When it is time to plan a fishing trip, having reliable gear is one of the most important aspects of preparation.
A fishing reel that is comfortable to fish with, strong enough to take the fish you are targeting, and light enough that you can use for long sessions, is something that you will need no matter what fish species you are after.
Well, you have come to the right place; let’s deep dive into 10 best spinning reels that meet or exceed those demands, and will also fit your budget.
- 1 Why Do You Need a Spinning Reel?
- 2 Choosing a Quality Spinning Reel
- 3 10 Best Spinning Reels
- 3.1 Best Overall Spinning Reel
- 3.2 Best Saltwater Spinning Reel
- 3.3 Best Heavy-Duty Spinning Reel
- 3.4 Best Surf Fishing Spinning Reel
- 3.5 Best Ultralight Spinning Reel
- 3.6 Best Inshore Spinning Reel
- 3.7 Best Bass Fishing Spinning Reel
- 3.8 Best Beginner Spinning Reel
- 3.9 Best Trout Fishing Spinning Reel
- 3.10 Best Freshwater Spinning Reel Overall
- 4 Spinning Reels vs. Baitcasting Reels
- 5 Choosing the Right Gear Ratio
- 6 Spinning Reel Sizing Explained
- 7 Maintenance
- 8 Conclusion
Why Do You Need a Spinning Reel?
Spinning Reels are what everyone thinks of when they think of a fishing reel. They look a little odd to non-anglers, like a hand crank with a spool attached.
How does one even work, and with a design like that, how can it be very strong? Well, technology and materials answer those sorts of questions.
With aluminum, stainless steel, and carbon fiber components, modern-day spinning reels are super strong and long-lasting. In the past, plastic or nylon parts tended to wear or break under harsh conditions.
Today, the only time a reel will fail, as long as it is a quality reel, is lack of maintenance or proper care after use.
Spinning reels are the Swiss-Army-Knifes of the fishing reel industry.
They are used to catch almost every type of fish swimming on earth, and if you have any doubt about what reel to bring on a fishing trip, just grab a mid-size spinning reel, and it will probably do the trick.
From deep-sea drop fishing to trolling, to shallow, freshwater casting from a bank, a spinning reel will do just fine as long as it is sized accordingly.
Size is the main factor because depending on the species of fish, you will need enough power and line capacity to be efficient. When in doubt, go up one size to be sure your spinning reels will work.
There are instances when small spinning reels will not hoist in the target species, but never a time when a reel is too large to catch the fish.
Choosing a Quality Spinning Reel
Like any gear, quality is most important. No matter what your budget is, you will want to have the best quality that you can afford.
With a spinning reel, you need something with a solid housing made from high-quality materials, as we discussed before, and a fair amount of bearings to make the reel operate smoothly.
Brand names are a blessing and a curse when it comes to quality, especially budget reels produced by brand names.
When reputable manufacturers want to get a piece of the budget market, they sometimes re-brand lesser quality reels and sell them under their brand umbrella.
These are made in parts of the world where quantity pays more than quality, so be on the lookout for this.
A better deal is finding a high-quality spinning reel produced a few years ago by that brand name company and purchasing one of those when it has become discounted or discontinued.
It will be super high quality, but because it is not the newest model, it will fit into your budget.
The next best would be to get your hands on up-and-coming reel manufacturers’ top-quality reels.
These companies are cloning the technology of larger brands, but looking to sell them at a better price point. These companies may have better customer service as well if something does break and you need a part or piece for replacement.
10 Best Spinning Reels
- Penn Battle II
- Okuma Azores
- Penn Fierce III 8000
- Daiwa BG
- Cadence CS8
- SHIMANO NASCI
- KastKing Sharky III
- SHIMANO Sedona
- Pflueger Supreme
- Abu Garcia Revo X
Best Overall Spinning Reel
1. Penn Battle II
When talking fishing reels, no one can deny the legendary pedigree of a PENN.
Known around the world for reliability and longevity, PENN reels are made from high-quality materials and never lack when it comes to durability.
Battle II is no exception. For a spinning reel that comes in almost any size, it is perfect for any application.
The classic black and gold color combo is a PENN trademark and is unmistakable in this spinning package.
The full metal housing and side plate are tough and built to handle harsh conditions. The PENN Battle II also has CNC cut gears and carbon fiber drag washers.
This spinning reel is built for saltwater or freshwater fish that pull a ton and fight like heavyweights. The parts will wear less and stay strong under load from the fish or the angler.
With 5 ball bearings plus a roller bearing, this thing is smooth as silk. The gear ratio is 6.2:1, making it one of the best on our list and in the industry.
Best Saltwater Spinning Reel
2. Okuma Azores
Specifically designed for saltwater, the aluminum Okuma Azores has a sealed body to prevent the corrosive salt from getting into the internal mechanisms of the spinning reel.
This is a great feature for longevity with the Okuma. The brand itself is known for its durable reels that last a lifetime, and while they are not the most expensive spinning reels, the quality and engineering feel like they are.
Aluminum is lightweight and corrosion-resistant; it gives the housing a great look and feel while delivering great durability.
This reel comes in larger sizes, 40 and up, and you can choose a 5.8:1 gear ratio or a 5.4:1 gear ratio depending on your specific needs.
The oversized cranking handle is a great feature because it eliminates the need for aftermarket handles or adding tape for comfort when reeling in large, hard-fighting saltwater fish.
This would be an ideal spinning reel for casting to dolphins on the grass in the blue water or fishing reefs for whatever may be lurking around down there. For the price, you can’t beat the Okuma Azores either.
Best Heavy-Duty Spinning Reel
3. Penn Fierce III 8000
This large spinning reel is great for anything inshore or nearshore, as far as fish species go.
The 8000 series is the largest version and it looks as mean as can be. The black and red stainless steel housing is nearly bullet-proof and built to handle tough saltwater conditions.
This reel has similar carbon fiber drag plates and machine-cut gears for durability that you would find on the Penn Battle II, just supersized and optimized for saltwater.
It also makes a great reel in the freshwater of The Great Lakes, where anglers fish for oversized trout and salmon that require a large, strong, durable reel, rather than a bass fishing reel you would normally find in freshwater boats.
A 5.3.1 ratio does not look so impressive, but when you couple that with the sheer size of the braid-centric spool, you can retrieve baits almost as fast as you would ever need to.
Best Surf Fishing Spinning Reel
4. Daiwa BG
The BG stands for “big game” in Daiwa country. This spinning real is sized up compared to any other spinning reel we have discussed.
Meant for casting heavy line, sinkers, and baits into the surf, this reel is made with the idea that bigger is better. It looks great and performs even better when reeling in whatever takes that bait between troughs.
The black anodized aluminum body and side cover are referred to as “Hard Bodyz” and they act as touch as they sound. And it has a gear ratio of 5.6:1 which helps it to reel in roughly 3 feet of line per revolution.
With the addition of sand to the salt in a surf fishing application, you need a spinning reel that can both handle the grit, and be cleaned out easily after every outing.
The spool on the BG is different when compared to our other saltwater reels, as it does not have machine-cut vents.
These vents would normally help when rinsing out the reel to remove saltwater. The lack of them with the BG is to prevent sand from getting under the spool and causing damage.
Best Ultralight Spinning Reel
5. Cadence CS8
For small species of fish like perch or bluegill, a big game spinning reel will be a little overkill. That is why the CS8 is a good option in this situation.
Giving you a little more fighting fun than a larger reel would on panfish, the cadence is set up to be lightweight but still able to take braid or mono on the anodized aluminum spool.
Cadence as a brand is on a mission to provide value. You will find high-quality parts and pieces, like solid magnesium housing and carbon fiber drag plates, without the high price tag of some other, well-known brand names.
This ultralight setup has a great gear ratio at 6.2:1, and 10 bearings, which surpasses most of the other reels on our list.
Due to its small spool, you will not get as fast as retrieve as you would with the saltwater spinning reels, but fatigue will not be an issue with this reel.
Best Inshore Spinning Reel
6. SHIMANO NASCI
Another lightweight spinning reel, the NASCI by Shimano, is a great one for fishing nearshore for sea trout or something of similar size.
It is a great all-around reel that comes in multiple sizes. We prefer the 3000 size due to its versatility in both saltwater and freshwater.
Being a Shimano, you can expect great value for your money. This reel comes in under $100 from most retailers and is worth every penny.
The gear ratio on this particular spinning reel is 5.0:1. This makes it a common reel found in ice-fishing shacks of the North, where casting and retrieving are not as common as vertical jigging.
If you are looking for an inexpensive spinning reel to catch anything from freshwater panfish to saltwater speckled trout, this Shimano NASCI is a great choice.
Best Bass Fishing Spinning Reel
7. KastKing Sharky III
This is a great example of that up-and-coming brand of a spinning reel that uses great parts and pieces but comes with a super inexpensive price tag.
The KastKing Sharky III is a pond monster, great for casting to largemouths under logs.
Bass are not huge, so the 3000 size works great for giant largemouths in that local golf course pond.
The super-quick 5.2:1 gear ratio makes retrieving swimbaits a breeze, and the 10 ball plus 1 roller bearing combo makes this spinning reel as smooth as warm butter.
That combo also makes the real almost silent when reeling, which will help to keep you from attracting any access attention in that illegal golf course pond too.
KastKing is on the come up right now as far as brand awareness, so, these reels will not stay at this price point for very long. Get one while they are hot and let us know how you like it.
Best Beginner Spinning Reel
8. SHIMANO Sedona
Keep it simple with a beginner spinning rod. This Shimano looks nice and is a no-frills version of their other spinning reels. A 5.0:1 gear ratio is on the lower end of the spectrum, and the reel comes in generally smaller sizes.
The post of this reel the runs from the rod seat to the reel housing is short, so it makes for a perfect reel when an angler has smaller hands.
This was originally marketed as a means to keep the center of gravity closer to the fishing rod, which would also help beginner anglers.
Best Trout Fishing Spinning Reel
9. Pflueger Supreme
If you plan on trout fishing via spinning reel, you should probably be using a Pflueger Supreme. This reel is super lightweight for its size and strength due to a magnesium housing and spool combination.
It comes in multiple sizes, but the 3000 series is my pick for the best size application for an all-around great trout fishing setup.
Because it is lightweight, the feel you get through the rod and reel is undoubtedly better than a heavy setup.
This is great for trout bites where the fish may need to run with your bait before setting the hook.
Best Freshwater Spinning Reel Overall
10. Abu Garcia Revo X
If this list were in regards to freshwater fishing in general, this would be my pick for best overall.
The Revo X is a murdered out, badass looking and feeling freshwater reel.
Not only did I try out this spinning reel, but I bought one for myself as well as a gift for my younger brother.
The 2×30 size is my favorite, and the carbon housing makes this spinning reel very easy to handle. I love the flat black design, and I strung mine up with some 10lb braid that is lime green and it looks great.
I have caught dozens of largemouths this year with mine and I have zero complaints.
Again, it would be my number one pick overall if this were a freshwater-only list.
Spinning Reels vs. Baitcasting Reels
Why a spinning reel over a baitcasting reel? Well, they are a lot easier to use. If you are an inexperienced angler, getting started on a spinning reel is much easier to learn.
Also, if you are bringing friends, family, or clients on a fishing trip, it will be much easier to teach them how to use a spinning reel over a baitcaster.
Spinning reels are simple to operate, after about 1 minute of teaching, a person can pick up the spinning rod and cast and retrieve a bait without fear of getting a tangled mess of line on the spool. This can occur but is much less likely to than a baitcaster.
Baitcasting reels are troublesome to beginners. For one, they are always a millisecond from tangles and cuss words.
They are difficult to understand, and with so many different styles, one is rarely operated the same as another.
This is easy to pick up once you become seasoned in their operation, but even then, you have to be alert when using one. For this reason, spinning reels are just more abundant.
Choosing the Right Gear Ratio
The toughest part about choosing the correct gear ratio in a spinning reel is deciding what it will be used for. The ratios are tough to understand and even tougher to optimize for your fishing needs. They also have a lot to do with pricing.
The gearing of a reel is set up with a ratio that depicts how many revolutions the spool spins for each revolution of the cranking handle. The more times the spool spins per crank, the faster retrieval of the bait.
With a less expensive reel, you do not get a very high ratio of gearing.
This is fine for fishing light baits or small baits and water that may not provide many opportunities for getting snagged on the bottom.
If you are on a budget, you can get a quality reel for a little less by putting in a bit more work cranking the reel to make it perform as well as its more expensive counterpart.
This can be fatiguing on a long day or weekend of use though, so be mindful of your trip length.
High-speed ratios are more expensive but are much better for use with bigger fish, saltwater fishing, retrieving larger baits, and fishing longer.
The ability to retrieve faster and smoother is better in almost every situation, other than your wallet situation. If you plan to fish for pike, or saltwater fish that swim quickly and attack baits instinctually, you will want a fast retrieve.
If you are fishing over structure like weeds or a reef, being able to retrieve quickly will help you keep that bait above the structure without getting snagged.
Spinning Reel Sizing Explained
When you go to purchase a spinning reel, you will notice that you can purchase identical reels in a bunch of different sizes. This is because, depending on the fish your target, you will be able to size up or down accordingly and keep the same familiarity with your spinning reel.
Sizes will be all over the place depending on the manufacturer, but generally, it works by the first 2 numbers. Some manufacturers add a 00 at the end, but that is not important.
The spool size and overall reel size are dependent on these numbers. Normally, the larger fish you are chasing, the larger reel and more line capacity you will want.
Ultralight setups are usually labeled as a 15 or 1500 size. These are the reels used for ice fighting or panfish like bullhead or perch. They can also be used for crappie or sunfish and are more than likely going to be seen on freshwater setups.
As you move up to bass fishing spinning reels, you will see more of the 25 or 2500 reel sizes. These will work on anything up to about 5 or 6-pound fish, depending on how hard the fish fight.
Next comes the 35’s, these are starting to get significantly larger and will be paired with larger rods as well. For salmon, large trout, and small saltwater fish, a size 35 or 3500 will be where you should start.
As the target species grows, so does the reel size. It works up in intervals of 5 or 10 depending on the manufacturer, but it is not uncommon to see saltwater charter boats running 8500 size spinning reels on their dolphin or tuna spinning rod setups.
Reels this size will be specialized and only produced by select manufacturers. They will also cost more than small fishing bats in some cases.
How you care for your spinning reel is going to be directly correlated to the longevity of the equipment. With so many moving parts, spinning reels need to be cleaned and lubricated often. This is especially true in saltwater applications.
Always wash your reels thoroughly after each use and try your best not to ever submerge them in the water you are fishing in. Using grease, carbon, or silicone will be recommended by the manufacturer in intervals, and always follow those guidelines strictly.
The last thing you will want is to spend good money on a spinning reel, only to let it fail, due to lack of care. Think of this as changing the oil in your vehicle.
Spinning reels are an awesome piece of gear, and in my opinion, no angler or boat should be without one.
Be sure to size accordingly for target species and budget. Keep them clean and lubricated and they are sure to last for many years and, more importantly, many fish!