7 Best Spinning Reels (2021)
Spinning reels are leaders of all fishing reels, and manufacturers are acutely aware, so they keep trying to outdo each other with the latest conveniences. They know that spinning reels work best to match them with the kind of bait you are fishing and your specific technique. All these reels have their place, and the information can be overwhelming, considering a vast array of options already muddies the waters.
We compiled a list of the best spinning reels currently in the market, highlighting their special features and capacities. We also reviewed the reels to clarify why we felt they excelled in their unique categories. The detailed reviews should declutter all the marketing information in your head. Read on for the latest spinning reel buyer guide.
Best Spinning Reels – Winners
Check out our quick recommendations here, or keep scrolling for detailed reviews:
- Best Overall Spinning Reel: Shimano Vanford F Spinning Reel
- Best Freshwater Spinning Reel: Shimano Syncopate FG
- Best Saltwater Spinning Reel: Daiwa BG Spinning Reel
- Best Budget Spinning Reel: Ozark Trail 5+1 Ball Bearing Spinning Reel
- Best Spinning Reel for Panfish: Shimano Sienna FG Spinning Reel
- Best for Beginners: Daiwa Regal LT Spinning Reel
- Best Spinning Reel for Bass Fishing: Shimano Stradic FL Spinning Reel
Best Overall Spinning Reel
Max drag: 24 lbs.
Gear ratio: 6.2:1
Line capacity: 8/240, 10/200, 12/160
Braid capacity: 15/230, 30/180, 50/120
Ball bearings: 7+1
Reel weight: 7.6 oz.
Retrieval: 40” per crank
- Tough, durable construction
- Ultralight ergonomic design
- Smooth light rotor for easy casting and reeling
- Water and dust resistant
- Long casting efficiency
- Doesn’t have an on/ off button for novice anglers’ control
Its C14+ body improves the original C14 with added carbon matrix for extra rigidity while maintaining the lightweight quality. Its 3D design has been cold-forged for strength and durability, being a HAGANE gear product.
The MagnumLite (MGL) rotor is also lighter, which reduces the inertia resistance, leading to smoother reeling that enables you to start and stop instantaneously without relying on brakes. You can respond as the situation dictates. Its center of gravity is designed to be close to the fishing rod and, by extension, the angler’s body position in what they refer to as a G-Free body. The increased comfort reduces fatigue while casting.
Its Long Stroke Spool technology increases the casting distance thanks to a longer stroke and ensures the line lays smoothly on the spool during retrieval to avert kinks and tangles.
Vanford’s Silent Drive design ensures that wobbles and clearance gaps are eliminated inside and outside the reel for the highest tolerance achievable. This, combined with the advanced MicroModule Gear II technology and its attention to surface detail, ensure smooth operation and reduced reel vibration.
Friction between the spool shaft and the gear of this spincast reel is eliminated because the pinion gear is supported on both ends with bearings, maintaining its alignment with the drive gear regardless of the load. This allows longer casting even with light lures while increasing the gear’s life cycle.
Several features protect this fishing reel from water and debris. The drag is sealed from elements like water and dust using rubber gaskets, the entire spool is covered in a water-resistant coating, and its labyrinth construction channels water away. The resultant rust and corrosion resistance is achieved without compromising gear lightness and rotor rotation. Consequently, it is durable and can even be used for saltwater fishing.
Best Freshwater Spinning Reel
Max drag: 7 lbs.
Gear ratio: 5.2:1
Line capacity: 6/200, 8/140, 10/120
Braid capacity: 10/170, 15/145, 30/95
Ball bearings: 4
Reel Weight: 9.2 oz.
Retrieval: 29” per crank
- Ergonomic enough for one-handed casts
- Smooth, controlled retrieval
- Exceptional line management
- Sturdy and durable
- Does not support emergency recovery
The line and trigger self-center of this Shimano spinning reel is within easy reach of your index finger, allowing you to open the bail and throw one-handed casts thanks to their QuickFire II clutch system. The ergonomic design features a ported handle shaft.
Their Propulsion spool lip design, which results from years of testing and improvement, enables you to achieve longer casting distances without struggle and prevents the formation of backlashes and wind knots. It is a key part of their high-end Propulsion Line Management system.
A combination of features makes the Syncopate FG our ideal freshwater spinning reel. It has just enough muscle to haul your average freshwater lure and fish at 7 lbs. and supports the gentle and patient fishing techniques required. As a result, bass, crappie, and walleye will be outmaneuvered regardless of how calm they are.
Its low gearing with a retrieval rate of 29 inches per crank presents your lure in a non-threatening manner within the strike zone, long enough for finicky bass and other targets to pounce on them. In addition, the high torque allows you to exert less effort in retrieval so you can concentrate more on finding the fish.
The rotor weight of this Shimano reel has been redistributed to lessen vibrations caused by the reel for a smoother rotation, eliminating wobbling during retrieval. This is possible due to computer balancing during their construction applying Dyna-balance technology.
The smooth aluminum spool is gentle on your fishing lines; they won’t develop kinks and weak points inside the reel. Aluminum is also resistant to water damage from the lines and braids, so it has a long service life. It is aided by their Varispeed oscillation system, which improves line management using an oval oscillation gear that generates a consistent spool speed and lays the line evenly. This enables you to cast more accurately and keeps the line smooth.
We are not disqualifying this front drag reel from saltwater fishing, especially if you are going for smaller species. It can hold out against damage from the elements. Besides the machined aluminum spool, it also comes with a graphite frame, side plate, and rotor.
Best Saltwater Spinning Reel
Max drag: 15.4 lbs.
Gear ratio: 5.6:1
Line capacity: 8/240, 10/200, 12/170
Braid capacity: 20/240, 30/190
Ball bearings: 6+1
Reel weight: 10.8 oz.
Retrieval: 37.4” per crank
- Corrosion resistant material
- Both fresh and saltwater capable
- High-performance tournament-grade drag system
- Optimized for long casting
- It is not sealed
This hardy workhorse has an industrial-grade Hardbodyz body comprising a strong black anodized machine molded aluminum housing, a solid screw-in handle, and a side cover that makes the reel rigid without adding extra weight. It provides the leverage you require and resistance to saltwater corrosion without baggage.
It is great for light freshwater action to solid big game trolling because it allows you to apply multiple techniques and presentations. You can present the bait in their most effective form, whether you require speed to plow through nasty cover to get your fish in open water or you want to slow it down to maintain the lure in the strike zone longer.
The BG spinning reel incorporates Digigear, Daiwa’s digitally engineered gear design, combining tough drive gear with pinion gears to optimize speed, power, smooth railing, and durability. It will help with feisty game fish when you need to cut the slack suddenly and enable you to reel in your tackle gradually. This is enhanced with Automatic Tournament Drag (ATD Drag) which minimizes startup inertia using a special drag grease with low viscosity in resting position but becomes instantly viscous when you start to drag, optimizing drag pressure.
Its unique Air Rotor is lightweight and designed to instill rotational balance by evenly distributing the load, enhancing the reel’s sensitivity. It feeds an aluminum ABS spool which is durable and line-friendly. These Daiwa spools have been tapered to prevent wire tangling and are also designed to reduce friction for longer and smoother casting.
Best Budget Spinning Reel
Max drag: 8 lbs.
Gear ratio: 5.1:1
Line capacity: 6/250, 8/170, 10/140
Braid capacity: 15/95
Ball bearings: 5+1
Reel Weight: 1.05 lbs.
- Adjustable centrifugal brake system
- Tough reinforced graphite construction
- Spinning titanium line guide
- Doesn’t support emergency retrieval
It features Ozark’s 5+1 bearing technology with precision cut brass gears and an adjustable centrifugal brake system for smooth retrieval. You can hear the reassuring drag as it spins. You get the added protection of a 1-way clutch instant anti-reverse bearing to protect from backlash, which is good news for new anglers who fear for their knuckles in case they encounter a particularly stubborn fish.
Its reinforced graphite frame, housing, and side plates are not only resistant to the elements, but the finishing with green accents adds a peculiar aesthetic appeal for its price point. In addition, the lightweight construction enables you to put in long hours. It is supplemented by the reel’s ergonomic handle with a large rubberized knob at the end for a steady grip as you reel in your catch.
It has a spinning titanium line guide to direct the line coming in and out of the spool to minimize twists. The spin also minimizes the chances of burning your line as it reduces friction. The spool itself is made of anodized aluminum, so it can bear the elements as it guides your line.
The reel has a braid-ready spool with a rubber strip on the arbor that ensures the slippery braided lines hold in the spool, making rigging them less of a hassle for braid lovers. The bail wire also locks firmly, so the gears and braking system can perform optimally.
The predominantly freshwater reel can be used to go after a wide variety of fish species, giving some high-end reels a run for their money. The experience will leave you feeling like you are getting a lot more bang for fewer bucks.
Best Spinning Reel for Panfish
Max drag: 4 lbs.
Gear ratio: 5.6:1
Line capacity: 2/190, 4/100, 6/60
Braid capacity: 5/135, 8/105, 10/65
Ball bearings: 3+1
Reel weight: 6.3 oz.
Retrieval: 27” per crank
- Substantial line capacity
- Light reel for light fish
- Enhanced casting capability
- Anti-reverse technology
- Not suitable for larger strong gamefish
The SN500FG is the ideal Sienna FG for panfish because it is the lightest in the series and can hold up to 100 yards of 4-pound test monofilament and 8-pound braid lines. Panfish hardly grow beyond 4 lbs. and 12 inches, and their tackles are small and lightweight, so it packs a sufficient arsenal to challenge them.
Sienna spinning reels have a Propulsion Line Management system to optimize casting. The spool has a long stroke design aimed at facilitating longer casts. In addition, their modified lip design manipulates the lines such that they flow off the spool in smaller loops during casting, so there is less loss of momentum against the stripper guide. The result is smoother and longer casts devoid of wind knots.
You can easily set your hook without worrying about back play thanks to the cutting-edge Super Stopper II anti-reverse technology that uses a one-way stainless steel roller bearing to eliminate it.
They are suited for both freshwater and light inshore fishing; the 5.6:1 gear ratio enables a moderately fast reeling speed that can be employed in multiple fishing techniques and lure presentations. There is sufficient line capacity to deploy these, and the lightweight reel will allow you to experiment with all species of panfish.
It balances nicely on your favorite spinning rods and feels tight and responsive, so you will know the moment a strike is made without having to actually see the fish. Additionally, with reduced fatigue and the ability to control the reeling speed, you get the most with the least effort, so you can spread the energy over a longer angling period.
Best for Beginners
Max drag: 22 lbs.
Gear ratio: 6.2:1
Line capacity: 8/240, 10/210, 12/160
Braid capacity: 10/250, 15/185
Ball bearings: 9+1
Reel weight: 7.4 oz.
Retrieval: 34.5” per crank
- Sufficient line capacity for long casts
- Adaptable to numerous angling techniques
- Tough, corrosion resistant yet lightweight construction
- Sensitive and smooth reel
- Limitations when dealing with large and aggressive saltwater species
Any beginner will appreciate the opportunity to catch a wide range of fish using various fishing techniques in diverse settings because they haven’t developed a niche fishing technique and are not acquainted enough with their environment. It is therefore prudent to settle for a mid-size reel such as this one.
You also need a reasonable line capacity as you develop your casting technique; it is better to err on the side of caution as you would rather have the capacity and not use it than lack the capacity. It is also easier to retrieve slowly using a fast reel than to try a fast retrieval on a slow reel. The Daiwa Regal LT spinning reel covers all your bases.
Daiwa’s LT reels have been redesigned to be tougher than graphite yet lightweight through the increased infusion of carbon in the composite material. Unlike metal, the Carbon Light body does not corrode. The regal LT comes with a light, swept-back machined aluminum handle with an ergonomically oversized knob. LT is actually an acronym for light but tough.
Their Air Rotor system with its reliable Air Bail has seen the rotor weight reduce by 15%. It improves rotational balance and increases the reel’s sensitivity so that even inexperienced anglers can feel the slightest tugs.
Digigear technology is an efficient mesh of one ultra-tough drive gear and pinion gears to enhance speed, power durability, and smoothness. It works in synergy with Daiwa’s Automatic Tournament Drag (ATD), a system meant to facilitate a smooth drag from the moment the hook sets. ATD reduces the initial inertia by using a special drag grease whose viscosity is triggered by drag startup.
The quality reel will also deliver silky-smooth performance thanks to its nine stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing, which are not common in its class of reels. As a result, anglers of all skill levels will appreciate this reel.
Best Spinning Reel for Bass Fishing
Max drag: 24 lbs.
Gear ratio: 6.2:1
Line capacity: 8/240, 10/200, 12/160
Braid capacity: 15/230, 30/180, 50/120
Ball bearings: 6+1
Reel weight: 9.9 oz.
Retrieval: 40” per crank
- Enhanced casting ability
- Excellent line management provisions
- Rigid, durable body construction
- Advanced sealed drag system with multiple settings
- Powerful, versatile gear
- High-speed recovery may be too fast for beginners
You require a versatile spinning reel to catch bass. They feed everywhere on different foods depending on the season, available prey, and the type of bass, on the surface, in water, or at the bottom. Largemouth bass can weigh up to 20 lbs. although most bass usually goes up to 4 lbs. They swim with the current, so you need to cast against the wind to present your lure before they spot your vessel.
We considered these when nominating this product of continuous revolution, which ticked all the boxes at a reasonable price.
Shimano’s Propulsion Line Management system features the new Propulsion spool lip design that provides longer casting distances while preventing backlashes and knots from forming. This is boosted by the Long Stroke spool design meant to guarantee longer casting distances.
Casting is further improved by the AERO WRAP II design, which reduces line-to-line friction in the spool through smart layering for longer casts. Reels with this technology move the spool upwards quickly and downwards slowly to enable precise winding of the line with less friction, resulting in longer, smoother casts. A seamless one-piece bail allows the line to travel unimpeded to the line roller, minimizing chances of tangling or cuts to the bail arm and at the same time reducing friction.
Its HAGANE full metal body is impact-resistant and rigid. Its stiffness transforms all your action into cranking power. The reel’s G-Free Body design has the center of gravity closer to the rod and the angler’s hand position by extension. This reduces fatigue and also boosts your casting effort.
It has Shimano’s X-Protect water repellent coating and their specially designed water channeling labyrinth construction which stops water concentration in key areas without a heavy rotational feel. The gear remains light, and rotor rotation is not compromised. Bearings are shielded on all sides to prevent salt or sand particles from impeding their rotation.
The HAGANE Gear was created by cold forging technology from carefully calculated 3D MicroModule Gear II gear surface and tooth designs for an assured lasting smoothness and power transfer. No cutting is involved in the formation. The forged metal is strong and durable and will retain gear smoothness throughout the reel’s lifetime. This has been applied to both drive and pinion gears.
The process features Silent Drive, which fine-tunes internal components of the drive system to the highest tolerance possible by carefully reviewing and eliminating the smallest clearance gaps and wobbles in the gears and shafts.
X-Ship technology improves gear durability by ensuring the gears stay in the same position under the heaviest loads, eliminating friction between the spool shaft and gear. This also enhances casting performance and allows longer casts even with lighter lures. Pinion gears are supported on both ends with bearings to maintain a precise alignment with the drive gear.
It has a Cross Carbon Drag system with a wide range of drag settings to endure and conquer the most blistering runs and the most powerful fish. Rubber gaskets seal the drag against intrusion from elements like water and dust.
What Is a Spinning Reel, and Why Do We Use It?
As you must have realized already, a spinning reel is a form of cranking reel that you mount at the bottom of a fishing rod and use to wind and store your fishing line or braid in a fixed spool, ready for deployment. They have an open face and a bail that controls the line’s tension while casting to prevent backlash.
They are easy to master. To cast, you have to disengage the bail to unlock the line and hold it with your index finger, so it doesn’t unspool or tangle. You then release the index finger and let the line go casting until you reach the cast’s top, where you will lock the bail again.
They are the most adaptable to lightweight applications among the different types of fishing reel options available, as they even cast light lures on light lines. This fishing reel also solved the backlash problem, which has endeared them to anglers with varying skillsets for generations.
Modern spinning reels have been fitted with features to enhance casting as well as to accommodate fishing techniques that are targeted at specific species.
Advantages of a Spinning Reel
- A spinning fishing reel can be used with light lures, baits, and lines. They were invented for use with artificial flies and other lures for small fish like salmon and trout whose weight would not allow them to be cast by their predecessors, the spin casting and baitcasting reel.
- They can easily be switched from the right to the left hand by adjusting the crank. Right-handed anglers hold the rod and cast using their stronger right hand, so the crank handle will be mounted on the left side of the reel to be manipulated by the free left hand. The reverse also applies.
- Their ergonomic fitting at the bottom of the fishing rod in their rod-reel combos conforms to gravity, giving better balance to the angler who does not need to use their wrist strength. This allows them to maintain the reel position and fish longer.
- They give more control over casting distance and speed. The spool is fixed and regulated using gears and bails, limiting occurrences of backlash and line damage.
- These conveniences make spinning reels exceptionally versatile. They can be rigged for diverse habitats and used by anglers of all experience levels.
What To Consider When Buying the Best Spinning Reel and Why
Each unique situation has a spinning reel that is best suited to it whether you are looking at the size of the target catch, its agility, surrounding ecosystem, depth or distance of the cast, or level of experience. To determine which spinning reel will be most suited, there are specific features you should compare among the options you have, which we have highlighted below.
The heavier your target game, the feistier they are, the heavier your ideal reel will be. It has to be tough to take the punishment. This is true to some extent; the reel size is also a weight factor.
Technology has improved fishing efficiency, however. For example, spinning reels with small profiles now have ergonomic designs manifested on innovative composite materials, making them capable of hauling huge game fish with less effort.
A difference of a few ounces means a lot when you are angling for hours. Go for the lightest reel that can get the job done.
The higher the line capacity, the more versatile the spinning reel is. You can throw long casts as well as short ones. It comes at a price, though, so the aim should be to get what you need. Not every fishing technique requires a long cast. The capacity is stated two-fold for monolines and braids. Braids are stronger than monolines for the same thickness. Consider which line you will use more.
This is the spinning reel superpower and has a lot of influence on your fishing success. It should facilitate smooth reeling in and absorb the shock of the bite, protecting the entire rig in the process.
Having multiple adjustment options is a bonus because you will respond with enough force to counter the fish, depending on their aggressiveness. The system should also seal the drag washers from intrusion by foreign objects, which eventually hamper their performance.
Gear Ratio and Retrieval Rate
The gear ratio measures the number of rotations the spool will make for every reel handle turn. It is relevant because it represents how fast you will be able to reel in the catch. Some fish species are quite finicky, and it will take longer for them to react to the lure. Slow gear ratios are ideal in these cases.
Others are more aggressive and prey on fast-moving creatures meaning fast retrieval is necessary to catch their attention. Your situation will dictate the suitable gear ratio; fast reeling on a low gear reel can be tiring.
The retrieval rate is more accurate because it considers the actual inches of the line recovered per crank of the handle. Gear ratios for different spinning reels can be the same, yet their retrieval speeds are different for several reasons, chiefly different sizes of spools. A rotation of a big spool retrieves more lines than a smaller spool. As you gain more experience, these small differences matter less because your intuition will take charge.
Material and Construction
The bigger the game fish you are going for, the tougher your spinning reel has to be. Toughness ranges from what material it is made of, how it was constructed, and its ability to absorb shock and resistance to damage from the elements.
- Plastic is the cheapest material. It is light and does not corrode. If fishing is just an occasional recreational habit, you might not want to get an expensive reel; a plastic one will suffice. However, it is prone to breakage and might not take you past your first expedition if you are lucky to get a prize catch.
- Graphite is a form of carbon that is also light and has excellent sensitivity under a steady load. Unfortunately, it is brittle, which makes it prone to fractures if the reel is dropped or a bigger fish makes a sudden strike.
- Metal is the strongest material yet, and there are different metals applied in making spinning reels. However, metal is also very heavy, and the reel production process should factor this in as they design the reel. The latest reels have incorporated aluminum and magnesium in composite molds, which produce tough yet light spinning reels.
The higher quality materials come at a cost, so you should consider how aggressive your fishing will be as you make the decision and find the best spinning gear for your next fishing trip.