Best Spinning Reel 2019 – Reviews and Top Picks

Beginner-level anglers, as well as experienced ones, enjoy fishing, but they hesitate when it comes to choosing a spinning reel. I was also in their shoes. I wanted the perfect casting not knowing which reel gives it to me. On the market, there are dozens of manufacturers and hundreds of reel series. Each series often includes several models. Therefore, the number of options grows every year. How to choose the best spinning reel among the entire range and what to look for in the ideal one? To avoid common mistakes, you may use my professional advice. I know the quality of spinning reels very well because I have used them for two decades. I can distinguish high-quality models from poor-quality ones. My personal experience and knowledge that I have shared will help you make the right choice.

Name
Drag:
Weight:
Gear Ratio:
Bearings:
Price
Name
Drag:
Weight:
Gear Ratio:
Bearings:
Price
β„–1
20lb
5.6 oz.
6.0:1
6+1.
β„–4
20lb
8.3 oz.
6.0:1
6+1.
β„–8
33lb
39.2 oz.
5.3:1
6+1.
β„–10
60lb
43.10 oz.
4.2:1
7+1.

Shimano is a Japanese manufacturer with almost 100 years of history. The company produces one of the best reels worldwide. They are not cheap due to premium-quality materials and innovative design. Shimano Stradic Ci4 is an open-face reel that offers buttery smooth casting and retrieving. The Ci4 series includes four models with different line capacity. For inland or bay fishing, you need less, for offshore fishing more. The drag is a powerful, 20lb, which is enough to handle fish with medium size and weight. Thanks to the high gear ratio, the spoon spins quickly. After landing a fish from deep water, your hands will not be overworked.

Ideal for: Freshwater spinning, Saltwater spinning.

Recommended species: Largemouth, redfish (perch), trout, snook, and juvenile tarpon.

Drag:
20lb;
Weight:
5.6 oz.;
Gear Ratio:
6.0:1;
Bearings:
6+1.
PROS

Lightweight

Silky smooth cast

Powerful mechanics

Beginner-friendly design

Cons

Difficult to use with a braid

On a pricey side

Abu Garcia was originally a Swedish brand that has been producing reels since the Second World War. Now it is owned by Pure Fishing company from the USA, one of the market leaders and an example of high-quality standards. The Revo SX series includes four models with different maximum drag and line capacity. Every model is equipped with a powerful carbon drag system and an aluminum spool. The spool is both rigid and lightweight.

Ideal for: Freshwater spinning, Saltwater spinning.

Recommended species: all bass species, including largemouth, striped, white and crappie; walleye, catfish, trout

Drag:
17lb;
Weight:
9.2 oz.;
Gear Ratio:
6.2:1;
Bearings:
8+1.
PROS

9 stainless steel ball bearings

Carbon drag system

Carbon body

Durable and well-machine-made

Cons

Considerably heavy

No spare spoon

Professional fishermen appreciate Pflueger reels for its design. The Supreme XT series includes four models with various line capacities, gear ratios, and retrieve rates. With such a variety, the Pflueger TX is the best reel for multi-species fishing. It is compatible with all types of baits and lures and especially good for small and medium. This reel is equipped with a powerful drag system that can handle a running furious fish. The body is Thanks to 9+1 ball bearing the operation is smooth even under the pressure. The spoon is braid-ready which means that the braid can be tired directly to the spoon without mono backing. Easy-to-use features include a lightweight handle from carbon and smart retrieve system.

Ideal for: Freshwater spinning

Recommended species: walleye, small pike, steelhead and brown trout, smallmouth bass

Drag:
14lb;
Weight:
8.7 oz.;
Gear Ratio:
6.2:1;
Bearings:
9+1.
PROS

High-quality metal mechanics

Powerful drag

Durable and rigid magnesium frame

Smooth operation

9+1 ball bearings

Feather-light carbon handle

Cons

Questionable bail design

Not recommended for windy weather

The Shimano Stradic is a series of five models. Three of them called HG (Hagane). The Stradic HG reels offer different line capacities, gear ratios, and max drag. You can choose a model according to your fishing style and target fish species. All spinning reels are equipped with 6+1 ball bearings for silky smooth casting. Inner parts are made from durable and rust-resistant metal. The spool is cold forged aluminum, rigid and lightweight. Even with harsh use, the reel life is long.

Ideal for: Freshwater spinning

Recommended species: yellow perch, walleye, northern pike, muskie, catfish, bluegill, crappies, largemouth bass, brown trout

Drag:
20lb;
Weight:
8.3 oz.;
Gear Ratio:
6.0:1;
Bearings:
6+1.
PROS

Cost efficient

Well-balanced

Suitable for windy weather

All-metal durable mechanics

Ideal for most of the freshwater species

Cons

Short life in the marine environment

Drag system poorly handle big fish

The mechanics of President is exceptionally durable and suitable for both summer and winter fishing. The reel is sealed, well-lubricated and easy to maintain. I highly recommend it for ice-fishermen. The model offers an excellent price-quality ratio and lasts for many years even in a tough environment. The reel is equipped with 9+1 stainless steel ball bearings for the smooth casting. Oscillation gearing controls the line lay, erases line twists and wrinkles. The internals is metal, no plastic parts. The body and rotor made from graphite.

Ideal for: Freshwater spinning, Saltwater fishing

Recommended species: Rainbow trout, brown trout, panfish, northern pike, steelhead, largemouth bass

Drag:
14lb;
Weight:
11.5oz.;
Gear Ratio:
5.2:1;
Bearings:
9+1.
PROS

Affordable price for the quality

Reliable manufacturer

Sealed Drag System

Braid-ready spool

Graphite body and rotor

Corrosion-resistant 9+1 ball bearings

Cast smooth as butter

Cons

Heavy

Penn produces durable and not expensive reels. This brand is loved both by beginners and experienced anglers. The first appreciate smooth operation without line twists and tangles. The second like durability and long lifespan. The reel can withstand harsh use. The Penn Spinfisher V series includes only two models. They differ in line capacities and drag so you can choose according to your casting style and target fish. The gear ratio allows stopping large species like catfish.
The reel comes pre-spooled and fully assembled, except the handle. Before fishing, just screw the handle to the plate.

Ideal for: Saltwater inshore fishing

Recommended species: Flounder, Spanish and king mackerel, crevalle jack, sheephead, black and red drum, spotted trout, tarpon, kingfish, billfish

Drag:
40lb;
Weight:
41.9 oz.;
Gear Ratio:
4.2:1;
Bearings:
5+1.
PROS

Water-tight design

Approved for saltwater

Lasts long

Powerful gear system

Shielded 5+1 ball bearings

Perfect line laying

Cons

Proper maintenance required

Gear clicking under the load

The Revo S series by Aby Garcia includes four models. They have different specs, including line capacity and gear ratio. The series is versatile for different fishing styles and great for multi-species hunting. The drag system obtains hard-pulling furious fish. The Revo S is equipped with everything you need from a spinning reel. The body is carbon, and it maintains ideal gear alignment even under pressure. The slow oscillation evens the line, while the Rocket Spoon Lip holds its rate. The spool is machine-made aluminum and braid-ready. If you prefer braid, you can tire it directly and use without slippage.

Ideal for: Saltwater fishing, freshwater fishing

Recommended species: multi-species, including large strong fish

Drag:
17lb;
Weight:
9.5 oz.;
Gear Ratio:
6.2:1;
Bearings:
7+1.
PROS

Affordable price

Carbon body

Perfect gear alignment

Braid-ready aluminum spool

No braid slippage

Cons

PVS knobs

Daiwa is a reliable brand, known by high-quality materials and reel design. Daiwa has modern automatized manufacturing, that’s why it offers attractive prices. The Daiwa BG spinning reel is a series of 10 models with different specs. You can choose line capacity, gear ratio or weight of the reel according to your preferences. The Daiwa BG mechanic features are usually can be found in pricier reels. The manufacturer reduces reels weight to make it more portable. The Air Rotor weighs up to 15% less than standard. The body and its covers are made from machine-made aluminum. It is lightweight, rigid, and durable metal. Resistance to scratch and corrosion makes the reel suitable for aggressive freshwater species, that splash the water onto the body.

Ideal for: Freshwater fishing

Recommended species: multi-species, including large strong fish

Drag:
33lb;
Weight:
39.2 oz.;
Gear Ratio:
5.3:1;
Bearings:
6+1.
PROS

Attractive price

Long life

Durable constriction

All basic features for freshwater fishing

Considerably lightweight

Anti-corrosion protection

Cons

Not recommended for marine fishing

In saltwater conditions starts creaking

The Penn Battle II is a killer machine for furious species that can pull the reel from your hands. In this series, you may find eight models with a wide variety of specs.

Ideal for: Saltwater fishing, freshwater fishing

Recommended species: shark, trout, black drum, amberjack, redfish, snapper, king

Drag:
30lb;
Weight:
30.2 oz.;
Gear Ratio:
5.3:1;
Bearings:
5+1.
PROS

Approved for saltwater

Excellent drag

Shielded stainless steel ball bearings

Cons

Not everybody likes the balance

Beginners suffer from backlashes

This is the last model from my top pick list, but not the least by its advantages. The Penn Slammer III series contains more models than the others. It includes 10 models so every angler can choose line capacity or other specs for its fishing style. The Slammer III is widely popular because of its feature-rich design. In particular, a sealed body and spoon with an IPX6 rating; all-metal mechanics protected from corrosion; sealed powerful drag system, and more. This is a go-to option for saltwater fishing. No matter how big your target fish, is the reel can handle it as it can handle all sizes..

Ideal for: Saltwater offshore or inshore fishing

Recommended species: multi-species, good for sharks

Drag:
60lb;
Weight:
43.10 oz.;
Gear Ratio:
4.2:1;
Bearings:
7+1.
PROS

Premium-quality mechanics

Durable close-faced body

Sealed body and spool with IPX6 rating

Ideal for both inshore and offshore fishing

Cons

Heavy

The maintenance may be not easy for novices

Buyer’s Guide – How to Choose the Best Spinning Reel

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.

Target species

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, lbExample species
8-14Bass, trout, and flounder
16-25Trout and redfish, stripers
Above 30Shark, tuna

If you prefer freshwater, you may use this table.

Tested line strength, lbExample species
2-4Trout, all panfish species
6-12Bass, walleye, juvenile salmon, catfish
14-20Catfish, 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:

  • braided;
  • monofilament;
  • fluorocarbon.

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.

Reel design

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.

Spool

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.

Handle

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.

Anti-Reverse Switch

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 β€œback-reeling.” In other cases, especially with large marine species, you don’t need the switch.

Bail

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.

Conclusion

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.

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By Chris Hayes
about author

My name is Chris and I am a hunter, outdoorsman, survivalist of 36 years old from Bosie, Idaho. Being a participant of Ihea-USA, I like big game hunting most of all, especially hunting white-tailed deer. Except hunting, I’m also keen on fishing and gaining new knowledge how to survive in the wild nature. As a professional hunter, I do not stop improving upon own hunting skills and testing new gear, equipment, hardware and weapons. I write articles to share my experience and knowledge with the readers who motivate me for more. For any additional information contact me at [email protected]