I love my levelwind conventional reels especially for plugging. The Abu Sports Mag (recently renamed International Mag) is without question the finest plugging conventional available with the Mag Elite coming in a very close second. They do have their limitations though, if there's a good wind in your face the last thing you want to have to deal with is throwing conventional - that's when the spinning reel comes out. Unfortunately spinning gear doesn't allow the close contact with the action of your lure the way conventional does.
If you want a rod to do both bait and plugs you might want to look at the Tsunami 10' surf rod. Around $80 and one of the best inexpensive all around sticks out there. I've tried the Tica and I think the tip is too stiff to throw lighter plugs and I tried the Okuma Solaris, nice rod but I had problems with the fit of the ferrule so it went back.
Another option is to get seperate bait rigs and plugging rigs. I received two Okuma Celilo rods to demo, one conventional and one spinning. Great rods for baitfishing but too heavy for plugging. I did a reveiw last summer and copied it here:
CE-S-1102 (Spinning) and CE-C-1102 (Conventional)
11'0", MH action Sturgeon Rod, line wt. 15~40, lure wt. 4~16, 2 piece.
Available on-line for $59.99 shipped.
These were designed for bottom bouncing for west coast salmon and "kerplunking" for sturgeon.
For beach applications these rods are outstanding. They cast with a medium fast action with the top third of the rod loading very nicely
The top end lure rating of 16 is based on 'kerplunking", not casting but rather dropping a large weight and bait directly into a race in rivers.
My initial expectations were that these rods were going to most resemble pool cues. I was more than pleasantly surprised. The graphite construction makes them surprisingly light for their size, the tip is much softer than I expected and the butt is strong enough to power in anything we might see off the sand.
I'd like to report on their fish fighting abilities but the best I could do this weekend were skates and horseshoe crabs (which the rods handled quite well).
The blank has a sweet spot at 6 to 8 and bait and the conventional, paired with a 7000 C3 and 65# Stealth, can heave a bait a long way.
Although I would consider the highest and best use for the spinning rod to be throwing bait with a baitrunner type reel, the rod paired with a Penn 704 and 30# Stren Superbraid was more than capable of throwing larger wood, pencil poppers and jigs. The tip is just soft enough to give poppers and pencils decent action and it's sensitive enough to give you a good feel for your jig ticking the bottom. In a pinch it can also throw Bombers but can definitely be considered overkill for that. While not, for it's size, a very heavy rig (I'll post the weight of the rod when I get a chance to put it on a scale), it's certainly not an Arra and I don't think you would want to spend hours plugging with this rod.
Although I'm very impressed with the blank, I think the quality of the guides could be improved. According to the Okuma rod designer they are proprietary to the OEM manufacturer who is building these rods under the Okuma name. They are certainly not fuji's and look like the older style of Pac Bays - stamped steel with a plastic ring holding the ceramic ring in place.
The grips on these sturgeon rods are different than the Celilos shown on Okumas website. The website has them pictured as cork ring with a trigger grip reel seat on the conventional. All of the Celilo series come like that except these two models. These come with standard reel seats and foam grips. The first thing I did upon unpacking these rods was to strip off the bottom foam grip and replace it with cork tape. For me this 20-minute job really improved the way the rods fit my hands.
As a backup to your Lami's, a second bait rod when you are using two on the beach, as a rod to loan to a guest or as a first rod for someone thinking about getting into the sport I would absolutely recommend these as a solid, good quality rod and at $59.99 shipped, an unbelievably outstanding bargain.
Update on the review:
Caught a bass and a handful of blue devils all in the 10# range using the spinning rod and throwing wood and pencils with a Penn 704 greenie and 30# braid. The rod casts a pencil a mile and, for a non-slow action rod works them fairly well. Whipped the fish in a hurry and that's saying quite a bit. The blues didn't want to quit.
Now, on the off chance that you might do a custom rod -
This might be a bit extreme for you as a beginner but there's a new theory on guide size and placement that allows you to use both spinning and conventional reels on the same rod. It's being called dual purpose and I'm a convert.
A group of us got together and built a number of different style setups on matching blanks. When we did the test casting (very scientifically), to our surprise the dual purpose setup outcasted every other spinning setup and casted conventional equal to a standard lowrider setup. This data was all gathered using braided line - the dual setup is not meant for mono. The large coils that come off a spool filled with mono cause a considerable amount of choke at the first guide, the tighter coils of braid flow right through.
The key is a 25 ring lowrider guide set between 34" and 36" from center of the reel seat, the rest of the guides go on according to the flex of the rod. Every surf rod I build now is being done in the Dual style.
As for reels, If you're going to go with two setups you can't go wrong with a Penn 704 for spinning and either a Penn Squidder, Surfmaster or an Abu 7000 for heavy conventional baitfishing (8 n bait). I wrote a little bit about the Penn conventionals in this thread:
Of course another option is a bait runner but I hate em for plugging, I find them to be too bulky and unwieldy, so I wouldn't be the guy to ask on that topic.