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.
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Last updated: May 18, 2021
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If you aren’t equipped with the best reel for surf fishing, it can greatly reduce your chances of successfully catching something. For those who have experience in surf fishing, you know that numerous factors such as bigger fish, strong deep currents and wind, and the corrosive effects of saltwater place enormous stress on the reel. That is why it’s important to carefully choose the reel for surf fishing to get the highest quality of the product.
In our search for the best reel for surf fishing, we’ve identified a number of essential features. We’ve placed importance on characteristics such as its size, capacity, bearings, gear ratio, max drag, weight, and any other notable features that require mentioning. We feel that these are the most valuable components that go into the construction of the best surf fishing reel that will be durable, save you money from re-purchasing fishing reels, and ultimately, help you catch some fish!
In the following section, we’ll present to you our best options available on the market. Based on our research of product descriptions from OEMs, product reviews from customers, and various articles and videos, we’ll also provide you with a detailed review of each fishing reel as well as a handy buying guide to help you in your decision-making process.
"If you are looking for a very reliable reel so that the fish could never get away, check this option with the dual anti-reverse system. Moreover, it has Dual Force Drag system that increases high-end pressure."
With a reputation as one of the best saltwater spinning reels on the market, the Penn Battle II is our top pick when it comes to surf fishing reels. This high-range and durable reel comes ready to fight against saltwater corrosion with six stainless steel ball bearings and saltwater-resistant paint. This full metal body reel comes in sizes ranging from 1000-8000, but we recommend sticking with 4,000 or higher to get extra drag power. With a speed gear ratio of 6.2:1 and 360 yards of casting distance with a 15-pound drag, you’re getting really amazing distance with this reel at an incredibly affordable price.
When encountering more stubborn fish, you’ll want a reel that is ultra-smooth to help catch them. That’s where the Shimano Stradic Ci4+ comes into play. The body of this spinning reel is constructed of carbon and very lightweight and durable and at a gear ratio of 6.2:1, that is more than enough for catching some pretty big fish considering its lightweight design. This reel comes with Advanced CoreProtect water resistance that makes sure your reel is protected and offers durability. Including the anti-reverse roller bearing, there are seven stainless steel ball bearings. With four different sizes to choose from – 1000, 2500, 3000, 4000 – and with a maximum drag range of 24 pounds, you’re getting a very reliable surf fishing reel.
For your light saltwater surf fishing needs, you need to check out the Daiwa SS Tournament. This model comes in four different sizes, 700, 1300, 1600, 2600, but this review focuses on the light SS1300. The star of this reel is that it has three stainless steel bearings that help to make sure you have seamless reeling and retrieval. Another feature of this reel that has won two BassMasters Classics is its incredible fishing performance. This reel features its revolutionary long-cast technology which produces an ultra-smooth drag and precise winding. The maximum drag for this reel is just a shade over 15 pounds.
Another wonderful spinning reel for surf fishing is the Quantum Cabo PT. Coming in sizes ranging from 4000-8000, we’re spotlighting the 4000 because of its construction and price ratio. Its titanium-grey design makes it a bit heavier but don’t let that deter you from its comfortable crank knob that provides stability for your hand and fantastic drag weight. If you’re spooling a monofilament line on this reel, you’re looking to get about 230 yards of 10-pound braid, while with braid, that bumps up to 270 yards of 30-pound braid. Whichever line you choose, the casting range is quite far with this compact reel.
The SeaKnight Rapid is our choice for good reasons. You’re getting a terrific casting distance with this reel for surf fishing at a tremendously fair price. The SeaKnight Rapid fights off saltwater corrosion with its 11 stainless steel ball bearings (10+1) with a gear ratio of 6.2:1. It’s lightweight build and design, that fits snug in hand, uses a monofilament line and can catch some serious heavy fishes. Its maximum casting capacity is a solid 250 yards at 25 pounds drag. Overall, just a great surf fishing reel at an affordable price.
Another remarkable Penn surf fishing reel in our list is the Penn Clash Spinning. It comes in different sizes from 2000-8000, but we’re taking a close look at the 4000. It has a solid all-metal frame that makes the reel feel quite stiff. It sports nine stainless steel ball bearings that give a smooth feel to the reel on your retrieve and also to help fight off the saltwater corrosion. While it can use both monofilament and braided lines, the Penn Clash is meant for braided lines thanks to Penn’s Leveline System that enables slow reel oscillation that prevents tangles in the lines. With braided lines, you’re looking at casting distance of 315 yards with 15 pounds of drag. With mono lines, you’re only looking at a maximum of 270 yards with an eight-pound drag.
The Okuma Azores Spinning Reel is another fantastic surf fishing reel. Coming in sizes ranging from 4000-9000, you’ll get the best bang for your buck with the 4000 (Z-40S). The signature feature on this reel is the Dual Force Drag system that is commonly found in more pricey reels. This system almost guarantees an accurate hook every time as it operates with its dual anti-reverse system. Having this dual system also ensures a smoother drag from the even distribution of pressure it creates. In terms of casting distance using a monofilament line, you’re going to get about 300 yards with eight pounds of drag. At a much shorter distance, the drag can reach as high as 28 pounds.
The Pflueger President XT Low Profile Reel is a good lightweight reel for surf fishing. It is a low profile baitcast reel which means it is lighter and more compact than other reels. Despite its small size, the specs on this reel are quite impressive. It has nine ball bearings that are all resistant to saltwater corrosion and has its own magnetic braking system, which diminishes tangling and backlash. With an amazing gear ratio of 7.3:1, the Pflueger Low Profile Reel allows you to reel in your catch more quickly. However, in terms of casting distance, that is where this reel falls a bit short compared to others. It can only cast about 185 yards at a 20-pound drag using a braided line whereas for monofilament lines, the casting distance goes down 145 yards with only a 12-pound drag. So clearly, this reel is perfect for surf fishing but at shorter distances and smaller drag weights.
The Offshore reel by Fin-Nor is one of the bigger surf fishing reels on the market for this size. This reel comes in sizes from 4500-9500, and it’s the 8500 that we will examine. The Offshore is meant to withstand many of the bigger fish in tough water conditions and is very durable. The body is composed of aluminum, and with its four stainless steel ball bearings, it will fight off saltwater corrosion. Equipped with a Mega Drag system, it allows for a smoother casting experience. With a ratio of 4.4:1, this reel is great for a bigger catch as it emphasizes strength over speed. As for casting distance, this reel can go up 400 yards with a fantastic 65 pounds of drag weight. On a mono line, you’re looking at 540 yards with a drag weight of 20 pounds.
The Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Blue Yonder is the final unit in our top 10 list. It has three stainless steel ball bearings that are saltwater and corrosion-resistant. This reel has a strong and smooth drag thanks to its Carbon Matrix drag system. It also comes with an adjustable magnetic braking system with their MagTrax system. This allows you to control the casting better and minimizes the tangles. You’re going to get some good speed with a gear ratio of 6.3:1, and if you’re not looking for heavier catches, this is a great reel. It can cast up to 275 yards at 14 pounds of drag while a braided line will go over 300 yards at a 30-pound drag.
What are its best features?
Strong and smooth drag
Perfect braking system
Fantastic casting control
Outstanding casting distance
What could be improved?
Not the best option for heavier catches despite size of reel
Things to Consider
We’ve examined the 10 best spinning reels for surf fishing and now it’s time to give you a bit more information and find the nuances of fishing reels. We’ll give you a detailed description about monofilament and braided lines, the number of bearings, gear ratio, drag power, weight of the reel and a few of the more common questions that are asked with spinning reels.
Things to consider before buying the best surf fishing reel
You must decide what type of fish you’re looking to catch to find the best fishing reel for that type of fish and their weight. If don’t want to fish for heavier catches, then purchasing a reel with a maximum drag weight of 12 pounds is enough. Another thing you’ll want to consider is the quality of materials used to compose the reel itself. Reels that are built with higher-quality materials that can stave off the corrosive effects of saltwater will help you protect your investment and prevent you from maintenance work and purchasing a new reel quickly.
Size of the reel
When you’re trying to find out which fishing reel is best for surf fishing, the size of the reel should be an important factor. But choosing the right reel size can also depend on the type of fish you’re looking to catch. Generally speaking, fishing reel sizes can be broken down into three categories: small, medium, and large. For smaller reels, you’re looking at sizes between 1000-4000, and you’re typically going to be fishing for trout, bream, whiting, and bass. The Daiwa SS1300 Tournament that we reviewed would be a magnificent reel choice for smaller fish. For medium reels, the range sits between 4000-6000, and you’re fishing for snapper, cod, morwong, and tailor. The Penn Battle II and SeaKnight Rapid, both 4000 sizes, would be excellent medium-size reel choices. Lastly, for the larger spin reels, it’s generally 6000 and above, and you’ll be targeting kingfish, salmon, mackerel, and mulloway. The Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Blue Yonder and Fin-Nor Offshore fishing reels would be great for bigger catches.
Mono and braid line capacity
Monofilament and braid lines both have respective pros and cons for using either of them. Monofilament lines are more user-friendly and is the best type of line to use for people learning how to fish because of it’s much easier to tie a knot. Braided lines, however, require a bit more fishing knowledge. It is also much smaller in diameter than the monofilament lines.
Having braided line means being able to cast for greater ranges which is why they are better for that than monofilament lines. Furthermore, braided lines can withstand higher drag tension at different distances.
But because of these advantages, braided lines are much more expensive.
Number of bearing
Reels for surf fishing tend to have a different amount of bearings. It is not necessarily true that the more bearings, the better the reel. There’s more that goes into that. First of all, you should look at the quality of the bearings themselves. For surf fishing, the bearings of your reel are going to be impacted the most by the corrosive effects of saltwater. But, if you have high-quality bearings that are resistant to corrosion, the more benefits you get from your purchase.
If there are many bearings on your reel that are of high-quality, then you will be able to cast for a long distance with smooth and easy reeling. Nowadays, more and more of the spinning fishing reels use high-quality, stainless steel ball bearings.
Gear ratio is basically the number of spool revolutions for every one turn of the handle of the fishing reel. In other words, it is how fast a reel can pick up line. For instance, a fishing reel that has a gear ratio of 6.2:1 means that the spool rotates 6.2 times per complete turn of the reel handle. If the ratio is higher, it simply means that you’re trying to pull in your catch a lot faster, which means that your catch must be a lighter load. If it was a heavier catch, you would ideally want a lower ratio because it would be able to accommodate the higher drag weight. For spinning reels, an ideal gear ratio is from 5.2:1 to 6.2:1.
Simply put, drag power refers to how much a catch’s weight or resistance feels when it’s being pulled in on the rod. The higher the drag power, the heavier your catch can be. Knowing what the drag power of your fishing reel is important because it enables you to understand how much tension the plates of your spool can withstand. This setting needs to be manually adjusted before you cast your line, and the drag tension is measured in pounds. As you increase the casting distance, the maximum drag tension gets lower.
Weight of the reel
The weight of the fishing reel can vary depending on the size of the reel itself. Remember that the weight of the reel affects the rod balance and comfort. For bigger-sized reels, the weight will naturally be higher because of the density of the materials that compose it. For example, the Fin-Nor Offshore fishing reel that we examined has a size of 8500, and since this is on the largest sizes of this type of fishing reel, it naturally has a heavier weight at close to 38 oz. Whereas the Shimano Stradic Ci4+ which has a size of 4000 and is composed of lightweight carbon materials, only weighs 8.1 oz.
Materials and construction
As we’ve shown you in our list of the best reel for saltwater surf fishing, a lot of these reels are made with corrosion-resistant materials to help combat the harsh environment. This is important because it ensures a longer lifespan for your reel, makes the maintenance easier and will end up saving you money from having to purchase a new reel. Another important factor is the quality of the materials.
Many manufacturers are moving away from the old graphite constructions and are now making the reels using a combination of different materials, such as carbon, titanium but mostly aluminum. When you add it all up, these materials help provide you with durability.
Anti-corrosive coating and sealing
One of the biggest dangers in surf fishing is the corrosion that comes from saltwater. It is essential to have your reel constructed with rust-resistant materials. Also, they should have the perfect sealing to prevent water, dirt, and sand from getting inside. There are many options on the market that come equipped with corrosion-resistant materials such as using aluminum bodies with additional anti-corrosive coatings as well as stainless steel ball bearings.
Depending on the fishing reel you choose for surf fishing, many of them have features that are unique to them and cannot be found in other reels. Some reels like the Penn Battle II and the Fin-Nor Offshore have the anti-reverse switches that basically prevent the reel from spinning backwards and forces the drag to really work for you. If the fish were tiny, using back-reeling might be a fine for your technique, but when you’re out doing saltwater fishing, the catches tend to be a bit more stubborn, and you’ll want that drag to work hard for you rather than back-reeling, and that’s why this anti-reverse feature is so important.
One of the biggest considerations when it comes to deciding on which surf fishing reel you want to buy is the price. The prices of these reels can wildly vary so you should really take a good look at the manufacturer and materials of the reel. From the best value perspective, the most satisfying spinning reel for surf fishing you can buy is the Penn Battle II. It is priced at an incredibly fair and reasonable $99.95, and in relation to the prices of other fishing reels and the features of this fishing reel, it is truly a great purchase for saltwater surf fishing. Another medium-sized reel that is on the higher end of pricing is the Shimano Stradic Ci4+, and it costs $229. If you want the budget-friendly option, then consider purchasing the SeaKnight Rapid. It is on sale for a criminally low price of $37.68. But if you’re looking for a bigger reel for some bigger catches, the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Blue Yonder comes in at a hefty $249.95.
While both casting and spinning reels are effective at catching fish, they both differ in the types of fish you can catch. For spinning reels, it’s much easier to catch smaller fish as most of them offer from 8 to 12 pounds of drag tension. On the other hand, casting reels can withstand the weight of heavier fishes thanks to the reel’s heavier and sturdier build. They are, however, much more difficult to learn how to use than the spinning reels. Another big difference is that spinning reels are much more effective at shorter distance casting whereas casting reels are better suited for longer distance casting and heavier lines.
Basically, there are two types of surf fishing reels to use: monofilament line and braided lines. In this battle of old vs. new, it really depends on your general fishing knowledge. For monofilament lines, they are much easier to knot than braided lines. If you lack knot-tying knowledge, monofilament line is probably the best pick for you. Although, you can spool braided line on some reels. With a significantly smaller diameter, it enables you to get much more casting range when you are out in the water. However, if the matter comes down to price, you’re looking at a much steeper price point for the newer, braided lines than the older, monofilament lines.
The best answer to this requires keeping in mind a few factors. First of all, it depends on the type of line you’re using. If you’re using a braided line, its smaller diameter will allow you to fit more line, which means you’ll be able to cast further out into the water, which is great for surf fishing. Next, you’ll want to make sure that your reel’s spool is full. This will allow the line to roll off the spool with each turn, which will increase the casting distance. All in all, it comes to your personal experience and preferences.
So, there we have it. We have reviewed ten of the very best reels to get the surf fishing to the next level. While it may be hard to choose one from the list, we’ll help you out and give you our three favorite reels.
The best overall fishing reel for surf fishing is the Penn Battle II. We were impressed with the full metal body of this medium-size reel. You can get a generous 360 yards casing with a 15-pound drag tension, and its solid gear ratio of 6.2:1. It has a very affordable price of $99.95, and this is why it is our clear-cut favorite.
The second one we were impressed with was the Shimano Stradic Ci4+. This unit offers ultra-smooth reeling. It is quite fast (6.2:1 gear ratio), powerful, and protected from the harsh environment.
Our last pick is a spinning reel you’ll want when you’re after the ideal performance and reliability. We liked the Daiwa SS Tournament because of its ability to withstand the rigors of saltwater fishing. You can get a smooth casting and a standard 5.1:1 gear ratio. You’re also getting good value with this reel for a tidy price of $104.99.
We hope you’ve been informed about the ten best surf fishing reels and wish you good luck out in your surf fishing with your new reel.