The best fishing reels add to the fun and excitement of catching a fish. They cast far with smoothness and accuracy, and they have adjustable drag settings and efficient gearing which enable fast and easy retrieves. There are several types of fishing reels to choose from, each with a style all its own. Some fishing reels are better for beginners, while others motivate advanced fishers to fine-tune their game. Which fishing reel is right for you? Read on to find out.
After reviewing dozens of different fishing reels we have identified the best for beginners and experienced enthusiasts alike. While looking at these reels we considered factors such as material quality, gear ratios, and smooth operation in choosing our top picks, and then we put together a detailed list of many other great fishing reels we think are worthy of your consideration.
We have chosen the PENN Battle II Spinning Reel as our overall top pick. It’s an all-around well-made spinning fishing reel that is reliable and easy to use. There are many different sizes of this reel to choose from for almost any level of fishing.
In This Article
The 5 Top-Rated Fishing Reels
|Best Fishing Reel Overall||PENN Battle II Spinning Reel||4.7|
|Best Baitcast Fishing Reel||KastKing Kapstan Elite Reel||4.7|
|Best Budget Fishing Reel||PLUSINNO Graphite Spinning Reel||4.6|
|Best Spincast Fishing reel||Zebco Omega Spincast Reel||4.5|
|Best Fly Fishing Reel||Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel||4.5|
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change
Best Fishing Reel Overall: PENN Battle II Spinning Reel
The PENN Battle II Spinning Reel is a go-anywhere catch-anything fishing reel. It will cast far and smooth with every throw, and the gearing has been designed for fast retrieves. There are six different sizes to choose from, with the larger sizes having increased line capacity and a lighter gearing ratio of 5.3:1 as opposed to the smaller reels’ 6.2:1 ratio. The largest sizes are intended for deep-sea fishing where long line drops and big fish are to be expected, but the smaller reel sizes can also handle the rigors of ocean fishing with the help of an experienced fisher’s patience and skill.
Most anglers will find the small to mid-sized options of this reel to be more than adequate for their fishing needs. This PENN Battle II is a highly adaptable spinning reel that is as competent and easy to use at a local pond as it is a mile off the coast. The full metal body, side plate, and rotor are ultra-durable, and the carbon fiber drag washers provide exceptional drag without hindering smoothness. Five stainless steel ball bearings deliver smooth operation while the anti-reverse bearing allows for seamless reverse cranking and instant stoppage.
All stats aside, what you need to know is that this is a user-friendly traditional spinning reel that beginners and experts alike will enjoy. It’s a high-quality reel that can serve as an upgrade to your aging gear, or it can be a terrific first fishing reel for your child who is ready for her or his first day on the lake. The Superline spool is braid ready, and it also conveniently features line capacity markings at full capacity, two-thirds, and one-third so that you know exactly how much line you have left on your reel. It can also quickly switch over to either left or right-handed retrieve.
PENN Battle II Spinning Reel Key Features:
- 5 stainless steel ball bearings and 1 anti-reverse bearing
- Carbon fiber drag washers
- Six sizes to choose from
- 6.2:1 to 5.3:1 gear ratios
Best Baitcast Fishing Reel: KastKing Kapstan Elite Reel
A full-featured, tournament-ready baitcasting reel, the KastKing Kapstan Elite Reel is the top choice for those wanting to capture large game fish like salmon, catfish, and steelhead or inshore saltwater fish like stripers and bottom fish. Internal carbon fiber plating manifests up to an impressive 35 pounds of drag to help you muscle in those fish that like to put up a tough fight, and the eight ball-bearing system keeps the operation smooth during casting and retrieval.
This reel can be had in either left or right-handed retrieval with a handle that has comfortably over-sized EVA handle knobs. A micro-tension click wheel adjustment is within easy reach of the handle, and the spool has an audible strike alert click feature that lets you know when you have a fish on the line. The centrifugal braking system can be fine-tuned via the KastKing Ergo-Twist system which has six different braking shoes to avoid backlashes.
Built for power and durability, the interior components are made of stainless steel and the gearing is comprised of robust manganese and brass, while the graphite frame creates a strong yet lightweight housing that brings balance to the reel. A handy line size indicator has been fitted to the palm-side of the reel so that you can keep track of the line weight on the reel. This is an overbuilt, highly-engineered reel that is loaded with features. It’s a baitcasting reel for those who want the best gear to make sure they catch the biggest fish.
KastKing Kapstan Elite Reel Key Features:
- 8 stainless steel ball bearings and 1 anti-reverse bearing
- 35 pounds of drag
- Line size indicator
- 5.4:1 gear ratio
Best Budget Fishing Reel: PLUSINNO Graphite Spinning Reel
Utilizing graphite and aluminum as its housing components, the PLUSINNO Graphite Spinning Reel is a lightweight reel that weighs only 8.5 ounces at its smallest size, yet its internal components are strong enough to pull in larger fish than you would expect. Precision machined gearing, a stainless steel shaft and ball bearings, and the carbon fiber drag system go a long way in making this an extremely capable and versatile reel fit for a wide range of fishing applications.
There are three sizes of this reel to choose from. The larger sizes weigh a bit more, have a shorter gear ratio, and can hold more line, but they’re all capable of pulling in a big fish when handled properly. It’s a standard spinning reel that seasoned fishers would be familiar with, but it does have a unique collapsible handle design that makes storage more convenient, and it also has a nifty line keeper notch to hold your line after your have removed your reels and bait.
There isn’t much else that makes this reel stand out, but that’s also why it is such an approachable and affordable reel. Experienced fishers who don’t desire the latest in fishing technology will find that this spinning reel gets the job done well without a ton of fancy add-ons, and beginners will appreciate its basic functionality. It’s a great reel to learn on because it is smooth, efficient, inexpensive, and lightweight. Those attributes are also what makes it an attractive option to coin-conscious anglers.
PLUSINNO Graphite Spinning Reel Key Features:
- 9 stainless steel ball bearings and 1 anti-reverse bearing
- 12 to 17.5 pounds of drag
- 5.2:1 to 4.9:1 gearing
- Reversible right or left-handed handle
Best Spincast Fishing Reel: Zebco Omega Spincast Reel
Spincast fishing reels are notorious as a beginner’s style reel because they are simple to use and prevent line tangles. Some people assume that these reels don’t offer much in the way of power, but the Zebco Omega Spincast Reel is a staunch reel with enough strength to land any freshwater fish. It’s an excellent choice for beginners and experienced fishers alike who prefer the pure simplicity and hassle-free nature of a spincast reel.
This spincast feel features lightweight aluminum covers, a soft-touch rubber thumb button, and a ceramic line guide. The oscillating nature of this spincast reel’s spool system prevents the line from ever becoming tangled, and the push-button casting couldn’t be any easier to operate. Though this reel has been made foolproof, its internal workings are quite capable. The 3.6:1 all-brass helical-cut worm gear drive is plenty robust, and the seven stainless steel ball-bearing system is wonderfully smooth during operation.
As an added convenience, this reel comes pre-spooled with Zebco 10-pound line which should be more than strong enough for most freshwater anglers. The retrieve can be switched for left or right-handed purposes as needed, and the reel has a continuous anti-reverse design so that you never have to worry about hooking the next fish when it bites. This is a well-built and incredibly easy to use reel that is ready to fish right out of the box. If you believe convenience is king, there is no better freshwater reel on the market for you.
Zebco Omega Spincast Reel Key Features:
- 7 stainless steel ball bearings and 1 anti-reverse bearing
- 3.6:1 gear ratio
- One-year warranty
- Pre-spooled with Zebco 10-pound line
Best Fly Fishing Reel: Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel
Fly fishing is an art that, while at its heart is a particular style of fishing that requires a certain skillset, almost feels like a different outdoor sport altogether. As a result, the Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel is much different in design and function to the other reels we have reviewed thus far because it is used in a vastly different way from those other reels. What you need to know, though, is that this reel performs well and is a favorite among value-oriented fly fishers. This reel stands side by side with premium fly fishing reels in quality, but it is available at a much more affordable price.
The Piscifun Sword is a beautiful reel that looks as good as it performs. The precision-machined aluminum alloy has been flawlessly crafted, and there are four different colors to choose from. With a mid-arbor design that reduces line memory and enables quick line pickup, casting and retrieving with this reel is effortless. The multi-disk cork and stainless steel drag system creates plenty of drag that is easily adjustable via the large rotary knob, allowing you to crank the drag fast to your desired resistance as soon as that salmon starts running downstream.
The reel is lightweight thanks to its aluminum construction and hollow design which has been cold forged and hard anodized. It’s a strong build that is resistant to corrosion, and the entire reel comes backed by a three-year warranty that ensures its longevity and value. There are fly fishing reels on the market at more than double the price of this Piscifun reel that aren’t made half as well. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value fly fishing reel. Check out our list of other great fly fishing reels below to see how some of the best premium models compare.
Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel Key Features:
- Multi-disk cork and stainless steel drag system
- Mid-arbor design
- Four colors and four weights to choose from
- Three-year warranty
Who Should Buy A Fishing Reel
Many, but not all, fishing rods come packaged with an adequate reel and some of them do feature the reels we have here on our list. If, however, you have purchased a rod that did not come with a reel you will need to purchase a reel, otherwise you won’t be able to go fishing.
For those who do already own rods and reels, it’s likely that some of your equipment is ready for an upgrade. Good fishing reels can last for years, but they all break down eventually. If your reel’s handle has come loose, or the gearing has started to feel a bit clunky, it’s time to get a new fishing reel. With a new and improve reel you will fall in love with fishing all over again.
The same can be said for your other fishing gear as well. Lures, hooks, and bobbers will rust and deteriorate after years of use, and aging rods may have hairline fractures or bent loops. We can help you with your search for new lures and rods. If you also need a new ride to get out into the lake, take a look at our recommendations for the best fishing kayaks.
Important Features to Consider
There are a few important considerations to think through before purchasing a fishing reel.
- Reel type. The type of reel you choose can affect how much you enjoy fishing and how successful you are at it. We’ve described each reel type below in the FAQ and recommend which reels are best for beginner and advanced fishers.
- Reel size. Small reel sizes are better fit for freshwater fishing where smaller fish, such as trout and bass, are your aim. Larger reels are better for bay and ocean fishing where heavy and strong fish require a lot of muscle to pull in.
- Gearing. Lower gear ratios are more durable, while higher gear ratios allow for faster retrieving. Material quality has a large impact on gear durability as well. Brass and stainless steel are long-lasting materials, whereas aluminum may not hold up for as long.
- Drag. A reel’s maximum drag is a good indicator of how large of a fish you can haul in with the reel. You can reel in a fish approximately four times the weight of the reel’s maximum drag because that should match your line’s breaking point.
- Materials. This reiterates a bit of what was mentioned with gearing, but it also applies to the rest of the reel. Durability tends to mean heavier, more robust materials. Lightweight reels made with aluminum and carbon fiber can be quite strong as well, but they may falter when you reel in a monstrous catch.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a fishing reel and how does it work?
Fishing reels are the beating hearts of the fishing rod. They’re where all of the action takes place. Fishing reels house the fishing line and are responsible for everything fishing related including lure casting, fish retrieving, line drag, and spooling. There are several primary types of fishing reels and they call coming in a variety of sizes and gear ratios that are designed for fishing in certain waters and for specific types of fish.
What are the different types of fishing reels?
There are many types of fishing reels that are designed for specific styles of fishing. We’ve included the primary fishing reels that will suit most people in our list, but there are other specialty reels out there that enthusiasts prefer for specific situations. The primary reels are:
- Baitcast fishing reels. These provide great casting accuracy and distance, but they are difficult to master. Baitcast reels are best for experienced fishers looking to take their game to the next level.
- Fly fishing reels. Designed specifically for a style of fishing known as fly fishing, these reels also take time to master because the style of fishing requires attention to detail and finesse.
- Spincast fishing reels. Spincast reels are the easiest to use and are the best choice for beginners. Children especially find these reels easy and fun to use because they rarely tangle and often feature push-button casting and easy retrieval.
- Spinning fishing reels. These are the most common type of fishing reels. They are quite effective, easy to use, and are overall the most well-rounded type of reel.
What is the easiest type of fishing reel to use?
The easiest type of fishing reel to use is a spincast reel. Spincast reels have an enclosed body that protects all of the working components. These reels usually have push-button casting and, in some cases, also have push-button retrieval. They reduce backlash and prevent frustrating tangles, but they cannot cast as far or as accurately as other reels.
How do I know what size fishing reel to buy?
Each reel manufacturer has different methods of ranking their reel sizes, and so you’ll have to do thorough research if you really want to dial in on the specifics, but a general rule to follow is that the smaller reels are better for small bodies of water and small fish while the large reels are better for large bodies of water and large fish. The reel size determines the reel’s overall strength and line-holding capacity. Most medium to small-sized reels are great for freshwater and light-duty saltwater fishing while the largest reels are better reserved for deep sea saltwater fishing.
Other Fishing Reels We Reviewed
We looked at 20 other fishing reels. Even though they didn’t make our five best fishing reel list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option for landing that next big fish. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.
- Baitcast Fishing Reels
- Fly Fishing Reels
- Spincast Fishing Reels
- Spinning Fishing Reels
- Budget Fishing Reels
Baitcast Fishing Reels
Fitted with a large 90mm handle with non-slip knobs, an aluminum frame, and a powerful 8.1:1 gear ration, the Daiwa Fuego is a high-quality intermediate baitcasting reel that’ll impress those who want to step up from their beginner reels. It can fit 100 yards of 16-pound test.
- Aluminum frame and composite side plates
- 90mm handle
- Made for left hand retrieve
Ready for freshwater or saltwater, the KastKing MegaJaws is an apex predator of a fishing reel. This baitcasting reel is available in four different gear ratios, each a different color so that you can easily distinguish them. This design features a Low Friction Tapered Vortex line guide with a wide angle for farther casting performance.
- Four gear ratios and colors available
- 17.6-pound maximum drag
- Double shielded stainless steel ball bearings
Avoid annoying overruns and backlashes with the KastKing Royale Legend. This graphite reel features a Cross-Fire 8 Magnetic Braking System that will maximize your casting distance. This reel also has a double bearing supported pinion that has superb durability and is incredibly smooth when hauling in a heavy load.
- Two gear ratios to choose from
- 8 magnet braking system
- 17.6-pound maximum drag
Lightweight, durable, and smooth to use, the Lew Fishing Tournament MB Reel is a top-quality baitcasting reel. Your casts will be far, and the dual braking system is a welcome addition. The aluminum frame and brass gear are sure to last for many years of fishing to come.
- One-piece die-cast aluminum frame
- Solid brass gearing
- 10 ball bearing system
Fly Fishing Reels
Sleek and smooth, the Hardy Ultralite CADD Fly Reel is an industrial-looking fly fishing reel with a captive spool release system. It is a large freshwater reel with a large arbor so that you can retrieve fast, and it aluminum alloy construction keeps the overall weight low at a featherlight 12 ounces.
- 360-degree color-coded drag regulator
- Multiple sizes to choose from
- Large arbor for quick retrieve rate
An excellent value fly fishing reel much like our top pick in the segment, the Orvis Clearwater Fly Reel has a smooth Rulon stacked disc drag and a large arbor for clean casts and retrieval. This reel has been designed to easily convert to left or right-hand retrieve.
- Converts to left or right-hand retrieve
- Positive click drag knob
- Smooth Rulon and stainless steel construction
The Redington BEHEMOTH is a large and easy-to-use fly fishing reel. Its carbon fiber and stainless steel plates provide ample torque, and the oversized aluminum drag knob gives you a greater range of control when you’re reeling in a big fish.
- Multiple sizes and colors to choose from
- Carbon fiber and stainless steel friction plates
- Lifetime warranty
Taking what makes the BEHEMOTH great and then refining it further, the Redington RISE weighs less and reels more smoothly than anything else in its class. The deep U-shaped arbor allows for quick line retrieve, and the twin-molded soft ergonomic handles are pleasant to hold.
- Machined anodized aluminum design
- Carbon fiber drag system
- Lifetime warranty
Spincast Fishing Reels
Convenience is king as far as the KastKing Brutus Spincast is concerned. This spincast reel is pre-spooled with 160 yards of line and features push-button casting and easy-to-reach thumbwheel drag adjustments that can be operated with a single finger.
- Reversible retrieve
- High speed 4.0:1 gear ratio
- Pre-spooled with 160 yards of 10-pound line
Compact, lightweight, and easy to operate, the Pflueger Trion Spincast Reel is an excellent choice for children and beginners. Its classic design is accented by a wooden handle and a glimmering aluminum finish. There are multiple sizes of this reel to choose from.
- 2 ball bearing system
- Aluminum and titanium construction
- Anti-reverse switch
Built to be lightweight with an aluminum frame and core, the Pflueger President Spincast Reel makes casting easy, especially for younger anglers. The push-button casting is as easy as can be, and the internal 5 ball bearing system is quite smooth.
- 5 ball bearing system
- Push-button casting
- Spool applied drag
Zebco took our top spincast reel spot, and for good reason. They make many of the best spincast reels on the market, and the Zebco 888 Spincast Reel is a high-quality, affordable reel that lives up to the brand name. It’s heavier than other reels its size because it has robust metal gearing that can pull in large fish despite its small size.
- 3 ball bearing system
- 2.6:1 gearing
- Dial adjustable drag
Spinning Fishing Reels
Light and strong, the KastKing Emerald Eagle is a well-engineered graphite spinning reel with 11 ball bearings, 22 pounds of maximum drag, and a sliding stabilizer rod that is usually found in more expensive reels. The strength and durability of this reel have it punching above its weight class.
- 11 shielded stainless steel ball bearings
- Four sizes to choose from
- 22-pound maximum drag
With six sizes to choose from, there is a version of the PENN Pursuit III for everyone. This reel has been built for duty on both freshwater and saltwater. An anti-reverse switch keeps the rotor in play when you need it and the 5 ball bearings provide a smooth retrieve every time.
- 5 stainless steel ball bearing system
- Carbon fiber drag washers
- Many sizes to choose from
The Pfleuger President Spinning Reel is an amazingly smooth and capable reel, especially for the price. The 10 ball bearing system is buttery smooth on every retrieve, the spool is ready for high-quality braided lines, and the drag system has been completely sealed to ensure that it always stays lubricated. Spinning reels don’t get much more refined than this.
- 10 ball bearing system
- Braided line ready
- Sealed drag system
But in rare exceptions, these reels can be even further refined as evidenced in the Shimano Baitrunner. This reel features the latest spinning reel tech with shielded ball bearings that won’t be inhibited by salt or sand, a dyna-balance system that counteracts rotor movements, and a highly-polished large master gear for exceptionally smooth casts.
- S A-RB shielded ball bearings
- Dyna-balance system
- Fluidrive II polished gearing
Budget Fishing Reels
Aside from the incredible price, there is virtually nothing that separates the Akataka Baitcasting Reel from the other baitcasting reels on our list. That means you’re getting a great reel at a wallet-friendly price. The padded grips, smooth ball bearings, and fast gearing are all great qualities of this reel.
- 5 shielded ball bearings
- 7.0:1 gearing
- 17.6-pound maximum drag
The Joyday Spinning Reel is an exquisitely designed spinning reel that should cost many times more than it currently does. The high-quality brass gearing, fluid 12 ball bearing system, and 39.5 pounds of maximum drag are all features that are most often seen on high-end premium spinning reels. Take advantage of this deal while you can!
- Three sizes to choose from, all budget-friendly
- 12 ball bearing design
- 39.5-pound maximum drag
We already featured the KastKing Brutus as a spinner reel, but you can get hit here as a spinning reel at a lower price. This is a freshwater reel that has great gearing and drag for both cold and warm water fish. There’s a handy line keeper notch on the reel for when you’ve untied your bait and don’t want to unspool your line.
- Four sizes to choose from
- 5.0:1 gearing
- 17.5 pounds of maximum drag
Zebco strikes again, this time with the least expensive reel on our list. The Zebco Authentic Spincast Reel is a lightweight freshwater reel with light gearing and easy push-button operation. It’s a fantastic reel for kids and first-timers who are learning how to fish.
- Push-button operation
- 3.6:1 gear ratio
- Freshwater reel