Rods and Reels
I can make this really simple.
Bass Gear Top Picks
rods, Shimano IM8 or higher, 7 ft med/heavy
reels, Shimano Curado baitcaster
line: regular visibility lakes- Suffix Braid 30 pound test (Shabbona, Sangchris, Spring Lake)
line: high visibility lakes- any high quality mono, 17 pound test (Delavan, Lake Geneva)
Rods and Reels in general....
You get what you pay for.
But if you are on a limited budget, I'd spend more on the ROD than on the reel. WHY?? You'll catch more fish with a better rod. Better rods are more sensitive, so you feel more bites and get better hooksets.
A new $50 reel feels about the same as a $250 reel. The $250 reel just lasts much longer due to its higher quality components.
Johnny Morris signature series baitcaster (BassPro)
Muskies Gear Top Picks
rods, Bass Pro's Pete Maina IM6 7.5 foot heavy action, and 8 foot extra heavy action
reels, Ambassador C4 6500, or C3 6500
line, Suffix Braid 80 pound test, or PowerPro 60 pound test