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  • Writer's pictureMegan MacGregor

I Tested And Ranked The Best Fishing Reels In 2024

I tried out the best fishing reels to help you pull in those big boys and create a memorable experience out on the water. Here are hands-on reviews.

best fishing reels

FYI, prices and ratings are accurate as of time of writing.


1. PENN Spinfisher VI - Max Drag 15lb/6.8kg


best fishing reels

Credit: Amazon.com


Highlight: Recovers at the rate of 33" | 84cm with every turn of the crank.

Helpful review: "So, to be clear, there's SALTWATER rated and IN THE SURF rated, as far as I'm concerned. You can pretty much use any reel in the saltwater, as long as you don't get it in the saltwater. What I mean is if you're on a boat and fishing, just rinse your reels real well when you get home, and you'll be fine.
However, if you're IN the surf, meaning you're wading in the surf and fishing actively, there's a huge difference on how the reels will perform. The reason is the Surf offers all kinds of issues that gum up reels really quick. When standing in the surf, of course, your reel is going to get pounded by saltwater, but there's other elements, such as that very, very fine "Grit" that's in the surf water, as well as active normal sized sand. That fine "grit" is a REAL reel destroyer. I've had numerous reels I had to open up and completely cleanse after a day of surf fishing. That grit binds with the grease and will completely fail a reel (To where you literally can't crank the reel anymore). So I rate saltwater reels as from a boat and IN the surf.
These Penn Spinfisher series are truly surf rated. I've had these reels completely submerged in the surf water, 20 yards into the surf (Sometimes you have to put the reel end in the water and climb your pole to remove tangles with Braid, so forth). These Penn reels have delivered and continued to operate. The drags are sealed and the reel seems to be sealed as well.
However, that doesn't mean to neglect them. After every surf fishing trip, upon arrival at home, I hose them off real good, blasting the water on a jet stream around all the critical areas. I blow them off with an air compressor and sometimes spray a little silicon on the handle knob and the bail bearing... VOILA, they're good as new. These Penn's deliver with little maintenance and so far have offered up months of aggressive fishing.
MY FRIEND’S REVIEW:
I've had this reel for six months, so I can't speak to its true long term durability. But I can say it has already really impressed me. It has been my only surf rod for six months, going every single week, and often going two or three times a week. I'm constantly in the sea spray, usually getting waves in the ankle or knee, but a few times out to my waist. I've dropped it in the sand a number of times and when I tripped, the whole rod and reel was dragged out in a wave with me chasing after it. If I hadn't just cast as far out as I could, I'd have packed it up and taken it home to soak in fresh water and hope for the best. But since I had 50 or more yards out I reeled it back and it worked fine so I kept fishing.
I try to remember to rinse it in the hose when I get home, but I forget sometimes. I've never had to open it up to clean or lube it.
I waited six months because that's the longest I've had any of my $20-$60 reels have lasted. None of them have been in good shape and all were torn open and cleaned a couple times by then. This one is still smoother and better then most of those other reels started out at day one.
Drag is still great, it is more than smooth enough, casts great, tangles or gets caught on my braid.
Really other than being a little bit more expensive then I'd like I have not had a single problem, it doesn't snap closed on a cast, it doesn't grind or give me any strange sensations that I might confuse for a bit or cause me to miss a bite, the drag doesn't stick... all things I've had problems with on other reels. I've caught a couple hundred small-ish surf perch, at least a few dozen spotted bay bass and a few rays and other fighters, so I'm not testing its limits or anything but it simply has not let me down in any way.
If it died on me now, I'd still consider buying it as a luxury item. If it lasts a year or more, it would probably be cheaper than the several cheaper reels I'd have bought in a year." — Dave Gregorski

Get it from Amazon now: $189.95 & FREE Returns

 

2. PENN Battle III - Max Drag 15lb/6.8kg


best fishing reels

Credit: Amazon.com


Highlight: Recovers at the rate of 37" | 94cm with every turn of the crank.

Helpful review: "I surf fish often. I am usually knee deep in water and the reels get splashed as waves hit me and splash up. They rarely get dunked completely but it sometimes happens for very short periods so it's mostly salt water intrusion that I am concerned about over time. Sand intrusion has never been an issue. I disassemble and grease/oil the reels myself on a regular basis.
I have owned 4 Battle II reels. All have performed well but all have had the same issues. The bearings hold up surprisingly well. I have rarely had a bearing failure if maintained. The gears however are made out of a metal that corrodes and wears relatively quickly. The brass pinion gear also corrodes and seems to wear or distort under continued use. The good news is the metal bodies are rigid and hold up/do not distort so I just order new gears and the reels function excellently.
BTW...If you are looking for a lightweight reel, these are not it... they are not super heavy but not light either...
The new Battle III has several improvements. The gears are CNC machined and seem to be of nicer quality. There has been one problem. In the pictures you will see the crosswind bar. This essential little part in the new Battle III is machined very thin on the back side. My relatively new reel was functioning well but I disassembled it for its first maintenance and found the bar to be broken but still attached and functioning. To me it appears that this seems like a design flaw. The part is too thin on the back edge and from the pictures I think you would agree. I was nervous putting in the replacement part because I was concerned the screw pressure would break it.
I called Penn customer service. I described the issue and offered to send photos. Once I told the agent I was surf-fishing with it. He kind of cut me off and said basically they didn't cover the reel for that kind of use. Now they are promoted as a saltwater reel and especially good for surf fishing so I was not so happy. He was pretty firm about this. I asked if they would at least send out a replacement part. He said they do not send out parts. They also have few parts in stock because of supply chain issues and referred me to a third party, Mystic Reel Parts. I could have sent in the reel for repair but at my own expense.
Anyway...decent reel for the price. Design, drag, bearings, housing are all good. If you are a regular user, frequent maintenance is the key (not just a spray down with a hose) and be ready to replace gears. Customer service leaves something to be desired. Your mileage may vary.
A FEW WORDS FROM A FRIEND:
I bought this Penn Battle III 6000 based on online reviews to go on my 11’ surf rod. The first order I received from Amazon was nothing like what I expected. In the new Penn box was a used and well abused reel, not even the 6000 model but the 5000 with a missing handle (see pics). It looked like someone snagged it off the bottom of the sea. The replacement was just as expected, a new beautiful well made reel. It is smooth and has solid components. One thing I read is that it doesn’t spool line evenly, this one did but it comes with a different thickness gasket and instructions so you can remedy this if by any chance it doesn’t. A simple fix. Haven’t got a chance to use it yet but I’m expecting it to perform as good as it looks if not I will update. FISH ON!" — Mike Rae

Get it from Amazon now: $139.95 & FREE Returns

 

3. Daiwa BG5000 - Max Drag 22lb/9.9kg


best fishing reels

Credit: Amazon.com


Highlight: Recovers at the rate of 47.4" | 120.4 cm with every turn of the crank.

Helpful review: "It's a great reel, compared to other reels, this feels smooth and has a ton of power behind it. Do a bit of research and you will find mostly praises for this reel. For around 100 dollars, it cannot be compared. It feels smooth, steady, and provides you with confidence that is required to handle bigger species. I use this for everything including saltwater and freshwater.
The only thing I had trouble with was fitting the 4000 sized reel on to a Shakespeare elite 7-foot medium. The foot of this reel was a bit too large for the reel seat of the Shakespeare but I forced it in somehow.
I do surf fishing with this and trout fishing by switching my leader. I have a 15 lb braided line and when targeting different species, I change my leader from 20lb to 4lb. Recently pulled a 2 lb Monkeyfaced prickleback out of a hole with this combo with relative ease.
UPDFATE 1:
I really enjoy and recommend this reel, I will buy multiple sizes for different rod setups. I fish mostly on jetties and I have fallen and banged this reel up, it still runs like a champ. I try my best to take care of my tackle, but accidents do happen. :/ I paired mine with Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod 7'.
UPDATE 2:
Still no problems fishing saltwater with it. I just do a simple rinse with tap water and everything functions flawlessly. No squeaking, just dings, and scratches from fishing off the jetty and resting my reel/rod on the rocks. Caught 23inch lings and halibut with relative ease. I fish twice a week so I am extremely happy with the purchase. If any other reels I have failed I will replace it with this one again.
UPDATE 3:
Still going strong, I accumulated more dings to the reel from falls and such, fishing once a week at least I still haven't serviced it yet (I should) and it is still working as it should. Only thing I did to the reel is to sand the top of the spool since it became rough due to me falling and banging the reel on the jetty rocks but the reel is still surviving and works as it should. This is my only rod and reel I bring since going to the jetties and having reliable gear means a lot to me. My father just broke his Penn reel that I bought for him. I will be replacing it with this one since my experience with it is such an excellent one.
So... 2 Years without a hiccup. Great reel, I fish with it once a week in saltwater, if you rinse it off every time after you fish and do maintenance yearly (I did my first one after 2 years) I believe it will last a very long time.
A FEW WORDS FROM A FRIEND:
80% of my rod and reels are made by Penn. This is only my second reel from Daiwa. I bought this because I had the same reel on a rod and reel surf combo given to me by my friend. I fell in love with it because it was solidly built, the drag was smooth and it's not expensive. So I decided to get the same reel to pair it with my other Daiwa surf rod. I've used it a few times now and it performs just as well as my other reels. In fact. I take it with me all the time now and leave my slammers, battles and Spinfishers home cause I don't have to worry about losing a cheaper reel and I'm not sacrificing reliability cause this reel can handle stripers and blues with no problem. So compared to the other reels costing a lot more this is a great value without sacrificing quality. This would be like a Penn battle 3 but it's not better than my Spinfishers and Slammers." — Lee Johnson

Get it from Amazon now: $139.99 & FREE Returns

 

4. Piscifun Alijoz - Max Drag 33lb/14.9kg


best fishing reels

Credit: Amazon.com


Highlight: Designed to handle the biggest freshwater fish and inshore saltwater species.

Helpful review: "Spent many years tournament bass fishing and was pretty successful at it, I tried many baitcasters and always went back to Shimano my favorite being the older Chronarch CH100B, I even found the Curado 200D wanting (I've never fished with the newer versions). I tried the other brands and could never get consistent casting with them like the Chronarchs. I was what is classed as a power fisherman and would make in excess of 2000 casts in a day.
A few years ago I got bored of bass fishing and started Saltwater fishing (can't say I'm any good at it yet), so switched to spinning reels but I miss fishing with baitcasters when spending hours slinging lures off the boat.
Was very keen on getting a Shimano Tranx 300 but they are just too expensive for me at the moment. So I got my new Alijos 300 just after Xmas and went out yesterday to give it a good run. I spooled it with 300m of 20lb braid mounted on an old Shimano Compre 7ft MH Extra fast action and so far I am pretty impressed. Had a 5/8 oz or 18g spoon/jig rigged up and I was very pleased with how well the reel performs. Gets good distance and I had no overruns with the brakes set on 4 (I do control the spool with my thumb though). The reel pitches nicely too.
Just caught a bunch of small 1lb to 2lb Bluefish yesterday so nothing to really test the drag but it seems pretty smooth with lots of fine adjustment, certainly seems to have a pretty serious drag as advertised.
THOUGHTS:
- Reel looks lovely and feels like it's put together very well.
- The power handle and larger frame size will take a bit of getting used to but for its intended purpose is required.
- The high speed retrieve works well for burning saltwater lures.
ALL IN ALL:
Considering its large spool it casts very well and feels robust, I give it a 5 star rating for now but have dropped it to 4 until it shows how well it stands up to the saltwater environment. Once it's fought a few drag burners and seen a bit more saltwater, I will update the review. If it stands the test of time, then the $100 price tag is a no brainer if you're looking for a heavy duty low profile baitcaster.
A FEW WORDS FROM A NEIGHBOR:
Just got back from a 9 day musky trip on Lake of The Woods. 8.1 gear ratio with power handle worked very well casting every musky lure in the box-including lighter buck-tails. The reel handles #8 double blades very well, #9 blades are fine but struggles with # 10 double blades (as most reels do), and is fast enough to gather the slackline jerking big rubber. This reel allows you to cast as far as needed and I only bumped the handle once while casting (this is common, though, with power handles on most reels). The drag is smooth but has a bit of trouble backing down once the fish is on and you need to let it run after an adjustment-in all honesty I had it set too hard to begin with. I did notice a little noise and the release button seems to have a bit of movement but nothing that affected performance. A clicker would be nice for dual purpose when the sucker season comes. Very happy with the price and performance, I would give it 4.5 stars on performance if the half star was available-no issues fitting your hand. I let two other veteran musky guys cast it and they were surprised by the reel's performance, especially for the price.
MY FRIEND’S REVIEW:
I own 2 of these reels. Both with the 8/1 ratio. Have matched them with Daiwa harrier rods ( M and ML). I can just fit a 300 yard spool of 30lb dextron kastking on them. I mention the brands because this the combo I went with and think I hit one out of the park. Have been using this combo lingcod and rockfish jigging off reefs up to 500 ft deep. I’m enjoying using such a light rod and reel, as the bigger reels in the picture next to them are used for the same thing. Yes the bigger reels hold more line, but this reel holds plenty if your willing to go down in test. Trust me 30 lb braid is plenty strong. The 8/1 ratio is nice as I’m fishing as deep as 500 ft. These are big rockfish and nice lings, pulling doubles and triples some times and the reel handles it fine. I owned one of the 2 reels for over a year. The only problem I’ve had is the knob for the handle came off. The screw that holds it fell out. I pushed it back on and will find another screw or use some glue. It’s not an issue for me, nor do I feel it changes my review. Just pointing it out." — Alice Goddard

Get it from Amazon now: $97.99 & FREE Returns

 

5. KastKing Royale Legend II - Max Drag 17.6lb/7.9kg


best fishing reels

Credit: Amazon.com


Highlight: Equipped with an extra-hard stainless steel main shaft.

Helpful review: "This reel is silky smooth and easy to tune in for casting. Out of the box this thing looked great, set it up with some 25lb braid and top shot of 25 mono for local shore fishing...nothing to big, maybe a few sharks, guitarfish, calicos, etc...and maybe the soft halibut or bonito.....small stuff.
This reel slings out like a fat kid loves cake... big time! Make sure to dial it in just right and you are going to love this reel. I did not take it apart and grease it like I do most reels out of the box as I wanted to see what it was like for most people. I may not have to do so, at least not immediately with this thing. That's how smooth it is and I am confident it was made right. Maintenance down the road is going to be done but rest assured it is good to go out of the box.
UPDATE:
This little reel is the little engine that could. It performed flawlessly and was easy to adjust drag in the moment while I was battling a 35lb bat ray behemoth. Mind you, this reel is spooled with only 25 lb braid and 25 mono topshot. It's paired with the kastking telescopic heavy power rod and the two work well together. This has now earned my respect and confidence when traveling and fishing.
If you have ever hooked into large rays and sharks, you know they pull extremely hard and can run forever! This thing clamped down on the fish and was easy to adjust during the fight. It has a nice decently fast retrieve as well. Twice the fish went on mad runs and I was able to gain back line quickly to avoid spooling. Tight line y'all.
MY NEIGHBOR’S REVIEW:
I've had this reel for a bit more than 10 months and living in Florida have used it exclusively for bass fishing. This is a great value for the money. Obviously you can spend much more for a higher quality reel. My preference is Abu Garcia reels, especially their Black Max series. But I thought I'd take a chance on this KastKing. I made the mistake of spooling it with 15lb fluorocarbon on a heavy action 7' rod. Like casting a pool cue, backlash every other time regardless of the settings. I then switched to 12lb fluorocarbon on a 6.5' medium heavy action rod. What a difference! I should have known better but ya gotta experiment once in a while. Now, it still took some time to dial it in with the end knob and the magnetic side as they are very sensitive. End result is this rig is now one of my favorites especially for shore fishing where accuracy is most important. No back lashes now. So the message here is that it depends on what you spool it with and what rod you put it on that will determine if it's successful for your style of fishing. How long this reel will last is to be determined, but for the value if I get 5 years I'm happy.
A FEW WORDS FROM A FRIEND:
I used this reel most of the season throwing different lighter spinners and crankbaits. The reel is still just as smooth and solid as the first day I used it. My other reels I have used are Abu Garcia Revo's, which are also very nice reels but not anywhere close in the same price range. I often fish rivers and streams from my kayak and I am not a big fan of using very high end stuff from the kayak incase of any unforeseen occurrences. The higher dollar equipment stays on my big boat. With that said I did fish at least once a week from the start of Spring through the end of Summer from my kayak using this reel and a couple other KastKing models. Of the 3 models this one did seem to perform better for me. All 3 models were within $10 of each other. One of them was a lower gear ratio for deeper diving crankbaits. My 16 year old son has really just started taking an interest in fishing and he was able to use this caster with very little trouble also. After helping him adjust it correctly to the lure he was throwing, he was able to cast it accurately and at a good distance pretty quickly. If you are looking for a solid well performing bait caster and you don't have an unlimited budget, I would recommend checking this one out." — Mike Suehiro

Get it from Amazon now: $49.99 & FREE Returns

 

6. PENN Pursuit IV - Max Drag 15lb/6.8kg


best fishing reels

Credit: Amazon.com


Highlight: Recovers at the rate of 37" | 94 cm with every turn of the crank.

Helpful review: "My 1st 'newer' Penn reel,( I have many from the 70's). I bought it for Freshwater, all around use in Streams and ponds in NH. Using 15lb test Magreel (Amazon)Black Braided line, which is Super thin, same thickness as 4lb Mono line, but 15lb strength. The Penn I bought was a Pursuit III, 2500 Series and it perfectly matched with a 1 piece, 6 foot Medium-Light action Berkley "Shock" rod.
The small diameter braid allowed me to spool 275+ yds on it. I like a full spool, so I can cut off 6 foot or so after tough brush/rocky fishing. Perfect for Truck,Trail/Train Track fishing! 1 spool up lasts me a whole season (75+ trips)!!! I mostly fish Trout and the occasional Bass/Pickerel pond up here in New England. The reel is nice, light and Incredibly smooth… better than ANY Box Store combo… Hands down.
The 1st thing i noticed was the fact that it doesn't reverse like all the 'sloppy' cheapo reels, what I mean is, when you stop reeling, if you try to back-pedal, it won't! And that is a GOOD thing!! If you have any experience fishing you'll know the deal, you cast, you reel forward to close the bail, and the bail 'rolls back' spitting the line off your reel… THIS Reel solves that!!
It will not reverse! Locks tight. Some reels allow 'Free Bail' (Backwards Reeling), this reel does Not, No switch/lever...this is PRO Level Stuff for the regular guy... I like that, some don't… It does allow you to switch the handle to either side, So you won't be that guy that "fishes upside down" we have all seen...
The reel is very impressive with a 6:2 to reel 1 ratio, super smooth casting and incredible carbon fiber drag washers! no more oil/felt ancient tech here! It had nice Marine Grade Blue grease on the gears and components, and was ready to rock.
This is "Braid Friendly", so the spool has a nice black rubber insert so you can spool the braided line with a basic knot, and be done with it. No 'Line-Slip'!!! Nice Job Penn!!! And Thank You! This reel works with Mono too, but why would you? Mono is outdated. A hair thin braided line is invisible in ANY water, not as UV sensitive, MUCH stronger by average 400% in relation to size.
You can fish a whole season with it. KUDOS to Penn for making a great Reel at such a low price range!!! I love it, and I'm ordering a 3000 Series Penn Pursuit 3 Reel for a 7' Ugly stick to chase Big Lake Trout and Bass off the boat this summer ! Super impressed with Penn, Again!
A FEW WORDS FROM A FRIEND:
Purchased the Pursuit III 6000 for pier fishing in the ocean. Have had tremendous luck with this reel. Dropped it about 4-5 times from various heights of 2 - 4ft and haven’t had a single malfunction or issue with performance. This reel may take a scratch or two but performance is solid regardless of drops. I use 25 lb big game line which is the max rated mono this reel can handle and have had great success as the images I’ve uploaded can show. Probably around a 12lb jack was caught using this reel and a catfish Ugly Stick. The drag has never been fully locked down and has brought up about 10+ fish at this point without any problems. Honestly, for the cost, of this reel and ease of use compared to a bait caster or having to use a conventional reel and wind by hand this thing is much more efficient and can do it all. Casting distance is significantly farther then previous reels used such as the Quantum Optix and a plethora of baitcast reels. 5/5 would highly recommend. I do very little maintenance and I've even forgot to lock down the drag while spraying this with water and it still performs flawlessly. Highly recommend pairing with an Ugly Stick. P.S. For all the haters that said squid is for “newbies” this jack along with many other fish were caught solely on squid. Maybe don’t spread around one man's opinion and make it fact if you don’t know what you’re really talking about. Highly recommend this reel!" — John N.H.

Get it from Amazon now: $64.99 & FREE Returns

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