The Top Fishing Rods for 2023: A Comprehensive Review

The Top Fishing Rods for 2023: A Comprehensive Review

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Are you searching for the perfect fishing rod to enhance your angling adventures in 2023? Look no further! In this article, we’ll explore the top fishing rods currently available on the market. We’ve tested these rods in various environments, allowing us to provide you with valuable insights into their performance and features. Whether you prefer casting from the shoreline or dropping a line off a boat, we’ve got you covered.

Great for Small Fish

The Ugly Stik Elite

When it comes to a well-built, lightweight fishing rod that can easily accompany you to your favorite fishing spot, the Ugly Stik Elite is a top contender. Don’t be deceived by its compact size – this rod packs a powerful punch. We were pleasantly surprised by its ability to handle fish that seemed too big for its stature. The Ugly Stik Elite proves its versatility across different fishing styles, whether you’re dropping a hook with a worm or casting with a lure. Additionally, its excellent balance ensures a comfortable grip throughout the day.

While the Ugly Stik Elite boasts numerous advantages, there are a few factors to consider. Due to its size, the casting distance may be slightly limited. If long-distance casting is crucial to your fishing technique, this is worth noting. Additionally, the rod’s relatively short handle may make two-handed use slightly challenging. However, overall, the Ugly Stik Elite offers a pleasurable fishing experience. If you’re in need of a small yet resilient fishing rod for everyday fishing, the Ugly Stik Elite is definitely worth a try.

Why You Should Trust Us

To bring you the most reliable and accurate information, our testing took place across June Lake, California, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the California coast. We meticulously evaluated each rod’s performance in various environments, both from shorelines and boats. Throughout our testing, we hooked dozens of fish, enabling us to discern key performance differences between the rods. We also sought input from professional anglers and factored in their valuable feedback. Our comprehensive comparisons and field testing facilitated the final rankings and recommendations presented in this review.

Leading this endeavor is our experienced reviewer, Kit Smith. With a lifelong passion for fishing, Kit has honed his angling skills in diverse settings. From fishing for salmon and halibut in the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean to exploring streams and lakes in Bear Valley, Kit’s wealth of experience drives his expert insights. His expertise extends to fishing in Colorado, where he attended college.

Analysis and Test Results

Throughout our testing process, we meticulously evaluated each fishing rod across five essential metrics: Balance/Feel, Features, Portability, Construction, and Versatility. Below, we’ll provide insights into each category, highlighting standout performers.


As the saying goes, “When you buy cheap, you buy twice.” This couldn’t be truer in the case of the KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic, which suffered from a broken glass tip after a few uses. However, we found it to be a versatile, portable rod with exceptional balance and functionality. The standout in terms of great price-to-performance ratio is the PLUSINNO Two-Piece Spinning Rod. Surprisingly affordable, it delivers excellent functionality on the water. Another solid choice is the Daiwa Megaforce Tele Spin, a well-constructed rod with great casting capabilities and good value.

Balance & Feel

A fishing rod’s balance significantly impacts both casting and overall comfort. Should the balance be off, the weight distribution will affect the rod’s performance. Feel, too, plays a crucial role, influencing sensitivity to bites and lure action. While telescoping rods typically lack in balance and feel, the Daiwa Megaforce Telescopic defies expectations, providing exceptional comfort and ample sensitivity. When it comes to the most well-balanced and sensitive rods, the St. Croix Triumph Travel and the Ugly Stik Elite shine. These rods allow you to feel even the subtlest nibbles and set the hook with precision.


While often overlooked, the features of a fishing rod can greatly enhance the angling experience. From cork grips to hook holders and oversize guides, the right features can make a significant difference. The PLUSINNO Two-Piece Spinning Rod stands out in this category, offering an array of useful features. Notably, oversize ceramic guides ensure smooth line guidance during long casts, while the double locking structure of the reel seat securely holds the reel in place, even during bumpy rides. Additionally, the Cadence Fishing CR5 Spinning Rod impresses with its premium cork handle, providing unparalleled comfort for extended fishing sessions. The High Altitude Lightweight Telescopic also offers plenty of practical features, including a hook keeper for convenient hook storage during location changes.


For those who travel with their fishing gear, portability is paramount. Telescoping rods undoubtedly excel in this area, but some two-piece rods also offer excellent ease of disassembly and reassembly. The Cadence Fishing CR5 exemplifies this, ensuring hassle-free transportation. Among our test fleet, the High Altitude Lightweight Telescopic stands out as one of the most portable rods. Lightweight and easy to transport, it offers exceptional convenience. Other noteworthy portable options include the Daiwa Megaforce Telescopic and the KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic. If portability is a priority, we highly recommend exploring any of these rods.


While construction may not be the most exciting metric, it plays a crucial role in a rod’s performance and durability. Material choice influences sensitivity, strength, and fighting power, ultimately determining the rod’s longevity. Noteworthy contenders in this metric include the Daiwa Megaforce Telescopic, which features a carbon fiber construction offering superior sensitivity for detecting subtle bait movements. However, the true champion in terms of construction is the St. Croix Triumph Travel. Crafted with a unique graphite fiber, this rod provides unparalleled sensitivity and immense fighting power. It’s worth noting that quality comes at a higher price point.


Versatility is another crucial factor to consider when selecting a fishing rod. Not all rods are equally suited for various fishing styles. While some excel at bottom fishing in lakes, others are designed specifically for casting in saltwater environments. The KastKing Blackhawk II Telescopic shines in terms of versatility. With exceptional performance in both fresh and saltwater, impressive casting distance and sensitivity, and formidable fighting power, it can handle anything from small trout to large sea bass. In comparison, the Ugly Stik Elite, while of excellent quality, is primarily tailored for freshwater fishing. Its fast action and light power design limit its versatility score.


Picking the right fishing rod can significantly enhance your angling success. Consider your personal fishing style to make an informed decision. Whether you spend most of your time dropping a line off a boat or casting from the shoreline, there’s a rod specifically designed for you. We hope this article has provided valuable insights to help you select the perfect fishing rod for your needs. So, plan your next fishing trip, venture out into the water, and reel in that trophy fish.

East Coast Paddle Sports

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