FISHING

Best Fishing Reels: A Beginner’s Guide to What You Want in a Good Reel

Best fishing reels
Neal Walker
Written by Neal Walker

Angling is both a science and an art and knowing about on fish behavioral patterns and the conditions that affect the, represents just half the battle. If you want to have success, you will probably agree with us that proper equipment is very important to get the job done. In this article, we will be talking about the best fishing reels on the market for you!

Having the best possible tackle, baits, rods, lines and of course, the best fishing reels (including the budget in the picture) will go a long way in improving your productivity while you’re out over the water. Though they aren’t the immediate top of mind when it comes to fishing prep, having the right reel for the job can spell the difference between a catch and the one that got away. But, how to make your choice?

There are many considerations that you can make before making your purchase, but we’ll narrow it down to a few. Read on to learn more about the best reel for the job, and the products we think are the best currently on the market.

Our Top Picks

Product NameWeightBall BearingReel TypePrice
KastKing Royale Legend5.7 oz.12 Maxi-Dur ball bearingsBait casterCheck price on Amazon
Piscifun Torrent8 oz.6 shield bearingsBait casterCheck price on Amazon
Abu Garcia Black Max8 oz.4 stainless steel ball bearingsBait casterCheck price on Amazon
Penn General Purpose Level Wind23 oz.N/ASpinning reelCheck price on Amazon
KastKing Assassin Carbon5.7 oz.12 Maxi-Dur ball bearingsBait casterCheck price on Amazon
Kast King Orcas II All Metal10 oz.10 + 1 superior shielded bearingsBait casterCheck price on Amazon
Noeby7 oz.10 corrosion-resistant bearingsBait casterCheck price on Amazon
Lew’s Speed Pool7.7 oz.N/ABait casterCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying

Here are some things to take into consideration before buying your first reel.

Fishing Reel Type

There are three basic types of fishing reels, the first being the spinning reel. This type of reel is the newer type and is ideally suited for novices as casting and overall fishing tends to be easier. Casting at long distances is not a problem, but its distance may not stack up against other reel types as there is a bit of resistance that comes from contact with this reel type’s closed lip. Corrosion also sets in sooner for the spinner as it is very close up.

Another type is the spin caster or conventional. This type of reel is more open than the former and is less enclosed. This means less corrosion and longer reel lifespan. This reel allows for casting at some of the longest possible distances because of the structure. Casting light baits isn’t a problem because of the minimal resistance on the line. The accuracy of the casts with this reel isn’t as solid as bait caster reels though.

Spincaster

The third type is the bait caster. These reels aren’t as enclosed as the spinning reels but aren’t as free as spin casters. The structure doesn’t allow for a longer range casting as the spin caster. However, these are suited for high accuracy casting which is especially important for fishing bass that likes to hang around structures. You can easily stop an overcast by putting your thumb down on the spool for these types of reels. These can hold more line over the spinning

Ball Bearings

Bushings or ball bearings are placed within the reel to maintain stability and smoothness of retrieve, something that is of grave importance during those tough battles with feisty fish. Generally, ball bearings are better suited for the job.

It’s also worth noting that the higher the number of ball bearings in a rig, the more stable it is. High-end models will usually hold 4-6. Top of the line offerings can reach up to 12.

Drag System

This is the reel’s ability to control the release of line when a fish gets hooked and pulls. It’s a friction controlling mechanism which allows you control of how hard the fish is going to have to fight for the bait. If it’s too loose, you lose line very quickly and run the risk of losing the fish.

Fisherman

On the other hand, too tight and the line may snap much faster when under tension. The right-drag system can spell the difference between a broken line and a landed catch.

Spool Capacity

How much line can you mount onto the reel? You don’t want to just muscle it and pick the one with the largest capacity. Generally, the reels with lower spool capacity (generally the shallow ones) will allow you to cast further. Higher capacity reels can take larger quantities and heavier lines.

A drag system can either come in a star system or lever system. Star systems require the turning of a star like a knob to control drag. These are generally good for most applications. The lever drag, on the other hand, adjusts the level of drag via a lever on the reel. This usually allows for finer control of drag. The main differentiation is usually related to price.

Gear Ratio

This refers to the number of bail rotations around the spool, a single rotation of the handle gets. This means that with a 6:1 gear ratio for every one turn of the handle, the bail rotates six times around the spool. Low-speed retrieves will usually feature a 2:1 to 3:1 ratio.

Fishing rod and reel

Faster retrieves will be from 4:1 to 6:1. Low-speed retrieves are great for trolling and bottom fishing where slow movement is a benefit. The higher speed gear ratios are great for losing slack on a line where a fish charges toward you.

What lure you’re using will dictate the ideal gear ratio for your reel. Slow ratios are great for crank baiting, and allowing your lures to reach their maximum depth. Slower ratios also provide for a greater feel of the lure. Medium speed gear ratios are good for general applications. Jerkbaits, spinners, topwaters, swimming jigs are all samples of lures that can be maximized with a mid-speed gear ratio.

High-speed gear ratios are better for worming and pitching. This setup is ideal if you’re confident that you won’t need to work the bait much. Plus, high-speed pretty much means that if you play your cards right, the fish lands on your boat sooner rather than later.

Brake Construction

Your fishing reel will need to be able to stop a fish from pulling the line. There are two ways that a reel will be constructed to do this. The first is a rear brake system. These types of brakes are located in the rear of the reel. They are generally aesthetically pleasing and will usually feel more ergonomic. (This varies)

Fisherman

The second type of brake is the front brake system. These have larger brake disks than their rear-end counterparts. This allows for better adjustments. By this, you are able to make adjustments on the fly as you assess the fish that just bit into your bait.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Now we’re going to give you a briefer on some of the best reels in the market today to help you make the right choice taking into consideration your fishing needs and your budget.

KastKing Royale Legend Baitcasting ReelKastKing Royale Legend

Price: Approx. $40

Weight: 5.7 oz.

Specific features: Low profile bait caster, 12 shielded (corrosion-resistant) ball bearings, carbon fiber drag system – 17.5 lbs drag and has oversized handle

Description: The KastKing Royale Legend Baitcasting Reel is pretty much what a Bait caster is all about: control. The oversized non-slip grip allows for a great deal of control even if wet from sweat, rain, or splash. It is a baitcast reel for almost any fishing technique – pitching, flipping, casting, and more.

The carbon fiber drag system and the 11 + 1 shielded MaxiDur corrosion resistant ball bearings provide up to 17.5 lbs of reliable and smooth drag stopping power. This offers a great deal of control perfect for high precision casting. The 7.0:1 drag ratio gives it the middle ground between slow-action and fast.

The two color anodized aluminum forged multi-ported whiffle-style spool offers maximum strength while reducing weight

This reel is also relatively low-cost, making it ideal for folks just starting out, or working on a lower budget. Don’t let the cost fool you though, it can go toe to toe with the higher cost offerings on the market.

PROS:

  • 12 ball bearings
  • Good for newbies or beginners
  • 5 drag capability
  • Oversized handle for easier grip
  • Silent bait caster
  • Dual brakes

CONS:

  • Most users complain about its noisy spoonful and bearings
  • Made of plastic

Related: Don’t stand and wait for your fish to take your bait, leave your reel and rod on a Rite Hite Dual Fishing Rod Holder and wait until it catches something!

Check the price on Amazon

Piscifun Torrent Baitcasting ReelPiscifun NEW Torrent

Price: Approx. $40

Weight: 8 oz.

Max. drag: 18 lbs.

Specific features: Gear ratio of 3:1 and a line capacity of 30 lbs – 120 yd (Braided). The braking force of this reel is 8.8 pounds with 5 stainless steel bearings and 1 roller bearing

Description: This Piscifun Torrent Baitcasting Reel is a good choice for someone looking for a good bait caster. It’s a great piece of Japanese engineering. As with most bait casters, there may come a bit of a learning curve in getting the cast down. Once you do, however, this is a great addition to any angler’s arsenal.

It has a one-way clutch system, a magnetic brake system and computer numerical control & machined aluminum spool. The 7.1:1 gear ratio makes it a versatile tool. It’s a viable option for finessing those crankbait applications or those quicker applications such as jigging and topwater fishing.

Though the braking power it offers off the bat is around average, this detail is easily overshadowed by the reel’s great performance. Cost wise it’s an absolutely great purchase as it can easily give you the performance of reels that are double to triple its price.

PROS:

  • 5+1 ball bearings
  • Features a 3-disc high-grade carbon drag
  • Side plate design allows easy cleaning and maintenance
  • 0-10 magnetic brakes
  • Made of anti-corrosive material

CONS:

  • Common complaint is about its magnetic brakes, it is not working
  • Sensitive spool tension knob

Related: Use your reel with the best fishing rod, get a Piscifun Graphite Spinning Fishing Rod and start fishing today!

Check the price on Amazon

Abu Garcia Black Max Low Profile Baitcast ReelAbu Garcia Left Hand Retrieve

Price: Approx. $100

Weight: 7.9 oz.

Max. drag: 15 lbs.

Specific features: 4 stainless steel bearings and 1 roller bearing, a machined aluminum spool plus a power disk drag system and a duragear brass gear; MagTrax brake system, graphite frame, and side plates.

Description: This Abu Garcia Baitcast Reel is built to stand up to the maximum limits of hard core fishing at an affordable price point. Its Dura Gear brass gear and graphite construction make it stand well against corrosion and extend the gear life.

It has a smooth retrieve 4+1 bearing system with a lightweight graphite frame. The Power Disk drag system and MagTrax brake system allows for great control over those precision casts into aquatic structures and cover where bass and trout love to congregate.

The construction of the reel greatly minimizes backlash. The machined aluminum spool provides durability at the minor expense of a little additional weight. The compact bent handle and star and the recessed reel foot provide a more ergonomic design.

PROS:

  • Comes with 4 stainless steel bearings
  • Has 1 roller bearing
  • Features machined aluminum spool
  • Comes with a MagTrax brake system
  • With power disk drag system
  • Frame is made of graphite

CONS:

  • Common complaint is about the reel not clicking after casting

Related:  Choose the best Abu Garcia Vengeance Casting Rod that fits your need in length and weight then attach it to this reel. Happy Casting!

Check the price on Amazon

Penn General Purpose Level Wind ReelPENN General Purpose Level Wind

Price: Approx. $75

Weight: 23 oz.

Max. drag: 10 lbs.

Specific features: It has a mono capacity 275 yards of 15-pound line, a gear ratio of 3.4:1 and a maximum drag of 10. It comes with a stainless steel rand and anodized aluminum spool.

Description: The Penn General Purpose Level Wind Reel is a simplistic, functional, and durable reel that is extremely capable. It is a great throwback to the 1940s with its retro look and feel. But don’t let the timeworn appearance fool you. This is old-school high-quality angling technology at its finest.

The reel features a largely stainless steel and anodized aluminum make, providing great durability (an observable characteristic of Penn reels) at the slight expense of weight. It weighs a good 23 oz., which is almost double the weight of other reels in its category.

The low gear ratio makes it a good choice for deep fishing and trolling runs for salmon or trout that you would go on in colder weather. It packs HT-100 drag washers which are designed to provide smooth drag against the heavier game. Some anglers have mentioned having trouble with drag adjustment for lighter applications.

PROS:

  • Maximum drag of 10 lbs. with its HT-100 carbon fiber drag system
  • Comes with stainless steel rand
  • It comes with anodized aluminum spool

CONS:

  • N/A

Related: Make a combo with your Penn General Purpose Level Wind Reel and have a PENN Mariner II Boat Casting Rod attached to it.

Check the price on Amazon

KastKing Assassin Carbon Baitcasting ReelKastKing Assassin Carbon

Price: Approx. $60

Weight: 5.7 oz.

Specific features: Carbon fiber drag system with 10 stainless steel bearings and 1 instant stop anti- reversal bearing. The EVA handle is oversized and it has a double bearing support system plus a synthetic metal compound body and power launch spool.

Description:The Kast King Assassin Carbon Reel brings to the table practicality, which is everything you would want in a spinning reel. The 10+1 Stainless Steel Bearings and its double bearing support system provide great stability and endurance.

The metallic body of the reel is designed to take very strong lateral forces and provides great strength and is ergonomic making for great holding. The oversized EVA handle is a wonder to crank. As with most Spinning Reels, this model sports a power launch spool which allows it to carry and cast substantial bails over longer distances.

Largely noteworthy is the reel’s stopping power. The smallest variant, the 2000, can take 22 lbs of drag. Higher versions can take on 26.5 lbs. Definitely not a pushover!

The reel is definitely a good choice for anyone wanting a spinning reel. It’s practically everything you’d want in a spinner. It’s a solid buy for the price tag.

PROS:

  • Fiber drag system
  • 10 stainless steel bearings
  • Instant stop anti-reversal bearing
  • Synthetic
  • Stopping power is great with a 22-pound drag power

CONS:

  • Expensive for a reel
  • Not for beginners

Related: Protect your KastKing Spinning reel and other fishing accessories by having a KastKing Fishing Rod Rack.

Check the price on Amazon

KastKing Orcas II All Metal Spinning ReelKastKing Orcas II

Price: Approx. $100

Weight: 10 oz.

Specific features: 10 + 1 superior super shielded bearings that are made of stainless steel, a stainless steel shaft, a 2:1 gear ratio, a carbon fiber triple disc drag washers, a flex-free aluminum alloy body, and rotor.

Description: The KastKing Orcas II All Metal Spinning Reel is like its namesake, a killer. The reel is built to withstand a beating. The 10+1 bearings, disc drag washers, and stainless steel make allow it to bear the brunt of fishing battles worthy of bragging rights. Made of all superior hard anodized aluminum alloy construction body, it is powerful and strong enough for big fish game.

The drag rating on the King Orcas 2 is definitely something to consider. The Aluminum Alloy Body and Rotor provide the reel with a much stronger structure than most graphite reels.

The reel also features a spinning reel made of computer number coded aerospace grade aluminum. Plus it has a great line-lay spool which makes for great precision and distance casting.

The Orca 2 also has a sporty look, with its black and red design, a menacing reel to be sure. All of that and a pretty good price as well! Great value for your money!

PROS:

  • 11 superior shielded bearings
  • Stainless steel shaft
  • 2:1 gear ration
  • Flex aluminum body and rotor

CONS:

  • Expensive for a reel alone

Related: Keep your reel and rod in order after fishing, put them in a KastKing Rack ’em Up Fishing Rods Holder.

Check the price on Amazon

Noeby Baitcasting Fishing ReelNoeby Baitcasting Fishing Reel

Price: Approx. $50

Weight: 7 oz.

Specific features: Braking power of 11 lbs, a line capacity of 12 lbs at 100 yds, a stainless steel bearing, a CNC machined aluminum spool and brass bearings.

Description: The Noeby Baitcasting Fishing Reel is a solid bait caster. It brings together several factors that are critical for a good bait caster: good balance, weight, and control. It comes with 10 corrosion-resistant ball bearings, a gear ratio of 6.3:1, a 1 one-way clutch bearing. This reel has ultra-lightweight design and high strength nylon plastic body.

It has a removable quick release side plate for fast spool change and it shows high performance for casting 1-7 g lure.

The ultra-lightweight design works great as a bait caster. Despite the negative connotations some may have over the nylon plastic body, it holds its own pretty well. When put together with the corrosion-resistant aluminum, stainless steel, and brass parts, it comes out as a pretty tough rig.

An interesting feature is its quick release side plate which is great for quick spool changes that inevitably occur during drawn-out fishing trips.

PROS:

  • Corrosion resistant ball bearings, stainless steel made
  • CNC machined aluminum spool
  • Good braking force
  • Lightweight
  • Side plate is removable

CONS:

  • Made of plastic

Related:  Attach a Noeby 2-piece Travel Fishing Rod and start your fishing adventure now! It is a 2-piece carbon fiber rod with enhanced reel seat and ultra-premium-grade cork material on handle.

Check the price on Amazon

Lew’s Speed Spool Baitcasting ReelLews SPEED SPOOL LFS BAITCASTING REEL

Price: Approx. $100

Weight: 7.7 oz.

Specific features: 12-pound line at 120 yds, a 5:1 gear ratio and easily removable graphite sideplate.

Description: A lot of anglers who are into bait casters will swear by a good Lew’s set. This particular model is no exception.  It offers very smooth casting and this is what sets the Lew’s Speed Spool Baitcasting Reel apart from many other bait casters within its price range.

It has an anodized spool tension adjustment knob, can do a 10-pound drag and it has a graphite-based smooth star drag system. It does well in terms of durability as the reel is covered by a one-piece die-cast aluminum cover.

It also pulls in your catch rather quickly with a pretty fast gear ratio of 7.5:1. This makes it ideal for fast fishing lures such as crankbaits, spooks, and buzz baits.

Despite being the most expensive among the reels we’ve included in this review, this bait caster is certainly worth the expense. Many anglers swear by Lew’s, and you might too if you try this.

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • 5:1 gear ration
  • Anodized spool tension
  • Adjustment knob
  • 10 pounds drag power

CONS:

  • Expensive for a reel

Related: Make your casting more fruitful by attaching a Lew’s Mr. Crappie Slab Daddy 2 Piece Rod to your Lew’s Speed Spool Baitcasting Reel.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

As you can see, we covered a lot of great lures with great potential. Still, at the end of the day, the best choice in terms of reels should conform to your fishing style, your environment, and the situation you are in. So it pays to have more than one rod and reel setup handy. Now, we can’t wait to hear it from you: what’s your favorite reel?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Neal Walker

Neal Walker

Neal Walker started fishing when he was 4. His father took him to the fishing trips all over USA and Canada. Later he took Angling Education Program at Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, but most of his knowledge comes from experience. Now he takes his sons with him to share his passion.