Fishing Tips & Tricks

Beginner 3 Rod Setup – How to select your first fishing rods.

Beginner 3 Rod Setup – How to select your first fishing rods. 

When I first started fishing as a kid I wanted to be just like the pros! Heck, I even had my first boat at the age of 13 and used a transom mount trolling motor on the front, just to be cool. I then began to collect every piece of fishing gear I could get my hands on; lures, rods, reels, tackle boxes, etc. I think at one point I had almost 15 random rods and reels. As a kid and would drag every one of them out with me on my adventures. As an adult, I still have a vast array of rods for almost every situation. I have rods for the surf, catfishing, crappie, bass and even fly rods (salt and fresh). I had an aha moment while reading an article about 7 years ago and it was to keep things simple from tackle to rods. When it came to rods it focused on your strengths, and I had three techniques I fished most, finesse, swim jigs, and topwater.

I found that if I had three rods that match my favorite techniques I would save time and room in my boat. I also discovered along the way, that these three rods worked for other situations when needed as well. I started carrying just three rods back in 2009 and have since added a few to a daily arsenal. I have rod holders mounted on my boat and can hold 8 and that is the max I will take. Today I do carry multiple rods, but the base of what I bring is still geared toward the three techniques.

First up, FINESSE FISHING, and what I have is an older Abu Garcia 6’6” Medium Light (ML) spinning rod. The reel varies based on what I’m fishing for. I will say normally I have a reel spooled with 8lb fluorocarbon (sensitivity and sight). If you are starting out and new to fishing really any Medium Light to Medium spinning rod will do. As you advance and get confident to the various techniques of FINESSE Fishing picking rods specifically designed for an application like shaky head and drop shot, will have better performance, but with a higher price tag. So why finesse fishing? Well, it’s simple I fish some highly pressured rivers in lakes that are in and around Washington DC.  The Potomac River and my favorite watershed Rocky Gorge Reservoir get pounded by anglers. I make it a goal to fish behind people and catch what they miss ; ). So finessed fishing is my favorite technique for bass. 

Next, SWIM JIGS, and with this application, I am using another Abu Garcia and more specifically the first Veritas model. It measures 7’6” and is Medium Heavy (MH). In regards to the reel situation, it changes all the time, but I do like a fast retrieve. Faster is better for me because I can always slow things down. The long rod allows me to really chuck a heavy jig out in the water. Along with casting the swim jig, and with the length of the rod I will switch it up from casting, and go straight to flipping and pitching. As far as line goes, I’ll use braid on the Potomac River with all the weeds and switch to fluorocarbon in the local reservoirs that don’t have a lot of heavy cover. This rod can be used for so much more; spinner baits, Carolina rigs, Texas rigs, swim baits, and even catfishing : ). Again, if you are starting out pick something simple and then work your way up. All the major rod manufacturers produce very decent models that start around $40 to $60 and work great. So why swim jigs, we all know bass jigs produce. I just get bored and would rather fish it like a spinnerbait that it. Also, when I’m throwing frogs on the Potomac in the slop and I miss a fish, I quickly follow up with a jig and usually have success!

Last, TOPWATER FISHING, nothing is better than throwing a popper or a frog and watching a bass explode on the lure. When I started out top water fishing especially with a walk the dog lure was always difficult. However, I bought my first Shakespeare Ugly Stick and it was that action that made all the difference is my topwater techniques. The long flex through the entire rod has always helped me impart the best action on a lure, thus producing more fish on the end of the line. I have switched and now use s-glass rods and are usually sold as “Crankbait Rods”. The first two rods mentioned are usually made of carbon or graphite or a combination of. The one I use now is Wright & McGill Skeet Reese S-glass crankbait rod and measures 7ft. Sold as a crankbait rod, this works great for me as a topwater rod as well. It’s the long bend in the rod  and that is the reason I like them so much. 

As a side note for those anglers who are not yet comfortable with baitcasting reels. It’s really OK to use a spincast reel. Heck I still have my first Zebco 33 that was passed down from my Great Uncle and is probably from the 70’s. Honestly, there are some really nice spincast reels out there today, to get you started. 
That rounds out the baseline for the rods that I use when fishing. It’s geared towards bass mostly, but I still use those rods for other fishing methods as well. When starting out fishing, I would try to really keep things simple, until you get the hang of things and want to venture into more technique specific and higher priced rods.
Selecting Fishing Rods
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Semper Fish!
Joe, The National Angler


6 replies on “Beginner 3 Rod Setup – How to select your first fishing rods.”

You mention if you aren’t comfortable with baitcasters, using spincasting gear, but not spinning rods. Is there a reason for this? (just curious)

Hi Bryan, for this purpose to keep things simple I still would always have spinning gear as part of the setup. Spincasting gear would be for someone not yet comfortable with a baitcaster. I’m currently teaching my oldest daughter to you my old Zebco 33, when she is good with that I will move her to a baitcaster. Does that help?

Thanks for taking time to ask a question, really appreciate the feedback.

Semper Fish!

Spincasters, imo isn’t a stepping stone tword baitcasters.

So again why spincaster? Why not spinning? Just curious.

I get that the 33’s are great for beginners. Being closed system.

Why not just use spinning reel.

My son who is 3, uses a 4ft rod with a zeb 33 that I found at an estate sale brand new from 70’s too. Grateful Lil units. My son can cast and has allot fun at it and me as well since theirs less to go wrong. BUT when it gets bound up its a real pain.

I can’t remember is Spincasters can be used on the bait casting poles?

Just curious.

And if I might pick your brain. I fish for large trout here in western oregon. During spring my focus is on the iconic Mckenzie river, for wild “Redband trout”. I fish from inflatable 2man pontoon boat fitted with casting deck, I know Don’t laugh, I get allot looks flying through class 3 rapids, it gets me where bank access is restricted. My question is my standard mainline is 10lb Berkley fusion “crystal” or Berkley nanotechnology clear. My leader has been standard as 8lb fluorocarbon. So I ran out of my go to leader maxma floro. So I switched to Berkley “vanish” and thought I’d try lighter leader. I target fish up to 30″ steelhead But that’s rare, far more often 14-19″ is the norm.

I purchased 4lb,6lb,8lb and tieing my standard uni knot they seem very weak. Even when great care is taken wetting the line it easily breaks.

My latest happened just yesterday. I hooked into a 27″ steelhead, smaller as steelhead goes. Hooked and landed without a net using the maxma line. I retied with same 8lb Berkley vanish and hooked into a small 15″ bulls trout and when it broke the surface it busted the line about 10″ above the hook on. The leader. So what gives? I can actually break the 8lb Leader while tieing a knot effortlessly.

What gives? Berkley vanish is supposed to be 100% fluorocarbon

It’s important to remember trout and especially larger wild ones that I target have incredible eyesight.

Hi Justin,

Thanks for the post, I think I answered most of your quesions on my Facebook page. If not, let me know and thanks!


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