Best Fishing Reels – The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Best Fishing Reel (Reviews and Buyer’s Guide)
The best fishing reels should suit the type of fishing that you intend to do. We have created this fishing reel guide to help you make an informed decision regarding which fishing reel you will purchase.
There are many ways to catch fish with a rod and reel and the tackle used for one type of fish or venue may not be suitable for another. When you consider how many styles of fishing there are it can get confusing. Be it freshwater or salt water fishing you need to select a reel that not only performs but is durable enough to suit the elements and last many seasons.
Freshwater fishing reels tend to be lighter in construction and don't need to be salt proof like their sea fishing counterparts. The line that is used on a freshwater reel is generally lighter and you will need less of it. This means that the fishing reels don't need to be as large.
Saltwater fishing reels need all of the performance features that a fresh water fishing reel needs with the addition of being corrosion resistant. A saltwater fishing reel will generally require a lot more line on it this is why they tend to be bigger than the equivalent freshwater reel. This added size can adds quite a bit of weight also. They will also have bigger more reliable bearings as the stripping of line by larger salt water fish will generate more friction and heat.
There are many different types of fishing reels. Some are an open faced reel such as a spinning reel and others are a closed face reel such as a spincast reel. Fly reels however are little more than a line store as most fly fishermen play the fish by hand.
The most popular fishing reel type is probably the open face reel. The open face reel is generally what most people would associate with how a reel looks. It is commonly referred to as a spinning reel. However it can be used for a lot more than just spinning. It is incredibly versatile and one good open face reel could cover a lot of different fishing setups and species.
If you are a little confused by all the different types of reels for fishing and are looking for help in what kind of reel is right for you then check out our best fishing reel buyers guide.
Below we have selected the top fishing reels that should suit the majority of fishermen. The following best fishing reels are mostly suited to freshwater fishing. However the Shimano Stradic FB is rated for use in salt water environments which is why it takes our top spot as the best fishing reel for the money. There is something for both beginner and advanced angler and we hope your choice will be made a little easier.
The Best Fishing Reels
- High Quality
- Strong Drag
Shimano Stradic FK
- Hagene Gear
- Super Smooth
Zebco Omega ZO3PRO
- 7 Bearings
- Most popular
We have reviewed the best fishing reels by type and hope that our choices will match your specific need on the water.
Best Spinning Reel
Shimano Stradic Review
The Shimano Stradic FK spinning reel is one of the most popular high end spinning reels available. It is the current edition in the evolution of the Stradic line. The Stradic features some of the most advanced materials and features that can be found on a spinning reel today.
The quality of the Stradic FK is second to none. The new Hagene gear improves both strength and power over it's predecessors. It also improves the tolerances of the running gear enabling much smoother operation.
Some of the features of the Shimano Stradic:
- 6 ball bearings
- Reversable crank
- Hagene gear and body
- X-Ship gear technology
- Light weight
- Highly durable
Shimano say that the Stradic FK is rated for both fresh and saltwater fishing. This is why we have rated the Stradic as the best spinning reel, that and its features, quality and performance.
Available in five models there should be one available to cover the majority of fishing situations. For the money we reckon there is no better open face reel. The best fishing reel for the money.
Best Baitcasting Reel
Daiwa Tatula Review
The Daiwa Tatula baitcast reel range is one of the most popular baitcasting reels ever. Due in part to it's rugged build but more so to its ease of use.
There is a small learning curve with baitcasting reels, however the Tatula baicaster makes life considerably easy. The design of the Tatuka makes for an incredibly smooth casting experience that is easily mastered by both pro anglers and beginners alike.
Some of the features of the Daiwa Tatula R100XS
- T-Wing system for smoother casting
- Air rotation System creates easy winding and slick operation
- Body and frame extremely durable
- Very high drag pressure
- Great quality for the price
The quality build of the Tatula is apparent from the slick modern design to the high quality materials used throughout. The Tatula can be easily mistaken for much more expensive baitcasting reels as for the price it's something you won't regret.
The R100XS comes with Daiwa's ultimate tournament drag system that has a much higher drag rating than other reels in it's class. Whether you are a tournament pro or weekend warrior the Tatula has both the pedigree and performance to handle most large fighting fish.
The Tatula delivers on both performance and price and for the money we reckon it is the best baitcasting reel available.
Best Spincast Reel
Zebco Omega Review
A spincast reel is usually purchased for it's ease of casting so it mostly suited to beginners or children. This doesn't mean that the are not suitable for the experienced fisherman either.
The Zebco Omega breaks the mold in terms of spincasting reels. It is widely regarded as the best spincast reel available.
Some of the features of the Zebco Omega ZO3PRO:
- First ever seven ball bearing spincast reel
- 3x positive pickup system
- Triple-cam multi-drag system
- Ceramic line guides
The Zebco Omega ZO3 Pro has been hailed as Zebco's most advanced spincast reel. It has a reversible design that allows for left or right handed operation. Made from all metal gears and the covers are made from high quality aircraft grade aluminum.
This Zebco comes with no less than seven ball bearings and a multi-disk triple-cam drag system which gives the Omega an incredibly smooth cast and retrieve experience. The addition of ceramic line guides insures great casting performance that reduces line wear over long term use.
Best Ultralight Spinning Reel
Pflueger President Review
The Pflueger President is our top choice as best ultralight spinning reel. It is extremely light at 5.9 ounces due to the use of some very high tech features like a carbon composite side plate and a ported rotor.
When using ultralight spinning gear and lightweight tackle you need a reel than can cast the most delicate of rigs and low weight lures. However these reels also need to be able to handle the heavy strikes of big bass and downstream runs of large river trout. The Pflueger President has proven itself in both regards.
Some of the features of the Pflueger President:
- 5.9 ounces in weight
- 5.2:1 gear ratio
- 7 ball bearings
- 6lbs max drag
The President hits all the right criteria for anyone looking for an ultralight spinning reel. It has a titanium coated spool lip and line roller that ensure a smooth surface for the line to run over. It boasts an anti-reverse one-way clutch bearing and sure click bail.
For the money this is a great ultralight spinning reel that won't break the bank.
Best Saltwater Spinning Reel
Penn Clash Review
The Penn Clash spinning reel is built tough to withstand the harsh environment of salt water fishing. In the smaller sizes it is still a great freshwater spinning reel. However, in the bigger sizes it has all of the strength and line capacity required for a saltwater reel.
Penn have been known to be incredibly reliable due to their high build quality and meticulous materials selection process.
Some of the features of the Penn Clash:
- HT-100 Carbon Fiber drag system
- 8 corrosion resistant sealed stainless steel ball bearings
- Techno balanced rotor assemblies
- CNC Gear Technology
- Instant anti-reverse bearing
When looking for the best saltwater reel you need one that can be versatile in most saltwater fishing situations. Whether it is inshore casting or shallow water spinning from a boat we think the Penn Clash is a great work horse of a reel that is worth the investment.
Best Fly Fishing Reel
Okuma SLV Review
The Okuma SLV fly reel is one of the best all round fly reels available on the market today. Fly fishing equipment can get extremely expensive especially at the upper end of the ranges. The SLV for the money is the best fly fishing reel that you would ever want.
Some of the features of the Okuma SLV:
- Large arbor
- Strong durable build
- Excellent value
- Alumlite diecast aluminum frame
- Easy covert from left to right handed
It's large arbor and simple tough design are it's best selling points. It one of those dependable pieces of equipment that you won't think much about unless you have to replace it.
It is a little heavier than some fly fishing reels but the trade off in weight is balanced out by how sturdy it is built.
Some people will argue that a fly reel is little more than a line store. To some extent they are correct however playing a fish on a fly reel is proving more and more popular especially for larger trophy fish. That's why it is worth choosing the best fly reel that has a decent sized arbor and reliable drag system.
The Okuma SLV for most anglers is probably the only fly fishing reel they would need for quite a few seasons of heavy use.
Best Casting Reel
Abu Garcia Revo SX
The Abu Garcia Revo SX is our choice for best casting reel as it is packed with advanced technology to ensure as smooth a cast as possible.
Weight reduction over previous models has been reduced by almost 25% which can make a big difference at the end of a long day out on the water casting.
The Magtrax breaking system ensure a reduction in over-runs so even a novice baitcaster can master it with ease.
Some of the features of the Abu Gargia Revo SX:
- 1 roller bearing and 9 stainless steel ball bearings
- Carbon Matrix drag system
- Mag Trax break system
- Infini II spool for longer casts
Abu Garcia are one of the most dominant tackle manufacturers out there. This popularity is based on a reputation for quality and performance. The build quality of the Revo SX is on a par with reels that are twice it's price.
Its low profile design means it is suitable to be paired with a wide range of casting rods. If you are new to baitcasting reels and don't want to chance one of the more expensive options out there then the Revo SX could be the best choice.
Best Trolling Reel
Penn Squall Lever Drag Review
Trolling puts a demand on a reel like no other form of fishing. The best trolling reel needs to be able to handle extreme loads for long periods of time as the amount of line out can be considerable.
The Penn Squall series of reels are among the best available reels for trolling. You have the choice of either a lever drag or star drag system. The choice between the two is generally down to personal preference.
Some of the features of the Penn Squall:
- Marine grade gear
- Stainless steel used throughout
- HT-100 Drag system - star drag model
- Dura drag system - lever drag model
- Double Dog anti-reverse - lever drag model
Penn have been at the forefront of high quality fishing reel manufacturing for decades. There name is synonymous with quality and reliability. One of the lightest reels in it's class the Squall is still pretty tough due to it's graphite sideplates and forged, machined aluminum spool.
Even though the Penn Squall is at the lower end of the range in terms of price I wouldn't hesitate to pick one up as it is easily the match for some of the more expensive trolling reels out there.
Best Line Counter Reel
Okuma Cold Water Linecounter
If you are trolling with lead core line for large lake trout or out on the deep water hunting large game fish then a line counter reel is vital. The Ocuma Cold Water Linecounter is our choice for best line counter reel.
The Ocuma is well built from quality components from the Titanium coated level wind right down to the coating on the inside of the line counter window to stop fogging.
Some of the features of the Ocuma Cold Water Linecounter:
- Self-lubricating machine cut drive
- Corrosion resistant frame
- Clear view anti-fogging line counter
- Carbonite drag system
The Ocuma Cold Water Linecounter is the best value for money line counter available. I have seen salt water charter boats full of these which is quite the endorsement. The drag works as smoothly and consistently as any other reel in its class and the line counter as accurate as any other too.
Best Surf Casting Reel
Daiwa M7HTMAG Review
The Daiwa M7HTMAG is built to excel at one thing, casting big weights long distances out over crashing surf. And it does it well, really well that is why it's our best surf casting reel.
Some of the features of the Daiwa M7HTMAG:
- Lightweight aluminum spool reaches speeds close to 30000 rpms
- High performance anti-reverse system
- Magforce Z magnetic breaking system
- 7 ball bearings
- 11 pound star drag control
- Carbon swept handle
This Daiwa surf casting reel is used worldwide to hit big casting distances by an array of anglers. These big distances are achievable in large to the Magforce-Z magnetic braking system. The Magforce-Z starts to apply a smooth magnetic brake to the spool once it approaches max rpm, thus reduces the chances of an over run.
For the money this is probably the finest surf casting reel available and it's one that would probably not need to be replaced for many seasons due to its durability.
Best Flipping Reel
KastKing Stealth Review
Flipping is a casting technique that requires quite a bit of finesse and a reel that won't get in the way. We have chosen the KastKing Stealth as the best flipping reel due to it's light weight high performance construction.
This is one incredibly accurate baitcasting reel and that is what is required when flipping. The quality of materials and features are usually found on much more expensive reels.
Some of the features of the KastKing Stealth:
- 6 ounces in weight
- 16.5 lbs drag
- Built in line keeper
- 7 magnet dual brake system
- 11 anti-corrosion shielded ball bearings
If you are looking for a fishing reel that can help flip your lures with pin point accuracy time after time then the Stealth is the number one choice. It's incredibly light weight construction at just 6 ounces means even late in the day you will still not feel its weight on the wrist.
Without a doubt the KastKing Stealth is the go to choice for a flipping reel.
Best Jigging Reel
Shimano Talica Review
Jigging heavy weighted rigs in deep waters can put considerable strain on both rod and reel. The Shimano Talica is out choice for best jigging reel as it has a massive rated drag of some 60 lbs on the largest model.
The real power in the Talica comes from it's heavy duty gear system. The Heg system uses over-sized drive and pinion gears which help to eliminate almost all flex under heavy load.
Some of the features of the Shimano Talica:
- Heg Gear set
- Hagane body
- 6 shielded anti-rust bearings
- Cold forged aluminum spool
- Ratcheted drag lever
If you are looking for a bullet proof heavy duty reel the the Shimano Talica is the choice for you. It is capable of house large line lengths and applying heavy drag against the biggest of salt water fish no matter what depth they are at.
Best Electric Reel
Daiwa Tanacom Review
Lets face it deep drop fishing really needs an electric reel. All that line out will require a long time and a lot of arm power to retrieve manually. The Daiwa Tanacom 1000 is our choice for best electric reel.
It wins hands down for value for money and quality. Whether you are kite fishing or dropping with heavy weights the Tanacom 1000 has you covered.
Some of the features of the Daiwa Tanacom 1000:
- English LCD display
- 12 volt system
- Auto stop and jigging features
- Oversized line guide to allow for large swivels and knots
- 4 stainless steel ball bearings
The Tanacom 1000 is extremely easy to use just connect the battery, lower your lure to the water and reset to zero and you are ready to go. It also includes a very accurate line counter so you can precisely judge were your terminal tackle is at.
Best Ice Fishing Reel
Fiblink Inline Review
Ice fishing reels have really advanced in recent years in terms of both quality and features. Lets face it they have to endure some pretty extreme temperatures out on the ice especially if you do not have an ice fishing shelter.
The Fiblink Inline ice fishing reel is oe of the best ice fishing reels for the money. The Fiblink sits somewhere in the mid-range in terms of price.
Although it may not be the most expensive ice fishing reel available it is certainly very high quality. The body and spool are CNC machined from aluminum which is not only lightweight but also highly durable. The spool has a slightly larger than average size which means you can pack on a little extra line. The availability in either right or left handed is great also, just make sure you order the right one.
- 2.7:1 gear ratio
- Available in either left or right handed model
- 4+1 stainless steel ball bearings
- Soft touch EVA handle
- Extremely smooth drag
Best Fishing Reels Buyer's Guide
Choosing the right fishing reel for you is ultimately determined by the type of fishing that you intend on doing. Once you know what type of fishing you are planning on focusing on then you need to choose the correct rod. Your rod choice should then govern what kind of reel you purchase.
The decisions you make should be a follows(in order)
- Type of fishing
- Rod choice to match your type of fishing
- Reel choice to match the rod
- Line choice to match the reel and type of fishing
If you are already trying to choose a reel then we can assume you have already choosen your rod to match your type of fishing.
The price point of fishing reels can vary significantly depending on the brand, materials and functionality. Pairing a cheap reel with and expensive reel is not the best approach and in the long run is probably something you would regret. Conversely pairing an expensive reel with cheap rod and line is not something you should do either.
What to consider when making your reel choice
Assuming you have already selected a suitable fishing rod or you already have your perfect rod and are considering upgrading your reel then you are already on the right track to the best fishing reel selection.
On practically all modern rods just above the reel seat or handle there should be a series of numbers printed on the rod blank, these will also more commonly include the brand and model number. Generally these numbers will include the overall length of the rod and the line weight range as recommended by the manufacturer.
For example if the rod has a range of 8-12lbs then the line that is most suitable for the weight and action of that rod will fall somewhere in that range. Getting this pairing of line to rod and ultimately to your reel will make sure that all elements of your setup will function together in the best possible way. Having a well matched setup will not only mean that you can cast further and with more precision but it will also mean that there is a greater sensitivity through the tip of the rod. Better rod tip sensitivity means better bite detection and generally better strike rates.
Types of fishing reels - basic overview
Fishing reels come in all shapes and sizes. For a beginner all these choices can be quite confusing. Here is a overview of the more popular types of reels that can be commonly found.
Spinning reel is the common way to refer to as whats called an open face reel. They are the most popular type of reel and that is in part due to their versatility.
A spinning reel consists of an open faced spool that the line is stored on. The line is wound around the spool by what if known as a "bail" or "bailing guide". As you turn the handle of the reel the spool remains stationary and the bail rotates about it. It distributes the line evenly around the spool by oscillating up and down. On some spinning reel the spool actually moves up/down and the bail remains at the same height as it spins around the spool. On others the spool remains completely stationary and the bail does all the movement.
When casting with a spinning reel the bail is opened and the line is pinched or held usually by the index finger against the rod. Once the rod is whipped forward and the weight/lure moves quickly in a forward motion the line is released and allowed to fly naturally off the spool.
Spinning Reel Sizes
- 1000 - 3500 reels are generally used for ultralight spinning applications and are most likely paired with a light weigh rod of around 6-7 feet in length. Line is about 2-8lbs.
- 4000 - 5500 reels are for medium weighted rods and line somewhere around 10-25lbs.
- 6000 - 9500 reels are classed on the large size and are mostly used in saltwater application, however they can be used for larger freshwater fish. Line 25-50lbs
There are some spinning reels classed much higher than that and are mostly used for specialist saltwater fishing.
Baitcasting reels are a little more complicated to cast with than a spinning reel. However once you have mastered the subtleties of using a baitcaster you will find them great for lure fishing.
When casting a baitcasting reel you release the lock from the spool by pressing down a trigger, the line is now free to run off the rotating spool. The rod is flipped forward and the weight of the lure pulls the line off the reel.
The main difficulty associated with casting a baitcaster is what is known as a "birds nest" or also an overrun. This occurs when the lure us cast out and the line is pulled off the spool. If the tension on the spool is too low the spool can run faster than the line as the lure slows down in flight. If the spool is moving quicker than the line then it runs over on itself on the spool thus creating a tangled mess known as a birds nest.
Learning to apply pressure to the spool with your thumb is the simplest way to control the speed of the spool and avoid a tangled mess. More modern baitcasting reels have a magnetic drag on them that can help to avoid this issue.
Spincasting reels are the common name for a closed face fishing reel design. The spool is enclosed in a domed housing on the front of the reel. There is a hole in the middle of the cover that the line runs through during retrieval and casting.
The line is wound onto the spool by what is known as a take up pin. The spool remains stationary the whole time as the pins do all the work. The line is released by either a push button or a trigger before the lure is cast.
Spincast reels are usually used for light fishing applications as they can generally only hold about 80 yards of light line. They are suitable for beginners and children due to the ease at which they can be cast.
Overhead Fishing Reels
Overhead reels are similar to baitcasting reels however they are no designed for casting. They are used predominantly for trolling from a boat or lowering down to a certain depth either jigging of bait fishing. Like a baitcasting reel they sit on the top side of the rod.
Overhead reels are generally used for saltwater fishing from a boat however they are also used from trolling from a boat in freshwater for large lake trout or big musky. Overhead reels are built tough and can hold hundreds of yard of line.
For very deep fishing or fishing with kites some fishermen will use and electric fishing reel. These reels are overhead reels with motors and usually a screen that has a built in line counter. Pulling a heavy weight up from several hundred feet in depth can be exhausting. Using an electric reel allows you to retrieve hundreds of feet of line in a fraction of the time and effort of a hand operated one.
Fly fishing reels are generally considered nothing more than a line store. They have a very simple design. A rotating spool with a handle on it and a very basic drag system. Some fly fishermen will play larger fish on the reel but the majority prefer to play the fish with the line in their hand.
Fly reels need to be matched to the rod and line to give a perfectly balanced fly fishing setup. They line, rod and reels all have a weighting specified on them. The type of fly fishing determines the line and rod and the reel should be matched to this.
For example for light dry fly fishing you would require a floating line of 4wt and a suitable rod to match. In order to balance the rod correctly the correctly weighted reel should be chosen.
Fly reels generally have a light fly line backing wound onto the reel disc first. This backing is much thinner than the fly line. The backing can add a much greater length to the overall line on the reel without taking up too much space.
We hope you have found our best fishing reels review useful and it helps you to make the best choice possible. In choosing the best fishing reel it makes sense to match the reel to your intended usage of it.