Best Ultralight Spinning Reel 2019 – Reviews and Top Picks

Every angler dreams about a reel that is both lightweight and heavy duty. Unfortunately, this unicorn cannot exist due to the laws of physics. Heavy-duty reels are equipped with all-metal bodies and mechanics, powerful drags, several ball bearings, solid handles and so on. They also offer high line capacity, which means that they can hold many lines. All of these features add extra weight, ounce by ounce, until our light-as-a-feather unicorn becomes as heavy as lead. To choose the best ultralight spinning reel, you should search for a reel with a compromise between performance and weight.

As an avid angler, I tried almost 200 reels made by different manufacturers. Some models were great, some were a disaster. The best lightweight reels that I found are ones that I would recommend to my fishing buddies or purchase for myself. Below, I have given my top 5 picks. They are light, but not at the expense of quality.

Name
Weight:
Drag:
Gear Ratio:
Bearings:
Price
Name
Weight:
Drag:
Gear Ratio:
Bearings:
Price

Okuma is a Japanese company that has grown into an unbeatable market leader in the past 20 years. The manufacturer is known among accomplished anglers by its strict quality control. Okuma Helios is a marvelous example of Japanese performance standards. The series includes four models for different fishing styles. They differ in size, weight, line capacity, and gearing. Due to its overall performance, anglers call Okuma Helious the best crappie reel. I highly recommend this model for any panfish.

Weight:
6.2 oz.;
Drag:
6lb;
Gear Ratio:
5.0:1;
Bearings:
8+1.
PROS

Reliable brand

1-year warranty

Smooth casting

Reasonable price for the quality

Cons

Bearings not shielded

Poor maintenance quickly causes gear clicking

Abu Garcia is one of the first brands that beginners learn while chatting with avid anglers. This brand was initially Swedish, but is now owned by an American company. The new owner maintained the outstanding quality and modernized the Aby Garcia design. Abu Garcia Revo is a series of four models with high-end components, including carbon stem and rotor, carbon matrix drag, carbon fiber handle with ergonomic EVA knob. Fishermen enjoy ultra-smooth gear feel with durable aluminum machine-made gear system. The all-metal mechanics is both lightweight and hard.

Weight:
5.4 oz.;
Drag:
10lb;
Gear Ratio:
6.2:1;
Bearings:
11+1.
PROS

Reliable brand

Ultra-smooth gearing feel

Ergonomic handle

Lightweight, yet sturdy mechanics

Cons

Anti-reverse sometimes kicks in when hooking

On a pricey side

Shimano is a Japanese company with almost a hundred years of history. The manufacturer has one of the strongest engineer team in the tackle production. Shimano Sedona is the lowest priced model of the brand range, yet it featured all the Shimano key technologies. The model is lightweight, however, all mechanics are metal. The line capacity allows for long-distance casting. The Hagane Gear is incredibly durable. It lasts for several years and gives an angler smooth gearing feel.

Weight:
5.6 oz.;
Drag:
7.6lb;
Gear Ratio:
5.0:1;
Bearings:
3+1.
PROS

Lasts long even under heavy use

High-quality gear

Great line management

Affordable price

Cons

Questionable ball bearing system

No anti-reverse

The KastKing reels are favored in every US state and over 150 countries worldwide. The reason is their attractive price-quality ratio. Any average angler can enjoy the best without breaking the bank. The KastKing Sharky III 5000 is a brand new model that already has conquered the market. The reel offers features that are appreciated primarily by avid anglers. This is definitely one of the best ultralight reels under $50.

Weight:
10.6 oz.;
Drag:
39.5lb;
Gear Ratio:
5.2:1;
Bearings:
10+1.
PROS

1-year warranty

Saltwater approved

Double-shielded ball bearings

Tough mechanics

Capable to go after monster fish

Cons

Not recommended for the windy weather

Abu Garcia Orra SX is a series of three models for different needs. The design is based on the famous Abu Garsia Revo, but the price is more affordable. The engineers also added some features for hassle-free operation. Orra SX is loved by its durability and easy-to-use design. Mechanics are all-metal, however, the model is portable and lightweight. The primary material is aluminum. The C6 carbon body is reinforced and feels great in hands. The ball bearing system is made from stainless steel. It is well protected from corrosion.

Weight:
8.3 oz.;
Drag:
12lb;
Gear Ratio:
5.8:1;
Bearings:
6+1.
PROS

Extremely durable

Sleek body

Stainless steel 8+1 bearings

Sealed carbon matrix drag

Braid-ready spool with oscillation

Cons

Questionable drag performance

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

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.

Brand reliability

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.

Reel weight

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:

  1. The number of bearings. The bigger is better.
  2. The material. The ball bearings should be metal, no plastic parts allowed.
  3. The protection from rust.

High-quality reels usually have stainless steel bearings. In my list, two models have the most advanced ball bearing system:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. An ergonomic handle. The handle should be metal or made from other rigid material.
  2. A sleek body. For hard conditions, it is better to choose a close-faced design. It protects the mechanics well.
  3. Well-lubricated internals. Re-lubrication takes your time.
  4. An oscillating spool that makes the line even. The fewer line tangles you have, the better is your fishing experience.
  5. High line capacity. If a spool can hold many lines, you do not need to rewind it after each several sessions.
  6. 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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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]