5 Best Fishing Reels (2021)
Most anglers have their favorite fishing reel based on their fishing style, environment, what they can afford, and personal experiences. The right reel gives you a head start towards landing that prized game fish and will make your fishing trip more pleasurable. It also protects the rest of your fishing gear from damage by absorbing the heat when battling stubborn or heavy fish.
We compiled reviews from expert anglers of the fishing reels they must have on their boats in this day and age. We then rounded up the findings to develop this review of the best fishing reels in the industry today.
We have provided a detailed description of features and how anglers benefit from them. We even give a brief overview on how to use different fishing reels to demonstrate the difference.
Read on to see if your favorite fishing reel brand is on the list.
Best Fishing Reels – Winners
Check out our quick recommendations here, or keep scrolling for detailed reviews:
- Best Overall Fishing Reel: Abu Garcia Revo SX Low Profile Baitcasting Reel
- Best Spinning Fishing Reel: Pflueger Supreme Spinning Reel
- Best Fly Fishing Reel for Trout: Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel
- Best Saltwater Spinning Fishing Reel: Quantum Cabo PT Spinning Reel
- Best Budget Fishing Reel: Bass Pro Shops Tourney Special Baitcast Reel
Best Overall Fishing Reel
Gear ratio: 6.6:1 or 7.3:1
Reel weight: 7.8 oz.
Line capacity: 10/175, 12/145, 15/100
Braid capacity: 20/190, 30/140, 50/100
Ball bearings: 9+1
Retrieval rate: 27” or 30” per turn
Max drag: 24 lbs.
- Dual magnetic and centrifugal braking system for more accuracy
- Lightweight construction
- Corrosion resistance
- Long and precise casting ability
- Does not come with a spare spool
This fourth-generation REVO SX has two models: the general-purpose REVO4 SX with a 6.6:1 gear ratio and a recovery rate of 27 inches per crank, and the superfast REVO4 SX-HS whose gear ratio is 7.3:1 and recovery rate is 30 inches per turn for quick retrieval and cutting slack. Both models have versions with left or right handle positioning to accommodate everyone.
Their futuristic D2 Gear design has been applied on a Duragear brass main gear, and pinion gears whose shaft and pawl are Everslik coated to prevent corrosion. The system uses nine stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing for instant anti-reverse, optimizing efficiency and durability. The instant anti-reverse engages immediately to protect your solid hooksets and gives you more control.
They have applied Abu Garcia’s long casting Infini II spool design on a lightweight, smooth, and durable aluminum spool, enhancing castability and high performance. This is supported by a line guide coated with Ti thin film, which reduces friction.
The cast is regulated by an upgraded Infini core dual brake system, a sealed combination of magnetic and centrifugal braking for extra precision. Centrifugal braking controls the first half of the case and magnetic braking the other half. Its limitless adjustability allows you to control the speed of the flying rig and just after casting, preventing backlash and enhancing accuracy.
It has a powerful keyed Power Stack Carbon Matrix Drag System with up to 24 lbs. of drag pressure. There is a lube port to ease the maintenance of the thickened carbon fiber drag material. The star-adjusted drag applies smooth and consistent pressure across the entire drag range.
They used the improved DuraClutch design for smooth starts and improved braking. It reduces thumb bar resistance when using heavy baits, allowing smooth casts and retrievals. The resultant efficiency gives you more power with less effort and extends the service life of your reel.
The corrosion-resistant X2-Craftic alloy frame and C6 carbon side plates are lightweight without sacrificing strength and durability. The frame forms a rigid base for high drag pressures so that no effort is wasted. In addition, its compact bent handle and star enable you to fish comfortably for hours.
The REVO SX low-profile baitcasting reel efficiently combines castability and power for multiple fishing scenarios.
Best Spinning Fishing Reel
Gear ratio: 6.2:1
Reel weight: 7.5 oz.
Line capacity: 4/255, 6/145, 8/130
Braid capacity: 6/275, 8/190, 10/160
Ball Bearings: 9+1
Retrieval rate: 31.8” per turn
Max drag: 10 lbs.
- Tough corrosion-resistant construction
- Easily adjustable front drag
- Braid ready spool
- Slow oscillation gearing for smooth casts
- No spare spool included
Pflueger is keeping with its reputation of providing quality value to anglers with their remodeled supreme spinning reel. The metallic silver body and black and gold spool are aesthetically appealing at first glance. The body and rotor are made of magnesium. The handle, bail wire, and spool are aircraft-grade aluminum, meaning the whole reel are strong and resistant to corrosion, guaranteeing years of quality performance.
It has an ergonomic design associated with spinning reels. Its machined handle provides excellent leverage, and it is capped with a soft-touch knob for good grip. The conveniently positioned bail closes smoothly and quietly, so you never have to slam it shut. The steady, comfortable grip allows you to put in hours of angling without fatigue.
The front drag is easily adjustable while you are fishing. You can use oiled felt or stainless steel as drag material, and the drag system will still offer consistent drag pressure. They are both resistant to corrosion. The drag is sealed to prevent water or grit penetration which can mess up the drag washers, causing the drag to lock up. You are protected from the consequent line breakages or jerks while fighting fish.
The braid-ready spool allows you to tie the braid directly on it without backing it up with a monofilament arbor knot or arbor tape, leaving room to accommodate more braid.
Slow oscillation gearing reduces the speed of the line traveling up and down the spool during casting, resulting in less friction and reduced drag on the lead. This facilitates fluid casts with improved distance and accuracy. In addition, instant anti-reverse ensures the reel only goes in one direction, saving you the trouble of balancing the reel once a fish is hooked.
Best Fly Fishing Reel for Trout
Reel weight: 2.9 oz.
Line weight rating: 3/4/5
Backing Capacity: WF4F/100yds./20 lbs.
- Adjustable between left and right-hand retrieval
- Lightweight construction
- Accommodates a range of line sizes
- Adequate backing capacity
- Internal drag adjustment is cumbersome while fishing
They rely on a simple but reliable adjustable four positioning click-and-pawl drag system that allows you to select the right tension for your target trout. It produces the traditional clicking sound that nostalgic anglers love when a fish tugs the line. It is ideal for trout fishing because it has minimal startup drag, so there is no hitch when the fish begins to run, and you will successfully slow down a trophy fish once hooked.
Machined from heavy-duty bar-stock aluminum, the reels are tough and durable. They can hold lines tighter, making the drag more effective and reducing the chances of the line slipping between the spool and frame. The narrow spool means less line stacking, and its large-diameter hastens the retrieval rate per crank. Their black nickel finish and laser engraved logos add a stylish edge.
Orvis’ ultra-lightweight design balances the reel with shorter and lighter rods, providing more flexibility in rod selection. Better-designed rods are coming up all the time, and you may want to upgrade. The reduced load also induces less fatigue, allowing the angler to fish longer.
The offering of reels that can accommodate three different line sizes adds value to the purchase because you don’t need to own separate reels for every rod within that range. Instead, you can swap out the spools and lines depending on your current target and keep enjoying the Battenkill experience.
The Battenkill click-and-pawl fly reels possess sufficient backing capacity to meet the needs of freshwater fly anglers; the 7H9T-6124 model can hold up to 100 yards of 20 lbs. backing with a 6-weight forward floating line, and the lightest 7H9R-6124 maxes out at 75 yards of 20 lbs. backing with a 2-weight forward floating line. This covers all sizes of trout for which fly reels were invented.
They are easily adjustable from the left and right-hand retrieve because the spool conveniently pops out.
Best Saltwater Spinning Fishing Reel
Gear ratio: 5.3:1
Reel weight: 13.9 oz.
Line capacity: 10/230
Braid capacity: 30/270
Ball bearings: 7+1
Retrieval rate: 33” per turn
Max drag: 30 lbs.
- Casting supported by an efficient line management system
- Powerful fail-proof bail system
- Sealed drag system and anti-reverse clutch
- Durable construction material
- Efficient performance-tuned gear system
- A bit heavy set
Saltwater fishing requires a heavy-duty spincasting reel designed for bigger fish. This is what you get with the Quantum Cabo PT.
It comes with a TiMag titanium fail-proof bail system which employs a magnetic trip system instead of a spring to control the bail wire movement. In addition, it has an indestructible nickel-titanium bail wire that can maintain its shape under pressure, capable of dragging up to 30 lbs. The powerful magnets will ensure sustainable quality performance, and the bail wire is not susceptible to corrosion and wear like regular springs.
The sealed Magnum CSC drag system is extra powerful and comprises corrosion-resistant parts, making it appropriate for saltwater fishing. It employs carbon fiber, ceramic, and stainless steel disks in a large drag stack that delivers exceptionally smooth performance and is capable of powerful lockdowns.
It is supported by a sealed Magnum continuous anti-reverse clutch which ensures the bail never turns back unless you are using the drag to never miss an opportunity. Because they are sealed, you don’t have to worry about salt and other debris affecting the disc performance.
It has an SCR aluminum body and side cover, which have been continuously cast to be tough and corrosion-resistant so they can withstand saltwater, foreign substances, and the strain from hauling heavy uncooperative fish. Durability is enhanced by employing Salt Guard 2.0 Multilayer corrosion protection engineered to bond with the body and form a protective seal, enabling the reel to shed the corrosive effects of saltwater
The Cabo PT’s gear system is highly efficient thanks to Quantum’s patented Performance Tuned (PT) technology incorporating super hard PT gears and 8 PT bearings, and a tough but light carbon fiber composite rotor. As an extra precaution, hybrid ceramic bearings have been used in high-load areas. The added strength makes it your safest bet against aggressive inshore and offshore gamefish.
They have been designed with Quantum’s line management system, which has a ball bearing line roller that reduces friction, gives you better control over your casts, and facilitates longer and more accurate casting. You can easily switch between right and left-hand retrieval to accommodate diverse anglers.
Best Budget Fishing Reel
Gear ratio: 5.6:1, 6.6:1 and 7.3:1
Reel weight: 7.3 oz.
Line capacity: 12/130
Braid capacity: 30/190
Ball bearings: 4+1
Retrieval rate: 23”, 27” or 30” per turn
Max drag: 12 lbs.
- Pocket-friendly price
- Smart casting ability
- Instant anti-reverse
- Sturdy, durable construction
- Needs to be broken in before getting the right settings
The no longer secret ingredient is Bass Pro Shops’ Smart Cast anti-backlash technology which comes with inner and outer centrifugal braking systems to control your casts from the beginning to the end. The braking force is applied outward at the beginning of the cast then shifted inwards at the end, effectively taking care of the two major backlash pain points for baitcasting reels and eliminating backlashes.
Once tuned, the intuitive Smart Cast can determine the amount of braking needed for a perfect cast and automatically apply or release pressure on the line for accurate lure placement. It is easily tuned with an external cast control that can be accessed by removing the side cover.
The sturdy frame of this baitcasting reel has been crafted with premium graphite with a sleek silver finish providing strength and resistance to wear and tear from the elements. It has a recurve drag star, and a recurve handle with PVC knobs for stable, hassle-free handling. These Tourney Special bait casters have right handling and left handling models, so you can pick the one that suits you.
They have a smooth 5-bearing gear system with which they manage a durable and corrosion-resistant forged double anodized aluminum spool. Among the bearings is one Powerlock instant anti-reverse bearing responsible for protecting your hook sets by making sure the rotor never moves backward on its own.
The middle to high-speed gear ratios allows various retrieval methods that enable you to fish for different species throughout the seasons. The Tourney Special Baitcast reel allows you to slay on a budget.
Fishing Reel Buying Guide
You are just from reviewing some of the best fishing reels currently available in the market. They all have unique applications suitable for specific fish, seasons, locations, and fishing styles.
To optimize returns from your fishing reel, you need to know how to match its features with these variables so you can get the loudest bang for your buck. We shall now look at the various types of fishing lines, their application, and the features that make them outstanding.
Types of Fishing Reels
These are the most basic reels with the simplest application. You press a spool control button, swing the bow in your desired direction, and release the line, letting it fly out in the direction the rod tip is pointing.
You will press the button again to stop the line once you have reached your target distance. They have a drag adjustment mechanism that lets you decide how much resistance the fish encounter as you pull the line.
They are simple to operate, which is welcome news for beginners. They hardly develop line tangles due to the automated closed system. Their simplicity also makes them more affordable than other fishing reels.
However, they are limited in a number of ways; the close-faced design makes them harbor water and debris inside, which inevitably corrode the parts and damage the system. They are also limited in casting range as the line goes straight where the rod is pointing, and they have a low holding capacity.
They are an improvement to the Spincast reels and are currently the most popular fishing reels due to their efficiency and ease of use. They have an open face design with the drag adjustment on top of the reel. They also feature a metal bail that locks the line to prevent it from unspooling and guides it back evenly onto the spool on retrieval. They are mounted at the bottom of the rod for a natural holding position and balance while casting.
You disengage the bail and squeeze the line against the rod with your index finger to prevent it from unspooling and then swing the rod overhead or from the side as you release the line. They can be used with lures and smaller baits to fish different species in various habitats. They also have exceptional hauling power when coupled with powerful braided lines. When used well, they can achieve impressive casting distances.
Spinning reels also have limitations like the weight of the tackle; their performance drops significantly when they are loaded with heavy lines and lures. The bail must also be handled with care; otherwise, your line may develop twists and tangles.
These are some of the most powerful and accurate reels in the market. They are advanced and very efficient reels in the right hands. They have more adjustable parts that will take some getting used to. They are mounted on top of the rod handle and have a spool tension knob and a braking system to adjust the line’s speed coming off the reel.
You control both the line distance and the speed with which the spool turns so that the line does not nest. They don’t have a bail, so you will press your thumb against the spool to stop the line.
Baitcasters are very powerful and will handle heavy lines and large fierce fish with ease. You can feel the line as it casts so that you can stop it at the exact length you intend to, making for very accurate casting. In addition, they are versatile as you can customize them in countless ways for different fishing techniques.
The downside to having these many options is you have to understand the settings to be able to adjust them each time you change your approach. Different weights of line and lures require different tension levels in the braking system and the spool; this can be tedious and is a hard position for a beginner. Baitcasting reels are also pricey due to all their capabilities.
These are big game reels designed for offshore trolling but are also commonly used in heavy freshwater trolling when targeting bigger fish like salmon and muskies. They are designed for strength and the ability to hold heavy-duty braids. In addition, they have powerful and smooth drag systems that can sustain long battles with large, strong fish.
These are designed for fishing with artificial lures that are very light. The weight of the fishing line is used to project the lure, unlike the rest of the reels, which rely on the weight of the lure. Fly fishing lines are therefore thick, strong, and heavy compared to other fishing lines. The entire reel is a spool that rotates around a center pin.
Traditional fly reels did not have a drag system, but modern models have incorporated them. They are lightweight and easy to work with for long hours once you master the technique. Fly reels were designed for small freshwater species, so they will not have the same hauling power as the other reels we have seen.
Right Handed vs Left-Handed Reels
This distinction can be confusing because left-handed fishermen hold the rod and cast using their stronger left hand, freeing their right hand. This means the ideal position to mount the reel handle will be on the right.
A right-handed angler should therefore go for a left-handling reel. Fortunately, a number of manufacturers have turned to producing fishing reels whose handling can be easily adjusted from left to right. This takes away the burden of having to make a choice with permanent implications.
Features to Look for in Fishing Reels
Once you settle on the type of reel, you need to identify the best fishing reel in that category that fits within your budget. There are certain features you should consider that cut across all the classes:
A bigger reel has more capacity, which translates to casting longer and using stronger, thicker lines and braids. Not all fishing styles require long casting or an above-average line test, however. The larger reel size will also be restrictive to the kind of fishing rod used and will have extra weight to consider.
The smallest difference in weight matters when you plan to be angling for long hours. Eventually, the fatigue will set in, and it may be just when the tide is turning in your favor. The lighter the reel, the lighter the rod, the line, and the weight on your wrist.
Unfortunately, some species and fishing conditions can’t be tackled using light rods. Heavy-duty fishing requires heavy gear. Technology has, however, made it possible to shed some weight off these heavy-duty fishing reels, and you should be on the lookout for cutting-edge designs and construction material.
The grip is critical, considering water makes everything slippery. A good grip is facilitated by ergonomically designed handles and materials that have traction. Rubberized knobs at the end of the handles are one way fishing reel manufacturers have been using to enhance grip.
This is influenced by all the reel components and their ability to weather the elements they will be exposed to. Next, consider the construction material, whether it is tough enough to hold up against the strength of the fish you are targeting in terms of rigidity and the ability to absorb shock. You should also look at how they have been shielded from corrosion, whether through restricting water access or using corrosion-resistant material.
The reel design also influences durability because it affects how the reel will perform in high-pressure situations. For example, the sudden jerks and pulls may cause the gears to fall apart if they are not customized for heavy lifting.
A smooth drag allows you to reel in the catch at a manageable pace without damaging your gear or losing the fish. The drag system should have adequate capacity to hold up against the strength of the fish you are dealing with.
Big saltwater species require a more elaborate drag than you need for small freshwater fishing. Unfortunately, high-end drag systems will push the reel’s price upwards, so you need to strike a balance between your budget and what you need.
Fishing Reel FAQ
Still have questions when it comes to choosing the best fishing reels of 2021? Read on for answers to some of the more commonly asked questions.
What is the best size spinning reel for bass fishing?
When it comes to choosing the best size spinning reel for bass fishing, it all depends on the purpose of the spincast reel. The size of the spinning reel you should get depends on whether you will be doing freshwater or saltwater fishing, the size of the fish you are targeting, and the line strength you plan to use. For trout, the reel size should be at least 2000 up to 3500.
What lures are the best to use with a spinning rod and reel?
Some of the best lures to use with a spinning rod and reel include small shaky heads, squarebill crankbait, and drop shot rigs. If you go over the 3/8 ounce mark, it may be time to start looking for a better baitcasting reel setup. Heavier bait and rigs won’t throw well on your spinning rod.
What makes a good fishing reel?
Some of the features to look for that make a good fishing reel include instant anti-reverse handles, smooth, easily adjustable drag, and the right gear ratio. The best materials on the market now are anodized aluminum or graphite, both of which offer more strength and rigidity when they are placed under pressure.
What is the best pound fishing line to use with a spinning reel?
The superior fishing line to use on a spinning reel is a braided line. It is smaller in diameter, casts further, doesn’t stretch, and is strong and durable. Additionally, it has virtually no line memory. The weight of your braided line depends on the fish species you are targeting. For larger game fish, we recommend a 30-pound test.