If your an experienced fisherman, you know how important finding the best fishing reel for you and your style of fishing is. You can also probably skip down to the reel reviews, but if your not an experienced angler then the following information is critical to selecting a proper fishing reel.
There are important factors an angler needs to consider before purchasing a fishing reel. The first is choosing between the different types of fishing reels. There are two main kinds of reels: baitcasters and spinning reels. There are others but these are the 1 and 1A when it comes to “regular” fishing. Deciding between these two reels can depend on many factors, but for the most part its just the anglers preference and comfort for the style of fishing they plan to use it for. Mastering a baitcasting reel takes practice so most novice anglers start off fishing with a spinning reel.
The next factor you need to consider is what species of fish you’ll be fishing for. The reason this is important is the size of the fish you’ll be catching determines the line size your going to need. Line size is measured by “pound test”, for example 10 pound test line will support 10 pounds of resistance before breaking. Most reel models come in different sizes, and the sizes are based on the pound test capacity of the reel. The objective in line selection is to go with the smallest pound test you can get away with. The smaller the line, the further you will be able to cast and less visible the line will be to the fish. Its also important to match the line capacity of the reel with the line capacity of the rod you’ll be using with it. Explore the fishing reel reviews below to determine the right reel for you.
- 1 Best Baitcasting Reels
- 2 Best Spinning Reels
- 3 Best Fly Reels
- 4 Best Saltwater Reels
- 5 Best Spincast Reels
- 6 Best Ice Fishing Reel
Best Baitcasting Reels
Before selecting the best baitcasting reel for your style of fishing, you need to consider what you intend to use it for and what you want to achieve with it. It is also important to consider how many baitcasters you plan to own in your collection. Many anglers will have multiple baitcasters with them while fishing, each with different lures attached. Different lures perform better with different line weights and retrieve speeds.
Baitcasting reels come in different retrieve speeds, which is referred to as the gear ratio. A gear ratio is displayed as a number, a colon, then a second number. For Example 5:1, and what that means is the line spool turns 5 times for every one turn of the reel handle. A 5:1 or lower baitcaster is on the slower end of reel retrieve speeds, while a 7:1 or higher is on the faster end.
Its really a matter of personal preference and how you intend to work your lures. Most anglers say that they do most of their fishing in the middle, with 6:1 baitcasters, and defer to higher and lower speeds for special tactics. For example some anglers use slower speeds for crankbaits and higher speeds for flipping and pitching. So unless you plan to use multiple baitcasters, and in multiple tactics, its probably best to stay in the middle. But at the end of the day, its really up to the anglers preference and comfort. Below are a list of top rated baitcasting reels for any style of freshwater fishing your looking to do. For saltwater baitcasters scroll down or click here.
Baitcasting Reel Reviews
Best Spinning Reels
If you have done any fishing before, then you’ve seen a spinning reel. Casting with a spinning reel is much easier to learn than with a baitcasting reel. Most anglers start out on a spinning reel, then advance to a baitcaster, but thats not to say the spinning reel is for novice fisherman only.
Spinning reels are used by even the most savvy anglers on the water. Pro fisherman will have both reel styles on board for most tournaments. Sometimes a spinning reel can provide a better presentations for certain lures and work better under certain conditions. This is often true of rubber worm fishing and especially finesse fishing.
Finesse fishing is fishing with light tackle and small baits. Spinning reels are ideal for this style of fishing because they can handle a much lighter pound test line than a baitcaster. Which is very important when fishing in clear water.
Finding the best spinning reel for what and where you plan to fish comes down to one determining factor: line weight, or pound test. Take a look at the spinning reel reviews listed below. These are top rated spinning reels for freshwater. For saltwater spinning reels click here.
Spinning Reel Reviews
Best Fly Reels
Although there does’t look like there’s much to a fly fishing reel, don’t underestimate the value of having a quality fly reel at the butt of your rod. The best fly fishing reels are the ones that hold up through wear and tear and last a long life.
Cheap fly reels don’t survive, especially cheap saltwater fly reels. Fly fishing reels, like other reels, have moving parts inside that wear down over time. Cheap fly reels are made from subpar materials, and will wear out fast.
So how does one determine which is the best fly fishing reel? Well keep in mind that what is best for one angler may not be best for another because, while a minimalist who commonly fishes small trout streams may very well prefer a standard arbor reel with a spring-and-pawl drag, an avid saltwater fly fisherman would invariably choose a large arbor reel with a heavy-duty disc drag. With that said, heres what to look for when selecting a fly reel:
- Material: You should be aware that fly reels are commonly made from one of three materials consisting of molded composites, molded aluminum, bar stock aluminum.
- Molded Composite: These fly reels are tough but they are not very aesthetically pleasing. These are usually the cheapest fly fishing reels.
- Molded Aluminum: Now these are a bit more visually appealing and are typically more expensive than composite fly reels.
- Bar Stock Aluminum: These fly reels are milled from a single block of aircraft grade aluminum and are the prettiest of the three types but, because they take significantly more time and effort to make, they are also the most expensive of the three types.
- Arbor Size: An arbor is the drum in the center of a fly reel. Fly reels come in one of three different sizes: standard arbors, mid-sized arbors, and large arbors.
- Standard Arbors: Some fly fishermen prefer the classic standard arbor because they like its appearance and simplicity while others appreciate their light weight and relatively small size. Standard arbors also have the slowest rate of retrieve of the three types.
- Mid-Arbors: This size is a compromise between a standard arbor and a large arbor because they retrieve line faster than a standard arbor but are a little heavier.
- Large Arbors: These are the largest of the three designs and are designed for those fly fishermen who have a need to retrieve their line as quickly as possible. But, it should be noted that large arbor fly reels are also usually the heaviest of the three designs.
- Drag System: Fly reels are built with different types of drag systems but the two most popular are spring-and-pawl drags and disc drags. They are by far the most common and they each have advantages over the other.
- Spring-and-Pawl Drags: Sometimes mistakenly called “click-and-pawl” drags, spring-and-pawl drags are very simple systems but are not capable of producing a lot of drag pressure. They are also significantly lighter and less expensive to produce than disc drag systems.
- Disc Drags: These systems work a lot like the breaks on your vehicle in that they commonly have several different discs made from various materials ranging from impregnated cork to Rulon that are adjusted by tightening a large nut located on the outside of the reel’s frame. This system has much stronger stopping power.
In summary, fly reels made from machined aluminum bar stock are the ones most highly prized by fly fishermen. Fly reels with standard arbors and spring-and-pawl drags are both the smallest and lightest but have the slowest rate of retrieve and the least stopping power whereas, those with large arbors and disc drags are the largest and heaviest but, also have the fastest rate of retrieve and the greatest amount of stopping power. And finally, those with mid-sized arbors are a compromise between the two.
Fly Reel Reviews
Even the top rated fly reels differ considerably from each other in size, weight, design, arbor size, drag system, and cost. Also, while freshwater fly fishermen are often far more concerned about the visual appearance of the reel and its relative weight, saltwater fly fishermen are heavily dependent on their drag systems to land big fish and the true hallmark of a top end fly reel is one that combines good looks with a strong, yet lightweight, frame and spool and a high quality drag system in a single package. In the end, the old adage “you get what you pay for”. Here are some of the best fly reels available today.
- Orvis Battenkill
One of the best fly reels on the market today for the money! Featuring one of the prettiest finishes Orvis has ever put on a reel, the black nickel anodizing and clean, crisp, lines of the machined aluminum fame and spool give this reel a much more expensive appearance and the ultra light weight enabled by the standard arbor and the spring-and-pawl drag make this reel a jewel for the small stream fly fisherman.
Size: 2.75 to 4.0 in. Weight: 2.8 to 9.5 oz.
- Galvan Brookie
One of the finest examples of the machinist’s art in existence, the Galvan Brookie is a true work of fly fishing art. Featuring a machined aluminum frame and a true, large arbor, machined aluminum spool with a disc drag system, the Brookie is quite possibly the lightest fly reel on the market today and yet, with a large arbor spool and a disc drag, the Brookie has somehow managed to achieve a seemingly impossible feat by combining a large arbor with ultra lightweight.
Size: 2.70 to 3.45 in. Weight: 2.54 to 3.2 oz.
- Ross Evolution LT
The Ross Evolution certainly sits at the top of the evolutionary pyramid with a machined aluminum frame and spool that have been designed to remove every last scrap of excess weight. Yet, with a mid-arbor spool and a disc drag system, it provides the fast retrieve of a true large arbor reel while retaining the lightweight of a standard arbor; thus providing you with the best of both worlds.
Size: 2.75 to 3.75 in. Weight: 3.8 to 4.8 oz.
- Abel Super
Commonly considered one of the very best fly reel manufacturers on the planet, the Abel Super certainly lives up to its name with a machined aluminum frame and vented, mid-arbor, spool with gorgeous wood crank and hard chrome counter weight combined with a compact disc drag system and a classic fly reel design. Also, this reel is available with a wide range of solid, graphic, and artistic custom finishes so that you can match the reel to your rod or your personality; whichever you choose. Size: 3.25 to 4.45 in. Weight: 4.2 to 10.7 oz.
- Tibor Reels
Self-proclaimed maker of “The World’s Finest Fly Reels”, Tibor fly reels (pronounced TEE-bor) are functional pieces of art that are designed to catch fish. Made in the U.S.A. “by fishermen for fishermen”, the Tibor series of fly reels is commonly considered to represent the highest level of attention to detail possible combined with the best disc drag system in the business with over 250 world records to their credit. Size: 3.75 to 5.31 in. Weight: 8.5 to 13.2 oz.
Best Saltwater Reels
What makes a saltwater reel different from a freshwater reel is its increased resistance to salt damage. Saltwater can take a toll on a fishing reel, just the salt in the air is enough to corrode the gears and bearings in your reel. For this reason, most saltwater reels have sealed casings to prevent the saltwater from getting inside. The outer parts of the reels are made from corrosion resistant materials as well. Regardless, its a good idea to rinse your reels in freshwater after every use.
Saltwater reels are more heavy duty reels than those designed for freshwater. They are also a lot bigger in size, this is simply because they are designed to catch bigger fish. Which also means heavier pound test line, so a bigger spool is required.
There are way more saltwater species to fish for than freshwater species. This makes finding the best saltwater reel for needs that much more important. You need a reel that is going to live up to the task you put in front of it. First you need to decide between the different saltwater reel types.
Best Saltwater Baitcasting Reels
Saltwater baitcasters are the workhorses of fishing. They can handle heavier pound test line and are designed to withstand long lasting fights with very big fish. The to help you find the best saltwater baitcasting reel for the big game your after, read the saltwater baitcaster reviews below.
Saltwater Baitcasting Reel Reivews
Best Saltwater Spinning Reels
Saltwater spinning reels are an excellent choice for offshore fishing. They cast far and accurate, and can handle most any fish that can be caught from the shoreline. The make great reels for fishing off a boat too but they just aren’t built for big game fishing like a baitcasting reel is. Use the saltwater spinning reel reviews below to help you find the best saltwater spinning reel for your style of fishing.
Saltwater Spinning Reel Reviews
Best Saltwater Fly Reels
When most saltwater fly fishermen consider the purchase of a new fly reel they start by viewing the available brands and models either at a local fly shop or a on a manufacturer’s website. But, doing so can quickly lead to information overload and subsequent confusion without a few guidelines to go by.
It’s important that you first understand that although fly rods are generally divided into those designed for freshwater use and those that are designed for saltwater use according to the fly line weight they are designed to cast, no such distinction is made for fly reels. Although most fly reel manufacturers produce several different fly reel models in numerous different sizes, saltwater fly reels are chosen according to both their capacity and the type of drag system that they have.
The reason for this is that when fly fishing for small fish species such as trout in small mountain streams where a long cast is commonly no more than 40 feet, not only are the fish small, they have very little room to run. A fly reel with a large capacity and a sophisticated disc drag is simply is not necessary because the angler is not likely to ever have a need for it. However, when fishing for larger fish species in larger bodies of water such as Bull Trout in western streams or Salmon in coastal rivers where the fish are both larger and far more powerful and have far more room to run in, then both the capacity of the reel and the type of drag system it has quickly becomes of paramount importance.
The same can be said of saltwater fly reels because saltwater fish species are commonly very powerful fish and they commonly have a significant amount of room to run in, so fly fishing for saltwater fish species absolutely requires a high capacity fly reel with a robust disc drag system.
When considering the purchase of a saltwater fly reel, the physical size of the reel, the type of drag system it has, and the composition of said drag system should all be carefully considered.
Fly lines commonly range from 90 to 100 feet in length, a large fish could easily strip all of your line from your reel in mere seconds but, because fly lines also have a large diameter, it is simply not feasible to load a fly reel with more fly line. Instead, fishermen attach a length of thin, braided, Dacron line known as “backing” (commonly available in 12 lb., 20 lb., and 30 lb. test) to the back end of their fly line which provides them with the line length necessary to fight large fish while keeping their fly reels reasonably small.
To select the best saltwater fly reel to handle the species your fishing for, you will need to choose one with enough backing capacity to hold both the size fly line you intend to load on it as well as the length and weight of the backing. All of this capacity information is listed for each model of fly reel.
Of course, simply having a fly reel with a large line capacity is useless unless you have some means of placing outgoing resistance on the fly line/backing; otherwise, the fish could simply keep running until the angler runs out of backing. Thats why every fly reel is equipped with a drag system.
Fly reels designed for saltwater commonly feature sophisticated disc drag systems that usually consist of several discs made from different types of materials such as cork and Rulon (an industrial plastic) stacked on top of each other. They are contained within a device that enables the fly fisherman to adjust the amount of outgoing resistance by either tightening or loosening a drag knob located on the exterior frame of the fly reel.
However, it should be noted that although all machined aluminum fly reels are essentially equal in construction, not all disc drag systems are created equal! The hallmark of a high quality, machined aluminum, saltwater fly reel is not the intricacy of its machine work but is instead the smoothness of its drag system. The reason that this is important is that as a fish starts to run after the angler has set the hook, if the materials that make up the drag system adhere to each other before starting to slide, an excessive amount of resistance is created which can cause the tippet to break. On the other hand, if the materials slide against each other too easily, then they will not create enough outgoing resistance to land the fish.
Disc drags must be both durable and have the ability to dissipate heat. Otherwise, fighting a single fish could easily wear out the drag system and require replacement. This is the reason that fly reel manufacturers such as Abel and Tibor advertise the number of International Game Fish Association trophies each of their big game fly reel models has successfully landed.
Although there is no clear distinction between freshwater and saltwater fly reels, most saltwater fly fishermen commonly choose fly reels with large arbors and large spools designed to hold line weights 6 through 14 along with at least 100 yards of backing and which also have smooth disc drag systems.
Saltwater Fly Reel Reviews
There can be no argument that fly reels have undergone an amazing evolution from the early days of brass frames and wooden spools to later models made entirely from cast steel. Instead, today’s saltwater fly fisherman has a very wide variety of machined aluminum fly reels to choose from and some of them are so intricately machined that they are more akin to works of art than they are functional fly fishing tools for landing large game fish! In fact, the main quest among fly reel manufacturers in recent years seems to be to design the lightest possible fly reel while still maintaining structural integrality. However, regardless of how you dress it, the heart of a good saltwater fly reel is still the type of drag system it incorporates since good looks do not land large fish. Thus, there are a few fly reels on the market today that have proven themselves with numerous IGFA world records to their credit.
- Tibor Billy Pate
Made entirely in the U.S. by a Hungarian master tool and die maker named Tibor (pronounced TEE-bor) Juracsik, Tibor fly reels are handcrafted, custom quality, fly reels that have been developed with input from such well known saltwater celebrities as Lefty Kreh and Flip Pallot to be the pinnacle of saltwater fly reels. In fact, Tibor’s Billy Pate series is quite possibly the most popular saltwater fly reel on the market and, with over 225 world records to its credit, the Tibor Billy Pate has certainly proven its worth. Size: 3.5 to 3.75 in. Weight: 8.0 to 11.5 oz.
- Abel Super
Considered by many fly fishermen to be one of the best fly reel manufacturers on the planet, Abel’s “Super” is certainly part of an elite group of top end, big game, fly reels. While the Abel Super is certainly an aesthetically pleasing fly reel to gaze upon with its machined aluminum, fully vented, frame and large arbor spool in your choice of several different standard and custom finishes, the Abel Super’s real claim to fame is its super smooth, yet immensely powerful, disc drag system which has over 50 IFGA world records to its credit. Thus, the Abel Super is both beauty and beast combined! Size: 3.25 to 4.45 in. Weight: 4.2 to 10.7 oz.
- Ross Momentum LT
One of the best big game fly reels on the market today, the Ross Evolution LT features a machined aluminum frame and vented, large arbor, spool. Plus, it also features a super power disc drag system made from Titanium combined with a proprietary industrial polymer that has 6.3 inches of surface area and three back-up systems to ensure that when you hook your lifetime trophy fish, your fly reel will have the power needed to stop it in its tracks and bring it to the boat. Size: 3.75 to 4.5 in. Weight: 7.9 to 10.1 oz.
- Orvis Mirage
Yet another fly reel that sits at the top of the evolutionary pyramid, the Orvis Mirage is a big game fly reel that features a machined aluminum frame and large arbor spool that have been designed to remove every last scrap of excess weight. In addition, it also features a super smooth, sealed, disc drag system and a large, knurled, drag adjustment knob that makes it easy to adjust the outgoing tension while fighting large game fish. Size: 3.0 to 5.0 in. Weight: 3.8 to 11.5 oz.
- Loop Opti
Optimized for specific fly fishing applications, the Loop Opti series Strike, Speedrunner, Megaloop, and Big fly reels are all specifically designed for fighting large game fish. Featuring a lightweight, skeletonized, machined aluminum frame and spool, combined with a sealed disc drag system, the Loop Opti series will stop any size game fish from Bonefish to Marlin and bring them to the boat. Size: 3.25 to 4.96 in. Weight: 4.23 to 15.06 oz.
Although there are a lot of big game fly reels on the market to choose from in prices ranging from very inexpensive to excessively expensive, the five fly reels listed above represent the pinnacle of fly reel development with their extensively machined, lightweight, frames and spools combined with some of the best disc drag systems available.
While you can certainly spend less on a big game fly reel, if you want true reliability, then you need to choose a top notch fly reel with a proven reputation and, the five reels listed above have all of that and more to offer the serious big game fly angler.
Best Spincast Reels
If you started fishing at a young age then theres a good chance you learned with a spincast reel. A Spincast reel, some times referred to as a push-button reel, is a good fishing reel for children learning to fish. Its very easy to use, to manage, and can handle the smaller fish a child is usually after. Also the line and moving parts are encased so its less likely it will tangle or get tampered with.
Spincast reels are mainly used for sun fish, but they can handle a bass if they are put up to the challenge. Most of the time they are used with bait and a bobber rather than with lures. The make fishing very simple, as easy as pushing a button.
In most cases anglers will upgrade to a spinning reel eventually so you should try to estimate how long the reel is going to be in use before you go and buy the best spincast reel on the market. With that said, you also don’t want to buy a piece of junk because a cheap spincast reel will hardly last one fishing trip. Use the spincast reel reviews below to help decide which one is best for you.
Spincast Reel Reviews
Best Ice Fishing Reel
If your tired of using traps and want to fight a fish through the ice with a rod and reel, theres a couple different options to choose from. The most common one is simply a small spinning reel style. These are a good choice because most anglers are familiar with them already and can start fishing right away
The second choice is an in-line ice fishing reel. These reels are mounted on the bottom of the rod and look like a fly fishing reel. The advantage to these reels is they prevent your line from twisting, the way a spinning reel tends to do. They also have a faster reel speed.
Deciding which ice fishing reel to buy is really a matter of personal preference, since either one is going to get the job done. The most important factor is going with a quality reel that is going to survive the cold and icy conditions. Browse through the ice fishing reel reviews below to help guide you in making your selection.
Ice Fishing Reel Reviews