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 24, 2021
Outdoorsly is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
If you’re looking for the best ultralight spinning reel, we’ve created a list of the top products for you. Ultralight spinning reels are very good for those who spend long shifts out fishing as the lightweight can avoid fatigue, are easier to carry around and are suitable if you are sport fishing for relatively smaller species of fish rather than trying to catch huge sea creatures!
In this article, we’ve taken time to think about all of the most important features when you are buying a spinning reel. Our reviews are based on factors including the number and quality of the bearings, the gear ratio of the reel and the line capacity. The drag has been considered in detail as this varies hugely depending on which option you buy. We’ve also looked at the weight of the reel, which is obviously something you will want to consider if you are looking for an ultralight product. Based on all of these factors, we found the Shimano Stradic Frontdrag Spinning reel to be a fantastic product which outperformed the majority of the competition.
Our team has spent weeks researching the best products to fit this bill, using first-hand experience as well as multiple consumer reviews. Our research has been presented as a simple table as well as in-depth reviews of the selected products, and finally a buying guide to help you to make your decision.
Shimano is a very prolific brand of fishing reels and make all sorts of different varieties. The Shimano Stradic ST2500HGFK Frontdrag Spinning Fishing Reel is our highest rated product and is exceptionally well-made, especially when you consider the weight.
The latest technology used by the brand includes X-Ship tech, which is designed to stop the friction between spool shafts, making it easier to cast a long distance. It also has improved durability within the gears.
HAGANE gearing and body are included, as many Shimano products use this for smooth and long-lasting performance either inshore or in offshore environments.
This is a truly smooth reel when it comes to casting, and the Fluidrive system included helps you to be able to cast without issues building up with your line.
Along with impressive smoothness, you can use this model on relatively large fish which have a tendency to wrestle back. The 20 lbs drag is fantastic for such a small reel.
A huge number of very experienced fishermen recommend this product as a good amount of power and a very smooth action for such a small and lightweight reel. The sturdy build quality is another big plus point and hard to deny when you experience using this reel.
What we liked:
Excellent drag considering the weight.
Incredibly smooth with lots of Shimano tech to increase the smooth operation.
G-free technology can lower fatigue when using for long periods of time.
This is a brilliant product with an exceptional cranking feel. The Okuma Helios Lightweight Spinning Reel has 9 bearings and is extremely light at just 7 oz.
TheRES II system which is incorporated uses a computer-balanced weight which stops issues with wobble. This has been created to stop wobble and also keep it properly aligned at all times.
The Okuma Helios is a good reel when it comes to sturdiness and doesn’t corrode quickly at all. This is helped by the Cyclonic Flow Rotor which helps to dry it out after use, and gets rid of water from inside which could otherwise make it corrode much more quickly.
13 lb of drag is pretty good for a product which is so light. Many people have spoken about this reel, including the Okuma Helios in their lightweight traveling setup.
The C40x carbon fiber technology has been designed to make the reel both light and also very sturdy and rigid. It doesn’t twist or create torque and therefore the whole reel should stay aligned.
The smooth feel of this spinning reel, combined with how hard-wearing and long-lasting it is, makes it a great choice for ultralight setups.
What we liked:
Extremely light at just 7 oz.
Corrosion resistant and gets rid of water from inside quickly and easily.
This is yet another of the best Shimano ultralight spinning reels and has a great set of features for those looking for lightweight fishing gear. The Ultegra series is relatively new and with the fact that it is made out of strong materials including cold-forged steel for the gear.
The series uses the HAGANE gears which the Shimano brand has become known for. These have grown a reputation for being incredibly smooth as well as be durable and long-lasting. This is suitable for use in all sorts of different water.
The Ultegra uses the X-Ship technology in place in a lot of different Shimano models. This means no friction between the spool shaft and the gear, which makes casting easier, and long casts are made simple.
Like many of the best modern surf fishing reels, this has core protection to encourage water to flow away from the core and not cause corrosion.
Overall, this is a very well-reviewed reel. It is incredibly lightweight and still manages to be very good for smaller fish in spite of the fact it doesn’t have a very high drag rating. For a lightweight setup, this is worth considering.
What we liked:
Smooth operation and easy to cast even long distances.
Ultralight spinning reels are usually a good choice for beginners, and brands have catered for this by providing the reel as part of a kit which includes a rod, so pretty much all you need to get started.
This is the best ultralight spinning rod and reel combo we’ve come across. It is excellent value for money and has been made for freshwater fish. It is one of the best ultralight spinning reels for trout, flounder and other species.
This does need to be rinsed after use, and the water can sometimes stick inside the reel, which might make corrosion more likely over a course of time.
The ergonomic EVA handle knob is comfortable for long-term use, which works well with the ultralight nature of this reel and means that even the longest fishing sessions should easily be achievable with maximum comfort.
Though this is one of the cheaper options on the list, especially considering the fact it has a rod with it, it still offers plenty of great quality and is well-made. The CC4 has 24-ton graphite construction along with steel guides and inserts. These are advertised as corrosion-resistant, though it isn’t as long-lasting as some of the other products.
Because of the price range this is built for and the features included, it is more suitable for beginners rather than pros. If you need an entry level reel and rod combo, this could be for you.
What we liked:
Rod and reel set, both are included.
Comfortable and lightweight even for long term use.
What could be better:
May corrode over time.
Not as smooth to cast as some of the other options on the list.
Abu Garcia is another absolutely huge fishing gear manufacturer who make loads of different reels. Their best reel on the market is this, the Revo X. It doesn’t have a huge drag at just 10 lbs, so it isn’t the best if you are looking to catch bigger fish, however it is extremely smooth to cast and easy to use.
Extra features such as the rocket line system give more control over casting and keep the reel balanced throughout use. It also has an instant anti-reverse to stop it from turning backward, this is something some reels can really struggle with so not having to worry about it is a big bonus.
Though it is lightweight, this is built to last. It has six HPCR bearings and one roller bearing, these are designed to prevent corrosion. There is also a LM-CB body which uses an ‘x-crafty’ gearbox. It has a C6 carbon body which is how it is able to be so sturdy without weighing more. The rotor is made out of graphite which is also extremely light.
The line retrieves quickly on this model and the management system inbuilt makes it a very nice feeling reel to use, even if you plan to go fishing for long spells.
Many people swear by the Abu Garcia brand and it is easy to see why when using a product like this, which is easy to cast and smooth to use as well as being light. It is exceptionally well reviewed.
What we liked:
Instant anti-reverse feature.
Smooth and easy to cast.
What could be better:
Not the highest drag out of the options on the list.
This model from Pflueger is one of the best spinning reels on a budget as it is available for well under $100. Like the rest of the models on this list, this is lightweight at under 10 oz (8.8 to be precise).
Like a lot of the models on the list, it makes use of graphite in the construction of the body and rotor to keep it light whilst still staying relatively study. The spool is ready for braid, just tie it on and you’re ready to go.
One of the unique features of the spinning reel is the sealed drag system which is constantly lubricated and gives quite a smooth feel even when you have hooked a fish.
The gearing is designed to be ‘slow oscillating’ which means it improves the line when it has been cast and reduces the chances of the line getting twisted.
Though reviews have generally been positive for this item, it is not quite as elite as the options from Abu Garcia and the other top manufacturers such as Shimano. It has the tendency to grind a little through the gears and it also does sometimes twist, even though the brand has made an effort to avoid this happening.
Our budget pick for spinning reels is not just one of the best ultralight spinning reels under $50 but it is also arguably the best ultralight spinning reel for trout and similar fish due to the fact that it has quite a high drag meaning larger fish can be attainable with this reel.
The body and rotor are both excellent quality and have a fiber reinforcement to keep them sturdy and high quality whilst still being lightweight.
The Sharky III has an incredible amount of drag considering the cost and the weight. The manganese bass gears help to give this extra power and are one of the reasons the drag is high. They also keep it relatively smooth, though it isn’t as smooth to cast as some of the more expensive models.
The KISS functionality stands for KastKing Intrusion Shield System, this keeps water out of the center and also stops dirt from getting in.
For an ultralight spinning reel on a budget, it is hard to argue with what is on offer with the KastKing Sharky III 1000 Fishing Reel.
What we liked:
Excellent drag rating for such a lightweight reel.
KISS system keeps water and dirt away from the center and stops corrosion.
What could be better:
Not as hard-wearing as some other spinning reels.
Things to Consider
If you are relatively new to the world of fishing and buying reels then it can be pretty confusing: there are a lot of terminologies to learn and also a huge amount of different options for which reel you are going to buy. It isn’t an easy world to navigate. We’ve created our buying guide in order to help you to better understand some of the terms you need to know and describe the features which should be informing your buying decision. This can help to make sure you get the right option for you, and don’t overspend in the process.
Reasons to get a top-quality ultralight spinning reel
There are loads of great ultralight spinning reels out there, and you don’t have to spend a fortune in order to buy a quality option. There’s no reason not to get a great spinning reel, and to find one which will best suit your own needs when you’re fishing. Whether you’re brand new to fishing or you are an experienced professional, you should have an ultralight spinning reel. Many experienced fishermen have an ultralight reel as part of a light and easy setup which they can take on trips with them.
A good quality spinning reel will mean one that can last you many years, and can greatly improve your fishing experience. The best ultralight reels allow you to cast further, with more ease than other reels.
A bad reel, on the other hand, will not last you long and can lead to some frustrating issues like birds nesting effects on your line, for instance. If you don’t choose a good quality reel then you may end up just having to look to replace it in the near future anyway.
Features to consider when choosing an ultralight spinning reel
The following features are the most important things to consider when you are making your choice regarding which ultralight spinning reel to buy. Depending on what stage of your fishing career you’re at, and the preferences you have, different features may be more important to you than others.
In all of our ultralight spinning reel reviews, we have discussed the bearings. Bearings create a smoothness when casting or reeling in and provide stability in the reel. Every different spinning reel will need some sort of bearings within. The difference is in the material and the number of bearings inside each of the reels. Better quality bearings will last longer and also add to the smoothness of the operation of your reel.
The gear ratio refers to how many times the reel spins per rotation. The number will look something like this: 6.2:1. This denotes that for each rotation the reel spins 6.2 times.
The higher this number, the faster it is to retrieve your line.
This number has been discussed in each of our reviews above. It is standard for ultralight reels to have between 5.0:1 and 6.0:1 gear ratios.
Maximum drag force
The drag force refers to resistance. It is a measurement of how much resistance is felt by the fish after it has been hooked. Basically, it provides the power to tussle with the fish up to a certain weight, and also prevents this from causing extra strain on the actual rod, which can snap if you don’t have a high drag force but take on a more powerful fish.
The line capacity refers to how much line can be held on the reel at any time. There are multiple numbers in this category due to the fact that different types of line have different thicknesses and therefore different amounts can be held on the reel.
Line retrieve per crank
This simply refers to how much line can be retrieved each time you crank the reel. One full crank will equate to a number, for instance, the Shimano Stradic ST2500HGFK Frontdrag Spinning Fishing Reel, our Editors’ choice, retrieves 35 inches per crank. This is tied to the gear ratio as you would expect.
Reel handle position
This sounds like a silly thing to have to pay attention to, but a lot of people get the reel handle position wrong! When you are buying your reel you will need to choose one which suits your strong hand, whether you are right handed or left handed. Some brands do not make reels to suit both left and right handed.
The reel weight is important for anyone looking for an ultralight option! None of the products on our list are over 10 oz. in weight, otherwise, they would not be ultralight. The weights are pretty similar on many of these products, but it is worth paying attention to how much each reel weighs.
In order for a reel to be lightweight but still sturdy, it needs to be made out of certain, good quality materials. Carbon fiber coatings are often used as well as graphite, which can give strength to the reel without adding too much bulk. There is usually a correlation between how much the reel costs and the material quality. For the very best, you will probably have to pay a little more.
How to keep your ultralight spinning reel in top condition
Spinning Reels should last a long time, and the best chance of not having to replace your reel in the near future is to take good care of it! You don’t have to do a lot of work to keep your spinning reel in good condition, and if you don’t, you run the risk of it breaking when you are out on a fishing or angling trip.
The following tips can help you to keep the reel in good condition and help it last longer:
Clean it out after each use and get rid of any dirt or even water that has worked its way into the mechanism.
Dry your reel before storing it, whether this means using a towel or just leaving in the sun for a little while to help it to dry out, this will mean it corrodes more slowly.
Regularly grease the gears to keep everything running as smoothly as possible and prevent the gear from grinding. Use good quality grease to do so.
Regularly oil the bearings, this will also help the smooth running of the reel and especially when it comes to casting.
When you have to take your reel apart, lay everything out in order and take extra care. Taking the reel apart properly will mean you put it together properly too and don’t end up with spare parts which can cause damage.
Front drag reels, generally speaking, have larger discs and therefore run a lot more smoothly. Rear drag models are easier to change spools, so there is a trade-off here. If you are happy to do the extra work when changing your reel’s spools then you may wish to go for a front drag option. Either way, the difference is not hugely drastic and isn’t something you should make your decision based on.
There is no catch-all answer. Spinning reels and baitcasters both have their pros and cons. Which you opt for will depend on your preference but also the level of skill you have. Baitcasters tend to be more accurate but spinning reels are easier to use so may be preferred by beginners.
Anti-reverse features stop the reel from turning backwards. It uses a roller bearing to immediately stop the reversing at the moment it starts to threaten to do so.
The Shimano Stradic ST2500HGFK Frontdrag Spinning Fishing Reel is the highest rated spinning reel on our list. It has an exceptional level of build-quality and is ultra lightweight. We particularly like the G-Force system which prevents fatigue over long sessions fishing. It also has an exceptionally high drag rating considering its weight. We’ve rated this 9.9/10 and it earns its place as our editor’s choice.
Okuma Helios Lightweight Spinning Reel is our second highest rated product at 9.7. It is built to last with a Cyclonic Flow Rotor (CFR) which dries the reel and gets water out of the system so it doesn’t cause extra corrosion over time. This reel is also incredibly well made considering how lightweight it is.
Another product designed with a system to stop water and dirt building up is our third highest rated Shimano Ultegra 1000 Freshwater Spinning Fishing Reel. This doesn’t have particularly high drag so is best for smaller fish, but it is durable and balanced. We’ve rated this 9.5/10.
All of the products on our list can be suitable depending on your exact needs when fishing, spending a little time doing some research can ensure you get the right option for you