Does price really dictate quality? I had a thought this morning as I groggily rolled out of bed, realizing that I had an entire blog post to write: if you compared two rod and reel combos, one very pricey (greater than $250) and one much cheaper (under $100), would there be a difference in fish-catching ability? My theory is that unless the rod or reel seriously hinders your ability to fish by significantly decreasing your casting distance or accuracy, or making it difficult to fight fish because of a cranky drag, your fishing skills are really what will make the most difference.
Luckily, I have found a rod and reel that definitely prove this theory. My Shimano Sedona spinning reel and Cabela’s Fish Eagle spinning rod are two pieces of gear I wouldn’t leave my house without. They work seamlessly together to provide the perfect combo for most fish species, and for a fraction of the price of most high-end combos.
I’m not going to lie; I am a serious cheapskate. I wouldn’t have bought this combo had it not been for the price tag labeling it as half as much as it would normally be. I was considering buying a rod to use for smallmouth bass at the time, but I wasn’t thinking about it super seriously. That was until I noticed a catalog mentioning that the current price of the combo was only $70. I couldn’t pass it up, and on the first chance I got, I was at Bass Pro purchasing the combo (along with a bunch of other junk that I probably didn’t need).
Boy am I happy I made that decision! Over the past year-and-a-half, I have put this combo through the ringer, and it has never failed. I ended up buying the rod in a medium-light power, and the reel in the 2500 size. The pair have worked great over a multitude of situations, and for many species. So versatile, in fact, that I was able to catch my biggest fish ever, a three-foot, 22 pound common carp, and a tiny 8-inch brook trout on it. When I was fighting the carp, the reel’s drag smoothly let line out as he ripped drag and swam across the pond. When it came time to land him, however, the drag had enough force to horse him just slightly without breaking the line. In the case of the many small trout and panfish I have caught, the rod allows you to delicately present lures with thin-diameter line. The medium-light power of the rod makes fighting even the smallest fish a blast.
Starting with the rod, let’s dive a little deeper into the specifics of the gear. Honestly, I think the rod is what makes this combo so special. The fast action is perfect for making long casts with light lures and detecting the lightest bites, but it also has enough backbone to powerfully set the hook. I often find myself catching more fish than my friends when using lures like dropshots and ned rigs because I am able to feel the softest tap. In addition, the rod isn’t so powerful that you’ll rip the hook out of a finicky fish’s mouth. The rod is seven feet long, although I believe you can order it in smaller sizes. Seven feet is my favorite length, though, because of its ability to make long casts and short casts alike. The longer rod allows for there to be more line out of the rod’s tip before making a long cast, meaning there is more potential energy stored. On the contrary, when make short casts, or simply dabbling your line in the water when fishing tiny brook trout streams, a longer rod allows for more reach, meaning there is less line floating on the water, which can create drag and spook fish. You may have a different preference than me, but personally, I love a seven-foot rod. The rod specifies that you should use four to ten pound test line, and I completely agree. This wide range includes the ideal sizes for many species, including trout, bass, sunfish, perch, crappie, walleye, pickerel, bullhead, and many other fish. I have found that eight-pound test is the sweet spot, but you can experiment and find what feels best to you. On the topic of line, I think that braid slips through the guides the best. As you get to the tip of the rod, the guides become very narrow, and having a thin line with minimal memory will work best. I like Spiderwire Stealth Braid a lot because of its suppleness. In addition to line, the rod is said to work best with lures ranging from 1/8-5/8 of an ounce. Again, this makes the rod very versatile, and I’ve even found that you can use lures down to 1/16 of an ounce if you use lighter line, like four-pound test. Overall, the rod looks and feels great. For most of its length it is forest green, except for some graphite towards the bottom. These two colors compliment each other great, and don’t call attention when fishing for spookier species. You’ll find a real cork handle and foam butt that allow for your hands to be spaced out the perfect distance for maximum performance. The reel seat fits a multitude of reel sizes, and stays tight, unlike some other cheaper rods. Finally, there is a small hook keeper just above the rod seat that keeps lures from ruining your guides. It all looks very sleek, but is incredibly functional.
Shimano’s Sedona spinning reel is a beast. The silver color with gold and black accents hints at the toughness usually only found on saltwater reels. I have dropped this thing countless times and it still continues to perform like the day I bought it. I love using this reel because of the astonishing smoothness when reeling. On some of my other reels, you can feel a slight clicking or creaking, or the reel simply struggles to keep up with how fast your hand is moving. This reel is fast and flawless, and is able to control my line perfectly. I never find myself with line twist issues, which is also a problem with some of my other spinning reels. Granted, I am using braid, which doesn’t have any memory. Nevertheless, sometimes even braid gets tangled when using cheap reels because they simply can’t control the line. I would argue that this reel size has the perfect line capacity, enough to not get spooled by a bolting carp on the end of a long cast, but also not so much that you never end up using three-quarters of the spool. The size of the reel also looks very good with the rod, as it isn’t puny, but it also isn’t huge and heavy. I really like the weight of the reel, as it feels solid enough to drop from a third-story window, but also light enough so that your arm doesn’t get tired after a long day of casting. Additionally, the reel’s handle fits perfectly in my fingers. It’s size is ideal for someone who prefers to hold their reel’s handles between their thumb and pointer finger, rather than in their entire hand. Having caught many fish that have taken off on blistering runs that pull dozens of feet of line, I can say that I am very pleased with the drag. A few people say they wished the reel had an anti-reverse lever, but I don’t see the need when the drag is this smooth. I never fear breaking off because the drag gets stuck. Honestly, the reel also looks great alongside the rod. The colors really compliment each other and look professional. It may be one of their lower-end reels, but Shimano did a really great job when designing the Sedona.
I have really enjoyed using this combo during the time I’ve owned it. I used to have to carry a bundle of spinning rods with me when heading to the water to fit the various tasks I need them for. Now, I just have to bring this combo with me, and I’m set for whatever the fish gods throw at me. If I need to purchase another spinning rod and reel in the future for a specialized technique, I’ll definitely look at this combo first. It is one that I use every day I spend on the water, regardless of the species or technique. So to answer my first question; no, price does not make a difference in the quality of your gear. As long as you enjoy using using it, a $50 combo may be better suited to you than a $300 combo.