The Best Casting Rods in 2020

man holding peacock bass and baitcasting rod

Casting rods are the go to when anglers want that extra speed, power and accuracy for their fishing. While they aren’t as versatile or beginner friendly as spinning models, casting rods really excel at certain applications. Fishing in heavy cover and using heavier lines and lures are just two examples of where a casting rod is really going to shine. 

If you’re already experienced with them, I’m sure there are some situations you wouldn’t dream of using anything other than a caster. If you’re looking at getting your first one, there’s no mistaking that baitcasting rods can be a great way to seriously improve your fishing game. In either case, here we’ll go over some important factors for you to consider and highlight some great rods that will make an awesome addition to your fishing arsenal.

Our Top Picks

#1 KastKing Speed Demon Pro

#2 St Croix Mojo Bass

#3 Ugly Stik GX2

#4 KastKing Perigee II

#5 Berkley Cherrywood HD

Overview of Casting Rods

Baitcasting rods are specifically designed to be used with baitcasting reels. As a result, they are going to have some key differences compared to the usual spinning rod you see.

With baitcasting setups, the reel sits on top of the rod and the spool sits perpendicular to the blank axis. The guides also sit on top of the rod and are usually much smaller in size compared to spinning rods. These guides are held closer to the blank and it’s also quite common for baitcasting rods to feature a trigger at the handle to help with casting.

Benefits

  • Casting Accuracy – guides are smaller and held closer to the rod to give more precision when casting. The way line comes off baitcasting reels also improves accuracy as well as the ability to thumb brake. Perfect for when lure placement is key.
  • Excel at Heavier Line & Lures – The combination of rod design and reel mechanics make baitcasting outfits excel with heavier lines and lures. The rod blanks are usually more powerful, stiffer and have more of a backbone to get some force behind heavier lines and lures when casting.
  • Perfect for Heavy Cover – These rods are usually a little shorter and stronger to give you plenty of leverage to horse fish out from structures. Helps prevent the fish from retreating and tying your line up. The extra casting accuracy will also help prevent you casting into snags.

Trade Offs

  • Casting Difficulty – This is more related to the reel than the rod. Baitcasting reels are prone to what’s called backlash, where the line continues to come off the spool after your lure has landed in the water. It makes an absolute mess of your line causing a bird’s nest. It takes a little practise and skill to cast a baitcaster well so are not ideal for beginner anglers.
  • Less Suited for Lighter Line & Lures – The stiffer blank of baitcasting rods make them less ideal for casting lighter lines and lures. For lighter gear, usually you want more flex like many spinning rods, to load up during the cast. This isn’t to say it can’t be done with a baitcaster, but takes a bit more fine tuning of your reel and is more difficult.

How to Compare Casting Rods

If you’ve ever walked into your local tackle shop, you know how many different rods brands there are out there. The majority of them will probably declare themselves to be the most sensitive and durable rod available – but that’s just sales talk. How the rod performs depends on its features, not what you write on the tag. Here we cover some key features to consider before choosing your next baitcasting rod.

Construction

Most manufacturers make modern fishing rods out of graphite, fiberglass, or composite, which is a combination of the two.

Fibreglass is usually the cheapest option and makes for a solid durable rod. It’s quite flexible too which can be advantageous when using particular techniques. The downsides of fibreglass rods is they make for a bulkier and heavier build and will be less sensitive compared to other options. 

More commonly you will find baitcasting rods in the form of graphite or composites. Graphite is a stiffer, stronger and lighter material. They are also going to be a lot more sensitive compared to fibreglass options.

Composite rods, which combine graphite and fibreglass, will give you a mid-range sensitivity, stiffness and durability.

Guides

The material used to construct your guides can also be made from various materials. The simplest type is a single piece stainless steel guide. They make for a great option if you’re looking for a durable and reliable rod.

If you want the next step up in performance, ceramic guides are excellent. They have a little insert made from materials like aluminium oxide which decrease friction during cast and retrieval. This will give you a further cast and reduce heat generated from the friction to improve your lines longevity. The ceramic guides are a little more fragile compared to one piece steel but will be fine as long as you don’t drop or step on your rod too hard.

One Piece or Two Piece

You might think that one-piece rods would be the gold-standard among most anglers. That is until you attempt to get a seven-foot rod in the back of your car. You see, for all the reports that two-piece rods can fall apart when a fish is on the line, this is actually extremely rare. This certainly was an issue many years ago. But with rod construction and technology improving every year, it’s not something you need to be too concerned about anymore.

Whether you want a one or two piece rod can definitely come down to personal preference. But there’s no denying that a two piece is going to be easier to transport in the car or to move through the trees and shrubs to get to your favorite fishing spot.

Our Picks for Best Casting Rods

KastKing Speed Demon Pro (Best Overall)

If you’re looking for a great all round performing rod the KastKing Speed Demon Pro is an excellent choice. There are a total of 14 different styles available with different lengths, powers and actions. Each model is designed for a specific technique, so whether your lure of choice is deep diving crankbaits or frogs, there’s a rod to suit your style.

Most models have a multi-layer construction using high modulus graphite which makes for a lightweight and sensitive rod. The models designed for crankbaits incorporate fibreglass into their construction. This adds a bit more flex for that nice soft crankbait action you’d expect from a composite rod.

The Speed Demon Pro also features Fuji alconite ceramic guides to give a smooth cast and retrieval. It also features a golf style grip and fighting butt which is a little different from your standard cork or EVA foam. However, this rod only comes in one piece options, so if your tight with space you may want to consider another option.

The KastKing Speed Demon Pro is for the angler looking for a high quality great performing rod no matter what their technique is.

Pros

  • Great all round performing rod
  • Comes in a dozen different specs design for particular techniques
  • High modulus graphite for sensitive and lightweight rod
  • High-quality alconite rings from Fuji
  • Relatively affordable

Cons

  • Only one piece option available

St Croix Mojo Bass (Runner Up)

If you are looking for that extra edge in performance and willing to spend a little extra to get it, the St Croix Mojo Bass is a great option. Much like the Speed Demon Pro, the Mojo Bass has a massive range of specs designed for techniques from top waters to flippin’.

It features premium high modulus SCIII graphite to keep the rod light and super sensitive. The Kigan Master Hand 3D guides contain strong aluminium oxide rings to minimise friction. This gives you great distance on your cast and reduces heat generation from the friction which kills your line.

The Mojo Bass features a split grip handle made using premium quality cork for a clean and light weight design. It is also available in one and two piece options which is great if you want to get it comfortably into the trunk of your car.

The St Croix Mojo Bass is for the angler who is willing to pay a little more for that extra advantage on the water with great sensitivity and casting.

Pros

  • Excellent sensitivity
  • Excellent casting
  • Lightweight design
  • Great range of models designed specifically for different techniques
  • One piece and two piece options available

Cons

  • More expensive option

Ugly Stik GX2  (Best Durability)

When it comes to durability, it is hard to pass up Ugly Stik. Like their other rods, the GX2 is built to last and won’t let you down on the water. It features what they call “Ugly Tech” construction, a combination of graphite and fiberglass that maintains sensitivity while being durable as heck. 

The GX2 features single piece stainless steel guides so you won’t have to deal with any popped or broken ceramic inserts. The handle is made using hardy EVA foam with a trigger grip for casting. There are also one and two piece options available so if you’re tight for space you won’t have a problem.

As far as action goes, you are going to have a bit of a limited selection. But there is a good range of powers from medium to heavy and lengths between 5’6” and 7’6”.

The Ugly Stik GX2 is best suited to the angler who wants a solid performing rod that is durable, reliable and going to last.

Pros

  • Super reliable
  • Composite construction for extra durability
  • Stainless steel guides eliminate need for easy to break ceramic inserts
  • Two piece option available

Cons

  • Stainless steel guides won’t give as good casting distance 
  • Will be less sensitive compared to graphite rod
  • Limited range of actions

KastKing Perigee II  (Most Versatile)

If you like to switch up your fishing with different locations or techniques, the KastKing Perigee II is definitely a rod to consider. It has a really cool two piece twin tip option which has two exchangeable tips with different powers. This allows  you to switch between Medium and Medium-Heavy or Medium and Medium-Light whenever the situation calls for it. The Perigee II is super versatile, essentially giving you two rods for the price of one!

The Perigee II features Toray 24-ton carbon matrix “KastFlex” technology, for a lightweight sensitive rod. The guides are Fuji O-rings which have aluminium oxide inserts. This drastically reduce friction on the cast, allowing for greater distance. It has a split grip EVA foam handle for a lighter rod you can spend the whole day casting.

There’s a great range of lengths ranging from 6’ to 7’6” and powers from medium to heavy. In terms of action though, you are going to be limited to fast for the casting models. The Perigee II comes in both one and two piece options as well to suit your preference.

The KastKing Perigee II is best suited for the angler who wants value and versatility out of their rod. Not all the Perigee II rods come with the twin tip option. So if that’s something you’re looking for make you choose the right model 

Pros

  • Twin-tip option for a super versatile rod
  • Carbon matrix construction for improved sensitivity
  • Fuji O-rings for decreased friction and better casting
  • Two piece options available
  • Good range of lengths and power

Cons

  • Will be more fragile compared to composite rods
  • Limited to fast action

Berkley Cherrywood HD  (Best Value)

If you’re on a tight budget or its your first baitcaster and just want to test the waters, the Berkley Cherrywood HD is a great choice. It’s a pretty run of the mill casting rod, but at this price is great bang for your buck.

The Cherrywood HD is a composite rod which is going to give you a good balance of durability and sensitivity. It features stainless steel guides which are quite durable and will be able to deal with the abuse most fish can dish out. It also features a full length cork handle which is perfect if you like getting both handles on the rod to cast. 

There is an average range of lengths range 5’6” to 7’ and powers from medium-light to medium-heavy. All models however are limited to fast action. Most are also single piece designs except for their 6’6” medium power model.

The Berkley Cherrywood HD is a great option for anglers looking for great value in a rod. It is also suited to those who may be new to baitcasting and don’t want to invest too much into their first baitcaster.

Pros

  • Great value for money
  • Composite rod for good durability and sensitivity
  • Solid stainless steel guides
  • Full length handle is great for casting with two hands 

Cons

  • No frills or special features
  • Limited to fast action
  • Limited two piece options

How to Choose the Right Casting Rod

Length

The overall length of your fishing rod will affect several things. The most obvious is your casting distance. Longer rods (particularly those over seven feet) tend to cast much further than shorter rods. That said, shorter rods tend to be more accurate. These factors will come into play in different ways depending on where (and for what) you’re fishing. It’s also worth noting that longer rods can afford you a lot of leverage on the hook set, since they take up much more line when you swing them.

Power

Rod power generally refers to the weight of the rod. Not in terms of how heavy it is, but how much pressure it takes to make the rod bend. Rods with heavier weight will not bend easily, which makes them ideal for larger fish (and heavier lines). Light power rods are great for angling smaller fish and bend quite a bit when pressure is applied. This ultimately takes the pressure off the line itself. 

Action

Not to be confused with rod power, rod action specifically refers to the rod’s tip’s ability to bend when force is applied. For this category, baitcasting rods are measured in terms of fast vs. slow. Slow action rods function almost like a whip, and are more suited to lighter or multi-hook bait. They also help to prevent fish from pulling free when they fight. However, slower actions also make it more difficult to set the hook. Fast actions allow for strong hook sets, but will not offer as much give when fish try to run. 

Takeaway 

When fishing thick cover or heavy lines or lure, a good quality baitcasting outfit is the way to go. Choosing the right baitcaster rod means understanding its features and how they translate to performance. Know what is important to you and choose a rod to match. 

If you want a great all round performer, the KastKing Speed Demon Pro is an excellent choice. If durability or versatility is more important, the other rods highlighted can also make a great choice. After making your decision, make sure to choose the length, power and action that are going to be best suited to your target fish and technique.