Re: Best bang for the buck.
I wouldn't say that a pre-assembled kit is a sin...no more than fly fishing is a religion, although there are your zealots in every corner of society. IMO, I'd put together a kit. You can get some decent deals on good stuff if you look around.
I personally know where there is an unused Tibor Everglades (7-9wt) for about $300...and, no, I don't own it.
Match that up to a good 8 or 9 weight and you 80% there. I can't give much advise on some of the higher end rods...but, you can likely get a decent deal on a last generation Sage or St. Croix.
It's not the heat, it's the stupidity.
What manner of jackassery will I be subjected to today?