Matching a Rod and Reel Combo

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Matching a Rod and Reel Combo

by Capt. Terry Rand

How do you select a reel for a fishing rod? What is a balanced rod and reel combo?

When most people take up fishing for their first time, they are often given a rod and reel as a gift or they purchase a rod and reel combo that has already been matched up by the manufacturer. Most pre-matched combos are designed for introductory fishing purposes and do not excel in quality but they do the job just fine for the novice. But, as an angler becomes more obsessed with fishing, the need for a larger arsenal of rods and reels increases. This is the time when the knowledge of how to properly match up a rod and reel combo becomes important.

To begin with, all rods and reels have line ratings that indicate what size line should be used with that piece of equipment. A general rule is to make sure your chosen rod and reel fall within each others line rating parameters. If your chosen rod has a line rating of 8lb - 14lb test line, then choose a reel that is rate for 8, 10 or 12lb test line. There are exceptions to this rule but it is a rather reliable in pointing an angler in the right direction to making a rod and reel choice.

Fishing rods are labeled with line size ratings which helps to properly match a rod and reel combo.
Photo by: Author

The most important factor would likely be matching a reel of the proper weight to the chosen rod. This is referred to as balancing. The idea is to match a reel to the rod that is heavy enough in weight to alleviate as much rod tip weight as possible so the rod remains parallel to the ground when held in the anglers’ hand.  This is best accomplished by finding out what size reel weighs just enough to get the correct balance with the rod.

Reel manufacturers produce reel series that are made up of different size reels of the same design. For example, a Shimano Stradic reel is made in four or five different sizes that all accommodate different line sizes and all have different physical weights. While a Stradic 4000 and 5000 will both handle 12lb test line, there is a substantial weight difference between the two sizes that will affect the balance when paired with a chosen rod. One may leave the combo having a heavy tip when held in the anglers hand while the other is easy to cradle in the palm of the hand without any tip heaviness.

Fishing reels are also rated for particluar line sizes. The spool labeling indicates recomended line sizes along with how many yards of line it can hold.
Photo by: Author

The easiest solution is, if possible, is to experiment with different reel sizes with a chosen rod. Once you find a reel that properly balances the rod, note the exact weight of the reel itself. You can be pretty well assured at that point that any reel falling within an ounce of the noted weight will properly balance out on the chosen rod.

If experimenting with reels isn't possible, the next best choice is to accurately weight something that you can affix or hang from your rod, simulating the weight of a fishing reel. Weigh various small, household objects on a reliable scale that weighs in ounces. Note the weight of each object and then hang them from the reel handle using a string, nylon stocking or something similar. Once you find an object that balances properly, note the exact weight and you have a perfect reference for your reel purchase.

As usual, there are some exceptions in having a perfectly balance combo. Some folks may choose to fish a rod and reel that is somewhat tip heavy because their style of fishing may include having the rod tip pointed downward most of the time. But, generally speaking, a properly balanced rod and reel is more comfortable to fish. It reduces fatigue on the anglers’ wrists and fore arms and provides a more sensitive rod and reel set up.

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