Best Spinning Reel
Spinning reels offer incredible opportunities for the novice angler to professionals, but deciding which of the thousands of reels available is the best spinning reel can be frustrating.
The technology in these reels from the best fishing reel brands such as Penn, Daiwa, Shimano, Abu Garcia, and Pflueger is incredible. Understanding the differences between well made and poorly made reels as well as what each reel has to offer and understand its importance on the water takes a lot of time to research.
Because of this, we wanted to provide you with an informative and clear overview that will look at different components of spinning reels and discuss why they are important and how to spot quality. With this information, we will then dive into five spinning reels that we think are worthy of having on the water.
Qualities of the Best Spinning Reel
So, as an angler, why should you decide on a spinning reel versus alternative tackle?
Spinning reels offer the angler a lot of versatility in baits and fishing styles. They are also simple to operate and is the reason a lot of novice anglers start out on spinning reels.
Spinning reels are not just meant for novice anglers, though, and in the hands of an experienced fisherman, they can shine in any fishing situation.
Improved spinning reel technology has resulted in reels that can cast and retrieve heavier lures as well as cast significantly further distances than they could a decade ago.
There are several reel attributes we look at when reviewing spinning reels. In this section, we will take a look at several of these variables and discuss how they are important to the reel and how having high-quality systems and parts impact your ability to catch fish.
What you should pay attention to:
- Drag System
- Gear Ratio
- Line Capacity
Before going into any other characteristics, your first decision when picking out a spinning reel is to determine what type of fishing situations you plan on using the reel.
Your decision is going to determine what type of factors you need to look out for when picking the reel out.
- For smaller fish, such as trout, you might want a light reel that has a high retrieval speed.
- If you want to catch tarpon, you need a heavy reel with lots of power and corrosion resistance.
You can see how what you are interested in really changes depending on what you want to catch.
Going along with this thought, there are usually multiple models of reels within a series.
While these reels may share a lot of the same technology, there will be some differences such as spooling capacity, max drag, gear ratios, and overall weight.
Most reel manufacturers have a specific type of fishing in mind for each model within a series. There are often labeled by numbers with higher numbers indicating larger reels.
All spinning reels have ball bearings within the gear system that provide support and stability to the gears and provides a smooth retrieval.
Too few or low-quality bearings results in jerky and uneven retrieval.
It’s hard to tell if bearings are high quality just from spec sheets. The real test is handling them yourself. You will quickly see the difference in high and low-quality bearings from handling yourself.
Reels should also have an anti-reverse bearing that prevents back play with the line and generates better hook sets. This bearing is located in the handle and body interface.
You want materials that provide durability and protection without adding a ton of weight to the reel. Aircraft grade aluminum and carbon-graphite are the most common materials on quality reels.
Aluminum offers more durability, but graphite offers reduced weight. What you will usually find on a reel is a mixture of aluminum and graphite for certain reel parts.
You might also see magnesium used with some reels. Magnesium is extremely light, but it is not as tough as aluminum and tends to be less corrosion resistant.
Drag is the resistance exerted on line leaving the spool. This is usually achieved from washers that produce friction to slow the turn of the drive shaft.
Better constructed reels have sealed drag systems. As you can imagine, this helps the drag maintain its productivity over a longer period.
Manufacturers will provide a reels max drag setting. While you want to be able to stop fish, you might never even need to crank the drag up to its highest setting to land a fish.
What matters is a constant drag that is put on the line and low start up inertia.
Start-up inertia is the amount of force that is needed to engage the drag system.
- If there is low start up inertia, the line will be pulled from the spool smoothly.
- If you have the drag set high and there is high start up inertia, there is a greater chance of the line breaking when a large fish starts its run.
You also need fine adjustments across the entire drag range. It is especially important when you start hooking up on fish that put up a fight.
By having complete control of the drag, you can land fish much more efficiently and ethically.
This is another reel specification that garners a lot of attention from anglers. This number lets you know how many revolutions of the rotor occurs per one turn of the handle.
So, a ratio of 5.1:1 tells you that for every one turn of the handle the rotor is making 5.1 revolutions.
What you can gather from this number is an idea of line retrieval speeds. High gear ratios mean you can get in a lot of line in a single turn.
There is a tradeoff with high gear ratios. Normally, high gear ratios result in lower cranking power. Higher gear ratio doesn’t always mean a better reel. It all depends on how the reel is designed to perform.
The weight of the reel is another option to consider.
Though reel makers can produce some lightweight reels that are designed to handle larger fish, lighter is not always better if the reel is going to flex under pressure and lose its functionality.
You always want a good balance between your rod, reel, and the size of fish you are chasing.
It’s also important to be aware of the amount of line that can be spooled.
With smaller game species, this isn’t a big issue as they will almost never run out your line, but for larger saltwater species such as tarpon, tuna, or marlin, you need a reel that can pack a few hundred yards on it and at the correct pound test.
Our Top Spinning Reels
|#1||Penn Spinfisher V||4.4|
|#3||Shimano Stradic HG||4.4|
|#4||Abu Garcia Revo SX||4.2|
Now that you know what you should pay attention to, let’s dive into our top five spinning reels and their pros and cons.
Penn Spinfisher V
The Penn Spinfisher has been a spinning reel standard for half a century. Its fifth installment continues that legacy while incorporating state of the art reel technology into the new design. Here is a quick rundown on several of the models.
3500 6.2:1 30 20 14.4 8/210 15/215
4500 6.2:1 34 25 15.4 8/300 15/365
5500 5.6:1 35 30 21.6 10/360 20/425
6500 5.6:1 39 30 22.3 15/300
6500BLS 5.6:1 39 30 23 15/300
7500 4.7:1 36 35 28.7 15/440 40/430
7500LC 4.7:1 36 20 27.2 15/370 40/400
8500 4.7:1 42 35 31.6 20/440 40/650
9500 4.2:1 39 40 41.9 40/300 50/630
10500 4.2:1 42 40 43.5 40/350 50/750
This is a heavier reel as you can see in the specs. In fact, this reel is proportionately heavier than any other reel on our list.
The reason for this is the entire body, including the side plates, spool, bail, and handle, is crafted from anodized aluminum. While this increases the weight, it results in extraordinary power.
Purpose and durability
Penn’s goal was obvious with the Spinfisher V, build a reel that can stand up to any fishing conditions and land the biggest and baddest fish in the water year after year.
If you’re looking to hook up on a lot large and aggressive fish where you need to employ some intense cranking power, the Penn Spinfisher V is the way to go.
The full metal body not only provides a durable reel, but it also protects the main drive gears and shaft and keeps them aligned properly even when extreme pressure is applied to the reel by you and the fish.
So when you have a large fish on the reel is still able to function properly and land the fish quickly.
The Spinfisher V has a design and color scheme that yells functionality. There are no frills or exotic cuts and angles. You can tell this reel was designed with one goal in mind. Catch fish. Probably the best marketing scheme you can have for a spinning reel, and it’s very refreshing.
A 5+1 shielded bearing system gives you smooth retrieval and confident hook sets with an anti-reverse bearing in the handle that gives zero back play. The bearing system is also sealed giving you a reel that will perform like one out of the box after extended outings and in saltwater conditions.
The “Slammer” drag system can generate 20-40lbs of max drag depending on the model. This system is made up by three Ht-100 oversized washers with two placed below the spool and one on top.
Penn understood that if they wanted the go to big fish reel, then they needed the best drag system on the market and they delivered. There is little start up inertia, and the drag system is easily adjusted throughout the reels range.
Gear ratios for this series are slightly lower compared to other reels. They range from 6.2:1 on the smallest model to 4.2:1 for the largest model with line retrieval rate of 30-42”.
These retrieval rates are lower than other top reels, but you sacrifice that you the unbelievable power in Spinfisher V reels.
These reels have huge line capacities which are needed when fighting certain saltwater species that are known for running out yards of line.
Penn also uses a line capacity markings on the spool for quick readings. There is a full line, 2/3, and 1/3 marking.
The Penn Spinfisher V also uses seals the reel body in several key areas =making internal components highly resistant to saltwater corrosion.
While one of the top saltwater reels, the smaller models make excellent bass reels as well.
- Fully sealed
- Tough and durable
- Incredible drag system
- Huge line capacity
- Little on the heavy side
- Lower gear ratios
Spinfisher V wrap up
What you get with the Spinfisher V is one of the most durable and powerful spinning reels on the market. A reel that is designed to handle saltwater and the fish that reside there. What’s incredible is the affordability of these reels. From the review, you would assume these reels would fetch top dollar, but Penn has provided top quality at an affordable price.
If you are looking for the fish of a lifetime, you would do well to have a Penn Spinfisher V in your hands.
The Daiwa BG series have models for ultralight trout fishing to landing tarpon and tuna in saltwater settings. These reels are very easy on the eyes. The black anodized body with gold accents stand out. Nothing seems wasted on this reel and every inch of it was designed to perform on the water.
While BG reels have an anodized aluminum body, spool, handle, and bail they are lighter than the previous Penn Spinfisher model.The reduction in weight comes from the graphite air rotor that these models use.
The spool has a very aerodynamic design that not only cuts down on weight but has been optimized for durability. On top of all this, it along with the gear system provides fantastic line retrieval rates as well as an even line lay.
Gear system and drag system
The BG series of reels uses a computer-optimized and oversized gear system. The oversized gear optimizes contact surfaces areas between the drive and pinion gear.
What this means for you on the water is an excellent rotation that doesn’t have that “geary” feel. It also helps keep gears in contact and moving properly when under the duress of a large fish and cranking power being employed.
Daiwa BG uses a sealed “Carbon ATD” drag system that can apply drag evenly across the reels range. High max drag, low start up inertia, easy to adjust and fine tune drag make this one of the top drag systems available. There isn’t a whole lot we can say about it. It’s just great.
Spool system and design
Diawa also uses an ABS spool system. The large diameter and lip design allow line to be spooled to max levels while reducing the potential for tangles deep within the spool.
The lip design also cuts down on friction from the line leaving the spool. This helps improve casting accuracy and the distance attainable. This design is also the reason for the excellent line retrieval speeds even though the gear ratio is lower than other reel models.
What’s brilliant about this design is you keep the fast retrieval speeds without sacrificing cranking power. It’s incredible engineering from a company who knows their reels.
All models have a 6+1 bearing count with the anti-reverse bearing.
Diawa bearings are some of the best in the fishing world. They are one of the main components involved in making the BG the smoothest reel on our list. Most reels will not feel jerky the first couple of trips, but extended use reveals their true colors. The BG will provide a smooth performance trip after trip after trip.
As for the anti-reverse bearing, all models up to the 4500 model employs one bearing, and these inhibit any back play in the handle. For the 4500 model and up the reels use a dual anti-reverse system.
If you have ever had a monster fish on the end of the line, the dual bearing system makes sense. You are applying a lot of pressure on the reel, and any back play at this point decreases your chances of landing the fish.
We love this concept by Diawa and feels like something a person who has fought a lot of fish designed.
- Lightweight yet durable
- Sensitive and sealed drag system
- Fast retrieval speeds
- Top-line bearing system
- Smooth casting
Body not sealed
Diawa BG wrap up
The body sealing of the Diawa BG is not up to par with the Penn Spinfisher, but its sealed drag system, aluminum anodized body, and corrosion resistant ball bearings still make this a good reel for fishing in the salt.
The BG series of spinning reels wins the title of best spinning reel for the money. It offers incredible performance in all aspects of a spinning reel. You absolutely cannot go wrong with a Diawa BG.
Shimano has introduced a lot of new technologies in an already popular line of reels which has given rise to the Stradic FK series. These are high performing reels without the top tier reel prices.
There are several models of the Stradic available with varying properties that will fit specific fishing scenarios.
The compactness of this reel along with its all-metal design gives it a striking appearance and looks like a machine designed to land fish.
Durability and functionality
In our eyes, one of the biggest improvements to the Shimano Stradic, and what puts it up in the upper echelon of spinning reels, is the Hagane body and gear system.
This is high-quality aluminum and carbon composite used for these reels, and it sets it apart from reels in a similar and more expensive price range.
The Hagane body provides extreme rigidity with little to no flex when pressure is applied to it. Most reel bodies will flex, the body and gears will bend or become slightly out of line. This reduces the amount of power that should go into cranking and retrieving large fish.
The Shimano Stradic can funnel the energy directly to the gear system while maintaining alignment and you will be able to tell the difference in its ability to land larger fish.
Not only is the body and gear system durable, but the cold forged aluminum spool also has incredible strength and will be able to hold up to enormous pressures exerted on it with warping.
Anglers tend to focus on bearing numbers and outward appearances of spinning reels, but how a spinning reel performs lies in its gear system and the Stradic has a great one.
Not only is the gear system extremely durable, but they also provide smooth retrieval through a bearing system that supports the pinion gear and keeps it and the main drive gear in perfect alignment and have termed this technology as “X-Ship.”
This technology keeps the gears turning smoothly even when great pressure is applied that would normally cause gears to torque and flex out of place, making your retrieval seem jerky.
Of course, we cannot do a product review without mentioning the bearing systems. All models of the Shimano Stradic have a 6+1 bearing system. Six S A-RB bearings that are high quality and also shielded to provide added corrosion resistance. It also features one anti- reverse, instant-stop bearing at the reel crank.
We love the anti-reverse system on the Stradic. Shimano uses a Super Stopper II anti-reverse roller bearing that eliminates all significant back play.
After a lot of use, you might get a little give in the reel handle, but it is nowhere near enough to worry about effecting a strong hook set.
The Stradic employs a typical stacked washer drag system using both stainless steel and felt washers. While the max drag has more than enough stopping power what we should be interested in is the start up inertia, constant pressure, and ability to manipulate the drag through the entirety of its range.
Once the dag is engaged, the Stradic’s drag system puts pretty consistent pressure on the line. The biggest issue with the drag is its engagement. There tends to be some start up inertia on these reels and something you should have in mind when adjusting the drag before hooking a fish.
The drag adjustment knob is easy to adjust and has a nice audible click when drag is being adjusted. This is particularly useful when adjusting drag while fighting fish.
- Incredibly durable reel
- Excellent line management
- Tremendous gear system
- Metal puts this reel a little on the heavy side of the scale
- Drag is a little jerky on the heavy end of the scale
Stradic wrap up
The Shimano Stradic’s Hagane body design gives it excellent durability and resistance to flexing and other deformations that some reels might be susceptible to. It also has great line management and a reliable and smooth gear system. There are parts of the drag that could be improved, but overall, the Shimano Stradic is a fantastic reel for any serious angler.
Abu Garcia Revo SX
The REVO SX series of reels are compact with anodized aluminum and carbon graphite material used in the body, gears, spool, and bail. The SX models have a sharp black and red color scheme.
This series of reels are available in four of the following models, all of which can be modified for left or right handed users.
The SX reels use a graphite rotor to cut back on some weight. It has a beautifully smooth and slow oscillation pattern that provides even line lay and cuts back on line tangles that can keep your lures out of the water and the fish in it.
Durability and functionality
Ergonomically, the REVO SX is hard to top and is an easy reel to handle and fish with for extended trips. It has a wonderful handle with a wide flat knob that is easy to grip and keep hold off even during intense fights.
REVO uses an aluminum machined gear that has been computer optimized. What this provides to you on the river or lake is a gear system that locks smoothly and turns without much resistance giving you a smooth casting and retrieval reel.
To keep gears protected and aligned Abu Garcia used a carbon gear box in function with the aluminum body to provide a sturdy, but lightweight protection system. This not only adds to the reels durability but it also helps give the SX series their characteristic compactness.
The REVO SX series employs an 8+1 bearing system. Eight bearings are High Performance Corrosion Resistant (HPCR) and are shielded stainless steel ball bearings. It also utilizes a single anti-reverse bearing.
The SX models have a machined aluminum spool that is fitted with a rubber gasket to allow braid to be tied directly to the spool without mono backing. The SX doesn’t have the best spool size, but direct braid attachment saves a lot of room.
The SX reels have plenty of max drag pressure for stopping running bass in their tracks. This pressure is generated by their carbon matrix, stacked washer drag system. One of the biggest attributes of the REVO SX drag system and the overall reel is low to no start up inertia.
As we mentioned in the reel characteristics sections, this means the drag engages smoothly, and there is not a lot of jerk. This is especially important when using lighter line and leaders.
The drag system has good range, and you can adjust it in fine increments. The one issue with the drag is that the adjustment dial on top of the spool is a little stiff, making fine adjustments during a fight a little more awkward.
Of course, the adjustment knob being too stiff is a much better option than it being loose, and if this is our main concern, it should tell you how good of a reel we are dealing with.
Line control and management on the REVO SX models are due to the spool lip design and the slight angle to the spool. This allows the line to come off the spool evenly and smoothly. This small adjustment really adds to the casting performance of this reel.
- Excellent performance for the price
- Superb anti-reverse
- Low start up drag inertia
- Great line control
- Low mono spooling capacity
- Stiff drag adjustment
- Can’t handle larger fish species
REVO SX wrap up
This is a reel that is perfect for trout, bass, and other similar fish species. It’s not meant to handle larger game fish, and that is okay. It has some of the best line management technology available and if you use this reel as it’s intended, its hard to find a better performing reel for the middle of the road price tag.
The Pflueger Patriarch is one of the few reels available in an all magnesium body and side plates that is worth buying. Because of its light weight, it is no issue to be casting and retrieving all day without worry of fatigue.
Durability and functionality
The magnesium body makes these reels incredibly light, but like anything, there is a drawback. Magnesium is not corrosion resistant at all. If you do not provide pretty regular upkeep to these reels, you are going to get a lot of corrosion, especially if exposed to salt water.
Everything about the Patriarch seems to be geared to producing a light, but powerful reel.
When magnesium is not used, the Patriarch uses high-grade carbon composite in the spool and handle. To further reduce weight, Pflueger utilizes porting very effectively in the spool and rotor.
The rotor and spool work very well together and even when cranking, you get smooth even lay line even during retrieval with little to no wobble in the spool.
The biggest concern with the Patriarch is the low gear ratio and retrieval speeds. It’s nothing that will keep you from catching fish, but if you usually fish lures that require fast retrieval, you might not be satisfied with this reel.
The Patriarch uses corrosion resistant, stainless steel XCR bearings. XCR is a known ball bearing system that is shielded and has reduced friction.
The reduction in friction reallty provides a smooth running reel. All models contain 9+1 bearings.
The Patriarch employs a sealed carbon drag system that utilizes carbon fiber washers. The max drag on these reels are not as high as others on our list, but it should still be enough to put the brakes on most fish.
The drag adjustment is not as precise as it could be, but it does employ constant and consistent pressure. The low start up inertia is also a big plus for the Patriarch, and you should feel confident when fishing light line.
The main drive gear is machined aluminum while the main drive shaft is made from titanium. This gives you an extremely lightweight gear system but maintains durability and extended smoothness over years of use.
- Extremely light reels, but powerful
- Excellent cranking power and line management
- Very affordable
- Poor gear ratio and line retrieval speeds
- Line capacity lacking
- Drag adjustment lacking
Patriarch wrap up
The Patriarch is an affordable reel that is the lightest on this list. Patriarch models are available in versions that can handle small trout up to larger bass and steelhead. While some aspects of the drag could be better, this is an all around high performing reel that is perfect for most freshwater applications.
Our Winner and Conclusion
While it is difficult from the reels on this list, we have to give the edge for the best spinning reel to the Diawa BG.
It’s a lightweight but durable reel that offers excellent line retrieval speeds while maintaining power, fantastic drag system, and bearings and spool design that provides smooth casting and retrieval. It is also offered in models that can excel from ultralight trout fishing to landing tarpon in the saltwater flats.
You have the information, and you have some options. Now, stop reading and get out on the water!