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

Fishing reels review
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. You’ve got to be equipped with gear that’s good enough to get the job done.

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. There are many considerations that you can make before making your purchase, but we’ll narrow it down to a few.

Considerations for Purchasing Reels

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 closed up.

Spinning reel

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.

Spin caster reel

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 over cast by putting your thumb down on the spool for these types of reels. These can hold more line over the spinning

Fishing Reel Frame

Reels are generally made of either aluminum or graphite.  Aluminum tends to be stronger than graphite, generally however, aluminum weighs more. Graphite, on the other hand, is lightweight and provides good resistance to corrosion but isn’t as durable as aluminum.

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.

10bb Ball Bearings

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.

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 or 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.

Spool Capacity

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.

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 crankbaiting, and allowing your lures to reach their maximum depth. Slower ratios also provide for a greater feel of the lure.

Gear Ratio

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)

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.


Probably one of the most basic considerations for any purchase, you’ll have to think on whether or not the reel is worth the expense.

Fishing Rod and Reel Combo

A professional grade reel may cost you a lot and if you’re just starting to dabble in fishing or will rarely find time to fish, you might want to opt for more cost-effective reels.

Best Fishing Reels to Find on The 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 High Speed Baitcasting Fishing Reel

KastKing Royale Legend High Speed Low Profile Baitcasting Fishing Reel


  • Low profile bait caster
  • 12 shielded (corrosion-resistant) ball bearings
  • Carbon fiber drag system – 17.5Lbs drag
  • Oversized handle

The Kast King Royale 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.

The carbon fiber drag system and its 12 Maxi-Dur ball bearings provide up to 17.5 lbs of reliable, corrosion-resistant, 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.

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. This is also one of the best-selling reels on the market today

Piscifun Tuned Magnetic Brake System Bait casting Fishing Reel

Piscifun® Tuned Magnetic Brake System Low Profile


  • 3 oz
  • Gear ratio – 3:1
  • Line Capacity: 12LB – 100Yd (Braided)
  • Braking Force – 8.8 Lbs
  • 13 stainless steel bearings
  • 1 roller bearing
  • One way clutch system.
  • Magnetic brake system
  • Computer numerical control & machined aluminum spool

This Piscifun model 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.

The 6.3:1 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.

Abu Garcia Left Hand Retrieve Black Max Low Profile Baitcast Reel

Abu Garcia Left Hand Retrieve Black Max Low Profile Baitcast Reel


  • 4 stainless steel bearings and 1 roller bearing
  • Machined aluminum spool
  • Power disk drag system
  • Duragear brass gear
  • MagTrax brake system
  • Graphite frame and sideplates
  • 9 oz

This Abu Garcia Left Hand Retrieve Black Max Low Profile Baitcast Reel is another great bait caster. Its Dura Gear brass gear and graphite construction make it stand well against corrosion. 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 only issue you could possibly have with this bait caster is its relatively higher price of $ 79.88, there are cheaper reels from Abu Garcia, but this is definitely among the best of the bunch.

Penn General Purpose Level Wind Reel

Penn General Purpose Level Wind Reel


  • Mono capacity 275 yards of 15-pound line
  • Gear Ratio: 3.4:1
  • Maximum Drag: 10
  • Weight: 13 oz
  • Stainless steel rand
  • Anodized Aluminum Spool

The Penn General Purpose Level Wind Reel 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 13 oz, that’s almost double the weight of other reels in its category.

The gear 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.

Kast King Spinning Reel – All Metal Body Carbon Fiber Drag

Kast King Spinning Reel – All Metal Body Carbon Fiber Drag


  • Carbon Fibre Drag System
  • 10 Stainless Steel Bearings
  • 1 Instant Stop Anti-Reversal Bearing
  • Oversized EVA Handle
  • Double Bearing Support System
  • Synthetic metal compound body
  • Power Launch Spool

The Kast King Spinning Reel brings to the table practically 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 22Lbs of drag. Higher versions can take on 26.5Lbs. 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.

Kast King Orcas II – All Metal Spinning Reel

Kast King Orcas II – All Metal Spinning Reel


  • 10 + 1 Superior Super Shielded Bearings (Stainless Steel)
  • Stainless Steel Shaft
  • 2:1 Gear ratio
  • Carbon Fiber Triple Disc Drag Washers
  • Flex Free Aluminum Alloy Body and Rotor

The Kast King Orcas II 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.

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!

Noeby Baitcasting Fishing Reel 10+1 Ball Bearings Casting Reel

Noeby Baitcasting Fishing Reel 10+1 Ball Bearings Casting Reel


  • Braking Power: 11lbs
  • Line Capacity 12Lbs, 100yds
  • Stainless Steel Bearing
  • CNC Machined Aluminum Spool
  • Brass Bearings
  • 10 corrosion-resistant Ball Bearings
  • Gear ratio: 6.3:1
  • 1 one-way clutch bearing
  • Ultra lightweight design
  • 98oz weight
  • High Strength Nylon Plastic Body

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.

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.

Lew’s Speed Spool Baitcasting Reel SSG1SH

Lew's Speed Spool Baitcasting Reel SSG1SH


  • Weight 7 Oz
  • 12 Lb line, 120yds
  • 5:1 Gear Ratio
  • Easily removable graphite sideplate
  • Anodized spool tension adjustment knob
  • 10lbs drag
  • Graphite based smooth star drag system

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 apart from many other bait casters within its price range.

It does well in term 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 buzzbaits.

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 Lews, and you might too if you try this.

Get Ready for That Amazing Fishing Adventure

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’re in. So it pays to have more than one rod and reel setup handy.

Fishing reel and fish under water

Now, we can’t wait to hear it from you: what’s your favorite reel?


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.