I still remember getting my first fishing rod at the age of 6. A little Zebco spincast rod and reel combo. While it wasn’t the most sophisticated piece of fishing gear around, I still fondly remember taking it to the lake with friends to catch rainbow trout and smallmouth bass.
Fishing with your kids isn’t just good fun, it’s also one of the best ways to instill in them a love for nature and the great outdoors. Fishing teaches kids about the natural cycles of life, where food comes from, as well as valuable self-sufficiency skills that last a lifetime.
If you’re looking for a starter fishing rod to teach your kid to fish, you’ll want to make sure it’s suited to their size, skill level, and experience. I’ll break down some of the best fishing rods and poles for kids, how to pick the right one, and answer some commonly asked questions.
Quick Answer: 6 Best Fishing Rods & Poles for Kids
- Best Overall: Zebco 33 Micro Spincast Ultra-Light 5-Feet
- Budget Pick: Zebco Dock Demon Spincast Combo
- Best for Older Kids: Shakespeare Youth Ugly Stick GX2
- Best Fishing Kit: PLUSINNO Telescopic Rod and Reel Full Kit
- Fishing Pole: BnM TL Rigged Bamboo Pole
- Telescopic Rod: Zebco 33 Telecast Combo 6-Feet
Why do you need specialized fishing rods for kids
Can’t you just use any old fishing gear lying around the garage?
Well, you could, but there are a few reasons why adult fishing rods aren’t entirely suitable for kids to use.
Most adult-sized fishing rods are too large and unwieldy for kids to handle. The extra size and weight can make it difficult for younger kids to operate, which can lead to frustration and a poor experience.
Full-sized fishing rods and reels typically feature complex mechanisms that can be difficult for kids to use properly. On the other hand, kid’s fishing rods typically have simple push-button operated spincast reels that lead to fewer snags and tangled line. Spinning reels, and especially baitcasters, can be too complex for kids to operate properly.
Kid’s fishing rods and poles are typically much shorter than full-sized ones. Their shorter length makes them easier for kids to handle effectively – casting is easier, and the chance of tangled lines is lowered.
Best Overall: Zebco 33 Micro Spincast Ultra-Light 5-Feet
This ultra-light two-piece rod and reel combo is the perfect choice for any young angler looking to get their feet wet catching fish. With its 5 foot length and ultra-light weight, this rig is the perfect size for both younger and older kids to handle. It casts extremely accurately, allowing for precise casts and lure placement.
The reel comes pre-spooled with 4 lb. test monofilament line, which is perfect for catching perch, crappie, and smaller trout. If your kid will be catching bass and walleye, then you’ll probably want to swap out the included line for 6 lb. test. The drag comes preset for panfish, so make sure to adjust the drag lower when targeting larger fish.
The construction quality is top-notch, more than living up to Zebco’s reputation for making top-shelf beginner gear. Zebco has been making variations of this reel since the 1950s, so you know you’re getting a tried and true product.
- Ultra-light 5-foot rod is perfect for catching panfish and small bass/trout
- 2-piece rod is compact and easy to transport
- Ideal size for kids aged 5 and up
- Not just for kids – it’s a fun rig for ultra-light fishing!
Budget Pick: Zebco Dock Demon Spincast Combo
At less than $20, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better rod and reel combo set than this one. With a compact 30-inch length, the composite graphite ‘Z-glass’ rod material is nearly indestructible, making it perfect for a younger kid’s first fishing rod.
The dial-adjustable drag reel comes pre-spooled with 6-lb line. Which is perfect for catching freshwater fish like perch, crappie, bass, and catfish. It’s a push-button spincast style reel, which makes it super easy to cast with – even for first-timers.
Many users find these rod and reel combos are great for more than just kids. They work great for kayak and dock fishing as well as a backup rod you can stash nearly anywhere.
Keep in mind the reel is not adjustable for left-handed use, so if you’re kids a lefty you’ll need to find a different rod.
- Simple and sturdy design works well for first-timers
- Compact 30” length is ideal for traveling with
- Perfect for kids aged 3 and up
- Makes a great backup rod for adults too!
Best for Older Kids: Shakespeare Youth Ugly Stick GX2
If you’re looking for a rod/reel combo that’s a step up from the typical ultralight kid’s fishing sets, then this is the one for you. The rod is designed to be a slightly smaller version of the well-known Ugly Stick, which is one of my favorite overall rods.
With a 5’ 6” length and medium action, this two-piece rod is strong and durable, yet balanced for a lighter feel. It’s made from resilient graphite and fiberglass, with stainless steel ‘Ugly Tuff’ guides that eliminate insert pop outs.
The size 30 anodized aluminum Shakespeare spinning reel is smooth and solid, with 3 + 1 ball-bearings. Keep in mind it does not come pre-spooled with line, so you’ll need to add that.
The EVA foam grip is comfortable and lightweight and is specifically designed with smaller hands in mind.
- Combination rod and reel is robust and capable
- The rod is a scaled-down version of the famous Ugly Stick
- 2-piece 5’ 6” rod length is great for travel and hiking
- Spinning reel ideal for kids aged 6 and up
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Best Fishing Kit: PLUSINNO Telescopic Rod and Reel Full Kit
If you’re looking for an all-in-one kit capable of catching fish right out of the box, you’d be hard-pressed to beat this set. It comes with a huge variety of tackle, including a telescoping spincast rod and reel combo, fishing line, travel bag, tackle box with hard and soft lures, hooks, bobbers, jigs, weights, beads, swivels and more!
The telescopic rod comes in two sizes (3.9 feet and 4.9 feet) and collapses down to fit inside the compact carrying case. The smaller size is suited to kids aged 3 – 5, while the larger size is ideal for kids aged 6 and up. It also comes with a small bell that alerts kids when a fish is on the line.
The reel is a standard right-handed reel, so keep that in mind if you’re ordering for a lefty.
- Contains everything you need to start fishing right out of the box
- Rod comes in two sizes – 3.9 feet and 4.9 feet
- Convenient carrying case protects your gear during travel
- Makes a great gift!
Fishing Pole: BnM TL Rigged Bamboo Pole
If an old school bamboo fishing pole is what you’re after, then this 3-piece 12-foot pole fits the bill nicely. It’s capable of catching both big and small fish using simple fishing techniques.
The pole comes bundled with everything you need to start catching fish out of the package including weighted line, hooks, and bobbers. It breaks down into three 4-foot sections, making it easy to carry down to the dock or local fishing hole.
If you’re planning on using it with younger kids, it can be shortened down to 8 feet long by removing one of the three bamboo sections.
Keep in mind this is a basic bamboo pole, don’t expect high end fit and finish. Also, you may wish to glue the sections together if you don’t plan on breaking down the pole for transport.
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- 3-piece bamboo construction is perfect for dock and bank fishing
- The simple design works great for kids and beginners
- Collapsible pole allows for easy transport
- Comes bundles with weighted line, hooks, and bobbers
Telescopic Rod: Zebco 33 Telecast Combo 6-Feet
This compact telescopic rod is perfect for traveling, hiking, camping and any time you don’t want to pack a full-sized rod. The simple lightweight design is perfect for kids, and the push-button spincast reel is great for tangle-free casting.
The telescopic rod collapses down from its full 6-foot length to a compact 2 feet. It will easily fit into a backpack, car trunk, or small bag.
The reel features a 3.6:1 ratio ball-bearing drive and quick set anti-reverse. It can be easily changed from right to left-handed retrieve and comes pre-spooled with 100 yards of 10 lb. Cajun line.
The comfortable rod grip features a split grip, making one-handed casting a breeze.
- 6-foot compact, telescopic rod collapses down to 2-foot length
- Spincast Zebco 33 reel is ultra-smooth and easy to operate
- Capable of catching both small and medium-sized fish
- Comes pre-spooled with 10 lb. test line
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What to consider when choosing a fishing rod or pole for kids
Choosing the right fishing rod for your kid will depend on several factors. Including their age, experience level, portability requirements, and personal preferences. Let’s take a look at some of the most important factors to consider.
Younger kids will need lightweight, simple gear that’s straightforward and easy to operate.
Push-button spincast rod and reel combos work particularly well for a younger kid’s first fishing rod. These rod/reel combos are super easy to cast with and lead to less tangled lines than traditional reels do. They typically come in shorter 3 – 6 foot lengths, making them fairly easy for smaller hands and arms to cast with.
Older kids – and kids with some fishing experience – can step up to a spincasting reel and rod. These rods allow for longer casting distances, better control, precision, and smoother overall operation. Pair a spincasting reel with a 5 to 6 foot medium-power rod, and you’ve got a versatile setup capable of catching everything from smaller fish like crappie, trout, and perch to larger fish like walleye, bass, and catfish.
Once kids have a fair bit of experience catching fish with a spinning reel, they can step up to using a baitcasting rod and reel. This is a major step up from the two previous options – in fact, many adult anglers never progress to using a baitcasting reel. A baitcasting reel allows you to cast longer distances, use heavier lures like crankbaits and topwater frogs and gives you even more precise control over your casting. They’re also tougher and capable of hauling in heavier fish like pike, muskie and big catfish.
Portability is an important consideration, especially if your kid will need to pack their rod for camping or overnight trips. A collapsible rod will allow for easy storage and packing inside a backpack or small duffel bag.
Two- or three-piece rods are increasingly popular with all types of anglers, not just kids. While they used to be considered inferior to one-piece rods, modern construction techniques have made them function essentially the same as one-piece rods.
Telescoping rods are another option if maximum portability is what you’re looking for. These rods will collapse down to just over a foot long, which makes them great for throwing in the trunk or go-bag anytime you’re heading somewhere with fish nearby. Many people like to use them as part of a survival fishing kit as well.
Length & Weight
As mentioned previously, you’ll want to match the fishing rod or pole to your kid’s abilities and size. If you’re getting a rod for younger kids in the 3 – 5 age range, you’ll want to go with the lightest and shortest option available. A 3 to 4-foot rod or pole should work well for this age range.
If your kid is aged 6 and up, then a 5 to 6+ foot rod should work nicely. At this age, kids should be able to handle the longer rod length without frustration and problems.
Weight is another factor to keep in mind. Most fishing rods designed for kids will be on the lighter side, which is perfect for smaller hands and arms to handle. When in doubt, it’s best to go with a lighter rod, as it will be easier for kids to use single-handed and will still be capable of catching most fish their likely to encounter.
A comfortable handle makes fishing more comfortable and enjoyable.
Look for a good quality EVA foam or rubber handle. This will allow kids to hold their rod for hours at a time without discomfort. A good grip also provides better purchase on the rod or pole which makes fighting with fish easier.
If you’re getting a fishing rod as a gift, then getting one that comes with pre-spooled line, lures, hooks, floats, weights, and other tackle makes sense. This will allow your kid to start catching fish right away, without having to buy all the necessary extra gear.
Some kid’s fishing rods come with tackle boxes, carrying bags, fishing nets and even illustrated fishing guides. These are nice additions and can make your kid’s fishing experience that much more enjoyable.
Some of the fishing rods marketed for younger kids come with design elements from popular kid’s films like Frozen, Toy Story, Cars and Mickey Mouse. These are great for getting younger kids into fishing that may not already have an interest in the sport.
Combination Rod & Reel vs. Separate Rod & Reel
Combination rod and reels are great options for kids as they come paired by the manufacturer for certain line weights and lure sizes. These eliminate any guesswork involved with matching the right sized rod and reel together. All you need to do is add the recommended test line and lure and you’re good to go
Unless you’re familiar with technical aspects like gear ratios, the difference between casting and spinning gear, and how to match lure weight and line weight to rods and reels, then going with a combination rod/reel will be your best bet.
If you’re looking to go after more unusually prey than typical freshwater species like panfish, bass, catfish and trout, then putting together your own rod and reel combination may be your best option. A custom setup will allow you to excel in one specific area, but generally won’t be as good at a wide variety of fishing styles as an all-in-one.
Essentially, a combination unit will work as a “jack of all trades”, allowing you to fish crankbaits, topwater lures, and jigs adequately, but it won’t excel at any one task.
Another consideration regarding combination rod and reels is their price. Combos are generally cheaper than buying the rod and reel separately, which makes them a better value.
Fishing Rod vs. Fishing Pole
If you’re wondering what the difference between a fishing rod and a fishing pole is, you’re not alone! Many people are curious about this, especially as the two terms are often used interchangeably.
Even though they’re often used as substitutes in casual language, there are technical differences between a fishing rod and fishing pole.
Fishing poles are a single piece of (usually) wood with a line tied to the end of it. Fishing poles are mostly made from natural materials like bamboo, wood and even tree limbs. They’re simple to construct, have no moving parts, and can be easily fashioned from nearby scrap wood.
Fishing with a pole is much simpler than with a rod and reel. Simply attach bait to the end of your hook, and then throw the line in the water. When you hook a fish, pull it out with a jerking motion or reel in the line by hand.
Fishing rods are typically made from high tech materials like fiberglass, carbon fiber or graphite. They act like long levers and are designed to bend and flex rather than break. Small eyelets guide the fishing line from the reel to the end of the rod tip.
Rods are far more versatile than poles. They can be used for a wide variety of fishing techniques like fly fishing, trolling, casting and jigging. They can cast much further and more accurately than poles, allowing you to easily adjust your lure placement and depth, as well as the speed and pattern of your retrieve.
Most fishing rods are also collapsible, making them easier to transport than traditional fishing poles.
Because they’re more high-tech, and involve complex moving parts, fishing rods and reels require regular maintenance to keep them running smoothly. Regularly applying fishing reel oil and grease is important to keep corrosion and rust from developing, especially if you fish in saltwater.
If you need to add fishing line to your new reel, check out my review of the best fishing line spoolers on the market.