How To Choose The Right Rod & Reel Combo

How do I choose the right fishing rod and reel for me?

Few past-times command as much interest and discussion in New Zealand as fishing. Just because you've got access to the open water in your boat, doesn't mean it's a simple matter of casting a line and hauling them in!

You're likely to get as many versions of the best-ever All Blacks line-up as you are the perfect combination of rod, reel, bait, lure and style when it comes to fishing in New Zealand waters. Your best bet is to do some research about where you're likely to fish, how you would like to fish, what species you're going to target and then look for a set-up which suits.

Remember, the most expensive rod is the one which sits in the shed year-round and doesn't get used, so it's important to find something which suits your needs. Make sure you get expert help to select the right combination of rod and reel. These are the two most expensive parts of the whole fishing set-up and it's important they work in harmony.

There are relatively inexpensive combos suitable for kids or occasional recreational fishing, all the way through to top-dollar combinations designed to target specific conditions or species, so before you head into store and part with your cash, here are a few things to think about.

What are the basic terms?
Two concepts to get your head around are 'action' and 'drag'. 'Action' describes how the rod bends when it's under pressure, and 'drag' refers to how tightly geared your reel is and how much line it will give a fish with a bit of fight. Your options around action are:

  • Fast: gives you the sensitivity to tell when a fish is striking
  • Medium and medium-fast: gives you more distance if you're casting from the shore, more stiffness to set the hook on larger species but still sensitive enough to detect light bites even in deep water
  • Heavy or medium-heavy: withstands heavier line and perfect for targeting larger fish or trolling

Drag is important as when you are fighting fish they will jerk the line to create slackness, when this slackness occurs there is an increased chance it will spit the hook. The better the reel, the smoother the drag, this constant and smooth pressure on the line means you will be less likely to lose your fish.


When we are talking about size in terms of fishing we are talking about two main things, reel size, and rod size.

Reel size - this is the size of the body of the reel and/or the spool, usually the size is a number after the model of a reel, i.e Shimano Baitrunner OC has 4 sizes, 4000 / 6000 / 8000 and 12000. The smaller the reel the lighter it will be, making it easier to use all day, this is important if you are getting a reel you will be casting. However, this also means it will generally have less drag and you won't be able to fit as much line on it. Be aware of trying to compare sizing between different brands as they will differ, i.e a Shimano 8000 sized reel is similar to a Penn 4500 reel even though the numbers are quite different. If in doubt please check in with one of our knowledgable team members either in store or online.

Rod size - this is more standardised across different brands, it is effectively

Where am I fishing?
Different combos suit different places. For example, if you're casting for trout off an inland jetty or river bank then you'll want a light set-up and if you're casting a stickbait in search of a kingfish in the Bay of Islands, you'll want something a lot heavier.

Of course, if you're fishing in salt water then you'll need something which protects against corrosion and wear and tear while if you are fishing fresh water this won't be as important. Some of the locations to consider would be: inland lakes and streams, surfcasting from the beach, softbaiting from a kayak, drifting or anchored in inshore and coastal waters, or heading out to the deeper waters in search of big game fish.

How am I fishing?
Again, the techniques are as varied as the people who use them, but when you head in to store you need to have a bit of an idea of how you will be fishing. While some fishing rod and reel combos will allow you to do a few different techniques to an extent, it is recommended when you are really getting into a technique to purchase a dedicated set.

A few different techniques are as follows:

  • Bait fishing using overhead or spinning reels (using pilchards, squid, mackerel etc) - usually 6-10kg or 10-15kg line rating, 6'0''-7'0'' rods with matching size reel
  • Vertical Jigging (dropping metal or vibe lures vertically and working them back to the surface) - usually PE3-5 (15-24kg) or PE5-8 (24-37kg) line rating, 5'2'' - 6'0'' rods with matching reel
  • Softbaiting (casting jigheads and softbaits) - usually 3-6kg - 6-10kg line rating, 7'0'' - 7'9'' line rating with matching size reel
  • Live baiting - There are 2 options you can use a) a jigging style rod and reel, or a bigger reel with greater line capacity - both with a minimum PE5 or 24kg rated rod
  • Deep dropping (targeting kingfish, hapuka, bluenose and bass) - either bigger capacity jigging style combos or 30-50W combos
  • Topwater fishing (using stickbaits and poppers to target kingfish, GT's etc) - Light weight PE2-5, Medium PE3-6, Heavy PE6-8 with matching spin reel
  • Trolling (towing lures behind a moving boat for marlin, tuna) - Usually 50W or 80W reels with matching rods
  • Shore Casting (in which you have to cast out from a jetty, bank or shoreline) - Varies heavily depending on application - usually 8'0'' - 10'0'' 10kg rods with matching reel for wharf / rock fishing, and 12'0'' - 15'0'' rods with bigger long cast reels for surfcasting.
All Fishing Rod & Reel Combos

Below are a list of different rod/reel combos for each of the techniques, to keep things simple we have listed 2 or 3 of each in a cheaper - higher price order.

Remember, these are purely examples of the different combos you are able to purchase. We have lots of different and new, ever evolving combos in store and online, so keep checking in or pop in store to talk to our experts who will be able to set you up with the perfect combo for you.

Buying a new fishing rod can seem daunting, but with a bit of thought about where you are going to be fishing, and the type of fishing you are primarily going to be doing, this will enable you to significantly narrow down your search. Always check the different specifications on the different rods and reels to find which one is best going to suit your needs.

Do you have any questions?

Please, contact our friendly team on 0800 102041 or email: website@burnsco.co.nz

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We provide general information on products, not personal advice.  Always seek the help of a relevant tradesperson if you have a technical query.