Preparing for the 2020 Fishing Season: What Is the Best Walleye Fishing Rod and Reel Combination?
Updated: Mar 4, 2020
This is the second article in a series on apparel, equipment, and tips to make your fishing season more enjoyable and productive.
I am frequently asked the above question and my answer is “In many ways it is like beauty--it is in the eyes of the beholder!”
Over the years, I have fished in a number of walleye tournaments and alongside some very skilled and knowledgeable guests and have had the opportunity to use a variety of rods and reels across diverse weather and lake conditions. Based on this wealth of experience, I can say without reservation that a good rod and reel combination will improve your chances of success and contribute to a more enjoyable day on the water.
So, what do I look for in a good walleye spinning rod? Basically, a good rod should meet the following criteria. First, it should be sensitive to the action of your lure and sensitive to the touch of a walleye bite, which often resembles just a few soft “tap, tap, taps.”
Second, the rod should improve your casting performance and your jigging technique. For the purposes of jig-fishing, I look for a rod that is designed to handle 1/8- to 3/8-ounce jigs yet strong enough to land a ten-pound walleye. The rod should be well balanced, comfortable to hold, and light in weight so as not to result in arm fatigue after a day of casting.
Another important criterion that is often overlooked is the manufacturer’s warranty and return policies. What happens if you snap the tip of the rod in your car door, or your brother-in-law steps on your rod while getting into the boat? Before investing in a rod, be sure to check out the manufacturer’s warranty and return policies because they could save you a few hundred dollars if you have to replace a damaged rod.
Finally, you must consider the type of fishing technique and the lake environment. Do you plan to troll on the Great Lakes or some other large body of water, or jig-fish in a smaller lake?
For the purposes of this article, I will first discuss rods that are best used for jig-fishing in smaller lakes, which is what most of our guests prefer, and then suggest a few reels to pair with these rods. In a forthcoming article I will discuss trolling rods and reels, so please stay tuned.
With that being said, there are many rod and reel combinations on the market today that the novice or expert fisherman can choose from. However, not all rod and reel combinations are the same and some do stand out from the pack.
The St. Croix Legend Elite Series spinning rod is definitely in the top set of my favorites. Like all spinning rods, I prefer a one-piece rod, 7’ to 7’6” in length with nine or more guides. The Legend Elite Series meets these requirements. The one-piece design with nine or ten line-guides is a very sensitive rod and the ES70MLF model (Power: medium-light; Action: fast) can handle 1/8- to 3/8-ounce jigs with 4- to 8-pound test line.
Do not let the sensitive touch and feel of the Legend Elite fool you; this rod is capable of handling northern pike or pulling huge largemouth bass through the thickest weed beds. Professor David Faulds, one of our frequent guests, swears by his Legend Elites (yes, he has several in his spinning rod arsenal) and has had no difficulty landing 19-inch largemouth bass like the one shown in the photograph below.
The customer service people at St. Croix understand that accidents happen. If your rod is damaged in a fishing-related accident, like a large northern pike snaps the rod, simply return it to St. Croix and they will replace it with a new rod, free! The only charge you will incur is a $20 shipping fee. St. Croix’s Gold Star Accidental Policy will cover any non-fishing-related accident that you may experience and they will replace your Legend Elite with a new rod for $85, plus shipping.
The Legend Elite Series retails for around $420, and the quality of the rod and the generous unconditional return policy easily justify this price.
The GLoomis GLX Walleye Spinning Rod is another high-end performer that easily meets all the criteria for a superb walleye rod. GLoomis is an old, well-known rod manufacturer and is highly respected among walleye fishermen. Their GLX Walleye Series is designed to compete with other high-end rods and retails for around $430.
My favorite model in this series is the WPJ R822S GLX. This rod is a one-piece, 6’10” rod (Power: light; Action: medium fast) that can handle 1/8- to 3/8-ounce jigs with 6- to 12-pound test line. The rod is a pleasure to fish with and I always enjoy my day on the water with it.
GLoomis offers a Limited Lifetime Warranty against non-conformities in workmanship and materials for the life of the original owner. For breakage determined to have occurred due to non-conformance, GLoomis will, at the companies’ discretion, either repair or replace the product at no charge. A sales receipt or proof of purchase is required to be eligible for the warranty.
The Fenwick Elite Tech Walleye Spinning Rod, which retails for around $149, is an outstanding performer and a great value. This one-piece, 7’2” rod can handle 1/8- to 3/4-ounce jigs with a 4- to 12-pound test line. The ETW72MFS model with a medium-fast action is another favorite of mine. The rod is versatile and can handle those huge trophies that come with the early spring and late fall walleye bite.
The Elite Tech Walleye series offers a limited lifetime warranty and I recommend that you review the details of the warranty with the Fenwick representative in your area before purchasing the rod.
Shimano Stradic Ci4 series spinning reels pair well with any of the above rods. These reels are best used with 6- to 10-pound test line and retail for around $200. The Shimano Stradic is a light reel that can cast 1/8-ounce jigs and provides a very smooth retrieve.
The Abu Garcia Revo S Spinning Reel series is another popular reel and is a favorite of mine. These reels retail for $129 to $139 and can handle 6- to 12-pound test line and perform well with any quality spinning rod.
Fishermen often ask, “What type of line is best for jig-fishing for walleyes?” Over the years, I have found that a high- quality braided line will offer the sensitivity and strength that ensures your rod and reel combination achieves its true potential. I recommend the Sufix Nanofilament Braid Line but there are other braided lines on the market that perform equally well.
For jig-fishing, I always recommend two rod and reels, with one reel loaded with 6-pound test line for fishing in weed beds and the other loaded with a heavier 8-pound test line for fishing those deep rock bars that can snag your jig and test the strength of your line, rod, reel, and patience.
For all of our guests at Mallick Adventures, we will provide the highest quality fishing equipment during your visit free of charge. Our guests merely have to come prepared for a great and exciting day of fishing.