I get asked all the time about different rod and reels, which is best for snakeheads or stripers, which is the best all-around starter setup, and/or which should someone get to set themselves up for fishing the Bay. And I always have to start off by explaining that rods and reels (plus what line they’re spooled with) are sort of like a set of crescent wrenches. The properly fitting crescent wrench will always be ideal for turning one specific nut. Of course, you can usually get by with an adjustable wrench that can be used on multiple nuts — and some of the time you can make a pair of pliers work.

different fishing rods and reels
A 6’6’ medium-light fast-action rod with a 3500 series spinning reel is about as versatile as they come for the fisheries in our neck of the woods.

But even when it comes to an adjustable wrench, size matters. You need to at least be in the right ballpark. Same goes for fishing rods. Take casting spinners for white perch, for example. While an ultralight rig would be ideal, you could use a light or even a medium-sized setup with some hope of catching fish. But if you tried using a 10’ long surf rod with 40-pound test, the odds would grow a lot longer.

Then, there’s technique to consider. If you’d rather fish for perch with bottom rigs and grass shrimp as opposed to spinners, you’ll want a very different rod and reel. Trollers are in an entirely different gear galaxy than jiggers and casters. Same goes for shoreline versus boat versus kayak, lake versus bay, and river versus surf.

Net result? We anglers need lots of different rods and reels to get as close to ideal as possible in many different scenarios. My own personal stock usually ranges between 35 and 45 rods and reels, and I know plenty of people who maintain an arsenal three times the size of mine.

Not everyone wants to or can afford to maintain tons of gear, however, especially people just getting started in fishing or those who simply may not have anywhere to store that many fishing rods. So, that question still comes up all the time and I’m sure it always will: What rod and reel should I get?

Setting aside all the different factors, nuances, and details, here’s my four-hour answer condensed into a few sentences: If you’re looking for a single rig to use for fishing throughout DelMarVa land, consider a 6’6” medium-light fast-action rod with a 3500 series spinning reel, and then spool it up with 12- or 15-pound braid. Tie on a fluoro leader, and it’s a good setup for casting to schoolie rock or slow-trolling plugs on the Bay. Downsize the leader and head for the river to target smallmouth bass and you’ll get by. Downsize it even more and add a bobber and you can make it work for crappie in lakes and ponds. Put a Fluke Killer on the end and head for the coastal bays with a solid chance of success. It will still be too big for some things and too small for others, but in terms of versatility and for covering as many bases as possible, while considering our specific regional angling opportunities, I don’t think you can make a better one-size-sorta-fits-all choice.

Remember, this one angling wrench won’t be ideal for every angling situation out there. But it will cover far more than most. And if you get one there’s a strong likelihood you’ll be well on your way to becoming a true fishing nut.