Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Fishing Rod of 2022

Our gear experts spent many daylight hours testing fishing rods from brands like St. Croix, Daiwa, KastKing, and more to determine which rods are the best
Best Fishing Rod of 2022
We fished for weeks with these poles to decipher the best from the rest.
Credit: Kit Smith

Our Top Picks

By Kit Smith ⋅ Review Editor
Thursday July 28, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Ready to haul in the catch of the day? We took an in-depth look at today's market, bought 8 of the best spinning rods, and tested each one for weeks to help you make the right choice when it comes to your next fishing rod. Our experts tested these rods in a wide range of environments, from bays to lakes to rivers. We made detailed notes on how each performed in metrics like features, versatility, and portability. Whether you're looking for superior quality or exceptional value, our hands-on evaluations will help you choose the perfect fishing rod.

To complete your kit, check out our favorite fishing lines, reels, and fishing nets. We've also tested a selection of great coolers to help you keep your catch fresh. If you're camping and are planning to have you catch for dinner, these portable grills will have the food ready in no time.


Best Overall Fishing Rod

St. Croix Triumph Travel

Length Tested: 6'6" | Casting Weight: 1/4-5/8 oz
Excellent feel
Great casting
Slightly difficult to take apart

The top spot in our review goes to the St. Croix Triumph Travel fishing rod due to its winning combination of versatility, features, and balance. The great feel of this rod allowed us to sense the tiniest bites and easily set the hook. This rod cast further and with more accuracy than other models in our test. It's also portable, breaking into four pieces and packing into a travel case, which is a big plus for those who like to travel with their rods. The cork composition of the handle offered a comfortable feel in hand and allowed for notable balance. No question, the St. Croix is an unmistakably high-quality product.

So what's the catch? To be honest, we don't have many gripes with this rod. Disassembling and reassembling it definitely isn't as intuitive as some of the other contenders. Still, we think this is a pretty minor issue overall, and the St. Croix Triumph Travel still proves to be an excellent all-around rod and our top recommendation.

best overall fishing rod
With the best combination of balance/feel, features and versatility, the St. Croix Triumph Travel rod was a clear winner.
Credit: Stephanie Chavez


Best Telescoping Rod

Daiwa Megaforce Tele Spin

Length Tested: 6'8" | Casting Weight: 1/4-22/25 oz
Highly portable
Excellent sensitivity
Impressive casting
Lack of features

You have to go to far lengths at times to find fish, so having a rod that travels well pays off. We found that is exactly where the Daiwa Megaforce Tele Spin shines. This fishing rod stores down to a minimum size of 1'10" and extends all the way up to a 6'8" rod, quickly assembled and ready for action or broken down in just a few seconds. It has a great, sensitive feel for a telescoping rod, and we had little trouble sensing the lure in the water and detecting bites. The rod was excellent when casting, going farther than other rods with each cast—something we appreciated when chasing after fish that jumped nearby.

Our only real complaint with this rod is its lack of features. While it covered all the basics, it didn't have some of the other rods' unique features, like hook holders. However, if you're seeking a highly portable rod that casts well, look no further than the Daiwa Megaforce Telescopic rod.

fishing rod - best telescoping rod
The Daiwa Megaforce Telescopic was not only the one of the most portable rods, but it also had remarkable feel and balance for a telescopic one.
Credit: Stephanie Chavez


Best Bang for Your Buck

PLUSINNO Two-Piece Spinning Rod

Length Tested: 7' | Casting Weight: 3/16-3/4 oz
Great balance
Ergonomic handle
Not as portable

If you want a rod that can do it all without breaking the bank, check out the PLUSINNO Two-Piece Spinning Rod. This rod lacks some of the portability found in our favorite models, but it makes up for this with balance and features. The ergonomic cork handle was one of our favorites and made all-day fishing a breeze. Speaking of the handle, this rod features an excellent reel seat that kept the reel locked in tightly. It was also a great casting rod, with the line running smoothly through the guides on every cast.

We do have some minor complaints, though. While it held up well during our testing, the lightweight materials may not be as durable as some of the other rods we tested, so you may have to be a little more careful when handling this one. It also doesn't pack down as small as we'd prefer. But if these issues aren't enough to deter you from saving some cash, we recommend picking up the PLUSINNO Two-Piece Spinning rod at a low price for a great product.

fishing rod - best bang for your buck
While not as portable as a telescopic rod, the PLUSINNO Two-Piece Spinning offers exceptional sensitivity and versatility at an accessible price.
Credit: Stephanie Chavez


Great for Small Fish

Ugly Stik Elite

Length Tested: 5' | Casting Weight: 1/32-1/4 oz
Short handle

If you need a well-built, lightweight fishing rod that's easy to tote to your favorite fishing hole, look no further than the Ugly Stik Elite. Don't let its small size fool you. It's perfectly strong and has impressive fighting power, which was proven on several occasions when we hauled in fish that were seemingly too big for this rod. This Ugly Stik was also versatile enough for different fishing styles, whether it be dropping a hook with a worm on it or just casting with a lure. It was also one of the best when it came to balancing, sitting comfortably in our hands all day long.

Although the upsides were plentiful, there were a few downsides to consider. This rod is on the small side, so the casting distance takes a hit. This is to be expected due to the rod's size, but it's still something to think about if most of your fishing involves casting. It also has a fairly short handle, which made two-handed use a little more difficult. Overall, this rod was a pleasure to use. So, if you need a small rod that can handle the rigors of everyday fishing, you might want to give the Ugly Stik Elite a try.

fishing rod - great for small fish
If it's smaller fish you're after, the Ugly Stik Elite is your best option. Its compact size, exceptional feel, and impressive fighting power combine to give you the upper hand.
Credit: Stephanie Chavez


Most Versatile

KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic

Length Tested: 7' | Casting Weight: 3/16-5/8 oz
Extremely versatile
Great sensitivity
Glass tip
Floating guides

When it comes to versatility, the KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic rod is about as multipurpose as you could get. It is equally adept at fishing from the lakeshore as it is from an ocean jetty, which we did on several occasions on the same day. It also provided plenty of sensitivity, so we could really feel what was going on in the water. And being that it's telescopic, transporting it was also exceptionally easy. In its travel state, it was a compact 1'10". This proved especially beneficial when hiking out to a few secret spots.

The only downsides? For one, we had an issue with the glass tip. It broke after a few uses, and we had to order another one. We didn't have any problems with the second rod, so we'll chalk it up to getting a lemon, but it's something to consider. There was also the small issue of the floating guides. They were somewhat difficult to secure when extending. All in all, if you want a fishing rod that will perform in many different environments, the KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic is the rod for you.

fishing rod - the kastking blackhawk ii telescopic impressed us with great...
The KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic impressed us with great fighting power, sensitivity, and versatility. As a bonus, its telescoping nature meant we could transport it with ease.
Credit: Stephanie Chavez


Good for Casting

Cadence Fishing CR5 Spinning Rod

Length Tested: 5'6" | Casting Weight: 1/32-1/8 oz
Accurate casts

If you spend a lot of time fishing in streams and rivers, the Cadence Fishing CR5 Spinning Rod may be the perfect choice for you. It provided accurate casts, so we could consistently hit that hole the fish were hiding in. Its construction was also impressive. And regarding sensitivity, this rod was one of the best, consistently letting us detect the smallest bites and set the hook with ease.

This rod did have some drawbacks, though. For one, it was almost too light. So, depending on what reel you use, the balance can be thrown off. Another issue was its versatility. It was really only made for fishing streams and rivers, so if you are looking for a rod that can do it all, this isn't it. With all that said, the Cadence Fishing CR5 is excellent at what it's built to do and will do well in those situations.

fishing rod - the well-built, great casting cadence fishing cr5 excels in...
The well-built, great casting Cadence Fishing CR5 excels in freshwater environments. As a bonus, it has some great features, like a hook holder.
Credit: Stephanie Chavez


Good for Backpacking

High Altitude Lightweight Telescopic

Length Tested: 6' | Casting Weight: 1/4-5/8 oz

If your idea of a fun day of fishing means a long hike out to your favorite secret spot, the High Altitude Lightweight Telescopic is just what you need. Not only is it one of the lightest and smallest telescopic rods (just 1'4" in its compact form), but it also has some nice features that you may come to love. The hook keeper was especially useful when transporting it between fishing holes, allowing you to keep the hook or lure on and ready to go, even when collapsing the pole. It also has a very comfortable padded grip, and the included travel case was a nice addition. As a bonus, ten percent of the brand's profits go towards getting more kids out fishing. Very cool.

But in other areas, this rod came up a bit short. It was a lot stiffer than other telescopic rods, which meant it provided less feel. This hindered our ability to detect bites, and when using a lure, it was hard to feel its action in the water. It also wasn't quite as comfortable in hand as some of the other rods. Of course, if you want a great travel rod, you have to make some sacrifices. And while you'll make a few with the High Altitude Lightweight Telescopic, in our opinion, it's still a good choice.

fishing rod - this pole packs down small and light for backpacking, but also...
This pole packs down small and light for backpacking, but also served us fine in other angling scenarios.
Credit: Stephanie Chavez


A Functional Rod but Lower Quality

Sougayilang Telescopic

Length Tested: 5'9" | Casting Weight: 1/4-1/3 oz
Too stiff
Poor construction

If you are familiar with telescopic rods, you know there can be some drawbacks. They tend to be stiffer and less sensitive, telescoping components are more prone to breaking, not as balanced, etc. Unfortunately, the Sougayilang Telescopic had all of these negative characteristics, plus several unique issues that we didn't find in any other rods we tested. One of the most apparent was the size of its guides. They were far too small for a rod of this length and hindered casting. We also had an issue with the reel seat, which on several occasions loosened to the point where the reel almost came off. We also noticed the construction of this rod seemed subpar. Nothing broke while testing, but it didn't feel like a rod that would stand the test of time. One of the only advantages this rod had was its extremely compact size. It was only 1'4" in its travel state.

With all its downsides, we feel you're better off buying another rod. And while it worked adequately during our test, its negatives became more apparent the longer we fished with it. Our testers recommend spending your money on a different fishing rod.

fishing rod - while the sougayilang telescopic rod did get the job done during our...
While the Sougayilang Telescopic rod did get the job done during our testing, its poor construction and lack of features left us wanting more.
Credit: Stephanie Chavez

Why You Should Trust Us

Kit Smith, our lead reviewer, has been fishing for most of his life. He grew up fishing for salmon and halibut in the San Francisco Bay and the nearby Pacific Ocean. He also spent time fishing streams and lakes in Bear Valley, a small mountain town in the Central Sierras, where his family had a cabin. Later, he continued perfecting his angling craft in Colorado, where he attended college.

Our testing grounds were June Lake, California, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the California coast, where our lead tester fished from both shorelines and boats to determine how each rod performed in different environments. Dozens of fish were hooked in the process of testing these rods, helping us decipher key performance differences between each product. Each fishing rod was taken out into the field to gain impressions about the features, as well as the versatility and portability. Professional anglers were also consulted, and their feedback was taken into consideration. We then put each rod up against the others to figure out where each one ranked in the test. The rankings and recommendations found in this review were informed by our in-depth comparisons and field testing.

We invited friends and angling experts to join us on fishing trips...
We invited friends and angling experts to join us on fishing trips to learn from their experiences with these products, too.
One of dozens of fish caught while field-testing these fishing lines.
One of dozens of fish caught while field-testing these fishing lines.
Lead tester Kit Smith ready to land another fish while field testing.
Lead tester Kit Smith ready to land another fish while field testing.

Analysis and Test Results

Balance/Feel, Features, Construction, Versatility, and Portability were the five metrics we used during field testing. We lay out each below and highlight some top performers in each area.

Balance and Feel

A rod's balance is a crucial component to consider. It not only helps with casting, but it also makes fishing a whole lot more comfortable. If the balance is off, the weight of the rod will be shifted to the rod tip or handle, and you'll notice it. Feel is also an important metric here. Feel comes down to the sensitivity of the rod. If a rod has a great feel, you can sense the smallest bites and the action of a lure in the water. While telescoping rods don't traditionally provide great balance and feel, the Daiwa Megaforce Telescopic was an exception. It was extremely comfortable to fish with and let us sense every little movement in the water.

fishing rod - the st. croix triumph travel is exceptionally well balanced. add in...
The St. Croix Triumph Travel is exceptionally well balanced. Add in a high degree of sensitivity and this rod was hard to beat.
Credit: Kit Smith

As far as the most well-balanced and sensitive rod goes, the St. Croix Triumph Travel and the Ugly Stik Elite were neck and neck. While the St. Croix Triumph Travel takes the cake for the most balanced and sensitive fishing rod, letting you feel everything that was happening underwater, the Ugly Stik was right there with it. It helped us feel the tiniest nibbles and set the hook like a pro.

fishing rod - with great balance and feel, the ugly stik elite made fishing a...
With great balance and feel, the Ugly Stik Elite made fishing a pleasure, even after hours on the water.
Credit: Kit Smith


This metric is sometimes overlooked when considering a fishing rod. Sure, you can get the job done without all the bells and whistles, but smart features can make the experience even better. What kind of features are we talking about? Things like a cork grip, hook holder, and oversize guides. But having a lot of features doesn't automatically make it a winner here. They have to be features that really work and add to the fishing experience. This category's standout is the PLUSINNO Two-Piece Spinning, with an abundance of useful features. A couple of our favorites? The oversize ceramic guides helped guide the line smoothly for long casts, and the double locking structure on the reel seat held the reel tightly in place and never loosed up, even after bumpy boat rides.

fishing rod - the hook holder on the plusinno two-piece spinning rod was one of...
The hook holder on the PLUSINNO Two-Piece Spinning rod was one of our favorite features. It made traveling from one fishing hole to another a simple task.
Credit: Kit Smith

With our favorite handle, the Cadence Fishing CR5 also proved strong in this metric. While some of the rods feature foam handles, this one sports a premium cork handle that fits perfectly in our hand and made all-day fishing comfort a reality. The High Altitude Lightweight Telescopic packed plenty of features, too. We especially liked the hook keeper that lets you store your hook while moving between fishing holes.

fishing rod - if you want to fish all day without any fatigue, the cadence fishing...
If you want to fish all day without any fatigue, the Cadence Fishing CR5's ergonomic cork handle is just what you need.
Credit: Kit Smith


While this isn't the most exciting metric, it does make a big difference in how well a rod works. Depending on the material, you can get more sensitivity, strength, and fighting power. On top of that, the construction may be what determines if a rod lasts ten days or ten years. There were a few clear winners in this metric. The Daiwa Megaforce Telescopic was clearly built to last among the telescopic poles. Its carbon fiber construction combines strength and sensitivity to pick up little nibbles on our bait.

fishing rod - the plusinno two-piece spinning rod was clearly built to last. it's...
The PLUSINNO Two-Piece Spinning rod was clearly built to last. It's well constructed guides and handle were both clear indications of this.
Credit: Kit Smith

The true king of construction, though, is the St. Croix Triumph Travel. Built with a unique graphite fiber, this rod provided incredible sensitivity and fighting power. Of course, it also comes with a high price tag, so that quality doesn't come cheap.

fishing rod - while this kind of quality comes at a cost, the st. croix takes the...
While this kind of quality comes at a cost, the St. Croix takes the cake when it comes to construction.
Credit: Kit Smith


Another important metric to consider is versatility. And in this category, not all rods are created equal. Some are specifically made for fishing off the bottom of a lake, while others are made just for casting in saltwater environments. The KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic is the clear winner here. With its equally great performance in both fresh and saltwater, exceptional casting distance and sensitivity, and impressive fighting power, it can handle everything from small trout to large sea bass.

fishing rod - as the most versatile rod we tested, the kastking blackhawk ii...
As the most versatile rod we tested, the KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic was equally adept in fresh and saltwater environments.
Credit: Stephanie Chavez

In comparison, while it's built with quality in mind, the Ugly Stik Elite is really only made for freshwater fishing. Its fast action and light power design were clear indications of this. With that said, its versatility score took a hit.

fishing rod - the ugly stik elite excelled in its intended environment, but...
The Ugly Stik Elite excelled in its intended environment, but outside of that it wasn't a very versatile rod.
Credit: Stephanie Chavez


If you like to travel with your rod, this is a crucial metric. Of course, it's hard to beat a telescoping rod for portability, but some of the two-piece rods we tested were quite easy to take apart and put back together. The Cadence Fishing CR5 was one of these, and it made transporting a breeze.

fishing rod - this may not be a telescoping rod, but the cadence fishing cr5 made...
This may not be a telescoping rod, but the Cadence Fishing CR5 made transporting easy by breaking down into two short sections.
Credit: Kit Smith

One of the most portable rods we tested was the High Altitude Lightweight Telescopic. It made transporting a simple task and was among the lightest rods we tested. But many of the other telescoping rods were just as portable, including the Daiwa Megaforce Telescopic and the KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic. If portability is important to you, we suggest trying out one of these rods.

fishing rod - if you want a rod that travels well, a telescoping one is hard to...
If you want a rod that travels well, a telescoping one is hard to beat. While these rods can all be transported easily, the High Altitude Telescopic (on the top) takes the cake for being the shortest and most portable rod we tested.
Credit: Kit Smith


Selecting the right fishing rod puts the odds more in your favor. Your personal fishing style is an important consideration: are you planning on spending most of your days dropping a line off a boat, or will you be casting from the shoreline more often? Whatever it is, there's a rod here designed just for you. We hope this article has been helpful in selecting a new rod. So, plan that next fishing trip, get out there, and snag that trophy fish.

Kit Smith

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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

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