Aloha! If you’re looking for the best spinning reels, you’re in the right place.
Decades ago, an angler looking for a spinning reel would find his or her choices seriously limited. Nowadays, you’re more likely to be so spoilt for choice that you won’t know which to get. Furthermore, as fishing equipment technology has advanced, so has the quality of spinning reels. Gone are the days when most spinning reels came in a package with line twists and an awkward drag system.
With so many spinning reels to choose from, it’s understandably hard to make a choice. That’s why we’ve done the dirty work and narrowed down the best spinning reels for you. We chose these 7 for their smoothness, drag system, durability, and affordability.
Even among these 7 great spinning reels, one stood out. The Penn Slammer III is the only reel that is robust enough to handle fish of any size, exceedingly smooth, and able to stand up to the harshest waters.
If that didn’t float your boat, don’t worry, there are 6 other spinning reel options for you to choose from.
Our Top 7 Picks
- Penn Slammer III (Best Overall) (Best Saltwater)
- Daiwa Certate LT (Best For Bass)
- Shimano Stradic FL 1000 (Best Ultralight)
- Penn Spinfisher VI (Best For Surf Fishing)
- Okuma Helios Lightweight (Best For Trout)
- Pflueger President (Best Smoothness)
- Okuma Ceymar Baitfeeder (Best For Ice Fishing)
The 7 Best Spinning Reels
Before we get started, do note that the best bass reel actually costs more than the best overall reel.
This is because the best overall spinning reel is like a jack of all trades that performs well in all areas. On the other hand, the best spinning reel for bass is a laser-precise tool for dominating bass fishing.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s jump right into it!
1. Penn Slammer III
- Ball Bearings: 7+1
- Reel Size: 3500-10500
- Gear Ratio: 4.2-6.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 30-60 pounds
- Weight: 13.9-43.1 ounces
Kicking things off is our best overall pick – the Penn Slammer III. This incredible spinning reel comes with amazing smoothness, exceptional durability, and unparalleled strength.
First off, for smoothness, the Penn Slammer III is equipped with 7+1 ball bearings and Dura-Drag. Dura-Drag is a revolutionary smooth drag system developed by Penn. This extraordinary drag system contains a special Phenolic bonding agent and is pre-treated with a special formula created by Penn’s engineers. The result? A silky smooth drag right from the start through the entire drag run.
Next up, with an IPX6 sealed body and spool and Penn’s Dura-Drag, this reel is phenomenally tough. IPX6 sealing alone already ensures the internal components will virtually never come into contact with water. The Dura-Drag then further boosts the reel’s durability. As it happens, even after 30 hours of drag pressure in controlled testing, Dura-Drag performed as if it were brand new. Even other competitive drags showed clear signs of wear. Needless to say, corrosion won’t ever be an issue for you. You can expect to still be using this quality reel 10 years down the line, as long as you treat it right.
Finally, the Penn Slammer III is the most powerful spinning reel available on the market. At only reel size 3500, this spinning reel already boasts a staggering 30 pounds of drag. For those who didn’t know, 30 pounds of drag is already enough for the biggest gamefish. And if you feel 30 pounds isn’t enough, you can even opt for the 60 pounds option. No other spinning reel matches this one’s incredible stopping power. No matter how big your target fish is, you can rest assured the Penn Slammer III can handle it.
Of course, no reel is perfect and the Penn Slammer III is no exception. For example, its product page states 6+1 ball bearings when there are 7+1. It’s also a tad heavier than I’d like.
Nevertheless, Penn is renowned for its quality and tournament-tested rods and reels. They also hold about 1,400 IGFA world rankings for their superb performances in various saltwater game fishing tournaments. If you’re looking for a smooth reel that can stare down any fish and withstand the test of time like no other, this is it.
Best For Bass
2. Daiwa Certate LT
- Ball Bearings: 9+1
- Reel Size: 3000
- Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 22 pounds
- Weight: 7.4 ounces
Next on the list is a spinning reel that surpasses even the Penn Slammer III in durability. WHAT! That’s right, you read that right. The Daiwa Certate LT is the absolute sturdiest reel we’ve ever seen. Of course, that isn’t the only reason to buy it. It’s also smooth enough to put most reels to shame and lighter than 90% of the reels out there.
So where does this unbelievable hardiness come from? Well, like the Penn Slammer III, the Daiwa Certate LT is also impenetrable by water and sand. It achieves this by magsealing the reel body. This blocks out water and even micro impurities like dust. That’s not all though. To further boost its toughness, Daiwa uses Digigear to make the drive gear. Digigear is forged by putting Duralumin through 3 processes. The processes are too lengthy to describe, but you can read them in detail here. What’s important though, is that each process toughens the Duralumin further, with the end product being Digigear. Together, the magsealed body and Digigear make this reel practically indestructible. In fact, it’s longer-lasting than even the Penn Slammer III.
For smoothness, the Daiwa Certate LT comes with 9+1 corrosion-resistant ball bearings (CRBB). This smoothness is then further enhanced by the magsealed body. The 9+1 CRBB alone should already give you a good idea of how silky smooth this reel is. But if that wasn’t enough for you, you’ll be glad to hear that the magsealing reduces friction to near zero.
Moving on to weight, this reel weighs a mere 7.4 ounces at size 3000. No doubt there are lighter reels available, but this reel is already lighter than 90% of the reels on the market.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why the heck this reel isn’t number one on the list. Well, that’s because its maximum drag of 22 pounds is nowhere near the 30 pounds you’ll need for the monsters in the ocean. Still, you won’t need more than 15 pounds of drag power for even the largest bass. That’s why this is a good spinning reel for bass.
In short, with top-notch smoothness, featherlike lightness, and legendary durability, the Daiwa Certate LT is the best bass spinning reel that money can buy. If you won’t settle for anything less than the best and have the money to spare, look no further.
3. Shimano Stradic FL 1000
- Ball Bearings: 6+1
- Reel Size: 1000
- Gear Ratio: 6.0:1
- Max Drag Weight: 7 pounds
- Weight: 6.5 ounces
This next reel needs no introduction. Whichever part of the world you’re in, if you’re an angler, chances are, you’ve either heard of or are currently using the Shimano Stradic FL. Still, you shouldn’t just jump on the bandwagon and get what everyone else is getting. Here’s everything you need to know about the Shimano Stradic FL.
Number one – It’s pretty smooth. As a glance at the specs above would tell you, the Shimano Stradic FL has 6+1 bearings. While that certainly isn’t a record-breaking number, you’ll still have yourself a pretty smooth reel. In addition, the one-piece bail allows your line to travel unobstructed to the line roller. Its seamless design also reduces friction and minimises the chances of tangles. All of these features connote smoothness, so you’ll find reeling in fishes with this reel a breeze.
Number two – The Shimano Stradic FL is battle-tested. Countless anglers have put Shimano’s Stradic lineup to the test in harsh saltwater conditions. And every single time, Shimano’s Stradic reels have emerged unscathed. This should come as no surprise to those who know about the X-Protect and S A-RB technologies though. X-Protect’s labyrinth construction stops water penetration in key areas. What’s more, the S A-RB bearings have added shields on both sides to further protect the bearings from any damage. These guarantee the Shimano Stradic FL durability rivalling that of the Penn Slammer III and a lifetime of top-level performance.
Number three – This will probably be the lightest reel you’ve ever used (unless you’re really rich). Standing at just 6.5 ounces, the Shimano Stradic FL 1000 is our reel of choice when it comes to ultralight reels. Not only does it stand above almost every reel out there in lightness, but it even incorporates Shimano’s G Free Body technology which shifts the reel’s centre of gravity closer to the rod, and thus the angler’s hand. This translates to an even lighter reel that you can cast with almost no effort.
To sum it up, whether it’s smoothness, toughness, or lightness, the Shimano Stradic FL’s got it all. The only thing it lacks is strength. 7 pounds of drag doesn’t leave you with much choice, so you’ll only be able to go after panfish.
Also, this isn’t exactly a flaw with the Shimano Stradic FL, but there is actually a reel that’s lighter than the Stradic FL, much lighter, in fact. The Abu Garcia Zenon weighs 4.9 ounces at size 2000. That’s more than an ounce lighter than the Stradic FL, and at a larger reel size. The thing is, it’s never in stock. Furthermore, it costs more than 500 bucks. Unless you’ve got too much money on your hands, it simply isn’t worth the price.
All things considered, the Shimano Stradic FL excels in every area, with the exception of power. Still, 7 pounds is just right for an ultralight reel. And it may not be the lightest around, but unless you’re willing to fork out at least another 300 bucks, you won’t find a better ultralight reel than this.
Best For Surf Fishing
4. Penn Spinfisher VI
- Ball Bearings: 5+1
- Reel Size: 2500-10500
- Gear Ratio: 4.2-6.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 15-50 pounds
- Weight: 10.7-38.6 ounces
Designed for fishing in the surf, the Penn Spinfisher VI comes with all the line capacity, strength, and casting distance you’ll need for surf fishing.
In terms of line capacity, you’ll have your pick from reel size 2500 all the way up to 10500. This will enable you to cast far past the breaking surf to reach the monsters.
Then, when a prize fish takes the bait, any one of the size 6500 and above Spinfisher VI reels will deliver at least 30 pounds of drag so you can take the fish in hand.
What really sets this reel apart though, and cements its position as the best reel for surf fishing, is its Long Cast option. The Spinfisher VI Long Cast is armed with a taller spool which has a wider profile to reduce friction, thus increasing casting distance by 5-10%. This means less effort is needed to cast far and you’ll be able to make more casts and fish for longer periods of time.
I’m sure by now you can see why the Spinfisher VI deserves the prestigious title of “Best Surf Fishing Reel”. But in case you need a little more reassurance, let’s analyse its other aspects.
For starters, the 5+1 ball bearings are slightly on the low side. But seeing as Penn uses first-rate stainless steel for its bearings, the quality of the bearings will compensate for their scarcity. So ultimately, you’ll still be getting a reel that you can operate with ease.
Furthermore, the stainless steel bearings are IPX5 sealed so you won’t have to worry about corrosion. This, combined with the full metal body and sideplates, ensures that this reel can take a considerable amount of beating – and still come out in one piece.
For the most part, the Spinfisher VI is without fault. However, there’s no perfect spinning reel. I don’t like that the Long Cast models’ 25 pounds of stopping power is a tad short of the ideal 30 pounds.
Nonetheless, as surf fishing reels go, the Penn Spinfisher VI is the cream of the crop. For those looking to try their luck in the surf, this is one spinning reel you can’t go wrong with.
Best For Trout
5. Okuma Helios Lightweight
- Ball Bearings: 8+1
- Reel Size: 2000-4000
- Gear Ratio: 5.0-5.8:1
- Max Drag Weight: 6-13 pounds
- Weight: 6.2-9.1 ounces
Light is this reel’s middle name. The Okuma Helios Lightweight Spinning Reel measures a measly 6.2 ounces at size 2000. Add that to its smoothness and durability, and you’ve got yourself the dream trout spinning reel.
Starting with weight, this reel’s unmatched lightness is all thanks to its C-40X long strand carbon fiber technology. Okuma’s C-40X carbon fiber utilises a specially blended graphite polymer that’s substantially stronger and 25% lighter composite than standard carbon fiber. The enhanced strength means less material is needed for a sturdy rod. And naturally, less material equals less weight. In essence, not only is its carbon fiber lighter, the Okuma Helios Lightweight also uses less of it. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the Okuma Helios Lightweight is light beyond compare. For context, the Shimano Stradic FL is 6.5 ounces at size 1000. This reel is 0.3 ounces lighter, at a larger reel size of 2000.
Now on to smoothness, a respectable 8+1 bearings makes for an impressively smooth trout spinning reel.
Then, to seal the deal, corrosion-resistant ball bearings and the 100% anti-corrosive C-40X carbon fiber produce a reel that will last for years to come. Although trout are freshwater fish, this reel’s corrosion resistance means you can also take it saltwater fishing.
So far so good, but you’ll notice that the Okuma Helios Lightweight has a severe lack of drag. Bearing in mind that trout don’t grow to be very big though, you won’t need a lot of muscle. With 13 pounds, you’ll still be able to catch some sizeable trout and will only have trouble with the biggest ones. The Okuma Helios Lightweight also compensates for its muscle deficiency with a much lower price than the previous reels.
All in all, despite its relatively low drag, for trout fishing, you could do a lot worse than the Okuma Helios Lightweight Spinning Reel.
6. Pflueger President
- Ball Bearings: 6/9+1
- Reel Size: 2000-4000
- Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 6-14 pounds
- Weight: 6.2-11.5 ounces
Coming in at number six, the Pflueger President Spinning Reel is all about smoothness.
There isn’t really much to elaborate. The 9+1 ball bearings can speak for themselves, so I shan’t waste both our times. Basically, 9+1 bearings = reel with crazy smooth operation.
Durability-wise, stainless steel CRBB and sealed drag washers = quite durable reel.
Drag-wise, you won’t be able to snag anything big with only 14 pounds. That said, the Pflueger President makes up for it by being very affordable.
Some other things you’ll also want to take note of with the Pflueger President are that first, the reel size isn’t indicated on the reel. Second, the letter at the end of the model number is an indicator of the type of packaging, not a different model. Third, for some reason, there are only 6+1 bearings for the size 2000 option so you might want to avoid that.
Compared to the other reels before this, the Pflueger President isn’t as well-rounded. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent reel, it just doesn’t measure up to the previous higher-end reels. Although considering that it’s the most affordable reel thus far that can still perform at a high level and doesn’t cut any corners, I’d say you’re getting a pretty good deal. Buttery smooth performance, hardy, and cheap, what more could you ask for? (Maybe a stronger drag, but you get what I mean)
Best For Ice Fishing
7. Okuma Ceymar Baitfeeder
- Ball Bearings: 7+1
- Reel Size: 500-3000
- Gear Ratio: 5.0:1
- Max Drag Weight: 6.6-17.6 pounds
- Weight: 7.4-9.5 ounces
Last on the list is the best spinning reel for ice fishing – the Okuma Ceymar Baitfeeder. And yes, I know ice fishing requires inline reels too. That’s exactly why the Okuma Ceymar Baitfeeder is the ultimate ice fishing reel.
The baitfeeding system allows it to disengage the spinning reel spool. This allows the bait to swim as it pleases, turning the Okuma Ceymar Baitfeeder into an inline reel.
To top it off, it has 7+1 stainless steel ball bearings and a corrosion-resistant graphite and rotor. I think it’s plain to see how smooth and tough this reel is, so I shan’t elaborate anymore.
This review is rather short as I couldn’t find anything else noteworthy about this reel. But just the fact that it can double as both a spinning reel and an inline reel is enough to put it above all other ice fishing reels.
Spinning Reels Vs Other Types Of Reels
For those wondering whether a spinning reel is the right choice, here’s how they weigh up against other reel types.
Baitcasting reels allow for greater casting accuracy as compared to spinning reels. Casting reels are also better suited for heavier lines and lures, though this also means they don’t work well with light lures and light lines.
That said, casting reels are much harder to use, especially for beginner anglers. They also tend to be more costly. As such, I wouldn’t recommend using a baitcasting reel unless you need to cast with pinpoint accuracy.
Conventional reels usually have stronger drag systems and work better with heavier line weights than spinning reels. That’s why conventional reels are almost always used for trolling.
However, they can also be heavier and harder to use.
Moreover, take a look at the Penn Slammer III and Penn Spinfisher VI. They’re proof that spinning reels can work with heavy line weights and can be as robust as trolling reels.
Spincast reels have a button for locking and releasing the spool. This makes them the easiest to cast among all the reels.
Even so, most of the time, only kids use spincast reels. Still, you might be an adult with absolutely no confidence in fishing. If you want to get a spincast reel, go ahead, I’m not judging you. Definitely not.
What To Consider Before Buying A Spinning Reel
I’ve conveniently reviewed and curated the best spinning reels here for you. However, this may not always be the case.
In the event that you need to judge a spinning reel’s worthiness, here are the factors you’ll need to take into account.
Line capacity, aka spool capacity, is normally presented as X/Y. Y is the number of yards of a fishing line of pound test X pounds that the reel can hold.
Of course, there is braided line, monofilament line, and fluorocarbon line. And they all have different thicknesses for the same pound test. This means the X/Y line capacity will only hold through for one of those lines.
When deciding on line capacity, you’ll need to remember that fish want to live and won’t be reeled in without a fight. You’ll need enough line to let the fish run, especially big fish. This also varies from species to species, so you should include that in your calculations too.
You’ll also need enough line to reach the fish. That is to say, if you’re surf fishing, you’ll need to cast further and will need more line.
Now before you start panicking because you don’t know how to judge how much line capacity you need, calm down. Line capacity is decided by reel size Naturally, a larger spool will have more line capacity. As such, just follow the reel sizes we’ve provided below.
You’ll see that for each purpose, there’s a range of reel sizes.
The smallest reel size is the bare minimum you should get for that purpose.
The largest reel size is the maximum because you won’t need any more line than that.
You can also choose from a reel size in between the smallest and largest reel size if you’ll only be going after the medium sized fish. If you’re going after slightly larger than medium sized fish, choose one of the larger reels, but not the largest reel size. Do the same for slightly smaller than medium sized fish.
|Ice Fishing||Usually, ice fishing reels only come in one size because the amount of line you need for ice fishing doesn’t vary much. For those that do have different reel sizes, go for size 500-3000|
A reel’s drag system is crucial for tiring fishes out and for preventing your line from snapping when up against big fish.
Your drag should always be set to either 1/3 or 1/4 of your line’s pound test. This means if you’re using a 24-pound line, your drag should be set to 6 or 8 pounds, even if you have a maximum drag of 30 pounds.
And obviously, match your drag to the fish you’re targeting. In other words, if you’re targeting bigger fish, use lines with heavier pound tests and then increase your drag accordingly.
Saltwater fishing will also call for more durable drag systems. Saltwater reels should ideally have a sealed drag system.
Also, note that for inshore saltwater fishing, you won’t need as much drag as offshore.
Gear ratio is a measure of how many times your spool rotates per handle turn. For example, a gear ratio of 5.6:1 means your spool will spin 5.6 rounds when you turn the handle once.
A gear ratio of 4:1 is considered a slow retrieve speed while a gear ratio of 6:1 is considered a fast retrieve speed. Higher gear ratios take less effort when reeling and vice versa for lower gear ratios.
What gear ratio you should use is decided by your fishing style. If your style calls for faster retrieves, you’ll want a higher gear ratio. Likewise, for slower retrieves, get a slower gear ratio.
I personally prefer a gear ratio of 5:1 as it lets me fish both fast and slow lures. But you should decide based on your fishing style and personal preference.
Ball bearings reduce friction to allow your reel to spin smoothly.
This means the more bearings you have, the smoother your reel will be. It’s also important for the bearings to be of high quality. For instance, a reel with 5 high-quality bearings will outperform one with 8 low-quality bearings.
I recommend getting a reel with no less than 5+1 ball bearings. 5+1 bearings is the minimum number for a reel with smooth operation. Any less and you risk a somewhat awkward reel.
Also, saltwater reels require special ball bearings. Saltwater anglers will want to get corrosion-resistant or shielded bearings.
As for weight, no doubt the lighter the better. But realistically speaking, a bigger reel will be heavier and you will for sure need a bigger reel for bigger fish.
Too heavy a reel will tire you out in no time though. Thus, if you are less physically fit, you should go for a lightweight reel that is made with lighter material and technology like the Shimano Stradic FL.
Spinning reels, or rather fishing gear in general, has come a long way in the past decade. Nowadays, there’s no shortage of good spinning reels for you to choose from. Regardless, there are those that outshine the rest and we’ve compiled them here for you.
If you still can’t make up your mind, just get the Penn Slammer III. It’s strong enough to catch fish of all sizes, smooth enough for an enjoyable fishing trip, and hardy enough to survive hard fishing. Whatever the fish you’re targeting and however harsh the waters are, you can be sure it won’t let you down.
Now that you’ve (hopefully) found the spinning reel you were looking for, you’re going to need a rod to pair it with. Here are the best spinning rods.