In the movie Tin Cup, protagonist golf pro Roy McAvoy melts down on the course and breaks all his clubs except the 7-iron because he, “never misses with the 7-iron.” He proceeds to finish and win the round driving, pitching, and putting with his trusted club. When it comes to fishing, a medium-light spinning outfit is the 7-iron.
I don’t remember the specs on the first rod that I ever received, but the first rod I bought myself was a 6-foot, medium-light action Berkley Lightning rated for 4- to 10-pound line. At that point, it was all I had in my quiver, so it saw action taking on largemouth bass, stocked trout, catfish, and panfish. Eventually I even employed it for surf fishing the beaches of Southern California as well as targeting inshore species in bays and lagoons. I had one rod and one tackle box for everything, and life was good.
Even as my rod collection grew, that one stick not only remained in the arsenal but very much stayed in the starting lineup. It may have eventually been demoted to the inshore and surf “banger” stick and as the primary loaner rod for someone without their own gear, but it was always around. After a quarter-century of service, I finally sold it at a yard sale to a dad looking to set up his kid. It seemed a fitting, if not the ideal, next step for that rod, so I brought it out of the garage and sent it on its way.
A medium-light spinning outfit is perfect for some things, good enough for others, and pushing-it-but-doable for a few more applications. It’s the ideal rod for the guy or girl who’s only going to own one workhorse first rod, and one that will have a role for something until the last cast an angler makes.
What it’s Perfect For Regardless of the angler’s skill and experience level, a medium-light spinning rod can’t be beat when it comes to finesse fishing for large or smallmouth bass. Deploying plastic worms on drop-shot, split-shot, or lighter Texas Rigs, or on a shaky head, tube jig, Ned Rig, and small swimbaits on a jig head usually calls for 6- to 8-pound line. That fits right in the sweet spot of a rod rated for 4- to 10-pound line. This is especially true when fishing in the West, where reservoirs tend to be clear and pressured. Everyone from tournament anglers to weekend warriors always have a setup like this close at hand.
In saltwater, this outfit is perfect for working 3- to 4-inch swimbaits on a 1/4-ounce leadhead in a surf, bay, or lagoon setting. The Carolina Rig with sub-1-ounce sliding sinkers and light line is another West Coast standard for anglers fishing off the beach and targeting surfperch, corbina, croaker, and even halibut.
What it’s Good Enough For Catfish anglers usually hit the water packing heavier outfits, but in any situation where the quarry is primarily made up of 1- to 5-pound eater-sized cats, a medium-light spinner is fine. Some smaller, clear-water fisheries also give up full stringers of catfish to anglers sending down cut mackerel or chicken livers on 6-pound line with no weight. In fact, I know several Western lakes where that is the local secret. Regardless, in that particular situation, this rod-and-reel combo is even better than a heavier rig.
Striped bass fishing in Western waters often involves a lot of weeding through “school-size” 1- to 4-pound models and hoping a bigger one pushing or exceeding double-digit poundage winds up in the mix. If it’s only schoolie stripers, this class of spinner is a ton of fun throwing smaller topwater plugs, jerkbaits, bucktail jigs, spoons, and so on. Most linesides are caught in open water, so if a trophy fish does connect, longer drag-burning tussles aren’t as risky as when cover or structure is around.
A medium-light spinning rod is less than ideal for throwing largemouth bass standards like big crankbaits, spinnerbaits, heavier jigs, etc. However, scaled-down versions of those baits with a lower profile and topping out at a half-ounce pair nicely enough with a lighter outfit.
These rods can also be options while fishing inshore saltwater for smaller species like bass, but if a bigger halibut, white seabass, or shark ends up on the business end, things are going to get sporty real quick.
Pushin’ It I’ve seen these rods put into action on local party boats full of anglers targeting calico bass off the Southern California coast. The bite was tough but the fish were there, and a couple guys were casting soft-plastic jerkbaits on 8-pound line to the edge of a kelp bed and having a field day. They didn’t catch anything over the 14-inch size limit, but they were bent all afternoon while everyone else struggled. Still, that’s about the only situation that rod should see action on a sport boat. A nothing-else-is-getting-bit last resort.
It would be better than nothing on a steelhead stream, but at 6 to 7 feet in length it’s quite a bit shorter than what’s normally put into play. Panfish can absolutely be caught on this setup, but if the only targets are palm-sized bluegill or crappie, it can be an overkill and not nearly as fun as the same fish on ultralight gear.
Versatility Options There are several ways an angler can maximize the versatility of a medium-light spinning combo, and that can make all the difference while traveling with a rod in tow or any other time only one stick can make the trip. A two-piece rod makes it a lot easier to store, and that makes you more likely to take it wherever you go. My two-piece rods fit in a tube that fits sideways under the back seat of my truck, or out of the case between the backseat headrests and the rear window. I also have a three-piece spin rod that fits in a case small enough to stuff into my backpack as carry-on luggage or stashed in a checked bag.
Braided line has revolutionized fishing in a wide variety of ways, and this one-rod-for-almost-everything deal is no exception. The reel can be filled with braid (10- or 15-pound fits the bill here), which you can then be spliced to a length of monofilament or fluorocarbon leader. Small spools of leader line take up minimal space, so if the owner of this outfit had 6-, 8- and 10-pound leader on hand, it would be easy to switch to the line class the situation calls for. If a heavier line is needed, you can always fish “straight braid” with no leader. Before modern braid, you had to bring spare spools loaded with different line to swap in and out, and it wasn’t nearly as efficient.
Punching above its Price Point That Lightning Rod was a great first rod and put in a ton of work for something that set a 14-year-old me back less than $40. As years passed and I grew more serious about fishing, I knew I needed to upgrade to something more sensitive, powerful, and precise, but I still didn’t want to break the bank. These days, it’s hard to beat the 13 Fishing Omen Black spinning rod for something that meets the demands of serious tournament anglers at a reasonable price point. The 7-foot 1-inch medium model is the most versatile in the series, and it fits these purposes very nicely. While it’s tabbed “medium” weight, the 6- to 12-pound line rating paired with a fast action makes it well-suited for medium-light spinning duty,
The 13 Fishing Kalon Blackout 2.0 spinning reel is a perfect match with that rod and for these purposes. An angler can certainly spend a lot more money for a rod and reel, but this particular rig carries a lot of the same high-end technology and components and will provide a high-level of performance for years to come.
Playing a round of golf with nothing but a 7-iron was not an ideal situation for Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy, but it got the job done in a pinch that time. Even with a full complement of clubs at his disposal, it was still the club he counted on round after round, the one that never let him down. On the water, a medium-light spinning outfit fills the same role, and you should always have one within reach.