Finding a great kids' fishing pole is more complex than you might think. We researched over 20 popular options before buying the top 7 for hands-on, side-by-side testing. We purchased every rod in this review and used them in multiple lakes with real kids to see which poles were the easiest to assemble and use. With a wide disparity in quality and useability, there is much to be learned from our insider experience. Read on to find out which poles are the best of the bunch and which options left kid testers crying.
Our Top Picks
The Zebco Roam has a 6 ft solid core, two-part fiberglass rod with a push-button reel. This pole comes with a 10-lb line pre-spooled and has a comfortable sponge-type grip that is easy to hold and an excellent diameter for kids. Kids love the easy-to-cast push-button reel, and the rod length was great for our 8+ years and older testers. This rod is the only option in the group that didn't result in a broken line or repeated requests for adult help. Little ones were able to cast the line repeatedly without a hiccup.
The Roam is 6 ft in length, which we think is too long for younger users to manage, and it didn't come with any accessories. But, considering that the accessories included with some contenders were terrible, this was a relief. Overall, it is hard not to love this pole, and after much testing and headaches at the lake re-stringing and untangling other products in our lineup, we can't say enough good things about this impressive rod and reel. We recommend this pole for anyone who wants to enjoy fishing without hassle. Plus, at 6 ft, your older child has plenty of room to grow and perfect their skills.
The Ugly Stik Dock Runner is a shorter 3 ft rod with a 30-size spinning reel pre-spooled with a 6 lb line. It has a cork grip and is excellent for younger fishers or tight spaces like a dock or a kayak. The Dock Runner comes ready to use with no assembly required besides stringing the line, and you can feel it is of better quality than much of the child-centric competition in our lineup. Testers liked this pole's size and think it is easy enough to use after practicing the reel type, which is a higher degree of difficulty than the push-button reel.
Given the reel style and design, a higher level of hand/eye coordination and muscle memory is necessary to effectively cast, which could elude some younger users. The pre-spooled line is also sub-par, and we experienced a high frequency of snapping and tangled lines with this setup. It also doesn't come with any accessories. However, we can overlook this given the poor quality of accessories we experienced in this lineup. Overall, this is a great budget-friendly, short pole option for older kids who can master the finger skill required to use the reel. It feels like it will last for several seasons and multiple children, becoming a family favorite.
The Zebco Dock Demon is a short rod pole with a spinning reel. This 30" solid core rod is perfect for kid anglers or where space is limited. It has a quality feel with EVA easy-grip handle, ball bearing drive, and a changeable left/right hand retrieve. Testers liked how easy it was to hold and cast without hitting other people or getting caught on bushes or rocks nearby.
The line that comes with this reel was problematic in our testing and regularly snapped without reason. We can't imagine it holding up to a real fish when it struggled to stay in place with a bit of underwater plant life, but you can buy a higher quality line, and you'll be all set without the worry. Also, this reel style is more challenging for kids to master, and some of our younger testers got frustrated using it, preferring the push-button style reel instead. Overall, we like this shorter, quality fishing pole, and if you buy some higher quality line, we think older kids with a desire to learn fishing and a little patience will appreciate the shorter length and the easy-to-use rod.
The Kalex Telescopic Fishing Kit comes unassembled with a rod, reel, extra line, and accessories. This rod comes well packaged in several boxes with bubble wrap, unlike any other contenders we tested. The pole has an EVA handle that feels good in the hand, and the reel spins smoothly. This rod telescopes in to ease travel in the included travel bag. Little testers liked the rod, and Dads did too.
This rod doesn't fit in the included carry bag with the reel attached, and it isn't practical to remove it every time you go to the lake. It also comes pre-spooled with a thin line that quickly snapped and caused more than one occurrence of kid frustration during testing. Last, the handle is oddly long, even for a grown man, and young kids may struggle to hold and operate it. However, these minor concerns aside, we think this is one of the best quality products in this review. Switching to a higher-quality line will solve most of your troubles, making it an excellent choice for those looking for a quality, solid-feeling reel.
The Plussino Kids Fishing Pole is a one-and-done fishing kit for kids. It also includes a padded carry case with a spot for everything, including a small tackle box with bobbers, weights, and lures. It features a push-button style reel and a telescoping rod. Our testers liked the size, and the push-button style is a favorite with new anglers. The kit provides enough stuff to make kids feel like legitimate professionals and is enough to get little ones started on the path to fishing.
While kid-friendly and comes with loads of accessories, none of it is of outstanding quality, and it feels like it won't last very long, especially if you have good luck at the local pond. The pole's eyelets are off-center, which impacts casting and reeling in, and the button feels like it could break if used for more than a handful of outings. The carry bag is nice, but the accessories are all sub-par, and while the bobbers in this kit actually bob, they aren't the best. However, it is easy to see why our testers liked this setup, and we think it may be a good choice for getting little ones excited about fishing (especially the super young), but there are better poles to be had elsewhere for a lower price. We recommend this for kids who aren't sure they want to fish and will enjoy playing with all the accessories.
The ODDSPRO Kids Fishing Pole is virtually identical to the Plussino above, except for color pattern and handle style. It comes with a padded carry case, a small tackle box, various weights, bobbers, lures, and a push-button reel. The telescopic rod is easy to use, and the size is perfect for young children.
We ranked the twin of this model higher because the EVA handle on the Plussino is easier to hold onto than the broken plain handle on the ODDSPRO. Both kits have the same carry case, accessories, reel, and telescopic rod. Other than the handle style and name embossed on the pole, there are no differences between them. We aren't a big fan of either, and the quality is subpar, but if having a kit with everything included will get your child jazzed about going fishing, we'd choose the Plussino for the better handle.
The Lanaak Kids Fishing Pole and Tackle Box is an attractive, all-inclusive kit that parents might consider as it seems to include everything you'll need to get your little one up and fishing. It has a telescopic pole, push-button reel, and lots of bobbers, weights, and lures in a small tackle box that comes in a zipper close carry bag.
All this sounds pretty cool until you open the case and get a good look at the supplies. The rod is hard plastic and will not bend if you catch a larger fish. The bobbins are "open" and fill with water quickly, making them useless for fishing. However, the most significant problem is that the pole we purchased came broken. Our young tester didn't even get to cast the reel once, which was hugely disappointing as it was the pole he was most interested in, thanks to all the accessories. Luckily, we had multiple poles to test, so our day wasn't a total bust, but most folks will likely end up with a single broken pole and a very sad child. While we can't say that all rods will arrive at their destination broken, we feel the quality is so bad that most of the poles will likely break in short order, making it a setup we don't recommend.
Why You Should Trust Us
With a long-time fisherman's help, our kid testers used each pole side-by-side and hands-on at multiple locations over several weeks. While fishing might appear to be a straightforward sport, we learned how much there is to learn and how having the right gear can be the difference between fishing fun and ultimate failure. We tested each pole for quality, ease of use, child-friendliness, and more. With more than 10 individual tests, including assembly, line paths, reel smoothness, handle length, and more to determine winners and rank.
We've been testing gear for babies and kids for over eight years. This review is led by Senior Review Editor Wendy Schmitz. Wendy is a mother of 2 boys who were game for fishing fun and ready to give each product its opportunity to shine in the water.
Analysis and Test Results
We purchased and tested popular fishing poles for kids in our quest to find the best. Our testers took notes on their experiences with each product and gave feedback on ease of use. These tot testers weren't shy about condemning the disappointing and less than inspiring rods while vying for the opportunity to use the more straightforward, higher-quality poles.
Some of the poles in our review come pre-assembled, unlike many adult fishing poles that require adding the reel to the rod or spooling the line to build your setup. None of the group needed line spooling, but given that much of the provided line was terrible and easily snapped, you'll likely still want to buy some line and learn how to spool.
Of those that required assembly, the Kalex Kit was easy to set up with little effort, which is impressive given that ours lacked a detailed manual. Perhaps the manufacturer assumes everyone knows the process or pole setup. However, we suspect some parents will be as new to fishing as their children, and assembly skills/knowledge will elude them (as it did some of our testers). For those parents, we suggest sticking to the Zebco products, as they come pre-assembled, or the Plussino, which is almost ready to use after threading the line through the eyelets and adding accessories.
While choosing an all-inclusive kit is appealing, especially for parents who know nothing about fishing, the kits in this review were low quality, in our opinion. We believe you'll save yourself frustration, time, and money by purchasing supplies separately. While two kits in this lineup worked well enough during testing, they likely won't last through the summer of regular fishing, and all of them had something subpar included in the set. Issues like the misaligned eyelets we encountered during testing could become problematic if you catch an actual fish and put stress on the line reeling it in.
Ease of Use
Interestingly, not all of the poles were easy to use, especially for those who lacked prior fishing knowledge. Our assumption that a layperson could pick up any old fishing pole and start fishing was foolhardy at best, especially depending on which pole we tried. While some of our testers knew a thing or two about fishing and had no trouble putting reels on rods and running lines, others couldn't identify which end was which and definitely couldn't figure out how to cast without losing the fishing line or snapping and tangling it. If you aren't a fishing master, we recommend keeping this in mind when purchasing a pole.
The most straightforward fishing pole to use, hands down, is the Zebco Roam. This pole was super simple for inexperienced parents and newbie little anglers. It comes fully assembled, with a higher quality line than most of the competition that didn't snap or tangle in our tests. The push-button reel and casting were easy enough for even our youngest tester to master quickly. Just run the line through the eyelets, add a weight and a lure, or perhaps a bobber, and you're on your way to a great day of fishing. Easy-peasy. We cannot overstate how straightforward this pole is and how much our testers enjoyed it.
The Plussino (above left) and ODDSPRO (above right) were close seconds with telescoping rods and attached reels. They have push buttons for easy casting and are the perfect size for eager young anglers. Unfortunately, the quality isn't excellent with these products, but our kid testers liked them and, like many children, felt the case and tackle boxes were ultra-cool.
Depending on the child's age, the spinning reels in this review are far more challenging and have a higher learning curve than the competition. We found the Kalex to be the easiest of the spinning reels, and we had the least difficulties with this pole. However, the handle is oddly long, and our younger, shorter testers didn't care for it and felt it was harder to cast as they repeatedly hit themselves in the forearm. The Zebco Dock Demon and the Ugly Stick Dock Runner are similar in design and size to the Kalex but have shorter easier-to-manage handles. After mastering the more intricate finger dexterity and mind-muscle control required for casting this reel style, they are easy to use, but both came with a cheap line that repeatedly tangled. However, you can always purchase a higher quality line, and we encourage that no matter which pole you select.
Some testers felt the spinning reel wasn't worth the added learning curve and effort. Younger testers were easily frustrated and frequently threatened to quit altogether with these poles. Other parents feel this reel style is the only way to fish and believe children would be more motivated to master it if they were never exposed to the push-button reel. Overall, we believe the push button is the way to go if you want to engage kids early and keep them interested. There is always time to learn more complex things as they progress and develop better control. The push-button ruled the day with kids of all ages during our testing. The spinning reels were "cast" aside quickly and early.
After extensive research and discussion with avid anglers, we selected several of the most popular kids' fishing poles for hands-on testing. Unfortunately, we were surprised that many of the kid-centric poles were poor quality, had unimpressive features, and were easy to break (one arrived broken). This reality means finding a functional pole for kids is more challenging than we expected. Our review provides helpful details so you can find the right rod for your child and avoid some of the stumbling blocks we experienced. So, don't get "caught" with a sub-par fishing pole! Take advantage of our recommendations and experience fun fishing with your budding fisherman using a child-friendly pole that can last through the fishing season and potentially beyond.
— Wendy Schmitz
Honest, objective reviews. Led by a Pediatrician.
BabyGearLab was founded by a Pediatrician Mom with a mission to provide a reliable, independent, source of information to new parents. Our experts have tested thousands of baby and kids products to share key performance, health, and safety findings. We spend tens of thousands of dollars crash testing car seats to inform our ratings. And, we combine our review work with gobs of expert parenting advice. To assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing by people who care.Learn More