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ICAST 2019: Best Fishing Rods, Reels, and Combos of the Show

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St. Croix nearly sweeps this year’s ICAST rod category with three wins, and the tech just keeps getting better and better. Read on for the best rods and reels of iCast 2019.

I spent two days scouting the floor at ICAST, North America’s largest fishing convention, and it was jam-packed with exciting new products for the angler. In this article, I’ll break down this year’s top picks for rods, reels, and rod-reel combos as awarded by a jury of ICAST buyers and media representatives.

Freshwater Rod: St. Croix Mojo Bass Glass Rip’n Chatter


St. Croix took three out of four spots in this category, and they’re affordable Mojo Bass Glass takes the freshwater category. With Fuji reel seats, Kigan guides, and 100 percent liner S-glass with IPC mandrel technology, this rod looks to be a future favorite for the avid bass angler.

Saltwater Rod: St. Croix Avid Surf


The Avid Surf is a distance rod, meaning that your cast is likely to go further with this one. Corrosion control locks moisture out of this rod, ensuring longevity in salty conditions. Plus, these things are rugged! They’re made from a reformulated SCIII material and, like all three winning rods, they feature IPC mandrel technology.

Fly fishing rod: St. Croix Imperial Salt


Yep, St. Croix again — they nailed the Best in Show in the Fly Fishing Rod category with the Imperial Salt ($350). Coming in 2020, it’s designed with salt in mind. It’s got Sea Guide PVD-coated stripper and snake guides, and it’s built from carbon, with IPC mandrel technology, for durable and fast action on the water.

Rod and reel combo: Lew’s Mach Smash Baitcast Combo Reel


For just $130, this combo has about everything you could want in an affordable setup. The graphite reel touts brass speed gears, a 7+1 bearing system, and Combat Grip paddle knobs. The rod features Winn Dri-Tac grips, IM6 blanks, and an EVA foam butt section for fighting when those lines get tight.

Saltwater Reel: Shimano Stradic FL Spinning Reel

Shimano’s Stradic FL ($200-230) focuses on the theme of increased durability in salt environments, coupled with high-level performance. This rod combines MicroModule Gear II for smoothness, Silent Drive Technology for better tolerances, X Protect to combat the effects of salt, and Long Stroke Spool for better casting. Plus, it’ll be available in five options to cover a variety of situations on the water.

Freshwater Reel: Shimano SLX DC Baitcasting Reel


This budget-friendly, $180 reel puts Shimano’s proprietary Digital Control Braking System in the hands of all anglers. Similar to its higher-end Curado DC reel, the reel boasts a HAGANE body and an SLX platform. It’s available in three gear ratios and right- and left-hand retrieves.

Fly Reel: Siegler Small Fly

The Siegler Small Fly ($750) is light, active, and reactive. At just 7.2 ounces, it still manages to put up 18 pounds of drag. An asymmetrical spool allows for better line-lay, and the dovetail foot connects low and strong to your rod. Add a lever drag system that provides fine-tuned adjustment for drag pressure, and you’re looking at one nice reel for those long days on the river.

Kids Tackle: ProFISHiency, The Bumblebee

At $50, this little rod packs a big punch for that special moment when the kiddos outgrow their toy rods. This 5’6″ Spincast Combo is pre-spooled with high-vis braid, has a Micro Spincast reel with a quick 4.1.1. gear ratio, and it has a double-handle reel crank with soft padded knobs for comfortable casts and catches. All good things to help you build a lifelong partner on the lake.

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