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Rod and Reel combos
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Cabelas Rod and Reel Combos

When purchasing a rod and reel for a novice angler, it’s best to go with a pre-matched and balanced combo. By doing so, you’ll be able to rest assured that the rod and reel are appropriately paired. It’s also crucial to choose a fishing combo that’s easy to use. In this regard, all rod and reel combinations are not created equal. Certain types are simpler to operate than others, and therefore better choices for those just starting out. Here are some selection tips:

Make User-Friendliness a Priority

Regardless of whether the fishing novice is a child, a teen or an adult, the introductory combo should be first and foremost “user-friendly.” If the equipment is not easy to operate, chances are the beginning angler will spend more time dealing with tackle problems and tangles than catching fish. By starting out with a combo that doesn’t require a large amount of practice or expertise to use, the beginner will be able to experience the joys of fishing right off the bat, instead of frustration. From a standpoint of simplicity and ease-of-use, the best rod and reel combos for beginning anglers are spincast and spinning outfits. A novice can certainly start out with a baitcasting or conventional rod combo, but these kind of systems are considerably more difficult to master, especially when it comes to casting. While it’s just about universally agreed that spincasting and spinning reels are the easiest for beginners to use, other factors still need to be considered when selecting a combo, regardless of the angler’s level of experience. Variables such as the type of fishing you are doing, the size of fish you’ll be catching, the pound-test line being used, and the line capacity needed will also help determine the best combo for the specific job. Generally speaking, spincast reels with their smaller line capacities and less powerful drag systems are more appropriate for freshwater situations, although they can be used for some light-action saltwater applications as well. Spinning reels are also ideal for freshwater use, but larger models with sufficient line capacity and drag power can also be used to take on more powerful saltwater predators.

Spincast Combos

Spincast combos (also known as “closed-face” reels) are perhaps the easiest to cast and operate, making these outfits the best choice for children just starting out. A closed cover or “nose cone” houses a stationary spool that holds the line. The nose cone on a spincast reel also discourages younger kids from “fiddling” with line on the spool, which can cause troublesome knots, loops and “overflows.” To cast a spincast reel, the angler simply releases the line (which feeds out through a hole in the front of the nose cone) by pressing a push button down with the thumb and then letting go of the button. While the casting process still requires some timing and a little bit of practice, backlash and tangles are essentially a non-issue with a spincast combo.

A spincast reel is mounted on the upside of the matching combo rod, and the guides, which are considerably smaller than spinning rod guides, are aligned along the top of the rod as well. Spincast guides are smaller than spinning rod guides because line flows from the spool out through the small hole in the reel’s nose cone, rather than directly off a wider spool (as is the case with a spinning reel). Most spincast combo rods are essentially casting rods with pistol grip designs, although many combo rods now feature two-handed grips that make it easier for novices to cast.

Spinning Combos

While spinning combos may not be quite as simple for beginners to use as spincast reels, they rank second on the scale of fishing “user-friendliness.” As with spincast models, novice anglers also find spinning outfits easier to cast with than baitcasting or conventional systems. Backlash is not a problem with spinning reels, although knots and tangles in the spool can still occur. Unlike a spincast reel, a spinning combo features a reel mounted underneath the rod, with the guides aligned on the underside of the rod. Line is retrieved through the guides and onto the spinning reel by a metal “bail wire” or “line pick-up” that revolves around the spool. When casting, the angler flips over the reel’s bail or line pick-up so line can flow off the spool. Generally speaking, spinning combos allow for greater distance than spincasting outfits. The spool design allows line to flow out faster for greater casting distance, while the larger rod guides allow line to be propelled with a minimal amount of friction. Another common spinning reel feature is an anti-reverse mechanism, which prevents the reel handle from turning in reverse when a fish strikes or the angler sets the hook. Like spincast reels, spinning reels are available with right-hand or left-hand retrieve, however, many models now have reversible handles that can be rotated to either side of the reel according to the user’s preference.

A Few Words on Combo Rods

If the novice angler is a child, it’s important to select a combo featuring a rod that is short (about the same size of the angler) and lightweight. This type of rod will not only be easier for the child to cast, but also easier for the youngster to carry around. When it comes to kids, this factor invariably translates into less dragging on the ground and longer rod life. Length of the combo rod is not as big an issue for taller (teen and adult) fishing novices. A good general rod length for such anglers is anywhere from 5 ½- to 7-feet, depending upon the individual and the specific angling application. Most combo rods are composed of either fiberglass or graphite composite materials. Either choice is fine: just keep in mind that fiberglass rods are generally more durable than graphite, while graphite models are typically lighter and more sensitive. Regardless of the composition you choose, it’s best to select a combo rod allows for two-handed casting. Remember, while angling pros often use one hand to fling a bait or lure, beginners typically use two hands to cast.

How Much Should You Spend?

Unless you know the beginner has a definite interest in fishing and will continue on with the sport, it doesn’t really make sense to purchase an expensive “top-of-the-line” combo initially. Most beginning anglers, especially children, simply want to give fishing a try to see if they like it. This being the case, it’s best to start out with a moderately priced outfit that’s easy to use and features quality construction. Just be sure to select a combo that’s right for the angling situation and offers sufficient functionality. This combo should also be capable of absorbing the kind of bumps and bruises that a fishing novice is likely to dish out. If the rookie angler becomes more experienced and outgrows the original combo down the line, he or she can always upgrade to a more advanced outfit at that time.


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