Fishing is just one of those hobbies: you either love it or you haven’t tried it yet. Okay, maybe you’ve tried it but didn’t catch anything. There’s a primeval instinct that gets activated when you haul a fish out of the water and hold it up for a picture. It makes you feel like a man. That only gets stronger when you take it home and feed your family with it. It’s probably the manliest hobby there is.
But, as with any hobby, you’ve got to have the right gear. You can’t just go wading into the nearest lake with a pointed stick. Well, you could try it, but there’s definitely an easier way. In this article, we’re going to focus on the best fishing reels. Unless you get a combo set, you’ll have to buy your fishing rods and reels separately, so bear that in mind when you’re browsing through this list. At the bottom of the page, we’ve provided a Buying Guide & FAQ section to help you understand the different types of fishing reel, how we chose our selection, and answer your fishing reel questions.
The Best Fishing Reel
KastKing’s tagline is ‘affordable innovation’. That pretty much sets the tone for what this company’s all about. We’ve actually included a few of their reels in this list, but we had to choose the KastKing Royale Legend as our Best Choice product. For a start, the fact that you can get a baitcasting fishing reel for this kind of price is nothing short of amazing. How do they even make money on these things!?
The first thing you’ll notice when you open the box is the way it looks. The super-sleek design makes this reel look like it would cost hundreds of dollars. The body is made out of high-quality materials and it has a stainless-steel handle that’s padded in non-slip foam to make sure you never miss a catch. It can handle 17.5lb of fish and has a quick 7.0:1 brass gear ratio that is virtually silent when you reel it in.
7.0:1 gear ratio
Suitable for bass fishing, trout fishing, & ice fishing
Weighs 7.5 ounces
- Weight7.7 ounces
An affordable, high-quality option for baitcasting.
High weight capacity means you can fish for trophy fish.
Comes in both right and left-handed versions.
Not as easy to use as spinning reels, so it’s not great for beginners.
The thing about KastKing is that they only came onto the market a few years ago and people didn’t really expect much. Most people wouldn’t feel comfortable going out and fishing for big fish with a $20 reel. Until now. They have an amazing video on YouTube called “What Did You Expect For $20?” which makes you think it’s going to be a pretty stinking review. Then, the fisherman goes on to catch about four large fish, including a beautiful rainbow trout. It’s a great advertisement because it really shows that this reel can handle just about anything you can throw at it.
Amazingly, Centron 3000 has a stopping power of 17.5lbs, the same as the KastKing Royale Legend. This is partnered with a hardened main shaft, a mesh drive gear, and a precision machined pinion gear that gives you a whole lot of fighting power against those fish. It’s also pretty lightweight for a spinning reel, weighing only 9.1 ounces. That’s thanks to the narrow, graphite frame design, which also makes it look pretty cool.
Weighs 9.1 ounces
Suitable for freshwater fishing
- Weight12 ounces
One of the best budget spinning reels available.
High weight capacity and lightweight design.
Not suitable for saltwater fishing.
Sharky III is the last KastKing to be featured on this list, but it’s by no means the least. In fact, it’s by far the most heavy-duty of the three KastKing reels. It has a whopping capacity of 39.5lbs, perfect for going after those larger game fish. As they say in their product description, it’s a “real versatile warrior that can handle any monster from river to the ocean.” The Sharky 3 could be the perfect reel for you if you’re going after monsters.
With this reel, KastKing has had the luxury of experience. This is the 3rd-generation Sharky reel, which means they’ve had a couple of years to really improve the design. That improvement comes in the shape of a triple disc carbon-fiber drag, an oversized main shaft, and a stronger manganese brass pinion gears to give you plenty of power against those monster fish. Plus, everything’s been sealed with K.I.S.S., which is KastKing’s water-resistant design that helps keep water and dirt out. That also means it’s suitable for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. A huge plus if you like to mix it up from time to time.
Weighs 9.1 ounces
Suitable for both saltwater and freshwater fishing
- Weight13 ounces
One of the strongest and most versatile spinning reels available.
It’s the 3rd generation KastKing Sharky, so a lot of the flaws have been fixed.
Some complaints of uneven line retrieval.
The Penn Squall Level Wind is the successor to the popular GT series from Penn. The GT reels have been around forever and have always been thought of as one of the best trolling reels around. So, you can expect that this one is even better. Trolling reels are designed to be used whilst on a moving boat and can be used to catch some absolute monster fish. The 30LW, which is the reel we’re looking at, has a weight capacity of 30lbs and a can handle a 370yd line. That gives you plenty of scope to go out searching for huge fish in saltwater conditions.
The frame and side plates are made from graphite to keep it lightweight, whereas the main gear is made from marine-grade bronze alloy. The quality of this reel is one of the first things you’ll notice, it’s in a different class to most of the reels on this list. But then again, you have to pay for that sort of quality. At nearly $130, it’s one of the most expensive fishing reels around and was a strong contender to be our Premium Choice product (narrowly missing out to the Shimano Stradic HG).
Weighs 20.9 ounces
Suitable for saltwater fishing
- Weight1.9 pounds
Made from high-quality materials.
One of the best trolling reels around.
Heavy when compared to similar capacity baitcaster reels.
Daiwa isn’t the best-known fishing gear company around, but they’ve been making reels since 1955, so they know what they’re doing. The Daiwa BG is their flagship saltwater spinning reel and it’s one of the best around. There’s a whole range of sizes from 1500 – 8000, so when you’re buying one, you’re really going to have to know what you’re looking for.
All of the BG reels come in a black, anodized, machined aluminum housing. Not only does this make the reel look fantastic, but it is pretty much scratch proof. There’s nothing worse than buying a brand-new reel and scratching it as soon as you get it out of the box, but that’s not going to be a problem here.
Weighs 8.5 ounces
Suitable for saltwater fishing
- Weight2.45 pounds
Casting and retrieval are super smooth.
Easy-to-use and provides amazing cranking power.
Some inconsistency in the quality of the products.
The Okuma Ceymar range is one of the most comprehensive groups of spinning reels around. The C-10, which we’re focusing on in this review, is a lightweight reel perfect for fishing trout, sunfish, small perch, and plenty of other great small fish. It’s got a capacity of 110yd/4lb, which means it needs to be paired with an ultra-lightweight fishing rod for maximum effect. This will give you a fantastic set up that won’t overpower the fish you’re trying to catch.
The corrosion-resistant body design means it’s suitable for both freshwater and saltwater fishing, but, due to the size, this is definitely more geared towards freshwater. It has a fantastic 8-bearing drive system and elliptical gearing setup, which is what provides such a smooth performance.
Weighs 8 ounces
Suitable for fishing small fish
- Weight8 ounces
Affordable, high-quality, and smooth spinning reel.
Excellent for beginners or intermediates fishing small fish.
Not particularly durable, it won’t stand up to being dropped on a hard surface.
Shimano is probably best known for making bicycle components, but they use that technology to make some of the best fishing reels around. The Stradic has been around for a while now and has gained a huge amount of popularity with both amateur and professional fishermen. We chose it as our Premium Choice because it’s one of the best spinning reels on the market. Spinning reels tend to be cheaper than their baitcasting and trolling counterparts, but this one comes in at well over $100, so you’re going to have to be pretty serious about your fishing if you’re considering one.
They come in sizes from 1000 to 5000, with the larger models asking an even bigger price. But you get some serious reel technology for that. It has a Hagane gear and body, which makes it tough and extremely consistent. Then, you’ve got the Dyna-balance rotor and Fluidrive II system, that give an unbelievably smooth casting and retrieval. This, coupled with Shimano’s amazing construction, makes this the smoothest, most durable, and most reliable spinning reel on this list. If you are fishing at night, check out our guide to the best underwater fishing lights.
Maximum drag – 7-24lbs
Weighs 6.9 ounces
6.0:1 gear ratio
Suitable for both freshwater and saltwater fishing
Extremely smooth and consistent casting and retrieving.
A lot more expensive than similar spinning reels.
Our Best Value product in this list had to be the Zebco 33 Authentic Spincast Reel. At less than $20, it really can’t be beaten on value even by the KastKing reels. However, it’s worth mentioning that this reel isn’t suitable for monster fish. It’s really designed for small bait, small fish, and even small fishermen. There aren’t many bad Amazon reviews for this product, but the ones you find are generally people trying to use this reel for something it wasn’t designed to do.
It has a surprisingly durable all-metal body that holds the gearing. With a gear ratio of 4.1:1, it’s going to take a little while to pull those fish in, but the action is smooth and it’s relatively easy to use. The line comes pre-spooled and has a capacity of 10lbs. This is an excellent spincast reel to get started with. If you’re a serious angler looking to catch some impressive fish this isn’t for you, but it’s a great option if you’re just getting into fishing or if you want to try and get your kids out there.
4.1:1 gear ratio
Suitable for fishing small fish
Pre-spooled with 10lb line
- Weight1 pounds
Great spincast reel for beginners and young fishermen.
Comes pre-spooled with a 10lb line.
Not strong enough for serious fishing.
If you’re specifically looking for a spincast reel, but want something a little more heavy-duty, then the Pflueger President is an excellent option. Spincast reels had a reputation for a long time of being nothing more than kid’s toys, but advances in technology mean that they’re now a genuine option for serious fishermen. They’re so easy to use that they make fishing an absolute joy, the only problem is that they’re not particularly durable. Well, most of them aren’t. The Pflueger President, with its aluminum frame and dual titanium pins, is the exception.
This model has a gear ratio of 3.8:1, which is a little faster than the smaller options, but not going to win any awards for speed. Having said that, it’s not particularly slow either and the retrieval is pretty smooth and quiet. The soft-grip rubber knob makes reeling in nice and comfortable and the aluminum parts keep the weight down to an acceptable 11.2 ounces. It’s definitely more heavy-duty than the Zebco spincast reel, but it’s still no good for fishing big game. We’d highly recommend it for beginners and kids. So put on your fishing shoes and hit the road!
3.8:1 gear ratio
Suitable for fishing small fish
Weighs 11.2 ounces
- Weight13.1 ounces
Great spincast reel for beginners and young fishermen.
Slightly heavier-duty than the Zebco.
For this price, you could get a great spinning reel, which makes it a hard choice.
Now, back to a fishing reel with a bit more muscle. The Burning Shark Trolling Reel is designed with ocean fishing in mind. You can be targeting groupers, sea bass, and salmon and have some power to spare. It’s got a line capacity of 430yds/20lbs or 320yds/25lbs, which makes it perfect for deep-sea fishing.
Everything about the construction is high-quality and is made out of either aluminum or stainless steel. Even the handle is made out of metal and not rubber like most reels, which is really a matter of preference because it could become slippery if it gets wet. The CNC aluminum spool gives a pretty smooth casting and retrieval that you can barely hear.
4.1:1 gear ratio
Suitable for deep-sea fishing
Line capacity: 430yds/20lbs or 320yds/25lbs
- BrandBurning Shark
- Weight1.7 pounds
An affordable option for deep-sea fishing and other trolling.
It can tackle some pretty big fish.
There aren’t many customer reviews available online.
Fishing Reel Buying Guide & FAQ
In this section, we are going to explain how we chose the ten best fishing reels, what you should be looking out for, and answer any questions you might have.
How We Chose Our Selection Of Fishing Reels
Brand – Fishing is a huge, worldwide sport. It’s also one of the most popular hobbies out there and that means that there’s a lot of competition between the different companies. They all want fishermen to buy their equipment. That’s why you’ll see a lot of the same brands over and over again. Whether it’s Penn, KastKing, or Shimano, they all have their own fishing pedigree. We don’t think the brand is the most important thing to think about when you’re buying a fishing reel, but if you buy from a well-known, respected fishing brand, you can be sure that you’re buying a quality product.
Reviews – When it comes to fishing, people really care about their gear. If they buy a product they’re not satisfied with, you can bet that they’ll take to the internet to tell the whole world. Equally, if they fall in love with a new fishing reel, they’re going to want everyone to know about it. Whether it’s on the Amazon reviews section or in a personal blog, this provides us a unique opportunity to hear hundreds of fishermen’s opinions. It helps us find the best equipment out there. We also look at professional fishing reel reviews to see if they have picked up on any interesting features and benefits that we didn’t find.
Price – Fishing gear can get expensive. You can spend $500 on a reel if you want to, but we know that not everyone has that sort of budget. So, we try to include a range of different reels from different price points. If you’re just starting out on your journey to become a pro fisherman, there’s no need to throw down a couple of hundred dollars on a new reel. You probably just want something simple and high-quality to get you started. On the other hand, the more experienced fishermen among you are going to be looking for a more heavy-duty piece of kit. We hope that we’ve included something for everyone in this list.
Quality – Quality is everything when it comes to finding the right fishing gear. When you’ve got that elusive catch on the end of your line, you really don’t want your gear to let you down. It needs to be able to perform every time. All of the gear we choose in our buying guides is really high-quality.
Features To Look For In Fishing Reels
Design – Once you’ve been shopping around and researching different fishing reels, you’ll start to notice that they are all pretty similar. In terms of design, spinning reels are all based on a few key components: the handle, spool, drag knob, bail, gearbox, and body. Of course, there are slight variations, and you’ll notice a big difference when you start to look at the different types of fishing reel.
Size – The size of the reel really depends on what it’s used for. When you look at the product description for a fishing reel it will say how much weight it can handle when the line is out a certain distance (for example 280yrds, 17pounds). That should give you a pretty good indication of what type of fish you can catch with it. With spinning reels, the bigger the line capacity and weight capacity, the bigger the reel will be. Baitcast reels are lighter but can handle bigger lines and heavier weights, which is why they’re so much more expensive.
Weight – Don’t forget that you’re going to have to sit with this thing in your hand all day, so you really don’t want something that’s too heavy. Plus, when you catch a fish, you’ve not only got your reel but the weight and resistance of a fish on the end. If you’re just starting out fishing, a lightweight line is essential.
Grip – When a fish bites and you have to grab the handle and reel it in, you don’t want your hand to slip off. Make sure the fishing rod you choose has a grippy and ergonomic handle that’s going to make pulling those fish in easy.
Durability – Fishing reels are meant to be used time and time again. You don’t throw them away after every time you go out on a fishing trip, so you want something durable. Durable fishing reels are made out of high-quality materials that can take a beating.
Drag – The drag on your fishing reel gives lets you take a bit of the tension off when a fish bites and stops the line from breaking. You have to set your drag at the start of a fishing trip based on your fishing reel’s capacity and the size of the fish you’re catching.
Types Of Fishing Reels
Right-handed vs Left-handed - This question isn’t quite as simple as it seems. You would think that having a right-handed fishing reel makes sense if you’re right-handed, but actually, it’s easier to use a left-handed reel. That’s because you cast with your right hand and immediately start reeling with your left hand. This gives you more control and power because the rod is still in your right hand. If you choose a right-handed reel, you’ll have to transfer the rod over to your left hand before you start reeling. Obviously, this is reversed for left-handed people.
Spinning Reel - The spinning reel is the most common type of fishing reel. A lot of the reels on this list are spinning reels. They can fish everything from tiny fish to monsters but are often heavy and large. That said, they’re a lot cheaper than baitcasting reels. If you’re just starting out fishing, then you probably want a spinning reel.
Spincast Reel - Spincast reels are sort of like the middle point between the other main types. They are similar to spinning reels except you control the line with a button and they sit on top of the rod, like a baitcast reel. They’re easy to use but aren’t as durable as spinning or baitcast reels.
Baitcasting Reel - These are smaller and lighter but can handle heavier fish and longer lines. That makes them perfect for fishing large fish but also makes them very expensive. You’ll notice the difference because they’re mounted above the rod.
Trolling Reel - These reels work in a similar way to a baitcasting reel, except that they are designed to be used for offshore trolling. That means you can cast your line out of the back of a moving boat and catch fish that way.
Fishing Reel FAQ
Q: Do fishing reels come with fishing line?
A: Generally, you’ll have to buy your fishing line and reel separately. It’s important to buy the right kind of line for the reel you have chosen, so make sure to refer to the user manual or type the question into Google before you buy a line.
Q: How often should I clean my fishing reel?
A: There’s no hard and fast rule for how often you should clean your fishing reel. Like with any piece of equipment that has moving parts, it’s important to clean and oil regularly, but it depends how much you’re using it. If you think it needs cleaning, clean it.
Q: What are the different types of fishing reels?
A: The three main types are spinning, spincast, and baitcast. See the section above for a more detailed explanation.
Q: What is the difference between gear ratios on fishing reels?
A: Gear ratios are set out like this: 4.9:1. The number before the colon relates to how many times the spool rotates with each turn of the handle. So, the larger the number the quicker the line will be retrieved.