This is our review for the best spinning reels in 2021.
It often seems like anglers put far more thought into their choice of a lure than their choice of the reel. But when you think about it, it’s always easy to change the lure you’re using. The reel in your hands needs to last for years.
There’s also a prevailing attitude that any fishing reel can catch fish, and while that might be true to an extent, there are a lot of crappy fishing reels clogging up our tackle shop shelves. Choosing a truly great spinning reel is no small task.
Spinning reels are often associated with bass fishing. Many bass anglers favor a spinning fishing reel because, unlike a baitcasting setup, you are able to hold a spinning rod in your dominant hand. Right-handed anglers usually hold a spinning rod in their right hand and turn the handle on the reel with their left.
The best spinning reels are lightweight, smooth, and strong. Compared to baitcasting rods and reels, good spinning setups are also more adept at casting light baits and offer more accurate casting. Our top pick for the best spinning reel is the Pflueger President Spinning Reel.
At the end of the day, the best spinning reel depends on what you intend to use it for. While most spinning reels are adaptable to a wide range of fishing techniques and conditions, many are also quite specialized. You might need an ultralight spinning reel for panfish, or a heavy-duty spinning reel for big game fish like salmon.
These are the 10 best spinning reels to match every angler’s needs and budget.
The craftsmanship that went into the Shimano Stradic C5000 FL Spinning Reel is truly superb. It comes with Shimano’s Cross Carbon Drag system, which is just about the smoothest drag you can imagine. With a max drag of 24 pounds, you can also be confident that you won’t be overpowered by any fish.
It takes a special kind of spinning reel to handle the rigors of saltwater fishing, and the Battle II 4000 Spinning Reel is up to the task. Its exceptional durability and corrosion resistance makes it one of the best spinning reels for saltwater anglers.
Most kids start out using a spincasting reel, because these reels have a simple push-button design that makes them easier to use. But as kids get a little older and are ready to graduate to more advanced fishing techniques, the Ugly Stik Ugly Tuff Spinning Fishing Reel is a great first entry-level spinning reel for them to start out on.
There’s certainly something to be said for buying a spinning combo, as opposed to purchasing your rod and reel separately. For starters, you know you’re getting a rod and reel that are perfectly matched. You’re also likely to save some money.
Spinning Reels Reviewed
Pflueger President Spinning Reel – Best Spinning Reel Overall
The Pflueger President Spinning Reel is one of the most versatile reels on the market, perfect for bass, walleye, trout, and countless other game fish. Light graphite construction of the body and rotor makes this a lightweight reel and agile, not to mention corrosion-resistant. The sure-click bail opens and closes perfectly every time.
Pflueger makes this reel in several sizes. We tested out the PPS30 model, which uses a stainless steel 10 ball-bearing system and offers silky-smooth casting and retrieving. One of the great features is the braid-ready spool, which allows the braided lines to be tied directly to the spool without backing. That’s a real perk for fishermen who prefer braided to monofilament.
The Pflueger President is also a handsome reel and a surprisingly budget-friendly one. The only real opportunity for improvement is the drag, which is exceptionally smooth, but maxes out at 10 pounds (4.54 kg) on the PPS30 model. That’s perfectly adequate for most freshwater game fish, but you could run into trouble if you used this reel to catch bigger game.
- Braid ready spool
- Sure-click bail
- Corrosion-resistant and durable
- Smooth drag
- Drag not strong enough for big game fish
Shimano Stradic C5000 FL Spinning Reel – Best High End Spinning Reel
The craftsmanship that went into the Shimano Stradic C5000 FL Spinning Reel is truly superb. Every detail is finely tuned, from the Hagane Metal Body that adds strength by eliminating flexing, to the G Free Body design that shifts the reel’s center of gravity closer to the angler for enhanced comfort.
The Shimano Tradic is a versatile reel that’s equally at home if fresh or saltwater and matches the needs of bass fishermen as well as inshore anglers perfectly. The C5000 model has a 6.2:1 gear ratio and casts a 10 to 14-pound monofilament line with amazing smoothness. It comes with Shimano’s Cross Carbon Drag system, which is just about the smoothest drag you can imagine. With a max drag of 24 pounds (ca. 11 kg), you can also be confident that you won’t be overpowered by any fish.
The price tag may put this reel out of range for some, but the Shimano Stradic is an amazingly durable reel that one can expect to perform at its peak for years and years. It is also, it must be said, a truly beautiful reel that’s as much a work of art as it is a functional tool.
- Exceptionally smooth casting
- Versatile in fresh and salt water
- Very strong and durable
- Designed for comfort
- Strong, smooth Cross Carbon Drag
Shimano FX Spinning Reel – Best Spinning Reel on a Budget
It’s hard to go wrong with Shimano reels, and the fact that they make both the cheapest and most expensive reels on our list is a testament to their quality. They make reels for any angler, and if you’re an angler on a budget, then the Shimano FX Spinning Reel is a great choice. It’s a tough, dependable reel that’s great for weekend anglers.
Shimano makes their FC series of reels in various sizes, and the one we tried out (model number FX2000FC) is a perfect medium-light reel that handles 6 to 10-pound line well and has a smooth drag. The design includes a roller clutch and propulsion lip spool design, which helps make longer casts. This is a solid reel for panfish, trout, and bass fishing.
The Shimano FX Spinning Reel is an entry-level reel, no doubt about it, but it’s a good one. It probably won’t last as long as some of the more costly reels on this list. However, if you’re someone who only goes fishing a few times a year, you can expect to get years of life out of it with proper care.
- Great value for the money
- Easy to use
- Ideal for smaller game fish
- Not the most durable
- A bit small
Daiwa Tatula LT Spinning Reel – Best Spinning Reel for Bass Fishing
The Daiwa Tatula LT Spinning Reel was specifically designed with the needs of bass fishermen in mind. It’s lightweight, strong, and responsive, with a 7 ball bearing system and 6.2:1 gear ratio that practically inhales the line. It’s perfect for fishing anything from finesse soft plastics to chunky crankbaits.
This reel has a deep-cut spool that holds a good amount of line (about 160 yards of 8-pound mono) and a nimble instant anti-reverse. It’s also shockingly light, which owes to its Zaion (a type of high-density carbon material) body construction, along with Air Rotor and hollow stainless steel Air Bail to further lighten the load.
The Daiwa Tatula LT Spinning Reel would be easy to overlook on the shelves of your tackle shop, with its unassuming design and all-black finish. But this reel is masterful in its simplicity, with an ergonomic reel handle and effortless spinning. The padded grip rests between the thumb and forefinger just right, and the reel seems to handle all types of lines with nary a knot or snag.
- Perfect for bass fishing
- High quality materials
- Exceptionally lightweight reel
- Fast gear ratio
- Handles line well
- Smooth casting
- A bit expensive
- Not for saltwater
Okuma Helios Lightweight Spinning Reel – Best Spinning Reel for Trout
Trout fishing requires a certain degree of sensitivity and finesse, and when paired with the right rod, the Okuma Helios Lightweight Spinning Reel delivers these qualities in spades. With supremely lightweight carbon fiber construction and machine-cut brass pinion gear, this reel is light and comfortable to use and casts like butter.
Despite being very light, the Helios Lightweight Spinning Reel is also durable and can be relied upon for top performance in all conditions. It has 8 stainless steel and corrosion-resistant high-performance bearings, plus a quick-set anti-reverse roller bearing. The Okuma Torsion Control Armor on the back end, reel stem, and foot minimizes flex and twist even under heavy load. It also has a cyclonic flow rotor to evacuate water.
The HSX-20 (ultralight) and HSX-30 (light) models of the Okuma Helios Spinning Reel are both ideal for trout fishing and have a max drag pressure of 6 lb (2.72 kg) and 13 lb (5.9 kg), respectively. Choose the size that best matches the fish you expect to catch; the slightly heavier HSX-30 is best if you expect to tangle with bigger game fish.
- Smooth casting
- Resists flex and twist
- Comfortable and easy to use
- Verstile for small to mid-sized fish
- Reel handle is not reversible
Daiwa QG Ultralight Spinning Reel – Best Spinning Reel for Panfish
The dainty Daiwa QC Ultralight Spinning Reel is just the right size for panfish anglers, including those who fish for crappie, bluegill, and perch. With a scaled-down profile that will match most ultralight fishing rods, it’s also a solid choice for trout fishing, or for bass anglers who enjoy ultralight finesse presentations.
Using a 4 ball bearing system, the Daiwa QG Ultralight is exceptionally lightweight, with an aluminum spool that handles 4 to 6-pound monofilament (or 6 to 8-pound braided line) with ease. It feels stronger than its lightweight and delicate appearance would suggest. With the classic black and gold Daiwa color scheme, the QG Ultralight is also a handsome little reel.
The QG Ultralight Spinning reel also has a slightly wider spool than many ultralight reels, which results in fewer line tangles (a common problem in small reels). It’s somewhat lacking in smoothness, but the reel may loosen up a bit with more use. Some customers have complained that the aluminum bail arm is a little flimsy.
- Perfect size for panfish and trout
- Wider spool for fewer knots
- Smooth casting with the right size line
- Not as smooth as other reels
- Issues with weak bail arm
Penn Battle II 4000 Spinning Reel – Best Spinning Reel for Saltwater
It takes a special kind of spinning reel to handle the rigors of saltwater fishing, and the Battle II 4000 Spinning Reel is up to the task. Its exceptional durability and corrosion resistance make it one of the best saltwater spinning reels for coastal anglers.
What makes the Penn Battle II 4000 Spinning Reel so tough is its full metal body construction and 6 stainless steel ball bearing system, including an instant anti-reverse bearing. It can easily handle hard-fighting saltwater fish like redfish and snapper, and is great for surf fishing. It’s recommended that you give it a rinse with fresh water after each use.
The Battle II spinning reel comes in several sizes, and the 4000 model is in the middle of the pack. It handles 165 yards of 12-pound monofilament or 185 yards of 30-pound braid. The spool includes a metal superline spool for tying braided line without backing. The only real downside to the Battle II 4000 Spinning Reel is that its all-metal construction makes it heavy, and it can wear you down after a long day of fishing.
- Exceptionally durable
- Corrosion resistant
- Superline spool for braided line
- Holds a lot of line
Abu Garcia Revo SX 40 Spinning Reel – Best Spinning Reel for Salmon/Steelhead
Hard-fighting salmon are known for line-screaming runs that will strip the gears in low-end reels, which is why reels for salmon and steelhead need to be built for strength. The Abu Garcia Revo SX Spinning Reel is a great choice for catching these tough fish, as well as other large game fish like pike and muskellunge.
With an efficient stainless steel 8 ball-bearing system and precision-machined gears, the Abu Garcia Revo SX Spinning Reel offers a great balance of smoothness and strength. It’s available in several sizes, the largest of which—Size 40—is arguably the best for salmon and steelhead. It has a carbon matrix hybrid drag system with a max drag of 17 pounds (7.71 kg), and it holds 230 yards (0.21 km) of a 10-pound monofilament line.
Matched with the right rod, the Abu Garcia Revo SX 40 Spinning Reel offers spectacular casting distance and accuracy, along with the durability to fight big game fish. These reels are a bit heavy, but the latest generation is lighter than previous models thanks to its carbon body and one-piece aluminum gearbox.
- Excellent strength and durability
- Smooth casting
- Strong, smooth drag
- Corrosion resistant
- Somewhat heavy
- More expensive than many other spinning reels
Ugly Stik Ugly Tuff Spinning Fishing Reel – Best Spinning Reel for Kids
Most kids start out using a spincasting reel because these reels have a simple push-button design that makes them easier to use. But as kids get a little older and are ready to graduate to more advanced fishing techniques, the Ugly Stik Ugly Tuff Spinning Fishing Reel is a great first entry-level spinning reel for them to start out on.
Ugly Stik Ugly Tuff Spinning Fishing Reels are made out of rugged machined aluminum, with a graphite rotor and 5 ball-bearing systems. As their name suggests, these are tough reels, and you won’t have to be worried about them getting broken by kids who are still figuring them out. They’re smooth casting and have very strong drag. One minor issue is that there’s no reverse lock, and the reel is a bit heavy for its size.
This reel comes in several sizes ranging from 20 to 60, and the Size 30 reel is a good kids’ option. It’s meant for a 4 to 8-pound line and matches medium-light rods well. The Ugly Stik Ugly Tuff Spinning Fishing Reel also makes a great combo with an Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Rod, which is one of the toughest and most durable rods on the market.
- Durable aluminum construction
- Easy for kto use
- Versatile for most freshwater fishing
- Quality drag
- Excellent value for the money
- Heavy for its size
- Lacks a reverse lock
Pflueger Trion Spinning Combo – Best Spinning Rod/Reel Combo
There’s certainly something to be said for buying a spinning combo, as opposed to purchasing your rod and reel separately. For starters, you know you’re getting a rod and reel that are perfectly matched. You’re also likely to save some money. The Pflueger Trion Spinning Combo is a great option that’s surprisingly affordable without skimping on quality.
This spinning combo matches a Pflueger Trion reel with a well-balanced Fenwick Eagle rod. The reel boasts a 7-bearing system with an instant anti-reverse, double-anodized machined-aluminum spool, sure-click bail, and smooth multi-disc drag system. The rod is made of ultra-sensitive graphite with stainless steel guides and a comfortable cork handle.
This combo is great for everything from bait-and-bobber fishing for sunfish to jigging for bass and walleye. It’s available in sizes ranging from ultralight to medium, with the medium-light model being arguably the most versatile. It’s light and balanced, and it casts beautifully.
- Convenient combo
- Light and well balanced
- Smooth casting and reeling
- Sensitive graphite rod
- Available in multiple sizes
Spinning Reel FAQ’s
Still not sure what the best spinning reel is for you? Wondering what difference the number of ball bearings makes? Don’t have any idea what a reel’s gear ratio really means? Not to worry… we have the answers to all the most frequently asked questions about fishing reels!
What Are Spinning Reels Good For?
Spinning reels are some of the most adaptable, versatile pieces of fishing gear you can get. Bass anglers favor spinning reels for casting finesse baits accurately, and panfish anglers use them almost exclusively because they handle light lines and small lures well. Spinning reels are ideal for surf-fishing in saltwater, and heavy-duty fishing reels can handle large, hard-fighting fish like salmon.
What Are Fishing Reels Made Out Of?
Most spinning reels use different materials for their various parts. But the spool and body of the reel are most often made of aluminum or graphite. Either can be a good quality reel. Graphite is lighter and more corrosion-resistant, and aluminum is generally cheaper and more durable.
How Do I Know What Size Reel to Get?
Size is very important, and most spinning reel manufacturers make their reels in various sizes to match different rods. Deciding on the right size reel can be confusing, as not every company uses the same scale and measurements to determine the reel/spool size. The most reliable way to determine the right reel size is to look at the fishing line weight it’s meant to be spooled with, and pair that reel with a rod that’s meant for the same weight.
Why Are Ball Bearings in a Spinning Reel Important?
The main purpose of ball bearings in a reel is to reduce friction and make the reel smoother. There’s a general notion (which is not always true) that the more ball bearings a reel has, the smoother a reel will be. While this may sometimes be the case, the quality of the ball bearings and what they’re made of is just as important. That being said, a reel with six or more stainless steel ball bearings is probably very smooth and easy to operate.
What is the Gear Ratio of a Spinning Reel?
Simply put, a reel’s gear ratio is meant to tell you how fast a reel is (i.e., how much line is brought in per turn of the handle). Most spinning reels have a gear ratio between 4:1 and 6:1. The higher the first number in the ratio is, the faster the reel.
What Type of Drag Should a Spinning Reel Have?
There are a few ways to think about drag. One is the max drag of a reel, which refers to the maximum force you can set the drag to slip at. As a general rule, you should be able to set the drag at a point where the line holds somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of its weight before moving. With that in mind, the max drag of a reel doesn’t really come into play for most anglers, unless you’re going after especially large fish.
The other main consideration is front drag vs. rear drag. Front drag systems tend to be more durable and long-lasting, though some anglers prefer rear drag because they find it easier to use. Some higher-end reels also include sealed waterproof drag systems, which have a longer lifespan.
How Much Does a Good Spinning Reel Cost?
There are excellent spinning reels for any budget. While more expensive fishing reels do tend to be of higher quality, there are a lot of excellent reels under $100, and even a few under $50.
We hope this post has been helpful! Whether you’re fishing for tuna or trout, make sure to pick up one from our list.
For more guides on choosing your next reel, check out some of our pages below:
If we missed anything that should be on here, let us know, and we’ll consider adding it next time. Happy reeling!