Did you know the oldest fishhook found was over 45,000 years old? Many anglers before you have been fishing the great fresh and salt waters of this beautiful planet we live on. We don’t need to use a spear to hunt for fish anymore (some still choose to use a spear at times!).
So that begs the question of what are the best spinning reels for you? Our buying guide will inform about the differences between freshwater and saltwater fishing requirements. It’s critical that the right fishing reel is chosen so that you don’t end up spending money on the wrong spinning reel and turning up empty-handed.
We’ve selected models worth considering for saltwater and freshwater fishing, and will also mention some affordable units for those on a tight budget, especially under 100$. Take a look at our spinning reel reviews to find your favorite today.
- Best spinning reel overall for performance & quality: PENN Slammer III
- Best saltwater spinning reel: Daiwa SSaltist
- Best bass fishing spinning reel: Shimano Stradic Ci4+
- Ultralight spinning reel: Van Staal VR
- Best inshore spinning reel: Daiwa Bg
- Best freshwater spinning reels: Penn Battle II & III
- Best trout fishing spinning reel: Penn Spinfisher VI
- Best surf fishing spinning reel: Shimano Baitrunner D
- Lightweight spinning reel for great drag performance: Pflueger Supreme
- Best inshore saltwater spinning reel: SHIMANO Socorro SW
- High-quality surf fishing reel with outstanding versatility: Abu Garcia Revo S
- Best budget spinning reel: KastKing Sharky III
Best Spinning Reel Reviews
1. PENN Slammer III
BEST SPINNING REEL OVERALL FOR PERFORMANCE & QUALITY
If you are looking to catch big fish, but you do not want to splash your cash on a reel, we feel that this unit is worth considering. Its price tag is reasonable, and it is fairly durable.
The body, rotor, and side plate are all made of metal. The manufacturer also applied CNC gear technology, which makes heavy-duty fishing more manageable. In other words, you can tackle big species with this reel.
The reel uses the IPX6 system to ensure that the water doesn’t enter the drag system or gearbox. That ensures optimal experience and increases the overall durability of the unit.
Depending on the model you select, the weight may vary from 14 to 43 ounces. For example, the 4500 model weighs under 15 ounces and has a gear ratio of 6.2:1. The maximum drag is set at 30 pounds and the line capacity is set at 320/10 yards/pounds.
Read the full review → PENN Slammer III
2. Daiwa Saltist
BEST SALTWATER SPINNING REEL
While the beginners might learn how to use this unit quickly, the veterans like us are its primary target group. At first glance, the reel looks durable – it has a screwed-in handle of aluminum and a carbon drag system which is waterproof. However, you might extend its durability if you stay dry.
When it comes to the performance, a 5.6:1 gear ratio seems optimal for a heavy-duty reel. It has a generous count of eight bearings plus the additional roller one. That means cranking should be smooth and fluid whenever you need it to be,
The maximum drag is set at 15 pounds while the retrieve rate is over 33 inches. The unit weighs 9.5 ounces and features an anti-reverse lever. That is not an essential feature, but many traditional fishers will welcome it.
Overall, the unit seems a bit large and heavy, but keep in mind that it was designed to catch big fish.
Read the full review → Daiwa Saltist
3. Shimano Stradic Ci4+
BEST BASS FISHING SPINNING REEL
The first thing we noticed was the modern design of this reel. You soon realize that it doesn’t only look high-tech, but it is a contemporary unit.
The CI4+ has a carbon body accompanied by an aluminum spool. It features six standard ball-bearing and a single roller one. It is famous for its long-distance casting and an overall smooth feel of using it.
The maximum drag goes up to 20 pounds, and you could say that the product is very durable. It lacks an anti-reverse lever, but that is far from being a problem. You may have some problems with the line tangling, but as soon as you get used to the unit, you will enjoy using it as much as we do.
You can pick between several models, and the average retrieve range is 35 inches. That should be more than enough for all long-distance casting fans out there.
Read the full review → Shimano Stradic Ci4+
4. Van Staal VR
ULTRALIGHT SPINNING REEL
If you are looking for a sealed and submersible reel, the VR series may be a good fit for you. The manufacturer used aluminum as the preferred material. However, the center shaft is from stainless steel, and the unit also has a coating from titanium nitride.
The reels are waterproof and strong, but they remain lightweight. If you prefer using a bail-less reel, you can easily convert it as you get all the tools necessary.
We were pleased to see that the overall durability is better than expected. The bail could have been of somewhat better quality, but that is far from being a deal-breaker.
When it comes to the drag statistics, it can go up to 30 pounds depending on the model. We found the line capacity to be generous, which makes the reel suitable for long-distance casting. The model also has a fairly high retrieve rate.
Read the full review → Van Staal VR Series
5. Daiwa BG
BEST INSHORE SPINNING REEL
Daiwa is a manufacturer that has been around for decades, and they are a reputable company. We definitely are fond of the attractive design, matte finish and golden details.
The aluminum body adds to the durability, but keep in mind it is not easy to find replacement parts. The reel features six ball bearings and a roller one, and the gear ratio is 5.6:1, which is optimal for a versatile unit.
The maximum drag capacity is 13.2 pounds, and the drag system is waterproof. That means you shouldn’t worry if the reel goes in the water.
As for the retrieve range, it is set at 33.2 inches, which should be in line with the expectations of most users, as it met ours. The spool is ready for a braided line.
At first, the beginners may consider the reel difficult to maneuver. However, it is all about getting used to how it works, which shouldn’t take long.
Read the full review → Daiwa BG
6. Penn Battle II
BEST FRESHWATER SPINNING REEL
Penn managed to implement many vital features for an affordable reel. The entire experience of using the unit feels quite smooth. That means the newbies to the fishing world can also consider the reel, but it can also be a good choice for experienced anglers.
We noticed that the cranking is pretty fluid with a total of six bearings, including five ball bearings made of stainless steel. The manufacturer made the body, rotor, and sideplate of metal while the drag system is of carbon fiber, which might be the best choice of material for that component.
Some users may consider the reel to be stiff, but that shouldn’t be an issue once you get used to the unit. However, this is primarily a freshwater reel, and contact with saltwater could affect its durability. While it is not a saltwater-optimized unit, it is still fairly durable, especially if you consider the affordable price tag.
7. Penn Spinfisher VI
BEST TROUT FISHING SPINNING REEL
The unit features both a sealed spool and body and the design seems rather attractive. The combination of the dark and golden colors make the reel a cool addition to many rods. If you care about aesthetics like we do, the chances are you will like this unit.
Its performance didn’t disappoint us. Although it is not that lightweight, it is reliable and executes commands flawlessly. It is a reel you can count on, which is important for both beginners and advanced users.
The reel is fairly durable with a full metal sideplate and body. It doesn’t shine in terms of durability, but it also has an affordable price tag.
The CNC gear technology ensures consistent speed. The patented drag washers make it possible to deal with even heavy fish. The unit features five ball bearings made of stainless steel and one additional roller bearing.
Read the full review → Penn Spinfisher VI
8. Shimano Baitrunner D
BEST SURF FISHING SPINNING REEL
The Baitrunner series can serve well if you prefer using live baits. The natural movement of the bait that this reel ensures is what attracts various species. The speed is fairly consistent regardless of the size that you select.
The unit is lightweight, and the small size goes under 14 pounds. The maximum drag is 15 pounds, and it features three ball bearings, as well as a single roller one. At first, we thought that only three bearings will affect the performance, but the reel seems to deliver.
The gear ratio is 4.8:1 and the reel’s speed is fairly consistent. Furthermore, it seems to be easy to control the unit as the grip is comfortable.
We concluded that the reel could be more durable, but if you use it with care and maintain properly, it can still last for a long time.
Read the full review → Shimano Baitrunner D
9. Pflueger Supreme XT
LIGHTWEIGHT SPINNING REEL FOR GREAT DRAG PERFORMANCE
When you are a beginner, you want a lightweight reel that is easy to control. That is what Pflueger secured with its XT spinning reel series. The preferred material for rotor and body is magnesium, which ensures that it is lighter than most other reels.
As for the handle, the company used carbon, an undoubtedly lighter option than aluminum. The sealed drag system should ensure that everything goes smoothly.
The gear ratio is 5.2:1, we admit it could undoubtedly be better, but that is far from being a deal-breaker. You may lose a couple of seconds in the process, as well as when your line tangles, but this product compensates that with its versatility.
Due to the braid-ready spool, you can easily use different angling applications based on the species you want to catch. The overall feeling is that even beginners can find their way around this unit effortlessly.
Read the full review → Pflueger Supreme XT
10. SHIMANO Socorro SW
BEST INSHORE SALTWATER SPINNING REEL
We can consider this an entry-level Shimano’s unit, but it is nice to see some features that advanced models have, too. For starters, they remained true to their style of making lightweight but strong units.
For example, the gear durability is optimal thanks to the X-Ship technology that prevents friction between the gear and the spool shaft. The overall durability could be better, but it is an affordable unit.
We didn’t find the handle that comfortable, but you can improve the overall smoothness if you grease the unit additionally. It may take a bit of skill, but you can always ask an experienced angler for help how to optimize the reel.
The reel is quite versatile, and you can fish both small and large species with it. The unit is suitable for saltwater fishing and its durability won’t be affected by salty water.
Read the full review → SHIMANO Socorro SW
11. Abu Garcia Revo S
HIGH-QUALITY SURF FISHING REEL WITH OUTSTANDING VERSATILITY
It is only natural that you first notice the design of the reel. Abu Garcia’s unit is one of those that has a discreet, but attractive look.
As soon as you try it, you will realize that it is lightweight and simple to move around. The beginners will appreciate that it is easy to control the unit, as well as its affordable price tag. That makes this reel a great option if you need a model to practice your fishing skills.
The gear ratio of 6.2:1 ensures a high and consistent speed. Thanks to the generous range, you can fish off the bottom of a freshwater environment. It adds to the versatility of the unit and gives you more fishing opportunities.
We believe that 8 ball bearings plus and an extra roller one, and 35” per crank are also important features and reasons why you should try this reel.
Read the full review → Abu Garcia Revo S
12. KastKing Sharky III
BEST BUDGET SPINNING REEL
It is not often that we see affordable units having 10+1 ball bearings. If you add that they are made of stainless steel, you realize cranking should be quite fluid.
The gear ratio is 5.5:1, which makes the speed understandably high. The drag washers made of carbon fiber have a maximum set at 26.5 pounds.
The body of the reel should be corrosion-free as the preferred material was graphite. However, you should still avoid fishing in saltwater conditions to ensure optimal durability.
The reel is quite versatile, but it is light, we don’t recommend it for large fish. It is more for those anglers that like quick action and tackling smaller fish.
The handle is quite comfortable thanks to its T shape. The ergonomics overall seems great, which is why you shouldn’t have any fatigue issues even when using the reel for a long time.
Spinning Reel Buying Guide
So, you have decided to get into the world of angling? Great! Let’s start off with Spinning Reels, shall we?
First off, are you angling for pleasure or competition? What kind of fish (and size) are you looking to catch? To pick out the appropriate fishing reel type, let’s start by taking a quick look at the components of spinning reels. That’s right, it’s “Reels 101” time.
Top Things to Look for If You Want to Buy the Best Spinning Reel
Drag systems are found in all fixed spools. Found in the front of the reel or in the back ( front and rear drag ) Rear drag systems on reels are the most desired with novice anglers and front drag systems on a reel are considered ideal by more professional fishermen. The 2 drag system perform in the same way, they restrict or loosen the movement of the spool, much like a car’s braking system does to the car wheels.
The smoothness of the reel is really determined by the number of bearings it has. The more bearings the better. High-quality bearings made of stainless steel also assist with the lifespan of the reel as well and absorb a lot of the wear and tear inside the spools mechanism.
What you should look for in a line lay is that the flatter it is the better. Distance and accuracy are dependent on how flat the line lays on the spool.
How fast the reel retrieves the line you cast out is managed by the retrieve ratio of the design. The most common fixed spool reels are usually designed with a retrieve ratio of around 5.2:1. What you will find when you shop for fishing reels is that in general, reels will have a retrieve ratio that is found between 4.8:1 and 5.4:1.
This comes down to personal choice and what length and shape you personally find desirable.
A spinning reel can be used to catch many different types of small fish like bluegill all the way to giant tuna weighing over 100 pounds. Making sure your spinning reel has the right line and rod combo are critical to the success you will have with fishing.
The line size you choose needs to be correct for the spinning reel you have decided on and the type/size of fish you want to catch.
- Smaller Sized Fish: 500-1000 line sized reel
- Medium Sized Fish: :2500-6000 line sized reel
- Large Sized Fish: 8000-10000 line sized reel
When it comes down to it, there are quite a few options that you have when choosing the right spinning reel for your needs. Ultimately, it’s about how the rod and reel feel in your hand and what type of fish you want to catch. Once those have been decided you can really start customizing your fishing tool to get the best performance possible.
If you’re having second thoughts check out our baitcasting vs spinning reel comparison!
Saltwater Vs Freshwater Spinning Reels
These 2 reels are designed for their different environments and it’s important to pick the right one for the right job. By taking these factors into consideration you will have yourself the perfect reel for what you want it for.
Materials Used in Construction:
- Freshwater reels are designed with various metals that are built for freshwater environments. Since they are made for fresh water sources, they have minimal protection against corrosion.
- Saltwater reels which need to handle seas and oceans are made with special alloys that prevent corrosion. They are still made with the same materials as freshwater reels but have a protective coating that helps to withstand the abrasive saltwater’s.
- Freshwater reels can feature sealed components. However, it’s not as common and standard issue for saltwater reels. Sealed components, including bearings, gearboxes and drag systems, among others are not as susceptible to saltwater corrosion. The seals’ purpose is really that they are like gaskets and keep the components of the reel safe and free from damage when saltwater fishing.
Line and Lure
- Saltwater reels are can handle and catch heavier fish in contrast to freshwater reels. This obvious capacity difference is due to the environment and fish differences between the 2 water sources.
- Saltwater reels typically cost more considering the difference in manufacturing compared to freshwater reel and the level of protective elements needed when fishing in the 2 different water sources.
Different Reel Types
- Freshwater anglers use spinning, spincasting, and baitcasting when they are on fishing on rivers or lakes.
- In contrast, saltwater anglers utilize different types of reels when fishing in a different scenario. Specialized, high capacity reels are best suited for offshore fishing, inshore fishing can be handled with general use baitcaster or spinning reels.
Check our roundup of the baitcasting reels for saltwater and freshwater fishing & spincast reel reviews here!
Benefits and Drawbacks of a Spinning Reel
Like most fishing reels, there are pros and cons to using a spinning reel and its different variations:
Benefits of a Spinning Reel:
- A key benefit, in general, is the diversity and the many different types of spinning reels to choose from-
- Many choices for all different levels of experience and interest
- Spinning reels are easy to use, mechanics have a small learning curve- push button and flick
- Economical – won’t break the bank and is a perfect reel for beginners to learn on.
- Versatility- You can use many different types of lures, baits, and tackle.
- Hardly any backlash and easy for casting
Drawbacks of a Spinning Reel:
- Not meant for big game fish- you will need to pay to upgrade to a more suitable line if you want to catch the big guys.
- Construction is not as sturdy as baitcasters typically are. Rod could snap from some use
- The line can twist with the wind- don’t have the same quick reaction time capabilities as other reels.
- Shorter casting distance than other reels- limited range.
- Q: How do I know if I need a saltwater or freshwater reel?
A: The answer to that is, where are you going to be fishing? Naturally, if it’s at the cottage or summer house and you are by a lake or stream, freshwater reels are the way to go. If you plan to test out your fishing skills near the sea or ocean, Grab yourself a saltwater reel that has been specifically designed to withstand the salty, corrosive environment.
- Q: What do I need to consider when buying a freshwater reel?
- Weight of the reel:
You don’t want a reel that is too heavy that will affect the fishing experience. You won’t need a heavy one since most freshwater fishing doesn’t require that.
- Ease of use when operating:
Reels operate in different ways depending on the manufacturer. Some manufacturers like to increase the options available on the reel thus causing it to be more difficult to operate.
- Easy to maintain:
Look to purchase a reel that is easy to maintain and easy to clean- it’s going to be exposed to different, dirty environments and the longevity of the investment depends on how easy it is to clean.
Drag is a very important issue for reels- it refers to the amount of resistance the fish will feel once it’s caught.
- Weight of the reel:
- Q: What do I need to consider when buying a saltwater fishing reel?
- How do you fish? Buying the right fishing gear will depend on where you fish from. Is it from a boat? Ashore? Land? Each reel has its strengths and weaknesses depending on where you will be fishing from.
- What type of fish will you be trying to catch?. Your reel and all the options available will depend on what type of fish you are planning to catch. Pairing the right rod with the right reel and with the right reel is critical.
- Experience- different reels require different experience skillsets- don’t choose one that you are not familiar with or don’t plan to learn more about.
- How to Spool a Spinning Reel
If you are unsure of which rod and reel you should buy, find out more here!
As you can see from the information that has been provided in these spinning reel reviews, the world of angling can be extremely overwhelming when choosing the best fishing reel for yourself. From saltwater fishing to freshwater fishing and what environments they consist of, really do help narrow your choices down when looking at spinning reels.
When you have decided on the environment you will be fishing in, you can then choose the best spinning reel that would be appropriate for you based on your intentions, how much money you want to spend and what type of fish you want to catch.
What you will need consist of different types of reels and rods with many options for bait and lures. Do you need a baitcaster reel? A spincast reel or even the best fly fishing reel? These fishing reel buying guides should help you select which one is for you and which one fits best with your personal fishing situation.