Updated: December 2017
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.
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.