A successful journalist and news reporter in the past, George is now focused on freelance work to be able to dedicate more time to the most important things in his life: family, friends, his dogs, and fishing.
John is an avid traveler, hiker, and RVer. Moreover, it seems like he knows everything when it comes to fishing and hunting: his father started sharing all the tips and tricks he knew when John was a kid. No wonder we trust his opinion every time a new article is being created.
Last updated: February 19, 2021
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Fishing is bliss, if you don’t love it; you either haven’t tried it yet or never caught anything on your first attempt. The joy that comes with hauling a fish out of water and taking it home to your family is unexplainable. It’s one of those hobbies you cannot afford to miss out on in a lifetime. But, like all other hobbies, you must have the right gear to do it right. For you to become the best fisherman you can be, you will need the best fishing reels in the market.
When it comes to brands and models of fishing reels, you are spoilt for choice. There so many companies producing and selling fishing reels that the competition is cut-throat. Even you as a consumer, will find it challenging to pick the best amongst the many. Well, we are here to help, with detailed reviews of the best fishing reels. We considered over 40 products and KastKing Royale Legend/Whitemax Baitcasting Fishing Reel emerged our best choice. Its affordability, high quality, and heavy-weight capacity could not be matched.
You can place your trust on all the products we have reviewed owing to the efforts put in conducting research. It took time to come up with the list, and some of the features on which we based our choice of best fishing reels include; weight, max, bearing, drag, gear ratio, type and material. If you have all these features on a fishing reel, then you’re going to start to bring dinner home every time you go fishing. With the in-depth individual product reviews and buying guide, you will surely make the best buy.
This is the biggest bang for your bucks. KastKing’s tagline has always been “affordable innovation,” and this baitcasting reel under $100 is nothing short. You will get real value out of this reel.
It comes in a super sleek design with a luxurious look, in either white or black. Whether you are left-handed or right-handed, this reel has got you. It comes with left or right options to ensure you have the best fishing experience.
The reel is built to offer you a long service life with high-quality materials. Its handle is padded with non-slip foam for a firm grip so you can never miss a catch. The handle is also made with stainless steel, which is corrosion-resistant.
You can easily carry the reel anywhere for a fishing adventure thanks to its super-lightweight of 7.7 ounces. Since it can handle 7.5 pounds of fish with a super high speed 7.0:1 line retrieve, it is the best reel for trout fishing, bass fishing, and ice fishing.
Moreover, the legend bait caster features ultra-modern dual brakes that will give you a superior casting control during fishing. The centrifugal and magnetic brake system is reliable and easy to fine-tune.
All considered, this is the best option for bait-casting because its affordability and quality are unmatched.
What we liked:
Left and right-handed options
What could be better:
Not the best for beginners because they are not as easy to use as spinning reels
This is like a heavy-duty spincast reel. For a long time, spincast reels have been dabbed as kids’ toys, but with advances in technology, they are well suited for serious fishermen. Since they are so easy to use, fishing will be an absolute joy for you especially if you use them for finesse applications like drop shotting.
This spinning reel comes in a feather-light design with a magnesium body. This reel will not burden your rod with excess weight thanks to its ultra-lightweight build (a mere 5.6 ounces) that offers excellent rigidity. In fact, it is the lightest in its class and unlike most spincast reels, it is durable.
The reel is made for silky-smooth drag performance because of its sealed carbon drag system. You won’t have to pull hard when you catch fish, and it will stay well-lubricated even after extended periods of fishing.
If you are a seasoned fisherman, you will appreciate the reel’s smart retrieve feature that ensures an effortless retrieve and an accurate line lay whenever you cast. Other than increasing your chances of catching dinner every time you go fishing, the Pflueger is built to offer you with premium comfort during fishing. Its handle knob is made with EVA foam for a firm and comfortable grip. The handle is also made of carbon which is much lighter than aluminum.
What’s more, this fishing reel features a braid-ready spool, which will allow you to tie braid directly to the spool without any monofilament backing. This makes it more versatile; you can use it for various fishing angles.
Overall, if you are willing to part with what it costs, this is the best spinning reel for bass fishing and other small fish.
If you want to go fishing off-shore for the big salt-water fish, this is your ultimate choice. It is a high-range, durable spinning reel, easy to use, and thus beginner-friendly.
The spinning reel adorns a metal body which assures you of a long-term service. It also features a side plate, rotor, and a bail wire made of heavy-duty aluminum that raises its quality bar.
You will be amazed at how far and smooth you will be able to cast as well as easily retrieve with this reel on account of its fantastic HT-100 carbon fiber drag system. If you are targeting bigger fish, you best pick from the 5000 to 8000 series, and if you intend to be throwing lures (for the small fish), then it’s best to stick to the lower 1000 to 4000 series.
The Battle II will hold up fine with regular heavy-duty use as long as you give it a good fresh-water rinse and an annual re-greasing. It also features a braid ready spool that doesn’t need backing. The spool has line capacity rings with markings.
All in all, this reel is perfect for both beginners and seasoned fishermen looking for something heavy-duty and easy to use.
There’s no better way to become a pro fisherman than using this fishing reel that is loaded with features yet low on price. No one would be okay with going fishing for big fish with a reel for 20 bucks until KastKing proved that this reel is up for any task you throw at it in a Youtube video review.
The reel comes in a narrow graphite frame design that is incredibly lightweight and has an attractive brilliant finish. The high tensile graphite frame is corrosion-resistant, and the lightweight design offers you effortless casting.
The reel is amazingly high-powered. Its superior drag system offers incredible stopping power of up to 17.5 pounds, just like the KastKing Royale Legend. This, coupled with the hardened metal shaft it has, a precision machined pinion gear, and a perfect mesh drive gear will give you great fighting power against any kind of fish.
Moreover, you will get a super-smooth performance on account of the reel’s nine quality bearings and an anti-reverse bearing that is one-way and instant-stop.
You will also enjoy farther casting thanks to its power launch lip by the high-strength anodized aluminum spool.
Overall, this is by far the best fishing reel under $100, packed with so many features and a brilliant design.
This is the most heavy-duty of the KastKing gang, perfect for fishing the big game fish like sharks. You can literally catch any monster fish in the river or ocean with this reel.
The Sharky III comes in a graphite body, and rotor reinforced with fiber that makes it lighter, stronger and smoother. It has a sturdy, durable build that can hold up well with regular use in harsh conditions.
With this reel, you will experience incomparable power of up to 39.5 pounds owing to its highly reliable triple disc carbon fiber drag. Its large stainless steel shaft, high-precision mesh, and brass pinion gears also add to the reel’s fishing muscle.
You’ll be amazed by the reel’s quiet and super-smooth retrieval. This couldn’t be without its 10+1 stainless steel ball bearings that are saltwater rates and double shielded. Also, you won’t need a backing line when spooling on a braid fishing line thanks to its aluminum braid ready outstanding shark fin.
Furthermore, the reel is sealed with a KastKing Intrusion Shield, aka KISS, which is a unique water-resistant protection for its body, rotor and spool. It protects the reel from water and dirt.
The Sharky III is a perfect all-around spinning reel suited for fishermen of all levels. Its unique features like instant anti-reverse lock and more line capacity make it stand out among many other brands.
What we liked:
Suitable for both fresh and saltwater
High weight capacity
High power against fish
What could be better:
Some users have complained of uneven line retrieval
This is one of the best trolling reels for catching big game fish in various saltwater conditions. Trolling reels are meant to be used to catch fish whilst on a moving boat. The Penn Squall reel is not only high quality but also super easy on the budget.
The reel has a durable construction with an incredibly lightweight graphite frame, marine-grade bronze main gear, side plates, and stainless pinion gear. Its quality build is one of the first things you will notice when you unpack it.
With a whopping 30 pounds weight capacity and a 370-yard line capacity, you can catch just about any big fish in the ocean or lake. The reel’s HT-100 carbon fiber drag will provide you with a powerful drag and surprisingly, a quick, smooth retrieval.
Additionally, you won’t experience any rotor back play with this reel because of its 2 stainless steel ball bearings and an instant anti-reverse lock bearing. One praiseworthy feature of the Squall Level Wind is its Versa handle system with which you can quickly and easily adjust the handle to your liking.
The Squall Level Wind is an easy choice if you are looking for value for your money. It is a worthy investment because its quality, features, and performance is impeccable.
Shimano is famous for their bicycle components, and they use the same technology to make the fantastic fishing reels. This reel utilizes its latest technology to give you a great fishing experience.
The reel comes in a sleek G-Free body with a proper weight balance, so you don’t experience any fatigue during fishing. The X-ship technology employed in designing the reel offers an improved gear durability. Your casting performance is also elevated, you can cast longer because of the technology eliminates friction between the spool shaft and gear.
The Stradic is one of the best inshore fishing reel because of its sturdy and durable HAGANE gearing and body which provide fishermen with a powerful and smooth performance.
With this reel, you will not experience any line management issues thanks to its propulsion line management system. You also get exceptional casting capabilities and silk smooth retrieval on account of the reel’s Fluidrive II system and built-in Dyna-Balance rotor.
Since it comes in 4 different sizes, you can get one that suits your fishing needs. The ST4000XGFK is one of the best bottom fishing reel because it can hold up well in any fishing conditions.
This reel’s fantastic features, together with Shimano’s excellent construction, makes it the most durable and reliable spinning reel on this list. That pretty much explains its price. It’s pricier than other spinning reels on this list for all the right reasons.
If you want to go fishing in the ocean with something that has bit more muscle, this is your best shot. You can catch sea bass, salmon, and groupers with this because it was designed with deep-sea fishing in mind.
The reel comes in a high-quality metal body with a layer of coating. It also features an aluminum frame that is ultra-lightweight and corrosion-resistant.
This reel features a long hand and an oversize cast-control knob suited to reel in the big fish. You won’t miss a catch because of a reversing handle thanks to its double dog ratchet system that eliminated reversing. Though the handle is made of aluminum and not rubber-like with most reels and it can get slippery when wet, so it’s all just a matter of preference.
Another feature that makes this reel suited for catching big fish in the ocean is its big spool that has a line capacity of 300 yards and 80pounds weight capacity. The spool is also made of aluminum thus durable, and it gives a smooth casting and retrieval. You will literally not hear any noises in its crank.
Overall, this is the best tackle you can get for the strong saltwater fish species and its high corrosive effects. It is an excellent buy for deep-sea fishing.
Spinning reels are known to be light-duty, but the Pflueger president is an exception. We could say it’s the only spinning reel with a bit more muscle. Beginner and young fishermen would get the most out of this reel.
The President is also an exception when it comes to durability. It comes in an aluminum frame with dual titanium pins, which give it a sturdy and brilliant finish. It is not the best lightweight reel out there but its aluminum parts give it an acceptable weight of 11.2 ounces.
Your fishing experience will be super comfortable thanks to the reel’s soft-grip knob. Its gear is also faster than that of smaller spinning reels with a perfectly smooth and quiet retrieval.
Yes, the president is heavy-duty but you don’t want to catch big game fish with it. It will not hold up well. It is a perfect choice for throwing just light baits and lures to catch small fish.
With the instant anti-reverse feature, you will not miss a catch with this reel.
All considered, this is an incredible choice for beginners and kids because of their quality and price point.
This is the best spinning reel for bass fishing, trout, sunfish, or any other small fish in both fresh and saltwater. It is designed to inspire your passion for fishing and even help you become a pro.
The reel comes in a sleek, dynamic design. It is built to deliver long-term performance with its heavy-duty aluminum bail wire and an extensive line roller. The body is corrosion resistant and thus suitable for both fresh and saltwater usage.
For maximum effect, you will have to pair it with a very lightweight fishing rod because it has a low weight capacity of 4 pounds and line capacity of 110 yards. This will ensure the set-up is powerful enough for the fish you are trying to catch. Its rotor is made to spin at a very high speed in a quiet and smooth manner.
Smooth performance has been prioritized in the development of this reel. It is constructed on a great 8-bearing drive system and a precision elliptical gearing all for a smooth performance. You will also have complete control over the keel with its forged aluminum handle as well as enjoy premium comfort offered by the EVA foam handle knobs.
Overall, Okuma is an excellent buy, given it is small, lightweight, and strong. There is no better way to catch those tunas and trout on a budget whether you are a beginner or an intermediate fisherman.
What we liked:
Smooth and easy retrieval
Comfortable handle knob
Great for both beginners and intermediate fishermen
This is not the most popular fishing reel out there, but Daiwa is a trusted brand that has been around for over 6 decades. This particular reel is their flagship saltwater fishing reel and it is one of the best out there.
All the Daiwa BG reels come in a black machines aluminum housing that is anodized. This gives them a brilliant look and also makes them highly scratch proof. Nothing sucks as much as scratching a brand new reel as soon as you unbox it, and that’s never going to be the case with this one.
This reel is the king of versatility with a whopping 1500-1800 size range. You really have to know what you want before getting one. You can use it to catch small or big fish with the varying weight and line capacities.
The reel features a Carbon Automatic Tournament Drag that is waterproof for a reliable and silk-smooth performance. Its Dig gear system is also oversized to increase gear-tooth contact points for a more powerful, smoother, and longer gear life.
With all its features and top-notch performance, the Daiwa BG is a solid reel for its price point.
What we liked:
Super smooth casting and retrieval
Easy to use
Great cranking power
Can be used in both fresh and saltwater
What could be better:
Some users have complained of inconsistency in its quality
This is your prime pick if you are looking for a fishing reel on a tight budget. It delivers optimum performance at a very affordable price.
The reel comes in a low profile design with a nickel-plated brass body for superior and long-term service. The brass material is corrosion and water-resistant making the reel stronger and more durable.
With its powerful brake system and high-speed gear ratio, you can quickly and smoothly pull up a large catch.
You will experience superior comfort when reeling owing to the reel’s EVA handle knob that offers a firm grip that is soft to the touch. Also, both lefties and righties have been catered for; you will have the best fishing experience.
On top of being affordably priced, you get a full 12-month service and a lifetime customer support, which confirms a risk-free purchase.
If you are not ready to dig deep into your pockets for a fishing reel, this is your best pick.
What we liked:
Water and corrosion-resistant body
Left and right-hand options
Great customer support
Easy and smooth retrieval
What could be better:
Can be challenging to set up
Things to Consider
As mentioned above, the market is flooded with various brands and models of fishing reels that singling out the best can be tricky. This buying guide will help you choose a perfect fishing reel by helping you establish your need for one and the crucial features to consider when buying one.
Why buy a fishing reel?
If you love fishing or you just started going fishing, investing in the right fishing reel will enhance both your pleasure and results. You need a fishing reel for retrieving and deploying a fishing line as well as for recreational angling and competitive casting. Regardless of your skill, a perfect fishing reel will make fishing more fun and productive for you.
Features to consider when choosing a fishing reel
Here is what you should look out for before purchasing a fishing reel.
This will be determined by your fishing needs. There are various types of fishing reels suited for different fishing conditions and actions.
Spincast reels, like the Pflueger President Fishing Reel, are pretty similar to spinning reels but are controlled with a button. However, they are not as durable as baitcasting and spinning reels.
Reels look pretty much the same when it comes to design. Though there are a few variations across the different types of reels. Some of the critical components of a standard reel are a handle, spool, bail, gearbox, drag knob, and body.
The size of a reel is dependent on what it can really do. Spinning reels with a higher weight and line capacity are bigger and can be used to catch big fish. Baitcast reels, on the other hand, are lighter and small in size but can handle heavier weights and lines.
You don’t want a heavy reel because you are going to be holding it in your hand for a long time. And you will also have the weight of fish added to it whenever you catch one. A lightweight line is a must for any beginner.
Go for reels that have been made with high-quality material that can withstand regular use in harsh water conditions. Reels with an aluminum or a granite body and an EVA handle for a comfortable grip are the best.
Be sure to get a reel with an ergonomic handle with a comfortable grip so you can easily pull in fish. If your hands slip, you miss a catch.
Based on the size of fish you intend to catch and your reel’s capacity, you have to set the drag before you start fishing. The drag on the fishing reel will help reduce tension and prevent the line from breaking when you catch fish.
The choice of a reel handle is pretty personal. Reels comes with a wide range of handle shapes and lengths, some even have double handles for more balanced retrievals. There are aluminum and rubber handles. The rubber handles provide a more comfortable and firm grip.
The more the bearings in a reel, the smoother it operates. They also increase the lifespan of the reel as they reduce wear and tear of its moving parts.
Gear ratio determines how fast the reel will retrieve the line. Powerful reels have a lower gear ratio, which gives more cranking power so that the fisherman can easily take control of large fish.
Freshwater vs. saltwater fishing
It is better to settle for a reel that can be used both in freshwater and saltwater like the Burning Shark Trolling Reel. Such will have a corrosion-resistant body that will hold up well to the corrosive effects of saltwater.
Style. There are 4 style of reels. Some are highly versatile and can be used for different fishing styles, while others are very particular.
The styles include: fixed spool reels which are incredibly versatile, free spool reels which are heavy-duty and robust and are known to be the best inline ice fishing reels, center-pin reels and closed face reels.
The best closed face reels are mostly used by river anglers because of their lightweight and smooth performance.
Line lay. A flatter line lay on the spool means a better casting performance by the reel. You will effortlessly make further and more accurate casts.
How to clean fishing reels
Thorough cleaning of your reels after every use will increase its lifespan. Here is how to go about it:
First off, you need to tighten the drag to prevent any water damage of the drag stack then sponge it with warm and soapy water.
You can then rinse the whole reel with clean, fresh water and wipe it dry with a clean cloth.
To finish, you can apply some lubricating protectant using a piece of cloth.
Reels are like any other equipment with moving part. You need to clean and lubricate them regularly. However, there isn’t a set rule for the number of times required for you to clean. If you feel your reel needs cleaning then clean it.
You have to get the reel and rod combo right for an effective fishing experience. First, you have to pick the right size rod that can handle the size of fish of the reel’s weight capacity. Second, ensure the reel has a quality smooth drag that allows you to take control of the fish and also prevents the line from breaking.
Picking the best fishing reel from multiple choices available is a tall order. There is much that goes into it like the kind of fish you are targeting, your budget, and crucial features you cannot do without.
The products reviewed in this guide will help you make the right choice regardless of your skill and budget. We liked KastKing Royale Legend/Whitemax Baitcasting Fishing Reel the most because its affordability, smooth performance, and first-rate features could not be matched. It is an all-around fishing reel best suited for intermediate and pro fishermen.
Pflueger Supreme XT Spinning Fishing Reel and Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel followed closely in the ratings because of their affordability and versatility. They could both be used by beginners, intermediate and seasoned fishermen. After reading this guide, you will gain a buyer’s confidence to make the right choice when purchasing a fishing reel. The best fishing reel will make you quickly pick up fishing as a hobby or elevate your fishing experience if you are into it already.