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Updated Jul 18, 2023 7:25 AM
Rod and reel combinations on kid’s fishing poles make it easy to get any young person started fishing. They take the guesswork out of matching a rod, a reel, and a line. Fishing poles for kids come in various sizes to fit kids of different ages, with types suitable for all kinds of fishing.
How do you know which kid’s fishing poles are right for your future fishing buddy? Look for ease of use is key, but also durability, length, weight, ergonomics, and budget. We rounded up five of the best kid’s fishing poles available today and the attributes of each one to help you narrow down your options.
How We Picked The Best Kids Fishing Poles
After decades of fishing with kids in various capacities, including as a scouting leader and volunteering at more than 50 kids summer fishing clinics over the years, I learned that down-sized rod and reel combos are perfect for kids who are just starting out. I focused on rod and reel combos that were specifically designed for kids. Then, I pared down my selection to those I know will stand up to the tough treatment these outfits are typically subject to and will catch fish. These are the areas I evaluated to make my picks:
- Durable Rods: Kids can be tough on tackle, and all of these rod and reel combos are designed to stand up to that abuse. Because of this, I selected rods built from fiberglass. Graphite rods are more responsive, but the forgiving nature of fiberglass handles the bumps and bruises little anglers dish out. I also looked for rods with sturdy guides that won’t lose inserts or bend easily if they dropped on the dock.
- Sturdy Reels: Reels have many moving parts, so I looked to manufacturers with a proven track record of delivering reels that last. I looked for quality components like all-metal gears whenever possible. Drag performance isn’t a big concern with the smaller fish these combos are designed for, but I selected reels that won’t bind under pressure.
- Ease of Use: Fishing is supposed to be fun, but it can be frustrating if you spend all of your time untangling bird’s nests created by inferior reel mechanisms and mismatched tackle. I looked for rod and reel combos that worked well together, creating an easy-to-cast package.
The Best Kids Fishing Poles: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Rod and Reel Combo: Zebco Dock Demon Spincast Reel
- Materials: Solid fiberglass rod for durability
- Length and Action: 30 inches overall length, medium action
- Reel: Right-hand retrieve spincaster with anti-reverse setting, spooled with 6-pound-test line
- Sturdy and durable rod and reel that’s dependable
- Fiberglass rod construction offers both sensitivity and backbone
- Economically priced, leaving plenty of cash for hooks, bobbers, and bait
- 30-inch rod limits casting distance
- Pre-spooled fishing line is not the best quality
- No hooks, bobbers, or sinkers are included with the combo
Zebco’s Dock Demon rod and reel combo is small but mighty. The 30-inch fiberglass rod is short in length, but virtually unbreakable while still sensitive enough to detect light bites. Paired with the Zebco entry-level push button spincast reel, the Dock Demon rod and reel combo is perfect for any new angler.
The no-frills Zebco spincast reel has a simple push button design that’s easy to cast, and pre-spooled with 6-pound-test line. The grip is sized for a kid’s hands, so he or she will always have control of the rod. This one is just right for introducing the youngest anglers to fishing.
Best Budget: Youth Fishing Rod & Reel Combo by Wakeman
- Materials: Solid fiberglass rod for durability
- Length: Medium-light action 4’2” overall rod length
- Reel: Right hand retrieve with anti-reverse setting, spooled with 6-pound-test line
- 4-foot 2-inch fiberglass rod helps with making longer casts
- Rod and reel combo kit comes with a small selection of tackle & a plastic casting weight for building confidence
- Available in pink or blue
- Plastic rod handle may not be ultra-durable
- The reel drag system is ineffective
- Two-piece design may cause issues for beginners
Wakeman offers a terrific rod and reel combination for youth anglers at an affordable price. Their Youth Fishing Rod & Reel Combo consists of a 4 foot 2 inch rod built of durable fiberglass, an easy-to-use spincasting reel spooled with 6-pound-test line, and hooks, weights, and a bobber. It’s all a young person needs to drop some bait in front of a bluegill, trout, or bass at a pond, creek, stream, or dock. A practice casting weight is ideal for teaching your young person how to cast. And you have a choice of colors.
Best for Lakes: Zebco 33 Micro Spincast Combo
- Materials: Fiberglass rod
- Length: 4 foot, 6 inches
- Reel: Changeable right- or left-hand retrieve, lightweight graphite frame, spooled with 4-pound-test Cajun line.
- Teaches the mechanics of spinning with the convenience of closed-faced reels
- Built-in bite alert
- Smooth, adjustable drag
- Includes 9-piece tackle kit
- Too light to handle large bass
- Can only cast lures up to 1/8-ounce
Zebco’s 33 Micro Spincast Combo is perfect kids fishing pole for lakes. The design of the underspin reel teaches beginning anglers the mechanics of casting a spinning reel, while maintaining the tangle-free nature of a closed-faced reel. All the angler has to do is activate the trigger and send baits up to 1/8-ounce sailing across the lake. The easy casting helps anglers cover more water while preparing for the next phase of their angling journey.
You can tackle panfish and stocker trout with the moderate action and ultra-light power of the fiberglass rod. The included nine-piece Northland Tackle kit gives you everything you need to target panfish and trout right out of the box. The reel features a built-in bite alert, so even inattentive anglers will be clued in on strikes.
Best Collapsible: Zebco Rambler Fishing Reel and Rod Combo
- Materials: Fiberglass rod
- Length: 5 foot 3 inches when extended for fishing; 24.5 inches collapsed
- Reel: Changeable right- or left-hand retrieve, all-metal gears for durability spooled with 8-pound-test Cajun line
- Rod and reel combo designed for travel
- Sturdy construction while retaining sensitivity
- Robust reel with reversible handle, all-metal gears, and pre-spooled line
- Hard plastic handle not comfortable for use over long periods
- Telescoping rods don’t feel as balanced in the hands as non-telescoping rods
The Zebco Rambler, a telescoping rod and reel combination with a built-in carabiner, is made for travel. It collapses down to a suitcase-friendly 24 1/2 inches, and you can hang the combo on a backpack for hiking into a remote lake or pond. Designed for anglers between 10 and 14 years of age, it’s easy to cast and strong. The reel features a patented “no-tangle” design so that you can spend more time fishing and less time pulling apart bird’s nests created in the mono. At 5’3” long when extended, the Rambler is long enough for great casting and sturdy enough to fight a big bass, but still sensitive enough to make reeling a panfish a lot of fun.
Best for Bass: Zebco Roam Spinning Reel Combo
- Materials: Fiberglass rod
- Length: 6 foot 6 inches
- Reel: Instant anti-reverse, changeable right- or left-hand retrieve, all-metal gears for durability spooled with 10-pound-test Cajun line.
- Instant anti-reverse provides solid hooksets
- Shock Ring guides resist the damage kids often inflict
- Durable fiberglass rod features ComfortGrip handle perfect for kid’s hands
- Too long for the youngest anglers
- Ten-pound test line is a little heavy for panfish
When your little guy is ready to start chasing larger fish such as bass and walleye, consider the Zebco Roam kids fishing pole. This combo features a durable fiberglass rod with enough backbone to handle bigger fish, but isn’t so expensive that you’d be upset if it went overboard or lost a fight with the car door. Shock Ring guides stand up to abuse, so you won’t have to worry about losing an insert if the rod is dropped. A soft, ComfortGrip handle conforms to small hands to provide plenty of purchase to keep it topside. The reel has an instant anti-reverse system, so junior can send the hook home as soon as the bobber dips. The reel comes pre-spooled with 10-pound-test Cajun line, which is sufficient to handle just about anything in the local lake.
What to Consider When Choosing a Kids Fishing Pole
There are a handful of things that you should consider before buying kids fishing poles for the youngsters in your life. Consider the following when making your selection:
For kids ages 3 to 5, a 2- to 3-foot rod is a good fit. For anglers 6-9 years old, rods 4 to 5 feet are about right. If your fishing adventure includes kids 10 to 14 years old, look for a rod 5 feet and over in length.
Spincast reels are easiest the use, thanks to their push-button actuation. These are the best choice for those just starting out. As your little angler matures, consider moving over to an underspin reel, which will introduce them to the motions involved in casting a spinning reel. And when they really get the hang of it, grab that spinning combo.
Panfish are tailor-made for young anglers. Their willingness to bite and scrappy nature make them perfect targets. Just about every kid’s combo can handle bluegills and sunnies, but you’ll need to up-size the tackle a bit if you plan on hooking bass, trout, or catfish.
Kids are very visual, so consider looks, too. Remember, this is all about fun, so make the tackle as appealing as it is functional!
Q: What kind of fishing pole is best for kids?
Ease of use is the most important quality in a kid’s fishing pole. A short rod of about three or four feet fitted with a spincast reel makes an excellent first combo. The simple push button design of the spincasting reel makes them easy to cast, and the covered reel spool helps keep the line free from tangles.
Q: What size fishing pole does my kid need?
There’s no hard and fast rule about how big a child’s fishing rod should be. If they can handle it with ease, then it’s the right size. For kids ages 3 to 5, a 2- to 3-foot rod is a good fit. For anglers 6-9 years old, rods 4 to 5 feet are about right. If your fishing adventure includes kids 10 to 14 years old, look for a rod 5 feet and over in length.
Q: How much does a good fishing pole cost?
Prices on fishing rods run from less than $20 to over $1,000. You typically get what you pay for, but you don’t need to spend a mint to get a quality rod for your kid. Expect to pay about $25 for a good beginner combo.
Q: What is the best reel for casting long distance?
Revolving spool reels, commonly known as baitcasters, are most often utilized in distance casting competitions. But you need to develop a knack to use those reels efficiently. In most people’s hands, a spinning reel is capable of the most distance.
Best Kids Fishing Poles: Final Thoughts
Choosing a high-quality kid’s fishing pole allows you to focus on teaching young anglers how to cast, retrieve, and reel in a fish—instead of trying to fix a bent rod guide or, worse, go home because something broke. For those just starting, it’s hard to beat Zebco’s Dock Demon combo. The short, nearly unbreakable rod with an easy-to-use reel is perfect for introducing your child to fishing. Any of the rods you choose are sure to brighten up any kid’s day when you can enjoy a day on the water together.
Why Trust Us
For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.