Top 12 Best Baitcasting Rods in 2021

After dozens of extensive hands-on tests, we are sharing exclusive findings. These are the 12 best baitcasting rods in 2021. Discover our top picks along with an extensive consumer guide and FAQ below.

Best Overall
Ugly Stik GX2
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Best value
Lew's Mr. Crappie
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Best Premium
St. Croix LMC76XHF
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Dale Shetler
By Dale Shetler
Updated January 20, 2021
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You’ve seen them along the shoreline. It doesn’t matter if it’s the ocean, a lake, or a wide river. The serious fishermen don’t waste much time with lighter spin casting gear, these guys are the ones with the seven to 10-foot rods tossing bait far out into the water.

The thrill of a baitcasting rod is often lost early in life for many anglers. The snarling associated with young hands that are not adept at controlling the release of the line ruins the experience for many novice fishermen, leading them away from a time tested tradition of long casts in the hope of an epic battle between man and fish.

If you’re looking for this kind of action, what are the best casting rods on the market?

The year 2020, won’t’ go down in history as one of the more enjoyable trips around the sun, but the action offshore was some of the best.

Top 12 Best Baitcasting Rods

1. Ugly Stik GX2 Casting Fishing Rod

Best Overall
Ugly Stik GX2 Casting Fishing Rod

Shakespeare has a long tradition of fishing excellence. Their Ugly Stik GX2 represents the latest in this trail of technological innovation.  The Ugly Stik has been around a while but continues to provide the best overall performance, at an incredibly reasonable price. 

The unique graphite and fiberglass construction creates an almost unbreakable rod, that will have you on the edge of your seat when it bends with the weight of a heavy fish on the other end of the line.

Strong, but light describe the construction. Its durability, along with a clear tip design that can sense the lightest strike make this the best baitcasting rod for the money on the market for many anglers.

It is available from five-and-half feet to seven-and-a-half feet, all in one piece models.

Strong enough to pull a 60-pound salmon in from the surf, yet sensitive enough to feel the vibration of a fly landing on the tip.

This is an outstanding baitcasting rod, at a low price, with an established history dating back decades. When serious fishermen get together, this is the rod they talk about.

There are many other more expensive rods on the market, some that offer much more in performance than the venerable Ugly Stik, but when you factor in value, performance and durability, this design is hard to beat.

2. Lew's Mr. Crappie Custom Troller

Best value
Lew's Mr. Crappie Custom Troller 10'-2 Light Crappie Rod, One Size, CG10L-2

Enjoy fishing, but don’t have the biggest budget for your weekend adventures? The Mr. Crappie Custom Troller by Lew’s might be just the ticket.

The rod is among the lowest priced on the market, but it doesn’t sacrifice the action or quality you sometimes find in budget baitcasting rods.

The two-piece design and 10’ length provide easy transport with any vehicle while maintaining that sensitive touch you need for crappie (best crappie rods), bluegill, or bass fishing (find the best bass rods here).

Made of custom graphite, it carries all the tradition and excellence of the Lew’s brand at a reasonable price. The premium high modulus graphic blanks slide easily together, providing strength and durability in the worst weather you can find out on the water.

The quality of craftsmanship Lew’s is renowned for is in place with this rod.

Foam grip handles, stainless steel line guides, and a lightweight graphic reel seat, with replaceable spare tips if you accidentally slam your rod in the truck door make this an excellent rod for a beginning angler or for a more seasoned pro that is working on a budget.

Anglers using this rod praise its sensitivity when crappie fishing, but don’t be fooled by the name. It works well with bass, bluegill, and even trout fishing out west.

The rod is adept at noodling, using slip bobbers and slow trolling.

This is a good baitcasting rod, maybe not the top-of-the-line, but at the price, its value speaks volumes.

3. St. Croix LMC76XHF Legend

Best premium
St. Croix LMC76XHF Legend Tournament Graphite Musky Fishing Rod

Advanced technology, something we hear about all the time in our era of everything being constantly, “new and improved.” When it comes to baitcasting rods, you’ll find this to be true in the St. Croix LMC76XHF Legend

The Legend features an exotic, proprietary, carbon fiber construction that provides increased strength, without sacrificing increased rod diameter or weight.

An integrated poly curve technology allows the rod to flex smoothly across its entire length, creating smoother action, greater sensitivity, and increased strength.

Tangle-free machined aluminum line guides are wound solidly into the rod. Aluminum provides greater corrosion control if you’re working in saltwater.

The rod is a single piece, 7’6” beauty with fast action, that can handle line weights from 50 to 100 pounds.

With all these features, the rod weighs just 8.6 ounces. 

The high-quality cork that St. Croix is famous for, finishes off this top-of-the-line rod, making it a highly valued piece of fishing hardware.

4. Piscifun Torrent Baitcasting Rod

Piscifun Torrent Baitcasting Rod

Durability, sensitivity, and lightweight, what more could you ask for in a baitcasting rod? Not much by the many positive reviews, the Piscifun Torrent has generated from happy anglers.

The Torrent is constructed of high-quality IM6 carbon fiber, with carefully wrapped line guides at four different angles to assure smooth line flow on the cast and retrieve.

On many rods the eyes are set when the rod is at 0 degrees, something you never see if you have a fish on, or during cast and return.  The Torrent line guides are set at -45, +45, and 0 degrees to ensure the rod will produce maximum performance.

The last thing you want when you tie up with a trophy fish is to have your line impeded as you bring the monster to shore.

Rod construction, liberal line placement, and angular line guides are all fine features, but the Torrent goes beyond with sanded high-density, carbon blank EVA grips.  The grip gives you greater control. When combined with Piscifun’s unique reel seat, you have high-end control, in a low-cost, budget baitcasting rod.

Available in lengths from 6’8” to 7’6” this is the rod for novice and experienced anglers alike.

5. St Croix Premier Series Casting Rod

St Croix Premier Series Casting Rod

If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line baitcasting rod, you don’t have to look much further than the Premier Series by St. Croix.

Premium graphite fiber construction, coupled with a unique cork handled, designed to give you maximum grip makes this a very popular rod.

At the upper end of major brand rods in price, this rod comes with a frosted silver reel seat that firmly locks in your reel for maximum control.

Considered a medium action rod, it comes in 5’6” length, with a one-piece design.

It is very light at 3.7 ounces, making it one of the lightest casting rods while providing sensitive control when baitcasting for bass, sunfish, or light hitting species.

The rod is recommended for use with 8 to 14-pound test line.

Many anglers consider it the best rod on the market for bottom bouncing lures due to its sensitive touch, making it a favorite for anglers trying to hook bottom-dwelling catfish.

Also check: Top 10 Best Catfish Rods

6. Abu Garcia Veracity & Villain 2.0

Abu Garcia Veracity & Villain 2.0 Casting Fishing Rod

The “Villain” is the top-rated baitcasting rod in the legendary Abu Garcia lineup.

Balance, lightweight, and strength are the hallmarks of all Abu Garcia rods, the Villain lives up to its name if you look at it from the viewpoint of a fish.

3M Polwerlux construction delivers a 30% stronger rod than similar models with no increase in weight.

Competitors utilize aluminum and stainless steel line guides, the Villain features a slightly more exotic alloy in titanium line guides, coupled with lightweight zirconium inserts that allow a more balanced, lightweight rod.

The natural cork handle transmits the slightest vibration to the angler’s hands. Sensitivity, combined with durability are hard features to beat this classic design.

The Villain is available in a medium-heavy configuration but retains the touch of a light rod.

For a mid-range price model, this is a great rod to add to your lineup.

7. G. Loomis E6X Swimbait Bass

G. Loomis E6X Swimbait Bass Fishing Rod

Addicted to smallmouth, largemouth, or both species, this baitcasting rod is perfect for those suffering from bass madness.

The Swimbait is a heavy action rod, designed to work with lure weights from 2 to 6 ounces and line weights of 15 to 30 pounds.

A multi-taper design allowed G. Loomis to build up potential breakpoints with more material while keeping the overall rod weight low.

A balance of durability and performance makes this 8’ rod a popular choice among bass fishermen. The natural cork grips and reel mount adds sensitivity to both casting and retrieving, something you’ll do often in pursuit of big bass.

The action is rated as moderately fast in this one-piece design.Bass fishermen are the experts when it comes to crankbait rods. There is nothing as exciting as watching a bass emerge from the cattails, powering its way after your jitterbug or other crankbait as it skims across the surface of a lake.

8. Fenwick Eagle Salmon/Steelhead

Fenwick Eagle Salmon/Steelhead Casting Fishing Rod

Fenwick, one of the tried and true brands when it comes to fishing.  Their Eagle baitcasting rod carries on the fine tradition of quality workmanship, high performance, and durability that Fenwick is renowned for.

Fenwick grips are considered in the upper echelon of the baitcasting world. Premium cork and TAC grips provide the Eagle with greater control and sensitivity.

Stainless steel line guides, coupled with aluminum oxide inserts ensure smooth line flow in both directions.

The ergonomically designed reel seat allows a variety of popular reels to work seamlessly with this rod.

Fenwick has an almost fanatical following in the fishing world. Proponents of the Eagle say they can feel the slightest nudge from fish investigating the bait even in the heaviest surf conditions.

The difference between a trophy and just another fish on the line often comes in that first sensation of interest on the other end of the line.

The Eagle is considered one of the best baitcasting rods for bass in buyer reviews. A mid-priced model compared to other brands, it brings tradition, quality, and sensitivity to the avid angler.

9. KastKing Perigee II Fishing Rods

KastKing Perigee II Fishing Rods

Kastking worked a long time to come up with the perfect construction material for a high-quality fishing rod and they ran with it. The Toray 24-ton carbon matrix design in their rod blanks is now employed in 29 different size rods ranging from ultra-light spinning rods all the way to heavy baitcasting models.

Their Perigee II is a two-piece design that employs all of that advanced technology in one graceful piece of a baitcasting rod.

Perigee II rods are available in moderate, moderate-fast, and fast action models. The KastKing PTS hybrid spigot line guides utilize computer modeling to wrap the line guides at 0, 45, 90, and 135 degrees, to ensure smooth line flow on both cast and retrieve.

The two-piece design connects so evenly that many anglers can’t tell the difference between it and a single piece rod.

This is cutting edge technology in place for avid salmon, bass, and walleye fishermen, but extends to any species, whether freshwater or saltwater that you pursue.

Customer reviews praise the action and balance as among the best they’ve ever used.

Natural cork grips and an easy to use reel mount make this rod an interesting one to include in your fishing arsenal.

10. Piscifun Serpent Baitcasting Rod

Piscifun Serpent Baitcasting Rod

This versatile baitcasting rod is available in medium to medium-heavy variations in lengths of 6’10” to 7’

Piscifun is proud of its unique Zero Coating IM7 carbon blank process. This design produces rods that are 50% stronger, but 10% lighter than other competitive models.

Fuji line guides, give the Serpent the durability and flexibility its namesakes brings to mind in its serpentine action. The Fuji 0 style line guides create two contact points with the rod, ensuring even smoother action on casting and reliable performance when you’re reeling in an angry bass in heavy current.

Premium, anti-slip golf-style grips provide the Serpent with a uniquely, sensitive feel in even the worst weather conditions.

A proprietary anti-twist top-line guide gives professional, tournament-level quality to the weekend angler at an affordable price.

Piscifun warranties all their rods with complete coverage for workmanship and materials should something go amiss on the water.

11. Cadence CR7B Baitcasting Rods

Cadence CR7B Baitcasting Rods

If you’re looking for versatility in a baitcasting rod, the CR7B by Cadence may be just what you’re looking for. Available in 10 different models, ranging from medium-fast to heavy-fast, these one-piece rods come in lengths from 6’10” to 7’6”.

All the models are constructed from 40-ton graphite blanks, with carbon wrapped veil. Lightweight, sensitive, strong, while providing good power at a low cost make these baitcasting rods something to consider whether you’re a weekend angler or a seasoned professional.

The ergonomic Fuji reel seats, combined with premium-grade cork grips and EVA handles provide firm control with even the hardest fighting fish.

Stainless steel line guides, with SiC inserts, create a smooth line transition from reel to water, and back. Minimized line friction allows the angler to feel the slightest sensation when their bait or lure has attracted a fish.

The CR7B is a versatile use rod equally at home on saltwater, fishing from shore on a lake, or a river. Anglers have success with the CR7B with a variety of species including bass, trout, and salmon.

If you had just one baitcasting rod design to choose from, this one might fit the bill, regardless of where and what you’re after beneath the surface of the water.

12. Akataka M'Wave Bass

Akataka M'Wave Bass Fishing Rod

A one-piece baitcasting rod is the preferred model for most fishermen working from shore on large rivers, lakes, or from a saltwater beach, but there are times when the length of a one-piece rod can be a problem.

When you’re hiking into a remote lake, in a heavily forested area, that 7 or 8’ foot rod can be a real problem when you’re breaking through the brush.

The M’Wave by Akataka can help with high-quality, two-piece rods that are much easier to pack into remote areas.

The M’Wave is available in medium-heavy at a fully assembled length of 7’6”.

Made of IM6 graphite blanks and woven with a unique x-type cross winding, the torsion resistance and strength this construction provides is top-notch.

The insertion points ensure solid adhesion while battling the largest fish. An angler's worst nightmare can come in the middle of an epic battle when the sections of a two-piece rod come apart, you won’t have to worry about that with the M’Wave.

Zirconium oxide line guides provide corrosion production and durability with low friction.

These guides allow extra long distance casts.

An EVA split handle allows sensitivity while creating a solid, slip-free grip.

Many bass fishermen prefer the split-handle design.

A graphite reel seat culminates the design of this low-cost baitcasting rod.

Things to Consider When Buying Baitcasting Rods

baitcasting rod construction vector

Walk into your local sporting goods store, find the fishing section and you’ll quickly discover that one rod doesn’t ever fit every situation.

If you’re not inclined to wander through the vast selections available at major outdoor retailers and prefer the online method of searching for a new baitcasting rod, you’ll find the environment even more confusing.

There are hundreds of companies building baitcasting rods these days. The rods come in all lengths, are made of a bewildering variety of materials, and many of them come with the assurance that they are simply the best available for catching X, Y, and Z.

Well, you’re probably not after X, Y, and Z, you have a specific species in mind. Maybe you’re after salmon on the Pacific coast, or want to catch walleye in mid-western lakes, or monster bass in the backwaters of the Mississippi drainage.

You can use one rod for all of these species, but getting one that fits your hand, your level of sensitivity, while providing durability, strength, and performance is where the work comes in.

There are four basics to consider when purchasing a new rod.

Price

Much like looking for a new truck, you need to have an idea of what you’re price range is before you start.

You can spend upwards of a thousand dollars on a good rod and reel combo, and still be unhappy with the performance.

As they said in “The Right Stuff” you want more bang for the buck.

You get what you pay for, just as you do in almost every situation, but when it comes to baitcasting rods, the more expensive doesn’t always mean the best.

You can purchase an outstanding baitcasting rod that will last you for years for less than $100 online or at your local sporting goods store, but you must be sure it is what you’re looking for.

Kids and novice fishermen should always start out with a basic model to learn what works and doesn’t work for them.

Drop a lot of bucks on a less than desirable baitcasting rod, and your adventure on the water might end after your first trip. Don’t let that happen.

Power & Action

What does power mean in a baitcasting rod?

Action and Power Fishing Rod Infographic

Intuitively, power means force over distance, but that’s not the case with baitcasting terminology. Power refers to how hard the rod resists bending when in action. Some models, such as the Ugly Stik are renowned for their ability to almost touch the tip to the base while battling fish. Other models are stiffer, think reeling in your line with it attached to an inflexible piece of steel.

Power for your situation comes somewhere between the flexibility of an ultra-light rod and the pure tensile inflexibility of a heavy rod.

Fishing Rod Action and Power Correlation

The best action comes when the rod bends with the weight of the fish on the other end. A screaming drag, with the rod twisting up and down, provides a lot of joy when trying to land a big fish.

Action is often confused with power in baitcasting rods, but they’re really the same side of the coin. Action is where the fun begins.

The action you select depends on the fish you’re going to try for.  Ultra-light enthusiasts can make eight-ounce bluegill seem like a tarpon, but that’s not much good for someone trying to land a six-pound bass or a 15-pound salmon.

If you’re after bass, get a rod that bends with the weight of the fish, but doesn’t have too much action.  All rods break if you push them too far, just as all lines will eventually snap if you play a fish like you’re running a winch rather than playing it correctly with the give and take of drag to tire out your adversary.

Action is fun, but too much is just that, too much. Too little action isn’t much fun at all either. You need to determine whether your target fish is light, heavy, or somewhere in between and decide on the action from there.

Rod Materials

Graphite comes in myriad designs, patterns, and strength in modern baitcasting rods. Picking the right construction material is a key to not just have in baitcasting rod, but loving it. Spun graphite, fiberglass composite materials provide incredible strength, with very little weight.

The material in the line guides is equally as important as the rod construction. The line guides determine how far you can cast, how protective your line is from nicks and scrapes during a prolonged fight with a fish, and the durability of the rod. Non-corrosive metal, epoxy type alloys lining the line guides and the material used to support the reel mount are all important considerations.

Grip

various fishing rod handle types

The human interface comes in the grip. Many, perhaps most bass fishermen prefer split grips, but there are always differences between anglers.

EVA and foam grips are popular, but it’s hard to beat, good, old natural cork when it comes to a rod grip.

Reel Mount

The reel mount is another special fit. The reel you select must fit inside the reel mount in coordination with your hand.

People with small hands and those with catcher’s mitts for hands won’t like the same reel placement. Trial and error in a hands-on test is the best way to determine what works for you.

Length

The final question is how long should the rod be? In earlier eras, the length of the baitcasting rod had much more effect on long-distance casting than it does today.

Rod action, combined with line weight, line guides and the reel itself have all vastly improved distances. Depending on the terrain you’re casting from, a longer baitcasting rod can prove to be a detriment. Calculate what you need, whether it’s 5’6” to 8’6” the length of a baitcasting rod is another personal decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

When are baitcasting rods better than spinning rods?

If you’re casting for distance, there is no comparison between a high-quality baitcasting rod vs a spinning rod.

Spinning rods are fine for trolling, casting short distances from shore, or from a boat and using lighter weight lines with lures, or live bait for walleye, sunfish, and catfish, but the baitcasting rod is king when it comes to reaching out into the middle of a river, far off the shoreline of a large lake, or the ocean. 

You can read more about the various fishing rod types here.

Can beginners use baitcasting rods?

The quick answer to this question is that everyone has to start somewhere. Beginning baitcasting fishermen will always snarl their line as they learn the intricacies of casting and develop the thumb dexterity that goes along with it.

Modern baitcasting reels are much smoother, snarl-free devices than the old days, but patience and the desire to improve your technique will always be a trait for good baitcasting technique to develop.

What reel should I get for my casting rod?

This question is akin to asking if the tires on my truck should be round or oval. Baitcasting reels are designed to work with virtually every baitcasting rod, but that doesn’t mean they’re universal or ubiquitous.

As in baitcasting rod selection, reel selection is half of the equation. Does the reel fit the reel mound and feel good in your hand when you cast? That’s the biggest consideration in selecting a reel.

Baitcasting reel designers have many different options available, but they all boil down to how far you can cast, how smooth the action is, how easy is it to set, or alter the drag and how well can you personally use the reel?

See Also: Best baitcasting reels
Also Check: Best baitcasting reels under $100

Conclusion

best baitcasting rods guide featured image

The world is your oyster, well maybe not an oyster but definitely a bass, catfish, salmon, or maybe something smaller in bluegill, pumpkin seed, or crappie.

Whatever species you choose to fish for, there is a baitcasting rod that makes that quest a whole lot easier, and much more fun at the same time.

Baitcasting rods come in hundreds of varieties in the modern market. Store displays in the angling section of large sporting goods shops can be intimidating. Taking the time to research what rod will work best for you is an effort well worth the time when you’re out on the water.

Hauling in a 12-ounce catfish on a stiff six-foot rod, with 30-pound test line in an old baitcasting reel is great excitement for an eight-year-old kid and their first fish, but it doesn’t quite have the same pizzazz for a seasoned angler.

The right grip, action, power, and reel mount makes the entire experience much more enjoyable for the modern angler.

With that in mind, take your time, don’t jump on the first baitcasting rod you encounter. Be like the fish you’re pursuing. The bigger, trophy fish are much more discerning than those little perch that follow your bait all the way to the surface of the water.

Be the big fish, take your time, and hit the right combination of equipment, designed for exactly what you’re hoping to do on the water.

You will thank yourself for it.

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