The market range continues to grow every year, and it becomes harder to make the right choice without knowing the basics. Below, I explain what to look for in an ideal spinning reel and how to choose the best one according to your fishing style.
A manufacturer’s brand defines the quality of your fishing tool. Even if the particular reel is made in Asia, the head company is still in charge of quality control. In my list, I include only brands with a long history of tackle production and a solid reputation among anglers. Shimano, Abu Garcia, Okuma, and KastKing are market leaders loved by both beginners and professionals. Their reels are well machined, they last long even under harsh use.
Manufacturers use aluminum frames for ultralight spinning because this metal is both durable and lightweight. If you see a stainless steel frame, the model is not ultra light. The only part that can be made from steel is the ball bearing system, which doesn’t add much weight.
The small reel weight makes it portable and protects your hands from overworking. To reduce the weight is extremely important if you have weak joints or back, like me. By experience, I can tell that if you cast and retrieve all day long, the next day your back will be tired. If the reel was too heavy, it also can hurts. The lightest model from my list is Abu Garcia Revo. Anglers buy it not only for themselves, but also for women, children, teenagers, and the elders.
Gear ratio for speed
Spinning reels were invented to manage lightweight and small lures. When you operate such lures, you need to cast and retrieve quickly; this is why the spool in spinning reel turns faster than in the baitcaster, and the gear ratio is higher.
The drag system in a reel spins the spool multiple times for each rotation of the handle. Abu Garcia Revo has the most productive gear. Its ratio is 6.2:1, which means that when you turn the handle once, the spool spins 6.2 times.
If the spool spins quickly, you can faster pull a fish from the water. This is convenient for small and medium fish like panfish. When you are catching panfish, faster casting and retrieving will give you more trophies at a time. When it comes to heavy fish, the speed is less important than the power of drag.
Drag System and anti-reverse for better handling fish
The drag system handles the fish and prevents it from breaking the line. When a fish pulls too hard, the drag allows a small amount of line to go out the spool. This way you can control the distance between you and a fish. The anti-reverse holds the handle so it cannot rotate backward. I think that anti-reverse sometimes does more harm than good because turning back the handle can save both the line and a trophy. However, this is a matter of preferences.
Drag power is measured in pounds. This number should be more than your target fish. For a spinning reel, it is more than enough to have 10-20lb drag. The overall construction of a reel will not allow you to handle monster fish. If you want to go after large catfish or trout, you should choose a baitcaster.
In the list, the KastKing III has the most powerful drag – 39.5lb. This is maybe too much. The Abu Garcia Orra SX gives an optimal number – 12lb.
Ball Bearings for smooth casting
The ball bearing system in a reel erases extra vibration and makes the casting smoother. There are three factors that you should take into account:
- The number of bearings. The bigger is better.
- The material. The ball bearings should be metal, no plastic parts allowed.
- The protection from rust.
High-quality reels usually have stainless steel bearings. In my list, two models have the most advanced ball bearing system:
- Abu Garcia Revo Premier Spinning Reel is equipped with 11+1 stainless steel ball bearings for flawless casting. They are protected from corrosion due to the material; however, they are not shielded. I recommend using this reel for freshwater conditions.
- KastKing Sharky III with 10+1 double shielded ball bearings made from stainless steel. This reel will be a workhorse for saltwater fishing.
Do not forget to keep all mechanics well-lubricated and it will serve you for many years.
Other important features to consider
Here are some features that make a reel easier to use:
- An ergonomic handle. The handle should be metal or made from other rigid material.
- A sleek body. For hard conditions, it is better to choose a close-faced design. It protects the mechanics well.
- Well-lubricated internals. Re-lubrication takes your time.
- An oscillating spool that makes the line even. The fewer line tangles you have, the better is your fishing experience.
- High line capacity. If a spool can hold many lines, you do not need to rewind it after each several sessions.
- A braid-ready spare spool. For each line type, you need a spool. If you prefer braid, I recommend braid-ready models. With them, you can tie braid directly to the spool without mono backing.
The last feature is a warranty that covers manufacturer’s defects. Okuma and KastKing reels are backed with a one-year limited warranty. Also, these companies provide the most beginner-friendly customer support. The support team is available and ready to help.
Thanks to its spectacular performance, the KastKing Sharky III is the best all-around ultraweight spinning reel. It is easy to control and designed with anglers’ needs in mind. Even if you are just starting up, with a little practice, you will cast without a hinge.