Best Fishing Reels

The Best Fishing Reels – [2021 Reviews & Guide]

Growing up as a kid I was lucky because my father would take me fishing most every weekend during the summer.

I fished with all types of reels and got experience using spinning, baitcasting, spincast and fly fishing reels. Like most anglers I started out with a Zebco spincast reel and as I gained experience I moved on to other types.

Each type of reel is meant for specific types of fishing and we’ll go over that in our guide. So if you’re looking for your first reel or just your next one, you are in the right place!

Penn Battle II & III Spinning Fishing Reel
  • Durable, high range spinning reel ideal for conquering big saltwater game fish
  • Full metal body, sideplate, and rotor and heavy duty aluminum bail wire offer exceptional durability
  • HT 100 carbon fiber drag system provides powerful drag without sacrificing smoothness
  • Fluid cranking with 5 sealed stainless steel ball bearings and instant anti reverse bearing
  • Superline spool requires no backing, is braid ready, and has line capacity rings marked at 1/3, 2/3, and full capacity
Add Your Heading Text Here
  • Line capacity: 245 m/0.28 mm
  • Gear Ratio: 6.2:2
  • Maximum braking force: 6.80 kg
Pflueger President XT Low Profile Reel
  • 9 Bearing System: Corrosion resistant stainless steel ball bearings
  • XT Low Profile
  • Magnetic Breaking System: Externally adjustable break controls spool rotation and backlash
  • Aluminum Handle: Aircraft grade aluminum, extreme durability
  • Soft Touch Knob: Soft touch rubber knob provides excellent grip
Daiwa BG Spinning Reels
  • Made of highest quality material
  • Manufacturer: Daiwa
  • Manufacturer Country: CN
Abu Garcia BMAX3
  • 4 stainless steel ball bearings + 1 roller bearing provides smooth operation
  • Line capacity : 145M/0.30mm
  • Gear ratio : 6.4:1/recovery : 66 cm
  • Machined aluminum spool provides strength without adding excess weight
  • Weight : 207g
Zebco 33 Authentic Spincast Reel
  • Made of highest quality material
  • Manufacturer: Zebco
  • Manufacturer Country: CN

Reels Based on Experience

Beginners will often start with spincasting reels. These reels are dead simple to use and relatively effective. Many complain that they kink or bend fishing lines over time which is true. However, because of their ease of use, they offer a lot to the beginner.

Intermediates may go in just about any direction. Often the perceived pressure is to move away from baitcasting reels. However, that’s not necessary as many intermediate anglers choose to stick with the simple thing.

Advanced anglers can choose just about anything. Baitcasters are good for speed and control. Spinning reels are great for lightweight bait. You’ll also want to consider your target species.

Fishing Reel Types

There are several distinct reels on our list. I’ll discuss each one here in detail so that you can decide which one is ideal for you!

Baitcasting Reels

They offer amazing control. They can handle a wide varieties of fish, locations, and skill levels. They are slightly prone to backlashing, however, which can make a mess of your line and is the biggest single drawback of this reel style.

Don’t be afraid to learn baitcasting, though, as it is by far the most versatile.

When baitcasting, control of the line is achieved by carefully adding pressure to the spool with your thumb. Many reels have advanced magnetic brakes which slow the spool down so that backlash is less common or avoided altogether.

Baitcasting reels, with practice, can be very accurate for casting. They’re also available in many sizes and handle larger fish with ease.

For a full assessment of spinning reels, see our in-depth article.

Spincasting Reels

These reels are the classic foolproof reel. These reels are so easy to use that they’re often called the “beginner” reels. Their biggest drawback is that they are hard on the line causing it to kink and bend over time.

You can find spincasting reels in almost any size but small to medium freshwater species are usually more common targets for these reels.

Spincasting reels are not always for beginners, however. Even experienced anglers use these reels thanks to their dead simplicity. They’re usually quite accurate and can be adapted to most situations. Consider keeping one on hand for backup, at the very least.

For a full assessment of spinning reels, see our in-depth article.

Spinning Reels

Spinning reels are versatile and useful in just about any situation. They can fish freshwater or saltwater and come in many sizes. They’re often used for small, lightweight setups for fishing small or medium freshwater species.

Spinning reels are ideal for lightweight setups. Lures without much mass can struggle to pull the line from other reels. With spinning reels the line just slips right off and you can get good distance on even the smallest and lightest tackle.

For a full assessment of spinning reels, see our in-depth article.

Fly Reels

Fly fishing reels are the most specialized on or list and of course, only for fly fishing. These reels are completely different from the others.

Fly reels are awesome if you want to learn to enjoy the unique flavor of fly fishing which can be done in many environments. Most often fly fishing is popular for species like trout in small, secluded streams where the technique shines.

Fly reels have several variations that are important to note. In our reviews I selected a mid arbor design and a large arbor design. Arbor size controls how much line the reel can handle and how fast it retrieves.

Other characteristics can be selected based on which fly reel you choose. For a full assessment of fly reels, see our in-depth article.

Target Species

This one can be hard to narrow down. It’s possible to fish just about any species with any reel. However, most anglers have a preference.

Larger species tend to be easier on baitcasting reels. Because these reels handle larger line better, you can load up that reel with hard hitting line to land those Redfish. If you go up big enough they’re also solid choices for open water fishing.

Medium to large species such as bigger bass and northern pike are going to be easier on baitcasting reels. However, they can be fun to fight on spinning reels. Spincasting reels can also easily handle these species.

Smaller species are fun on spinning reels; particularly smaller spinning reels. Spincasting reels can handle these fish with ease as well. If you want you can use a small baitcaster because some prefer the control and speed for shallow water fishing in some cases.

Consider the Bait

You need to pay attention to what kind of bait you’re using when selecting a reel. Research your target species and which bait or techniques work well on them. Then, pick a reel that can keep up.

For instance, if you’re trying to work a bait across the surface to target bass you’ll need a reel with a fast retrieve. Using the wrong reel means you’ll be cranking furiously to get the speed you need and you’ll tire quickly or it just won’t work.

Trying to keep a fast reel slow enough to work a bottom bait is a pain, as well.

That’s why you may want a fast reel and a slow reel. As you become more experienced and gain more tackle and experience you can add more reels that will round out the middle of your retrieval rate.

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