If fishing is a battle, then your fishing reel is your weapon. And just like any weapon, you need it to play to your strengths to be effective.
However, there’s a ton of options to pick from. If you’re not yet well-versed in the different types of fishing reels, you might have a hard time choosing the perfect one for you.
You’ve got a fly reel, a baitcasting reel, a spinning reel, and a half dozen other reel types.
There’s also a multitude of brands, sizes, and features that are sure to complicate your plans for your next fishing trip.
Luckily for you, in this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive list of the best fishing reels in their specific niches. We’ll talk about their stats, strengths, and weaknesses and determine what makes them the right reel for your particular need.
If you want something that simply outshines the rest in all the categories, then Penn’s INT30VISX is a lever drag fishing reel that is the perfect balance between functionality, durability, and design.
Sizes: Small (1200, 1600, 2000, 3000) to Medium (5000)
Weight: 32oz for size 1200
Gear Ratio: 6.75:1, 4.1:1, 3.5:1
Variable drag pressure
Strong anti-reverse system
Reliable Dura-Drag drag system
Super-durable all-metal construction
Quick-Shift gear for versatile applications
Heavier than most reels
Penn is world-renowned for creating sturdy monster reels like the Penn Battle II. Enter their next offering, the Penn International VISX.
This fishing reel is fully clad in machined aluminum and tough-but-light stainless steel gears.
You can bring the Penn VISX to battle the biggest fishes and expect nothing but the best.
But that’s not all: coated with an anodized finish for complete protection, this reel can easily go against the corrosive power of the high seas.
Its lever drag system allows you to have a more exciting fishing experience, too. You can set the toughness levels of the reel’s drag when battling different fish species, giving you greater flexibility.
The series also features a Quick-Shift gear system that will offer you the kind of adaptability you need when wrangling bigger catches.
It even has a double-dog ratcheting anti-reverse system that provides a solid anti-reverse grip while maintaining a smooth transition.
The only downsides are the super-heavy solid metal construction and the hefty price tag.
All in all, the Penn International VISX is a pretty solid, durable, and high-performing all-around fishing reel for those who are willing to bear the weight – both on the hands and on the wallet.
If you’re looking for a competent reel that boasts a great set of features without burning a hole through your wallet, the Bass Pro Shops Tourney Special Baitcast Reel is for you.
Sizes: Small (1000)
Weight: 7.3oz for size 1000
Gear Ratio: 5.6:1, .6:1, 7.3:1
Smart Cast tension control
Features Powerlock anti-reverse
Sturdy graphite and aluminum construction
Features are very basic
Of course, the main draw of this reel is the price. The Bass Pro Shops Tourney Special Baitcast Reel is proof that you can get a functional, attractive reel for both beginners and veterans alike at an affordable price.
The firm is made out of light yet sturdy graphite, and even the spool is made of forged and double-anodized aluminum.
This means that you can expect a high level of sturdiness and corrosion protection from this reel – a pleasant surprise, considering its price tag.
You also get amazing control and accuracy. It may not have the long casting distance of the previously-mentioned Abu Garcia, but for this price, it’s not really that much of an issue.
This affordable reel also features an instant anti-reverse technology called the Powerlock and a Smart Cast double centrifugal brake system that can modify the tension as needed.
With this reel, you have control over every aspect of your casting and are less likely to experience backlashes common in lesser reels.
Perhaps the only thing that can be said about it is how basic it is. If you’re already at an advanced level, you might find yourself wanting to upgrade to more capable equipment.
But if you’re just fine with a competent, capable, albeit basic reel, the Bass Pro Shops Tourney Special Baitcasting reel is practically a steal.
5) Best for Offshore Sea Fishing: Shimano Talica Conventional Reels
If you want something in the spinning reel category specialized for saltwater species, then you better get a fishing reel that can stand up to the harsh conditions, corrosive environment, and backbreaking catch that you’re bound to encounter – just like the Quantum Cabo PT Spinning Reel.
Sizes: Medium (4000, 5000) to Large (6000, 8000, 10000, 12000)
Weight: 13.2oz for size 4000
Gear Ratio: 4.7:1, 4.9:1, 5.3:1
Convenient magnetic bail system
Drag capacity meant for the big catch
Performs like those from more expensive brands
Extremely tough and corrosion-resistant
Bail system is not completely sealed
Magnetic bail system can cause inconveniences
Designed to conquer whatever saltwater challenge you throw its way, this gorgeous matte-gray and blue fishing reel is designed specifically to catch fish that are normally hard to catch.
It has a highly durable all-aluminum body and a TiMAG (titanium magnet) titanium bail wire.
To protect it against the corrosive elements of the ocean, it’s coated with a SaltGuard protective finish.
The bearings are also specially made to protect against corrosion.
It even has a waterproof drag system – all so you can focus on breaking your next record worry-free.
When it comes to drag capacity, this quality reel can withstand about 30 to 65lbs of drag pressure perfect for fighting big fish.
Despite this beastly power, however, the whole operation is as smooth as a dream, achieved through the Magnum CSC Drag technology that utilizes specially sized and arranged carbon fiber washers for maximum effect.
It also has a convenient magnetic bail system, a consistent line lay with the LMS line management system and replaceable knobs for the larger (10000 and 12000) sizes.
It does have a few weaknesses. The first one is the TiMAG system, which can be tripped by external factors, potentially causing trouble if it happens in the middle of casting.
It’s also unsealed so sand and corrosive elements can get in and reduce its effectiveness.
Nevertheless, these Quantum spinning reels are a solid pick and can easily perform on the same level as bigger brands like Penn and Shimano.
If you’ve been following the fishing scene for a long time, then you know that the Shimano Baitrunner is one of the fishing reels that revolutionized the status quo.
With this latest iteration, it’s only getting better and better.
Sizes: Medium (4000) to Large (6000, 8000, 12000)
Weight: 13.5oz for size 4000
Gear Ratio: 4.4:1. 4.8:1
Dual drag system
The best bait-and-weight fishing reel
Smooth and consistent Varispeed oscillation
PLM System for easy and organized casts
Features multiple high-level Shimano tech
Heavy for its size
Line lay isn’t perfect right out of the box
A baitrunner reel is a specialized type of spinning reel that streamlines efficiency by having a dual drag system and a customizable line tension.
The dual drag system is the cornerstone of this fishing reel type, and the Shimano Baitrunner is the first to introduce this technology to the public.
This fishing reel offers two kinds of drag: the first drag system is tight and made to fight the fish, while the second one is a free spooling drag ideal for bait-and-wait fishing.
The Shimano Baitrunner D has two knobs to adjust both the fighting and the free spool drag tension.
This particular model also features the Fluidrive II gear system, which uses an oversized, polished master gear that makes casts and high-speed retrieval as smooth as the ocean waves.
It has the Varispeed oscillation feature and the Propulsion Line Management System for an organized and consistent casting and spooling.
It also has Super Stopper roller bearings for its anti-reverse system, and shielded A-RB bearings for better protection.
The biggest downside I can see on the Shimano Baitrunner D is its weight, which is quite heavy compared to many reels, like other spinning reels. The stock line lay may also not be to everyone’s liking.
Aside from those, though, the Shimano Baitrunner D Spinning Reel is a solid fishing reel that delivers way above its price class, making it the best baitcasting reel you can buy this year.
If you want something that is easy to hold but is still fearsome in the waters, then you won’t go wrong with the ever-reliable Daiwa Tatula LT.
Sizes: Small (1000, 2000, 2500, 3000) and Medium (4000)
Weight: 5.8oz for size 1000
Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
Machined aluminum gears
High enough gear ratio
Not that durable
If there’s one thing you have to know about the Daiwa Tatula LT, it’s that it’s made to be light but strong.
The material is made of Daiwa’s very own carbon composition, the Zasion Body, which is designed to reduce weight while maintaining strength.
Meanwhile, it uses Daiwa’s Digigear technology for the machine aluminum gearing system.
Combined, this results in a comfortably portable reel that you can hold for hours at a time.
The internal mechanism is designed with the Air Rotor concept, which creates a balanced rotor with no single pressure point that causes wear and tear.
With this, you can make sure that the gearing system will work flawlessly smoothly even after several casts and retrieves.
Lastly, the whole production line has a 6.2:1 gear ratio, which means that despite its size and weight, the reel is able to retrieve your line effortlessly.
However, the Tatula TL’s durability is a bit questionable.
The bail and handle are particular points of weakness, as that’s where most issues start to occur.
Then again, if you care more about comfort than durability, then it’s hard to beat the Daiwa Tatula LT.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I choose a fishing reel?
There are many factors that go into choosing a fishing reel for your needs. The most important ones are your fishing style, your target fishes, and whether you’re fishing in saltwater or freshwater. These factors dictate the ideal specs, build, and additional features of the best fishing reel for you.
If you have more nuanced tastes, start by thinking about your individual preferences. For instance, you might be a fan of baitcasting reels, spinning reels, or baitrunner reels. If you have a favorite fly reel among other fishing fly reels, you can also use that to decide.
What is the best fishing reel for beginners?
If you’re still in your first forays into the exciting world of fishing, then you’re going to want reliable introductory fishing reels that won’t break the bank. Don’t think about fly fishing reels, baitcasting reels, or other more complex topics first.
For now, the most important things to consider are versatility, price, and use. In this regard, one of the best reels for beginners is the Pflueger President.
It’s an incredibly cost-effective fishing reel that delivers way above its price range.
Are expensive reels worth it?
Whether you need an expensive reel or not depends on the kind of fishing you do. If you’re only an occasional fisherman, then you might want to stay with low- to mid-range fishing reels. After all, you can’t fully enjoy what high-end reels bring to the table if you only use them once or twice a week.
If you’re frequently going on a fishing trip, however, it pays well to invest in more expensive fishing reels that will definitely enhance your overall fishing experience.
Also, while the fishing reel may be the core of your setup, you still have to think about the other parts of your fishing rod.
For example, fly fishing reels will work best with fly rods, while spinning reels work best with the right rod strength. Both of these can add to the overall price you’re paying.
There’s also the line, bait, and tackle to think about, so make sure you factor these into your budget as well.