.e., fishing 101. I’m going to bypass much of this.
By the end of this article, however, you’ll be well enough equipped to ask the right beginner fishing rod questions, to land yourself an awesome rod that will enhance the fishing experience and encourage skills development.
Importantly, we’re going to look at 4 great beginner’s fishing pole options.
In this article...
There’s Actually no Such Thing as a Beginner Fishing Rod
Sure, when you look around you’re going to see the term “beginner fishing rod” bandied about. Essentially, all it means is that the rod is low tech, has run of the mill inclusions and hardware, and is very cheap.
There are a few loose exceptions to this which include fishing rods for very small children. Indeed, that may be the only exception. But in reality, there’s no such thing as a beginner’s fishing pole.
It is far more accurate to say that there are pole designs best suited for learning. There are also rod designs that beginners might be best advised to avoid. This is the case for a lot of fishing gear, not just rods.
Will any Old Rod Do for a Beginner?
When I was a kid, “any old rod” was the only option I had. In many ways, it taught me a lot about catching fish and fishing techniques.
Often, the rod I was using was not appropriate for the conditions, location, and target species. So, I learned to compensate for the misgivings of my equipment. I had to.
Learn through experience
At the ripe old age of 10, I was learning all about battling a 15-pound fish, a monster to a 10-year-old, on a fishing rod rated 10 pounds.
The opposite was also true. I had an old fiberglass boat rod blank, thick as a telegraph pole, and clearly rated for catching whales. I added guides to it…(badly). I frequently deployed it in my local river.
You learn a lot about casting, and the bite, when you’re chasing panfish with a blue water fishing rod rated to 70 pounds.
My point is this. Most of us are angling beginners when we are kids. And nothing, least of all inappropriate equipment, can curb our raw enthusiasm.
There’s no need to obsess about nailing the perfect beginner’s rod. Often, a fishing rod in reasonable working order, and loosely appropriate for the types of fishing you will do, is all that is required.
The Downside to “Any Old Rod Will Do”
Using the wrong fishing rod for the application can be very frustrating. It can be so frustrating that it can turn a beginner off the sport altogether.
For example, Using heavy rated rods for small fish removes all the sport and you can’t feel bites. You rarely catch fish.
Casting short rods when distance is required means you can’t hit the target zone. Everyone else catches fish, and you don’t.
Using a heavy 12-foot rod from a tree-lined river bank causes fatigue and tangles…More frustration.
Being underpowered when the big fish are running means you’re not in with a chance in the battle.
There’s a host of reasons why the wrong fishing pole can have an adverse impact on your enthusiasm for the sport. In many cases, “any old rod” simply WON’T do.
Key Considerations for Fitting a Beginner with a Fishing Rod
Try sending an 8-year-old to the water’s edge with a 14-foot surf rod rated to 40 pounds. It will produce plenty of comedy but few if any fish.
Casting a game fishing rod at trout is equally as comical and even less productive.
Or, let’s consider the kid who’s accident-prone and destroys all of their toys with rough play. A refined finesse style fishing rod is likely to be a poor choice for his first rod.
Before you even look at the technical aspects of fishing rods and fishing rod types, we really need to consider the individual, the location, and style of fishing that will be most often undertaken.
This information is valuable for the expert. It will allow them to advise you appropriately.
Age. Or more importantly, maturity.
There are rods designed for the under 6 brigade. They’re short and easy for young motor skills to master. We’ll not discuss these today. Fishing for the young ones requires a special focus. Today we’re looking at 8 years old and up.
If you’ve hit your 30’s and embracing fishing for the first time, you’re pretty well open to any rod on the market, within reason.
Level of ability
For the teens and tweens, you need to make an assessment of their ability to look after a fishing rod and handle a fishing rod. How much guidance will be provided and by what level of experience? Or, will they be discovering fishing all by themselves?
Keep in mind, there’s plenty of “adults” I’d not trust with my expensive rods, and plenty of teens I’d gladly allow to use my prized fishing rods. Maturity is a consideration, not just age.
For example, My wife won’t let me bust the business budget with Saltiga reels. She says they’re far too expensive for a ‘man-child’ who still doesn’t look after his regular reels properly.
It kills me…but she’s right! I’m not the best at maintaining or servicing any of my fishing gear. I’m renowned for it. A flaw I’ve never really got on top of.
Coordination and ‘sporting’ prowess.
There are plenty of rods that are very easy to cast and plenty that aren’t. There are those people that are naturally gifted with coordination and those that are not. Which category are you?
My daughter at 10 has a ways to go developing her fishing rod casting skills, hence a rod that was more forgiving in the casting department was very helpful.
Where will you be fishing?
If you live by a Rocky Mountain stream, a beginner’s rod will look very different from that of a Florida based beginner who frequents the docks and beach. If you will be fishing from a boat, your first rod will likely be quite different from someone fishing from a bank.
Will you be chasing crappie or carp from a pond. Or will you be targeting kingfish from a pier? Obviously, this is the most critical question to answer out of all of them.
A 6-foot rod rated to 10 pounds is totally useless against a 35-pound tuna or GT. And you certainly can’t cast flies with a 14-foot surf rod.
What is your target?
Where will you be doing the majority of your fishing and for what species? Think hard about this.
For example, you might decide that you’re fishing a river from a bank but you like the idea of a lengthy rod for casting to the middle of the river.
This is fine if there are no trees along the bank, but a poor choice if you’re fishing areas of tree-lined banks. Casting long rods while surrounded by trees is very frustrating.
You get the drift here, I’m sure.
My advice is always to purchase the best you can afford. With the exception of very rare circumstances, avoid the cheapest of cheap.
The rule of thumb I use here is: How much can I afford to ‘give away’ on a fishing rod. With the beginner, there’s a chance that it may be put in the attic and never touched again following the first session.
Who are you buying it for?
There’s also a chance, particularly with kids, that it may end up at the bottom of the ocean, broken beyond repair, or left behind at the dock never to be seen again.
When you’re considering the best you can afford…consider replacement cost and obsolescence also.
The great news about buying your first fishing pole is that there is an excellent product out there at affordable prices. Often, you’ll find great value in rod and reel combos.
This is where things get pretty tricky. These days, manufacturers have taken to specializing rods for application. For example, there are rod designs for fishing braid and soft plastics.
There are rod designs for slow jigging. There are rod designs for targeting squid. There are rod designs for targeting salmon and the list goes on.
There are specialist fishing rods designed for nearly every type of fishing. As a beginner, we can pretty well avoid most if not all of these.
Often, a lot of this ‘specialization’ for a specific type of fishing is just clever marketing…same as the term ‘beginner fishing rod’.
Fly Fishing and Casting Rods.
We can forget fly fishing rods because fly fishing is a specialization that warrants a lengthy article unto itself. This leaves us with spin or casting rods only. And before we go any further, we’ll cut casting rods off the list. Here’s why.
I am of the strong opinion (and supported by countless experts) that the spin rod and reel combo is infinitely easier to master than the casting fishing rod and reel combos.
There are exceptions to this, but I won’t enter the argument here. Generally speaking, a spin rod/reel is the best option for a beginner.
The Spinning Rod
The spin rod takes a spinning reel. The spinning reel is the easiest fishing reel to use by far. While technology has made casting reels more user friendly, I can’t imagine recommending a casting reel, and therefore rod, to a beginner.
We’ve Made the Selection Process Easier
I’ve ruled out a huge bunch of fishing rods. This has brought us, more or less, to line class, fishing rod length, and reel size as our core selection criteria.
The length is self-explanatory. Length generally relates to the distance you need to cast, and obstacles you have to clear or cast over.
A rod and reel need to balance. This means that the reel size needs to be appropriate for the rod size. And line class is an indication, usually printed on the rod, of the breaking strain of the fishing line that is appropriate for the rod.
Fishing Rod Action and Power
Fishing rods are designed with varied “actions” from slow to fast, with varying degrees in between. Unfortunately, there are few standards in recreational fishing rod manufacture, so these actions can vary again between brands.
What is Rod Action?
Fishing rod action refers to how much a rod will bend. Or, at what point along the rod will start to bend. A fishing rod’s POWER is its lifting capacity.
Essentially, the slower the action the more forgiving a rod will be. The faster the action, the more skilled an angler should be. That explanation doesn’t come close to cutting it, however, there’s more to it than that.
Slow Action Rods
Slow action rods can be a little frustrating. While easier to cast and very forgiving, learning when to strike can be a little tricky. Beginners tend to strike too hard, or too soft. It takes a while to work out hook setting, regardless of the rod action.
Medium Action Rods
A medium to fast action rod delivers the best balance of feel, medium power casting and hook setting control. With a fast action rod, there’s definitely going to be a few fish lost to aggressive strikes, but practice will rectify this.
Fishing Rods Construction
Fishing rods are constructed from fiberglass, graphite or a blend of the two, composite. Fiberglass is incredibly robust, delivers far less feel and is very old school.
Carbon fiber, or graphite, is modern-day high-tech fishing. They’re lightweight and incredibly strong, yet do not cope well with impact. These are advanced fishing rods, and the least forgiving of all.
However, carbon fiber rods are the modern fishing standard. I don’t see any problem with learning with the rod composition they’ll likely use well into the future.
What I recommend
My best recommendation for the beginner is the composite rod. You get fantastic strength, durability, and high-end performance.
They’re heavier than a carbon fiber rod, and a little less responsive. But they’re absolutely ideal for the beginner.
For my money, there are no drawbacks to kicking off your angling career with good quality composite and graphite rods.
Just remember, carbon fiber rods will not take impact punishment. So, if you’re a little heavy-handed with things, maybe go the composite.
Fishing Rod Length
For boat and bank, inshore and off, I recommend rod lengths of between 6 and 9 foot for the beginner.
This will be determined by the location you are fishing, of course. And whether you are having to cast long distances, or drop the bait at your feet.
Fishing lighter than 6 pound is not advisable for the beginner. Even if you’re chasing smaller panfish, a line class of 8 to 12 pound is best. This is my personal opinion. Others will disagree.
The problem with lighter lines is that beginners find themselves more frequently caught in snags having to snap the line. Therefore, losing tackle.
Secondly, fish fighting technique is yet to be developed. So, even a small fish can snap a line of 6 pound and less.
Depending on the manufacturer, I like a reel size of 2500 for smaller rods, up to 6000 for longer rods up to 9 feet.
This covers a huge variety of fish species and sizes, as well as a broad variety of fishing techniques and locations.
4 Great Beginners Fishing Poles
The following fishing rods will make great rods for beginner anglers. They’re not in any way beginner’s rods. They’re rods that I, with over 40 years’ fishing experience, would happily use.
As I stated earlier, there is no such thing as a beginner’s rod. But there are rods that are fantastic for beginners to cut their angling teeth.
The purpose of the rods listed below is so beginners can access a broad range of fish species and fish sizes.
Let them experience challenges
I’m not a fan of restricting beginners to a smaller class of fish. Watching first-timers get brought undone by a 20-pound torpedo with scales is thrilling. And it’s these anglers that get the angling bug, and never look back.
The list below contains 4 rods that are great for beginner fishing and will enhance fishing experience. I’ve included a brief review, rod specs, pros and cons, and a link to a price check.
It’s important to note that online purchases will often deliver a value-based fishing rod reel combo.
Best Value and Best Overall
From bank to boat, lure to flesh baits, panfish to 20 pounders, there’s a GX2 that will deliver all the beginner needs in a fishing rod.
This is definitely my value pick for a beginner’s rod. It’s very affordable, robust enough, and very easy to extract great casts and hook setting.
Wide Range of Models
It’s a composite design and has a huge range of models from 4’6” through to 9’. From bank to boat, lure to flesh baits, panfish to 20 pounders, there’s a GX2 that will deliver all the beginner needs in a fishing rod.
I love this rod series because it’s so hard to go wrong. While mainly inshore based, the heavy models will handle some lighter offshore work.
While the guides are less than premium, the one-piece guide system eliminates insert pop-outs and breakage. A very common occurrence with noobs.
This model covers an enormous range of fishing targets and styles, fresh and salt. For the money, it doesn’t get better.
- Ugly Tech composite construction
- Ugly Tuff one-piece stainless steel guides
- Famous Ugly Stik Clear Tip
- EVA grips (foam grips)
- 7-year warranty
- 23 spinning rod models in the range
- Huge range of models
- Quality for price
- Robust construction
- Single piece guides
- Reel seats look fantastic
- Huge warranty for a fishing rod
- Frequently sold in a convenient beginner fishing rod and reel combo
- Not as strong as the Ugly Stik of old
- Line management compromised for guide durability
Best on a Strict Budget
A lovely rod for the absolute rock bottom price. There are enough models to cover quite the broad range of species from a variety of land-based and boat-based locations.
I’ve really got to hand it to Berkley. This is a lovely rod for the absolute rock bottom price. Fishing really is for everybody. And I really like that those on the strictest of tight budgets can still access a decent fishing rod.
Range of Models
There’s an excellent range from 4’6” to 7’, from ultra-light to medium-heavy.
These rods are inshore only, they’re not about taking the ocean’s monsters. Even the med-heavy model might struggle on a substantial fish as it’s only rated to 17 pounds.
Nonetheless, there are enough models to cover quite the broad range of species from a variety of land-based and boat-based locations.
The composite construction delivers plenty of sensitivity, yet it remains robust enough to see out the early fishing years.
I’m not a fan of cheap cork. And by virtue of the price, the handles can only be cheap cork. These rods would be much better with EVA handles, but there must be some level of compromise at this price point.
They’ll fish mono and braid beautifully, and will also suit lures or flesh baits. I particularly like the 6-foot models for dock and pond fishing. This is a great beginner’s rod for the freshwater.
- Composite blank construction
- SS304 Guides with Stainless inserts
- Cork handle
- There are 12 spinning rod models in the range
- Excellent range of shorter models and power
- Price is unbeatable
- Single and two-piece configurations
- Beautiful looking rods
- Great freshwater option for a smaller class of fish
- I like cork grips, but not these cheap cork grips
- Limited back-bone should a much larger class of fish take your lure
Best General Purpose Beginner’s Rod
This is PENN’s legendary power, quality, and durability at an awesome price. This rod will last well beyond your beginner years.
There are plenty of land-based beginners who wish to head straight for the break walls, beach and piers. However, they still need something that’s not going to be overkill in the lakes and rivers, or tossing a lazy bait from a pond-side dock.
The Penn Prevail II covers all of this. You can spool up light and target a smaller class of fish without overkill, or you can up the line class and test yourself on a much larger class of fish.
Range of Models
The Prevail II surf offers 6 excellent model options from 8’ to 12’. Rod power ranges from light-medium to heavy.
The heavy has a rating of 20 to 40 pound, providing beginners with genuine access to really big fish.
The 9-foot medium light is rated to 15 pounds and it’s a brilliant allrounder for panfish and a medium class of fish where casting is required.
The composite construction delivers a brilliant balance of strength, sensitivity, and durability. The length, action, and power deliver outstanding versatility.
I like this rod for casting metal slugs huge distances. This is a great rod for learning to cast long and learning to use the simplest of lures, the metal slice.
This is PENN’s legendary power, quality, and durability at an awesome price. This rod will last well beyond your beginner years. You’ll pull this one out when you’re an old hand.
- PENN Dura-Guides. One piece
- Graphite composite blank
- Ergonomic Winn grips
- Graphite reel seat
- 6 model options in the range
- Superb general-purpose option
- Phenomenal durability and strength yet maintaining sensitivity
- Single and two-piece configurations
- Versatility plus
- Affordable quality in a feature-filled rod
- A little heavier than its competitors
- A little long for tree-lined riverbanks, and boats
Best Blue Water Beginner’s Rod
Bluewater rods get very pricey, but the PENN Carnage II offers all the bells and whistles at an accessible price.
For quite a number of lucky young anglers, the first place they’re going to get a taste of fishing is the blue water offshore.
When mum and dad have a boat, and blue water fishing is their thing, blue water fishing is part of the beginner’s education.
I’m often astonished at those who suggest blue water fishing is not for the beginner.
With the right guidance, there’s nothing more instantly addictive that hooking into the ocean’s biggest and most aggressive.
Getting Hooked to Fishing
There are plenty of charter operators who have seen first-timers hook into the likes of big tuna, witnessing the birth of an instantly formed lifelong addiction.
For the beginner on the blue water, the PENN Carnage II Boat Spinning is a brilliant option.
Bluewater rods get very pricey, but the PENN Carnage II offers all the bells and whistles at an accessible price.
The thing I like most is that the lighter models are great for smaller hands and smaller, less strong bodies. The medium-light model is ideal for the kids to tuck into really big fish.
Range of Models
There are 5 models in the range, but it’s the lightweight medium power rods that stand out as a great beginner’s option.
Features include Fuji guides and Pac Bay reel seats. I like the gimbal as well, it’s a great feature for young bodies to learn how to distribute the load during a fishy battle.
The Hefty PENN is not for all beginners. But there are big numbers of want to be anglers that will experience their first fishing outside the heads.
For these lucky anglers, the PENN Carnage II Boat Spinning rod is an awesome weapon for cutting your bluewater fishing teeth.
- SLS3 blank construction
- Fuji K guides with Alconite insert
- Non-slip foregrip
- Pac Bay aluminum reel seat
- Rubber gimbal
- 5 models available
- Outstanding performance and inclusions for the price
- Top shelf guides and reel seats
- Lightweight feel. Great for those still developing strength and endurance
- Robust construction
- Ergonomic grips, well suited to smaller hands
- Offshore fishing only
- Lacks versatility
- Difficult to cast successfully
Hopefully, I have made it clear that there is no such thing as a beginner’s rod. I’d also like to make it clear that it might be a good idea to avoid cheapo rods where the marketing specifically targets beginners.
Individual Pace of Learning
I’d also like to clarify the casting rod/reel thing. Some beginners will quickly learn how to master a baitcaster without too much frustration.
For the majority, however, birds nest after birds nest will quickly take the joy from fishing.
This is why I have suggested that the spin combination is the best option for the beginner to learn with.
The Ugly stick offers the best value. The Berkley is definitely the best for the tight budget. The PENN is a legend allrounder and the PENN carnage II will allow for a brilliant start to a lifetime of fishing adventure on the blue water.
There are countless more options available for the new angler, these are just a few examples. But with these four, you’ve covered a huge number of fish, fishing styles and fishing locations for the beginner to learn their craft.
From crappie to dogtooth tuna, there’s a rod in this lot that’ll do the trick for all the noobs.