Hey there, welcome to my review of the best musky reels!
This vicious species of fish has a formidable bite and can grow to massive sizes. Try to catch one of these fishes with an inferior reel, and you’ll not only go home empty-handed, but with a damaged reel too. Muskies will call for much more robust reels that can handle big lures and have the muscle to wrestle this species to shore. Muskies are also known as the fish of a thousand casts because that’s how they are to find and catch. As such, your reel has to be light so that you don’t get tired after a few casts.
Even with my 21 years of fishing experience, it still took my team and I a grand total of 3 days to go through every reel out there.
Taking all the above factors into account, along with smoothness as a smaller but still key consideration, these are the eight best musky reels on the market.
Out of these eight musky reels, the Shimano Tranx is the one I’d recommend for most anglers. With its light but durable construction, powerful drag system, and smoothness, what more could you ask for? You’ll also be glad to hear that it’s quite reasonably priced.
Don’t worry if that wasn’t the right musky reel for you though. There’s something for everyone in this list, whether you’re looking for a musky trolling reel or a budget pick.
Let’s get started!
Our Top 8 Picks
- Shimano Tranx (Best Overall)
- Abu Garcia Revo Toro Rocket (Best Line Capacity)
- Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast (Best Toro Rocket Alternative)
- Shimano Calcutta D Round Reel (Best Splurge)
- Daiwa Lexa WN (Best For Casual Anglers)
- Lew’s SuperDuty 300 (Best Lightness)
- Okuma Coldwater Low Profile Linecounter Reel (Best For Trolling)
- KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel (Best Budget)
The 8 Best Musky Reels
In case you’re wondering whether these are baitcasting or spinning reels, they’re all baitcasters.
We’ll go into detail as to why this is so later on, but basically, baitcasters cast much better with the large lures that are synonymous with musky fishing.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s jump right into it!
- Reel Size: 3000-4000
- Ball Bearings: 5+1
- Gear Ratio: 5.8-7.6:1
- Max Drag Weight: 17.6-22 pounds
- Weight: 11.6-12 ounces
Kicking things off is our best overall pick – the Shimano Tranx. This first-rate musky reel is not only strong, smooth, and extremely lightweight, but most importantly, incredibly sturdy.
Featuring Shimano’s Hagane Body, S A-RB, and X-Ship technologies, this reel is unbelievably robust. Those aren’t just cool names that Shimano made up to make the Shimano Tranx seem more attractive. Each technology significantly boosts the Shimano Tranx’s strength and durability.
Number one, the Hagane Body is a metal body that’s much more rigid than other reel bodies. Built with light but strong materials like aluminum and magnesium, the product is a lightweight body that can handle huge amounts of pressure without the slightest flex or bend. This makes the Shimano Tranx extraordinarily hardy. Also, since it doesn’t bend even when you apply huge amounts of force, none of the energy you exert will be wasted on bending or flexing. In other words, every single bit goes to cranking so that you get maximal results with minimal effort.
Number two, S A-RB arms the rust-proof bearings with shields on both sides. These shields help keep salt and sand out of the bearing system, extending the Shimano Tranx’s lifespan.
Number three, X Ship supports the pinion gear on both ends with bearings. This allows the pinion gear to stay perfectly aligned with the drive gear at all times. This enables the gears to maintain steady even under immense pressure. Similar to the Hagane Body, this also translates to maximum energy efficiency for you.
To top it all off, the sideplate is aluminum. Aluminum is tough and highly resistant to corrosion, so needless to say, the aluminum sideplate further enhances this reel’s durability.
With the Hagane Body, S A-RB, X Ship, and aluminum sideplate, the Shimano Tranx is remarkably well-built and won’t let you down even when up against monster muskies.
Now of course, all these are pointless if it doesn’t have enough drag or is too heavy to cast. That’s why Shimano made sure to avoid that.
Throughout the 21 years that I’ve been fishing, I’ve never had to use more than 22 pounds of drag. This coincides with this reel’s maximum drag, so you’ll have no problem taking on the largest muskies.
And as for the weight, at 11.6 ounces, this is one of the lightest reels available. You’ll find casting a breeze with the Shimano Tranx.
To seal the deal, there are 5+1 bearings that make reeling fish in a smooth process. It isn’t the smoothest there is, but it’s certainly commendable.
The only problem with this reel is the pictures listed. When we bought the size 3000 to test, we were expecting to get the power handle. But instead, it came with the double paddle handle. Upon clarification with Shimano, only the size 4000s with 7.6:1 gear ratio have the power handle. It’s kind of dumb of them to put a picture of the 4000 with the power handle when you select the 3000 option.
Still, this is pretty much the best musky reel you can get when price is a factor. It possesses outstanding toughness and muscle and is impressively light and smooth. If you’re looking for a long-lasting musky reel that will see you through the next decade and get the job done against musky of any size, look no further.
Best Line Capacity
- Reel Size: 6000
- Ball Bearings: 5+1
- Gear Ratio: 7.6:1
- Max Drag Weight: 25 pounds
- Weight: 14.6 ounces
The previous reel is nothing to scoff at. But if you prefer something with more line capacity, this could just be the reel for you.
Unlike Shimano reels, the Revo Toro Rocket uses a much simpler strategy for durability. Instead of using cutting-edge technology like Shimano, Abu Garcia decided to simply construct every part of this reel with aluminum and stainless steel.
The spool, frame, and sideplate are aluminum while the bearings and handle are stainless steel. As mentioned earlier, aluminum is hardy and has a high degree of corrosion resistance. The same goes for stainless steel. Combining the aluminum and stainless steel parts, the result is a heavy-duty reel that’s ideal for musky fishing.
Having said that, if it were so easy to achieve top-notch toughness, Shimano wouldn’t have done so much research to come up with their state-of-the-art technologies. As one would expect, the Revo Toro Rocket’s durability still falls short of the Shimano reels. It’s still a rugged reel that can take lots of abuse though, just not as much as Shimano’s reels.
On the other hand, it does have the upper hand in drag. At 25 pounds, there’s plenty of stopping power. Besides musky, you can even target bigger species like tuna.
It isn’t too shabby in weight and smoothness either. Weighing 14.6 ounces, it’s a bit heavier than the Shimano reels, but still among the lighter musky reels out there. And with 5+1 bearings, you can expect smooth operation from the Revo Toro Rocket.
I also like that there’s an extended handle for more leverage. This means you’ll need to apply less force to turn the spool, which reduces fatigue. This somewhat resembles Shimano’s technologies which also maximise energy efficiency.
All in all, the Revo Toro Rocket loses in durability and weight but has the advantage in drag.
So why would anyone choose this inferior reel when it costs the same as the Shimano Tranx?
Well, that’s because this reel is bigger and can hold a lot more line. Musky anglers who want something with more line capacity might want to give this reel a shot.
P.S. We are aware that there are musky reels with larger reel sizes and more line capacity available. The thing is, reel size 6000 is the largest you should go. Any larger is unnecessary and will only tire you out quicker with the extra weight. That’s why we set out to find the best size 6000 musky reel, and this was it.
Best Toro Rocket Alternative
- Reel Size: 6000
- Ball Bearings: 5+1
- Gear Ratio: 4.9-6.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 25 pounds
- Weight: 13.8 ounces
For those who fancied the Toro Rocket’s line capacity but not its gear ratio, rejoice! The Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast is essentially a Toro Rocket with lower gear ratios. Here’s why I say so.
Both reels have the exact same reel parts. There’s the aluminum spool, frame, and sideplate, and the stainless steel bearings and handle (also extended).
Both reels even share the same maximum drag of 25 pounds and 5+1 bearings.
The only differences between this reel and the Revo Toro Rocket are the 0.8-ounce less weight and the different gear ratios. The small weight difference isn’t a big deal so let’s discount that. This means that the only real difference between these reels is the gear ratios. For those looking for a musky reel with large line capacity but lower gear ratios, this is the musky reel for you.
- Reel Size: 3000-4000
- Ball Bearings: 4+1
- Gear Ratio: 5.1-5.6:1
- Max Drag Weight: 15 pounds
- Weight: 11.6-11.8 ounces
The Shimano Tranx is the best musky reel when price is a factor. However, if we take price out of the equation, there’s no better musky reel in existence than the Shimano Calcutta D.
For starters, the Shimano Calcutta D is even sturdier than the Shimano Tranx. This may seem impossible given how well-built the Shimano Tranx is, but hear me out.
Whether it’s the Hagane Body, S A-RB, X Ship, or aluminum sideplate, the Shimano Calcutta D has got them all. But that’s not all. This reel doesn’t just have everything that the Shimano Tranx has, but it also incorporates Shimano’s EI surface treatment. This surface treatment makes the spool and body more than twice as corrosion-resistant as normal surface treatments. Naturally, this makes the Shimano Calcutta D a fair bit more durable than the Shimano Tranx.
For its other aspects, it’s evenly matched with the Shimano Tranx in lightness and smoothness, but much weaker.
Sharp-eyed anglers will have noticed that the Shimano Calcutta D has one less bearing. Interestingly though, I felt no difference when using the two, because they’re both silky smooth. Maybe there is a slight difference, but I truly couldn’t feel it, so I’d place both reels on the same level in smoothness.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the drag. The most this reel can come up with is 15 pounds. You’ll still be able to handle large muskies, but you’ll have little chance against trophy musky.
In short, the Shimano Calcutta D is smooth, light, and unmatched in toughness. And although it does have less drag than the Shimano Tranx, it is by no means weak. This exceptional reel will last a good deal longer than even the Shimano Tranx, but the increase in price of 150 dollars isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for the absolute best musky reel on the market though, this is it.
Best For Casual Anglers
- Reel Size: 4000
- Ball Bearings: 6+1
- Gear Ratio: 7.1:1
- Max Drag Weight: 25 pounds
- Weight: 16.9 ounces
The Daiwa Lexa WN is a less rugged but also less pricey musky reel than the higher-end options.
For durability, you’ll have an aluminum frame, sideplates, handles, and bearings. The spool material wasn’t stated, so I can’t conclude whether it’s hardy or not. What I do know is, when I took this reel on a test run, it felt less sturdy than all the previous reels. There was definitely more flexing, so I’d put this reel’s longevity below any of the past four reels.
For power, the 25 pounds of stopping power is plenty for musky.
For smoothness, 6+1 bearings should in theory put this reel above the past four. However, it actually felt a tiny bit less smooth. I’m guessing this is because the bearings used are only of good quality, not A-grade like the ones before this.
For weight, it’s a tad heavy at 16.9 ounces, but you’ll still find casting quite effortless.
By now, it should be clear that the Daiwa Lexa WN doesn’t excel in any field. It’s more of a well-rounded reel that performs well on all fronts. Casual anglers who don’t need anything as amazing as the last four high-end options, this could just be the musky reel you’re looking for.
- Reel Size: 3000
- Ball Bearings: 6+1
- Gear Ratio: 6.5-7.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 24 pounds
- Weight: 9.2 ounces
This next reel is all about lightness. The Lew’s SuperDuty 300 somehow manages to maintain phenomenal lightness while still remaining robust enough for musky fishing.
At this point, you’ve heard me break down five different reels, so you should be quite adept at judging the more obvious specs like drag and weight. As such, from here on, I’ll only go through the ones that need more explanation in order to not waste both our times.
This reel is outfitted with an aluminum spool and handle, stainless steel bearings, and high-strength brass gears. Brass is a material we haven’t covered yet, but it’s basically a heavy-duty metal alloy that has a high degree of corrosion resistance. The brass gear, together with the aluminum and stainless steel, gives you a reel that’s rugged enough to handle the rigours of musky fishing.
As for how this reel is so light, it’s equipped with a graphite sideplate and carbon fiber drag system. Both graphite and carbon fiber are exceedingly light materials, which explains this reel’s phenomenal lightness.
The catch is that since graphite and carbon fiber aren’t as tough as metals like aluminum and stainless steel, the Lew’s SuperDuty 300 isn’t as long-lasting. In other words, you’re trading some toughness for a lighter reel.
To sum it up, the Lew’s SuperDuty 300 has no equal in lightness, but sacrifices some of its lifespan to attain this lightness. For musky anglers who value lightness above all in a reel, this could be worth checking out.
Best For Trolling
- Reel Size: 3500
- Ball Bearings: 3+1
- Gear Ratio: 5.4:1
- Max Drag Weight: 25 pounds
- Weight: 12.5 ounces
Designed for trolling, the Okuma Coldwater is the only reel on our list with a line counter.
Line counters are the surest indicator that a reel is meant for trolling. To find the best trolling reel for musky, we first picked out all the reels on the market with line counters and then examined each of them to find the sturdiest one.
In the end, the Okuma Coldwater beat dozens of other reels to emerge as the best musky trolling reel. And it’s not hard to see why.
Before we go any further, let me clarify something. Quite a few of the reels on this list have aluminum and stainless steel parts, so you might think this is common, but it’s really not. It’s just that we put only the best reels here, so of course you’ll be seeing only the finest materials.
The Okuma Coldwater’s spool, frame, sideplates, and handle are all aluminum. What’s more, the aluminum used for the frame and sideplates is even more corrosion-resistant than normal aluminum. You can be sure that the Okuma Coldwater won’t let you down when a prize musky is on the line.
If you’re planning to go trolling for musky, you could do a lot worse than the Okuma Coldwater.
- Reel Size: 4000-9000
- Ball Bearings: 4/6+1
- Gear Ratio: 3.6-5.3:1
- Max Drag Weight: 15-30 pounds
- Weight: 11.6-22.1 ounces
If none of the above reels appealed to you, I’m guessing it’s a matter of price. That’s why I included the KastKing Rover.
This round reel comes with an aluminum spool and sideplates and stainless steel bearings.
On the surface, all the specs look fine. And indeed, this is a functional reel for musky fishing.
However, there are some things about this reel that you’ll only find out after using.
First, it’s heavier and bulkier than you’d expect.
Second, you’ll get a backlash every three or four casts.
Third, the clicker is so soft that you’ll need to be in total silence to hear it.
Fourth, this reel is freaking noisy, and quite possibly the noisiest I’ve ever used.
And lastly, this round reel likely won’t last you any more than a year. At this price though, it’s not surprising how short its lifespan is.
The KastKing Rover is as cheap as it gets for a working musky reel. There’s literally no cheaper working musky reel out there. This is the perfect reel for anglers on a tight budget or who don’t go musky fishing often enough to justify a higher spending.
Things To Consider When Choosing A Musky Reel
By now, you should have a musky reel in mind. The next step is to choose the right option.
But with so many factors like reel size and gear ratio to consider, this could get confusing real quick.
To help you make the right choice, this section will break down each factor so that you know exactly which option you should be getting based on its features, eg reel size, bearing count, etc.
Baitcasting VS Spinning
Although neither reel type is superior to the other, baitcasting and spinning reels do have a few marked differences that make baitcasting reels more suitable for musky fishing.
Baitcasting reels cast better than spinning reels with heavier lines and lures and you can also cast with much more accuracy. The catch is that baitcasting reels are also harder to use.
Spinning reels are less suited for heavier tackle. Instead, they cast better with lighter lines and lures. They’re also easier to use.
As you can see, both reel types have their pros and cons.
For musky fishing though, most of the time you’ll be using heavier lures with the occasional light lure. Naturally, this means a baitcasting reel would be a much better fit. That’s why you won’t find any spinning reels on this list.
Ultimately, a spinning reel could still work. After all, they are less compatible with heavier lines and lures, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to fall apart if you spool them up with a 50-pound line. You could also severely limit your choice of lures and stick with lighter lures, in which case a spinning reel would be preferable to a baitcaster.
Nonetheless, most of us will for the most part, be using heavier tackle for musky fishing. As such, a baitcaster is recommended for better casting.
Musky aren’t known for their ability to run down line, so you won’t need a giant reel that can hold lots of line. Larger reels will also be heavier (obviously), so it’s not a good idea to get larger than needed.
I’d recommend getting a size 3000-6000 reel. Most of the time, size 3000 will suffice. Size 4000 is just to err on the side of caution, and 5000-6000 is for new anglers who may need to let musky run the line more.
Once again, you won’t need too much line for musky. Of course, there’s no denying the size and strength of musky, which is why you shouldn’t use anything below reel size 2000.
Since line capacity is decided by the size of your reel, simply follow the reel sizes we’ve provided and you’ll be fine.
This is perhaps the single most important factor when taking on musky.
The drag system not only prevents your line from snapping, but is also critical for tiring muskies out. Even the most skilful anglers will have a hard time reeling muskies in with a weak drag system.
The exact amount of drag required for muskies is quite debatable and there are many different answers out there. I’ve been fishing for 21 years now though, and never needed more than 22 pounds.
In fact, 17.5 pounds is usually already more than adequate. Just to be safe though, look for a reel that can produce at least 25 pounds.
As for how to set the drag, it should be set to 1/3 or 1/4 of your line’s pound test. For example, for a 24-pound line, your drag should be set at 6 or 8 pounds.
Gear ratio is a measure of how many times your spool turns for each handle rotation. A higher gear ratio will allow you retrieve more line per turn.
In general, 4:1 is considered a slow gear ratio and 6;1 is considered fast.
There are musky lures that require fast retrieves, and then there are those that require slower retrieves.
However, I find that musky lures tend to consist of faster lures like jerkbaits. Slow lures are rare in musky fishing, and even lures like crankbaits and bucktails can be retrieved fast too, which is why I’d advise you to get a higher gear ratio of 6.3:1.
Unlike most other forms of fishing, smoothness tends not to matter so much to a musky angler. This is because you have much more important things to think about, like how sturdy your reel is and whether it’s strong enough.
That said, a smooth reel is still essential for an enjoyable musky fishing trip.
I’ve found that 5+1 bearings is the sweet spot. Any lesser and there’s a noticeable difference. Any more and there’s only a slight increase in smoothness.
Last of all, you’ll want a well-constructed reel that won’t crumble under pressure.
Look out for hardy materials like aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, etc. It also helps to have some additional protection. This protection can come in the form of shielding or sealing.
Here are commonly asked questions about musky fishing.
Do I need an expensive reel for musky fishing?
The KastKing Rover is proof that musky reels don’t have to burn a huge hole in your wallet.
That said, musky fishing reels will inevitably have to be tougher and stronger than the reels for many other species.
The best musky reels have to be very sturdy and strong. In contrast, for something like trout, the best trout reels won’t need to be as robust or powerful. This means the top musky reels will have a higher price tag than the top-notch reels for other species.
Even the average musky reel will need to have better specs than the average reel for other species. That’s why musky reels tend to be more expensive, and even more so for the top musky reels.
Must I use a baitcaster for musky fishing?
Like we explained earlier, baitcasting and spinning reels each have their uses.
However, since musky fishing calls for heavier lures and lines, baitcasters will be more suitable for fishing musky.
That’s not to say that you must use a baitcaster. It’s just that you’ll have better results.
Is drag really that important for musky fishing?
A weak drag will mean that your spool will release line when it isn’t supposed to, i.e. when the musky’s pull actually won’t break your line.
A weak drag also means the musky at the end of your line won’t feel much resistance and will be tired out much more slowly. Chances are, the musky will use up all your line and still have energy to spare
As you can see, drag is important for not just musky, but any fish. With musky though, a strong drag is even more critical to a successful day on the water.
Don’t underestimate musky. Bring an inferior reel to the fight and your chances of success dwindle down to near zero. But worry not. As long as you pick one of these eight reels, you’ll be good to go.
If you’re having trouble making up your mind, I’d recommend the Shimano Tranx. This top-of-the-line musky reel is robust enough to take trophy muskies in hand and extremely light and smooth.
Now that you’ve found the right musky reel that best suits you (hopefully), you’re going to need a good musky rod to go with it. Here are the best musky rods. Enjoy!