The 2019 Tackle Test
We put 40 new rods and reels through the wringer to help you decide which ones are worthy of a spot in your arsenal
Forty rods and reels went through the wringer to help you decide which belong in your arsenal this season.
The difference between last year’s rod and reel models and this year’s is getting more difficult to distinguish. While there will always be some big advances in tackle from year to year, many upgrades consist of little more than weight reductions, a slight change in materials, and, in many cases, simply some fresh aesthetics or a new style of grip on the handles.
None of this makes tackle testing any easier, but we don’t like anything that’s too easy. To bring you a detailed, in-depth look at how the 2019 offerings from some of the biggest—and a few lesser-known—tackle companies stacked up, we devised a four-part test carried out by a five-man crew of lifelong anglers. Naturally, our tests were designed to determine if the rods and reels functioned to the manufacturers’ specifications, but that was only a small part of the drill.
The more important goal was figuring out how these rods and reels performed in real-world fishing situations in the hands of anglers who don’t go easy on their equipment. To do that, we took 20 new rods and 20 new reels in a wide range of prices from the lake, to the field, to the pond, to the workshop, and finally to the ocean to tangle with fish far bigger than what this bass-caliber gear was meant to handle. If it could beat a heavy striper in our torture test, no largemouth on Earth would stand a chance.
Here are our results, which will help you determine which tackle-makers are most deserving of your hard-earned cash this season. While we only had room to break down the top six rods and reels in each category on these pages, visit outdoorlife.com/ tackletest2019 for full details on the rest of the field.
A sampling of the warriors that battled for rank in our tests.