After running a guide service for around 10 years I can confirm that yes, a higher end rod and reel can make a difference.
Tough, smooth, infinite anti-reverse, affordable... for every 1-2 ozs. of weight reduction you can up the price about 40 bucks, the higher end reels also have smoother bearings. Not more bearings just better. I have Plueger Trions that I paid $40 for 20 years ago and they still work very well.
Rods are a whole different story. I have watched clients, with their favorite Ugly Stick, that have had a hit because I was watching their line jump to the side about 3 inches, and they never felt the hit. When hand them a St. Croix Premier, a fish sucks in the bait and WHAM they look at me in amazement like they just had a lightening bolt shoot up their arm.
Reduced weight, improved sensitivity, and smooth function all add to the enjoyment or success of the day on the water.
My present rig is a 7 ft. (Fish 13) Omen rod Med. Light, with a Daiwa Fuego LT 2500.
Spend what your budget and level of expertise warrants, enjoy the sport more and catch more and bigger fish... and never lend your favorite rig to anyone.
My 2 cents, Mac