Best spinning reels in 2018 featured image

Some of my best memories of my childhood are going fishing with my father. While I initially started out on a spin cast reel like most kids, I eventually graduated to a spinning reel. It took some time to get used to not just hitting a button. But since I’ve made the switch, I’ve never looked back.

When it comes to spinning reels, there are cheap ones and then there are nice ones that every serious angler should consider picking up. Here at Woodland Gear, we’re not all about $300 pieces of gear. In fact, you can find a number of decent spinning reels for under the $100 mark all day long.

We’re going to talk about a few of those reels, anglers will want to consider. We’ll also talk about what qualities are in a good spinning reel, and what you should look for when buying a new spinning reel.

Spinning Reel Side By Side Comparison

Spinning Reels Ball Bearing Gear Ratio Weight Quality Our Rating
Daiwa Crossfire Spinning Reel 4 5.3:1 9.3 oz B
Penn Pursuit II 5 5.2:1 11.9 oz A
Pflueger President 10 5.2:1 7.2 oz A+
Okuma Trio High Speed Spinning Reel 10 6.0:1 10.4 oz A-
Mitchell 300 Pro 10 5.8:1 6.7 oz B-

Things To Consider When Choosing A Spinning Reel

Where you’ll be fishing

The first thing you need to think about when looking to buy a new spinning reel is where exactly you will be fishing.

Namely the type of water you’ll be exposing your reel too.

Salt water will wear down your reel quicker than freshwater will. The good news is most of the quality reels you will be looking to buy can be used in either environment.

The ocean is vast and deep and will provide several different environments that freshwater anglers will never be exposed to such as coral reefs and thermal vents.

Saltwater species will be much larger and thus your reel must be able to withstand the shocks and strong forces these larger fish will inflict.

If the majority of your time will be spent saltwater fishing it is recommended you pick up a decent saltwater spinning reel. The Penn Spinfisher V is one of the more affordable saltwater reels you can pick up.

This reel has a watertight design and protects against spray. It also prevents water from getting into the drag system and gearbox so that the salt water does not corrode the reel overtime. This is something you will want to be aware of it you are planning to heavily fish in saltwater.

This is why you must think about where you’ll be doing the majority of your fishing. Most of the reels I have put on this list will cover you against freshwater and some light saltwater fishing.

Fishing Reel construction

The body or “housing” of the reel will typically come in one of 2 materials. Either aluminum or graphite. Aluminum reels tend to be more rigid than their graphite counterparts that are known to flex but also tend to be heavier than graphite. Aluminum also tends to be heavier than graphite as well.

While aluminum will not rust like iron. Aluminum can oxidize and corrode. With graphite, this problem is removed. However, this also comes at a higher price usually.

If your budget allows, a good graphite reel is the way to go. However, if you’re a casual fisherman either choice will be fine. Just go with what feels comfortable for you.

Fishing Reel Capacity and Size

The capacity of the reel is how much line a reel will hold. Manufacturers typically print this somewhere on the reel. For instance, if the reel says 120 yds of number 6 pound test. That means that you can spool 120 yards of 6-pound test.

If you spool on say 10-pound test the reel will hold less line because the line is thicker. If you step it down to say number 4 pound test the reel will hold more line because the line is thinner than number 6.

When choosing a reel you should try to match it up to your rod as well. On most fishing rods the manufacturer will print something like medium - heavy 6 - 10-pound test. This means that rod will work well with a reel that supports 6 - 10-pound test.

You may also seel reel models listed as something like 20, 200, or 2000. There is no standard for this and each manufacturer rates their fishing reels differently. However, a general rule of thumb is the smaller the model number the smaller the reel.

A 20 or 2000 reel may be good for fishing for species like panfish, while a 35 or 3500 would be better for bass and large trout.

Gear Ratios For Spinning Reels

The spool on spinning reels is fixed and the line wraps around the spool. The gear ratios refer to how many times the bail rotates around the spool.

Gear ratios are typically written like this. 6:1. The first number indicates how many times the bail will rotate and the second number indicates how many times you have to turn the handle.

So a 6:1 gear ratio means that for every time you rotate the handle the bail will rotate around the spool 6 times.

The higher the ratio the faster you will retrieve your line. The lower the number the slower your spool will retrieve. However, it will be easier to haul in heavier loads.

Drag Systems For Spinning Reels

The whole point of a drag system is to prevent a fish from running off with all of your line or snapping your line. The drag system is a series of washers inside the housing that allows for line to be released when under pressure.

With spinning reels, you get two different options for drag systems. Either a front drag system or a rear drag system. The main difference between the two drag systems is the location of the controls.

Front drag systems tend to be more durable and will last longer but harder to adjust while fishing. Meanwhile, rear drag systems tend to be less durable but easier to adjust during fishing.

When it comes right down to it, it is your preference for what drag system you choose to go with.

Best Spinning Reels Review

Spinning Reels Ball Bearing Gear Ratio Weight Quality Our Rating
Daiwa Crossfire Spinning Reel 4 5.3:1 9.3 oz B
Penn Pursuit II 5 5.2:1 11.9 oz A
Pflueger President 10 5.2:1 7.2 oz A+
Okuma Trio High Speed Spinning Reel 10 6.0:1 10.4 oz A-
Mitchell 300 Pro 10 5.8:1 6.7 oz B-

Daiwa Crossfire

The Daiwa Crossfire combines power, performance, and style all without the cost of some of their other higher-end models. This reel features a double anodized ABS aluminum housing with a machine aluminum handle. Giving you all the quality of a higher end reel without the price tag.

The Daiwa crossfire features a front micro-click drag system that is ideal for reeling in any big fish you hook into. It also has 3 ball bearings and a roller bearing that allows for smooth casting and

This reel is best used for with an ultralight rod. Rather you’re fishing for panfish or largemouth bass this reel has got you covered.

PROS

  • ABS Aluminum Spool
  • Infinite Anti Reverse to prevent line backlash
  • Affordable

CONS

  • Drag isn't as precise as other models on this list

Penn Pursuit II

Durability and performance are two of the core features that customers have come to expect from Penn Reels, and the Penn Pursuit II does not disappoint. The reel body is made from corrosion resistant graphite and features an anodized aluminum spool to ensure strength and reduce wobble under heavy loads.

A few great additional features of the Penn Pursuit II are the line capacity rings that lets the user know when the line is full. Th infinite anti-reverse ensures that you never get backlashes, and the oil felt technology ensures that drag washers are lubricated at all times. The oil felt technology delivers a smoothness customers have come to expect from Penn Fishing.

For the money this is one of the best fishing reels you can purchase for under 100 bucks. The quality and durability of the reel ensures that this reel will last you season after season. Because of its corrosion resistant body this is also a decent reel to use in saltwater as well.

PROS

  • Line Capacity Rings
  • Infinite Anti-reverse to prevent line backlash
  • Corrosion Resistant lightweight graphite body

CONS

  • A bit on the pricey side
  • Oil felt washers require maintenance
  • Lacks smaller sizes (10 1000, 20 2000)

Pflueger President Spinning Reel

When it comes to solid reels at a decent price the Pflueger President takes the cake. Easily one of the most popular reels for the last few years it’s easy to see why. From the graphite body to the anodized aluminum spool this reel just screams quality and durability.

The Pflueger President has 10 ball bearings and an instant anti-reverse that give this fishing reel a smoother operation than the other spinning reels on this list. While also preventing backlash.

When it comes to durability this reel can take a beating. There are plenty of reviews online showing just how much abuse this reel can actually take and keep on going. The variety of sizes this reel comes in makes it perfect for just about any situation you could imagine. Rather you’re slapping this on an ultralight setup fishing for trout, or looking to tackle a trophy bass. This reel has your back.

PROS

  • Super Smooth Reeling
  • Durable and Dependable
  • Great Price Value

CONS

  • Not the most ideal spinning reel for saltwater use

Okuma Trio High-Speed Spinning Reel

The Okuma high-speed spinning reel is a decent price all-purpose fishing reel. This reel features a hybrid spool design comprised of a graphite arbor and aluminum lip for durability. The reason for this unique mix of material is to ensure an ideal rotor design.

One of the great things about this reel is that much like the Pflueger above this reel also features a set of 10 ball bearings to help reduce friction, making a butter smooth experience. This reel also features a quick set anti reverse to prevent backlashes as well. Making fishing more enjoyable.

The Okuma is another great reel with a great price to performance ratio. You can easily pick a few of these reels up and have a small fleet that meets most of your needs. This reel is capable of handling small and medium saltwater fish.

PROS

  • Great price value
  • Smooth reeling
  • Hybrid spool design

CONS

  • Knobs seem fragile

Mitchell Pro 300 Spinning Reel

The last reel in this top 5 list is from the legendary company Mitchell who first invented open faced spinning reels in 1948. The Mitchell 300 pro is the updated version of the class Mitchell 300 series reels.

While the aesthetics of this reel give it a very modern look, it’s not the look avid anglers will fall in love with. The Mitchell 300 pro features a set of 10 ball bearings for an extremely smooth operation. One of the more interesting parts of this reel is the composite material that the reel is made from. The reel is made from a mixture of plastic and other materials that allow it to be quite light while retaining durability.

Usually, when you get into lighter reels a major concern becomes the strength of the reel. To combat this issue, Mitchell has introduced a new halo technology on top of the bail to increase the reels overall strength. The halo technology allows the bale remain rigid under load and continue to operate smoothly.

PROS

  • Composite material keeps the reel light yet durable
  • Features 10 ball bearings for a smooth operation
  • Great price to performance

CONS

  • Quality assurance issue is a concern among some online reviews as the reel is made in China.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to choosing a fishing reel there are a number of considerations you should keep in mind. One of the main factors to consider is what kind of water you will be fishing in. Reels made for freshwater may not hold up as well if you expose them to a lot of saltwater.

You also want to make sure you are looking at reels that are built with quality materials like anodized aluminum or graphite. If you are looking for a reel with a smoother operation or a faster retrieve you will want to look at the number of ball bearings a reel has and its gear ratio respectively.

Keep in mind that the reels listed here are not all the reels out there. There are a number of quality reels available at various price points.

If you found this article helpful, please share it on social media so that others can learn as well.

As always thanks for reading and remember...adventure is waiting.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks Aaron Breeden for sharing this nice Article. I really appreciate that that before choosing a reel its important to know the water type , Bearings, Materials and drag system. I really liked the Wrapping up part of this article.

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