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Best trout rod and reel for children (what to get, and what to avoid)

fishing, summer, relax
Many children love fishing

Are you Looking for a trout and pan-fish spinning rod and reel combo? An affordable setup suitable for children. Decent quality and durable enough to survive the rough treatment of children.

In this guide we will cover the basics on what to look for and give our recommendations on what would be a good first fishing setup for any budding fisherman. A setup which can start a lifetime passion for fishing, and not frustrate with tangles, breakages and general poor quality.

Most children rod and reel combos more resemble toys than fishing equipment. They are nearly impossible to cast yet along catch anything bigger than a malnourished minnow on. In this guide I have only recommended fishing combos which can actually catch fish, and would not provide a source of constant headaches for the caregiver.

What to look for in a pan-fish rod and reel combo?

When fishing with children, they must have fun and enjoy themselves. When children are happy they are much more likely to develop a genuine passion which could stick with them for life. To successfully catch trout and other pan-fish they must fish with gear that works.

Trout and other pan-fish might be smaller size fish, but they can still put up a fight. A child’s first combo must be easy to learn to cast , and be problem free. No child is going to enjoy fishing if their gear results in constant tangles.

Types of fishing reels

There are three main types of reels these are Spinners (or threadline), baitcasters and Spincasters. Trout fishermen, the ones who are not into fly fishing predominately use Spinning Reels. They are easy to learn to cast and provide good distance and accuracy when casting light lures. For most new fishermen I personally recommend getting a spinning reel setup.

Baitcasters are more complicated reels to fish with, and when fished incorrectly they can overrun resulting in massive tangles. Baitcasters are best suited for fishing higher diameter fishing line. While baitcasters are great reels, and in the right hands they provide excellent accuracy and castability. The tangles will frustrate all but the most patient of children.

Are spincasters any good?

Finally there is Spincasters, many fishermen learn to cast and fish using them. Some still swear that they are the easiest reels to learn to cast with. I was an exception, at a young age I learned to cast on a spinning reel.

I feel all but the youngest of fishermen should learn to cast with a Spinning reel. Baitcasters are a niche design which has not seen much development.

All Spincast combos marketed towards children are lacking in quality. They are prone to numerous issues such as the line jamming on retrieve, erratic line retrieval and sometimes the line would start to release while winding.

I gave up in frustration trying to fish with a Starwars themed baitcaster from a major brand. It looked like a lightsabre so wanted to catch a fish on it. The reel eventually imploded on me while I was trying to fix the umptenth jam. My 9 year old Nephew could barely cast it at all. For the true fans of Spincaster, spend little extra and get a quality one from a reputable brand.

What to look for in a child’s fishing rod.

Rod Weight / breaking strain

A trout fishing rod needs to cast lightweight line and lures. Thinner diameter line allows for longer casts, this is of particular importance when some trout lures weigh down to 1/18 oz.

A rod rated for 5 or 6lb line is ideal. The line rating is normally written near the base of the rod. It would say something like 4-8lb or 2-4kg. Even a slightly more powerful rod, say a 6-10lb rating will be usable and might even reduce the risk of breaking. A too powerful of a rod would be next to impossible to cast trout spinners with.

A 4-8lb (2-4kg) rod is typically designed to cast weights ranging from 1/16 -1/4 oz (10-30g). A 10lb rated rod can casts weight up to half and ounce.


It should go without saying that children are simply smaller than adults. So they need to use shorter rods, very young children are best suited with a 3-4ft long rod. They are short and relatively light weight. Slightly older children can fish with more standard rod lengths, even a 6’6” rod would be manageable.


Fiberglass rods

A child’s fishing rod must be lightweight and durable. In many ways fibreglass or composite rod are well suited due to their lightweight and durability. Fibreglass rods are very durable, and they can survive being dropped on the ground and even being stood on by little feet. When fished with appropriate breaking strain line, a fibreglass rod should nearly be impossible to break from poor technique or thoughtlessness.

The soft action of a fibreglass rod is a lot more forgiving when setting the hook or fighting a fish. Much less likely to rip the hook out of a fish because of a jerky or erratic fighting style.

Composite Rods

Composite fishing rods are becoming increasingly common, they use a combination of fibreglass and graphite. They aim to give the durability of a fibreglass rod but the lightweight strength of a graphite rod all at an affordable price. Unlike full graphite rods, composite rods typically have a medium to soft action. So still forgiving to fish.

Graphite rods

Most fishing rods sold are now graphite. Graphite has an excellent weight to strength ratio and is very sensitive. Good for maintaining feel with a lure. When used properly, graphite rods are excellent. But, they need to be fished with care. Even a tiny chip can be enough to cause a graphite rod to snap.

A mistake I have made several times over the years is to point load a rod. The tip can easily snap if too much downward pressure is applied. This is called point loading and even the most premium rods suffer from it when fished incorrectly. The vast majority of broken tips in graphite rods is due to point loading and not a design defect.

Point loading is the primary reason I hesitate to recommend graphite rods to children. Especially ones who are still inexperience and learning to cast.

Are telescopic fishing rods any good

No, entry level telescopic rods are not worth the money or the convenience. I have owned and fished with quite a few telescopic rods over the years, including more expensive ones and they are all terrible. Firstly, they are extremely soft rods, even my so-called graphite one could bend into a loop. Was hilarious fighting strong fish on it.

Eventually the telescopic portions will seize, or get very sticky, preventing it from telescoping in and out. Manufacturers always seem to use the cheapest, nastiest components on their telescopic rods

Finally because each section needs to telescope inside the previous the spacing of the guides is always less than optimal. If you want a compact small rod, then get a two or three rod instead.

If you are serious about buying a telescopic rod, there are a few premium models which are worth considering. We discuss them in more detail here.

What Line to use or a child rod.

There are several types of fishing lines, the most common and affordable is nylon or monofilament. This is the line I recommend using on a child’s rod. Nylon is the most user friendly line, it has good knot strength and the slight thicker diameter is unlikely to cut little fingers. I advise to use 6lb nylon, it has a good compromise between strength and castability.

Some good affordable lines to use is 6lb Berkeley Trilene XL . If you can not find Berkely line then any entry level line from Stern, Sufix or even the time tested Maxima Ultragreen. I have used lines from these brands for over 20 years and have never had any issues.

Flourocarbon line looks a lot like nylon. But it performs somewhat differently. he main reason fishermen use Fluorocarbon is that it is nearly invisible once in the water. Important when fly-fishing with micro flies, less so for spinning. It is also slightly more abrasion resistant, and sinks rather than floats. For the downsides. It is harder to tie knots, flourocarbon is more prone to line twists and is more expensive.

Finally there are braids and superlines. These are high performance lines, and are more difficult to use. They are not suitable for beginners.

Best cheap rod for small children.

Ugly Stik Dock Runner Spinning Combo

Ugly Stik Dock Runner

If your child is very young, or likely to quickly lose interest in fishing this combo is decent quality for a very affordable price. Unlike most fishing combos marketed at children, the Ugly Stik Dock Runner is more than just a toy.

Ugly Stik has a proven track record of making reliable and durable entry level rods. Ugly Stik has so much confidence in this fishing pole that it comes with a 7 year warranty. The rod is so soft that I can bend it into a U sharp without snapping. These super bendy rods are extremely forgiving and actually quite fun to fight fish on. The bend in the rod from a pan fish feels like a trophy. The softness also makes it surprisingly sensitive at detecting nibbles and light strikes.

Overall, it is a very forgiving rod for young children to learn to fish with. Due to the 3’6” length, it is no casting champion and your child will eventually grow out of it. But the rod will provide be a good introduction to fishing.

How good is the reel?

The supplied reel is the weakest link in this combo. While it is good enough to catch fish, I suspect it would fail before the rod. I struggle to think how they can manufacturer both a rod and reel and sell them for under $20.

This reel is cheaply made. The tolerances are quite loose, and there is play in the bail arm. But, it is still serviceable and can be casted a fair distance. It is up to the task of landing trout and other small fish.

If your child’s passion for fishing grows then it is worth budgeting for an upgraded reel such as the Shimano FX2500FC which I have reviewed in my spinning reel buyer’s guide.

The included line is not the best, so if budget allows I suggest re-spooling with some better quality 5 or 6lb monofilament. Some fishermen, seem to think it is a good idea to spool these little combos with 20lb braid and target big fish. Then they wonder why the reel explodes or the rod snaps. A tiny reel which cost only a few dollars manufacturer is simply not designed for serious fishing.

Best Spinning Combo for passionate young fisherman

When a young child develops a passion for fishing they can start obsessing over it. Every chance they get they head to the local creek to try their luck. As they get older, they cycle many miles chasing trout and other small panfish. Such a child needs a proper rod and reel which would not hold their passion back. The rod needs to be tough and compact. It might get carried for miles on the back of a bike. Even slid down the slope of a steep bank to access a hidden fishing hole.

Berkley Cherrywood HD Spinning

Berkley Cherrywood, great first rod for the budding fisherman
Berkley Cherrywood

My pick of rod is the 5’6” long Berkley Cherrywood HD Spinning rod. For a long time now, I have been impressed with the entry level rods from Berkley. I even rate them above their premium rods which I have tried. When on a limited budget, it is always advisable to spend more on the reel than the rod. More often than not cheap rods are surprisingly good and the Cherrywood is no exception.

The Cherrywood is an entry level rod, but they spent the money where it counts. That is on the blank and the guides. It is a very nice casting rod, with good sensitivity. Perfect for a wide range of fishing styles.

I recommend the 5’6” two piece because it is a fairly short rod, suitable for a smaller fisherman and good for fishing in small creeks and streams. The two-piece construction also makes it easy to carry.

Reel to use with the Cherrywood

So far, I have only mentioned the rod, that is because at a low price point I can not find a rod/reel combination which maximizes value. If the rod is also going to be used for marine fishing, then I suggest pairing it with a Penn Pursuit III. For a budget reel it has good saltwater resistant. If you want a simple but dependable reel then the Shimano FX2000FC might just hit the mark. For more information, I suggest to head over to my spinning reel reviews and choose the best reel that budget allows.

Finally you need a quality fishing line or nylon. I suggest spooling the reel with high quality yet budget friendly 6lb line. I like 6lb Berkeley Big Game Mono or Trilen XL. Although any cheap line from Stern, Sufix or even the time tested Maxima Ultragreen would do.

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