8 Best Ultralight Spinning Reels Reviewed

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Best Ultralight Spinning Reels

Bonjour my fellow angler! If you’re in search of the best ultralight spinning reels, you’re in the right place.

I’ve done the research for you (13 hours of it), and found you the best ultralight spinning reels based on a few criteria. These criteria are lightness, smoothness, durability, and lastly maximum drag. 

One reel in particular passed all these tests with flying colours. That reel is the Penn Fierce III 1000. Although every fishing reel on this list also passed those tests, only this reel perfectly balances affordability and desired features. This high-quality reel has everything you’d look for in an ultralight reel at a reasonable price.

Don’t get me wrong though, the other fantastic reels on this list are also very much affordable

These ultralight reels will make any fishing trip a fun-filled one. I’m sure you can’t wait to get your hands on them, so let’s begin!

What Are Ultralight Spinning Reels?

So what exactly are ultralight spinning reels? You’d think that ultralight means an extra light spinning reel right? But how light exactly?

Most anglers agree that to be considered ultralight, a fishing reel should be below 10 ounces.

Others claim that an ultralight reel is simply the smallest reel size of a reel, which can be either reel size 1000 or 2000. 

Both definitions make sense, but it’s more important that a reel is light.

As such, a reel can only be counted as an ultralight spinning reel if it weighs less than 10 ounces. Whether it’s reel size 1000, 2000, or even 3000 is secondary. 

Our Top 8 Picks

  1. Penn Fierce III 1000 (Best Overall)
  2. Okuma Helios 20 (Best For Saltwater)
  3. Okuma Ceymar 10 (Best Helios Alternative)
  4. Shimano Stradic FL 1000 (Best Splurge)
  5. Shimano Sedona FI 1000 (Best Stradic FL Alternative)
  6. Cadence CS8 1000 (Best Versatility)
  7. Plusinno 2000 (Best Budget)
  8. Pflueger President 25 (Best Smoothness)

The 8 Best Ultralight Spinning Reels

Before we get started, you’ll notice that our number 8 pick isn’t the smallest reel size. That’s because the smallest reel size has 3 less ball bearings.

With that out of the way, now we can really get started. 


Best Overall

1. Penn Fierce III 1000

  • Ball Bearings: 4+1
  • Reel Size: 1000
  • Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 9 pounds
  • Weight: 7.8 ounces

Starting off with the Penn Fierce III Spinning Reel, this smooth, light, and durable reel offers a remarkable drag system. As if that wasn’t enough, it even comes with rarely-seen line capacity rings.

At first glance, the 4+1 stainless steel ball bearings may sound like too few bearings. However, all it took was one push with my finger and the handle spun a full loop. This is due to the stainless steel ball bearings being top-of-the-line and thus outperforming other reels with more but lower quality bearings. This is a deceptively smooth reel.

As for weight, it’s pretty lightweight at 7.8 ounces. You won’t be tired out even after a long day of fishing. 

Durability-wise, the full metal body and sideplate and the shielded bearings have it covered. The metal results in a tough and corrosion-resistant reel. This corrosion resistance is further amplified by the shielded bearings that help prevent sand and water from getting into the bearing system. These two features combine to produce a super long-lasting reel.

Finally, its drag system is on the next level. Equipped with HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers, the drag decreases as the carbon fiber heats up. This means unlike normal reels where drag increases as more line leaves the spool, the drag from Penn’s reel remains more consistent. This decreases the risk of your line snapping and losing your catch. You’ll find one of the smoothest retrieves in this reel.

To top it all off, this reel comes with line capacity rings so you always know how much line you have left. This is a somewhat exotic special feature since very few reels have these rings.

All in all, this modestly-priced reel ticks all the boxes of a great ultralight spinning reel. If you want a first-rate ultralight spinning reel without having spend too much, look no further.


Best For Saltwater

2. Okuma Helios 20

  • Ball Bearings: 8+1
  • Reel Size: 2000
  • Gear Ratio: 5.0:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 6 pounds
  • Weight: 6.2 ounces

Next up, the Okuma Helios Spinning Reel is the go-to ultralight spinning reel for saltwater use. It’s not only smooth but also unmatched in corrosion resistance and lightness.

Right off the bat, the 8+1 stainless steel corrosion-resistant ball bearings (CRBB) will make you look twice. The sheer number of bearings is enough for a silky smooth reel. Furthermore, they’re corrosion-resistant and stainless steel bearings. This makes the Okuma Helios well-suited to withstand harsh saltwater conditions.

It also features C-40X long strand carbon fiber technology. C-40X utilizes a specially blended graphite polymer. The carbon fibers in this material are elongated and reinforced, creating a substantially stronger composite than standard graphite. At 25% lighter, 50% stronger and 100% anti-corrosive, C-40X translates into an extremely lightweight and durable reel.

At 6.2 ounces, it’s one of the lightest in the world. Only reels more than triple its price are able to beat this lightness.

Few reels dare claim to be 100% anti-corrosive. The Okuma Helios walks the talk, making it the absolute best ultralight spinning reel for saltwater. You won’t find a better ultralight saltwater spinning reel than this even if you’re willing to pay more than triple this price. Needless to say, it’s a steal at its current price.


Best Helios Alternative

3. Okuma Ceymar 10

  • Ball Bearings: 6+1
  • Reel Size: 1000
  • Gear Ratio: 5.0:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 6.6 pounds
  • Weight: 6.0 ounces

For those who found the Okuma Helios too pricey, rejoice! This is a way cheaper alternative. The Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel is still smooth, corrosion-resistant, and light, but half the price of the Okuma Helios.

With 6+1 bearings, the Okuma Ceymar isn’t silky smooth like the Okuma Helios. But it’s definitely smooth since 5+1 bearings are already enough for a smooth reel.

In terms of corrosion resistance, the Okuma Ceymar also loses to the Okuma Helios. Constructed with a corrosion-resistant graphite body and Cyclonic Flow Rotor (CFR), it’s got some tricks of its own. The CFR, as the name suggests, creates “cyclonic” airflow. When the reel gets wet, CFR significantly reduces the time to dry, minimizing chances for corrosion. Coupled with the corrosion-resistant graphite body, you’ve got a reel that can resist rust much better than most reels. But it isn’t 100% anti-corrosive, which is why it still lost to the Okuma Helios. That being said, this reel will still hold up well in saltwater, just not as well as the Okuma Helios. 

Interestingly, the Okuma Ceymar beats the Okuma Helios in weight by 0.2 ounces. Granted, we are comparing the size 2000 Okuma Helios to a size 1000 Okuma Ceymar, so I cannot in good conscience say that the Okuma Ceymar wins. But the point is, the Okuma Ceymar is also really light.

Overall, at half the price, the Okuma Ceymar is a great replacement for the Okuma Helios. If you were searching for a cheaper ultralight saltwater spinning reel, this is the reel for you. 


Best Splurge

4. 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 reel is all about durability. But of course, the Shimano Stradic FL Spinning Reel isn’t only durable. It’s also smooth and unbelievably light. In fact, its special technology makes it feel lighter than even the Okuma Ceymar, despite it actually being heavier.

For smoothness, it holds 6+1 bearings, which as mentioned earlier, is more than enough for a smooth reel. 

What you’re really paying for though, are its special technologies. The 3 technologies are the X-Protect, S A-RB, and G Free Body technology.

First off, the X-Protect and S A-RB technologies are what give it unparalleled durability. You may or may not have heard of other reels “shielding” or “sealing” their reel bodies or bearing systems. These help to keep out sand and water in a reel. However, these only seal or shield the reel bodies and bearing systems, which is good, but not enough. Even when those are blocked off, there are plenty of small spaces between the components of the reel where sand, dirt, and water can get into. Over time, your reel components will grind against sand and dirt and wear out. In the worst cases, your reel will be damaged.

Shimano’s X-Protect water-repellent coating and specially designed water-channeling labyrinth construction guarantee a lifetime of top-level performance by stopping water penetration in key areas without adding a heavy rotational feel. The S A-RB bearings have shields on both sides of the bearings to help block out salt, dirt, and water. You may have realised that this sounds awfully similar to the Okuma Helios, which has shielded CRBB. But Shimano reels take it one step further. The Okuma Helios only has shielding technology but doesn’t prevent sand, dirt, and water from getting into the small spaces inside the reel. This means even though it’s 100% anti-corrosive, without frequent washing to clean those small spaces inside the reel, the Okuma Helios will wear out over time. Not even Okuma reels can rival the durability of the Shimano Stradic FL. The Shimano Stradic FL will accompany you till you’re old, and even then, it’ll still be in good condition to pass down to the next generation.

The last special technology in this fishing reel is the G Free Body technology. This shifts the reel’s center of gravity closer to the rod. By moving the center of gravity closer to the angler’s hand position, the G Free Body helps to reduce fatigue and enhance casting comfort. At 6.5 ounces, it’s a tad heavier than the Okuma Ceymar, the lightest fishing reel on this list. In spite of this, it actually feels lighter than the Okuma Ceymar because of this technology. Practically speaking, the Shimano Stradic FL is the lightest reel.

I’m sure you can see by now how incredible the Shimano Stradic FL is. Not only is it smooth, but it’s also unbeatable in durability and lightness. There’s just one drawback – its cost. This is the best ultralight spinning reel and it’s worth every penny, but it’s going to be a lot of pennies. Since it’s durable enough to last you a lifetime, it’s a long-term investment meant for serious anglers only.


Best Stradic FL Alternative

5. Shimano Sedona FI 1000

  • Ball Bearings: 3+1
  • Reel Size: 1000
  • Gear Ratio: 5.0:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 6.6 pounds
  • Weight: 7.6 ounces

If you liked the Shimano Stradic FL, but it was out of your means, don’t worry because here’s an apt substitute. The Shimano Sedona FI Spinning Reel incorporates some of the Stradic FL’s technology and has some of its own. These allow it to be both an impressively durable and lightweight reel.

For starters, it employs the same G Free Body technology as the Stradic FL. Although it weighs 7.6 ounces, this technology puts it on par with the likes of Okuma’s lightweight fishing reels.

On top of that, it’s built with Hagane Gear. The drive gear is the heart of every reel. Instead of cutting the shape out from a piece of metal, this state-of-the-art technology creates the shape right from the beginning. The entire surface is meticulously calculated with 3D design before being brought to life with Shimano’s cold forging technology. The end product of Hagane Gear is a durable reel with a long lifespan.

Yet there is a glaring flaw – it’s only got 3+1 bearings. 3+1 is quite little by any standards and most reels would be very chalky with only 3+1 bearings. Luckily, Shimano’s high-quality bearings brought the smoothness up to an acceptable level. I found that it felt more like 4+1 bearings, so it’s still decent.

The Shimano Sedona FI is certainly not perfect, but it’s a great alternative to the Stradic FL. If you value durability but you’re on a budget, you should give this reel a shot.


Best Versatility

6. Cadence CS8 1000

  • Ball Bearings: 9+1
  • Reel Size: 1000
  • Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 29 pounds
  • Weight: 6.3 ounces

Designed to be smooth in performance, light in handling, and to take on huge fishes, the Cadence CS8 Spinning Reel will never back down from any fish.

Featuring 9+1 CRBB, it’s not only smooth but will also hold up well in saltwater. And with a weight of just 6.3 ounces, not many reels can surpass it.

The best part of this fishing reel is its maximum drag. Even among much higher-end reels, a maximum drag of 29 pounds is rare. For context, even for monster fish, you’ll only need 30 pounds of drag. In other words, no matter how big the fish at the end of your line is, your Cadence CS8 can handle it.

No other ultralight spinning reel is as versatile as the Cadence CS8 is. On days when you feel like going after larger fish, all you have to do is switch to a heavier line and up the drag. This is a freedom you won’t get with other ultralight reels. If you want an ultralight fishing reel strong enough to go after prize fish, you’ve found it.


Best Budget

7. Plusinno 2000

  • Ball Bearings: 9+1
  • Reel Size: 2000
  • Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 12 pounds
  • Weight: 8.5 ounces

If none of the above reels appealed to you, I’m guessing it’s a matter of price. If that’s so, you’re in the right place. The Plusinno Spinning Reel will get you started ultralight fishing for the price of a few cups of coffee

This reel boasts a graphite frame and 9+1 bearings. In total, the reel weighs a mere 8.5 ounces. It may be heavier than all the reels on this list, but it’s still light enough to be deemed an ultralight reel. I also really like the 9+1 ball bearings. It’s rare to find so many bearings at such a low price. Even though they’re probably of low quality, 9+1 low-quality ball bearings is the equivalent of 4+1 high-quality bearings. As a bonus, the bearings also reduce noise so you’ll have a quiet reel.

Another cool feature it comes with is the push button on the end of the reel handle. This allows the handle to fold rather than the usual having to unscrew the handle.

Here’s the catch. You can only use it for freshwater fishing. Every other reel on this list has varying degrees of corrosion resistance. But even the worst ones can be used for saltwater fishing, albeit with lots of maintenance. This reel can’t even touch saltwater. A few hours of saltwater use will already see this reel rusting in a few days. At this price tag though, this is only to be expected.

All things considered, this is the best ultralight spinning reel available for those on a budget. If you’re wondering what’s the absolute cheapest you can go and still have a proper functioning reel for ultralight fishing, this is it.


Best Smoothness

8. Pflueger President 25

  • Ball Bearings: 9+1
  • Reel Size: 2500
  • Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 8 pounds
  • Weight: 7.5 ounces

I’ve saved the smoothest for the last. The Pflueger President Spinning Reel made it its mission to be the ultimate in smoothness. 

Armed with 9+1 stainless steel bearings which are also corrosion-resistant, this reel has reached the peak of smoothness. Sure the Cadence CS8 has the exact same number and type of ball bearings too, but it doesn’t have this reel’s drag system. The Pflueger President’s sealed drag system and lubricated drag washers allow nothing into the drag system. This ensures the reel is always smooth in both rotation and drag, which the Cadence CS8 fails to do. 

The Pflueger President prioritises smoothness above all. If that sounds like you, congratulations, you’ve found what you’re looking for.


Benefits of Ultralight Spinning Reels

I bet you’ve already set your eyes on one of the reels on this list.

In that case, you might be wondering whether you’re making the right choice. After all, an ultralight spinning reel can only catch panfish. 

Here’s why you should still get an ultralight spinning reel.

First off, you’ll have an easier time fishing.

It’s clear as day that an ultralight setup will be much lighter than usual.

This makes casting, reeling, and basically everything about fishing less tiring. You’ll be able to fish for longer periods of time and won’t feel as fatigued.

Next, you’ll be able to use the lightest lines and the smallest baits and lures.

Lighter lines are thinner and thus less visible and more attractive to fishes, especially the more timid and fussy ones.

Smaller baits and lures are also necessary for smaller fishes.

As such, an ultralight spinning reel grants you the power to snag finicky fish and even the tiniest fishes. The lighter lines also come in very handy in clearer waters where fishes can see your tackle much more clearly

Most important of all, you’ll be able to enjoy catching panfish.

When you use normal rods and reels, you won’t feel the tug of panfish as much.

With ultralight rods and reels, panfish will feel no different from regular fishes, and can even feel like large fish.

This means with fishing gear that’s ultralight, you’ll have as much fun fishing panfish as you normally do with bigger fishes.

What To Consider When Buying Ultralight Spinning Reels

Alright, so you’re sure you want an ultralight spinning reel. The next step is to choose the right one.

You can’t go wrong with the reels on this list.

But if you see an ultralight reel from some unknown brand, it could be a hidden gem. You could be looking at the best ultralight reel in the world and not know it. Here are the factors you should judge reels on.

Material

Most of the time, your reel will be made of either carbon fiber or metal. Both have their strengths, so let’s go through them.

Carbon fiber is the lightest and will produce lighter reels than metal. It is, however, not as tough as metal.

On the other hand, metal is slightly heavier but will give you a more sturdy reel. 

Out of the two, carbon fiber is more resistant to rust.

The best reels use a combination of both to bring you both strength and lightness. For example, you might see a metal body and carbon fiber rotor on higher-end reels.

Ball Bearings

Ball bearings keep your reel spinning smoothly.

The more you have, the smoother your reel will be, although it’s better to have a few high-quality ones than many low-quality ones. More bearings will cost more too.

You’ll notice that ball bearings are often listed as X+1.

X is the number of actual ball bearings, and the +1 is the roller bearing for the anti-reverse clutch. 

A good number is 5+1. This is enough to give you a smooth reel.

From 5+1 onwards, the smoothness doesn’t increase by much for each additional ball bearing. As such, 5+1 ball bearings is just the right number of bearings for smoothness and affordability.

Line Capacity

Usually, when you’re looking at reels, it’s crucial that you take into account line capacity, but not if you’re using ultralight gear. Allow me to explain why. 

Line capacity will affect how far you can cast and the size of the fishes you can catch. 

There isn’t much to explain about casting distance. If your line isn’t long enough to reach where you want to cast, you won’t be able to cast there. Simple as that.

Also, if your line is too short, and you use up almost all your line casting, you won’t have any left for fishes to run. This brings us to the next point.

Larger fish will be stronger and you’ll need to let them run further.

What this means is the more line you have, the bigger the fishes you can target.

Since you’re using ultralight gear though, you should be going after panfish. You won’t need to cast very far for that, and panfish won’t run down your line much. 

For panfish, the line capacity on the smallest reel sizes will already be enough. This is why you won’t need to worry about line capacity.

Drag System

Again, this is one factor you won’t need to worry about with ultralight fishing. 

You’ll need your drag system to slow down vigorous fish that can exhaust your line quickly. Since panfish aren’t very strong, the maximum drag won’t be an issue.

Nonetheless, you need to know how much drag to set.

The general rule of thumb is 1/4 or 1/3 of your line’s pound test. So if you’re using a 12-pound line, you should set your drag to 3 or 4 pounds.

Gear Ratio

The final thing to consider is gear ratio. This is a measure of how many times your spool rotates for each turn of the handle.

For instance, a gear ratio of 5.2:1 means your spool turns 5.2 rounds when you spin the handle once.

The higher the gear ratio, the more line you’ll retrieve per turn of the handle. 

For lures that require faster retrieves, you’ll need a higher gear ratio and vice versa for slower lures.

6:1 is a fast gear ratio, while 4:1 is a slow gear ratio. I prefer 5:1 because it works well for both slow and fast lures. 

If you want to exert less effort when reeling in fish, I recommend using a high gear ratio. Choose your gear ratio according to how much effort you want to exert and the type of lures you’ll be using.

Frequently Asked Questions

Ultralight reels are a new topic to many anglers, especially novice anglers. Here are some FAQs about ultralight reels.

Who Makes The Best Ultralight fishing Reels?

Every brand has expensive and budget reels. There isn’t a specific brand that specialises in ultralight spinning reels, although the lightest and most high-quality reels come from Shimano.

Other notable brands include Daiwa and Okuma. Penn isn’t included because they do make high-quality reels, but they aren’t that light. Abu Garcia makes really light reels too, but as you’ll see later on, they’re just not worth the price.

Is it possible to catch big fishes with an ultralight setup?

Only if you’re lucky.

Some big fishes don’t put up that much off a fight, but you likely won’t be able to land the ones that do. This is attributed to your reel size. You’ll be using the smallest reel sizes, so you won’t have enough line for the larger fish that will put up a fight. 

Even so, if you pair your reels with a good ultralight rod, you’ll be able to reel in larger fishes than with a low-quality rod.

Here are the best ultralight fishing rods to pair with the best ultralight spinning reels.

Which is the lightest spinning reel available?

The lightest spinning reel available isn’t actually on this list, and for good reason.

The Abu Garcia Zenon is as light as it gets. It weighs an astonishing 4.9 ounces at reel size 2000 and 5.4 ounces at reel size 3000.

The problem is, it costs more than $500.

If that were the only issue though, I would have included it. The worst part about it is that it’s never in stock.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the link to it on Abu Garcia’s website. Here’s the link to it on Pure Fishing.

If the stars align for you and it’s somehow in stock when you click on those links, good for you. All I know is I’ve been monitoring it for a month now, and it’s still out of stock.

My Verdict 

Ultralight fishing reels come in many prices and with different features to cater to different anglers. No matter what though, to be considered ultralight, a fishing reel has to be a lot lighter than average without sacrificing strength and durability. 

The reels on this list all made the cut, so you can pick the most suitable one for you. I’d say the Penn Fierce III 1000 is a well-rounded reel that will satisfy most anglers. If you’re unable to make a choice, I recommend getting the Penn Fierce III. You can’t go wrong with it.

And that’s all folks, have fun with your new ultralight reel!

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AUTHOR

Reuben went on his first fishing trip when he was 9. That's when he fell in love with fishing. When he's not fishing, he's searching for new gear and ways to fish better.