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 out­door­ tack­letest2019 for full de­tails on the rest of the field.

A sam­pling of the war­riors that bat­tled for rank in our tests.

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