Home » Fishing Reels » Top Spinning Reels (For Freshwater, Saltwater, Casting, Trout, Penn & All-Round)

Top Spinning Reels (For Freshwater, Saltwater, Casting, Trout, Penn & All-Round)

Written by James Schulz

Gone are the days when spinning reels were bulky contraptions with the possibility of jamming while reeling in the big catch.

Today, spinning reels are sleek, fine-tuned, multi-geared tools that not only improve your results but also enhance the overall fishing experience.

They come in many different variations, each one optimized to handle different specialties.

They also have different features suitable for both the budding enthusiast and the seasoned angler alike.

Your idea of the best fishing experience depends on the type of fishing you prefer best, so in this article, we compiled a list of the best spinning reel based on their specific niche.

This way, you can match your fishing style to the perfect fishing reel and truly make it your own.

Here’s an overview of the best spinning reels of 2021

Our Top Picks

5 Best Top-Rated Spinning Reels

Let’s get into the details of each spinning reel…

1) Shimano Stradic FL

Shimano Stradic Spinning Reel

Designed for power and efficiency, the Shimano Stradic FL is for those who want a sturdy yet lightweight workhorse spinning reel for all conditions.

Key Features:

  • Sizes: Small (1000, 2500, 3000) to Medium (4000, 5000)
  • Weight: 6.5oz for size 1000.
  • Bearings: 7
  • Gear Ratio: 6.0:1, 6.2:1, and 6.4:1

Pros

  • Made with premium materials
  • Attractive design and durable construction
  • Uses high-end Shimano technologies
  • Can handle freshwater and saltwater fishing
  • Delivers a worry-free fishing experience

Cons

  • Pricier than most

Why it’s Worthy

Coated in Shimano’s silver X-Protect, the Stradic FL sports an attractive minimalist look that also serves to protect the metal from the elements.

This high-quality spinning reel is also one of the strongest on our list, thanks to its HAGANE Body construction.

It has a rigid body that eliminates flexing, resists impact, and maximizes power output.

In terms of materials, Shimano spared no expense on the Stradic FL.

This great spinning reel has a solid aluminum handle and frames, a cold-forged aluminum spool, carbon fiber drag washers, graphite rotor, and side plate, and a durable yet smooth steel Cross Carbon Drag system that can tolerate up to 15 lbs of weight.

When it comes to weight, it’s pretty light, though still not as much as its older but more lightweight brother, the Shimano Stradic Ci4.

It sports other Shimano technologies, as well. First, it has a Propulsion Line Management System, which minimizes backlashes while lengthening your casts.

Two, its bearings are SA-RB to protect it against salt and sand. Three, it has a more comfortable G-FreeBody system that minimizes fatigue.

Lastly, it uses a combination of MicroModule Gear II and Silent Drive to maximize the tolerances of the tiniest internal components.

This probably comes as no surprise, but if you want the Shimano Stradic FL’s top-of-the-line features, you’re going to have to pay a premium, too.

It’s definitely one of the most expensive spinning reels around, though it does provide a greater value compared to cheap reels.

It’s a good spinning reel designed to give you not just the best fishing experience regardless of the niche, but also the assurance that you’re buying something that you can use for the years to come – as long as you’re willing to pay the price.

All in all, the Shimano Stradic FL may not be a perfect spinning reel, but it definitely comes close.

 

2) Penn Slammer III

PENN Slammer III

If you want something designed specifically to tackle the harsh seas, then the Penn Slammer III should be your top pick.

Without a doubt, this great spinning reel is a protective, durable tool that can withstand whatever corrosive element and big fish that will inevitably come your way.

Key Features:

  • Sizes: Small (3500), Medium (4500, 5500) and Large (6500, 7500, 8500, 9500, 10500)
  • Weight: 13.9 oz for size 3500
  • Bearings: 8
  • Gear Ratio: 4.2:1, 4.7:1, 5.3:1, 5.6:1, and 6.2:1

Pros

  • Robust and low maintenance
  • Durable, waterproof construction
  • Smooth and heavy-duty drag capacity
  • Strong enough to tackle any kind of fishing

Cons

  • Drag is tight even on the lowest setting
  • All-metal construction adds a bit of weight

Why It’s Worthy

If you’re looking to challenge the high seas on your next fishing trip, then look no further than the Penn Slammer III.

One of the best saltwater reels on the market, this spinning reel can easily repel dirt, salt, water, and other debris that often causes cheap reals to fail, thanks to its full metal body that’s rated IPX6 waterproof.

This characteristic doesn’t just make for a long-lasting spinning reel.

In fact, the Penn Slammer III is also one of the most functional low-maintenance options right now.

You can do the bare minimum and just keep it clean and dry when not in use, and that’s already enough to ensure that it lasts for years.

The high-quality construction works in combination with Penn’s proprietary Dura-Drag carbon fiber drag washer, which offers a smooth drag while improving the structural integrity of the whole drag system.

It also has 7 stainless steel ball bearings – 6 IPX6-sealed ones and a 7th for the anti-reverse system.

There’s even an automatic bail trip for the small to medium-sized fishing reels, although it’s lacking in the larger variants.

With the Slammer III, you can chase all sorts of fish anywhere you want, regardless if you’re part of the beginners or the veteran saltwater anglers crowd.

Even the smallest option (3500) has a whopping 35lbs maximum drag, and it scales up proportionally to the size.

That said, this is no lightweight spinning reel.

The all-metal construction adds to the weight, even if you choose the smallest option.

It’s definitely weightier than its other sibling, the Penn Battle II, whose size 1000 option weighs around 8 ounces.

Both are considered heavy compared to other spinning reels, but the Penn Battle II is at least a lighter reel than the Slammer III.

if you like a flexible drag setting, you won’t find it here.

The Slammer III offers a smooth drag experience, but even the lowest setting on the smallest size will be pretty tight.

It’s robust equipment, for sure, and it won’t fail you when it comes to the kind of fish that it can handle.

If you want durability and flexibility and don’t mind a lot of drag, then the Penn Slammer III is certainly a good spinning reel for you.

 

3) Lew’s Custom Inshore Speed Spin

Lew's Custom Inshore Speed Spin

Cost-efficiency is the name of the game that Lew’s Custom Inshore Speed Spin is playing. Designed to tame the coastal waters, it’s an all-around reel that comes at a budget-friendly price.

Key Features:

  • Sizes: Small (2000, 3000) and Medium (4000)
  • Weight: 8.8oz for size 2000
  • Bearings: 7
  • Gear Ratio: 6.2:1

Pros

  • Cost-effective
  • Durable construction
  • Agile and lightweight spinning reel
  • Features innovative drainage port
  • Tall spool for longer casting distance

Cons

  • The reel is not waterproof
  • Minimal drag even on the largest size

Why It’s Worthy

For a budget-priced spinning reel, the Lew’s Custom Inshore Speed Spin certainly doesn’t look like it.

It has more features than most reels in the same price range, starting with the superb build quality.

Aluminum is used to construct the body, side plate, port, and handle, while the main shaft is made with stainless steel.

The sealed drag system, on the other hand, is made of carbon.

These light metals provide plenty of support without sacrificing weight.

As a result, you get reliable but lighter reels that are just as light on the budget.

Despite the low price range, there’s no doubt that this model can stand up to the rigors of saltwater fishing.

Aside from that, the Lew’s Custom Inshore Speed Spin proves itself as a deserving addition to our list with its slew of other features.

For one, it has an innovative drainage port that lets you flush water and debris in a matter of seconds.

With this, your equipment can last longer without the need for fussy maintenance, and you can immediately take action if you accidentally get it wet.

It also provides a smooth fishing experience.

The spool is rather tall, so you get an additional range on your casts.

The drag may need to be adjusted to suit your reeling, but as long as you optimize it for your specific use you shouldn’t have any problems.

However, you shouldn’t use it for kayaking or shore fishing since there are plenty of ways for corrosive elements to get in.

The maximum drag is only 24lbs, but this should be sufficient with the right fishing techniques.

Overall, the Lew’s Custom Inshore Speed Spin is a great affordable spinning reel that can serve you as one of the most reliable saltwater reels for a long time.

 

4) Abu Garcia Revo SX

Abu Garcia Revo SX

 

If you want to chase some bass, then you’re going to need a heavy-duty yet lightweight reel for the task.

The Abu Garcia Revo SX has those in spades, creating a versatile rod and reel combo that is amazingly suited for bass fishing but can also be used for anything else you throw at it.

Key Features:

  • Sizes: Small (1000, 2000, 3000) and Medium (4000)
  • Weight: 7.20oz for size 1000
  • Bearings: 9
  • Gear Ratio: 6.2:1

Pros

  • Long line capacity
  • Exceptionally fast recovery
  • Durable C6 Carbon body construction
  • Line management system minimizes jams

Cons

  • No reel size above 4000
  • Difficult to find spare parts for repair
  • Retrieval system is prone to malfunctions

Why It’s Worthy

Bass can be very aggressive fishes, which is exactly why they’re so rewarding to catch.

However, if you really want to step up to the challenge, your spinning reel needs to be able to maximize casting distance and have a fast enough gear ratio to overpower this amazing animal.

It’s a good thing that the Abu Garcia Revo SX achieves this pretty well. It doesn’t have the same speedy gear ratio as baitcasting reels, but it’s close.

This great spinning reel offers a versatile 6.2:1 gear ratio, 8 stainless steel bearings, one roller bearing, a machined aluminum spool (which is also a braid ready spool) and gearing system, and a carbon matrix drag system.

The body is also made with C6 carbon for maximum durability.

With these features, you get a super-smooth operation on extremely sturdy parts: a must when enduring the aggressiveness of bass.

Line capacity is also important, especially when dealing with hard-to-catch bass.

When it fights, you will need to give and take slack, and the longer the line is, the more time you can match against the fish.

The Revo SX model offers a line capacity of 6/110 (6lbs and 110 yards) for the smallest option.

Paired with a max drag of 10lbs and a fast recovery of 30 inches per turn, you get the perfect spec ranges for bass fishing.

There’s also the Rocket Line Management System, which makes sure that you never experience a line twist during crucial moments.

It can also use all kinds of fishing lines, including a mono and a braid fishing line.

Plus, with its braid ready spool, fishing with a braided line is much easier.

That said, one of its weaknesses is its durability.

The line roller is especially prone to malfunctions as it can’t handle strong cranking power, which can be a problem since it’s not easy to find spare parts for this model.

It doesn’t offer anything beyond a 4000 reel size, but if all you want to do is some bass fishing, especially with a braided line, then Abu Garcia Revo SX’s options should be more than enough.

 

5) Daiwa Ballistic LT

Daiwa Ballistic T

You’re going to need some of the most exceptional drag systems and the most lightweight construction if you want to fish for trout.

Luckily for you, the Daiwa Ballistic LT is a spinning reel capable of this and more.

Key Features:

  • Sizes: Small (1000, 2500, 2500HX, 3000), Medium (4000, 5000) and Large (6000)
  • Weight: 5.8oz for size 1000
  • Bearings: 7
  • Gear Ratio: 5.1:1, 5.2:1, 5.3:1, and 6.2:1

Pros

  • Lightweight reel
  • Refined drag system
  • Heavy drag pressure capacity
  • Innovative sealing system

Cons

  • Handle is prone to malfunctions
  • Difficult to repair

Why It’s Worthy

Fly reels may be the most favored fishing reels when it comes to catching trout, but you can also easily do it with a reliable spinning reel.

A good fishing reel for catching trout is ideally lightweight, especially if you’re one of those anglers fishing in an area with plenty of hiding spots for fishes since you’ll have to move around a lot.

That’s why it’s a good thing that the Daiwa Ballistic LT is one of the lightest fishing reels on the list.

This spinning reel starts at 5.8 ounces of weight for the smallest option, making it one of the most compact freshwater spinning reels on the market right now.

Despite how light it is, the Ballistic LT can dish out some pretty great drag power.

The size 1000 reel has a maximum drag of 11lbs, while the 4000 and above sizes can go up to 26lbs. and can go up to 26lbs on the 4000 and above sizes.

The multi-disc drag system itself is worth praising, as well.

Daiwa used a special kind of grease engineered to have variable viscosity, which makes it gradually become firmer the more your catch tries to struggle.

It also features an innovative MAGSEALED system that creates a protective barrier against dust, water, and other harmful elements with the use of MAGOIL, a permanent sealant that is solidified with magnets.

Although this makes the spinning reel more difficult to repair, it does reduce weight and contributes to the Daiwa Ballistic LT’s super smooth returns.

If there’s one weakness we can find, it’s the durability of the handle.

For some reason, this part seems to be more fragile than the rest, making it more prone to malfunctions and early wear.

Other than that, the Daiwa Ballistic LT is a dynamite of a spinning reel designed to make your trout-catching experience a more enjoyable one – even when compared to a fly reel.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the most durable spinning reel?

If durability is the most important consideration for you, check out the Penn Slammer III with its all-metal construction and IPX6 rating. Although it’s well known as a perfect spinning reel for saltwater adventures, this reel can easily withstand rough use and even rougher conditions.

Who makes the best spinning reels?

All the spinning reels on our list are made by great companies, but perhaps the best reel manufacturer on this list is Shimano, creator of the Stradic FL and plenty of other reels. The Stradic FL, in particular, is one of the top spinning reels around.

What is a good affordable reel?

The Lew’s Custom Inshore Speed Spin packs a ton of features into one cost-effective package. Although it’s definitely a cheaper reel compared to the others, it’s also a versatile piece of equipment that you can use in various fishing activities, regardless of your fishing techniques.

In short, it's a cheap reel that performs more like those in the expensive spinning reel category.

Are expensive reels worth buying?

The best fishing reels don't have to be expensive in order to be good – and spinning reels are no exception. That said, paying for a more expensive fishing reel does have some benefits, especially if you're serious about fishing.

Recreational anglers may be able to get away with using cheap spinning reels with adequate quality, but if you're one of those saltwater anglers or if you're planning on doing any kind of difficult fishing, investing in higher-end spinning reel categories will save you from a lot of pain later on.

What is the best all-around fishing reel?

There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the best spinning reels. However, if you’re looking for good balance and versatility, then Shimano’s Stradic FL is a good choice for fishing gear.

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