The Best Spinning Gear Combo for River Fishing

First of all, the best spinning gear is whatever you’ve got. Not having “the right gear” shouldn’t stop you from going fishing. (Go fishing!) But sometimes, an upgrade is in order. I’ve put together the details for my favorite spinning gear combination. I’ve been using this combo exclusively since 2005.

The whole setup runs right around $200. Depending on your viewpoint, that may seem really cheap or quite expensive. I’ve owned a lot of cheap gear and I’ve owned my share of high-dollar spinning gear.

This spinning combo is directly in the sweet spot – the best performance for the money without passing the point of diminishing returns.

My Favorite Spinning Rods

If you can only upgrade one part of your combo I suggest you start with the spinning rod. My quest for a better class of gear started in preparation for a fishing trip to Ghost River Lodges in Northern Ontario. I wanted a spinning rod that was sensitive enough to give a better feel for the subtle walleye bite.

What I found was a spinning rod that’s perfect for walleye, but also great for almost every other species I chase. I use it for smallmouth bass on the Fox River in Illinois, largemouth and spotted bass on the Coosa River in Alabama, and a wide variety of bass, panfish, and walleye species on the Tennessee River.

I only run St. Croix rods because they offer good quality for the price and have a reasonable warranty. I’m in no way sponsored by St. Croix, they just happen to be my favorite.

St Croix Spinning Rods
St. Croix Triumph: $99, St. Croix Premier: $149

I started out with a St. Croix Triumph. The Triumph is St. Croix’s entry-level spinning rod line and it’s legit at the $100 price point.

Currently, I run a 6’6″ medium-light, fast action St. Croix Premier. The Premier series is a noticeable upgrade from the Triumph. St. Croix produces a few more expensive series of spinning rods, but those are past the point of diminishing returns, for me. They’re nice, but they’re not worth the extra money.

I fish out of an Old Town Guide 119 solo canoe and the 6’6″ is perfect for that purpose. I can whip a Super Spook or a buzz bait with no issues, but also toss a 1/16 oz. jig and twister or even a weightless fluke with ease.


St. Croix Triumph at BassPro or also at Cabela’s

St. Croix Premier at BassPro or also at Cabela’s

My Favorite Spinning Reel

The spinning reel is, honestly, the least important aspect of this combo. I prefer the Pflueger President, but Shimano, amongst others, make very good reels at around the same price point.

Pflueger President Spinning Reel
I pair a Pflueger size 30 reel with a 6’6″ St. Croix Premier

What’s important to me in a spinning reel is that it’s smooth winding, durable, has an easily adjustable drag, and that it’s durable. Yes, I said durable twice. I beat the hell out of my gear: loading, unloading, stashed in the bottom of a canoe, occasionally dropped in sand, and/or completely submerged.

A Pflueger President, when properly cared for, might last forever. I typically get five or six years out of a reel before repair doesn’t make as much sense as starting over. At $59, sometimes it’s just better to start over.


The Pflueger President at BassPro or also at Cabela’s

My Favorite Fishing Line

Oh baby, do I have some thoughts on braided line! If you don’t use it, you should. I had a bad experience with the first generations of braids back in the early ’90s and swore it off. It took until 2006 or so that I finally gave it another chance. I’m still hooked.

I highly recommend PowerPro, specifically the 10 lb/2 lb diameter, for this setup. But what about Sun Line? What about Spiderwire? Hey, look: they’re probably all pretty good, but I’ll never know because PowerPro checks all the boxes, for me at least. My research phase has ended.

PowerPro is $14.99 for 150 yards

I mainly fish flowing water – rivers, creeks, and streams – and I usually don’t bother with a leader. Fish aren’t as line shy in those environments as you might think. That said, I have paired it up with mono or flouro leaders in a few edge cases.

If you’re not already on braid, you’re going to love the casting distance, the sensitivity, and the lack of stretch. Keep a pair of nippers handy, however, because you’re not going to bite the tag end off of braid. There are some downsides, such as the occasional maddening wind know wrapped around the front hook of a Super Spook Jr, but the upside is certainly worth it.


PowerPro 10/2 Moss Green at BassPro or also at Cabela’s

The Best Spinning Gear Combo?

This spinning gear combination is my favorite after a few decades of trial and error.

As mentioned earlier, first and foremost: fish what you have now. But when you are ready to upgrade, this is a great light spinning gear combo. And finally, that’s just my $0.02, and your mileage may vary.


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