Here's what works for me on those same waters and targeting those same fish.
Fly rod: I use a 6 weight fly rod and floating line. I've found that a white popper cast to shorelines and near rocks is effective much of the day and not just early morning and late evening. I also use a hopper/dropper rig, which takes quite a few panfish as well as smallies, but to me a fish is a fish. I have yet to catch any very large fish on the fly rod.
Spinning rod: I like a long medium/light and relatively fast action rod. I'm not particular to brand, but Quantum has repeatedly let me down. They feel good in the store, but to get that stiff and light feeling they have to use fragile materials. I've had two Quantum rods explode into five or six pieces on hooksets. I just purchased a Fenwick rod that came with an Abu Garcia Cardinal reel at Sportsmans Liquidation in Winchester for about $50. Great deal. My preferred length is 6'6" or 7'. I do not very long or very short rods when fishing from a kayak. You need a rod long enough to guide the line around the front or the back of the kayak if the fish is running, so the rod + your arm has to be longer than half the length of your kayak.
I fish a lot of soft plastics on 3/0 EWG hooks. I prefer the red hooks, not because I think they do anything for attraction, but because the anodizing on them protects the metal from rust in your tackle box. There is absolutely no way I've found to keep your tackle dry in a kayak. My favorite lure, bar none, is the Case Jacks Worm in colors that match the bottom of the water your fishing. Most other times, I'll be fishing a grub, my favorite are Fat Alberts, on a 1/4 oz or 3/16oz ball head jig.
For spinning reels, I like Diawas. They have some lower cost reels in the $40 to $50 range that have worked for many seasons for me with little maintenance.
For baitcast: I like a low profile reel with both magnetic and mechanical overspooling protection. I don't get enough time on the water to practice and so will take any advantage I can to keep me fishing rather than picking out over-runs. Diawa makes some affordable models. I also have a Pflueger Presidential and a Bass Pro Shops Excel. The favorite is the BPS Excel reel. For a rod, I like the same lengths, usually preferring the 7', but a Medium or Medium Heavy rod so that I can get a good hookset on long casts. I usually use FireLine Crystal with the 8lb test diameter (I think that makes it 15 or 20 lb test line). You have to keep a close eye on the integrity of the line and retie fairly often, but I use large tubes on 1/4oz to 3/8oz tube jigs, crankbaits, and spinner baits with baitcasting tackle and so want line that is thin and not too buoyant so that the lures can get down in the water easily.
I'd enjoy fishing with you some time. I won't be likely to get on the Potomac for a month or so, given my schedule, but perhaps in September we can arrange a time to fish.
While I have nothing against Dicks, and they surely have some good fishing tackle to get you started, if you've got the time to drive up to Hanover, MD just outside of Baltimore, I think a visit to Bass Pro Shops will provide you many more options for tackle within the same budget. BPS puts together some budget-conscious combos from their store brand (which I have found to be consistently reliable). Also, the Gander Mountain in Winchester has a better selection than the Dulles Dick's store.
When it comes to Case soft plastics, the easiest way to get them is to order on-line. For full disclosure, I am a friend of Charlie Case, the founder of the company. However, I did not become a friend of his until AFTER using his products successfully for years. Further, Charlie has retired and no longer runs the company (though it remains a high quality and effective product line).
- Big D
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