There are countless categories of fishermen in this world, all with their own intensity and skill level. Whether young or old, amateur or pro, freshwater or saltwater, or casual or serious, every angler has one thing in common: using a reel to cast bait out on a line.
There are many different reel styles that cater to different fishing practices. This article will review the best fishing reels available for ice fishing, fly fishing, salt and freshwater fishing, and more.
- Best Spinning Reels
- Best Fly Fishing Reels
- Best Saltwater Fishing Reels
- Best Freshwater Fishing Reels
- Best Ice Fishing Reels
- Best Bass Fishing Reels
- Best Catfishing Reels
- Best Baitcasting Reels
- Best Fishing Reels for the Money
- Most Expensive Fishing Reel
- What to Consider when Buying a Fishing Reel
- Top Reel Brands on the Market
Best Spinning Reels
The Penn Spinfisher V is regarded by many to be one of the best spinning reels on the market today. Though its body is made of metal, the reel’s Water Tight Design keeps water from getting into its gearbox or drag system, making it a good reel for both freshwater and saltwater fishing.
Lauded for its phenomenal drag system, this reel pulls in fish with a smooth and steady motion, assisted by 5 stainless steel ball-bearings and a medium-speed gear ratio. This helps to prevent the line from snapping, and your catch breaking free.
The instant anti-reverse handle ensures that the reel is prepared for any fish it encounters, as it will produce a well-situated hook set ensuring the fish can not wrestle itself free. Overall, this is a very durable and reliable reel that will help you to bring in a big catch for years to come. Click to see current price.
This Pflueger reel body is made from graphite, which means it’s an ideal reel for saltwater fishing. The graphite body also makes the reel extremely light weight.
With a 10-ball-bearing system, the reel has a controlled and smooth drag, providing the best shot possible to pull in any fish without snapping the line. It has a medium-speed gear ratio which retracts the line at an adequate speed and doesn’t add unnecessary stress.
Like any spinning reel worth the value, it has an instant anti-reverse handle that allows your hook to set in quickly and tightly. The Pflueger President casts like a dream and reels in fish with a smooth but quick motion. Click to check current price.
This Shimano reel is lightweight and made of carbon fiber with a waterproof drag system capable of withstanding both fresh and saltwater. Additionally, it has a long, consistent cast that is both smooth and strong.
This reel has 6 ball-bearings so you can pull the reel in with a smooth, steady motion. It has a higher gear ratio than the other two spinning reels on the list, which means pulling in fish will feel like less work.
Its anti-reverse handle works like a charm, setting the hook instantly and wearing the fish down for a nearly impossible escape. Durable, smooth, and strong, this Shimano reel is great for bringing in medium-sized fish in saltwater and freshwater environments alike. Click to check current price.
Best Fly Fishing Reels
Crafted with CNC-machined 6061-T6 aluminum alloy, the Piscifun Sword is durable and lightweight. O-ring seals protect against corrosion indefinitely. Additionally, it features a mid-arbor design to reduce line memory and offer fast line pickup.
This reel is particularly appealing because of its low cost. It’s priced well below many other reels with the same kind of construction and ability. It’s available in 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, 9/10 weights.
With super-smooth drag, quick line pic up, and that low weight durability, this is an excellent option for new fly fishermen and seasoned vets alike. Click here to see the current price.
This reel has a large arbor that stores the line in big loops. The greater loop size means the line is coiled fewer times, and you can retrieve it more quickly. This feature ensures that anglers can pull in large fish from any distance with minimal effort.
Made of lightweight aluminum, the LL Bean Streamlight Ultra Large is very light for its size. It has a smooth drag system that reduces tension on the line and prevents it from snapping when taking on a big catch. It’s anodized so that it is corrosion-resistant and its drag is partially sealed so that sand and dirt can not get inside and cause damage. Durable and affordable, some online retailers offer this reel for only $89.00.
This reel has a large arbor, allowing fast line retrieval, and is made of AlumiLite diecast aluminum to keep the weight as light as possible. A multi-disc cork and stainless steel drag produce a smooth drag that retrieves the line in a steady but quick manner while reducing stress put on the line. This ensures anglers won’t break lines when wrestling with a large catch.
There is a 1 way roller bearing to assist in the smooth drag, allowing for a reduced-friction reel-in and cast. This is a great fly reel for an affordable price as low as $52.00 through some online retailers. See the current price here.
Best Saltwater Fishing Reels
This lightweight spinning reel is designed specifically for shallow, saltwater fishing and is built with aluminum parts that are designed to withstand saltwater corrosion. These features, along with the reel’s 9 ball-bearings, make for a very durable and long-lasting product.
This reel has both phenomenal casting power, as well as a smooth drag system to pull in fish and prevent line breaks. A leveline oscillating system helps to keep the line tight and prevent wind knots from forming.
Accompanying this system is a medium gear ratio, allowing for a tight and controlled reel-in. With this reel, you will be successfully pulling in saltwater fish at a steady pace for years to come. Click here to see the current price.
This Shimano spinning reel is a fairly lightweight option capable of pulling in some of the largest offshore saltwater fish. It possesses 44 pounds of drag that allow the angler to overpower the fish and pull it in with a smooth and precise motion.
It comes with 6 shielded ball bearings that are protected from water to ensure maximum longevity and effectiveness. These ball bearings also help to give your cast and reel-in a smooth feel that will reduce tension and lessen the risk of snapping your line.
A medium-speed gear ratio ensures a rapid, but powerful reel-in that won’t overwhelm you or the equipment. If you’re on offshore angler that wants to be able to bring in a big catch, the Shimano Saragosa SW Spinning Reel is one of the quality reels on the market. Click here to see the current price.
The Daiwa Opus Saltwater Spinning Reel is a lightweight option with the ability to catch large fish in offshore, saltwater situations. Many online reviews mention even being able to catch stingrays and small sharks using the reel, without the feeling that their line might snap.
It’s made of strong and non-corrosive aluminum, making it very durable and resistant to the wear and tear that is often caused by saltwater fishing. It has only 1 ball-bearing, but that doesn’t have a negative effect on the smoothness, casting or reel-in ability.
Although it has a rather slow gear ratio compared to other reels of its kind, it is still strong and steady enough to successfully pull-in any small to medium weight fish. The Daiwa Opus Saltwater Spinning Reel can be found for as low as $25.00 on many online retailers, making it a great saltwater reel at a budget price. See the current price here.
Best Freshwater Fishing Reels
A light reel made from aluminum, the Ambassadeur C3 provides the angler with the smoothest casting power of any C3 that came before it. With the ability to cast both short and long throws, fishers will have a wider catch radius, resulting in a larger opportunity to catch fish of all kinds.
It has a medium-speed gear ratio, and its smooth reel-in and anti-reverse handle sets a powerful hook that steadily brings in any catch with efficiency. With this reel, anglers stand to win against even the largest fish they encounter.
This reel is also considered one of the most durable by many online reviewers, saying they haven’t encountered any problems even after years of use. If you’re looking for a versatile reel for any size fish, this is the one for you. Check the current price.
While this reel is also an option for saltwater fishing, it was created specifically for freshwater conditions. Weighing 31 ounces, it is on the heavier side, but features an aluminum body that allows anglers to pull in even the heaviest fish they can get their hooks in.
It’s 4.2:1 gear ratio makes for a slow reel-in, but it also ensures that the line isn’t put under too much stress, reducing the chances of it snapping. The reel has a maximum drag of 24 pounds and is assisted by 3 ball-bearings and 1 roller bearing which make the reel-in smooth and steady.
An over-sized cast control knob allows the fisher to control his or her cast for short and long distances. As mentioned above, this reel can be used in both freshwater and saltwater, but its cast control and drag style make it especially effective for freshwater fishing. Click to see the current price.
The Lexa High Capacity packs a lot of power in a very small and lightweight reel, allowing anglers to use heavy-weighted line to pull in heavy fish. The handle is also designed so you don’t have to put in much effort to bring in a lot of weight.
It has 7 bearings that give a smooth, powerful cast and reel-in, making it long-casting and safe from the risk of line snaps. Also assisting the reel-in is a fast gear ratio that pulls in fish before they get the chance to break away.
Magnetic cast control lets you cast with precision and nuance. It also has an anti-reverse handle that will powerfully set the hook to make sure the angler will never lose a fish. See the current price here.
Best Ice Fishing Reels
The Fiblink Inline is a high-quality ice fishing reel that allows the user to easily adjust spool tension, allowing the line to rise and fall as desired. It is also designed t0 reduce line twisting, ensuring the line will stay in the right position.
This reel has an instant anti-reverse and a smooth drag that will set the hook powerfully and provide the greatest opportunity possible to reel in struggling fish. This is ensured by 5 bearings and a slow, steady 2.6:1 gear ratio.
As an incredibly lightweight reel, it’s easy to hold for long periods of time. It is also very durable as it’s built from stainless steel that won’t rust and can handle significant wear and tear. See the current price.
This reel’s frame is made from nylon which is durable and protected against ice, snow, and cold weather. It also comes with a teflon drag that is cold resistant, which means it won’t freeze up during a long day on the lake.
With 5 bearings, this reel has a smooth drag that reduces tension on the line and allows it to bring in even the most aggressive fish. Its 2.6:1 gear ratio is nearly the standard for ice fishing since it’s slow enough to move through the icy water without a fast clip, causing line breakage.
The reel also does a great job of reducing line twist which ensures the line will stay positioned correctly and won’t get tangled. If you’re looking to ice fish on a budget, this reel is a great option as it can be purchased at $29.99 on many online retailers. See it on Amazon here.
This reel has a composite construction that makes it lighter and warmer to the touch than other ice fishing reels. It also comes with an oversized handle that allows anglers to easily reel in their catch while wearing gloves.
It has a very smooth drag, which is a necessity when fishing in icy water that could snag and pull on your line. The reel’s 2.6:1 gear ratio is among the faster models for an ice fishing reel, so you can retrieve big fish with both speed and strength.
In addition, this reel delivers line straight off of the spool, which helps to eliminate line twisting. This is another relatively cheap, but effective reel which can be purchased for $38.98 through some online retailers. Click to see price.
Best Bass Fishing Reels
This Quantum Energy reel is great for catching big fish, bass in particular. It has a smooth 19 lb maximum drag that allows the angler to pull in his or her catch with comfortable ease.
11 bearings give this product an extra-smooth reel-in that reduces tension and ensures the line will not snap under pressure. It has a medium-speed gear ratio that keeps the line steady and brings in your catch at a speed that doesn’t allow it to break free.
The reel is made of aluminum and is very lightweight, making it easy to hold for long days out on the lake. If you’re looking to catch bass with a lightweight reel that has an excellent drag system, this reel is right for you. Click here to see current price.
This reel has a lightweight, corrosion-proof Zaion body, so you don’t have to worry about getting it wet. The drag system is also corrosion-proof so the reel will hold up well over time.
With 10 bearings, this reel gives you a smooth cast and reel-in that reduces tension and keeps the line from breaking. It has a middle-speed gear ratio that also assists in a smooth and steady reel-in.
Several online reviewers say that this reel works just as well as reels that cost 4 times its price, making it an excellent buy for the money. With a ton of bearings and an excellent drag system, this reel is great for snagging bass. Click here to see current price.
This popular Pflueger reel is made out of magnesium, and has a double-anodized spool that makes it a tough piece of equipment to take on the lake. It has an anti-twist line roller that will keep your line straight and in order.
The reel comes with 10 bearings which give it an excellent cast and reel-in, and provide a stellar, smooth feel to reduce line resistance. It has a medium-speed gear ratio that keeps the catch steady and prevents the line from breaking when the fisher is reeling in a hurry.
An anti-reverse handle sets the hook powerfully and keeps the fish from breaking free, ensuring you won’t lose your catch. The Pflueger Patriarch is one of the premier fishing reels on the market. It is great for catching bass because it has the ability to cast long distances and reel in with power accuracy. Click here to see current price.
Best Catfishing Reels
Regarded by many as the premier catfish reel, this Abu Garcia reel is lightweight and extremely powerful. One reviewer stated that he could cast 150 yards with this reel, which gives anglers an extraordinary radius for bringing in as many catfish as possible.
It has 4 bearings that contribute to a smooth, consistent drag system that reduces unneeded stress on your line, giving you the best chance to retrieve a big catch. A synchronized levelwind system assists the drag system by ensuring your line is laid evenly on the water.
A bent handle gives the angler maximum leverage and power to bring in the largest catfish out there. This reel is unlike many on the list in that it is not manufactured in Japan or China, but in Sweden, where Abu Garcia is located. If you’re serious about catfish fishing, this is an ideal reel for you. Check current price.
The Penn Fierce 4000 Spinning Reel is made of anodized stainless steel with an aluminum spool that makes it both lightweight and powerful. This gives it the muscle necessary to reel in large aggressive fish, such as catfish, without having to put in too much effort.
Its 4 bearings give it a very smooth and consistent cast and retrieve, reducing tension on the line and ensuring power and speed. An anti-reverse handle sets the hook effectively and grasps the catch, making it impossible for it to break away.
It’s regarded by many online reviewers as a durable reel that can take on large fish regularly and live to see many years. It goes for around $60.00 dollars on many online retailers and provides catfish anglers an excellent tool for bringing in a large, powerful catch. Check current price.
This reel has a polymeric body that is both stronger and lighter than aluminum bodies, allowing anglers to reel in large fish with minimal effort. It is also built with a bail halo providing additional strength.
The drag is made of carbon fiber which makes it possible to apply smooth and consistent pressure on a catch. Eight bearings also assist in keeping the drag smooth, as they reduce friction on the line and prevent it from snapping.
An anti-reverse handle sets the hook powerfully, snagging the fish before it has a chance to break away and ensuring a successful retrieval almost every time. This is a reasonably priced reel that is both lightweight and strong, great for catching large fish, like catfish. Check current price.
Best Baitcasting Reels
This lightweight reel comes with a high-speed gear ratio that can pull in a large catch quickly. Fish won’t even have the chance to break free as the angler reels them in with very little effort.
Many online reviewers regard this reel as one of the smoothest they’ve ever used. This smoothness gives it good casting abilities that allow the angler to cast both short and long. It also allows the angler to reel in fish with as little line stress as possible, reducing the chance of snapped lines.
This reel works well in both saltwater and freshwater as it is resistant to corrosion. If you’re casting lures, this reel is a great tool for putting your hook exactly where you want it. Check current price.
This baitcaster reel has an aluminum body that houses an Ultimate Tournament Carbon Drag which is both lightweight and strong, allowing it to effectively pull in both heavy lures and heavy fish. The casing also holds up very well over time, showing few signs of wear and tear.
At 6.3:1, it has a rather fast-speed gear ratio that allows anglers to retrieve a catch quickly with minimal effort. Because it has 7 bearings, it retrieves very smoothly, ensuring your line won’t break.
The reel also has fantastic cast control which allows anglers to change their catch radius, resulting in more opportunities to get a bite. This baitcaster reel can be found for around $100.00 on some online retailers, making it a great baitcaster at an affordable price. Check current price.
Best Fishing Reels for the Money
This reel is very small and lightweight, but packs a great deal of power allowing anglers to reel in very large fish. It’s suitable for saltwater and freshwater fishing, making it a piece of equipment for the versatile fisherman.
It has a medium-speed gear ratio that pulls in the line at a decent clip while simultaneously reducing stress so the line does not snap. 11 ball-bearings give the reel a smooth cast and reel-in, allowing for distant a long-distance catch.
The body of the reel is made of metal which makes it durable and protects it from wear and tear. If you’re looking for a nice fishing reel at a very low price, this is a good product to check out. See price.
With a graphite body and aluminum spool, this lightweight reel brings a lot of power in a small package. It’s best used for freshwater fishing purposes, but it can be used in saltwater fishing if it’s maintained correctly.
It has a rather fast-speed gear ratio which allows the angler to bring in fish with efficiency, as he or she won’t have to wind the handle as many times. 14 bearings give the reel a smooth cast and reel-in, reducing stress on the line and ensuring it won’t break.
The reel also has great cast control so that you can cast both short and long distances with ease. This reel is a great buy if you want a smooth cast and reel-in for freshwater fishing purposes. See price.
This reel has a graphite body and an aluminum spool that is lightweight, but capable of bringing in a large catch. Its body design also makes it very durable and resistant to both freshwater and saltwater.
It has a medium-speed gear ratio to pull in fish at a steady pace that won’t risk breaking the line. Though it has just 3 bearings, it provides a smooth cast and reel-in that makes it a great reel for catching fish both large and small.
The reel has an instant anti-reverse handle that sets the hook immediately, making it impossible for the catch to break free. This is a great reel for someone looking for a versatile reel on a budget. See the current price.
Most Expensive Fishing Reel
This is currently the most expensive reel listed on Amazon. It is a very heavy and very powerful reel with the ability to bring in any fish in any sort of situation, whether it be freshwater or saltwater.
It’s an electric reel with vents on the side to let out heat. It has a very slow-speed gear ratio, but because it’s electronic, it can reel in very quickly with no manual effort involved.
This high-tech, durable, powerful, and effective reel delivers the fisher a smooth and efficient reel-in that keeps the line tight, but also reduces risk of a broken line. If you have the money to drop on this reel, it is a very impressive tool that can make your fishing life a lot easier. See it on Amazon.
What to Consider when Buying a Fishing Reel
Reel bodies are typically made from two different materials: aluminum and graphite. Aluminum is stronger than graphite, but it is also heavier, which means you must choose between weight and strength. Aluminum bodies are typically used for freshwater fishing, while, due to their corrosion-resistant properties, graphite bodies are ideal for saltwater fishing.
The size of reel you should choose depends on the weight of the line you plan to use. The lighter the weight of the line, the smaller the reel should be, and vis versa. The highest line weight you should use with an average-sized spinning reel is 10 lbs.
The gear ratio refers to how many times the line rolls around the reel’s spool for every complete turn of the handle. If the reel goes around the spool 5 times for every 1 turn of the handle, the reel has a 5:1 gear ratio. A 6:1 gear ratio would reel in faster than a 4:1 gear ratio.
The drag system refers to the line’s ability to apply pressure to a hooked fish. A quality drag system will smoothly let out additional line, ensuring the line won’t break and cause you to lose your fish. It’s necessary that your drag system lets out extra line regardless of what amount of tension is on your line.
Top Reel Brands on the Market
There are a number of companies that make outstanding reels for fishing of all kinds. Here are the brands reviewed in our list:
- Pflueger – Pflueger made their first reel in 1916 in Akron, Ohio. Since then, they have been one of the premier reel-making companies in the fishing world.
- Shimano – Shimano is a Japanese company that makes reels of all kinds. From saltwater to freshwater, cheap to expensive, Shimano provides quality reels for anglers of all levels.
- Penn – Penn is a manufacturer of fishing tackle based in Spirit Lake, Iowa. They’re most renowned for manufacturing quality reels and rods for all fishing purposes.
- Orvis – Orvis makes outdoor products of all kinds, from men and women’s clothes, to fly fishing reels. However, their love of fly fishing overshadows the rest of their endeavors; they make high quality fly fishing reels.
- LL Bean – LL Bean makes products of all kinds for a variety of different industries. One of these industries is fishing, for which they produce excellent fly fishing reels.
- Daiwa – Daiwa is a brand owned by Japanese company Globeride. Under the Daiwa brand, they make some of the best fishing reels on the market today.
- Abu Garcia – Abu Garcia is a Swedish company that is one of the most popular fishing tackle companies in the world. They make reels of all kinds for all different skill levels and fishing types.
- Fiblink – Fiblink makes fishing equipment of all kinds. They make especially good ice fishing reels.
- Eagle Claw – Eagle Claw is best known for their fish hooks, which are some of the best in the all of fishing. Additionally, they make quality reels, especially for ice fishing.
- Frabill – Frabill is a fishing gear manufacturer that has been around since 1938. They specialize in ice fishing and make high-quality ice fishing reels and other products.
- Piscifun – Piscifun is a relative newcomer to the fishing industry, as they only began selling fishing products in 2013. The company makes reels of all kinds for different kinds of fishing.
- Okuma – Okuma is a producer of all kinds of fishing gear, from apparel, to reels, to rods. They produce reels for all purposes in any type of fishing.
- Quantum – Quantum is a company that’s been around since 1984 that makes fishing gear for all purposes. They make a number of good reels for different types of fishing.
- Mitchell – Mitchell is a fishing gear manufacturer headquartered in Rye, New York. They specialize in producing quality spinning reels.
- Sougayilang – Sougayilang is a fishing manufacturer located in China. They make high-quality reels at very affordable prices.