Reviewed: The Best Fishing Reels of 2021 with Buying Guide
Our team of anglers researched different fishing reels, tested them, and reviewed the ones that offer the best value for money. This 2021 review features the best fishing reels currently available, each rigorously tested to provide you the assessments you need to make the right purchase decision.
Our experts tested these reels from rivers to lakes to bays in as many different environments as possible. Along the way, we made detailed notes on how each performed in metrics like operation, features, and line control that contribute to accurate casts and reliable trophy fish landing.
Whether you want the best reel money can buy or one that won’t break the bank, our hands-on evaluations can help you find the right reel for your needs.
The Best Overall Fishing Reel
1). Revo4 SX
If fishing isn’t just a pastime for you, but a way of life, the Abu Garcia Revo4 SX is the reel for you. It is without a doubt the best-built reel we tested, and its performance is remarkable. It casts very well, has excellent line control, and is loaded with features. The curved lip design on the spool, which helps increase casting distance, and the moderate oscillation, which offered us near-perfect line lay and fewer tangles, are among our absolute favorites. It also offered smooth drag regardless of the setting. And, since it’s light, it’s a fantastic travel configuration when coupled with a telescopic rod, which we enjoy after a few kilometers of trekking to fish.
Are there any disadvantages? Yes. For starters, this is by far the priciest reel we tried. And, although it will most certainly endure for a long time, the initial investment is difficult to justify. Switching the handle to the other side is somewhat more difficult than on other versions we examined, but this isn’t a major flaw. Because of its exorbitant price, we only suggest this reel to true fishing “lifers.” If you’re looking for a fishing reel that will provide top-notch performance, the Abu Garcia Revo4 SX is a great player. According to our records, we hooked more fish with this reel than any other throughout our testing process.
The Best Value for Money
2). Okuma Ceymar C-30
The Okuma Ceymar C-30 is the reel we recommend the most since it offers the greatest mix of performance, functionality, and durability of all of the reels we examined. Its seamless functioning allowed us to cast easily and pull in a large catch without having to battle the reel or the fish. This reel is lightweight as well. With an eight-ounce weight, this reel is hardly visible on many rods, resulting in a better-balanced setup overall. We also like its portability as a compact, lightweight reel that can be taken into the wilderness to fish remote, less-frequently fished rivers and lakes. It is made from a very heavy-duty aluminum bail and a large line roller that kept our line in control. And when it comes to comfort, it provides a great deal of it, and we really like the handle. The ergonomically designed EVA foam handle grip offered all-day comfort and a secure grasp.
As for the negative aspects of this reel, there aren’t many. We have a feeling that the very comfy foam handle grip will not withstand the wear and tear for long. The material has held up well thus far, with no indications of deterioration after hundreds of castings and many weeks of usage in total. It should also be noted that this reel is very tiny in contrast to the majority of the reels we’ve used in our fishing adventures. We don’t believe this is a negative thing since its small size makes it easy to transport, but it is something to keep in mind. The Okuma Ceymar C-30 must be at the forefront of your selection if you’re searching for the perfect all-around fishing reel in terms of performance and pricing.
Fishing with the Ceymar C-30 is always fun. Here’s a video of this fishing reel in action (recorded by my GoPro cam)
Best Budget-Friendly Fishing Reel
3). KastKing Centron 2000
Check out the KastKing Centron if you want a reel that works well without breaking the budget. While the structure of this reel isn’t as good as that of higher-end reels, it compensates for it in terms of operation and functionality. The drag system provided us with plenty of fighting force and was seamless all through the drag range, while the immediate anti-reverse system guaranteed there were no tangles when we flipped the switch. This reel also has a great bail roller that prevented our line from getting tangled while we were reeling. Its casting ability was likewise excellent, with the line easily coming off the spool on every throw.
Naturally, such a cheap entry point comes with a few drawbacks. It worked well, but since it is made of lightweight materials, it is possible that it may wear out in the long run, so use it responsibly. There was also a problem with loading the spool with a line too near to the top. In comparison to other reels, this one ended up creating a tangled nightmare for us when we tried to unwind it. However, if you want to save money while still obtaining a good fishing reel, the KastKing Centron is a good choice.
Best Fishing Reel for Saltwater
4). Penn Pursuit III
The Penn Pursuit III is a low-cost saltwater reel that turned out to be more competent than anticipated. It’s not as big as some other saltwater reels, but it’s tough and has a lot of fighting strength. We discovered this ourselves when bringing in a fish that seemed to be too large for this reel. One of our favorite features on this reel is the line capacity sign on the spool, which helps you know precisely how much line you have out. That’s fantastic. While this model is advertised as a saltwater model, we discovered that it performs well in freshwater settings as well. This model’s adaptability appeals to us.
Although there are numerous upsides, a few disadvantages need to be taken into account. The fact that there is no reversal is one of the most apparent. When battling a large fish, you must depend on the drag mechanism of the reel rather than back reeling. Fortunately, the drag mechanism on this reel proved to be more than enough for the fish we hooked. While the reverse function is unlikely to be utilized by many people, in any case, it is still usually anticipated on a reel, and some people may find it lacking.
Overall, we were pleasantly pleased by the reel’s robustness and quality for such a low price. The Penn Pursuit III is our suggested saltwater reel at a middle-of-the-road price.
It’s been years fishing with the Penn Pursuit III in the saltwaters, and the reel has hold up to its manufacturing without corrosion. A true masterpiece!
Best Fishing Reel for Pin-Point Casting Accuracy
5). Abu Garcia Revo EXD
Don’t be fooled by the childish lilac-colored fishing gear. A professional casting machine, the Revo EXD has up to 20 pounds of drag and 11 corrosion-resistant axles, which combine to provide an amazing level of precision in the casting process. Many fishermen will be put off by the price, which is understandable. However, if you’re looking for a long-distance reel with pinpoint casting accuracy, the 6.8-ounce aluminum Revo EXD is an excellent choice.
It’s not cheap. But, my, this is incredible! There’s a clear upper hand in quality. This reel is very beautiful, and the purple hues truly stand out. Because it clings so tightly to the rod, calling it low profile almost seems like an understatement. I loved how the casting bar slid down and out of the way, allowing my thumb to glide over the spool with ease. Turning the crank took only a smidgeon of dexterity. Very quiet.
There is a components diagram and a warranty card tucked away under the foam in the box, but there are no instructions. I was first disappointed by the lack of instructions, but then I realized that you don’t purchase a $300 fishing reel unless you know what you’re doing.
Fishing Reel Buying Guide & Information
The fishing reel industry is a labyrinth of technical claims and befuddling lingo, so let’s break down the factors that contribute to the successful purchase and usage of a fishing reel.
Types of Fishing Reels
Choosing the ideal spinning reel for your requirements, on the other hand, maybe difficult if you’re inexperienced with how a spinning reel works and the terminology used to describe reel performance. Take a look at the following advice for some pointers on how to choose the best spinning reel.
The first important concept to grasp is that there are four primary kinds of fishing reels to select from when targeting the most common saltwater and freshwater species: spinning reels, overhead reels, fly reels, and baitcasting reels. Let’s go over each one and the applications for which they’re appropriate, since determining the type of reel to examine is the first step in buying a new product.
Spinning reels, often known as eggbeaters, are the most practical of all reels because of their distinctive whipping motion. They utilize a bail guide mechanism to hold the line while retrieving it and winding it around the spool. The line is allowed to fall freely from the spool when the bail is turned over. As a result, they are ideal for casting since the spool does not rotate. To release the line, just pinch it to keep it snug on the spool and synchronize your release with the maximum height of your cast. After then, the bail may be flipped back, allowing the reel to be engaged for recovery.
When drift fishing in a current, a spinning reel with adjustable drag and occasionally a “free spool” setting may be used to enable the fish to run with the bait before engaging the reel and hitting. The material used to construct a reel, the drag mechanism, gear characteristics, and the number of ball bearings influence its quality and price (these create a smoother action under pressure).
Baitcasting reels are made especially for baitcasting rods and should only be used by experienced fishermen. Despite their reputation for tangling, these reels provide great levels of precision and control (if learned how to).
Baitcasters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including round and low-profile models.
The low profile enables the angler to palm the reel while casting and retrieving, making it perfect for sports fishing for bass, barramundi, and large bream.
A round profile reel can carry a lot more line, which is excellent for long-running target species. These reels are suitable for trolling.
Baitcasters have braking mechanisms with a spool tensioning knob that may be adjusted. This enables the angler to adjust the rotation of the spool to prevent line backlash, often known as the dreaded “bird’s nest.” When utilizing various weighted lures, you’ll need to adjust the spool’s spin to have a longer, more precise throw. Learning to thumb a spool while casting, regardless of the braking mechanism, helps you to better control the spool’s spin and prevent line backlash.
It’s essential to know the gear ratio and recommended line class when purchasing a baitcaster since this will assist you to balance the reel and the rod. A gear ratio is represented by two sets of numbers, such as 7.3:1.
For each turn of the handle, the first set of digits represents the number of revolutions the spool makes. In this case, one turn of the handle would cause the spool to circle 7.3 times. A higher number implies a faster retrieve, which is excellent for lure fishing when the lure needs rapid retrieval. The line class (for example, 175 yards / 14lb.Braid.) refers to the quantity of monofilament or braid line that a spool may hold as well as the recommended weight class for that line. The numbers 7.3:1 and 175 yards / 14lb.Braid. suggest that this reel is best suited to a medium-class baitcasting rod for target fish such as barramundi.
Overhead reels are built for overhead rods and are intended for lure or bait fishing where the line is trolled or fed out below the boat or kayak rather than thrown.
The overhead reel is similar to the baitcasting reel in that it is mounted on top of the rod. When dropping or vibrating baits and lures immediately beneath a boat or canoe, having quick line contact and spool control may be advantageous.
The design of overhead and baitcasting reels is quite similar. A baitcasting reel is basically a modernized version of the classic overhead reel, with a shorter wheelbase that improves casting balance.
The majority of conventional overhead reels on the market are designed for ocean fishing and are compatible with game fishing rods. Many of the older overhead reels are still in use, but the smaller, handheld baitcaster has been preferred for fishing gear.
Fly reels are specially built for fly rods. Traditionally, they are basic in design and construction, but newer fly reels are getting more innovative, using disc-type drag mechanisms for better drag adjustability, uniformity, and drag friction resistance.
A fly reel is a single-action reel that uses one hand to strip line from the spool while the other hand casts the rod. When a fish makes a lengthy run, the fly reel’s function is to simply store line and create drag. The reel is intended to counteract the weight of your rod while casting, which is an essential function.
Different Sizes of Fishing Reels & Their Uses
Sizing fishing reels is complicated by the lack of a uniform measurement method agreed upon by manufacturers, although there are a few basic principles that most manufacturers follow. Let us attempt to clarify this as much as possible.
A number is typically included in the name of the reel, and this number is usually in the thousands, hundreds, or tens of thousands, for example, 3000, 300, or 30. What you should pay attention to when looking at a reel’s serial number is its first section, which typically shows how large the reel is in terms of reel capacity and body size.
To avoid confusion, we will refer to reel sizes using 1000, 2000, and so on the scale to give you a better sense of the real size, since often this designation is not apparent on the provided model name – it may simply have a 3 somewhere in the name.
Size of Fishing Reel (500 to 3000)
Micro-angling using ultra-light spinning reels, such as ice fishing or micro fishing, requires the smallest spinning reels available, which typically start at a size of 500. This will comfortably fit in the palm of your hand with space to spare. –
By the time we get to models with 1000, 2000, and 3000-labeled numbers (often referred to as 10 / 100, 20 / 200, 30 / 300, and so on), we’ve entered the realm of useful light spinning reels for species such as trout and crappie, bluegill, bass, and catfish, as well as very light inshore and surf fishing.
A 3000-size reel is an excellent all-around light reel for any fisherman who wants to catch fish up to 20 pounds on lures or tiny bait. Generally speaking, this size provides sufficient line capacity to cast and land respectable fish in the majority of circumstances without the weight of a larger-spooled reel, which may be too heavy for a child or a novice or too unbalanced on a light rod. It’s a good beginning place for a lot of people.
Size of Fishing Reel (4000 to 6000)
The sizes range from 4000 to 6000, and in terms of spinning reels, they represent a significant step forward in terms of their capacity to handle larger fish and more line. This size reel is well suited for a variety of jobs including large catfish, carp and pike fishing, muskie fishing, small to medium-sized offshore species, and heavier surf fishing. This is particularly true for more expensive versions with heavy-duty internal mechanics and metal bodies. There are a number of professional fishermen that use this series, including a model in the 4000-6000 size range that is fitted with a good drag and is a highly competent large-game fishing reel.
Size of Fishing Reel (8000-10,000+)
These are specialized instruments for handling huge freshwater and saltwater fish, including the biggest of all freshwater species. They are available in sizes up to 8000 and beyond. Against the run of a medium-sized shark or large ray, the typical 8000-size reel will be able to carry hundreds of yards of 40-100lb braided main line and will provide significant stopping power with drag pressures in excess of 30lb available.
In addition to the 10,000 size, several reel manufacturers also produce reels in larger sizes, which are often fitted with an even beefier drag to stop huge sharks and rays, as well as line capacities of up to 750 yards of 40-80lb braided main line.
Sizes of fishing reels include traditional reels and spinning reels.
Sizing for some conventional and baitcasting reels can be similar from company to company, with the notable exception of large conventional reels, where sizes 20, 30, 50, 80, and 130 portray the series of big game reels from small jigging models in the 20s and 30s to medium-capacity 30 and 50 models in the 80 and 130 brackets, as well as boat winch-level giants in the 130 range. Comparing the total weight and line capacity of the reels among models typically provides a more accurate picture of where the model falls within the size range.
Freshwater vs. Saltwater Reels
This is an essential consideration when selecting the ideal reel for the task, and a good rule of thumb to remember is that all saltwater reels are suitable for use in freshwater, but not all freshwater reels are suitable for saltwater usage.
The primary distinctions between a reel designed for saltwater and freshwater usage are often the corrosion-resistant materials used and the additional care used to seal the reel against saltwater penetration into the mechanics. If a reel does not have these characteristics, it will soon rust and become unusable after being exposed to saltwater, making you wish you had spent a little more money on a model that was designed for saltwater usage in the first place.
With so many moving components, completely sealing a reel against seawater corrosion is difficult, but some of the most costly high-end reels on the market use ingenious magnetic oil systems and unique bearings to address the issue. As a result, saltwater-friendly reels are typically more costly but more durable than their freshwater equivalents.
A reel’s life may be extended by cleaning it in warm waters with mild soap and using a corrosion-resistant lubrication spray. Freshwater fishermen should wash their reels in clean water on a regular basis and apply an appropriate lubricant on the moving machinery to ensure hassle-free operation.
The greater the number of bearings, the better, since they provide superior overall performance and assistance in other areas of the reel, such as bigger fish. Inexpensive reels with less or lower-quality bearings would, on average, have a less smooth action. Proper lubrication and frequent cleaning help keep bearings in top condition.
The drag represents the physical connection between the reel and the mechanism through which the line is applied and controlled. Most often, this connection is made by dials found on the front or back of the spinning reel, as well as levers and star-shaped dials that are located on traditional reels. Because a moving fish must be able to receive a line from the reel without it locking up, a quick and effective drag is essential (and possibly breaking the line).
The fish you’re targeting will fatigue more quickly when using a reel that offers significant drag pressure but doesn’t lock up or overheat from the friction.
When someone gets “spooled,” it is often because the reel cannot exert enough pressure to stop a running fish, thus the fish runs out of line before it can be stopped. A reel should have a drag suited to the kind of fish you are trying to catch, and should also be adjusted to only allow the line to come out.
Drag pressure is expressed in pounds; visualize a large weight yanking line straight from the reel spool; the amount of the weight required to engage the drag and begin supplying line is the drag pressure reading.
Reels that provide little to no drag resistance usually function best for smaller freshwater fish, while ones that provide 20-40 pounds of drag allow larger saltwater species to be caught as well. Some special reels capable of handling over 100lb of drag strain for use with big sharks and tuna may cost anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500.
There are a few more factors to take into consideration. For example, is the reel going to feel heavy when attached to a light-weight rod? Additionally, the body’s material influences weight and durability. Graphite, aluminum, and plastic-type materials tend to be more affordable. Meanwhile, magnesium and high-tech alloys tend to be more expensive. Most major companies have a connection between the cost of the product and the quality and durability of the materials used.
Line capacity is particularly important when fishing for longer casts or large fish, but because most people are only throwing a distance of 50 to 100 yards, a reel that is 3000 to 4000 in size may carry 200 to 300 yards of line. For something larger than this in distance will require a reel with twice the line capacity.
The rig that feels best to grip, cast, retrieve, and battle a fish will be a balanced outfit if you understand reel size specifications.
To prolong the life of your reel, clean it thoroughly after each saltwater, brackish water, or filthy freshwater fishing excursion. Rinsing a reel with clean water is the most simple method to clean it. Removing the spool and handle and giving any moving components a little amount of oil is never a bad idea. Tender-loving care is helpful in keeping a reel from wearing out prematurely.
It is important to be careful while opening reel casings since they are packed densely with tiny washers, springs, and cogs. Lose only one and you may experience agony. This should be left to a licensed technician.
- 1). Revo4 SX
- 2). Okuma Ceymar C-30
- 3). KastKing Centron 2000
- 4). Penn Pursuit III
- 5). Abu Garcia Revo EXD
- Fishing Reel Buying Guide & Information
- Types of Fishing Reels
- Different Sizes of Fishing Reels & Their Uses
- Freshwater vs. Saltwater Reels
- Drag Pressure
- Line Capacity