Survival Fishing – Rod/Reel Combo Selection

Chefbear is back with the second post in his survival fishing series.  He sent me some pictures of his rods and reels, but somewhere along the line the pics might not exactly match the description next to them.  My fault.  I did include them though because they give you a good idea of the range of equipment he uses.  Take it away Chefbear!

-Jarhead Survivor


Hello again ladies and gentlemen! I hope everyone had a chance to read my last article “Survival Fishing: The BASIC Kit”. This is the second posting in a series designed to show folks that you don’t need to purchase some RIDICULOUSLY over-priced rod/reel/tackle box or bag/lures/etc. In this article I am going to explain some different rod/reel combos (generally a cheaper way to purchase a set-up), these are combos that I personally own and use regularly, as well as some that are on sale at a couple major sporting goods /hunting/fishing shops. The shops I will reference are Gander Mtn., and Bass Pro Shops. However, I would encourage all of you to find a tackle shop in your area and get to know the folks who run it. Personally, I usually won’t even go fishing unless I can get over to “Ken’s Bait and Tackle” , I feel bad because I have been going there since I was 12yrs old, and I still can’t remember the name of the wonderful “lil’ ol’ lady” behind the counter… I just call her “sweetie”… like most folks do. I find I catch more fish when I go there, this is for several reasons, I am also gonna tell you why I LOVE Ken’s… #1 they take pride in their family owned business, and have THE BEST “shiner’s” (minnows) in town #2 They know EXACTLY what is biting, where they are biting, and how to catch them… I have NEVER got bad advice from “Sweetie”! #3 they give their regular customers HUGE discounts from time to time #4 If they don’t have it, they will get it, and you don’t even pay for the shipping! #5 by buying my tackle from Ken’s, I am helping keep money in MY community, which is always AWESOME!

OK, so let’s get down to brass tacks! The biggest factor in determining which fishing pole is right for you is what species you are going to target. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to focus on fishing rods/reels that will work for *almost* any freshwater fish (i.e. bass, crappie, catfish, carp, perch, pan fish, bream, etc.), and are easy to use/maintain. This means that I am going to be sticking to spinning reels. If you have never used a spinning reel, it is kind-of like the middle ground between a bait-caster (complicated, VERY sensitive, can provide a little more control that other options, they take LOTS of time and patience to be used properly and everyone is different) and one of the old Zebco-style, push button enclosed reels (clumsy, difficult to fix tangles and other problems, hard to control). The spinning reel is pretty user friendly compared to the other options, I have seen people who are completely mechanically challenged, and so clumsy that it’s a wonder they are alive pick up a spinning reel and within minutes be able to cast, retrieve, set the drag, and even fix any tangles or simple malfunctions that may occur.

So here is what I like:

Figure 1Photo from

This is a Shakespeare Ugly Stick SPL 1102

-It has a simple “trigger” attached to the bale, which makes it simple to do 1 handed casting

-It is a medium rod, made out of graphite and some patented combinations of materials which give the Ugly Stick incredible strength and flexibility for the weight/size/price

-The reel is easy to disassemble/reassemble, which means that maintenance is simple, and it’s pretty easy to open the reel for cleaning/lubrication

-I have had the model that this particular model replaced; it has served me well for about 6 years. I have used it extensively in both salt and freshwater with no issues.

-I can personally attest to the toughness of this rod/reel combo. The manufacturer recommends using UP TO 15lb test line and not much heavier fish. However, I usually run 25lb test line (10lb test diameter) and have caught 35-40lb spiny dogfish (type of shark) on it in 200ft of water while wreck fishing off the VA coast… SHE’S TOUGH

Average Price- $35-$50

Bass Pro Shops, “Cat Buster” Spinning Combo

I couldn’t get the picture, because it was some weird one that you can zoom in and out on… but here is a link to it, so you can see for yourself “Cat Buster”. Now this is a catfish pole, most folks would think “Well ChefBear, since it’s a catfish pole guess you just want us catching catfish huh?!”… NOTHING could be further from the truth. This is another example of a newer model combo that I own the predecessor to! You may notice that in the picture the reel has “Shakespeare” written on it… But wait a second… Isn’t that a Bass Pro brand they are selling it as??? As a matter of fact it is! One thing I REALLY like about Bass Pro, is that their “store brand” gear such as Red Head, Offshore Angler and many others are made by some of the best companies out there, and are sold under the Bass Pro Shops name, which *sometimes* saves you some money. Personally, I don’t care what name is on my fishin’ pole, I don’t need to have everything “Browning”, “Abu-Garcia” or “Penn”. As long as the gear functions properly, and I know it will get the job done it could have some writing in Japanese and be purple with pink polka-dots!

So here is what you need to know-

-This rod/reel combo is a medium/heavy set-up, which means that the rod will not be as flexible as the previous combo. However, it will stand up to MUCH heavier fish, and will probably tolerate more abuse (like being tossed in the back of a truck!)

-This model has a 2-piece rod which you can get in a length of 7’, 8’ or 10’, so even if you don’t have a truck bed, or large car to put your combo in, you can still have it fit. I drive a JEEP Wrangler, AWESOME vehicle, but it makes it tough to fit some of my gear because of the lack of space. All I do is “break-down” my rod, stash it in the back and I am on my way to fishin’ Nirvana!

-With a rod/reel that you plan on having good-sized thrashing fish on the end of, gear ratio starts becoming important! In this model you can choose 2 ratios, either 4.9:1 or 4.4:1… Higher gear ratios will allow you to retrieve line quicker. In my opinion lower gears tend to work better for larger fish, and higher gear ratios are better for fish that will “run out line” or fight by swimming fast/away from you. Higher gear ratios also may be needed for particular lures, such as some crank-baits. I tend to get this confused, so if I am wrong, someone please correct me, but this is how the ratio works- 4.9:1 means that for every 4.9 revolutions of the crank/handle you get 1 yard of line back on your spool.

-The version of this combo I own works great for bass, catfish (obviously), smaller striped bass (striper, rockfish, salt/brackish water), but I have also caught flounder, small sharks, pike, chain pickerel, croaker, puppy-drum and redfish. It will work for smaller species (like pan fish), but you will need to use lighter line, and because of how rigid the pole is you do lose some sensitivity that lighter weight rod/reel combos have.

Average Price- $35-$45

Figure 2Photo from

This is the Guide Series FD Spinning Combo. Much like Bass Pro, Gander Mountain also has some of the best companies produce their “store brand” products, in this case although it says “Guide Series” (Gander Mtn. store brand), it is made by Shimano! Again, I don’t particularly care about the name that’s on my gear, as long as it performs through whatever conditions I expect it to. In my and many other avid fisherman’s opinion, Shimano makes some of the best fishing rods/reels around. This is the reason I included it, even though it is a *little* more than $50.

-These guys have several different sub-models you can choose from, with all kinds of bells-and-whistles. For example, at Cabela’s you can choose from at least 5 different sub-models, then you can choose the pole length, pick medium –OR- medium/light, you can chose a 1 or 2 piece pole, and there are a few other options to choose from… The best part… They are ALL the same price! AND they all have graphite poles, which means good flexibility, control and “feel”

-They have an average gear ratio of 5.2:1, and recommend line between 4 and 10lb test… On paper this combo is looking like a pan fish/crappie CHAMP! It should also be good for running most lures used in large/smallmouth bass fishing.

-I am SERIOUSLY considering picking up one/two of these combos!!! They should be very lightweight, the graphite rods, while they can be brittle if impacted from either end tend to be very strong through the body of the pole.

-For the types of fishing I would use this combo for include finesse fishing for bass (typically use finesse style plastic worms); simple “hook & float/bobber” fishing for crappie, bream or pan fish; Fishing structure, such as brush piles, rock formations, shallow drops and isolated holes (usually found behind large rocks in fast water.

– I also think that this would make a great combo for trout… YES I did say TROUT! Not many folks consider going for trout using a spinning reel, in fact some of the “purist” fly-fishermen out there will probably blast me for even mentioning such blasphemy, BUT it can be done, I have done it, and it doesn’t do to bad! Granted, I am not saying you should attempt flies on a rig such as this, but trout hooks with hellgrammites, crickets, grasshoppers, small grubs, natural/artificial salmon eggs and even just plain old corn work pretty well!

So, I bet with all the extra little fancy bits that tis combo includes, plus the “big name” manufacturer, plus the fact that I told you ahead of time that this combo was over $50 has you thinkin’ this is one of those fancy “yuppie” set-ups huh?!

WRONG! This is a slim, trim, fishing dynamo that will take care of roughly 85-90% of the freshwater fishing you might want to do… AND it’s only… are you ready for this… It shocked me… $%4-$59!

OK, so to recap what we discussed today

#1. You don’t need to take out a second mortgage on your home to get quality fishing gear, that should give you years of reliable use, and many fried fish dinners!

#2. Although there are many options for types of reels to use for fishing, the spinning rod is the most “user friendly”, and easiest to repair/maintain

#3. Make sure to find a local tackle shop and find out what rig will best suit your needs for the species in your area. They are generally a wealth of knowledge, and most have “bragging boards”, where you can display pictures of your “monster fish”!

#4. Higher gear ratio = faster retrieval; Lower gear ratio = slower retrieve, generally better for larger fish

#5. Just because a rod/reel combo is supposedly designed for a specific species, does not mean that you can’t use it for something completely different

#6. The heavier the rod, the less sensitivity you will have, but the rods are less prone to damage and you can catch larger fish with them (they even make super-heavy models that are used for LARGE sharks and gators!) ; Lighter rods give you more control, both wile casting and while your lure/hook is in the water, the lighter the rod the more sensitivity you have (ultra-light models are joked about by some as “you can feel the fish thinking about biting your line!), they are much more fragile than heavy rods, in *most* cases the lighter rods are more expensive than most heavier rods

#7. If you want a good balance between durability, flexibility, strength, control and “feel”/sensitivity… Then get an Ugly-Stick!

#8 Check the “store brands”, and do your research, you may be able to get a really high-end combo for a fraction of the price, unless you absolutely HAVE TO HAVE the brand name sticker on your gear!

Sorry guys, I know that was even longer than usual. Even for me!! I hope you found this interesting, and hopefully you guys learned something… As usual, if you have any questions/comments/concerns, all you have to do is ask!

In the next installment of this series, I plan on covering line selection, and if that doesn’t take too long we will cover hooks and weights.

Thanks Guys!

Cabela’s- Shimano rod/reel combo

Bass Pro Shops- “Cat Buster

FREE Fishing Images Here

Gander Mtn- Shimano

13 comments… add one
  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. April 13, 2011, 9:01 am

    For my money, the old U.S. made Zebco spin cast reels like the 33, 202 and 404 are bulletproof designs that can take a lot of use without any problems. You can find them at garage sales and flea markets, though not as common as before.

  • Shoe Laces April 13, 2011, 9:40 am

    I’m personally a big fan of ultra-light rods. I’ve heard people natter on about how fragile they are when the simple fact is that if you get a quality ultra-light it’s pretty durable. I’ve brought in 10lb bass with an ultra-light rod and 4lb test. Granted, it took a while, but the ultra-light rods have the unique capability of bending over just about in half. Bass Pro Shops has a great Shakespeare collapsible ultra-light rod that’s awesome for a BOB, and it’s very durable–I’ve tested it pretty extensively. The reel that comes with it is cheap, though, so I’d recommend getting a different reel. And I completely agree that nothing beats a spinning real for durability and simplicity.

    • ChefBear58 April 13, 2011, 5:35 pm

      A few years ago I saw a 9yr old little girl pull in a 9lb 10oz bass with a snoopy pole, ultra-light rigs that I have owned are at least 1.5x stronger than one of those!

      The little orange and black pole in the pictures is an ice-fishing pole which works great for small bass and panfish, I also own a Shakespeare micro-light (my brother snagged it for a fishing trip right before I got a chance to take the pictures). The micro-light has been up against plenty of bass, and has even pulled in a few small pompano in Florida… If you have never caught a pompano, they are a member of the permit family (if I remember correctly) and are known for being one of the toughest, longest fighting fish you can find! Which speaks volumes to the durability/versatility of a quality ultra-light rig.

      I haven’t had much luck in the past with the collapsible rods, maybe I am just to hard on them, but they tend to break within the first or second time using them. If you find a good collapsible rod and need a quality reel, I would recommend Okuma, the huge rod/reel in the pictures has an Okuma reel and it is easily the toughest and most user-friendly reel I have ever owned. They tend to be a bit more expensive than a Shakespeare or Mitchell, but it’s well worth the few extra bucks for the quality you get.

  • Jason April 13, 2011, 11:26 am

    Chef, this was a great post – thank you. Also, j.r. is right, you can find some great deals at garage sales for fishing equipment.

  • ChefBear58 April 13, 2011, 12:03 pm

    Garage sales are a good way to find equipment, but it should be noted that unless you know what you are looking for you could be paying to inherit someones junk.

    I would also say that the old Zebco’s are great for lighter fishing, like med/light freshwater (panfish, bass, smaller catfish), but if you are a beginner they can be a hell of challenge to repair/maintain. Therefore I would advise a beginner to start with a spinning reel, they are less prone to line-related failures and if they do have an issue, the problem is right there for you to see.

  • Jim H April 14, 2011, 2:32 am

    The topic is SURVIVAL fishing, right?

    It’s a live or die situation. While there is some skill involved in fishing, I can’t, for the life of me figure out WHY I’d have a rod and reel and all the associated stuff that goes with it, when I can have this:

    Sure, point out the they’re illegal – but so is killing a deer out of season, and if the topic is SURVIVAL then the choice is clear.

    Another survival type said something like the following:

    “If my life is in danger and my survival is on the line, I am going to slash, burn, dig, kill – whatever it is that will insure my survival – making shelters out of fallen branches for the sake of the “environment” when the nice green ones are so much better for shelter building, is INSANE.”

    If a fish dies so that I might live, I don’t owe it an hour of my time in exchange.

    I’m not a fishing kinda guy, sure I’ve done it, but I can think of a dozen productive ways I can spend my time when I’m in a survival situation, and NONE of them invovled standing in one place potentially for hours while my shelter can be improved, or wood can be collected. Gill nets are the ultimate survival tool.

    OK, let’s say you’re a “fish whisperer” – you and your family are stuck somewhere in a survival situation. This means that while you are “whispering fish” with your dandy rod and reel, your wife and children are alone. Given that another person could fish, that still means that someone is alone and immobile. Gee, lets see, where do predators hang out…

    Watering holes?

    Oh, how about two-legged jackals? They seek water too. I’m not going to be hanging out near a place that attracts people or predators just for a fish (or the potential of one). Let a gill net set in the water for 1/2 hour, come back and if you don’t find fish, then odds are there aren’t very many there – which tells you that the stream itself could be a waste of your time.

    let’s not forget, “survival” wise – that MOST fish we catch in streams and most lakes are fish that are planted there. Heck, they even drop them into the lake by air in the more remote places. Within a year a LOT of fishing holes and mountain streams are going to be without fish. But that’s a survival scenario.

    I guess I just wondered what place a rod and reel had in a survival situation. We set snares for rabbits and squirrels, we can even do it for larger game, why do people always think they need a rod/reed to fish?

    Dunno, just bugged me to think that someone would think of rod/reel if their life was on the line.

    Nothing personal, just sayin’!

  • ChefBear58 April 14, 2011, 3:46 am

    No offense taken…
    HOWEVER, I keep at least 1 rod in my JEEP at all times.
    I have a rod lashed to my hunting pack (which would serve as a BOB/Survival bag if need be)
    Plus I LOVE FISHING, so why not have gear that serves a purpose in everyday life that will serve to keep me fed when the time comes.

    To each their own, but I will stick with my rods and reels!

  • Louis Carabini April 17, 2011, 10:06 am

    The spincasting reel is also distinctive from other forms in that its design and geometry inherently lacks cranking power although this limitation is not serious for the typical light- to medium-duty applications for which this style of reel is intended. This is reflected in the fact that spincasting is widely used across North America and ranks first in total number of units sold annually Nevertheless it is the stepchild of fishing equipment. The fact that most spincasting reels come pre-spooled with eliminates the most basic rigging problem.

    • ChefBear58 April 20, 2011, 3:35 am

      Louis, I replace the line whenever I buy a combo because the stuff they usually string them with is pretty worthless. If you buy a reel they typically don’t come pre-spooled. Also I have used spinning reels for catching big fish, the larger rod/reel combo in the pictures above is what I use for surf-fishing. I have pulled in a 90lb bonnet-head shark, several large (25-30 lb) drum, a few BIG skates (cow-nose rays), and a few catfish 40lbs+. It just depends on the reel you select, Shakespeare makes a line called “Spheros” that are really good for larger fish. Okuma (which is the reel I have on my surf-fishing rig) is also a good choice. I will admit that off-shore/deep-sea “bait casting” reels are a better selection for larger fish, depending of course on the targeted species and if you need to cast, as the larger ones tend to cast fairly poorly. They are however well suited to deep-dropping, trolling, and jigging. It’s also a matter of personal preference, I just happen to prefer a spinning reel for almost everything.

  • T.R April 25, 2011, 6:33 pm

    I have one of those telescopic rigs in my BOB , mainly cuz it takes up little space and it will work good enough for most things sept the real big fish . Have used it and its good for what it is . And considering the part of the country I live in , I most likely wont need anything better .

  • Stacy June 1, 2011, 7:56 pm

    Okay please excuse my naiveness but I have a question and you all seem like you know what your doing. I am a 29question year old female and I love to fish I really don’t know what im doing and I went and bought a shakesphere lady stick with the push button release reel and It keeps getting tangled inside the cap I went and bought the open reel and I am very frustrated on trying to cast and am going back to the closed reel pole I started with but question is why does it keep getting tangeled inside and annoying I just want to relax and fish. Pros there oaverted pole that

  • stacy June 1, 2011, 8:03 pm

    Sorry computer acted up okay or is there a quick fix or another pole I should try that has a closed reel that’s what I
    like to use there nice for me because I feel I am able to do it on my own thank you for any advice in advance I appreciate it. I asked the guy where I get bait and he just wants to take me fishing he don’t answer my question ever I like to spend fishing time alone its my own time. Thanks again

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