This is our review of the best ultralight reels in 2021
The basic definition of an ultralight reel would be a smaller sized reel that works best with line in the four to six pound test range of monofilament line. Anything more than that and you are getting into the light weight range of reels, and anything smaller puts you in the micro-light range.
Generally, an ultralight reel is geared for panfish, crappie and perch fishing. While virtually every ultralight will be able to handle those breeds of fish, the best ultralight reel will also have the backbone to land the occasional bass when need be. Those are the types that we will be focused on here, because if a big bass does hit, you don’t want to lose it when you find out your reel can’t handle it.
When most people go looking for the best ultralight reel, they generally look at three things, i.e. price, weight and ball bearing count. But the reality is that you can get a really nice reel for a good price, weight doesn’t matter as long as quality components are used, and in most cases, more ball bearings don’t necessarily mean a smoother reel.
All of these reels will work best using 4 to 6 pound mono, or 10 to 20 pound braid, unless otherwise noted.
We will target the 5 best ultralight reels available now, with a bonus retro reel from the past that will still hold its own with any of the newer ones out there. All of the summarized and edited reviews posted are from actual customers who bought that particular reel, and none of these reels earned less than a 4.5 star rating.
If you are looking for the toughest, most capable and longest casting ultralight reel out there, at a price that can’t be beat, the Daiwa SS700 Tournament Ultralight Spinning Reel should be at the top of everyone’s list.
This Sedona is one of the best reels in this price range. It is one of the better trout fishing reels available, and it remains smooth under the hardest pulls from any fish, with the Hagane gears given credit for this reason.
5. Okuma C-10 Ultralight Spinning Reel
If you are looking for the best ultralight spinning reel that gives you the most bang for the buck, then look no further than the Okuma C-10 ultralight reel.
Consider these features:
- Weighs only 8 ounces — Less weight means less fatigue
- Made of aluminum — It will never corrode
- Oiled felt pads for smooth drag — Never any herky jerky drag when a fish takes line
- Use 2, 4, or 6 pound test line — Good line weight versatility
- Right or left hand capable — Change the reel handle to suit lefties or righties
- Quick set anti-reverse — No lag when setting the hook
- 7 ball bearings — From a selling point, great, in the real world, not so much.
This is a solid 4.5 Star reel that is the smallest ultralight in terms of overall size, on this list. Many of the reviews mention how tough this reel is, given its smaller size and lighter weight. It has been used from the wilds of Alaska to the wind blown banks of Chesapeake Bay, and has never missed a beat. The Okuma has been singled out for its smoothness, being compared to reels costing 5 times more.
Although small, it can bring in the big ones too. With 4 pound test it handled a 6-plus pound lake trout, and while the fight was fierce, with the fisherman saying that the trout went on 4 thirty-five foot deep runs, that Okuma C-10 made sure the angler netted the trout for a shoreline lunch.
All in all, many reviews state that as long as this reel is manufactured, the reviewers will keep purchasing it. Pretty decent praise for a lower cost ultralight reel.
This is, no doubt, one of the best deals for an ultralight fishing reel. The two-toned color makes it look good, and overall performance will make it feel good. This ultralight means you don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot, which makes it the perfect choice for beginners who want to experience ultralight fishing, or for the weekender who just wants to be able to throw a reel and rod in the boat, get out there and get casting. If you just want one new reel on this list for a great price, this may be the best ultralight reel you’ll ever own.
4. Shimano Sedona Fi Spinning Reel
Shimano is one of the leaders in high quality fishing reels, and their ultralight Sedona Fi proves that point. Shimano incorporates its own Hagane gearing into this reel, making it an extremely tough ultralight when you need it most. (Hagane gears, by the way, are cold pressed under massive pressure, making them more dense and durable, while allowing them to withstand more punishment and abuse.) Think of this reel as the cousin of the renowned Shimano Stradic.
Consider these features:
- Weighs 8.6 ounces — You get added strength and durability
- Shimano’s own Propulsion Line Management System — Makes for longer casts
- Two-toned, gold and silver — One of the best looking reels out there
- Works best with 2 and 4 pound test line — Capable of using 6 pound test, but 2 and 4 pound line will give you the best this reel has
- No anti reverse — Most reels have this feature, but it is not necessary in most cases
- Very high quality for this price range — Fewer reels have better quality than this
This reel comes in at 4.5 stars. Experienced sporting goods managers mention they work best when paired with a 5’6″ ultralight rod, making it a perfect combo for panfish and the occasional bass.
Another thing mentioned in several reviews were the casting accuracy with very few line tangles as the line came off the spool. People purchasing this reel understand there is no anti-reverse, but they still praise the overall goodness. This ultralight also gets many kudos for its ability to pull in larger fish. It is also highly praised for overall fit and finish, but that is also a character of all Shimano reels, from the lowest priced models to the top of the line.
Many reviews say that the Shimano Sedona 1000 Fi is one of the better trout fishing reels available, and it remains smooth under the hardest pulls from any fish, with the Hagane gears given credit for this reason.
This Sedona is one of the best reels in this price range. At less than 80 bucks, you get quality that is only found in multi-hundred dollar reels. Yes, a no anti reverse feature may seem like a shortcoming, but in many cases you’ll never miss it. The Hagane gears will assure you of years worth of problem free fishing, plus, if you hook into something a little bigger than expected, this reel won’t fall apart when you are playing the drag and reeling it in. 3 ball bearings keep it smooth.
3. Pflueger Supreme XT Spinning Reel 25x
When money truly doesn’t matter, and you want one of the best ultralight spinning reel available, then a Pflueger Supreme XT Spinning Reel should be on your shopping list. This reel oozes quality throughout, and although it is an expensive reel, many reviews say that it is worth every penny.
Consider these features:
- Solid magnesium frame — Strength, lightness and a solid build that will last and last
- 10 ball bearings — In this case, more is better for superior smoothness with every turn of the handle
- Sealed carbon drag washers — Incredibly smooth drag when the fish takes line
- Gorgeous two tone color — Maybe the prettiest reel here
- Pflueger’s own SMART Retrieve Technology — It precisely lays the line back on your reel for less line friction and more casting distance.
- Engineered to cast very light tackle — One of the best ultralights for trout
A solid 5 star reel. Many reviews say that, regardless of any other reel that is owned, this is the best reel of all. Words like superb, best ergonomics, and even the color scheme sets this reel apart. Some have mentioned that if they could afford it, they would purchase the entire family of Pflueger Supreme reels. That’s how much this 25x ultralight is preferred.
Another topic touched on in reviews are how light the reel is, how incredibly smooth it is and that it has near instant response when both reeling and setting the hook. There is virtually no lag time on either of those functions, which many agree that it may be the difference between catching or just missing a fish.
Although these are not reels that everyone can afford, not one review I have read has ever said that it is overpriced, In fact, many say that this is money well spent because it is such a high quality outstanding reel.
In every way, shape and form, the Pflueger XT Supreme 25x is about as good as it gets. Price, performance and overall fishing feel, you would be hard pressed to find a better reel at any price and this is why it is our pick for the best ultralight reel for the money.
2. Shimano Stradic FL Spinning Reel — ST1000HGFL
Never count Shimano out of any reel comparison.They are one of the oldest and most experienced of Japanese reel producers, and their products are always first rate. The Stradic name is the top of the line in Shimano reels, and the quality shows. Some of the best reels made for any line class are made by Shimano, and this ST1000HGFL holds up the tradition of Shimano greatness with every cast.
Consider these features:
- Weighs 11.5 ounces — A bit on the heavy side, but this reel has been built for toughness
- Hagane gears and body — Shimano’s own cold pressed Hagane gears for maximum durability and overall resilience
- 6 ball bearings — This reel is about as smooth as it gets
- Chrome silver finish — one of the most handsome reels you’ll ever find
- G Free Body — Shimano engineered more of the weight on this reel towards the back, for better balance and less fatigue
- Silent Drive — Specialized gears that mesh together and make virtually no noise
- Labyrinth Construction — The body is built to channel water away from gearing, bearings and other sensitive areas
A 4.5 star reel. This is another reel that has been touted as well worth the cost. Compared to other higher priced reels, the Shimano Stradic ST-10000 has been compared as being a luxury car to a family car.
Many reviews talk about the smoothness of a reel this light in weight, yet it is able to cast some of the smallest lures a long way. Many also state that 4 pound mono is the best line for this reel, and you’ll get the best out of it using that pound test line.
It will hold its own with larger fish, and some have mentioned that with braided line, it makes a dandy little top water bass fishing rig. You can throw smaller top water baits into places that can’t be reached by other lesser reels.
Overall, this has been mentioned as the best Stradic ever made, and that’s some very high accolades for the smallest member of the Stradic series.
The bottom line here is this. You could pay more and still not get a better reel. Granted, this is not an inexpensive reel, but it is built to last and built to perform where many lower priced ultralight reels would fail. And, if by chance, you tie into a big one, the Hagane gearing and body will be up to the task in getting it to the net, even with such a relatively small reel size. You can’t ask more from an ultralight than that.
1. Daiwa SS700 Tournament Ultralight Spinning Reel
Solid 5 star reel. The Daiwa SS700 Ultralight is not the most expensive reel here, far from it. It may not be the prettiest reel here, although the solid gold color is an eye catcher, and it may not be the smoothest reel either. But it has two attributes, above anything else, that puts it the top of this list. It is virtually unbreakable and has the longest cast of any reel here.
This reel has been in production for decades, it is virtually unchanged, and has been coveted by ultralight fishermen and women as a reel they can count on in any situation. It was originally made for tournament fishing, hence the name, and that automatically meant that it had to be tough to withstand constant use. You can throw it in the car, throw it in the boat, and it will always be ready to fish whenever you are.
The SS700 was built before braided lines, so it works best with mono in the 4 to 6 pound test range, although you can spool it with 6 or 8 pound test braid. The ultra long cast spool will get you out to amazing distances, or as they say, you can cast this thing a mile. Even with its smaller size, you’ll be able to play a larger fish into your net. Your rod may let go, but the reel won’t.
Consider these features:
- 7.2 ounces — One of the lightest yet one of the toughest ultralight reels available
- Aircraft Grade Aluminum Spool — Others use carbon fiber or magnesium, but why when aircraft grade aluminum is just as good.
- 3 ball bearings — Sure, not the smoothest ultralight out there, but smooth enough for catching fish after fish
- Felt and Stainless Drag Discs — Smooth drag, no problem, the SS700 has you covered
- Whisker Quiet Gearing — Up until the Stradic Silent Drive gearing, Whisker Quiet was the best
- Daiwa Infinite Anti-Reverse — There is no back play when you set the hook, hook sets are instant.
In several reviews, anglers purchase multiples of these reels to keep them rigged up and ready to go. Many proclaim this as the overall best reel for the money. Being unchanged for, virtually, 30 plus years may give you some clue to the devotion this singular reel has amongst pros and weekend anglers.
Many of the reviews center around how near bulletproof it is. It just doesn’t break, even after years and years of hard fishing. It is said to be a reliable workhorse that never fails even under the most adverse conditions. That is high praise, indeed, for an ultralight reel.
Tough and reliable are words used most to describe this ultralight, and in all of the reviews I have seen, not one has said that the big got away. The Daiwa SS700 was always up to the task.
If you are looking for the toughest, most capable and longest casting ultralight reel out there, at a price that can’t be beat, the Daiwa SS700 Tournament Ultralight Spinning Reel should be at the top of everyone’s list and is our pick for the best ultralight reel.
Bonus Reel — Abu-Garcia MAX Ultralight Spinning Combo
Before there was carbon fiber, before there was graphite, and before there were modern resins, there was steel, aluminum and plastic. These were the 3 basic components of all fishing reels, and they all caught fish. We are sometimes jaded into thinking we have to get the newest and best rods and reels to bring home dinner, and many of us are willing to pay for them too. Sure, if you have deep pockets and want to go all-out with your fishing equipment, by all means, go for it. But if fun, catching fish and having a good time doing so is all that really matters, a reel like the Abu-Garcia 101 Ultralight will catch as many fish as any of them, and because this is a retro reel, you can get one for pennies on the dollar.
Consider these features:
- Weighs 10 ounces — Not bad for a reel that was made back in the day
- Aluminum and Steel Construction — No doubt they are tough, and sometimes you can find them with a composite extra spool.
- 5 Ball Bearings — Smooth for its day
- 6 Pound Mono Rated — Works well with 4 Pound Mono, not rated for braid, but you can try it and see what you like
- Long Cast Spool — One of the longer casting reels in its day
These reels are out of production, so qualified reviews are difficult to find. But everyone agrees that if maintained, the Abu 101 will be ultra smooth and last a long time. In fact, smoothness of action has been pointed out most of all, with people writing that the design, drag and smooth retrieve rival that of much more expensive modern reels. This compliment about an older reel speaks volumes about good it truly is.
Many of these have been purchased on auction sites, at an inexpensive price tag. Some were bought with the expectation that they would just be knock around reels, used as a spare, a back-up, or as a present for the budding angler in the family. After using them, buyers have reported that this reel is so good that many times it has become the go-to reel for panfish or crappie fishing.
All in all, if you are just looking to get into ultralight reels, and just want to have something you can keep in the car for those occasions when you happen upon a lake, or if you just want the retro experience to see what it is all about, this is a reel well suited for all of those times.
As mentioned in the reviews, they can be found online at many auction and market place sites, and yes, some of them may need a good oiling or tune-up, but for the price you’ll hardly be able to go wrong.
This is a terrific reel that can be used as your main reel, a back-up, or even for the kids to learn on, at a price virtually anyone can afford. And if you pair this up with a retro rod, you’ll be able to experience how much fun and exciting fishing was for grandpa, which is why this may actually be the best reel on this list. In some ways, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
We’ve covered some of the best ultralight fishing reels on the market, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one that suits your needs. If you have any questions about what features are important for a reel or if this type of gear is right for you, feel free to reach out and we can help! Now stop reading and use this map to GO Fishing!