Best Kayak Fishing Rods in 2021 – Buyer’s Guide

Kayak fishing is one of the best things to do while kayaking because you’re exercising, lowering your blood pressure, having fun, transporting economically, and catching fish with more accessible fishing water while you’re at it.

However, not all the fishing equipment on the market can help you enjoy your kayak fishing experience to the fullest. Fishing rods that you use on kayaks have to match your needs and experience, while also offering you the best quality possible.

So, here are a few tips to help you and a list of the best kayak fishing rods.

List of the Best Kayak Fishing Rods:

  • Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Fishing Rod – Best Overall
  • Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Combo – Runner-Up
  • Falcon Coastal Spinning Rod – Best Spinning Rod for Kayak Fishing
  • Okuma Nomad Inshore NTI-S-703ML-M  – Best Kayak Fishing Rod for Inshore Fishing
  • Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod – Best Kayak Fishing Rod for Ultralight Fishing
  • OKIAYA COMPOSIT 30-50LB Rod – Best Kayak Fishing Rod for Offshore Fishing
  • Abu Garcia Pro Max Combo – Best Kayak Fishing Rod and Reel Combo

Top Picks:

RodLengthMaterialNo. of Pieces 
Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Fishing Rod4’6″/5’/5’6″/6’/6’6″/7’/7’6″CompositeOne/two 
Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Combo4’8″/5’/6’/6’6″/7′CompositeOne/two 
Falcon Coastal Spinning Rod6’6″/7’/7’6”GraphiteOne 
Okuma Nomad Inshore NTI-S-703ML-M7′GraphiteThree 
Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod4’6″/5’6”/6’6”/7′CompositeOne/two 
OKIAYA COMPOSIT 30-50LB Rod5’6″CompositeOne 
Abu Garcia Pro Max Combo6’6″/7′GraphiteOne 

The 7 Best Kayak Fishing Rods in 2021

1. Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Fishing Rod – Best Overall

Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Fishing Rod

Ugly Stik rods don’t need our praise at this point. The Ugly Stik Elite spinning rod is a best seller that offers versatility in options to help you find a suitable one for your fishing scenario. Also, it is primely constructed and enjoys an attractive design at an affordable price.

The Ugly Tech Construction adds 35% more graphite to our rod than the Ugly Stik GX2 to make it much lighter than older models, yet maintaining the desired toughness with fiberglass. Generally, its composite construction balances the advantages of different materials to get the perfect rod.

Furthermore, the Ugly Tuff one-piece stainless steel guides are as durable as needed, and they prevent the possibility of insert pop-outs. Moreover, our rod has a clear fiberglass tip for more sensitivity to feel the tiniest nibble.

We must mention the exposed blank style reel seats with cushioned stainless steel hoods, which secure your reel in its place while also increasing your contact with the blank. 

Additionally, it has the premium cork grips that keep you comfortable even in wet conditions, which is a major plus when you’re kayak fishing.

The versatility in size options is insane, as the Ugly Stik Elite comes in 4’6″, 5′, 5’6″, 6′, 6’6″, 7′, and 7’6″. For kayak fishing, we recommend the sizes shorter than 7′ for ideal maneuverability on a kayak. Yet, having all these options is nice for when you need something more.

This rod’s versatility doesn’t stop at sizes. It comes in power options such as ultralight, light, medium-light, medium, and medium-heavy. Our top pick also comes in two action options: moderate-fast and fast. The lighter and speedier choice will definitely help you on a kayak.

You’d be pleased to find that there are line ratings from as little as 2 pounds to as heavy as 17 pounds, which is still not too heavy that you can’t possibly use it for kayak fishing, but it is still impressive.

We’re still not done yet. Our top pick comes in one-piece and two-piece constructions. So, if you need maximum sturdiness and sensitivity, you can pick the one-piece. Two-piece assemblies prioritize portability and space-efficiency above anything else. 

One thing we don’t like about the Ugly Stik Elite is that its guides aren’t that compatible with braided lines. However, the 7-year warranty balances things out for us.

Pros:

  • Ugly Tech Construction
  • Ugly Tuff guides
  • Multiple sizes, action, and power options 
  • One-piece and two-piece options
  • Exposed blank style reel seats
  • Premium cork grips
  • Clear tip for sensitivity

Cons:

  • Guides aren’t compatible with braided lines

Bottom Line

Thanks to its affordability, versatility, and construction, the Ugly Stik Elite has earned its place on top of our list.

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2. Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Combo – Runner-Up

Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Combo

Our second favorite is also an Ugly Stik spinning rod with its own reel. The Ugly Stik GX2 spinning combo combines affordability and high-quality with features that cater to kayak anglers, in particular. We also love the peace of mind that a 7-year warranty gives us.

Like the Ugly Stik Elite, the Ugly Stik GX2 has the Ugly Tech construction of graphite and fiberglass to balance low weight with toughness and durability. In addition, it has a transparent fiberglass tip that adds even more sensitivity to the rod.

The Ugly Tuff one-piece stainless steel guides are as durable and practical. Like any rod worth using on your kayak, our rod has comfortable EVA grips that are lightweight enough for all kayak fishing scenarios yet still give you a solid feel. 

So, what about the reel? It comes with compression bail springs to make it last much longer. Also, it has 3 ball bearings, and one way clutch instant anti-reverse bearing to prevent friction and enable the spool to move freely when you cast, which increases your casting distance.

The Ugly Stik GX2 rod comes in different sizes that are on the shorter side of things, which is perfect for kayak fishing, as you can see in 4’8″, 5′, 6’, 6’6″, and 7′. Likewise, it comes in ultralight, light, medium, and medium-heavy powers to cater to line ratings from 2 to 20 pounds. 

For even more versatility, it comes in one-piece and two-piece options.

So, what’s the catch? Despite the combo itself being near perfect, quality control is definitely flawed, and it resulted in many complaints of products arriving with parts missing.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Ugly Tech Construction
  • Multiple sizes and power options 
  • One-piece and two-piece options
  • Clear tip for sensitivity
  • Comfortable and lightweight EVA grips
  • 3 ball bearings and one way clutch instant anti-reverse bearing

Cons:

  • Flawed quality control

Bottom Line

At an affordable price, the Ugly Stik GX2 spinning rod and reel combo provides you with sensitivity, low weight, and durability.

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3. Falcon Coastal Spinning Rod – Best Spinning Rod for Kayak Fishing

Falcon Coastal Spinning Rod

The falcon Coastal is called “coastal” pretty accurately. Its small to medium size range, graphite construction, moderate action, and anti-corrosion components couldn’t scream “kayak fishing” any louder.

Let’s start with how it’s made. The Falcon Coastal spinning rod prides itself on its graphite construction, which gives the rod unmatched lightweightness despite its strength. Also, it is highly sensitive, so that it will transmit every little vibration to your hand.

Also, the Fuji exposed blank reel seat improves the sensitivity even more. The Fuji stainless steel chrome-finish guides are perfect for kayak fishing because they’re anti-corrosion, so don’t worry about them in the face of saltwater, sand, or even the sun.

Furthermore, we absolutely love the natural cork handles because they’re so comfortable even after a long day of fishing where the rod gets wet. Also, cork transmits vibrations well, so it adds to the sensitivity of the rod.

This rod knows how to be not too short or too long for kayak fishing; it’s just right.

One thing we noticed about the size options in this rod is how they range from small, as in 6’6″, to medium, as in 7′ and 7’6”. Small rods are the easiest to control, but medium rods cast further and increase your reach.

It continues the theme of being just right for kayak fishing in its powers, as well. It comes in medium and medium-heavy power options. The moderate action is also suitable for kayaking.

Unlike our top two, the Falcon Coastal spinning rod only comes in one-piece construction. So, it is more focused on quality than portability. Since the size options aren’t too long and the weight options aren’t too heavy, we don’t mind it being one-piece only.

But where’s the catch? It’s not the easiest rod on your wallet.

Pros:

  • Fuji exposed blank reel seat
  • Graphite construction
  • Fuji stainless steel chrome-finish guides
  • Natural cork handles
  • Multiple sizes and power options 

Cons:

  • Not the most affordable rod

Bottom Line

The Falcon Coastal spinning rod is worthy of being one of the best kayak fishing rods on the market, thanks to its corrosion-resistant and highly sensitive components.

4. Okuma Nomad Inshore NTI-S-703ML-M – Best Kayak Fishing Rod for Inshore Fishing

Okuma Nomad Inshore NTI S 703ML M

Inshore fishing is a popular activity for kayak anglers. You’re not too deep, but you’re deep enough for your catch to feel rewarding. The Okuma Nomad Inshore NTI-S-703ML-M has what you need for saltwater fishing from protection against saltwater to maximum portability.

Our inshore pick uses the OC9 technology, which consists of a durable graphite rod blank with a carbon outer wrap that protects the rod from saltwater, while also making it the most travel-suitable one.

It has a three-piece construction, which would typically indicate low quality. However, thanks to the European spigot ferrule connection, in which a protruding tube is made at the bottom section so that the top section slides on it, it undoubtedly feels like a sturdy and durable one-piece rod with the advantages of three-piece rods.

Also, it features ALPS guides with Zirconium inserts for inshore-focused corrosion resistance and impressive strength. We also must mention the ALPS 2-tone anodized aluminum reel seat that secures your reel and keeps you in control.

The Okuma Nomad Inshore NTI-S-703ML-M comes with durable and comfortable cork fore and rear grips. Furthermore, it comes with a waterproof travel bag with a shoulder strap to help you protect the rod even more.

Our favorite inshore rod comes in a 7’ feet size, which is the perfect medium size for all-around purposes. Also, the three-piece construction gives it two tips per rod, with one being medium-light and the other being medium. It’s like having 2 rods in 1. 

The medium-light tip has a line rating ranging from 6 to 15 pounds, while the medium tip has a line rating ranging from 12 to 20 pounds. Basically, you won’t need another rod to have more versatile options. Action is moderate, so it’s not too stiff or too bendable.

The downside is that it isn’t as balanced as it should be because of its large butt section. However, rest assured that a limited lifetime warranty backs this product.

Pros:

  • OC9 technology
  • European spigot ferrule connection
  • Waterproof travel bag with shoulder strap
  • Versatile three-piece construction
  • ALPS guides with Zirconium inserts

Cons:

  • Not the most balanced rod

Bottom Line

The Okuma Nomad Inshore gives you a multi-action, multi-piece fishing experience with durable anti-corrosion components. It is, without doubt, the best kayak fishing rod for inshore fishing.

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5. Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod – Best Kayak Fishing Rod for Ultralight Fishing

Shakespeare Micro Spinning Rod

Short rods offer not only impressive portability but also precision in casting, which can be appreciated by beginners and professionals alike. Kayak fishing loves short rods and ultralight action, and so does the Shakespeare Micro spinning rod, which is our pick for ultralight fishing.

Our rod’s blank is made of a graphite composite to be sensitive and lightweight enough for light and ultralight action with a bit of toughness. It is not the most robust rod out there, but it will enable you to throw the light lines and lures pretty effortlessly.

The stainless steel guides along with the stainless steel inserts offer an unbeatable, lightweight for smooth casting at the lowest price possible. Besides, the full cork handles provide maximum comfort and control.

This rod comes in short to medium sizes of 4’6″, 5’6”, 6’6”, and 7′.  In addition, it comes in ultralight and light powers. Line ratings range from 2 to 20 pounds. As you can see, these lengths, powers, and ratings can help you catch small trouts or bluegill.

Moreover, our rod comes in one-piece and two-piece constructions to help you get precisely what you need in terms of sensitivity and portability.

What we would change about this rod is its tip, which is easy to break if you’re not careful.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Multiple sizes and power options
  • Stainless steel guides with stainless steel inserts
  • Full cork handles
  • One-piece and two-piece options

Cons:

  • Fragile tip that’s easy to break

Bottom Line

At a very affordable price, the Shakespeare Micro spinning rod offers perfect light and ultralight actions along with versatility in size options.

6. OKIAYA COMPOSIT 30-50LB Rod – Best Kayak Fishing Rod for Offshore Fishing

OKIAYA COMPOSIT 30 50LB Rod

Some anglers aren’t looking for ultralight action or inshore fishing. They like to fish deep and need a rod that can handle that without being too heavy because we’re still talking about kayak fishing here. The affordable OKIAYA COMPOSIT 30-50lb rod is our favorite offshore rod.

It prides itself on exceeding all IGFA standards for big game competitions. Thanks to its fiberglass composite construction, it has enough toughness and durability to be a big-game rod, yet it is lightweight enough to be perfect for kayak fishing.

In addition, it has super smooth gold stainless steel roller guides that contrast with the blank’s blackness, giving the rod a very attractive, high-end looking design. These roller guides are also anti-corrosion, which is a no-brainer for a rod meant for deep-sea fishing.

For maximum comfort and control, the rod has a lightweight EVA foam slick butt handle, which you’ll be thankful for when offshore fishing.

Our pick for catching large fish is 5’6″, which is both positive and negative, depending on how you look at it. This size enables you to cast your bait exactly where you want it.

However, 5’6″ can be too short for casting far, unless you’re a pro-which is the target demographic of the rod-who knows exactly how to increase your casting distance to the max. Those who do rain praise on the rod’s accuracy and reach.

As its name clearly suggests, it has a line rating ranging from 30 to 50 pounds. So, you will definitely be able to catch some big game fish and have enough backbone against the feisty ones.

Finally, the OKIAYA COMPOSIT 30-50lb rod is a one-piece rod, and you need the sturdiness of a one-piece if you’re going after larger fish.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Attractive design
  • EVA foam slick butt handle
  • Anodized aluminum reel seat
  • Super smooth stainless steel roller guides

Cons:

  • Can be too short

Bottom Line

Thanks to its impressive line rating, IGFA standards, anti-corrosion components, and attractive design, the OKIAYA COMPOSIT 30-50lb rod is the best kayak fishing rod for offshore fishing.

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7. Abu Garcia Pro Max Combo – Best Kayak Fishing Rod and Reel Combo

Abu Garcia Pro Max Combo

Having a decent yet affordable and compact baitcasting combo on your kayak is a big win. Baitcasting rods have the best accuracy, biggest casting distance, and they’re perfect for trolling, and that’s why we picked the Abu Garcia Pro Max combo.

The Abu Garcia Pro Max combo gives us a rod made of 24-ton graphite construction, so it’s highly sensitive and responsive. Also, the graphite construction makes it incredibly lightweight. Next, we have stainless steel guides for corrosion resistance.

We’re big fans of the high-density EVA handles that give you complete control and comfort no matter what conditions you’re fishing in.

Let’s talk about the reel. It has the magnetic MagTrax brake system to reduce backlash, increase spool resistance, and raise sensitivity. In addition, it has 7 stainless ball bearings and 1 roller bearing for extra smoothness. It has an instant anti-reverse feature, as well.

Our baitcasting rod comes in two lengths: 6’6″ and 7′. These short to medium sizes give you the benefit of accuracy and long casting. In addition, medium and medium-heavy powers give us enough backbone without sacrificing the rod’s low weight.

Also, it comes in two-line ratings that range from 8 to 20 pounds, which is enough room to catch medium to large fish from your kayak. The moderate-fast and fast actions highlight the rod’s sensitivity even more. Finally, the rod comes in one-piece only.

So, what don’t we like about the combo? The reel isn’t the most durable or powerful one on the market. It does give you a hassle-free experience. If something goes wrong, remember Abu Garcia’s 3-year warranty.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • 24-ton graphite construction
  • Multiple sizes, action, and power options
  • MagTrax brake system

Cons:

  • Reel isn’t durable

Bottom Line

The Abu Garcia Pro Max combo is the best one for kayak fishing, thanks to the smooth experience it provides, low weight, corrosion resistance, and the 3-year warranty it is backed by.

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How to Pick a Kayak Fishing Rod

1. Material

Fishing rods are usually made of either fiberglass or graphite. Many rods are made of a composite of both to combine a few of each type’s benefits.

Fiberglass rods are pretty affordable, so they’re loved by everyone on a budget. In addition, they are strong and durable. Finally, they are pretty flexible, which means they won’t immediately snap under pressure.

However, fiberglass has one big downside that makes many kayak anglers stray away from it, which is that it’s cumbersome. The other downside is that it’s not that sensitive, so beginners who need the help of their rods to detect bites may not find it ideal.

Graphite rods are lightweight, which makes them ideal for kayak fishing because there is always a weight capacity that you shouldn’t exceed may result in flipping the kayak over. Furthermore, they are highly sensitive, so beginners can trust them in detecting bites and movements.

Graphite has its downsides, too. It can get too pricey for anglers on a budget or beginners. In addition, it is not as durable as fiberglass, and chances are you’ll replace your graphite rod sooner than your fiberglass one.

Finally, you should have corrosion resistance in mind if you’re kayak fishing in saltwater because you’re more likely to get your rod in water than you think. So, components like anti-corrosion stainless steel guides or reel seats are always welcome.

2. Power and Action

The rod’s power indicates how much pressure it can take before it bends, and it is also called its weight. Powers are categorized into many options, from ultralight to ultra-heavy.

You usually go lighter or heavier to match the weight of your target fish and line weight, of course. So, if you’ll catch small fish that don’t struggle or strike much, stay in the lighter range, and vice versa.

The most popular power choice for kayak fishing is medium because it is light enough not to add unnecessary weight and strong enough to handle some bass or salmon.

The action of a rod refers to how it bends under pressure. Fast action rods bend only at the top third. Moderate action rods bend at the top half. Slow action rods bend at the bottom third.

Fast rods are a popular choice for kayak fishing because they are relatively stiff and can handle more substantial and larger fish. Also, they are more sensitive than their flexible counterparts, which is needed for kayak fishing to feel what’s happening.

3. Length

Lengths of fishing rods mostly range from as small as four feet to as high as fifteen feet, but how does a rod’s length affect your fishing experience? Shorter rods are more maneuverable in small spaces like kayaks, and they’re portable. Also, they cast more accurately.

On the other hand, long rods have a bigger casting distance and are more able to catch bigger big fish. However, their casting isn’t accurate, and they can be inconvenient and difficult to maneuver on a kayak. The same thing applies to the length of the handle.

The most popular choices for kayak fishing are on the shorter side, under seven feet, for convenience and accuracy. However, don’t go too short because you still need to be able to extend your rod past the kayak’s bow, or you might get your line caught in the kayak itself.

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4. Portability

As discussed, many factors can affect your rod’s portability. Number one is the material, since graphite rods are light, and fiberglass rods are heavy. Number two is the power, as it gives you a choice to go light or heavy. Number three is the number of pieces.

One-piece rods are popular for good reasons. They are sturdy, and their probability of breaking isn’t high at all. They have the ability to make other rods feel flimsy and cheap in quality. In addition, they’re really sensitive, thanks to the whole body being connected.

However, one-piece rods can be a pain to carry around if they’re long or heavy.

On the other hand, multi-piece rods are more convenient. You can easily carry them around, and they’re much more comfortable to store in small spaces. Yet, they don’t have the sensitivity or sturdiness that one-piece rods can give you.

Final Thoughts

Kayak fishing is a fun challenge, exercise, means of transportation, and way of relaxation. If you get to do all of this and catch fish, then why not? So, by now you should be able to determine which rod is the best kayak fishing rod.

If you’re looking for budget-friendly choices, check out the Ugly Stik Elite spinning rod, Shakespeare Micro spinning rod, and OKIAYA COMPOSIT 30-50lb rod.

What about rod and reel combos that won’t disappoint? We certainly recommend the Ugly Stik GX2 spinning combo and Abu Garcia Pro Max combo because of their high-quality performances and kayak-appropriate components.