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Spinning reels make up the majority of my time as a kid, out fishing with my family. When dad would take us down the river, it was always a simple spinning reel fishing pole.
In fact, when I was about 10, I even threw an entire spinning reel and rod into Lake Ontario, never to be seen again. Luckily for me, it was a cheap pole and my dad didn’t throw me in after it!
Of course, there are extremely nice spinning reels, and there are entry level spinning reels. We’re going to take a look at some of the top spinning reels most anglers will want to consider.
Best Spinning Reels
Quick Answer: The 7 Best Rated Spinning Reels For 2021
- PENN Spinfisher VI Spinning Reel
- Shimano Stradic FL Spinning Reel
- KastKing Valiant Eagle Spinning Reel
- Pflueger President Spinning Reel
- Abu Garcia Revo SX Spinning Reel
- Daiwa BG Spinning Reel
- Okuma Ceymar Lightweight Spinning Reel
Our guide and comparison table of the top rated spinning reels will help you choose the right one for you. Whether you’re looking to choose your next spinning reel, or your first spinning reel, this is the place to be!
Spinning Reel Reviews
- Weight: 14.4 oz
- Gear Ratio: 6.2:1 (4.2:1, 4.7:1, 5.6:1 avail)
- Bearings: 5+1 shielded stainless steel
- Line Capacity: Mono 390/4, 250/6, 210/8 (several sizes available)
- Drag: 20 – 40 lbs
Penn’s Spinfisher rocks a solid 5+1 bearing system which could really be more robust but for most fishermen you won’t have a problem. I like the anodized aluminum spool and full metal body.
While it won’t be as light as a graphite reel, the added bulk isn’t much and it’ll stand up to just about any catch with ease.
It features a sealed drag system which is a cool innovation that prevents corrosion and failure of the drag system over time due to water contamination.
This is just another way to ensure that your investment and purchase will really last a long time.
Instant antireverse is basically a no-back-reeling feature that locks the handle every few degrees as you reel. Most anglers consider this a must-have.
There are a handful of different variations on this model so when it comes to capacity, gear ratio, and technical specs specific to your needs, you’ll be able to find the model for you. The PENN Spinfisher is one of the best freshwater spinning reels available.
Just make sure to look for the model that really seals the deal for you!
- Weight: 8.3 oz
- Gear Ratio: 6.0:1
- Bearings: 6+1 shielded stainless steel
- Line Capacity: Mono 200/6, 140/8, 120/10 (several sizes available)
- Drag: 7 – 24 lbs
Available in five models this spinning reel adds to our growing list of reels that are versatile enough to meet just about any need.
What you’ll get here is a drag range of 7-24 pounds of resistance on a set of reels that balance power, weight, and durability.
Shimano has centered these reels around their X-Ship technology which is aimed at improving the durability and longevity of the internal drive system.
With improved reliability around the drive and pinion gear, there’s lower friction and less warpage under load. This means a smooth and efficient retrieval whether you’re landing a trophy fish or reeling in a grass-bass.
The Stradic reel features Shimano’s Hagane body which is a full metal body. They opted for the heavier weight in order to support their high precision internals.
A lighter weight body might reduce fatigue on the angler during casting, but when you’re landing a large fish and body warp can cause severely increased reeling friction. No need to worry about that here.
In my opinion the Schimano Stradic is the best spinning reel under $200.
- Weight: 10.1 oz
- Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
- Bearings: 10+1 shielded stainless steel
- Line Capacity: Mono 8/200, 12/160, 17/130 (several sizes available)
- Drag: 22 lbs
This is another solid aluminum reel with a machined spool made to tackle some big fish!
With a 10+1 bearing system and up to 22lbs of drag, you’ll want to consider this reel if you like long fights with heavy fish. They’ve aimed this reel directly at the saltwater crowd seeking serious power and control.
I would recommend this for saltwater fishermen looking to land some fat fish in the net for dinner.
Brass gears and carbon fiber drag are both corrosion resistant to help dramatically reduce the potential wear impacts of saltwater corrosion on your investment in your fishing gear.
Shielded stainless steel ball bearings add on to the list of components designed to stand up to the harsh wear of saltwater fishing.
This is a high capacity, low gear ratio beast that could nearly pull a jeep out of a mud pit and do it all without a spot of rust.
It’s clear that KastKing put some thought into the components and has been designed to be the best spinning reel under $50.
- Weight: 5.9 oz
- Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
- Bearings: 9+1 shielded stainless steel
- Line Capacity: Mono 200/2, 100/4, 80/6 (several sizes available)
- Drag: 7 – 24 lbs
There’s something that really does feel presidential about the presentation of this graphite body spinning reel. With silver, gold, and blue anodization it almost says “executive” right on it.
It’s a lightweight, nimble reel for those that like a quick cast and a good fight. I like the large handle and easy textured grip mounted on top of a 10-bearing system for smooth recovery of any line.
With stainless steel and felt drag system you’ll have a smooth application of friction and long life out of your internals.
Depending on which model you choose, you’ll be able to move all the way up to 12lbs test if you so choose.
Again, this is another one of those reels that you can really just buy over and over again to suit any conditions or target fish you might want to tackle.
If you fall in love with this reel, there’s a model for every encounter and probably the best spinning reel for the money.
- Weight: 7.2 oz
- Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
- Bearings: 9+1 shielded stainless steel
- Line Capacity: Mono 110/6 (several sizes available)
- Drag: 10 – 17 lbs
Abu is a brand that knows how to make a quality reel that look as sleek as the perform. They look and attack like the James Bond of fishing reels.
With a high-quality 9-bearing system and computerized machining of gears and internals, there’s little room for error. Of course, what isn’t made by a computer these days?
We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, though, and assume they engineered it from the ground up to meet the Abu Garcia standard of quality.
Carbon body and graphite rotor combined with stainless steel bearings and a few splashes of aluminum make for an overall solid build where each component is optimized for its job.
They’ve really brought the weight down by using heavy materials only where they’re really needed to balance lightweight and durability in one reel and in my opinion the Revo is the best spinning reel for bass.
Yet again, this is a reel that you’ll be able to find a model to suit any need. From lightweight to beefy, Abu has got one of these sexy black and red reels for any situation you’ll encounter.
- Weight: 8.5 oz
- Gear Ratio: 6.0:1
- Bearings: 6+1 shielded stainless steel
- Line Capacity: Mono 4/155, 6/100, 8/80 (several sizes available)
- Drag: 4.4 – 33 lbs
Another great line of high-quality spinning reels that you’ll be able to find in any size or capacity you might need.
These reels are made for freshwater fishing and rock a black and gold design reminiscent of a bumble bee! Aluminum spool and body are made for rigidity and power first, lightweight second.
Like some of the other reels we’ve reviewed, this spool is ready to accept braided line which is a feature you may not find on every reel.
You’ll have no end of trouble if you attempt to use a braided line on a reel that’s not designed for it. Let’s just say, it’ll leave you frustrated.
With a 6+1 bearing system, anti-reverse handle (double anti-reverse on the larger models), and manual return bail, it’s sporting all the features you need to be a sportsman.
In my opinion the Daiwa BG is the best spinning reel under $100.
There’s really nothing you won’t find in this line of reels from ultralight freshwater to beefy saltwater models at the high-end.
- Weight: 6.0 oz
- Gear Ratio: 5.0:1
- Bearings: 7+1 shielded stainless steel
- Line Capacity: Mono 4/110 (several sizes available)
- Drag: 3 – 11 lbs
Now we’re going to check out a small reel made for lightweight catches and precision fishing. This small spinning reel comes in a sexy red and black anodized body made from machined aluminum.
Anti-reverse reel and 7+1 ball bearing system are standard and I think there’s more than enough smoothness in the reel to go around.
This reel is available in 5 different models with varying capacities and gear ratios.
I really like when manufacturers do this because once you find a brand you love, you can simply keep variation of your favorite reel on hand for any type of fishing
They made this reel to handle anything from 2lbs test to 6lbs test so it’s definitely a lightweight made for quick jabs.
With an oiled felt drag system, there’s not much to worry about with corrosion and the maximum drag pressure of 5lbs should warn you that this reel won’t be for landing the type of fish you might handle with something like the KastKing Kodiak.
This is a fun, playful, lightweight reel and with its budget price tag, the best spinning reel for beginners.
Spinning Reel Comparison Table
|Spinning Reel||Weight||Gear Ratio||Bearings||Rating|
|PENN Spinfisher VI Spinning Reel||14.4 Ounces||6.2:1 (Others avail)||5+1 shielded stainless steel||4.8 / 5.0|
|Shimano Stradic FL Spinning Reel||8.3 Ounces||6.0:1||6+1 shielded stainless steel||4.5 / 5.0|
|KastKing Valiant Eagle Spinning Reel||10.1 Ounces||6.2:1||10+1 shielded stainless steel||4.6 / 5.0|
|Pflueger President Spinning Reel||5.9 Ounces||5.2:1||9+1 shielded stainless steel||4.5 / 5.0|
|Abu Garcia Revo SX Spinning Reel||7.2 Ounces||6.2:1||9+1 shielded stainless steel||4.5 / 5.0|
|Daiwa BG Spinning Reel||8.5 Ounces||6.0:1||6+1 shielded stainless steel||4.7 / 5.0|
|Okuma Ceymar Lightweight Spinning Reel||6.0 Ounces||5.0:1||7+1 shielded stainless steel||4.6 / 5.0|
How to Choose the Best Spinning Reel
- Consider Where You’ll Fish
- Reel Housing and Body Type
- Reel Capacity and Size
- Gear Ratios
- Drag Systems
- Reel Bearings
- FAQs About Spinning Reels
- Best Spinning Reel Brands
Consider Where You’ll Fish
Will you be heading to small inland lakes and rivers, or coastal saltwater? Are you fishing in the open waterways and inlets of the Great Lakes where fresh water and big fishing are common?
Knowing where you’ll be fishing is important to making a few decisions in buying the best reel to have a good fishing experience. For the casual fisherman who will be fishing freshwater, spending top dollar on saltwater resistant reels might not be totally necessary.
For those of you planning to put your reel through some harsh conditions, consider opening up your budget for a reel with a proven ability to stand up to nasty conditions such as a graphite body reel.
Reel Housing and Body Type
Commonly your choices will be either graphite or aluminum body reels. Aluminum tends to be more rigid and is a good choice for freshwater fishermen that don’t mind a little more weight.
While it won’t “rust” like iron will, aluminum can still corrode and oxidize so be careful.
Graphite reel bodies are lighter and, for the casual fisherman, you won’t notice the slight increase in flex that some consider a downside.
Reel Capacity and Size
Understanding what type of fishing you’ll be doing is important to making an intelligent buying decision. Each angler has a preferred bait, style, and fish of choice and that will vary on every fishing trip.
Consider what weight line you’ll want to use before simply choosing a reel off the shelf. This will determine the overall size of reel you’ll pick.
Reading the technical specs for the reel you’re looking to purchase will reveal the line test the reel is suited for as well as the yardage capacity of the reel.
Gear ratios affect two main things. First, how fast will your reel retrieve the line? Second, how east will it be to haul in heavy catches?
Gear rations are listed as follows (6.4:1) First up is the revolutions of the spool, second is the number of turns of the handle. So, for this example, the spool will spin 6.4 times per handle turn.
Higher that ratio, the faster the retrieval. The lower the number, the slower your spool will retrieve but the easier it will be to haul in a heavy load.
It can be important to consider gear ratios when choosing a reel for certain types of bait. Consider how fast you want to be able to move your bait and for what purpose!
This will be heavily influence by the type of fish you’re after and the method of jigging you may use.
Today you’re most likely to encounter the ever-popular skirted spool reel. These are the image of spinning reels that you likely envision when someone mentions the name. Skirted spinning reels create less drag on fishing line than their older relatives which have gone by the wayside.
Within the last few years several innovations have piqued the curiosity of anglers. Mag spools and long-cast spools are slight variants on the spinning reel’s skirted spool design.
Drag refers to the amount of resistance given to the line when a fish tries to take off swimming away with your bait.
You will want to adjust the max drag so that the force required to pull the line off the reel is slightly less than the “test” of the line. You don’t want you line to break when your trying to bring in a big fish!
On spinning reels, you’ll encounter two main style of drag application. Front drag reels, while similar to rear drag, are often considered more robust and durable.
Rear drag systems, in my opinion are just as effective for most anglers and are overall easier to access and operate. I recommend the rear drag system unless you need something different for a specific reason.
It’s worth spending a little more to get a reel with a quality reel with a good drag system. A quality drag will let line out smoothly and quietly when the fish is making a run whereas a cheap drag system will let the line out in a “jerky” fashion and possibly allowing your fishing line to snap.
This is just what it sounds like, when you engage it, the handle and bail are prevented from spinning in reverse so the line doesn’t come off the reel. This allows you the set the line when you get a strike and allows the drag to perform its function.
If you turn it off, the reel can be turned in both directions and allows you to reel in reverse if you get a hit instead of relying on your drag.
This is one of the most important aspect of the quality of the reel. The bearing is a ring with ball bearings in it usually made out of stainless steel but ceramic bearings are now available.
Ceramic bearings have the added advantage of being even more corrosion resistant than stainless steel. This is especially important when using the reel in saltwater.
As a general rule more bearings are usually better and offer smoother operation. Of course the quality of the bearings is even more important. Better quality bearings will always outperform lower quality bearings, even when there are less of them.
FAQs About Spinning Reels
Q: What size spinning reel should I start with?
A: This is a great question!
Spinning reel sizes are categorized in this way: 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 and so-on. Basically the bigger the number, the bigger the reel.
For me, I use a 2,000 reel on almost all my rods. It’s just the right size for me! To be fair, I normally fish for bass and walleye up here in Michigan and I’m not trying to land mega-fish! However, I would say that a 2,000 series reel is probably about the best middle ground for general fishing anywhere you’re at.
For ultralight rods you can also try a 1,000 series reel which is much smaller and lighter.
3,000 reels tend to be for more specialized fishing experiences.
Q: When is a spinning reel better than a baitcasting reel?
A: Instead of talking technical terms, let’s be a little more general.
Baitcasting reels are a little better for some types of fishing than spinning reels. That’s a fact. Baitcasting reels also allow a little more precise and longer casts.
Spinning reels, however, are much easier to learn to use. It sucks when your baitcasting reel gets birds-nested and you have to head in to fix it. Unfortunately, it takes a while to get good enough with a baitcaster to avoid these problems.
If you’re an occasional angler you’ll probably be happier with the ease of use of a spinning reel over a baitcasting reel.
Q: How much should I spend on a spinning reel?
A: Cost can vary pretty wildly on spinning reel. So, why does the cost change, and what does it matter?
Well, in reality, cost could be subjective or it could be because one reel actually is better than another!
I’ve not yet paid more than $100 for a rod and reel combo (wait for the good sales!) but I can tell you a little bit of the differences.
Of the cheapest reels I’ve used, one of the most noticeable differences is that the anti-reverse on cheap models can be chintzy. For instance I have a reel where the anti-reverse kicks in only every couple of degrees of rotation. So, if I stop reeling at a certain point, the reel will backspin until it catches the last stop point.
Smoothness, drag responsiveness, and other more subtle features may not be noticeable for most users unless you’re a very experienced angler.
Honestly I’ve used reels as cheap as $20 and I’ve not yet had a real problem with one. Sure, more expensive reels are definitely better, but there’s nothing wrong with starting cheap!
Q: How do I spool my spinning reel?
A: First let me say use quality line! I watched a buddy spool up some $5 line the other day and it turned into a rat’s nest immediately even though we were spooling it correctly.
There are some things you’ll need to get correct if you want to spool up your reel without making a mess.
Here are a couple tips:
- Have someone help you
- Pay attention to the direction of spool
- Stop and check for line kink every so often
- Leave at least ⅛” of space at the end of your spool
This is a skill that’s way easier to learn from a video, though, so make sure you watch this spinning reel spooling video from Rapala.
Q: Are spinning reels and spincast reels for “beginners”?
A: Let’s clear something up. In all sports it seems there is always a stigma around “beginner’ equipment. What’s wrong with beginner stuff?
I’ve met plenty of very experienced anglers who are still happy using their spincast reels. However, some anglers move on to baitcaster or spinning reels immediately and never look back.
I think what’s important is to know what to look for in your gear. Why do you want a certain reel? What advantages and disadvantages will you get? Do you fish only once a month and want to save money?
Spincast reels definitely have some drawbacks but there’s no reason you can’t be happy using one for a long time.
Spinning reels are usually just as affordable as spincast reels, however, and are usually quite a bit better quality for most anglers. For that reason I feel spinning reels are the best balance of ease of use, cost, and quality for most anglers.
Beginners, enjoy using any reel that makes sense for you and fits within your budget! Have fun!
Advantages of Spinning Reels
Great For Beginners – Spinning reels are easy to operate. You can learn one to cast one in a very short period of time. You have more flexibility than a spincast reel and easier to use than a baitcasting reel. With the open spool design you don’t often get tangled and knotted line.
Versatile – They are ideal for catching all types of fish, from bass to sun fish. You can use live bait to all types of artificial lures like spoons, spinners and jigs. Although catching the really large fish is better left for baitcasters, you can still bring home some trophy sized bass!
Small Lures – Spinning reels can use very light line due to the way they work. This allows you to cast very light weight lures and bait so you can fish for smaller fish that you will find in lakes and ponds.
Best Spinning Reel Brands
As always choosing the “best” brands of reels is subjective and truth is, with modern manufacturing and technology most all brands are pretty good. There are always a few brands that keep coming up among experienced anglers and personally I have had good luck using all these brands:
Most of the reels we’ve reviewed are offered by reputed manufacturers offering large lines of models for any need. Whether you’re looking for cutting edge tech, or budget minded proven reels, there’s something you can rely on here.
It’s up to you to research what type of fishing you’ll be doing and what reel is the best for your choice. Just jump up to the top and read through our buyer’s guide to get a great sense of what reel will meet your needs!
How We Researched
To come up with the top spinning reels we researched a variety of sources for reviews such as REI, Dicks Sporting Goods and Bass Pro Shops along with our own personal experience.
We also consulted online magazines for product research and reviews to get as much unbiased information as we could. To help weed out fake reviews we used Fakespot.com to make sure we only looked at genuine reviews.
With so much quality gear available, we had to narrow it down based on what we felt were the best options for the price. The author, Casey Fiedler has been an avid fisherman for decades and leads fishing trips into the backcountry.
To help narrow down the selection our authors used their personal experience along with recommendations from charter captains and tour guides.
After extensive research, we came up with our list to help you choose the right one for you.
I hope this guide was helpful for finding a spinning reel to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a reel I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.
Have fun and good luck!