I may have a slight addiction to baitcasting rods for bass. I have ceiling rod racks across the width of my garage, above my boat, and every one of them is loaded to the max with specialized bass rods, most of them baitcasters.
As technologies have changed, so have some of my favorites—and I discover new ones each year—but as a general rule, it’s important for me to have rods that amplify a particular lures’ strengths. That generally means faster actions for “feel” baits and more moderate actions for moving lures. But even within those categories, there’s further division. For example, I use a very different rod for my offshore deep diving crankbaits than I do for small, light-wobbling balsa baits. Many manufacturers label their baitcasting rods for specific applications, but you can’t always trust those descriptors. My favorite spinnerbait rod was called the “Magnum Worm Rod.”
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With all that ambiguity, how do you find the right rod? Figure out what you like, assess the variables, and then make an informed choice. Once that’s done, match the proper reel and line to maintain balance and let the rod do the work for you. That’ll mean more pleasure when fishing, less fatigue, and hopefully more bass in the boat. To make things even easier I put together a list of the best baitcasting rods for bass, which will serve as a starting point as you develop your personal preferences. Here are my top picks:
How We Picked the Best Baitcasting Rods for Bass
I’ve bass fished from Michigan to Mexico over the past eight months, and I’m anything but a one-lure specialist. In fact, while I don’t like more than seven or eight rods on the deck at a given time, I will cycle through more than a dozen for different purposes over the course of an average day. I fished clear water and dirty, from 6 inches deep down to over 40 feet. I don’t pretend to have the reflexes of a world-class athlete or the fishing skills of an Elite Series pro, so I depend on the best baitcasting rods for bass to help me make the most of every day on the water—and I’m picky.
The Best Baitcasting Rods for Bass: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Shimano Expride EXCMH2MHB
- Length: 7 feet 2 inches
- Power: Medium heavy
- Action: Fast
- Lure Weight: ⅜ to 1 ounce
- Split grip cork and carbon monocoque handle
- Both lightweight and balanced
- Unique handle is comfortable and transmits vibrations
- Not unreasonably priced for a super-premium product
- May not be moderate enough for some anglers’ preferences with moving baits
I didn’t expect much out of the Expride, since I’ve always assumed that Shimano’s rod products take a backseat to those from sister company G. Loomis. Then I picked it up and fished worms and jigs on it, and found it to be a go-to rod for that purpose. I threw buzzbaits on it, and experienced superior hookup percentages. I tried it with big topwaters, swim jigs, even spinnerbaits, and found myself wishing that I had one or two more. The proprietary CI4+ reel seat and Fuji SIC guides make it super lightweight, and while I can’t confirm that the “carbon monocoque” handle butt section truly adds sensitivity, I know that I didn’t miss many soft strikes when fishing it—whether in hot, cold, wet, or dry weather. These are the overall best baitcasting rods for bass because they make fishing fun. It felt like driving a high-performance boat through big waves and conquering anything that came at me.
Best Budget: Dobyns Colt CL734C
- Length: 7 feet 3 inches
- Power: Heavy
- Action: Fast
- Lure Weight: ¼ to 1 ounce
- Split grip EVA handle with no foregrip
- Remarkably low price for this quality
- High modulus graphite
- Available in several other technique-specific models
- Slightly heavier than more expensive rods
Years ago, when I started tournament fishing, rods in the $150 to $200 range were the cream of the crop, and generally outside my budget. Now that’s a standard price for mid-range rods. But those midrange rods outperform the best sticks of a generation ago. What if you dropped that price even further, to less than $80? Could you still have a rod that did it all for the beginner yet was tournament-ready? The Dobyns Colt answers that question with a resounding yes. It feels much more refined than even some high-end rods from other manufacturers. It also has the performance to go with that feel and I found it to be a highly versatile rod. You can use it to flip or crank, just about anything, and while it’s not ultra-specialized, it’s pretty darn good across the board. It doesn’t have the highest quality foam or guides in the Dobyns lineup, but you’re not giving up much.
Best for Jerkbaits: Daiwa Tatula Elite Medium-Light Seth Feider Signature Series Rod
- Length: 6 feet 9 inches
- Power: Medium light
- Lure Weight: ¼-5/8 ounce
- Distinctive silver/gray split-grip EVA handle with Fuji reel seat
- Sub-7 foot length makes it easier to snap downward
- Moderate bend allows fish to get hooked and stay hooked
- Properly-sized handle won’t get caught in clothing
- Silver blank and hardware is polarizing
I’m not a jerkbait expert by any means, although I’ve caught plenty of bass with my favorite models from Megabass, Lucky Craft, and Rapala. The reason I tend to shy away from them is because of their many drawbacks—specifically, they can be tough to cast in windy conditions, and despite having six or nine hooks, bass seem to pull free an inordinate percentage of the time. This Daiwa Tatula rod helps to solve those problems. Thanks to the distinctively moderate action, the fish won’t pull free at the end of a long cast or as the result of a final boat side surge. It loads up properly to get the lure out there a country mile. At the same time, you can feel the jerkbait’s responsiveness, but you won’t pull it away from short-striking bass. It’s also one of the best baitcasting rods for bass when using small topwaters like quarter-ounce poppers and little balsa crankbaits that you might otherwise elect to throw on spinning gear.
Best for Worms and Jigs: Falcon Lowrider LFC 7-MH
- Length: 7 feet
- Power: Medium heavy
- Action: Moderate Fast
- Lure Weight: ¼ to 3/4 ounce
- Split grip cork handle with no foregrip
- Very reasonable price
- Fuji Tangle-Free K Frame Guides
- Anglers who prefer EVA handles might not like this rod
Falcon started making the Lowrider series of rods nearly three decades ago, and while they’ve engineered consistent refinements, they’ve never given up on the purpose-driven ethos that guides their products. This rod is super-sensitive, and even if you generally don’t like cork handles, this premium cork may change your mind. I found myself reaching for it whether I was casting a jig, pitching a creature bait into laydowns, or skipping a weightless Senko under docks. It’s extremely sensitive and perfectly balanced, so you won’t get carpal tunnel from the repetitive motion, and you’ll be ready, willing, and able to fish a couple of extra hours each day. The Lowriders are also available in models with solid grip handles.
Best to Put a Beating On: Abu-Garcia Veritas PLX VTCRCW70-6
- Length: 7 feet
- Power: Medium heavy
- Action: Fast
- White closed cell EVA split grip handles
- Super-comfortable, ergonomic reel seat
- Robotically optimized guide train
- Nicely balanced
- The jury is still out on whether white handles will resist dirt and grime
These Veritas rods, with white blanks and white EVA handles, look like they shouldn’t be able to get down and dirty, but when it comes to performing on the water, they’re one of the best baitcasting rods for bass and taking a beating. Look, I’m rough on my equipment. I bounce across big waves in rough water. I stick the rod tips into the bottom to measure depth, or to retrieve a stuck lure. That means if it can be broken, there’s a chance I’ll break it, and this rod stood up to everything I could dish out, no worse for wear. It’s also just fast enough to work well with lures that require sensitivity and just moderate enough that you’ll like it as a spinnerbait rod, or for chatterbaits, and other moving lures. Whether it’s a stalwart in your rod locker or something you throw in the back of your truck in case you pass a likely-looking fishery, this rod will be ready for action when you most need it.
Best for Offshore Cranking: Lew’s KVD Composite Cranking Cast Rod 7’4″ Heavy
- Length: 7 feet 4 inches
- Power: Heavy
- Action: Moderate
- Lure Weight: ½ tp 2 ounces
- EVA split grip handle
- Bargain priced
- Composite construction maximizes hookup ratio
- Full contact reel seat
- Some anglers may not like comparative bulk and slow action of composite construction
When the winningest crankbait angler of all time designs rods for that technique, you take them seriously. Kevin VanDam has forgotten more about cranking than most of us will ever know, so it’s no wonder he made one of the best crankbait rods. If you prefer a lightweight composite cranking rod to one wholly made of graphite, the Lew’s KVD line needs to be in your rod locker. Some anglers may prefer a 7 foot 6 inch or even 8 foot rod for offshore pursuits, but this shorter rod casts every bit as far, regardless of whether you’re at the low end of the upper end of its lure weight recommendations. I long preferred graphite cranking rods, but I know that I miss some fish when I use them with a hair-trigger response time. Simply put I pull the bait right out of their mouth. With a composite rod, that’s far less likely. They simply get hooked and stay hooked longer. It can also handle castable umbrella rigs, big flutter spoons, and some of the best swimbaits or glide baits.
Best for Flipping and Punching: St. Croix Legend X 7’11” Heavy Casting Rod
- Length: 7 feet 11 inches
- Power: Heavy
- Action: Moderate fast
- Lure Weight: ½ to 2 ounces
- Split grip cork handle
- Super high-modulus graphite
- Proprietary Taper Enhancement Technology (TET) blank design
- Remarkably lightweight for a rod that’s so incredibly powerful
- The length is generally a positive, but may prove unwieldy for shorter anglers
- Lofty price tag
I love to flip heavy cover because of the mano a mano nature of the battle. Either you drop your lure in the center of a bush and see the whole bush shake, or you punch a big weight through a grass mat and feel the distinctive “thunk” before it gets down another foot—it’s visceral and exciting and a great way to catch bigger than average fish. Unfortunately, punching weights up to 2 ounces can take a toll on your body if the rod isn’t properly balanced. It may just be simple fatigue, or worse yet, you could develop tendonitis or a rotator cuff injury. It doesn’t help that short-distance hooksets on heavy braid are jarring, too. The St. Croix Legend X doesn’t eliminate those problems, but it does minimize them through perfect balance, and makes flipping a joy again. You’ll be surprised that a rod this light can pack so much power.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Baitcasting Rod
A generation or two ago, most baitcasting rods were under 6 feet 6 inches. That’s changed substantially, and now only a fraction of the baitcasters in my arsenal are under 7 feet long, and some are as long as 8. Keep in mind that you’re choosing the right rod for you, and your mileage may vary depending on your height, strength and where you fish, so while longer may be better for casting distance and hook setting, there’s usually a happy medium.
With single hooked lures, you’ll typically want a fast rod for driving the hook home. With treble hooked lures something more moderate, with a deeper bend will help keep fish hooked. But there’s a wide range of gradation in between, and the choice of mono, fluorocarbon or braid makes a big difference in how much forgiveness you’ll want or need.
You’ll want to match your rod power to all of the following variables:
- Size of the fish
- Heavy cover or open water
- Lure weight
A bigger fish, heavier cover, and heavier lure all require a rod with a heavier power. Also be sure to note that not all “mediums” or “medium heavies” test out the same. It pays to handle the rod and if possible make a few casts before committing your hard-earned dollars.
There are a remarkable number of quality rods that retail below a hundred bucks today, but in some cases you do get what you pay for. Within a given manufacturer’s lineup, you may find differences in the quality of components—everything from blanks to reel seats to guides—based on your willingness to pay. Sometimes it’s worth the extra dollars, other times it’s just a matter of window dressing.
Q: What is the best baitcasting rod?
The best baitcasting rod for bass depends highly on personal preference, the technique or techniques you expect to use it for, and the price you’re willing to pay. Anglers should tailor rod choices to specific circumstances unless budgets demand an “all-around” rod for multiple purposes.
Q: How much do baitcasting rods for bass cost?
Quality baitcasting rods for bass start well under a hundred dollars and can reach $500, $600 or even over a thousand dollars for custom, technique-specific rods. The sweet spot seems to be between $100 and $200, where quality components and blanks built for specific purposes seem to come together.
Q: How do I choose a baitcasting rod for bass?
Pick rods from proven brands, and within the generally-accepted parameters of lengths, powers and actions used by the pros for a particular purpose or application. If possible, go to the store and handle the rods you’re considering, even ask if you can make a few casts to make sure that the rod or rods meets your expectations.
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I’ll admit it: I’m a rod snob. I don’t necessarily judge by price, because I’ve fished $49 rods that have performed admirably and $500 rods that lacked a little something, but I do care deeply about quality components and proper actions. What works well for me may not excel for you. For example, I often like a 7 foot 9 inch to 8 foot rod for heavy-duty flipping and giant offshore crankbaits, but I know those lengths may be unwieldy. It also depends heavily on line choice—the rod you use to flip with fluorocarbon may be far too stiff to flip with braid without pushing the fish’s mouth open on the hook set. Find a series of rods – from one manufacturer or from a series of them—that you like and stock up while you can.