I love the E6X series of rods by G. Loomis. They run in the $180-$200 range. If that's too expensive, look into Fenwick's HMX series, or 13 Fishing's Omen rods, or even 13's new One3 Fate series they just released at iCast. Get a MH for any flipping/pitching, heavier current, and heavier lures. I'd suggest fishing squarebills in current or larger topwater such as the Whopper Plopper 90. Get a M for basic applications such as cranks and spinners. ML works best for finesse, such as tubes and ned rigs, and jerkbaits. I generally fish skinny water, so I suggest a shorter rod for maximum accuracy with those topwaters, say 6'3"-6'6", a mid-length rod for all your cranks and spinnerbaits (6'6"-7'), and anything over 7' for the flipping, pitching, and finesse tactics.
As for reels, a 2500-sized reel is your best all-around bet, and can work with anything smallie-related. I am a Shimano guy, and my favorites are my Ci4+ (at $220 regular price) and my Saros ($150). A cheaper option, and in my opinion the best value reel, is the Pfleuger President, which starts around $60 now I believe. This kind of fishing can be rough, so maintenance on your equipment is essential.
I highly suggest having 3-4 setups. I always have my topwater setup (6'6" Medium Heavy-Fast E6X w/Saros), my crankbait setup (7' Medium-Fast Omen 2 w/Ci4+), and my tube setup (7'3" Medium-Extra Fast E6X w/Ci4+) with me, with a utility rod in case my three go-to's aren't working and I'm in unfamiliar territory.