Updated: May 29, 2015

Fishing Reel Reviews:

Fishing can be a very relaxing and calming pastime and as the expression goes "a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work". Fisherman obviously enjoy the outdoors and being around nature enough to drop their line in the water all day and come home empty handed but still be happy. Having the right fishing gear and equipment can make you a better fisherman, but it's not always the case. You may think that fishing reels are pretty much all the same and it's the bait that makes or breaks your "catch". Experts don't deny that bait is a very important aspect in the success equation to fishing, but they would argue that owning the right fishing reel can make all the difference. We set out to find which fishing reels are rated the best by experts and what reels actually are ranked the highest by owners and actual users. First we wanted to supply a basic buying guide to fishing reels so you can get an idea of what features are important and what brands offer the best products. See below for details.
fishing reel


Three things go into choosing the right fishing reel - how much experience you have fishing, the type of fish you want to catch, and the way you fish. There 3 basic types of reels to look at when purchasing freshwater reels - baitcasting, spinning, and spincasting. Spinning reels (or spin reels) are open-faced and in order to release your line from the stationary spool you have to flip a bail wire which goes across the spool. A spinning reel is meant to mount below the rod and many anglers prefer this type of reel since they are easy to operate and casting is simple. A spin reel works great with light lures but they can also handle heavier bait. You are supposed to hold the rod in your right hand and crank the reel with your left but todays rod and reels can be adapted and work either way. The anti-reverse lock on a spinning reel is designed so that when you get a fish the reel handle will not turn in reverse. Spincasting reels are opposite that of spinning reels in that they are closed-faced, although they do combine casting and spinning. When using a spincasting reel, you use the thumb button to cast your line. The spool should be stationary until you have released the thumb button at which point your bait propels the line forward. Expert fisherman say that spincasting reels are the best for beginners since casting with them is quite easy. Also, the design of spincasting reels is basic enough not to confuse any novice fisherman. They are straight-forward and very reliable. One drawback to spincasting reels is that you are limited in line capacity. Ultimately, you are stuck with small to medium sized fish and that is why experienced fisherman tend not to use these reels. Baitcasting, or casting, reels are best for big lures and catching big fish. Expert anglers prefer baitcasting reels as well since they are very accurate to cast. These reels are mounted on top of the fishing rod and you'll want a line of 8-pound test or larger. You will find models that have either left hand or right hand cranks. Baitcasting reels come in specific styles as well like trolling reels, casting reels, and offshore reels. Offshore reels are perfect when fishing from a boat for big fish. Want precision casts, go with a casting reel for the best accuracy. Lots of fisherman in the Pacific Northwest troll in boats and use trolling reels where the live bait drags along. In terms of how the reel is constructed, you first need to know about the spool. The spool on the reel holds your line and is detachable. Aluminum and graphite are the most common spool materials. Graphite is lighter, but aluminum is a touch more durable and expensive. Both materials will resist corrosion due to exposure from the water. The frame of the reel is also made from either graphite or aluminum. The gear ratio lets you know how fast you can reel in the line per every turn of the crank. The lower the gear ratio the more power you will have to bring up bigger fish from deeper down while the higher gear ratio reels allow you to bring in fish closer to the waters surface. Reels with a ratio of 5.5:1 to 6.3:1 are fast retrieve reels. For cranking power, choose a reel with a lower ratio, 3.1:1 to 4.1:1. Line capacity is another factor to consider when looking into fishing reels. Fishing reels can be bought that handle 15 yards and then there are those that do 900 yards. It all comes down to where you will be fishing. Most likely, the average fisherman doesn't have to worry about line capacity since they are doing most of their fishing in smaller ponds or streams. If you plan on doing more fishing in big lakes then go with a larger line capacity since the fish may be bigger and the water's depth will come into play as well. Reels can take a lot stress and they will generally work more smoothly the more ball bearings they have in them. Ball bearings keep the moving parts from breaking so easily while under pressure, but the more ball bearings a reel has the more expensive it will be. One last note with fishing reels, if you are truly a beginner, most experts say you should go with a combo fishing rod and reel. This way you don't have to match up components, the manufacturer has already done that by placing the correct reel with the appropriate rod. As to the top brands in fishing reels, you will find names like Penn, Fin-Nor, Shimano, Abu Garcia, Okuma, Quantum, Daiwa, Avet, Pflueger, Zebco, Shakespeare, and Mitchell. You can spend $500 or more on a top end reel from Shimano, but we would expect you will spend somewhere between $25 and $200. We went to online sporting goods stores like Cabelas.com and Dickssportinggoods.com to see which reels are the top sellers and we found some excellent consumer reviews online at Hunting-fishing-gear.com. From what we could find out, Shimano is the best choice when it comes to fishing reels and Quantum and Pluerger are a close second. Definitely talk with your local fisherman's store to see what is best for your style of fishing.

Best Fishing Reel For Beginners:

Are you a novice fisherman? Need a great beginner fishing reel? It's not always easy choosing a reel and rod that go together but it is possible. Spincasting reels are best for beginner fisherman and the Abu Garcia Abumatic Spincasting Reels should be fine for most novices. They won't cost a lot either with the models costing from $20 to $50. We did find a few reviews that were negative towards the Abu Garcia reels, but we believe those consumers were too hard on the product and expected too much. For less than $50, you will get a good quality reel meant for beginners. The Abu Garcia Abumatic 476-C ($35) offers a gear ratio of 3.9:1 and 3 ball bearings. The line capacity is more than ample with 135 yards and a 12 lb test. The one-touch casting make fishing easy. All the reels have left or right hand retrieve and the instant anti-reverse works flawlessly. This is a great way to get started in fishing without spending too much. You can find out more details about Abu Garcia reels online HERE.


Best Spinning Reel:

There are spinning reels that cost $250 or more, but many experts agree you are paying for just a few slight differences compared to reels more reasonably priced at $150. The Okuma VSystem Spinning Reel ($150) is the perfect example of a reel that is priced fairly with excellent performance and reliability. The VS Series from Okuma offers technology that you rarely see on reels in this price range. Their patented EOS elliptical oscillation drive gears gives you stability and superior line lay. You also get the Dual Drag Force System for a smooth and stable drag. The double-shielded stainless steel bearings are corrosion resistant and very durable. There is a 5-year warranty on these reels which tells you the manufacturer stands behind their product 100%. Okuma spinning reels are available online at Cabelas.com and in all major fishing stores across America. RECOMMENDED You can all the most popular Okuma reels here.

Budget Spinning Reel:

Pflueger President Spinning Reels are a nice budget spinning reel that range from $50 to $65 in price. Features a 10-bearing drive, an aluminum spool w/ titanium tip, instant anti-reverse, and a machine aluminum handle with rosewood knob. Owners say it casts and retrieves with ease and they like that it comes with a spare spool. Great for catching trout, bass, and larger fish. Many consumers say this is the "best reel for the money". Line capacity goes from 104 pounds to 230 pounds. The weight of the reels is anywhere from 6.4 ounces up to 20.9 oz. You can view the entire selection of Pflueger baitcast reels, trolling reels, spinning reels, and ultralight reels HERE.

Best Saltwater Fishing Reel:

The Shimano Tyrnos Reel ($250) is a high quality piece of fishing gear that will definitely make your saltwater fishing a better experience. Some of the top features of this reel include four, stainless steel Anti-Rust Bearings (A-RB), high speed 5.0:1 gear ratio, die-cast aluminum frame, and an oversized handle shank for increased torque. The anti-rust bearings are 10 times more corrosion resistant than regular S.S. bearings. The oversized gears give you improved strength. Reviews are very positive on this Shimano and you can pick up at Cabelas.com. RECOMMENDED - See all the top selling saltwater reels here.

Top Casting Reel:

The top rated casting reel is the Daiwa Procaster PT33SH Casting Reel for $100. Several reviewers give this reel a 5 out of 5 stars for performance, reliability and for being the world's fastest baitcaster. The Procaster has a 7.1:1 ratio that cranks in 31 inches of line with every turn of the handle. Casting is "effortless" say many owners and the five stainless steel ball bearings make retrieving simple. One user says the Procaster is "tough and dependable" and works well in tournament fishing environments. He goes on to say that the Daiwa Procaster has "great backlash control even with lighter lures". Daiwa reels are certainly some of the best around and anglers give this Procaster reel a thumbs up. RECOMMENDED - We suggest browsing the most popular casting reels online here.

Electric Fishing Reel:

The one big hassle with deep sea fishing is having to reel in your line when a fish takes your bait but doesn't get hooked on the line. You have to manually retrieve 2000 feet or more of line which can tire your hand out. There are electric fishing reels that take over for you and save you the energy. We found the Dolphin Whisenhunt Electric Power Fishing Reels. They are not cheap with many costing $1000 to $2500, so they are not for the casual fisherman. You can go from electric control back to manual quite smoothly which makes these a nice addition to your fishing gear, but really for a niche market. ELEC-TRA-MATE is another name in fishing that has electric fishing reels. We suggest you go to their official website for details on all their products HERE.

Trolling Reel:

If you have ever been deep sea fishing then you know that trolling reels are heavy-duty and expensive. Some of the nicer trolling reels are $1000 or more. Okuma, Shimano, Pflueger, Shakespeare, Quantum, and Penn all make quality trolling reels. The Penn International V Big Game Special Reels ($500-$800) include the 70VS, 50VSW, and the 30VSW. They are built to withstand the pressure of big game fish and designed for use with super-braid line. Anglers love the two speeds for fish fighting power. Great for catching tuna, billfish, and sharks. For those not willing to Spend $100's on a trolling reel, consider the Shakespeare Tidewater Trolling Reels that sell for $35 to $50. Reviewers give it a 5 out 5 stars for it's adjustable drag system and superior performance in this price range. Cabelas.com has an excellent selection of trolling reels. RECOMMENDED - Take a look at the top rated trolling reels online here.