2018 Best Spinning Reel, Spincast & Baitcasting Reel Reviews

The most modern addition, which advanced fishing the most and continues to do so, is the reel. There are hundreds of different reels to choose from, and year by year more choices are added to the shelves. But, to get the most of your fishing experience, getting the best spinning reel for the money, is a selection you don’t want to pass on lightly.

Top Fishing Reels

ModelRatingTypeMax Drag
badge-best-seller-miniShimano Stradic CI4+4.9Spinning15-lbs.
Abu Garcia Hi Speed Revo MGX4.3Baitcasting12-lbs.
badge-best-seller-miniZebco Omega Z03 PRO4.5Spincast10-lbs.
Okuma SLV Diecast Aluminum4.6Fly Reel1-Way Clutch
Okuma Avenger ABF 65A Graphite Bait Feeder4.5Spinning22-lbs.
Quantum Cabo4.6Spinning45-lbs.
badge-best-seller-miniAbu Garcia Silver Max4.7Baitcasting12-lbs.
Penn Fathom Star Drag4.5Baitcasting15-lbs.
badge-best-seller-miniLamson Konic II5.0Fly ReelConical Drag
Hardy Ultralite DD Series4.9Fly ReelAdvanced Range
Daiwa Goldcast3.9SpincastMulti-Disc System
Shakespeare Synergy Ti 14 Sc Blister4.2SpincastMulti-Disc System

Review of What is a Spinning Reel

Note: If this is common knowledge for you, then just skip it and scroll down to your preferred reel type for your fishing needs.

Most basically, a spinning reel is a device that allows line to be wound up in a small space, cast out with great precision, then reeled back in with a mechanical advantage.

There are three basic types of spinning reels that are available in many different styles, all of which are discussed in spinning reel reviews below.

Reel vs. No Reel

Obviously, an angler does not have to use a spinning reel—fishermen went without them for millennia. However, use of a reel offers several advantage over rods used without reels (often referred to as “cane poles”).

Length of Line

First of all, the spinning reel can store much more line than an angler could use with a cane pole. With a cane pole, when casting, the angler is limited to however much fishing line he can run out in front of the pole, flinging it out into the water with very little control.

Modern Spinning Reel ReviewsWith a reel, the weight on the end of the line, positioned at the tip of the rod, acts like an aiming beacon. The angler flings the weight off the end of the rod, which can be done with great accuracy. The fishing line follows perfectly, allowing the experienced angler to carefully place his lure or bait in a specific location.

The reel also simply allows the angler to use more line. A reel can commonly hold over 100 yards of fishing line, regardless if its braided or made of monofilament. Seawater rigs can hold closer to 1000 yards. Needless to say, this is way more line than a cane pole can manage.


The design of a spinning reel is a big improvement over loose line. The fact that the line is stored inside the reel housing protects it from the elements. The housing prevents the line from being eroded by pebbles and rocks on the ground or sun or salt in the air.

And a reel has a handle! If you have ever used a cane pole, you know the pain of fighting a large fish using your bare hands. The line will leave painful indentions in your skin, if not break the skin altogether. With a spinning reel, all the tension and wear is handled by metal and plastic parts. All your fingers have to do is turn the little handle.

Mechanical Advantage

A spinning fishing reel offers a great advantage for playing a fish and reeling it in once hooked. On a cane pole, the angler can apply pressure to hook the fish, but then it is a pound-for-pound battle to pull the fish in. However much power the fish can put into running away is exactly how much power the angler must use to pull it in.

Not so for a spinning reel. With a spinning reel, a mechanical advantage is created with the pulley-like system of the reel’s winding action. Additionally, spinning reels have a “drag” feature that adds an adjustable amount of pressure against the line. Basically, the drag is a set of washers that push the line against the reel. By turning the drag knob one way or the other, the washers apply more or less pressure on the line.


drag settingDrag also plays a big role in how spinning reels catch fish. Drag determines how much resistance the fish feels when it pulls the line. If a fish feels too much tension, it will throw the hook immediately. If, instead, there is too little tension, the fish may break the line easily.

Finding a proper drag setting is a matter of trial and error for the most part, as there is no fish finder for that! So you have to put in the time. One rule of thumb used by some anglers is to tie the fishing line to a chair and reel in, adjusting the drag. When the chair moves just a little, the drag is set at a good starting point.

If you are asking what is the best spinning reel then the answer should be clear that for one they are made of high quality components. That is the main difference between high-end reels like Mitchell, Abu Garcia, Daiwa, Shimano, Penn, Pflueger, or Okuma, is the material of which the various components—the housing, the gear box and spindle, and the drag washers.

Some materials, like marine-grade aluminum and stainless steel, are resistant to water logging, salt corrosion, and dry rotting. Cheap materials, plastic in particular, can be easily cracked and dry rot quickly when left in the sun.

There are three kinds of spinning reels that are available in numerous different styles:

  1. Open Face
  2. Closed Face
  3. Baitcaster

Open Face/Spinning Reels

This is the most popular type of reel for the avid angler. The open face, or true spinning reel, has an exposed spool and a “bail”. The spool is mounted on top of the gear box housing and the drag washers are at the bottom of the spool. To cast, the angler “opens” the bail by switching it out towards him.

daiwae opus 5500 saltwater spinning reelThis allows the spool to turn freely and the line to run out the end of the rod. When the lure has traveled the desired distance, the angler closes the bail by returning it to its original position. This stops the spool, preventing any more line from leaving the spool and dropping the lure to the water.

Open face reels allow for very accurate casting as well as the basis for the best ultralight spinning reel designs. The open face reel is a simple design, which for many makes them the best saltwater spinning reels and not only for freshwater fishing, and often last for decades because of this. They also provide manufacturers the chance to create micro reels for kayak fishing, a sport that is only increasing in popularity.

Check out these top spinning reel reviews:

  • Daiwa is a solid reel manufacturer, and their Opus line of reels is commonly regarded as some of the best.
  • Another middle-of-the-road choice ($35-60) is the Okuma Avenger.
  • An absolutely top-of-the-line choice is the Pflueger Patriarch, costing up to $200, or the Penn Spinfisher.
  • For a cheap model, check out Shimano’s IX series.

Not all open face reels are created equal, however. So if you are still not sure talk to other anglers you admire for tips on which are best for them and get the same one!

Closed Face/Spincast Reels

It only makes sense that there is a closed face spincast reel in addition to the open face. These are also known as spin casting reels an are ideal for starters and children as they require less coordination when casting. In the closed face model, the spool is hidden inside a cup shaped housing. The spool is held in place by depressing a button on the outside of the housing.

Zebco Omega 2 Spincast ReelThe rod is then reared back, thrown forward, and the button immediately released. The release allows the spool to run, feeding line out the end of the rod. When the lure has reached the desired location, the button is pressed again, stopping the spool. Closed face reels are not as accurate as open face.

These reels have become more common in recent years. The design is not as reliable as open face which is why it is more popular with beginners. Spin casters have a bad habit of “bird’s nesting” inside the housing, which is when the line does not wind back onto the spool smoothly and evenly, leaving a tangled mess of unusable line.

Open face reels will do it too, but it’s easier to notice and fix before the problem gets out of hand with a spincast reel. Also, closed face reels sometimes store water or dirt inside the housing, causing additional wear on the line and making it harder to clean.

The most popular spincaster in history is the legendary Zebco 33. The Zebco is not famous because it is the highest quality; rather, it is the most prolific by all means possible. Almost every garage in America has an old Zebco stashed away somewhere. They are cheap rod/reel combos that are somewhat reliable and easy to use.

Besides that, here are other excellent options when choosing the best spincast reel for your rod:

  • Shakespeare also manufactures popular closed face reels, like their Synergy or Ugly Stik models.
  • More expensive—and reliable—spin casters include an Abu Garcia Abumatic ($35-70), Pflueger President ($70-90), Mitchell 300 series ($75+).
  • Or you could really splurge and go for the Daiwa Saltiga Dogfight for around $1,500.

Baitcasting Reels

The last type of spinning reel, the baitcaster, is the hardest to learn how to use. At the same time, getting the best baitcasting reels offer unmatched control over the lure and line. A baitcaster has a spool mounted horizontally, compared to the vertical orientation of the open and closed faced reels. The feature that binds the spool in a baitcaster is what makes it so different.

shimano curado 300EJ baitcasting reelRather than operating in a binary locked/freespool paradigm, the baitcaster allows the angler to fluidly control the movement of the spool with a thumb control on top of the spool. This means the button can be depressed any slight amount to dynamically control spool movement. An angler can gently drop a lure onto the water’s surface with a baitcaster, or launch the line long distances. Baitcaster reels offer the most control of the line are best for bass fishing without the complexity of other reels.

Cheap baitcasters (under $100) are hardly worth buying.

Look at these two customer focused manufacturer, Shimano and Abu Garcia, for a variety of top baitcasting reels that won’t disappoint when battling a bass that’s hooked on your bait, such as:

  1. Shimano’s Chronarch, Citica, Curado, or Calcutta. These reels are in the $150-250 range.
  2. And Abu Garcia, that makes good baitcasters as well, like the Revo or Pro Max models.

In the evolution of fishing, the spinning reel was a monumental jump forward. Fishing line and hooks probably came first, with the hook tossed out into the water and the line wrapped around primitive anglers’ hands.

Next came the addition of the fishing rod, which has its own story to tell. Someone figured out that running the line down a length of cane gave the angler much-needed leverage for hauling in larger fish. By the same token, the baitcaster is the advancement of the spinning reel itself for the pro angler. So keep that in mind when you are holding one of these bad boys.

Check out this video on baitcasting reel basics for more info before purchasing: