In the buying guide below, I describe all the essential features that you should consider before purchase. They influence the overall performance of your reel. Every feature comes with a complete description. After reading this article, you will be able to make your decision with a clear mind.
When and how to use a spinning reel?
The best spinning reels are so easy-to-use that even children can cast without backlashes or tangled line. This is the go-to option for total beginners.
Unlike baitcasters, spinning reels allows you to cast with light lures and baits. Modern design makes spinning reels suitable for any fishing technique. However, they are perfect for fishing with light lures and baits, for example, for drop shotting.
Saltwater vs. freshwater fishing
In general, you can use any reel for the saltwater environment, if you will clean it with fresh water after every session. Also, for prolonging the lifespan you should regularly oil the mechanics. Otherwise, clicking and creaking are inevitable. This maintenance isn’t easy, and the life of the reel will not be very long.
The wiser decision is to use specify reel for saltwater, and another for freshwater.
I have both types, they serve me perfect with minimum maintenance. In the top pick list above, I specify the conditions and reaction on salt water for every model.
For massive fish, you need a stronger line with a powerful drag. Below is a table with the large saltwater fish and the suitable line strength for each one.
|Tested line strength, lb||Example species|
|8-14||Bass, trout, and flounder|
|16-25||Trout and redfish, stripers|
|Above 30||Shark, tuna|
If you prefer freshwater, you may use this table.
|Tested line strength, lb||Example species|
|2-4||Trout, all panfish species|
|6-12||Bass, walleye, juvenile salmon, catfish|
|14-20||Catfish, musky, stripers|
If your target fish is heavier than 8 lb., I recommend the Penn Battle II. This model has all the equipment required for conquering both saltwater and freshwater monsters. This reel is specified for large species, and you can use it for small fish like walleye. However, this price is overkill and it costs extra money for the features that you will probably not use that often.
Medium-sized and small fish that weigh less than 6 lb. are easier to handle. You will most likely be able to land them with any reel from the top pick list.
Line capacity for casting distance
If a fish makes long runs or lives near the bottom of a deep lake, you will need more line to catch it. Reels that can hold more line is more convenient because you don’t have to wind it every several sessions. Unfortunately, they are heavier. You should consider what is more important to you- line capacity or weight, and make your choice based on that preference. In my opinion, the Penn Spinfisher V Spinning Reel offers the best line capacity that allows long casts.
Line types and spare spools
For spinning, reel fishermen use three types of lines:
The main differences between them are the diameter, line capacity, and durability. If you want to use mono and fluoro, you shouldn’t have any problems. Every spinning reel is compatible with these types. If you prefer braid, I recommend choosing braid-ready spools. Their design allows you to tie braid directly to the spool. The line will lay evenly, and you don’t need to use mono as a backing.
For each line type, you need a spool. The Penn Spinfisher V and Abu Garcia Revo SX come without a spare spool, so you will have to buy it as well.
Reel Internal Mechanic Parts
The mechanic inner parts seem complicated for beginners. However, there is nothing difficult to understand the basics. Let’s look at what is inside your reel.
Gear ratio for speed and power
The gear system is a mechanism that multiplies your speed and force. When you rotate the handle once, the gear turn 1 to several spool spins. For example, if your reel has 4.2:1 GR this means that every handle rotation gives you 4.2 spool rotation.
Choose the higher GR, if you want the spool to spin fast. For slow landing, choose lower GR.
Ball Bearing for smooth casting
Ball bearings make casting smoother. They reduce vibration and prevent annoying noise. Every model from my list has metal ball bearings. Metal more durable than plastic. The best spinning reels are Pflueger President Pflueger Supreme XT, they are equipped with 9+1 bearings.
For marine fishing, choose specialty reels with shielded ball bearings like the Penn Spinfisher V. They last longer.
Drag System + Drag Adjustment
Maximum drag pressure indicates how heavy fish the system can handle. When the fish pulls too hard, the drag allows a small amount of lines to come from the reel. Drag should perform smooth, not in a start-and-stop fashion.
For a spinning reel, the optimal DR is 10-20lb because other parts of the construction is not that sturdy. High-quality models are equipped with a rigid machine-made aluminum frame, they give you 40-50lb DR. With this power, you can easily land monster trout or catfish.
Adjustable drag is the best option. It allows you to switch between different DR according to target species. It also can rotate the spool without handle turning. The best drag system has Pflueger Supreme XT.
Every part of the reel construction means a lot if your fishing session lasts for several hours. Moreover, the reel design influences its performance and durability.
Weight and size
Best spinning reels with all-metal parts and high-line capacity weights above 30lb. For some people this is heavy. The day after fishing sessions, they suffer from the low back and neck pain. If you want to protect your back, choose light reels like the Shimano Stradic Ci4. It is small, portable and ideal for elders, kids and teenagers, and people with back issues.
For large marine species, you need a heavier and bigger reel. If this is your aim, then the Penn Slammer III Spinning will be the right choice.
Body and foot
High-quality models are equipped with an all-metal body that feels great in hands. The rotor, side plates, and foot also should be metal. Often the primary material is machine-made aluminum because this metal is both rigid and lightweight.
The recommended spool material is metal like aluminum. For beginners, I recommend using an oscillating spool. It makes spooling easier. The oscillating system reduces line wrinkles and helps it to lay evenly. If your line concentrates on the spool top, use spool washers to spread it right. I think that the best spool both for avid anglers and beginners has the Daiwa BG Spinning Reel because it has all the features that I mentioned above.
The handle is a weak spot of the reel. It should be metal, hard and comfortable for the hand. All models from top picks are equipped with high-quality handles, otherwise, I would not recommend them. The Pflueger President offers the best handle design which is both ergonomic and sturdy.
Most of the avid anglers, including me, consider the anti-reverse switch unnecessary in a spinning reel. Anti-Revers prevents the reel from turning backward and keeps the drag from engagement. This feature may be useful if you are a beginner or if you are catching small fish like smallmouth and enjoy “back-reeling.” In other cases, especially with large marine species, you don’t need the switch.
The bail guides the lines, it gives the line limited space to come out the reel and return. When disengaged, as it would be for casting, the bail releases the line from the spool. When engaged, it prevents line unwinding from the spool. Due to its function, the bail should be metal and sturdy.
The best bail design in the list has the Pflueger President.
Considering all the features, especially the performance, the best spinning reel is the Shimano Stradic Ci4. The marvelous quality comes with a price. If your budget is limited, I recommend the Penn Slammer III Spinning, which I loved for its durability and convenience.